Check out our festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, through here.

SXSW 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Live at Leeds 2016 | 2015 | 2014
Sound City 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | Great Escape 2015 | 2013 | 2012

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Live Review: The Coronas with Rachel Levitin at DC9, Washington, DC – 12th November 2017

 
By on Thursday, 16th November 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

As mentioned in my review on Monday of the Sherlocks gig there last week, DC9 has really come up in the world. It was previously one of my favourite places to see bands in Washington but after seeing The Coronas play there on Sunday night, I think DC9 has won the top prize. A near sold out show for the Irish rockers made for a rowdy but extremely fun and interactive show, as you will read below.

The opener for the night was local singer/songwriter Rachel Levitin, who was joined by Alex Touzinsky on fiddle. Whether it was planned or not, as soon as I saw the fiddle come out during the soundcheck, I couldn’t help thinking this was an act perfect to open for an Irish band, am I right? Though the bespectacled artist – and her adorable acoustic guitar, I might add – might be small in stature, Levitin makes up for it in sass. She seems equally at home between blues-inflected and more traditional singer/songwriter-y pop numbers.

Rachel Levitin

She explained that the story told in ‘Get Back Up’, her most recent single, was based on a real-life experience of walking and then falling on her face, which she then turned into an inspirational song. The recorded version of this song will remind you of angsty guitar rock/pop from the ‘90s. ‘Lucky Penny Blues’, which she noted was her grandfather’s favourite among all of her music so far, is on the sultrier side of things, showcasing her strong voice. No tentativeness here. Will some independent label please snap her up? Simon Raymonde, are you listening?

The Coronas

The Coronas are rather special to me, because I ‘found’ them and not because someone was pitching them to me. I had been trawling for new music to listen to from Ireland and impressed with ‘Tony Was an Ex-Con’ smoky ballad ‘Someone Else’s Hands’, I decided to write a Bands to Watch feature on them. This was back in November 2010, after they’d already released 2 albums. It probably also helped loads that my heart had just gotten stomped on by a two-timing musician and Danny O’Reilly’s melancholic thing was just the right thing for me to listen to while I bawled my eyes out. Genre-wise, The Coronas are a rock band primarily, but they also do the rock/pop mélange quite well too. We’ve written a fair bit on them since my discovery of them. I am honestly baffled why they aren’t as massive in the UK as they are in Ireland, where they regularly sell out large venues.

Given their track record back in Eire, it’s an exceptional treat to see them play in an intimate, 200-capacity venue. Judging from the booming accents lubricated by alcohol around me, I got the impression that quite a few fans came over from Ireland for this show. Impeccable thinking. Us Washingtonians hadn’t seen the Coronas in town in 6 years, at which time we were treated to a brand new, disco beat-led, yet to be titled song that turned into ‘Addicted to Progress’ on 2011’s ‘Closer to You’. Hearing it on this night, recalling when O’Reilly asked us for help to name it at the now long gone Red Palace on a cold March night in 2011, then thinking about their incredible ‘progress’ over the years in Ireland couldn’t have been sweeter.

The Coronas

Earlier this year, the Dublin quartet released their fifth album, ‘Trust the Wire’, so the set list was heavy with tunes from the LP. This included opening track ‘We Couldn’t Fake It’ and ‘A Bit Withdrawn’, explained by O’Reilly as that sweet spot you have with a partner where you can be sat with them and nothing has to be said between you two because it’s all understood. In case anyone forgot where the Coronas were from, O’Reilly jumped into the crowd with his acoustic guitar to lead a bare version of ‘Heroes and Ghosts’ to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their debut release, going into full Irish language mode on one of the verses. This surely must have wowed the youngest audience members, two boys under the age of 10 who were brought along to the show by their mother.

Then they were back to older favourites for the encore, which like nearly every song they played that evening in Washington, were met with raucous cheers. The crowd sung along to ‘San Diego Song’ and ‘Just Like That’ with gusto, at times allowing O’Reilly and band to take a breather, listening to the words being shouted back at them. It was one of many beautiful moments at this show. Yes, I know, some people just adore the 9:30 Club. But for my money, I’d rather come to DC9 and have an experience like this that won’t be duplicated anywhere else.

