Monthly Archives: February 2013

First Impressions with Laura Wiederhoeft: Ra Ra Rasputin and Miyazaki @ Strathmore Mansion

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Being a newcomer to a city has its perks: every Friday-night option is appealing and going out is still an adventure. With First Impressions, I’ll be exploring DC’s music scene from my perspective, bringing you ideas for venues you may have never been to before and shedding new light on old standbys. Whether you’re a newbie like me, a die-hard local (do those exist in DC?) or somewhere in between, here’s hoping to a musical adventure in everyone’s weekend plans.

When weighing my options for the first installment of First Impressions, I hesitated to choose Friday Night Eclectic at Strathmore Mansion. Bethesda, Maryland hardly seems like a destination for DC music scenesters, and the typical classy programming of this multi-disciplinary arts center isn’t always aligned to the desires of weekend ears. But Friday Night Eclectic isn’t the typical fare of Strathmore, and Bethesda isn’t as square as you might think. Promises of dance beats from DC bands Ra Ra Rasputin and Miyazaki enticed me out in the end, and even after my 45 minute long-haul on the metro, I had no regrets.

Strathmore describes their Friday Night Eclectic as “the hip party you would host—if you lived in a mansion with an art gallery, a cool band and a bartender.” I guess their description is pretty accurate, even if I do wonder who put together the guest list. Suburban dads in baseball caps mingled with Mohawked girls and young urbanites on the dance floor, and skinny-jeaned hipsters rubbed elbows with long-haired hippie types at the bar. This oddly diverse assortment of concertgoers only added to the charm, however, and I found it a refreshing divergence from the more predictable crowds I’ve encountered in the heart of the district.

The venue itself, filled with dance music, radiated quirky. Oak wood paneling and ornate metal light fixtures adorn the whole first floor, and the grand staircase in the foyer exudes elegance – it is a renovated mansion, after all. In the midst of all this class, Miyazaki and Ra Ra Rasputin staged an excellent, high-energy show underneath a giant pipe organ. For those who temporarily tired of the bands’ synthpop stylings, a DC artist sold his wares in an adjacent room, even allowing onlookers to try their hand at using his paint sprayer. For thirsty folk, a cash bar in the dining room served up boozy delight, while locally made art adorned every wall and provided welcome wandering space. Although I came for the tunes (which did not disappoint), I was fully amused by the assorted offerings of the evening.

The music was danceable, the venue was surprisingly enchanting, and the eclectic vibe lived up to Strathmore’s intents. If you missed out this weekend, don’t worry – the mansion houses local bands every Friday night and throws in unexpected arts events to round the whole thing out. If ever there was a reason to venture that far up the red line, this might be it.

 

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Thievery Corporation – The Time We Lost Our Way video

Let’s keep it short & sweet today DC, it’s Friday and I can taste the three day weekend. Here’s a classic video from Thievery Corporation featuring their longtime vocalist Loulou Ghelichkhani. The Time We Lost Our Way comes from the 2005 album The Cosmic Game.

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Paint Branch – Brighton Beach video

Yesterday former Q And Not U bandmates John Davis (Title Tracks) and Chris Richards (pop music critic for the Washington Post), as Paint Branch, released the first music video for their debut release I Wanna Live, for the lead-off single Brighton Beach. The assemblage of grainy footage, well suited to the 70s musical vibe, was helmed by Scott Mueller, longtime videographer for Davis going back to the Georgie James days. Grab the entire full length release for FREE or chip in a few bucks to support local music.

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Dance For The Dying – Mannequin (Blue Light Session)

Local indie rock band Paperhaus lives in a happy little house called Paperhaus, one of the more popular house venues in town. The show I saw there last Friday night featuring Honest Haloway, Watermelon and Slow Machete, while stylistically all over the place, was a packed and sweaty fun party, even after the visit from law enforcement and subsequent volume reduction. The band leaves for an extended tour soon, so shows there will pause for a while. All the more reason to check out tonight’s show featuring two pop bands from Pittsburgh, Donora and TeamMate, and keytar-rocking locals Dance For The Dying. The show’s free, but bring a few bucks to help the out of towners with gas money. Here’s a great live version of D4TD’s Mannequin, the lead single from last year’s Puzzles For The Traveler EP, courtesy of Pick Up Productions’ Blue Light Sessions.

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RDGLDGRN – I Love Lamp video

Genre-twisting quartet The Five One, individually known only as Red, Blue, Gold and Green, parted ways a couple of years ago and are now reformed as RDGLDGRN, with new drummer Dave Grohl (perhaps you’ve heard of him) and producer Pharrell Williams. Their new EP Red Gold Green drops today, and its blend of rock, go-go, hip-hop , pop and Caribbean influences is well worth seeking out. Here’s one of the new videos RDGLDGRN released from the EP, the catchy break-up tune I Love Lamp. And yes, the song’s title comes from Anchorman’s Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell).

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Live Picks! With Tony Porreco: M.H. & His Orchestra @ Velvet Lounge

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Live Picks!

with Tony Porreco

Who: M.H. & His Orchestra

Where: Velvet Lounge

When: Friday Feb. 15th

Song You Must Hear Today: “Cobblestone”

Here’s an embarrassing story for you: When I was in the 2nd grade, my P.E. teacher invited a local Jazzercise instructor in to do a couple of sessions with us kids.  (I can only speculate as to why.)  Anyway, after the first session, I approached the teacher, and asked if I could pick the music next time.  “Of course!”, she said.

