Wye Oak at Ottobar

Wye Oak is a Baltimore indie rock band who has met with some success, but they always come home to play at the Ottobar. They ended their most recent tour there this past weekend. I had actually never seen them live before and wasn’t actually sure I was going to go this time. The first show they announced was on a Sunday night on a day I already had tickets to two different plays, so I definitely wasn’t going to that one. After that sold out really quickly they added a second show for Saturday night. I sort of waffled on it because while I really love 50% of their music I’m either indifferent to or don’t care for the other 50%. They play some stuff that’s sounds more experimental and spacey to me, which I don’t love, but anything they play that has a good beat and melody to it I dig. Anyway my friend Paul texted and said he was going with some other friends and asked if I wanted to go, so that gave me the kick in the pants to do it. It felt very prescient then that leading into the final song of the evening singer Jenn Wasner talked about how whenever she’s getting ready to go out on tour she gets really nervous about it and just wants to stay curled up in the safety and comfort of her home, but that it’s always really great to get out into the world and actually share the same space with actual people in real life. It took all the energy I had to force myself to get up off my couch and go out at 9 pm (I’m too old for shows that don’t start until that late. Why aren’t there matinee concerts?), but like she said it was really great to get out and listen to music and enjoy the evening with other people.

The opening act was some band called Thor and Friends. I had no idea what to expect from them going in. Apparently what I should have expected was marimba. So much marimba. It’s not the most offensive opening act I’ve ever seen because it’s not like it was aurally unpleasant, it was just sooo boring. One of the people I was with joked that it was like going to see Pure Moods in concert. I guess if I needed something to meditate to it would have been fine, but as something I’m listening to live. No thanks. I also appreciated the joke made by one of the guys I was with about creating a Thor and Friends cover band called Loki and Friends. At least we got some laughs out of it even if we didn’t get any good music.

Happily Wye Oak was much better. They definitely played a few songs I didn’t care for that much, but overall I liked what they played. I enjoyed getting to hear them play “Civilian” live, which if you know a Wye Oak song at all it’s probably that one. It’s been used like like 185 tv shows, so there’s a good chance you’ve heard it even if you don’t know it. It was a good show with a good crowd, and I’m glad I got myself up out of my house to go.

New Music Friday: Power Over Me by The Lone Bellow

 

If you read my blog post about seeing The Lone Bellow in concert earlier this week you may recall that I mentioned that they recently came out with a new EP of acoustic music called The Restless that includes some new stuff, some acoustic versions of old stuff, and a cover of Adele’s “Water Under the Bridge”. One of the songs off the EP that they sang and which I heard for the first time during the concert was “Power Over Me”. It’s a beautiful, simple song about grieving the loss of someone you still love deeply. I absolutely adore it. I have listened to it about 500 times since the show. I highly recommend you do the same.

The Oh Hellos at Baltimore Soundstage

I usually write up these concerts posts much quicker, but I went out of town the day after I saw this show and have been pretty busy in the evenings since I got back home and haven’t had time to write anything. But I like keeping a record of my concerts so I’m still doing this one a week late even though I know no one really cares about these posts but me.

The opening act was someone named Samantha Crain, who I had never heard of before. It was just her and her guitar up there on the stage. She had some amusing stage banter, but her music didn’t grab me. It wasn’t terrible, but for some reason I just didn’t connect with it. The person standing behind me however was SUPER in love with her. So she’s obviously up some people’s allies more than mine.

This was my fifth time seeing The Oh Hellos. I saw them twice at the Newport Folk Festival, which is where I first became acquainted with them. I saw them as an opening act for needtobreathe at the Fillmore Silver Spring, and I saw them once before at Baltimore Soundstage. They are just joy personified. They have so much fun on stage. Every single one of them. All 8 of them. They were a little more stationary this show than at some of the other ones I’ve been to, but a lot of times I wonder how they don’t all crash into each other dancing around as they do.

They always have really great interactions with the audience as well. There was a whole deal at the beginning with their lead singer chugging down a bottle of water and saying he was going to need a bottle every other song as warm as he was. It sort of became a thing that I think became a little performative because of the audience interaction. At one point I said something to my friends about him needing to eat some chips or something because he was drinking a concerning amount of water with no salt intake. Pretty much right after that someone else from the audience yelled out “eat a pretzel”, so I obviously wasn’t the only one thinking that.