The Coronas

The Coronas have two more shows in North America (Friday at the Echo in Los Angeles and Saturday at Brick and Mortar in San Francisco) before they head down under for a series of club shows. They return to Dublin the first week of December for three shows at the Olympia, on the 5th, 7th and 10th of December.

After the cut: The Coronas’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: The Coronas with Rachel Levitin at DC9, Washington, DC – 12th November 2017

 

Live Review: The Sherlocks with Pinkwench at DC9, Washington, DC – 9th November 2017

 
By on Monday, 13th November 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

“Last night…can you remember?”

Actually, I can. With a smile on my face.

Sometime between my last visit to DC9 seeing Aussies Gang of Youths last year, and with little to no fanfare, the venue level of the Washington club on 9th Street Northwest has undergone a transformation. DC9 is the 200 capacity, lovably unpretentious, slightly scruffy club within view of its polar opposite, the behemoth 9:30 Club. As a journo, there is great comfort knowing I can stumble into DC9 without queueing during the opening act, get a drink without waiting and not worry about getting jostled or ‘tude from fairweather music fans who are absentmindedly paying attention to the action onstage. Now with booths removed and 21st century stage lighting and branding on the back walls installed – taking a page from sister NE club The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, no doubt – DC9 has been updated and refreshed, and it can only be to their guests’ benefit.

Chasing who will be ‘the next great British guitar band’ has become a bit of a joke among music journalists. Britain churns out so many hopefuls, and only the very few will have any lasting power. As such, we have to guess and look into our crystal balls to guess who will still be here, putting out great music, 5 years from now. I had initial reservations, but a famous friend encouraged me to give this new group from Sheffield a chance. Having most recently come off a UK tour in September with sold out shows, The Sherlocks have admirably put in the work touring the UK the last few years, and they have a few feathers in their cap already. The hard work paid off, getting them a shout for SXSW 2016, appearing on the BBC Introducing evening showcase that was filmed by the Beeb. According to their Twitter, their top 10 debut album ‘Live for the Moment’, released at the end of August on Infectious Records / BMG, is the best-selling debut album of any UK artist this year so far.

Like so many acts from across the pond before them, America is still unproven ground for the Sherlocks. Things are already looking good from the outset, though: having been interviewed by Billboard and filming a live session for Paste, they’re already ticking boxes most up-and-coming bands in blighty can only fantasise of. Luckily for us here in Washington, they chose to end a short East Coast tour at DC9 Thursday night. Having followed in the footsteps of The 1975, Royal Blood and Catfish and the Bottlemen, one can’t help but think this is merely the start for the Yorkshire band over here. Opening the night were relative locals Pinkwench from Baltimore. Offering up a washy guitar experience recalling shoegaze and mixing in the melancholy of grunge, I was impressed with their wall of sound.

Pinkwench Washington

Generally, starting a set earlier than an appointed start time isn’t a good idea. You want everyone who’s paid to get in to have already arrived, especially if you’re a young band with a limited back catalogue. However, The Sherlocks threw this wisdom out the window, clearly itching and eager to get on with their show to reward those who had assembled early at DC9 for them. Straight out of the gate, they launched into the anthemic ‘Last Night’, a cautionary tale from one bro to another. With its high octane guitars and punishing drum line, ‘Will You Be There?’ was another early highlight.

The Sherlocks Washington 1

The Sherlocks’ brand of muscular lad rock didn’t let up for most of their set, which was perfectly fine by the DC9 crowd. Midway through the show, for debut album closer ‘Candlelight’ and ‘Turn the Clock’, frontman Kiaran Crook swapped his electric guitar for an acoustic for the slower tempoed numbers. The introspective moments didn’t last long, which was probably a good thing. ‘Heart of Gold’ and its sweeping “oh oh ohhhs” was a set standout, as was booming title track ‘Live for the Moment. They reminded everyone what the Sherlocks are here for: catchy, loud, quickly played rock. We’ll have to see where their music goes next. For more here on TGTF on The Sherlocks, go here.

Kiaran Crook of The Sherlocks Washington 4

After the cut: The Sherlocks’ set list.

