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Since I see a lot of live music, I'm often asked to recommend concerts worth shelling out money for. So, starting today and hopefully each week to come, I'm going to take some time to tell you about the inspired shows I've recently seen. I'll post my photographs from the concerts and tour links when available, to assist in steering you towards events you might not think to check out.
Last week I saw 14 bands, beginning in New York with a taping of the NPR quiz show Ask Me Another. The AMA staff had booked the largest band in their five-year history, Tank and the Bangas, the winner of our Tiny Desk Contest. It was the first time I'd seen this band on a stage (at least one bigger than my desk). They were sensational. There's both drama and humor in the poetry of lead singer Tarronia "Tank" Ball, directed through her New Orleans-based band with jazz, soul, hip-hop and more. They're a true original destined for a massive year. They've a ton of tour dates — do not miss this show.
The legendary Arto Lindsay, who was important in shaking up my ears with his abrasive guitar agitations while in the band DNA back around 1976, played this past weekend in D.C. While his early work was serrated, Lindsay eventually fell in love with the gentle sway of the Brazilian tropicália movement, mixing poetry and the rhythms of Africa, Brazil and psych rock. His band was filled with sensational players, including the legendary Melvin Gibbs on bass, but most of all it was a thrill to hear Arto's unique approach to his Danelectro 12-string. Lindsay uses the guitar more as a percussive instrument than melodic reenforcement — smiling through it all.
Beauty Pill played to their D.C. hometown as the opener for Arto Lindsay. They are a band with a unique blend of mystery, prog rock and heart. Chad Clark, the band's leader, recently wrote an essay on Lindsay (a personal hero of his) and how this tour came to be. It's an insight to the Beauty Pill philosophy coming from a man with a broken heart — literally, Clark's life was saved by open heart surgery.
Pinegrove is a band worth seeing live if you love light distortion and joy. I saw them perform at the Bowery Ballroom in New York with an audience that included many of their hometown fans, who are some of the most enthusiastic devotees you will witness, shouting along with each word sung by Evan Stephens Hall. The band is on tour now.
Bleachers is another shout-along band that features a New Jersey native operating as a New York City favorite. You may know some of singer Jack Antonoff's other projects, including Fun. and Steel Train, or perhaps his pop songwriting for Lorde and Taylor Swift. Though Bleachers didn't win my heart at the Studio at Webster Hall, I seemed to be alone in the room in that regard, as a rabid fanbase welcomed the band's return in this undersized basement venue.
This performance by The Wild Reeds seemed to be turning point for the band, which was finally reaping the fruits of eight years of dutiful work. The Wild Reeds received the sort of audience response in D.C. they might have only imagined outside of their hometown of L.A.
Other bands of note in this very busy week included Washington D.C.'s Br'er. Though I only caught a few songs this time around, the intensity and catharsis of singer Benjamin Schurr left me wanting more. They only have a few dates currently scheduled.
Of the bands that played our first Tiny Desk Contest event in NYC, Darling Din was the one that wowed me most, from the singing of Lisa Jaeggi to the power of the guitar, bass and drums.
I see hope and promise in the funky R&B sound of The New Review, a big band from New York and Boston. The horn arrangements and rhythms were tight, while nicely supporting the powerful voice and performance of Aubrey Haddard.