So at gym class the next week, I proudly presented the Jazzercise lady a tape of some of my favorite songs I’d recorded off the radio.  She put it in the boombox, lined us up for a “work out”, and pressed play.  The first song was Green Day’s “Basket Case”.  After about 15 seconds, she halted the tape, took me aside, and gently explained to me how “There are two kinds of music: The kind you dance to, and the kind you listen to”, and how I had brought in the latter kind.  She then popped in a tape stuffed with ‘80s dance pop, and I half-heartedly went through the motions of Jazzercise, feeling so embarrassed that upon landing my very first DJ set, I’d spun the wrong tracks.

There are still moments at shows standing amidst the throngs of stationery concert-goers where I’m a little self-conscious about being a rock fan.  The genre has long since lost its association as de facto party music, and understandably so: Generally, you just can’t shake it to a punk or post-rock number the way you can with R&B or electronic.

Which brings us to the music of M.H. & His Orchestra, who are playing an all together different kind of party music.  Rather, their work is styled not in the contemporary traditions of rock and pop, but instead in the older template of a melodramatic crooner (in this instance, singer/composer Max Holiday [“M.H.”]) backed by an orchestra providing rich, expressive arrangements.

So in some respects, yes, this resembles the music of your grandparents’ youth, but there’s more to it than that.  The group’s debut album The Throes (available for download at their Bandcamp, $8) was recorded with an astonishing 44 member orchestra:  When you’ve got an ensemble that large, you’re really capable of playing just about any style of music you want, and main man M.H. makes effective use of the wide array of musical talent on hand (broad assortments of string, brass, and woodwind players, among others) to effortlessly hop from one unexpected genre to the next.

And really, there’s so much ground covered here, ranging from Latin/Calypso, oompah brass music, and even touches of big beat R&B.  Opening track “Cobblestone” begins with a straightforward electric piano that’s soon joined by old time-y upright bass and Latin percussion, only to be followed by the surprise of a glitchy R&B drum machine alongside a horn section.

Now, that’s a lot to put down, especially about the first thirty seconds of an album, but that’s M.H. & His Orchestra: The trappings of half a dozen musical genres, laced with M.H.’s throaty, drama-filled vocal performances that remind me more than a little of Roy Orbison.

Sonic descriptions aside, it’s really the playful, booty-shakin’ rhythms that truly distinguish M.H. & His Orchestra from other more austere, cerebral orchestral/chamber pop.  Often, the songs are grounded in a carefree Latin or Calypso beat, lending the endeavor a welcome tropical buoyancy.  Really, I just want to post up in a deck chair, order a banana daiquiri, and watch this band do their thing.

The stripped down, 11-piece touring version of M.H. & His Orchestra are performing this Friday at Velvet Lounge as part of a Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser event for Cosmic Campout, which is a three-day music and art going into its second year.  Opening acts include Vasudeva (arty alt prog) and Dr. Robinson’s Fiasco (moody alt duo).  It’s gonna be crazy fun.

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Carolyn Malachi – Free Your Mind video

Grammy nominated singer Carolyn Malachi performs an intimate show tonight at Busboys & Poets (5th & K) with guitarist Brock Smith at 7 PM. Recently she released a music video for Free Your Mind, from her upcoming release Gold, telling the story of a struggling young dancer. The song melds influences from R&B, rap and electronic dance music, proving the versatility of this seasoned performer with a heart as big as her talent.

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Podcast for Feb. 10th feat. Gist

This week we interview members of Gist before their Positive Force/Fort Reno Benefit show Saturday Feb 16th at St. Stephen’s Church. https://www.facebook.com/events/137348479756532/

Tracklisting:
Gist – Hold On
Gist – Asunder
Mittenfields – Goliath FTW
Mobius Strip – Green Is The New Red
The Mean Ideas – No 1 Is Any 1

Or listen on SoundCloud:

Subscribe to the Hometown Sounds podcast in the iTunes Store

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Kingpen Slim – Dead video

Yesterday DMV rapper Kingpen Slim released another music video from his free mixtape Triple Beam Dreams, this time spotlighting his track Dead featuring Styles P, produced by Mark Henry. Happy weekend DC!

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Maxmillion Dunbar – Loving the Drift video

Upstart U Street dance hall Tropicalia is giving the established champ U Street Music Hall a run for its money with booking exciting talent. Tonight they partner with local electronic label Future Times to host Sal P, legendary member of NYC post-punk act Liquid Liquid. Unnamed Future Times DJs warm up the room, and it’s a good bed one of them will be Maxmillion Dunbar aka Andrew Field-Pickering, one half of the duo Beautiful Swimmers, head of Future Times and a well-established electronic musician with two full length albums and a handful of strong singles. Max D drops a brand new album House of Woo on the RVNG Intl. label on February 19th, and just today released the first music video from it, for Loving the Drift. This is a great first taste of what’s sure to be a fine night of out-there beats at Tropicalia.

Tropicalia flyer

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