The Sherlocks’ Set List:
Last Night
Escapade
Blue
Will You Be There?
Was It Really Worth It?
Candlelight
Turn the Clock
Motions
Heart of Gold
Nobody Knows
Live for the Moment
Chasing Shadows

 

Interview: C Duncan (Part 2)

 
By on Tuesday, 7th November 2017 at 11:00 am
 

To read the first half of my interview with C Duncan in Washington, DC, last Saturday night, use this link.

It has been well documented that C Duncan’s second album ‘The Midnight Sun’, released in 2016, was named after an episode of The Twilight Zone, an American tv show that got its start way back in the 1950s. I had guessed that he had stumbled upon it on late night Glaswegian telly, but that wasn’t the case at all. “Actually, no. It was actually the first time I ever came to America. I was about 13, I was with my best friend from school. His dad worked in Manhattan and had an apartment there, so he flew us out there, and then we went to Florida and stayed at Disney [World] and went to Universal. We’d been on the Tower of Terror. The ride’s great, but I was so intrigued with the whole history surrounding it. Just walking into the hotel, there’s a weird feeling you get once you’re there, and it’s all a bit disorientating. I just had to check the show out. I got the DVDs and went home. I have since become completely obsessed. I’m a big sci-fi, horror fan.”

Following on from a thematically suspenseful album, I ask him if that means he’s headed for a horror-themed album next. “‘C Duncan scores The Exorcist’? No…”, he replies with a laugh. Speaking of scores, he has been asked to do the score for a documentary next year. As I’m not sure if that project has been absolutely confirmed, I’ll keep the details of it to myself. Let’s just say for now that if the project does come to fruition, it’ll be another example of how the community in Glasgow takes care of its own.

I comment that he seems to be a prolific writer, releasing albums in back-to-back years. He says he tries to write every day and when that doesn’t work out, “the way I see it, if I’ve got block, you might as be well be working on your technique, you can get slightly better recording vocals, or getting slightly better working on your chords, and hopefully something good will come out of that.” Both this optimism and attention to detail are personality traits that seem to be shared amongst all the electronic artists I’ve met and interviewed over the years, including most recently Australian producer Willaris K.

Duncan admits that it wasn’t his idea to release album #2 so closely behind the first, so we might have to wait a bit longer for album #3 to surface. I have no doubt that it will be worth the wait, as everything this Scot does comes after some deep rumination. “After the Mercury thing, there wasn’t pressure for me to make another album like that, just like the first record. Of course, in the back of your mind, you think, okay, something works in that one, so why not take elements of that and upgrade it? But actually, about 5 minutes of thinking about that, I was like, fuck it. I really wanted to do something electronic and something bigger sounding as well.

“I love great, big, lush-sounding harmonies, and with synthesisers, you can get that sweeping sound. If I had a string orchestra, I would have used a string orchestra, but I didn’t have one. So I thought, a synth can do the same thing, but in a different way. Then there was The Twilight Zone influence, I liked how icy a lot of the synth sounds were, mixed with the big choral harmonies. Once I started playing around with the synths, yeah, I have to do this.” For a further example of this, check out the video for ‘Wanted to Want It Too’ below, with a nod to the creepiness of the tv show as the song itself is punctuated with stabs of synth.

In addition to his musical gifts to us, Chris is also a talented painter, chronicled beautifully in a short film by Helen Plumb and Ben Cox for Nowness. In case you hadn’t heard, the album art for both ‘Architect’ and ‘The Midnight Sun’ are his personal works. Both have great personal significance, circling back to his connection with Glasgow and his creative environment. “I did both records in my apartment. The first record, I was very conscious of where I was when I was making the record. A lot of the album has to do with escaping, in a way. Glasgow can be very bleak at times. It’s an industrial city: it’s a very beautiful industrial city, but it’s very grey and very cold. And it rains an awful lot. Our summer consists of about 2 days in May.

“I think it’s a great thing, that’s why we’re so creative, we’re indoors all the time, you know? I was very aware of where I was, so the first record has the overview of one of the main streets in Glasgow I spent a lot of time on (Byres Road, in the West End). The first record was very personal, but it was quite obscured. You can’t really hear what I’m singing a lot of the time. It was a confidence thing. I thought, okay, I’ll make music and hopefully people will listen to that and not focus too much on the words. And if they hear them, that’s great, but I sort of muffled them slightly.

