It’s been a while, but Paul & Tony are back in 2016 with riffs on “peak dad-ness” and Tony’s history as a real bruiser on the roller rink. Plus an unexpected and lighthearted tribute to the artistic legend David Bowie, and of course a fresh dose of DC music!
Tomorrow the winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk contest is finally announced, so it’s time to wrap up our review of DC entries and get to praying that one of them wins. Perhaps it’ll be today’s entry? Bob is a known fan of the theatrics and showmanship of M.H. & His Orchestra. A band totally unlike any other in DC, they’ve even had fans write in attempting to describe their sound. This video for “Promenade Drive” gives you some idea of what to expect from this band: elegant costumes, choreography, set design, a clarinet, and abounding energy. Keep your eyes peeled for the next big show from Max Holiday and his well dressed gang.
Max Holiday & His Orchestra are like no other band in DC. In a scene where sound and genre are taken so seriously, Max reminds us of the power of wowing the audience with theatrics and showmanship. Their last headlining show at the 9:30 Club included a banner processional from the upper balcony, on-stage costume changes, massive Illuminati props and an entire storyline tying the whole thing together. In a word, it was epic.
Your next chance to see His Orchestra live is this Friday September 26th, playing a free show waaay out at Bungalow Billiards in Chantilly. Sounds like a strange venue for a 10 piece ensemble used to filling the 9:30 Club with adoring superfans, right? Well, Max and his friends at Heady Entertainment have a future-noir short film called “Return of the White Light” to provide the backstory for this gig. I know this isn’t a traditional “music video” but seriously, can you imagine any other band in this town coming up with something like this? Keep DC weird Max.
The Circus Life Podcast week on Hometown Sounds continues with a live video of M.H. & His Orchestra performing “The Train”, from last year’s debut album The Throes. This band certainly sounds like no other in DC, and I speak from personal experience that they put on an epic live show! Check them out live this Saturday night at the Rock & Roll Hotel when The Circus Life records a live podcast episode, along with The Cowards Choir, The Sweater Set, Black Masala and the Justin Trawick Group.
And don’t forget to enter our ticket giveaway below! Just leave us a comment telling us your favorite band in DC and you’re entered to win a pair of tickets. The contest ends this Friday, and stay tuned all week for more great videos from The Circus Life!
Last Tuesday we brought you the Fresh Track “Blackjack”, from These Future Saints‘ new EP, Ellerslie Ave. In the spirit of following up, I made the short trek out to Clarendon’s IOTA to catch the band with Classified Frequency and M.H. & His Orchestra for their EP release show. Now, I’m not especially fond of show recaps; I think it’s far better to be there for the actual experience of the show rather than to learn about it via whatever vapid sludge I’m capable of churning out.
As such, we’re thrilled team up with the very talented photographer Heaton Johnson to bring you Lens Flair, a new photojournalism series documenting the DC show experience. There’s an alluring vibrance to Johnson’s stills that does a remarkable job of taking you “there” in lieu of hollow verbiage (or time travel).
So without further delay, the installment of Lens Flair!
Hometown Sounds is proud to give away a pair of tickets to another amazing lineup of DC music at the 9:30 Club. Friday night August 9th The Brindley Brothers, usually associated with Vienna venue Jammin’ Java, present M.H. & His Orchestra, with support from DIY champions Paperhaus and the mysterious Atoka Chase. I’ll be honest with you DC, I checked out Max Holiday and his impressively large ensemble at Tropicalia a few weeks ago, and I was completely blown away by their live show. The music videoswe’ve featured on the site do not do justice to the energy and talent that they bring to the stage. Their soulful, brassy, tight sound is unline anything else going on in DC that I have ever heard, and I’d be the one to know! Just post a comment telling us your favorite DC area band and you’ll be entered to win! If you aren’t the lucky winner, tickets are availabe for only $15 through Ticketfly.
We here at Hometown Sounds loves us some Max Holiday (M.H.) & His Orchestra. Live Picks! columnist Tony Porreco told you all about this soulful bandleader earlier this year, and we featured his newest song Washington, D.C. in our Tribute to DC Podcast back in April. Now M.H. has released a beautiful music video for Washington, D.C. shot by Dedalus Moving Pictures, the fine folks behind some of our favoritevideos from Drop Electric. The video was inspired by the arrests of dancers at the Jefferson Memorial back in 2011. Grab the song for whatever price you think is fair at his Bandcamp page and make plans to see his live show late Saturday July 13th at Jammin’ Java.
Max Holiday, known by his initials M.H., is a fave around the Hometown Sounds “studios” (hint: we have no studios, yet). His big band Orchestra puts on quite a show, and his recent track Washington DC featured in our Tribute to DC Podcast. Yesterday M.H. slipped a new video into his Facebook feed for the as-yet unreleased instrumental track Waltz. As Max says, “Sometimes you just need to waltz”, and I think a sweet, peaceful track like this is just what we all need today.
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.