The month of March was packed solid with concerts. Here are some highlights:
OMD, 9:30 Club, March 10
Every 80s kid remembers this British synthpop band who sang “If You Leave,” from the soundtrack of Pretty in Pink. At this show, the blokes belted out their memorable classics, including: If You Leave; So in Love; Dreaming; Enola Gay; Tesla Girls; and Live and Die. Singer Andy McLuskey bounced around the stage with the energy of a teenager, thoroughly engaging the crowd. This show exceeded my expectations.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Theatre of the Living Arts, Philadelphia, March 11
Is there anything this chick can’t sing? The ever-versatile powerhouse that is Grace Potter brought down the house in Philly. Love her rockin’, bluesy sound. Her nearly two-hour set included three covers: Beyonce’s “Why Don’t You Love Me?”; Heart’s “Crazy on You”; and Bob Dylan’s “I Shall be Released,” sung with the opening band, Belle Brigade. This show was off the charts! Opener Belle Brigade, from LA, led by a sister-brother team, was a nice surprise—rolling out their six-part harmonies as they shared their debut album tunes with us.
Scythian, Shamrock Fest, RFK Stadium Parking Lot, Washington, March 12 (afternoon)
Led by the enormously talented Fedoryka brothers, Alex and Dan, Scythian always serves up a high-energy musical stew. They alternate among numerous genres: Celtic, gypsy, East European/Klezmer, and more. At this festival, trying to cater to a young, drunk crowd, they threw in some rock and rap too.
Note: Scythian will play a free show on August 27 at Reston Town Center. Come join the fun and hit the dance floor with us.
Emmet Swimming, Iota, Arlington VA, March 12 (evening)
Emmet Swimming broke out a few new songs at this show and, as a testament to their enduring greatness, the new stuff sounds as top-notch as their earlier stuff. I never tire of these guys. Also glad they continued the tradition of bringing up their buddy Dave Strickland for a couple songs, a slow one on accordion and one on keyboard. The setlist was missing “Listen to the River,” but Watts did a solo acoustic of his Billy Bragg cover, “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” that made up for it. Excellent, as ever.Pete Yorn,
9:30 Club, March 14
Pete Yorn played a stellar set, opening with ClubD’s favorite Yorn song, “Murray,” and playing nine more songs from that debut album, Music for the Morning After, released a decade ago. The set included a handful of songs from his newest album, a self-titled one released last fall that was produced by Frank Black of the Pixies. The new songs he played are strong and catchy, particularly “Precious Stone,” and “Rock Crowd.” His set also included “Crystal Village” by request; “Burrito,” from that same album, performed solo acoustic and also by request; and the Junior Kimbrough cover, “I Feel Good Again.”
Ben Kweller was the perfect support act and had many fans of his own in the crowd.
9:30 Club, March 22
Touring in support of their newest album, 100 Lovers, Devotchka puts on a great show. This Denver-based quartet rose to fame for doing the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack and has an ever-growing following. Their indie rock sound, replete with East European influences, is complemented by Nick Urata’s velvety smooth vocals. Rich in instrumentation, Jeanie Schroder alternates between upright bass, tuba, and flute; Urata among piano, trumpet, and guitar; and Tom Hagerman among violin and accordion. Devotchka served up a fine worldbeat mix and they’re a fun spectacle to watch. The band brought along two female dancers who did aerials from the curtains during a few songs.
Opening act El Mariachi Bronx, from…er, Los Angeles, had a fantastic sound, a lively blend of mariachi and rock.
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Black Cat, Washington, March 24
While I haven’t tired of their debut album, Austin’s Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears just released a new album, Scandalous. I thought the first album couldn’t be topped, but this one is also off-the-charts fantastic. Was shaking my booty all night at this show. Joe has all the soul of a young James Brown, accompanied by a kickin’ horn section. At this sold-out show, “Booty City” gave him a warm welcome.
The Joy Formidable, Black Cat, Washington, March 25
This new Welsh rock trio just released their first full-length album, The Big Roar, though they’ve reportedly already enjoyed lots of airplay on UK radio stations for many months. Quite a full sound comes out of these three. This ain’t your mama’s chick rock. Check ‘em out.
All Souls Jazz, All Souls Unitarian Church, Washington, March 27
The pews were packed with folks of different ages, religions, and races to hear some incredible New Orleans jazz on a Sunday afternoon. New Orleans Clarinetist Evan Christopher led a quartet that included pianist Allyn Johnson and drummer John Lamkin, accompanied by the All Souls Jubilee Singers from DC. From the opening “Basin Street Blues,” to the closing “Down by the Riverside,” this was an outstanding afternoon of jazz. All proceeds were donated to New Orleans charities, with a focus on rebuilding the lower ninth ward.
Bob Schneider, the Birchmere, Alexandria, VA, March 28
I first heard Bob Schneider on the Spectrum, a satellite station that often would play his “40 Dogs,” from his 2009 album. I’ve since learned this Austin singer-songwriter has been around for some time. Doing a solo show to support his forthcoming newest album, A Perfect Day, due out in mid-April, Schneider played a fantastic set, alternating between brooding, funny, and slightly insane. Gorgeous deep voice. Fantastic looping. Loved this show!