The Midnight Sun large cover

“On the second record, you can hear the lyrics more and it wasn’t gibberish like the first record. And I thought, okay, so I recorded this again in my bedroom, and into another bedroom in the flat, and I’m going to make the front cover [of ‘The Midnight Sun’] the stairwell to my apartment. It’s all very geographical, location based, because where I work means a lot to me.” Although the process of music making eats up most of his time these days, Chris admits he’s “stubborn” and makes an effort every few months to paint something significant “to keep my technique up”. Sensing a theme here? I hope so. Young artists, take note. As the old American saying goes, “How you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!”

C Duncan is an artist who puts in 110 percent into everything that he does. It’s paid off, in the forms of a Mercury Prize nomination, the admiration and appreciation by a massive band like Elbow who has taken him on tour in the UK and North America, plus countless fans being inspired and moved by his music. He’s the kind of artist who will continue making music his way, and I for one looking forward to the many musical chapters of C Duncan still yet to come.

Massive thanks to Chris for his time for this interview and his unexpected, but much appreciated vocal support for TGTF (!) at the Elbow show Saturday night at the 9:30. Thank you also to Rey and Sam for making this happen. He performs tonight alongside Elbow on their North American tour at Detroit’s St. Andrews Hall. Sounds appropriate for a Scottish artist, doesn’t it? Much more on C Duncan here on TGTF is follow us over here.

 

Live Review: Elbow with C Duncan at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 4th November 2017

 
By on Monday, 6th November 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Elder statesmen of rock Elbow are no strangers to DC, reliably appearing in the Nation’s Capital whenever they decide to do a tour on this side of the pond. There are many reasons for their love for Washington, some more literal if you ever get the chance to ask them personally, which I encourage you to do so, as they are some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. At their sold out show here Saturday night, Guy Garvey’s quip that the reason why the city got its name is because the 9:30 Club is where musicians do their washing – laundering clothes to us Americans – isn’t wrong either. The venue has become legendary among bands for their in-house washing machine, along with their massive hospitality efforts towards those who grace their stage. 9:30-branded chocolate cupcakes, anyone?

I’ve seen Elbow a couple of times now, and ‘reliable’ is a good word to describe their live show. ‘Heartwarming’ is another good adjective for them, on which I’ll expand on later. First, I would like to point out their admirable efforts to prevent the all too frequent scourge at shows: the loud and impolite conversations that take place during support sets. In addition to this sign placed prominently near the entrance of the venue, Guy Garvey introduced C Duncan himself, appealing passionately to the audience to be quiet and pay attention during his set. No doubt Garvey remembers with much gratitude when fellow Mancunians Doves decided to take a chance, bringing along his then-unknown band to the very same venue 15 years ago.

Except to those like us here on TGTF who keep a watchful eye on things like the Mercury Prize back in the UK, C Duncan is a relative unknown here in North America at the moment. Hopefully, this support slot with Elbow will do much to change that. As you’ll read in my interview feature with him, Duncan has sensed that Elbow fans are a special breed of music fan, the kind who tend to be more open-minded about new sounds than most. If this show had been back in Britain, we would have seen him with a full band, but due to prohibitive visa costs (thanks, powers that be in America), he performed alone on the big 9:30 stage.

C Duncan Washington 2017 1

C Duncan offered up songs from his Mercury-fêted 2015 debut album ‘Architect’ and last year’s electro-driven ‘The Midnight Sun’ and with the aplomb of a seasoned performer. It’s hard to believe that a few years ago, the prospect of having to bring his complex constructions to the stage seemed daunting to him. The beautiful ‘Say’, the opening track on ‘Architect’, was a clear standout, Duncan’s wispy vocals and elegantly understated, yet superbly catchy backing proving to be a beautiful match. The icy, lush electronic orchestration of ‘Wanted to Want It Too’ – a simple, yet evocative study in longing – closed his all-too-short set. To catch up on our past coverage of C Duncan here on TGTF, head here.

