How to best spend $202 in the 202 this August
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.
This month, you’ll find that as the city thins out for late-summer vacations and congressional recess, the national acts wrap up their summer tours and the local acts step forward to offer some really compelling shows…
Starting budget: $202
Location: Hole In the Sky
I know your wallet feels thick at the beginning of the month, but that doesn’t mean you have to blow it all on a pricey concert right away, as the best show in town the first weekend of August only asks for your $10 (cash) at the door.
Inside, you’ll get the perfect taste of the DC music scene: Big Hush is a local staple who injects their jangly, indie rock with a sophisticated cool.
Their consistently heartfelt discography has created a strong community around their music, and this show will be a celebration of the band’s past 3 years of work; a split 12” release combining 2014’s Wholes EP and 2015’s Who’s Smoking Your Spirit. Also, Hole in the Sky is one of the most interesting (and friendliest) DIY venues in the city, especially if you’re looking for a little more breathing room and the rush of attending a rock show in a converted industrial space.
You’ll also save some cash by bringing your own booze.
Remaining budget: $192
August 9th: Little Dragon with Xavier Omär
Location: 9:30 Club
Cost: $45 with service fees
Now that you’ve patted yourself on the back for being thrifty so early in the month and supporting your local artists, you can drop a little more money on show at DC’s award-winning, life-affirming 9:30 Club.
Little Dragon’s trippy dream pop and sensual R&B was made for the 1,200-person capacity venue high ceilings, cool blue walls, and unmatched sound system. But head ups: they added a second night after selling out the first night, so buy these tickets ASAP.
Remaining budget: $147
August 11th: Humble Fire, NUEX, Frienemies, Near Northeast
Location: Rock and Roll Hotel
Like Big Hush above, Humble Fire is a DC band that’s been working hard for years refining their sound to perfection, but the production on “Taliesin” (and its accompanying video) has raised the bar in terms of quality and vision for other acts in the city:
It is only deserving that their album release be hosted in one of DC’s best smaller clubs, the 400-person capacity Rock & Roll Hotel, which provides some of the most impressive small-scale lighting design you’ll ever see. The ticket price is more than worth the few extra dollars to see these DC artists perform with the resources of a well-run national venue.
Pro tip: Make sure to budget some money for an Uber back and forth from H Street!
Remaining budget: $135
August 12th: Dawkins, Dreamcast, Leach and Crue
Location: Uptown Art House
Up in Cleveland Park, there is a stacked bill showing off DC’s insistence on sonically diverse line-ups….
Dawkins is DC’s young, experimental-rock buzz band with one EP under their belts, though nothing beats watching this band’s live set unfold layer upon layer of saturated electronics and hazy guitars. Dreamcast, on the other hand, is one of DC’s most sultry R&B voices, with a talent for a house-influenced production. And Crue is an experimental jazz and soul artist who makes music that is both sensual and unsettling.
All this will be taking place in the new cavernous DIY space Uptown Art House.
Again, prepare thyself by bringing your own booze and/or trendy seltzer beverage.
Remaining budget: $125
Editor’s Choice, August 18th: Lee Fields & the Expressions with Aztec Sun
Location: Rock and Roll Hotel
Random Nerds’ Editor-in-Chief Bryce Rudow highly recommend this ticket. It’s a little pricey for a Rock & Roll Hotel show, though you’ve still got plenty of money to throw around at this point in the month. Also, this show is easily worth $40.
Lee Fields & The Expressions will hook you with the promise of funk and soul nostalgia, but they’ll sell you on their live show that’s more immediate and outrageous than most contemporary acts:
Both they and local openers Aztec Sun offer the big-band experience that will remind you of power of live music, while making you question your love for that hot new minimal electronic group.
You will leaving feeling emotionally rich and likely forget the $40 hole in your wallet.
Remaining budget: $94.41
August 21st: Waxahatchee, Palehound, Outer Spaces
Location: 9:30 Club
Even though it’s late August, you’ve been so frugal with your support of the DIY scene, you can easily afford another 9:30 Club show. And if you have to pick one 9:30 ticket in the second half of the month, it should be Waxahatchee:
Waxahatchee, the stage name of Kate Crutchfield, has been steadily raising the volume on her sound since 2013’s Cerulean Salt. Her acoustic, DIY-raised indie rock has evolved into a bigger and more radiant lo-fi that will pull at the heartstrings of 90’s rock lovers. Crutchfield’s talent and increasingly captivating discography has been steadily guiding her towards her own headlining spot at the 9:30 Club.
