How to best spend $202 in the 202 this September
Random Nerds serves a national readership, but we live and pursue happiness in Washington, D.C.; a city that, in the past 20 years, has transformed from a sleepy quasi-southern town to a vibrant center of cosmopolitan musical entertainment. Award-winning venues like the 9:30 Club attract top-tier national talent, while our dynamic local music scene provides more intimate (and often more raucous) live experiences.
To be honest, there is now more going on in D.C. on any given week than we could ever hope to see. As such, I have volunteered to begin curating the best musical offerings each month; within a fiscally-responsible budget of $202 dollars.
I know I’m asking a lot this month, booking up your September with confrontational punk shows, noisy performance art, and aggressive electronic acts. But it’s time to emerge from the haze of summer and come to a realization: music that has a function beyond entertainment (e.g. political activism, sonic exploration, or expression of identity) is often less attended, and thus priced lower, than a pure endorphin rush arena show with a large budget for visual spectacle.
Starting budget: $202
September 4th: Downtown Boys, Hemlines, Homosuperior
You’ve got a full budget at the top of the month, so you might be tempted to blow $60 of your $202 right away on some radio-friendly pop-rock act with the LiveNation funding to splurge on huge sets and holograms. However, I implore you to save $48 and choose Downtown Boys at DC9 instead.
This 5-piece from Providence will pull you in with their raucous, tight brand of horn-laced punk. Their proudly political, gender non-conforming convictions will rip social consciousness out of your chest and ultimately serve as a sort of chaotic therapy; making this show worth way more than the $12 they’re charging.
Remaining budget: $190
September 5th: Caddywhompus, Technicians
In my continued quest to provide you with superior quality shows for little money, I recommend the $12 ticket to see Caddywhompus, who create music so intricate and loud it’s hard to believe there is only two of them.
The math-rock duo from New Orleans consistently melt faces with a relatively simple set-up: drums, guitar, and a manageable array of pedals. In place of cocky stage personas, Chris Rhem and Sean Hart have a lightning quick back-and-forth energy, honed by years of DIY touring.
Their dizzying rock and scrappy gusto translate very well in small rooms and basements. Songbyrd’s subterranean, 200-capacity space should do the trick nicely.
Remaining budget: $178
September 9th: Big Thief, Lucy Dacus, Molly Sarle
Location: Black Cat
I’ve suggested a lot of loud sonic intensity this month, so it’s time to put your money towards music with equal depth but a softer touch.
This pairing of Lucy Dacus and Big Thief is the twang-influenced, heart string tug-fest of your dreams…
Both artists make lyrically confessional, complex music; but this show is no whisper-fest. Dacus and Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker can belt out insecurities while unleashing the full emotional weight of their guitars.
Remaining budget: $162
EDITOR’S CHOICE: September 12th: Mondo Cozmo w/ Flagship
Location: U Street Music Hall
For almost a decade, Josh Ostrander whittled away his days fronting bands you’ve never heard of (Laguardia, Eastern Conference Champions) and producing songs you’ve never listened to (“Blaggers and Liars,” “Fact, Fiction and Turquoise”). But since late 2016, Ostrander — under the beguiling moniker Mondo Cozmo — has been pumping out indie rock earworm after indie rock earworm, dancing on the angel-hair line between intriguingly beautiful and infuriatingly catchy.
It’s only a matter of time before some enterprising sound designer scoops up one of the many enticing tracks from his 2017 LP Plastic Soul for the next Big Little Lies-esque miniseries#, so take advantage of the opportunity to see this guy in the intimate confines of U Street Music Hall before he’s selling out 9:30 Club like Michael Kiwanuka. — Bryce Rudow
Remaining budget: $142
September 15th: Xiu Xiu, Re-TROS, Stronger Sex
If you like the confessional nature of a Big Thief show but desire more schizophrenic experimentation, then get ready to fork over another manageable $15 to Songbyrd’s ticketer to see noise-pop veterans Xiu Xiu.
Xiu Xiu is a poster child for personally revealing and uncomfortable music. While songs like “Stupid in the Dark” and “Queen of the Losers” don’t exactly fall under “easy listening,” Xiu Xiu’s creativity is unrestrained. Translated live, the trio is a small-scale spectacle leaning on innovative percussion and possessed showmanship. Vocalist/guitarist/noisemaker Jamie Stewart physically embodies the eccentricities and emotional hurdles in their music as he convulses his way around whatever space he is given.
Remaining budget: $127
September 15-17th: Sonic Circuits Festival
Cost: Friday $15, Saturday $20, Sunday $15
I’m going to go ahead and assume you’ve been bitten by the experimental music bug by now, and are therefore willing spend a little more cash to keep challenging your receptive ears.
The annual Sonic Circuits Festival of Experimental Music is three days ($15-20 a day or $55 for three days) of “cutting edge contemporary music that defies genres” — and the conventions of normal shows. Many of the artists on the bill improvise or only perform their music live; without static recordings to fall back on, these artist build sets that feel more immediate, rare, and intimate.
