Considering the toll that life can take, credit should be given to the songwriters who make it their goal to survey and understand some of the most daunting emotional terrain. The best of them are lucky to stay the course at all, as so many aspiring artists are pushed off course not by their own inabilities or creative drought, but rather consumed or distracted by the infinite other forces defining an existence.
Gogol Bordello performs at 9:30 Club on May 7, 2022. (Photo by Ben Eisendrath/ Instagram: @insomnigraphic)
This is not your babushka’s polka.
In normal times, when you’re about to catch an infamously party-centric, rambunctious act of the likes of Gogol Bordello, your headspace is filled with thoughts of dancing, drinking, and living life to the fullest. You’re not necessarily worried about the geopolitical machinations that insidiously weave its way into the fabric of everyday existence; indeed, performance art is often a means of escape from those quotidien worries.
But, as we are all too well aware, these are not normal times. Strolling up to the venerable 9:30 Club on a cold, wet night in May, I was surreptitiously conscious of the significance of this concert.
Piano virtuoso Tori Amos visited MGM National Harbor recently on her Ocean to Ocean Tour in support of her 16th studio album, released last year via Decca! And Katherine Gaines photographed Tori in concert at MGM.
Wonderfully affable actor Jeff Goldblum could do just about anything and people would undoubtedly find it compelling. As it so happens, Jeff is a lifelong lover of playing piano, and so some years ago, he got together with a very good jazz collective and started performing around Hollywood as Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
Said orchestra has now released two studio albums, The Capitol Studios Sessions and I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This, consisting of jazz standards often given fresh arrangements by the band. The act has become a bit more ambitious, as warrants its tremendous talent, and it has hit the road recently with a stop at the Strathmore Music Center.
If you go back in the history of roots music, you’ll find that genres that are harshly separated today were not so clearly distinct in an earlier time. Up to the ’50s and ’60s, country and folk were closely tied to blues, and the word often appeared in the title of country songs. In the late ’60s and ’70s, there was a distinct overlap between country and the burgeoning genre of soul music, centered on Memphis and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. (For a fascinating, book-length study of this, see Charles Hughes’ excellent Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South.)
Eli “Paperboy” Reed has dedicated his career to vintage soul sounds, but as he showed in his performance at The Hamilton Live recently, he’s a fan of old-school country, too.
For all of American music’s collective dynamism, how many artists truly celebrate that diversity with their sounds? What would that even look like?
Helado Negro, a musical project led since 2009 by South Florida native Robert Carlos Lange, is one of the few endeavors to take up such a task. Earning a number of grants and awards bestowed upon him by various organizations, Lange became prolific in the past decade, imbuing a cross-culturalism into an inventive, revolutionary take on experimental/avant-pop and digital folk — with the words of his songs often spoken in two languages.
Roberto made an anticipated stop at 9:30 Club recently as part of his current tour in support of Far In, his 2021 studio album released on 4AD.
What do you get when you mix one part brilliant songwriter, one part jaw-dropping voice, and two generous portions of unmatched stage presence? You get the indomitable LP, whose new album, Churches, brings personal and universally relatable songs front and center.
And I have to say, as a fan who has seen this artist perform over the years, their live shows are to die for, so it was tough to see tours get pushed back or canceled during the pandemic. But on Friday, LP was back in DC, and at The Anthem, no less, to bring it all back.
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is one of those “first call” guys, the musician you call first when you need someone who can play just about anything.
Although he’s most famous for his stints in Steely Dan (1972-74) and The Doobie Brothers (1975-79), Jeff has had a long career lending his considerable multi-instrumentalist talents (guitar, pedal steel, keyboards, percussion) supporting artists as diverse as Les Paul, Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Hoyt Axton, Rod Stewart Eric Clapton, Donna Summer, and Linda Ronstadt (for whom he played congas on “You’re No Good”).
The stage at DC’s Lincoln Theatre suited The Regrettes frontwoman Lydia Night just fine. She bounded across it and made herself at home, jumping up and down in her Converse All Star Chuck Taylors in a blur of guitar-driven motion.
Lydia’s bandmates were equally happy and cozy on stage — if not quite as frenetic — marking an early date on their US tour in support of Further Joy, The Regrettes’ third full-length studio album, released via Warner about a month ago.
DC-based soul/roots musician Aaron Shneyer recently released his new album Love Rebellion, which culminates a 12-year journey jumping worlds between Israelis and Palestinians, jumping to some other continents, meeting himself, and finding life’s partner.
Aaron will hold his official album release concert at Pearl Street Warehouse in DC’s wharf neighborhood on Sunday, May 15. He will be joined on stage by a powerhouse group of DC’s finest jazz, gospel, funk, world music and reggae musicians.