Bleached at DC9: This is one of my favorite small venue shows of the year thus far. Bonus points for the fact that they sold Bleached coloring books at the merch stand. This was the first time I've seen them since their second album came out. The new songs sounded great live. Overall it was probably the best show that I've seen from them. And I could actually go to the front row this time since DC doesn't dance vs. having to hide in the back from all the crazy CA punks moshing when I saw them in Santa Ana last year. Old people FTW.
Waxahatchee at Black Cat: Katie Crutchfield crushed it. He sister Allison played double duty -- delivering a solid opening set with her solo material and backing up Katie in Waxahatchee's touring band. I don't know her name, but I've never seen a bass player look so bored on stage. Other than that it was amazing. The songs sounded exponentially better live than recorded. Only bummer was that it was a really short headlining set (under a hour). More Waxahatchee next time, please!
Good Graeff at DC9: This was my favorite Good Graeff show to date, mostly because they ended their set with my favorite "Good Touch." They are such a fun band to see live and they just exude joy. Plus they mix in amusing cello covers between songs ranging from rap music to Disney songs. Pretty short set for a headliner at slightly over an hour, but still an excellent show. They are now on my must-see list each time they come through.
Dolly Parton at Wolf Trap: Wow, was this an experience. Let's start with the merch stand. I was really tempted to get a denim vest covered in rhinestones and pink butterflies because it was so amazingly hideous, but couldn't bring myself to shell out $60. So I opted for a $10 butterfly koozie, which is a ridiculous price for what it is, but still cheap enough that I'm fine with my purchase. Dolly was the ultimate showman. She commanded the audience. We were eating out of the palm of her hand. I have never earnestly laughed as such awful, cheesy jokes before. It was impossible not to love her. She played my favorite "Jolene" early in the set and saved "I Will Always Love You" for the end. Both were bucket list songs for me to hear live and they didn't disappoint. The whole thing made me want to take a road trip to Dollywood.
Avett Brothers at Eagle Bank Arena: The opening band was so awful that I couldn't stand sitting in my seat (even though I was right in the front). I had to get up and leave. It was like bad Christian rock with a country twist. But you know what I found when wandering around the concourse? Beer (duh) and a stand selling slices of cookie cake! Can we make this a thing in every venue? Cookie cake is my favorite. They played a solid 22 song set followed by a three song encore (starting with my favorite "Murder in the City"). Some killer covers of the likes of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Townes Van Zandt were mixed in among the career-spanning set.
Lee Baines and the Glory Fires at DC9: He wasn't quite as feisty as when he opened for Alabama Shakes and jumped into the crowd every other song, but this was still some rocking, southern music. Pretty thin crowd. Fun, but not a horribly memorable show in the scheme of my concert going.
Brandi Carlile and Old Crow Medicine Show at Merriweather: I bought tickets in the pit during the BC presale and didn't pay much attention beyond that. Turns out it was a seated show (never seen that at Merriweather) and I was in the front row, pretty central. Score! Dawes opened and were their normal level of acceptable but not super memorable starter act. It was my first time seeing Old Crow and I really enjoyed them. Super high energy and just a lot of fun. I even loved "Wagon Wheel" even though I cringe every time I hear it at a bar in Virginia (which is every time I go to a bar in Virginia). Brandi Carlile delivered the best set I've seen from her (which says a lot considering how awesome her shows always are). But the real kicker here was the encore, in which all three bands teamed up for covers of "Jolene" "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35."
Margo Price at Birchmere: I didn't even have her album yet (which is awesome). I bought tickets on the buzz of her album release from Third Man Records. I knew Jack White wouldn't let me down. I got to the Birchmere super early (before doors opened...legit like 4 hours before the show started) and was still #10 in line because old people at the Birchmere don't mess around. Solid set including most of the material from her album plus a slew of covers (George Jones, Jessi Colter, Billy Grammar, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, and Gram Parsons). Will definitely see her again.
Diarrhea Planet at Black Cat: The least memorable of the DP shows that I've seen, unfortunately. Plus the sound at the Black Cat was pretty poor on the evening. Too loud and everything washed together. The guitar weren't crisp and popping like they normally do. Sigh.
FLAG at Black Cat: When I went to NYC at the end of June to see the Stone Roses show, I was going to stick around for 4th of July weekend. Then FLAG announced a show at the Black Cat on July 1st and I ditched that plan to see the punk legends. It's crazy to think that we live in a world of two competing Black Flag reunion efforts. We are blessed in punk rock. Other than Greg Ginn, FLAG really has a the bigger number of former members that I care about. They have multiple former singers, who trade off on vocals, so you get a nice variety of Black Flag songs from different eras. "I've Had It" and "Rise Above" were clear highlights for me. It is easily in my top five for the year so far.
Julie Ruin at Black Cat: I finally got to see Kathleen Hanna live! It was exactly what I hoped for. She delivered blistering punk vocals. She yells at a guy for shouting something while she was talking. She went on rants about sexism she faced while living in DC as a teenager. They covered most of the two JR albums plus did an amazing cover of "Pedestrian at Best." Also, the opener (Olivia Neutron John) was crazy in a very entertaining way. I stood there mesmerized then at the end of her set, turned to the stranger next to me (who was in a similar state of mesmerization) and shared a silent shrug. In her words, "Well...she has her thing...and she commits to it." That she does.
Dresden Dolls at Coney Island Ampitheatre: Being a big Amanda Palmer fan, when the Dresden Dolls announced a few reunion shows, I was all over that. I picked the NYC area show as the most convenient (and, let's face it, Coney Island's place as the freak show capital of the world was pretty much the perfect place to see the Dolls). Doors opened late, so I had less time to enjoy the random performers around the venue. They had living statues, a "one minute drag makeover" table (basically someone smearing glitter on your face), fortune tellers, and all sorts of other stuff. The venue was basically a larger version of Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore.
Much as I love Amanda, Brian was my favorite part of the live show. His drumming is so theatrical that it's constantly interesting to watch. They did all the great DD songs that you would expect -- "Missed Me" "Coin Operated Boy" "Sing" "Half Jack" "Girl Anachronism" -- plus a few AP covers (including the new "Machete") and other awesome covers "War Pigs" "Killing in the Name of" and "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party)." Well worth the trip to NY. Video of the show is available here.