Located in the non-profit DIY house, Rhizome, the festival showcases artists as accessible as the psychedelic folk pop of Samara Lubeski and as offbeat and challenging as found-sound performance art of Cathy van Eck.
These are not the type of “shows” that serve as an excuse to go out and party. These sets are for music lovers who want learn; to hear and see something entirely new, and to be focused and attentive as if it were a lecture rather than a rock show.
Remaining budget: $92
September 17th: BadBadNotGood
Location: 9:30 Club
Ok, you’ve still got enough cash to squeeze in one 9:30 Club show this September. And rising above this month’s alt-country and folksy bookings at the club is BadBadNotGood, the eclectic contemporary jazz group who’ve gained notoriety collaborating with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Sam Herring of Future Islands.
On their own, these four affable Canadians put on a show that is artfully danceable, relentlessly hypnotic, and just a little jaw dropping.
We at Random Neds can attest that BadBadNotGood’s Bonnaroo set this year was the classiest sonic acid trip, complete with extended instrumental movements, scattered covers, and absurd, nostalgia-baiting visuals, all of which steadily intensified the energy to the culmination of the set.
Now pack that all into a room with perfect sound like the 9:30 Club and it’s $25 well spent.
Remaining budget: $67
September 17th Concert for Yoko Ono, Washington and the World
Location: The Hirshhorn
The Hirshhorn has booked another incomparable, one-off music event worth more than your $25 (or $20 if you’re a member of the museum). This show honoring Yoko Ono is a once-in-a-lifetime line-up of artists as challenging and non-conforming as its honoree.
Pioneering rock queen Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth will be appearing with Lizzie Bougatsos of the neo-psychedelic group Gang-Gang Dance and musician/poet/noise artist Moor Mother. I excitedly admit I have no idea what these three women have planned in tribute to Yoko Ono, but each one of them has a take-no-prisoners, accept no-boundaries attitude towards their art.
If you value provocative art, strong women in music and unique live experiences, this show should be your top priority this month.
Remaining budget: $42
September 21 LeDroit, Monk Parker, Natural Velvet, Sean Barna
Location: The Paperhaus
Cost: $10 donation
The end of the month, and your dwindling budget calls for a stretch of inexpensive DIY shows…
On Thursday the 21st the (reincarnated) DIY venue, Paperhaus is hosting a bill with enough genre-diversity to give you whiplash. The dark alt-country of Monk Parker# and the seductive folk of Sean Barna will contrast feisty Baltimore punk rockers Natural Velvet# and the glitchy DJ work of DC’s LeDroit.
This is remarkable because established venues rarely host shows with multi-genre line-ups. These eclectic DIY bills are refreshing for both the audience and performers who are accustomed to seeing a parade of like-minded and like-sounding acts.
Remaining budget: $32
September 22nd: Kool A.D., Sugg Savage, Cult Days, Sharkmuffin
Location:Uptown Art House
Cost: Probably $10ish
This DIY show is intriguing, partially because it could very well be hosted at “proper” venue like U Street Music Hall and priced accordingly in the $20 range. [CITE: The existing facebook event for this show lacks info on an admission fee, my experience tells me that it will be around $10.] But blessedly for us, it will be held at the artistically collaborative and visually vivid Uptown Art House.
Headlining the night will be the sharp wit of Kool A.D., who preserves the intelligent, meta and post-modern style of his former rap group, Das Racist. When performing solo, Kool A.D. has a blase brevity that tugs at your ears and keeps them captivated.
Equally exciting is a performance by rapper Sugg Savage, whose glitchy and glimmery hip-hop is some of the best in the DMV right now. Her music has the infectious bounce of other DC artists like Goldlink, though her sound and eclectic style is refreshingly unique.
Remaining budget: $22
September 29th: Torres
Location: Rock and Roll Hotel
If you think I’m letting you finish this month off on a lighter note you’d be sorely mistaken, because sneaking in just under the budgetary wire is Torres at Rock and Roll Hotel.
Of all the suggestions I’ve given you this month a Torres show could conceivably be described as a more “traditional” rock concert. But unlike a rudimentary rock show, the penetrative wisdom and gutting revelations in her music will take you to a higher (and darker) place than the average quartet of indie rockers.
In her last album Sprinter, Torres’ inner darkness, soft spoken rage, and purposeful guitar work was aimed at her religious upbringing. So far, the singles released from her upcoming album Three Futures are more sensual than any of her other work and are equally gutting.
Live, Torres and her band are tightly focused, showcasing her talent for introspection punctuated with moments of uncontainable rage. Maybe I’m smitten with her intensity, but Torres’ piercing gaze alone is worth $15.
Remaining budget: $7
D.C. is full of folks who want to engage socially and push themselves intellectually. I’m here to make sure you put the same open-minded integrity towards your choice of art and entertainment.
My ultimate advice is to push yourself to experience something new and challenging and to use that remaining $7 on a pack of ear plugs. You’re going to need them.
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