I do feel like the sound mix was a little bit off though. For some reason the bass was turned up super loud, and The Oh Hellos are not a band that I consider to be bass heavy. A lot of their stuff has more of a Celtic vibe to it and bass is not really the focus. At any rate the bass was overpowering and was so loud it was making my body vibrate. Even with my ear plugs in it screwed up my ears and set off my tinnitus for days. I really hate that. Even when the instrument mix isn’t out of whack I don’t understand why they have to have the sound turned up so loud, especially in such a small venue. I don’t understand how anyone who works in these places or the bands and themselves have any hearing left at all.

Ok, now that I’m done with my old lady shakes her fist at the sky moment I will say that aside from the unruly sound it was a great show as always. The Oh Hellos never disappoint. There is no way to leave one of their shows without a smile on your face.

The Lone Bellow Acoustic Tour at The Barns

I still owe you a post on The Oh Hellos concert from last week, but I’m already so far behind on that one I’m going to kick it down the road a little bit farther and go ahead and write about The Lone Bellow concert I went to last night. Usually when I’m talking about how much I love Wolf Trap and that it’s my favorite concert venue I’m generally technically talking about The Filene Center at Wolf Trap, which is their outdoor venue. They also have a very intimate winter venue called The Barns, which is composed of two 300 year old barns. It is also a wonderful place to see a show.

Last night I went down there to see The Lone Bellow’s Acoustic Tour with Naia Izumi opening. I thought I didn’t know anything about Naia Izumi until we got there and I realized he was the winner of the most recent NPR Tiny Desk Contest. I didn’t particularly care for his music when I watched that Tiny Desk Concert and I can’t see I much cared for it last night either, but I will say that he is a very interesting and talented guitar player. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone play a guitar quite like him before, but I can’t say I’ll go out of my way to listen to him again.

The Lone Bellow however was fantastic. This all acoustic tour took them back to their roots with just the three main band members Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipken on stage with some acoustic guitars, a mandolin, and a grand piano. Although they’ve never been an entirely acoustic band they’ve always done some acoustic stuff and in more recent years have had some additional people sitting in as part of the band including Kanene’s husband Jason on keys. At one point near the end of the show Zach said that this tour has been like a reset button and breathed new life into the music for him and it couldn’t have felt more like that last night. I’ve seen The Lone Bellow many times over the past five years and they’re always delightful and fun so I hadn’t actually realized that anything was missing until I saw it again last night.

They were silly and free and just genuinely seemed to be enjoying being up stage together and watching and listening to what each of them can do. That led to a lot of riffing and them winding up messing around with a lot of cover songs they don’t actually know the lyrics to generally due to Brian starting something. They used to do that all the time in their early shows, but I haven’t seen them be that loose with a set in a long time and I forgot how much I love it. Brian sang one line from the Patty Griffin song “Let Him Fly”. An audience member encouraged them to keep going, but they didn’t know any other lyrics. She shouted that she did and she wound up singing part of it with them joining in. After they mistakenly attributed the song to the Dixie Chicks it turned into a whole Dixie Chicks thing complete with a cover of “Wide Open Spaces” being danced to with pantomimed lyrics. There was also a cover of Boys II Men’s “End of the Road” at the beginning of the encore. In addition to all the silly off the cuff covers they also did a legit pre-planned cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, which was amazing. Kanene singing that song was gorgeous.

The actual set was great too. It was wonderful to hear so many of their songs played acoustic. I also had not realized that they put out an EP of acoustic songs, which includes some new songs, some acoustic versions of previous songs plus a cover of Adele’s “Water Under the Bridge”, a few weeks ago until they mentioned it last night. I really liked the songs they song off that last night am happy to know I have some new Lone Bellow music that I didn’t even know about.

It was a really wonderful show filled with a lot of laughter, fantastic music, and moments that made me grin from ear to ear. It was way better than sitting home watching election returns and well worth the long drive down to Wolf Trap.

Florence + the Machine at the Anthem

This past Saturday I went down to DC to see Florence + the Machine at the Anthem. This was my fourth time seeing Florence + the Machine. Interestingly the venues have been going down in size. The first time I saw her was back in her early days opening for U2 at M&T Bank Stadium. That is the first and last concert I will ever go to at a venue that size. Then I saw her twice at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I was a little surprised to see she was playing a venue as small as the Anthem, but she certainly made up for it with the ticket prices. Totally worth it though.

When they originally announced the concert there was only a Friday night show, which I bought tickets to. Then after that sold out they added a Saturday show. Getting down to DC on a Friday night after work is a bear, so I decided to buy a ticket for Saturday night figuring I would be able to sell my Friday one. I eventually did, but I held onto it for a long time thinking I might wind up going both nights. Even though I have a place to stay in DC, after being out of town for the previous two weekends I decided I only wanted to be away on Saturday night and not the entire weekend.

