Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods. Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt. But there’s music in us.
It feels wrong to post anything today, mere days after the attacks in Paris and Beirut, without noting the violent ends to which extremists will go and the myriad ways in which we respond. Many of us treat music as a safe haven and a bridge between beliefs and borders. Surely the events must touch a particular nerve in musicians and music lovers familiar with Le Bataclan, one of the sites of Friday’s violence. So I’ll open with this video from yesterday of a man who towed his grand piano behind his bike, parked it outside Bataclan, and performed John Lennon’s “Imagine.” And I’ll direct you to this poem by Jack Gilbert, who fiercely insists that “there will be music despite everything” — despite the sorrow, despite the slaughter.
Flock of Dimes
As one-half of Wye Oak, Jenn Wasner has created brash, folk-tinged rock alongside drummer & keyboardist Andy Stack. The Baltimore native has since ventured out with solo work under the moniker Flock of Dimes. Though the full album has yet to be released, Wasner is road-testing the songs as she tours with EL VY (more later on the side project of The National’s frontman). If the Flock of Dimes songs we heard on Wednesday night represent almost-but-not-quite-finished products, then we’ve got some true sonic candy to savor in the months ahead. These are majestic, effects-drenched pieces — so full-bodied that you wouldn’t guess they’re the product of a single performer.
For most of the opening set, Wasner was half-hidden behind an array of keys, dials, and guitars — but there’s no hiding that voice with its shimmering energy, like a dream that visits by night and haunts through the day.
The rooftop bar feels as intimate as the 9:30 Club felt epic. Laura hops off the stage for a song, tambourine in hand, and the room is all smiles as the audience dances along. Songs like “Generals” and “Body of Work” take on a different patina with the Washington Monument in the backdrop, red lights in a metronomic throb.
This is the second of a two-part photo journal of The Mynabirds. Click here for pics + reflections from their 9:30 Club show with The Pixies.
June 1, 2015. DC is known for swampy summers, and June weather enters on cue, pressing against us with its fleshy heat. All day, the air is thick with the threat of thunder. On the way to the W Washington, I’m caught in a downpour of what feels like monsoon proportions.
Two years ago, Kodaline was the supporting act at a 9:30 Club show. Last week, the Irish rock band returned to the D.C. venue, this time as the headliner. It was an evening of music that was both achingly beautiful and irrepressibly joyful. Check out the photos below and enter for a chance to win tickets to Kodaline’s Los Angeles show on May 5, 2015.
Nine o’clock, Thursday night. Gavin James had finished his soulful opening set, and Kodaline was up next. On the club floor, the crowd was jammed up against the barricade. From the balconies, eager faces looked down.
Early Spring. Harshness vanished. A sudden softness has replaced the meadows’ wintry grey. Little rivulets of water changed their singing accents. (R.M. Rilke) And while rain pattered against the sidewalks outside, in the dimly-lit 9:30 Club, folk musicians Ólöf Arnalds and José González took the sold-out crowd hopscotching across landscapes and languages.
Icelandic singer/songwriter Ólöf Arnalds played a solo opening set structured around finger-picked guitar. Arnalds’ lyrics alternate between her native tongue and English, her brilliant trill conjuring an otherworldly landscape. Björk describes Arnalds’ voice as “something between a child and an old woman,” and there is indeed a hybrid, unsettling-yet-beguiling quality to Arnalds’ style. Her vocals swirl in dizzying heights, but never sound shrill. Her tone is beautifully saturated and her diction crisp, with consonants taking on a subtle rhythmic, percussive effect.
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. –Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History”
A spectral bird, its wings outspread, imparts a white glow to the dim stage. The sculptural eagle — a spirit animal of sorts for The Airborne Toxic Event — recalls Klee’s angel, and the music of The Airborne Toxic Event evokes the struggle with the chaos of modern life described by the historian Walter Benjamin. But unlike Benjamin’s angel of history, confronted with the devastation of the past but propelled inexorably into the future, the music of The Airborne Toxic Event encourages us to linger, to rebuildthese stunning ruinsand piece together the fragments of our compartmentalized lives.