By Mary Chang on Friday, 21st December 2012 at 11:00 am
Another year, and another top 5 gigs by bands that should not be missed live. How odd that three of them came one after another, but that’s the cool thing about Washington DC. Except for December through the beginning of February (the dead of winter) and June through August (festival season), there is always a reasonably good selection of bands coming through here. But that hasn’t always been the case.
I am often asked on my travels why I became a music blogger, and the simple answer has always been this: when I started covering shows in March 2009, I was getting increasingly upset about how many bands (American or international) would skip Washington entirely, either in favour of going to Philadelphia instead or would only consider New York, or maybe Boston, as the only cities worthy on the East Coast for a tour stop. I have had the opportunity to meet so many bands in the last 3+ years that Washington DC has now become considered on the list of cities bands sincerely wish to play in – or on the list that bands say they will definitely pass through on their next headline tours of North America. To know that I have been involved in making this paradigm shift a reality means so much. It means that I have done something for the city I’ve called home all these years and more importantly, have exposed thousands of music fans from varying walks of life who either work, go to school, or pass through our fine city to incredible music.
All five bands whose gigs landed them in my top 5 gigs of 2012 are worth every red cent you can put forward to go see them, either in their own gig or at a festival in 2013. Here’s the list…
5. Ash‘s 20th anniversary tour at DC9 (Thursday 15th November 2012) – what a surreal experience, finally seeing Ash live, in one of the smallest places to see bands in Washington. Even more surreal was after, when I actually got to talk to all of them and Tim Wheeler said I was a more appropriate panelist for Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable than he was. (This made me smile.) The set itself was brilliantly hard rocky, much more so than I ever would have imagined.
4. TGTF’s stage at Liverpool Sound City 2012, starring the Temper Trap, Clock Opera and Dear Prudence – Liverpool Academy of Arts (Friday 18th May 2012) – maybe this is cheating, choosing our own stage at Liverpool. But this night couldn’t have been any better, starring our friends since I took over as Editor of this Web site, the Temper Trap, our new friends from SXSW, Clock Opera, and a band from Brighton destined to bigger things, Dear Prudence. All we can say is THANK YOU to all the bands for making it such a memorable night and THANK YOU Sound City for letting us host this amazing stage.
3. Husky at Red Palace (Friday 17th November 2012) – it’s a sad day in Washington, as Red Palace, similar in intimate size to DC9, will be closing its doors at the end of 2012. But before then, I managed to catch the Melbourne band we befriended at this year’s Great Escape. Just check out this video from the show of the band performing an a capella version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Lover Lover Lover’ and you’ll understand why they’re so good live.
2. the Joy Formidable at St. Stephen’s Church (Saturday 10th November 2012) – the Welsh band have consistently placed in my top 5 gigs of the last 2 years; last year they were at #4 and in 2010, they were at #2. What made the difference and put them higher up this year? Seriously, how often do you see such a power house band in a space as small as a church’s rec room? (Well, it was a little bigger than that…but still.) Absolutely fabulous. And their new album ‘Wolf’s Law’ will be huge next year; just check out this live version of first single ‘Cholla’.
What was the first date on the autumn 2012 North American tour to sell out? Washington DC, of course. There is still some confusion on whether or not Barack Obama is a fan, but one thing is clear: of all the bands that I’ve known and loved, I did right by Two Door Cinema Club – and helped them become the superstars that they’ve dreamt of being since they started as kids in grammar school. I used to be able to see them after shows and hang out with them, but even as those days are over, they’ve never forgotten me. They are true gents.
After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2012 so you can have some idea how difficult my job was to choose favourites for the top 5 list. The runner-up gigs are also marked. Continue reading Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks
By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 12th December 2012 at 1:00 pm
Part 1 of my ARIAs media room coverage can be found here. Please note that this 2-part series doesn’t summarise every single artist who stopped by the media room: these are only ‘best of’ posts.
Aboriginal group Yothu Yindi were inducted in the ARIA Hall of Fame and also performed with rising r&b star Jessica Mauboy, singer/songwriter Dan Sultan, ex-INXS keyboardist Andrew Farriss and ex-Midnight Oil Peter Garrett, who now serves as Minister of Education. Recognition of the indigenous occupation of the land prior to modern settlement was the hottest button topic all week as the day before, by Premier Jay Weatherill to introduce a bill to Parliament to amend the South Australian Constitution to provide this recognition. All signs point to the government moving more swiftly the wishes of Yothu Yindi’s leader Mandawuy Yunupingu of this recognition to become law. Listen to the press conference below.