It worked out well because another Baltimore friend was going down to DC to hang out with the friend I was staying with in DC so I rode down with her and then got a ride back to Baltimore on Sunday with my DC friend as we have season tickets to Center Stage and our play was on Sunday afternoon. They went down to the Wharf with me trying to tour some Viking ship that was docked there for 10 days, but the tickets were all sold out. We tried to grab dinner, but all the sit down restaurants around there had at least 90 minute wait times so that didn’t work out either. I wound up grabbing something at Shake Shack. They kept me company while I ate and then went off somewhere else in the city to find food.

Even though the doors to the venue were open at that point I opted to just sit outside and enjoy the nice evening for about another hour. I had been to the Anthem once before to see Brandi Carlile, but that was a seated show meaning there were a lot fewer people. I was a little leary going in on how I was going to feel about a standing room only crowd of 6000 people in an enclosed space, so I decided to limit how long I had to deal with a crowd of drunken people. I also don’t care about Beth Ditto, who was the opening act so I decided I was going to go in just in time for Florence + the Machine to take the stage. I have to say I love Florence, but I do not love her choice in opening acts. I have not cared for her openers at any show I’ve seen.

My plan worked perfectly. I got in line around 9 and was through security at 9:10. Florence + the Machine went on at 9:15. I just situated myself at the back of the crowd and it was fine for the most part. I definitely did not want to be smushed in the middle of everyone. Plus I’ve often found that with my short stature if I can stand far enough at the back of the crowd I can kind of see over it whereas I can’t see anything if I’m in the middle of it. If it wasn’t sold it, it was close to sold out so I couldn’t get exactly far enough away from other people to see great, but for me at at a standing room only show where I wasn’t in the front I could see pretty well. It also helps that unlike must SRO venues, the Anthem has video screens so when I couldn’t see the stage I could at least watch those to see what was happening.

In all the press about her latest album release, High as Hope, I saw that Florence Welch had gotten sober before recording it. Assuming she’s still sober I was kind of curious how that might affect her live shows since she’s always been sort of out there on stage and I thought perhaps she would be more inhibited if she was sober. Whatever her current state of sobriety I did not notice any difference in her stage presence. She was still just as dancing and twirly and all over the place as she has always been. She spent a couple of songs in various states of running and dancing around in between the stage and the security gate, then standing on top of the security gate, and then finally over the gate and off into the crowd. I’m sure the Anthem’s security detail were thrilled.

The music of course was great. She sang an array of songs from across her four albums. It also just felt like a very positive place to be on a night that otherwise didn’t feel so positive in the midst of a whole lot of days that don’t feel so positive. She emphasized that hope is an action, which really struck me since in all of this hope is something I have very much struggled to hang onto and feel like I don’t have anymore. But she’s right without hope we can’t do anything else. I also forgot how touchy feely she likes to have her audience get. I’ve always been with friends at previous shows and perhaps my introverted self blocked out this out, but as soon as she started asking people to hold hands with strangers and asking people to tell strangers that you love them it all came flooding back. It’s not something I’m keen on doing even with people I know, so I was really not excited about doing it alone in a crowd of people I didn’t know. I just stood there, but the people on either side of me were game, so I went along with it.

It was as always a great show and I look forward to her next album when I will undoubtedly get to see her tour again.

Mt. Joy at the 8×10

It’s only the second week in my Friday new music blog post series and I feel like I’m already cheating. I always write about the concerts I got to already, but I’m co-opting my post about last night’s Mt. Joy concert and making it my new music post for today too since I figure most people reading this have no idea who Mt. Joy is. Hey at least I’m writing.

I first saw Mt. Joy at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. At the time they may have had one song up on Spotify. Whatever it was it was enough to get me to put them on my Newport schedule. As I stood there grooving out to them they all of a sudden started singing about Baltimore in their song “Sheep” and I was like who is this band? Are they from Baltimore? Turns out they are not. They have roots in Philly but fully formed and are now based in L.A. I did find out last night about the Baltimore connection though. The lead singer said that Baltimore has a special place in their heart because it influenced one of their earliest songs and his brother went to college in Baltimore so he hung out here a lot at the time.

Anyway, they finally put out a full album back in March which I really like, so I jumped on the chance to see them again when I saw they were going to be playing the 8×10. The 8×10 is one of Baltimore’s well known little concert clubs and for some inexplicable reason until last night I had never been there. There is no logical explanation for this that I can figure out. As a through line from last week, The Stray Birds, who I wrote about last week even have a song called “Sabrina” all about a fan that used to come see them play at the 8×10.

