Last Sunday I headed up to Merriweather for presumably the last time in 2015 to catch Of Monsters and Men. I’m glad they came back to DC so soon after I missed their show at Echostage in May, because 1) they are always a delight live and 2) there new album, while I hear very little buzz about it, is all sorts of fantastic.
Denmark’s Oh Land opened up and was all sorts of endearingly awkward. Their lead singer, dressed like a more sensible Bjork, played air flute on a drumstick, for example. It was poppy, it was dancey, it was interesting. The intros to their songs at times sounded identical to others (notably “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler), but we’ll forgive them that because they were so happy. I wish they played longer than 30 minutes.
Of Monsters and Men played all of their new album, along with seven songs from their debut. People remained seated for the first two songs (I hate DC sometimes) but thankfully during the intro to “King and Lionheart” the drummer peer pressured everyone into standing, and most of us would remain so for the rest of the show. “Mountain Sound” and “Empire” were early highlights. They closed the set with three older tracks, “Lakehouse,” “Little Talks,” and “Six Weeks” before returning for a three song encore of “Organs,” “Dirty Paws,” and “We Sink.”
The venue wasn’t anywhere close to full. I guess some of the “Little Talks” fandom is wearing off, which is a shame since this band has yet to release an okay song and they are easily one of the top 20 live bands that I’ve ever seen. Every track on their first two albums is fantastic. Merriweather even did something that I’ve never seen before – allowing people on the lawn to fill in the sides of the pavilion because it was so empty. So get the net, DC. Don’t miss OMAM the next time they come around.
If Sleater-Kinney is only the second best concert of 2015 so far, who could possibly be beating them? The Replacements. At a venue that I hate no less. Because that’s how good the Replacements are.
Unfortunately this show conflicted with Those Darlins (who thankfully are coming back to DC with Shakey Graves this fall) and was at Echostage (boo, hiss!). I got there early enough to secure a spot in the second row and was surrounded by a crowd of largely very obnoxious old people. I had to pull the rare reverse ear plugs trick: ear plugs in between sets to drown out all high-pitched, loud banter around me that was starting to give me a headache and took them out during the loud, punk rock band. It worked quite well. The only benefit of the old people is that this was a no moshing zone.
J. Roddy Walston and the Business kicked things off. I’d never heard of them but they were amazing and I would go out of my way to see them again. It was interesting southern rock, alternating guitar and piano leads. It was as if a piano protégé in Tennessee grew up obsessed with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The combination worked marvelously. It was a totally different style than the Replacements but the energy was the same so it fit well.
I was giddy when I finally saw the Replacements play at ACL last year. In retrospect, that set was horrible compared to this show. The energy was way higher. The intensity was greater. They were having fun. Everything in the music – the vocals, the guitar hooks, EVERYTHING – sounded sharper. This was vintage Replacements. The set was ~30 songs. They kicked things off with “Takin’ a Ride.” They threw in covers. The climax at the end of the set was a string of songs including “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “Bastards of Young” that would be near impossible for any other band to top. They saved “Alex Chilton” for a six-song encore ending with “I.O.U.”
There are a still a few months left in 2015, but this show is going to be really hard to beat.
While I’ve done some concert reviews this year, I’ve also procrastinated on a bunch. So much so that I considered just punting on them and pretending that I wasn’t do derelict in my music website duties. But some of these shows were so good that I just can’t do that. In late February, Sleater-Kinney came to the 9:30 Club for a few nights and put on the second best show of the year (to date). If you’re wondering what the best show so far is…that’s also on the list of things I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet.
For starters, wow was the people watching fantastic at this show. My favorite was a girl in a gold leotard with hot pink leggings who looked like my tattoo artists. You do you, girl.
Riot Grrrl rapper Lizzo opened and was really enjoyable. Everything you need to know about why Lizzo is amazing to see live: she has a song about cookies that consists almost entirely of the lyrics “I’ve got my batches and cookies” repeated and the throws cookies into the crowd during this song. Remember that next time you are stuck listening to some boring, forgettable opener.
Now for the gloriousness that is Sleater-Kinney. This was my first time seeing them since college, in which I drove from Bucknell to Philly in 2002, bc Sleater-Kinney is awesome enough to get me to drive 3+ hours. I’ve seen all the members of Sleater-Kinney in other acts since then, but wow is something special when the three of them combine their powers together.
Their set was heavy on their new album, which is amazing. They kicked things off with “Price Tag” and rollicked through a 18 song set ending with the classic “Dig Me Out.” “Bury Our Friends” was a mid-set highlight as was “Jumpers” later in the set. They saved “Gimme Love” (dedicated to Planned Parenthood), “Modern Girl” and “One More Hour” for a fabulous five-song encore.
Luckily I won’t have to wait another 13 years to see Sleater-Kinney again. I’m catching part of their week-long stint in NYC later this fall.
BYT review and pictures here. NPR footage from Sleater-Kinney’s other DC show here.
My first of two shows at Merriweather Post Pavilion this week was the fabulous Alabama Shakes.
Fellow Alabamans Drive by Truckers were the openers and got better billing than most openers would. They probably played for an hour or so. I enjoyed them as an opener (they certainly beat the Twilight soundtrack folks from last week's show and yesterday’s review) but I would never go out of my way to see them on their own. In my ideal alternate universe Alabama Shakes would just take Lee Baines and the Gloryfires with them to open for every show. Maybe throw J. Roddy Walston and the Business into the mix every now and then if Lee needs a break. Both are much more interesting Southern rock bands.
Alabama Shakes took the stage, everyone stood up, and the old people sitting behind me were pissed. Sorry not sorry. This isn’t a Death Cab concert. Brittany Howard’s voice delivers a passion of which it is unacceptable to sit in response to, even for slow songs. They kicked things off with a few tracks from their latest album Sound and Color, which just grows on me more and more each time I listen to it. It’s so different from their debut and yet still obviously them that the songs fit in nicely in a mixed set.
With only two albums, they basically got to play everything from both records, with the notable exception of “Hold On.” I assumed they were just saving it for the encore, but they never busted it out. I love all their songs, so it didn’t matter much, but it was a little bizarre. It seems a bit soon for them to get so sick of their biggest song that they boot it out of the set. They only have two albums. It's not like they've had to play that song for 20 years.
Brittany Howard remains one of my favorite performers to see live. It’s impossible to do justice to how fabulous and passionate her vocals come across live. And her facial expressions are so intense that even if you couldn’t hear her for some reason, you’d get the sentiment of the songs pretty clearly.
New tracks like “Gimme All Your Love” were the stars of the set. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.