I was unfazed by the appearance of Taylor Swift but offered to look after the property of our new friends at ProjectU.tv, who ran off excitedly to see America’s latest sweetheart take the stage in their hometown. (Watch video of the performance below.) If I was unfazed by Taylor Swift, I was over Nicki Minaj’s surprise appearance even before it started. (But I’m sure you readers of TGTF already guessed that…)
Russell Brand, who I wasn’t expecting at the ARIAs at all, appeared at the show to present two awards – the first one for Best Female Artist to Goyte’s protégé Kimbra (with him bringing his mum onstage for the occasion) and the second one for Album of the Year to Goyte himself. When it came time for him to be photographed, he entertained himself – and arguably, the photographers – by eating grapes and throwing some of them at the cameras. He had a quite funny exchange with the media when it was his turn for a press conference grilling, which was pretty tame I have to admit, but he made it hilarious. Listen in below.
The Temper Trap returned again when they won the Best Group gong, beating out heavy favourites The Jezebels. They made us all laugh when they recounted meeting Gotye in the loo earlier that night. Listen to their second press conference below.
Speaking of the man of the moment, I wasn’t even sure golden boy Goyte would even have time to stop by the media room; he didn’t stop on the red carpet for anyone. But I guess after four awards – Album of the Year, Best Male Artist (2 years running), Best Pop Release and Best Australian Live Act (the last voted by the public) – he felt a duty to talk briefly to the media, although his brain hadn’t fully adjusted back to Australian time yet. (Yeah, that’s what all that globetrotting does to you…) Listen to Wally’s thoughts below.
Kimbra also made an appearance in the media room, but I was preoccupied with her crazy-coloured ostrich feather skirt and tropical-inspired garb. She was exceptionally pleased with her and Gotye’s ARIA successes this year and said she never imagined they would go 2 for 2 in successive year for Best Male and Female Artists.
Chart-topping singer/songwriter Missy Higgins was one of the last stars to stop by the media room. I’ve really enjoyed her song ‘Set Me on Fire’, from her Best Adult Contemporary Album ARIA-winning album ‘The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle’ and was interested in what she had to say. When emcee Buck mentioned that she was all grown up, in my mind I drew a parallel to what has happened since TGTF humbly began in Phil Singer’s bedroom in 2006. We’ve grown up with all of you: our readers, the bands we write about, and all the behind the scenes people that make the success of those bands possible. If we could get ourselves to the ARIAs this year, what else in TGTF’s future? Much, much more. The sky’s the limit!
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 11th December 2012 at 1:00 pm
So after getting thoroughly sunburnt on the right hand side of my body during the red (err, black) carpet proceedings of the 26th ARIA Awards, us media were then shepherded into a bunker for the rest of the evening: the media room. In a bit of a comical scene, people ran for the electrical outlets (we’d been in the sun without electricity for hours, remember?) and one photographer, who rather stupidly set up and opened his laptop on the table where one of only three tvs in the room were sat, stepped down hard on my sandaled foot that I nearly shouted in pain.
But who gets back here in the media room? Certainly during my first time with such a privilege, I was not going to make a scene. I was going to enjoy it for what it was worth. If you were wondering what the tvs were for, they were to remind us that there was a delay in when the show would be broadcast on national Australian television. While two of them showed the live action, one at the start was showing the local network and only when we saw the show playing on actual tv were we allowed to Tweet or other social media the heck out of anyone who had won, once the embargo was lifted.
Like the Oscars, the media room for the ARIAs was kitted out with a media wall and a fake award for each of the winners pose with while countless photographers’ flashbulbs went off. (Just so you know, by my estimation an ARIA award must weigh at least 5 kilos, as when I tried holding the sample after most everyone had left the media room, it felt like I was holding an anvil.) As I’m not a photography nut, what was more interesting to me was what the winners had to say during their press conferences. They were welcomed to the stage by former triple j and current Radio National presenter Robbie Buck as they were sat along a pretty non-descript oblong table with a white tablecloth on the stage. While countless journalists had their backs to the stage, typing out on deadline pieces for their outlets, I could sit and listen to everything that was said.