Usually I try to get to shows early enough to support the opening act and check them out even if I don’t know them. For whatever reason I didn’t make it down there until about halfway through Illiterate Light’s opening set, which turned out to be a good thing because I did not particularly care for them. The rest of the crowd seemed into them though, so good for them.

Speaking of the crowd it was a good one. I was shocked by how everyone seemed to know the words to every song and were singing along. That made me happy. I’m a shorty so I often have problems seeing at standing room only shows unless I’m right up front or standing so far back behind the crowd that I can see over it. Neither was an option last night, so I wound up trying my luck up in the balcony. The rail was only one set of people deep when I got up there, but I still couldn’t really see. I had resigned myself to not really seeing anything, but a little ways into the Mt. Joy set the guy in front of me went and stood behind his girlfriend and waved me up to the rail. So thanks to you random stranger for allowing me to see at least half of the concert. I also felt particularly old at this show. I remember going to shows when I was in college and seeing the random one or two old people hanging out by themselves and thinking weird old people at a club. Well now I am the creepy, weird, old, music loving person hanging out by myself at the club with people at least half my age. Life comes at you fast.

Mt. Joy was good.  They pretty much played all the songs off their album plus a couple of covers. One was a Neil Young song that they played as the first song of their encore. When they went off stage before the encore people started shouting one more song and then someone got people to start saying two more song instead of just one. When they came back on stage they said we were just going to play one more song, but now we’re going to play two. I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m on to you Mt. Joy. I could see their set lists on the stage from my vantage point in the balcony and there were always two songs in the encore. Nice try.

I had a hard time rousing myself to go out on a gloomy Thursday night. The lack of sun always sends me into hibernation mode and my introverted self would often rather just stay home even when I know I’ll have a good time once I get somewhere. I did in fact enjoy myself once I got there and am glad I went.

Dawes at Wolf Trap with Joseph and Shovels & Rope

Last night my friend and I made our annual pilgrimage to Wolf Trap for a summer concert. We’ve tried to pick one concert to go to each summer for the past several years since we both love Wolf Trap and are willing to make the terrible trek there during rush hour on a weekday. Given some of the traffic I’ve sat in on my way there before last night was pretty easy. This year we picked the stellar triple bill of Joseph, Shovels & Rope, and Dawes. I love when three bands I would pay to see on their own are playing together. That’s only partly true. Sometimes I wish the opening acts were headlining somewhere so they would have more time.

I felt like last night was a family night at the concert. There were a lot more children than I’ve ever seen at Wolf Trap before, but also because of the bands themselves. Joseph is three sisters. Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst who comprise Shovels & Rope are married, and two of the five members of Dawes are brothers. Family all around up on that stage last night.

Joseph was full of beautiful harmonies as always last night. They were all acoustic for this set. They played a bunch of stuff off their I’m Alone, No You’re Not album though sadly not my favorite, Blood & Tears. I didn’t figure I was going to hear it so I wasn’t too disappointed. They have an EP of cover songs that they put out last year and at one point they said they were going to play a cover song and I was hoping for “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” because I adore that song and love their cover of it. Sadly it was “Moonlight Mile” instead. Oh well. They got a fairly generous set for the first of three acts so I can’t complain too much.

Shovels & Rope is always a sight to behold when they play. It’s just two people and they play like every instrument often at the same time. I always imagine them as two different people playing one man band rigs together. I mean at one point he was playing the guitar and the piano at the same time. Who does that? I’m not sure if they were supposed to be co-headliners or the second opening act but they played at least as long as Dawes if not slightly longer. I do enjoy them, but I wish their set had been a bit shorter because Dawes’ set seemed really short.

This is the first time I’ve seen Dawes since I saw their amazing show at the Ryman Auditorium. That spoiled me a bit since they played for 3 hours. I knew we weren’t getting anywhere close to that last night, but it still went by way too fast. Wolf Trap has a curfew though, so they could only play as long as they played. They didn’t play my favorite song, “Right on Time”, but I didn’t expect them to. Other than that I have to say they played a pretty perfect set. It was really a great retrospective of all 6 of their albums. They played at least one song from each one. They obviously played stuff from their new album Passwords and happily they played the songs I would have picked.

Apparently according to Dawes last night’s show was the largest audience they’d ever played to as a headliner. Obviously they had played to bigger audiences at festival and as openers. That kind of shocked me. I wouldn’t have guessed. But they were super excited to be headlining Wolf Trap and it showed. Shovels & Rope said something to the effect of Wolf Trap and Red Rocks man. There’s a reason why it’s my favorite concert venue (I’ve still not managed to make it to Red Rocks. One day.)

It was an excellent show. It was a perfect summer night of music. Until next year Wolf Trap.