Some Songs Considered #045: DC DIY shows, Sun Club, and the shining gem of Collegrove
Welcome to Some Songs Considered, a column that recognizes they can’t all be zingers and truly appreciates the ones that are.
Click titles to jump:
The Best DIY Shows in DC – Lindsay Hogan
Staring at the Sun Club, a Q&A with Adam Shane – Justin McCarthy
The Shining Gem of Collegrove – Bryce Rudow
The Best DIY Shows in DC
by Lindsay Hogan (@LindsayHogan88)
I’ve mentioned countless times how Washington DC’s musical DIY culture is the city’s artistic beating heart, but in case I need to sell it to you…
For audiences, house shows are a chance to see some of the city and the nation’s coolest bands, pre-hype, in a sensory, social, and incomparably intimate setting. Plus, beer is going to cost you a hell of a lot less than at a venue.
For artists, house shows and DIY shows give emerging or unconventional musicians a space to play and really connect with their crowd.
Despite the ever-fluctuating nature of DC’s bands and non-traditional show spaces, this spring’s line up of house shows around the nation’s capital has already got me salivating at the prospect of “respecting the space,” “donating to the touring band,” and “BYOB-ing” all season.
But here’s the deal. I hook you up with some crazy new music and a solid list of intimate shows, and you have to promise not to be a jerk and ruin it for everyone.
Keep in mind, DIY shows and venues always run the risk of unanticipated shut downs because musicians tend to make a lot of noise. So please don’t think I’m being purposefully vague with my lack of crucial details or links for these shows. This isn’t a Brooklyn speakeasy or an illuminati meeting, but we still got to watch our backs. If you are of the internet generation, I believe you’ll be able to find details on any show with a little search engine/social media magic. Or you can engage directly with your author (find me on Twitter @lindsayhogan88) and I’ll be happy to fill you in on the details.
Now onto the showssss…
Laughing Man, Shipla Ray, Shirts/Pants
Sunday March 6th @453 Florida
Laughing Man – “Body Cop”
Shipla Ray – “Pop Song for Euthanasia”
Why you need to be there:
This show is hosting Laughing Man, one of DC’s most sonically intense (and underappreciated) groups. Their live show is a rush of complex, experimental guitar work and gutting lyricism. Their recorded music stands on its own as some of the most thoughtful stuff in DC, but the group takes it up to another level during the live show; expanding, weaving and jamming songs together with engrossing discipline.
Shipla Ray, like Two Inch Astronaut, is another talent that I believed to be too large to play in a DC living room, but all the better for us. They have a similar brash intensity to Laughing Man, but with a desire to make more soulful and swaggering soundscapes behind an instantly compelling voice reminiscent of classic American heartbreak.
Stronger Sex, Hudson K, Shampoo, The Galaxy Electric
Saturday March 12th @The Commune
Stronger Sex – “K in a Sunbeam”
Hudson K – “You Are My Moon”
Why you need to be there:
This is the show that’s going to melt your winter rigidity and get your body moving.
DC’s Stronger Sex have lept into 2016 with a darker-than-usual and viscerally rewarding track “K in a Sunbeam,” but the group thrives in house show settings where their infectious danceability and thematically-crafted live shows guarantee outrageous fun.
They will be joined by Tennessee’s Hudson K, who will provide similarly bombastic power-pop and saturated electronics, but with added boost of live drums and an undercurrent of lyrical creepiness.
The two other acts, Shampoo and The Galaxy Electric, balance out the bill with more subdued but no less inventive and absorbing music. Shampoo will provide waves of John Hughesian nostalgia and DC’s The Galaxy Electric go a few decades deeper with their psych pop nostalgia.
This ones going to be a party.
Marian McLaughlin, Ilana Alazzeh & Omar Pitras Waqar
Sunday March 13th @The Bathtub Republic
Marian McLaughlin – “”Even Magic Falters”
Why you need to be there:
This show is going to be a rewarding departure from the garage rock, shoegaze, guitar-heavy nature of the average house show.
You don’t see a lot of experiential, chamber folk at house venues these days, but genre abnormalities aside, Marian McLaughlin is one of DC’s strongest and most individual talents. Her latest album, Spirit House is expansive and unconventional folk-pop that’s just unsettling enough to give her an edge while remaining a gorgeous piece of work.
Marian is joined by other remarkable DC’s talents Ilana Alazzeh & Omar Pitras Waqar, who mix Ghazal recitations and traditional Sufi music with some electric flair. Its meditative and poetic for sure, but these two performers have an undeniable magnetism that engages their audience between every verse with just the right amount of guidance and attitude.