The first exciting moment was when The Temper Trap won Best Rock Album for their second and self-titled album. It was news to me when our AU Review friends told they’re actually a much bigger deal outside Australia than they are *in* Australia. (Well, maybe this explains why they’ve all moved to London and in this interview in October, Toby and Jonny actually like being in London.) You can listen to most of the press conference below; the audio is slightly cut off at the beginning, but they were responding to Buck’s question of how it felt to receive an ARIA via video conferencing 2 years ago; for obvious reasons, they much preferred being in Sydney to accept their awards this time around.
As we’ve supported The Temper Trap ever since the first utterances of ‘Sweet Disposition’ began to make the rounds and had the pleasure of hosting them on our very own stage at this year’s Liverpool Sound City, it was a proud moment that TGTF could share in. This proud moment was made all the sweeter when it came time for the band to leave the stage and return to their seats in the Sydney Entertainment Centre. The eyes of guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto, who I first met in Boston 2 years ago, scanned the front row of journalists.
He stopped in front of me and gave me a puzzled look. “Mary, what are you doing here?” Having seen them play 8 times, 6 times outside of DC, I didn’t think it was any weirder to be seeing them in Sydney, so my reply was, “what do you think I’m doing here? I’m covering the ARIAs!” His initial shock wore off quickly, he grinned and then waved down the other guys. Suddenly I found myself in the middle of a massive Temper Trap band hug. I am one of those people that believe that things happen for a reason. What I have had trouble believing in lately: how life has a funny way of turning out just fine, even if it’s completely different from what your heart had hoped would happen and wanted. I went to Boston with a different intention; I had no idea 2 years later I would find myself in Australia, covering the famous ARIAs and toasting my prize-winning friends on their amazing awards. You can’t make this stuff up.
I hope I keep having opportunities to see the Temper Trap gig. They are genuinely nice chaps who have been appreciative of everything we’ve done for them. As I watched on one of the tvs just as they were playing ‘Trembling Hands’ for the thousands at the Sydney Entertainment Centre and the millions watching at home, I almost felt overwhelmed at what was enfolding right in front of me. I was so proud of them – and also proud for the role us here at TGTF have had in their path to stardom.
Stay tuned for part 2, to post tomorrow.
By Mary Chang on Friday, 19th October 2012 at 4:45 pm
I caught the Temper Trap on their first visit to the Maryland side DC suburb at the Fillmore Silver Spring. But before that, I had a nice chat with Jonny Aherne (bass) and Toby Dundas (drums) from the band, and we talked about a variety of subjects, including their permanent move to London and how they’re liking living there, and three really big things related to back home: their massive shows at Sydney Opera House in May, their appearance at the ARIAS (the Australian equivalent to America’s Grammys and the UK’s BRITs) in late November and their first proper stadium tour in Australia supporting Coldplay. And of course we talked about their appearance playing our stage at Liverpool Sound City. Listen in below.
Many thanks to Winnie and Nina for sorting this out for us.
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 16th October 2012 at 2:00 pm
There are only a precious few bands I will travel outside of DC for. Saturday night I got to see a band that I’ve managed to see in two different countries besides my own (the UK and Denmark) and were undoubtedly the stars of our stage at Liverpool Sound City this year, the Temper Trap. And this time, I didn’t even need to cross state lines. (This is when my wallet and bank account silently thank me.)
The original Fillmore venue in San Francisco is most famous to have played host to such legendary acts as Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead back in the psychedelic Sixties, but more recently, Live Nation has opened a series of similar venues in cities across the country, including Detroit, Charlotte and where I ended up this weekend, Silver Spring. It’s a suburb of DC that has in recent times undergone revitalisation with shops and restaurants crowding in, and an American Film Institute-branded cinema and this outpost of the Fillmore are part of that revitalisation. When you enter the place, it’s more reminiscent of the House of Blues Boston (also owned and operated by Live Nation) where I saw the Temper Trap play in 2010 than any of the other club venues in DC proper. Pretty chandeliers and what appears to be an attempt at a reinforced wood floor for dancing make this look a whole lot better than your standard concrete warehouse venue. It’s like the 9:30 Club’s more refined, suburban cousin. I certainly deemed it safe enough to invite the high school age daughter of a cousin to the show, figuring there’d be no stage diving. (For the record, there wasn’t any. To be honest, while the crowd was definitely into it, maybe they were a little too polite here in the suburbs? I kind of miss the crazy jumping that always seemed to happen at the end of all Temper Trap shows in 2010. But I digress…)
The opening band was the Neighbourhood, who also opened when Cheryl caught Maximo Park at U Street Music Hall last month. The bloke stood next to me thought they were awful, but as I was telling him in between the sets, I think this band’s success – at least at the indie level – is already assured, thanks to being one of the buzzed-about bands of the moment. Their Los Angeles neighbours (no pun intended) KCRW are already fans. While I can appreciate the sort of r&b vocal styling that will recall days of NKOTB (the singer was dressed the way Marky Mark did before he turned back into Mark Wahlberg) and a more thuggish 5ive, it’s not really for me. Think rap, but with a melody, just not a terribly poppy one. The vocals did remind me vaguely of Various Cruelties‘ Liam O’Donnell, but no comparison on the instrumentation there.