C Duncan Washington 2017 2

What can be said about Elbow that hasn’t been already written? Guy Garvey is the consummate frontman: roly poly like a teddy bear and disarmingly funny, he’s the uncle who doesn’t think twice about discussing the merits of a 9:30 G&T and asking punters to stumble singing along to songs they might not know the lyrics to. And at the same show. Does this have anything to do with him and his band being from Manchester? The worker bee tattoo emblazoned on the inside of this forearm, likely inked following the Manchester Arena terror attack in May, was a silent affirmation of the love for his city.

Elbow Washington 2017 1

It’s the little things like the tattoo and Garvey’s introduction of C Duncan, they’re proof of how genuine Elbow are. So was Garvey’s earnest acknowledgment of Dennis and Lois, a music-loving couple who have been together for decades and the stars of their 2014 video for ‘New York Morning’ who just so happened to be next to me during the show. He dedicated ‘Mirrorball’ from 2008’s ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ to them and their love, as warm smiles spread from the stage and through the entire venue. As its title suggests, ‘Magnificent (She Says)’, the first single to their most recent album ‘Little Fictions’, was indeed magnificent. Songs that are stirring, soaring and ever tugging at the heartstrings: that’s what Elbow do best. And their fans wouldn’t want it any other way.

Elbow’s North American tour with C Duncan as support rolls on to Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall tonight. The tour will continue until the 18th of November, when they hit Mexico City.

Elbow Washington 2017 2

After the cut: C Duncan and Elbow’s set lists from the night.
Continue reading Live Review: Elbow with C Duncan at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – 4th November 2017

 

Interview: C Duncan (Part 1)

 
By on Monday, 6th November 2017 at 11:00 am
 

On paper, C Duncan – Christopher Duncan on his birth certificate – sounds like someone who might be pretty buttoned up and stoic about music. Born to classical musician parents, having been raised around classical music and having played classical piano since the tender age of 5, I prepared myself to interview someone who was as obsessive about Chopin’s adagios as my own father. “They had quartets, and they would come over to the house. When I was very young, my mum ran a music store from one of our backrooms, for sheet music. So loads of musicians were coming and going [from the house].” But he relates this story as a welcome memory of his childhood, possibly an early measure of comfort he would later have around the musically inclined.

Saturday night, he was in Washington, DC, for a support slot with Elbow at the legendary 9:30 Club. (The review of the show will post today at 2 PM BST.) I happily found out, stealing him away for a lovely chat before the show, that his journey from childhood to the musician he is today was never forcefully directed one way or another. His delight in making the music that appeals to his own interests and makes sense in his mind is obvious and infectious. The open-mindedness of his parents and even his teachers during his formative years helps to further explain how his creativity blossomed into developing something much his very own. He has honed what has now become his recognisable blend of startling beautiful composition and harmonising vocals with plenty of toe-tapping pop sensibility, such a beguiling blend that both music lovers and the critics have taken notice of.

Pop was something he’d embraced early on. “I did the typical kid thing and listened to pop music. I kind of had that rebellious thing against classical music, which was good, because it meant I could expand my interests. As I got older, I started realising that my parents were right, that classical music is good as well!” He also credits his professors at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), where he graduated with a degree in Composition, for not keeping the focus of his studies squarely on classical music, which he disclosed is an all too common occurrence at other music schools in the UK. “I was always encouraged to listen to pop music. All the composing teachers were interested in what was happening in pop music, and they were very influenced by it as well…they basically said [to us], ‘obviously, this is a contemporary classical course you’re taking. But listen to everything, get inspired by everything, do anything you want. It’s valid as music’… There wasn’t anything stuffy about it.” For more on his schooling at the Conservatoire, I dug up this interview he did with them earlier this year.

The Scottish city that Chris calls home also looms large in the C Duncan story, and in a similarly accepting way, feeling like a warm, welcoming tartan blanket that’s there to make everything okay. “Glasgow is a very open place for genre crossing. Everyone is interested in everything…In Glasgow, everyone knows a musician, or someone who’s in a band, or all your friends are in bands. And everyone talks about music and listens to each other’s music a lot. No-one is in competition with each other, for anything, which means it opens the door for people to try all sorts of different things.