This might be the most intellectually stimulating house show you attend all year.
Pree, Shana Falana, Louis Weeks
Friday April 1st @ATB#
Shana Flana – “Shine Thru”
Pree – “Cloak”
Why you need to be there:
Compared to the rest of the season’s rock-leaning line-ups at ATB, this show combines the best of DC’s artistic dream-pop.
Louis Weeks is one of DC’s unmissable acts. We’ve praised him high and low here at Some Songs Considered for his “intoxicating unmistakable sense of whimsy.” And when it comes time for this show, that sense of “unmistakable whimsy” will translate seamlessly into Pree’s artful indie rock. The DC group is steadily releasing new material this year, and their latest, “Cloak” continues their narrative of intricate collaborative instrumentation over playful, tongue-in-cheek lyricism.
Touring act, Shana Falana fits under the dream-pop heading, but refuses to be constrained by it. Their shoegazey sound hops around from track to track on their latest album Set Your Lightning Fire Free, from post-punk energy, to uplifting indie rock, to woozy retro. ATB booker, founder, and hype-czar Quinn specifically recommends “Shine Thru” for lovers of the dreamy guitar work and echoing vocals that have been desperately missing from your life since the early 90s.
High-Functioning Flesh, Body Of Light, Olivia Neutron-John
Sunday April 3rd @Union Arts
High Functioning Flesh – “Glowing, Dripping”
Olivia Neutron-John – “16 BEAT”
Why you need to be there:
Remember the other week in my call to action for Union Arts where I referred to the space as a “brazen creative community” and a “womb of progressive, meaningful music”? Well this is exactly what I was talking about. If you’re looking for something louder, darker and weirder, LA synth punks High-Functioning Flesh and DC’s Olivia-Neutron John will welcome you into their aggressive electronic embrace.
On first listen, you can’t deny High-Functioning Flesh’s uncompromising energy and old school synth and vocal samples. But despite their edge, this will be a show that doesn’t just suggest but commands some wild, dancing catharsis. They don’t call it “Electronic Body Music” for nothing.
Olivia Neutron-John is one of DC’s singular and incomparable acts. The disjointed keyboard-heavy compositions can be a deceivingly approachable foil to Neutron-John’s purposefully uncommon, groaning vocals. And you can stream these dizzying, “Post-Bro” opuses all you like, but a live ON-J set can only be described as ‘an artist at work.’
See you there?
Princess Reason, Hovvdy, Tall Friend, Jauze
Monday April 11th @ATB
Hovvdy – “Treat”
Jauze – “Two Demos”
Why you need to be there:
This night of lovable fuzz will be headlined by Baltimore’s Princess Reason, who captured me with their self-aware lyricism that’s so relatable it’s unsettling (or maybe it’s just me). They’re playing with Austin duo Hovvdy, who have been drumming up hype for the past few years with a slew of dreamy, effect-laden but impressively minimalist releases, including my favorite “Treat”.
However, the real reason to drag yourself out on a Monday is for the inaugural show of DC’s Jauze – the trio that emerged from the ashes of Some Songs-favorites Typefighter. They’ve only got two demos to check out right now, but if you find yourself tickled by their infectious, self described “garage-y fuzzpop or whatever,” then you’ll have to come to the show to hear what else is in store. I don’t like making presumptive predictions, but I imagine these guys are going to become part of the DC fabric pretty damn quick. And you’ll want to say you were at their first show.
Staring at the Sun Club, a Q&A with Adam Shane
by Justin McCarthy (@JustinSMcCarthy)
It’s no secret that Random Nerds is fond of Sun Club, the fresh-faced and solar-charged Baltimore rock band with more natural charisma and alchemical pop music acumen than just about anyone currently tapping a reverb pedal.
When their nascent EP Dad Claps at the Mom Prom made the internet rounds in 2014, the band drew comparisons to Vampire Weekend and Animal Collective, which make sense mostly as testaments to both their preternatural melodic genius and willingness to do the unexpected.
As for what they actually sound like, imagine if Diarrhea Planet, FIDLAR, and Year of Hibernation-era Youth Lagoon spent a balmy August cutting an album in a ramshackle rental at a Delaware beach. Now you’re getting the picture…
2016 finds the young band with a full-length LP (last year’s soaring The Dongo Durango), a record contract with ATO, and a successful European tour with HAIM under their belt.
Now the boys of Sun Club are hitting the road with Ra Ra Riot and making a stop at DC’s 9:30 Club on Sunday, March 6 – which gave me a chance to chat with Sun Clubber Adam Shane about playing bigger shows, plotting next steps, and trying to find time to watch The Wire.