I actually really liked the guitars and drumming. I just didn’t feel the repetition of the words “fuck you anyway” in a song is really necessary, and considering who I’d brought along for the night, I groaned inwardly and felt like a terrible aunt. They ended with ‘Sweater Weather’ (official video below), which sounds like a strange title for a band in California who rarely need to wear jumpers, but turned out to be a decently catchy song that a good proportion of early gig goers knew. (Remember what I said, about them being a buzz band?) I’m wondering though, what’s with the British English spelling of your band name, guys? You made me think you were a UK band there. For a moment. Confusing. While I give them credit for not succumbing to the Best Coast / post-Beach Boys surf pop genre, maybe the comparisons to Lana Del Rey and Frank Ocean made here explain why this style of music doesn’t ring my bell.
The first time I saw the Temper Trap was at the 9:30 Club in April 2010. Crammed into the front for co-headliner Florence and the Machine to make sure I would be up front for the whole show, I breathed a sigh of relief when the Flo fans made a mass exodus once their goddess left the stage. In my head, I was insistent: while she might become famous, I was convinced the Temper Trap would be massive, with rock being where it’s at, not a bare-legged woman screaming. Watching the Aussies then to watching them to where they have gotten to now, seeing both their confidence and enjoyment in playing rise, has been an absolute pleasure. They started with ‘London’s Burning’, the edgy ode to the London riots of last year.
Instead of immediately launching into a well-known single, the band chose to offer up something they had never had before: the first live performance of ‘Never Again’. Considering they had played New York City the night before, I couldn’t help but feel a bit smug that we, not the New Yorker who get every single freaking band in existence coming through their town, had been granted something very special. From then on, it was back into familiar territory. I have sung and played along on my bass to ‘Love Lost’ so many times that I’ve committed to memory the melody and bass line, but it is the ending that always gets me: “our love was lost / but now it’s found…”, soaring above our heads and into the stratosphere. This night, I was shooting in the pit when they played it, but it still touched my heart the same way it did 2 years ago.
Punters’ arms were aloft and swaying back and forth during torch song ‘Trembling Hands’ (video clip above); ‘Science of Fear’ turned the energy way back up closer to the end of the show. ‘Soldier On’, though well known by Temper Trap fans, seemed to be an odd, somewhat sleepy choice to open the encore in my eyes, but this was quickly rectified with everlasting love song ‘I’m Gonna Wait’. And there should be no question what ended the night. Dougy Mandagi asked everyone to sing along to ‘Sweet Disposition’, and sing along the audience did. I don’t see the band ever changing the last song they play at a show, because this is *the* song to end a night with.
Fan favourite ‘Fader’, which was conspicuously absent at the DC show in March and from their set at Liverpool Sound City, reappeared on this night and to much applause. Here’s to hoping it stays on future set lists, because it gives the audience the perfect opportunity to pogo. I know I was doing exactly this, as I was so excited to hear it back in the set again. I was also pleased to see that Mandagi is filling the top of his drum for ‘Drum Song’ with water again, which of course leads to many a Kodak moment as the man pounds his sticks on the surface and water sprays in every direction, a physical reminder of the chaos in the song. Awesome.
Strangely absent Saturday night was recent single ‘Need Your Love’: surely you’d want to play another one of your singles released this year? Or maybe it was deemed too meek, too much of a power ballad? It should be interesting to see if it makes a reappearance later, and if shouty singalong ‘Down River’ comes back as well. And really, to be fair, the show could have been longer. I would have been happy if they went through the entirety of both albums and their debut EP. But part of being a band that’s in demand is to leave them wanting more, which is exactly what the Temper Trap did.