“Glasgow is quite far away from the rest of the UK, we’re very far from London. I think as a result, we don’t really have anything to live up to. Glasgow can do its own thing entirely, which is really cool, and the sense of community [there] is really important. That’s how you meet [other] musicians, I would never start a band and get session musicians in from the get-go. Maybe later on when you needed more people. I like to have friends surrounding me.

“In Glasgow, you get to know so many musicians, and you become friends first. That’s really important. I like that in Glasgow, you’re in it together, you’re not by yourself, you’re in it to make music with other friends…it’s a very natural thing in Glasgow… So many people collaborate in Glasgow, I did a thing with a woman named Kathryn Joseph, you should definitely check her out.” If Joseph’s name sounds familiar: she won the Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award in 2015 for ‘Bones You Have Thrown Me, And Blood I’ve Spilled’, the same award Duncan was nominated for the following year for his FatCat Records debut and Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Architect’. She and Duncan have also been tourmates, continuing the theme that Glasgow nurtures such relationships. Duncan also clues me on a close friend from back home having recently joined Franz Ferdinand, Julian Corrie, who also releases electronic music as producer Miaoux Miaoux. Glasgow is certainly proving to be a small world.

C Duncan circa 2014, photo taken by Warrick Beyers
Photo of C Duncan by Warrick Beyers, circa 2014,
before the release of ‘Architect’, from the artist’s Facebook

Naturally, the conversation turns to the Mercury nomination for ‘Architect’ 2 years ago. “It was very strange”, Chris says with a knowing smile. “Up to that point, we’d done lots of gigs, very small, just establishing ourselves. We had a lot of help from the BBC radio stations. That was great. But it takes a lot more than that to push things forward a lot. After that [the nomination] happened, it was just phone call after phone call, interview after interview. I was self-managed at the time, so I was trying to make do with all of that. It was great fun, but it was hectic!”

The nod turned out to be a fantasy come true for him: “I’ve always thought very highly of it. It’s becoming slightly less diverse at the moment, but I think they’re trying to branch out [in the genres]. I was always really interested in it as a kid. It [being nominated] was very surreal and really exciting… It’s been interesting, the shows we did around that time and after, the Mercury came up quite a lot. It’s real music lovers who really hone into the Mercury [shortlist]. It’s really nice, it’s any musician’s dream to appeal to true music lovers, as opposed to people who shove it on in the background. It just shows how highly people in Britain still think of music, it doesn’t matter how shit the charts are, there’s a big population really interested in music, people who are interested in that other side of music.”

It’s exactly these kind of music fans that Duncan thinks are making his support appearances with Elbow, especially here in North America, super successful. “Playing to their crowds, it’s been really fun. As the support act, generally, the pressure’s off you… Sometimes I’m very nervous, but the majority of the time, I’m just having fun, trying to give people a fun show, and something representative of my music. I know it’s not exactly the same as Elbow’s, but it’s gentle enough, and their music is gentle enough to sit well together at a gig. Some people might think, ‘ooh, that first guy was a bit weird, I’m here for Elbow, this is going to be great’, whereas some people, it’s ‘oh, actually, that’s really cool’. I think there is some crossover, and it’s been a great way to pick up fans… Elbow fans, they generally are really into music. They are music lovers, they’re not background music people, which means they want to see the whole show. That’s what I do. If I see one of my favourite bands are playing, I always go in the beginning to see who’s supporting.” A good reminder to all.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview with C Duncan, posting at the same time tomorrow. He performs tonight alongside Elbow on their North American tour at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall. Much more on C Duncan here on TGTF is through here.

 

Live Review: Everything Everything with Savoir Adore at Black Cat, Washington, DC – 14th October 2017

 
By on Monday, 16th October 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

When several lovely things happen at once, it seems less a coincidence and more like the stars aligning thanks to fate. Saturday night definitely felt like one of those times. The ever eclectic Everything Everything returned for a third time to Washington, DC, as part of their campaign to tour current album for RCA, ‘A Fever Dream’. (Unveiled in August, you can read my review from back then through this link.) Amazingly, they were supported Savoir Adore, by an American synthpop band I’ve followed and loved for years. In short, this show was a most excellent double-header, like a fantasy come to life.