Now that The Dongo Durango has been out for a few months, how do you feel about it? Do the songs still excite you?
It’s been really cool to see what songs stand out. One song we’ve always loved is “Carnival Dough,” which we pretty much only play when we have our own headlining sets. It’s not in the regular rotation, but it’s pretty much our favorite song on the album.
We didn’t know it would resonate with people, and we were pretty low-key about it – we didn’t make a video for it, and it’s a hard song to pull off live. But people really like it. During the Europe tour it became our tour manager’s favorite song.
What did European audiences think of the music overall?
We were on tour with HAIM, who are amazing, and the majority of their shows sold out, which was awesome. They’re a great band but in terms of content, our music is pretty different. So it was nice that people actually liked us. In France, they liked us a lot, which was great. People would buy a vinyl or a shirt, and say “I’ve never heard of you guys, but you’re great!”
What have you learned over the last year from playing bigger shows about your identity as a live band? I know that in one interview you mentioned that you prefer the house show vibe.
Yeah, but there are really nice things about playing bigger shows, too. We love having more room to jump around, that’s always a plus. It’s great to have bigger sound systems – we use samplers now, and other fun toys that the bigger sound systems can support. For this tour we’ve created projection designs that really add to the strange absurdness of what we do, and those are really cool.
But we do miss house shows, we miss the small rooms full of sweaty people spilling beer on you. Now we just spill beer on ourselves, and it’s not as gratifying.
The titles for your songs and releases are so captivating and vivid. Like “Puppy Gumgum.”
Honestly, we just wanted to make a song called “puppy gumgum.” We get a kick out of seeing these things written down. “Tropicoller Lease,” that name comes from the fact that one of us mentioned that the song sounds like a tropical release. The word “lease” has nothing to do with anything; it’s just a phonetic match. It’s just nonsense.
It’s like the way Britt Daniel completely free associates to write lyrics for Spoon.
Yeah, that’s like how it is with us, it’s more about the feeling we get from the songs than about content.
It’s interesting because even though the music is very bright and joyful, some of your lyrics evoke sadness the way that I read them; in a good way.
We keep everything pretty bouncy, but when people listen to it, it’s all about what they get out of it. Some bands I think really want you to feel a certain way when you listen to their music.
Our whole thing is, if it makes you feel like partying that’s great, and if it makes you feel something, that’s great too.
I have one more question, because you’re a Baltimore band, and it’s about The Wire.
So none of us have seen The Wire (laughs). Everywhere we go, everyone is always talking about it. I know it’s a great show. When I first started watching The Sopranos a few years ago, and it took over my life, and I know the same thing will happen with The Wire.
I just started season one of The Sopranos actually.
Get ready for that. It’s going to be a wild ride.
The Shining Gem of Collegrove
by Bryce Rudow (@brycetrudow)
God bless 2 Chainz (who I will always respect as a consummate showman) and Lil Wayne (who at his peak shone brighter than anyone ever has) for trying to copy the What A Time To Be Alive… formula for success. The truth is though, despite all sympathetic biases, the two’s recent collaboration album Collegrove is a big ole bloated mess; even moreso than the filler-full, single-led Drake/Future record.
There is, however, this one track, “Bounce,” that like Drake and Future’s “Jumpman,” just may validate the whole project…
Over a beat courtesy of Infamous that sounds like it was pulled from his earlier work with Weezy, Lil Wayne, for a few brief minutes, channels the beast, the dog, the goblin that made his mixtape heyday feel as otherworldly as he claimed to be.
My weed sticky like acupuncture and magnus honey
Knock on the side door three times and have your money
Or get to steppin’ like Kappas stompin’, I’ll slap a junkie
I’m having lunch with Italian Sonny, don’t ask the subject
Lord why you took Rabbit from me, he say don’t ask me nothing
Too many bodies, too many bangers, too many bundles
Not enough bullets, these niggas buggin’, I heard they stung you
It’s gon’ be trouble, we come through and catch you while you cuddle
Them shotgun barrels like tunnels nigga, don’t even mumble
Not to mention, with an exuberance that seems to be as infectiously contagious as it was back when he was elevating a still-burgeoning Drake# or a then-unknown Nikki# to new heights, Weezy F. Baby also finds a way to extract some of the best technical flowing we’ve heard from Mr. Chainz in a good minute (see: his 2nd verse at the 1:36 mark).
As Tauheed Epps himself admits in the track:
What’s really happnin’ bro?
Verbal attackin’, I’m showing passion
For at least this one track, them boys just not bluffing.
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