Despite her occasionally deprecating and self-aware songwriting, I doubt she will waste this opportunity to enthrall the club.
Remaining budget: $65.66
August 23rd: Sheer Mag, Haram, Roshomon
Location: Black Cat Mainstage
At this point you’ve got less than $100 left, which is perfect for a show at the 25-year-old, enduringly punk (and mercifully affordable) Black Cat. Fair warning, though: don’t be that idiot who forgets to stop at the ATM beforehand, as the venue is and always will be cash-only.
However, unlike the 9:30 Club, drinks and food are relatively inexpensive. And you may want to invest in a few PBR tall boys and a shot &mdash: because Sheer Mag is a party:
The Philly 5-peice was reared in the chaos of a DIY scene and have broken through to a larger audience, but their revisionist 80s rock has not softened their ferocity in a bigger spotlight. In fact, they are releasing some of their most energetic music yet.
Their riff-heavy sound is raw and rough enough to excel on the Black Cat’s no-frills Mainstage; where an artist’s punk-like energy can make or break the room.
Remaining budget: $50.66
August 24th: Aaron Abernathy
Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Not only is the marbled, naturally-lit, three-story Luce Center at the Smithsonian American Art Museum the most gorgeous space to see live music in DC #, its shows are also mercifully free, meaning you get to throw another unmissable show on the calendar and not even adjust your budget, you lucky little Washingtonian you.
This month, The Luce Center’s featured artist is Aaron Abernathy, whose 2016 R&B soul record Monologue is one of the tightest and fullest releases to come out of DC in years.
Abernathy’s riveting talent and killer live ensemble has far transcended the local music scene and we DC concert-goers should be thankful he plays in this city as often as he does (when not touring the globe). Needless to say, Abernathy is going to shake the Smithsonian’s portraits right out of their frames; at no cost to you.
Remaining budget: $50.66
August 26th: Spaceface, The Effects, DJ Ayescold, Zac Forrest
Location: The Dew Drop Inn
Did you ever imagine that $202 would stretch this far in bougie city like DC? Are you getting tired yet? Well, drop a few buck on a cold brew, because local booking organization DCDIT (which stands for “Do It Together”) is hosting a donation-based, late-August rager.
This show is another impressive example of DC’s clever and eclectic DIY shows, this time featuring affable Tennessee psych-rockers and Flaming Lips offshoot, Spaceface:
To complement Spaceface’s skillful psychedelia, local videographer, and all-around visual wizard, Zak Forrest will be performing a set pairing modular synthesis with lasers. DC rock trio, The Effects will add to the creative face-melting with their post-punk ferocity. And DJ Ayes Cold will round out the evening with her wild mixed bag of sound selections, ensuring the evening will never have a dull moment.
I’ll put my neck on the line to say that this show is by far the most fun you’ll have for a suggested donation of $5-10.
Remaining budget: $40.66
August 27th: Benefit Against Islamophobia featuring Drop Electric, Small Leaks Sink Ships, and We Were Black Clouds
Location: Black Cat Backstage
I know you’re getting down to the end of your budget but the last show on my list is the most deserving of your money, so shell out, because it’s time for a benefit show….
More than any other DC music institution, The Black Cat has been leading the way as a space for activism and progressive charity, and this month they’ve turned their efforts to combating Islamophobia:
This touring concert series is a companion to the compilation album Philia: Artists Rise Against Islamophobia, which aims to bring awareness to discrimination faced by American Muslims while financially supporting the Unity Productions Foundation, an anti-Islamophobia educational non-profit.
Two of DC’s heaviest bands will be partaking in this cause; post-rock group Drop Electric (whose single “Aisha and the Knife” is featured on the compilation) and experimental instrumental rock-trio We Were Black Clouds. Both bands have massive and intense sounds that are simultaneously spiritual, nihilist, captivating, and hypnotizing. Their live shows capture all sides of their individual sounds and are often as visually engrossing. This show will take place at The Black Cat’s more intimate 200-person capacity backroom stage, which should make the experience all the more immersive. Its an empowering way to blow the last of your money.
Remaining budget: $25.66
With $25 left, I could throw one more show in the mix. However, because I’ve recommend a handful of off-the-beaten track DIY spaces, I recommend you save those dollars for the ride-sharing service of your choice. Any remaining cash should be spent on merchandise for touring bands at those shows. Every t-shirt, sticker, or music sale is gas money straight into their pockets.
And don’t hesitate to come say hi to Bryce or I at any of these shows! I’m always armed with Random Nerds stickers to give away and an open ear for other fresh music suggestions.
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