My most recent experience seeing Brooklyn’s Savoir Adore live was at SXSW 2016, at the Neon Gold showcase on a rainy Friday night. Despite the delay and trying conditions, Savoir Adore’s catchy, synth-led tunes shone through the darkness. I found out during a conversation after this show at the Black Cat that the SXSW 2016 appearance was one of co-lead singer Lauren Zettler’s first shows with the band following Deidre Muro’s departure in 2014. Talk about baptism by fire! Fast forward a year and a half later, and Savoir Adore now have a third album to show off, summer 2016’s ‘The Love That Remains’, out now on Nettwork Records. It’s another great collection of sometimes dreamy, sometimes funky synthpop, made more special by the strength of Zettler and group founder Paul Hammer’s beautifully complementary voices.

Savoir Adore October 2017 Washington 2

With three albums under their belt, they have quite a bit of material to choose from for live performances. The uber lovely ‘Dreamers’ and the bass thumping ‘Regalia’ recalled the glory of the 2013 ‘Our Nature’ era. Newer songs ‘Savages’ and ‘Crowded Streets’ are a nice step in their evolution, the latter with an added nice, anthemic, The Naked and the Famous-esque oomph to their production. They closed their set with single ‘Giants’, an uplifting number about getting back on your feet after every of life’s stumbles. Savoir Adore are one of the best band examples of how to do life-affirming, feel good synthpop right. Leaving everyone in the Black Cat pumped up for the main event, I only wished they could have played longer.

For sure, I chose the right place to stand for this show. Stage right, I was surrounded by a nice mix of guys and girls, all massive fans excited for the show and ranging from near to full breathlessness in their devotion to Everything Everything. One girl with her sister warned us she might faint if they played ‘Distant Past’. (Spoiler: they did. I can report that thankfully, no fainting occurred.) At a venue like the Black Cat, there is a special kind of intimacy and interaction that the stars onstage can have with their audience. Except for title track ‘A Fever Dream’ that saw Jonathan Higgs sat down at the piano for a brief, quiet moment, the onslaught of the Everything Everything sound that we have come to know, all the weird and the wonderful words and music they have gifted to us, never let up.


Everything Everything October 2017 Washington 1

It’s testament to their continued inventiveness and pop songwriting approach that over a decade and four albums that they have maintained a cult status in the upper echelons of indie rock cool. They are revered and envied widely in this business, and for good reason. The first tracks for their first and latest albums, the herky-jerky ‘MY KZ, UR BF’ and ‘The Night of the Long Knives’, respectively, can stand beside in a live set, proof they have kept pushing the envelope with their sound. And intelligent fans respond to that. When Higgs pointed his mike towards the Black Cat audience on ‘Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread’ and ‘Can’t Do’ (see them perform the song appearing at the 10-year anniversary of BBC Introducing below), they answered with near-deafening shouts back to him.

If you ever get caught up in the booming sing-alongs to ‘Desire’, ‘Cough Cough’, ‘Regret’ and ‘Kemosabe’, join in, you’ll never regret it. To be surrounded by smiling, happy people who all know exactly when to sing the flute-like, high-pitched “do-do-DO-do” parts of ‘Get to Heaven’ is a moment I won’t soon forget. Clear highlights from ‘A Fever Dream’ included the brilliantly executed bursts of guitar on ‘Run the Numbers’, followed by the noodley freneticism of ‘Ivory Tower’ in the encore. The audience’s demand for “Ten more songs!” wasn’t honoured, true, but when a call like that comes through and so emphatically, you know the band must be doing a lot of things so right.

Everything Everything October 2017 Washington 2

Some of Everything Everything’s upcoming live appearances include closing out Liverpool Music Week 2017 on the 4th of November and then heading to Australia in late December into early January, performing at their summer festivals and headline shows at Sydney Metro and Thornbury Croxton Ballroom. They also have an UK/Irish tour for late February into March 2018. Check out their full list of live dates on their Facebook, and enjoy the entirety of our extensive archive on Everything Everything through here.

After the cut: Everything Everything’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: Everything Everything with Savoir Adore at Black Cat, Washington, DC – 14th October 2017

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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