November 24, 2012

Our first outpost post - Angel Olsen @ Tea Bazaar!

Last night, I had the total random pleasure of seeing Angel Olsen perform at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar in Charlottesville, VA.  To be honest, I'm not sure I knew what I was getting myself into prior to the show.

I decided to attend for two simple reasons: I had not yet been to a show at the Tea Bazaar, and I like female singer songwriters.  Angel Olsen had been written up favorably by Pitchfork, so it seemed like a good fit.  Sure, the magazine mentioned that her music might cause some to "worry for Olsen's emotional health," but the author mentioned warmth somewhere in there too.  Who doesn't like warmth?

Given Pitchfork's description of her music, I sort of assumed I'd being seeing an artist who's a little dark and a little weird.  When the openers cleared, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself as a girl sitting on the amp for the start of the evening - looking both very hipster and very much my style - took the stage as the headliner.  

Musically, her songwriting conjured up thoughts of Rufus Wainwright, while her style made me think: this is a guitar-playing, hipster Billie Holiday up on stage.  Her performance of 'Some things Cosmic' was a highlight.  There's a haunting fairy tale quality to the song; the kind of thing you might imagine playing at the end of a Sleeping Beauty flick where the poor girl never wakes up.  'Miranda' and 'Lonely Universe' were also fantastic; the latter being a tune about family, with songwriting qualities that have stuck with me for days.

Is it possible for a musician to be both hurting and happy; captivating, yet sending a clear message to the world to back off?  Her performance and persona seem to fall in the middle, in a way that only a handful of artists successfully manage.  Maybe this is the real appeal of Angel Olsen, at the end of the day: life brings pain and smiles in the same second, and we all find a way to survive in the space between.  She has not only survived, but found a way to tell a damn good version of her story on stage.

In short, keep your eyes open for Angel Olsen coming to town.  If she does and you miss it, you might regret it later.

**keep your eyes open for more posts from our outpost in Charlottesville!**

November 4, 2012

Magnetic Fields Ticket Giveaway

After a hectic summer, we here at Soundproof are slowly getting back into the groove.  'How are we going to do that?' you might ask.  We're going to offer up tickets to one of our favorite bands of all time: The Magnetic Fields.  I know right?  And all you have to do is comment, like, or tweet for a chance to win them.  Comment on this post (sorry, no anonymous comments please - we need some way to reach you if you win!) and tell us your favorite MF song; like us on facebook ( and post your favorite MF song on our wall; mention us on twitter (@soundproofblog) with the hashtag #winmagfields and drop your favorite song in the tweet.  That's three ways to enter.  But wait, there's more!  We'll be tweeting our love of the Fields all week; retweet three of our tweets and get a fourth chance to win.  We are super excited to offer this opportunity and we hope you all are super excited to participate for you chance to win!  If the winner is a budding music blogger, we'd also love to have a guest post.


Prize: Two GA tickets for The Magnetic Fields at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 11/17-18/2012
How to Enter: Comment here with your google account; like us on Facebook (; mention us in a tweet about your favorite MF song (#winmagfields); or retweet three of our Fields-related tweets.
Contest End Date: November 9, 2012
Winner Contacted: November 10, 2012
Method of Ticket Pickup: Will Call

August 10, 2012

Close a Hot August w/ a Cool Festival

The best and busiest summer of the decade--at least for us here at Soundproofblog--is quickly coming to a close.  And we're thrilled we'll have one last chance to celebrate it, at Hot August Blues Festival next Saturday, August 18.  This will be our second Hot August Blues, and the festival's 20th iteration.  The line-up is killer, featuring two of our favorites: Trombone Shorty & Justin Townes Earle.  The latter's the crooning, sensational son of Steve Earle, and Trombone Shorty... well, he really needs no introduction, as the very visible and talented musical ambassador of New Orleans.

But even before you get to the line-up, the venue itself stands out as superb.  Oregon Ridge is a beautiful park in Cockeysville, MD, a former ski resort with a stage instead of a chalet.  Not only does the hill make for amazing sightlines, but a spectacular view as well.

Even if jam bands like Gov't Mule, the festival's top billing, aren't your thing, surely sunsets are!  HAB offers an awesome opportunity to see legendary musicians play against a beautiful backdrop in our own backyard (did you know Gov't Mule is an Allman Bros side project?  I didn't).

HAB's got a mom & pop, local flavor to it, too; think tie dye tees, fest food and beer trucks run by civic groups.  A far cry from Firefly, which we unfortunately missed.

With a ticket price that supports a Baltimore-area arts organization, what's not to love?  Check out our preview playlist, and hope to see you there!

May 28, 2012

DC Area Summer Festival Preview

In DC, we don't get April showers, but May ones, accompanied by enough humidity to drench those with even the best umbrellas.  But they're a signal that it's almost summer, which makes us wistful for long evenings in outdoor venues.

Last summer, we had a lot to look forward to.  This summer, bands are touring on the same albums that they have all fall.  Which makes our selections for shows of the summer small, and that much more stand-out.

Wilco, Wolftrap, July 17 & 18. Sure, it's not Solid Sound. But it's the next best thing: a favorite band in a favorite space.  I'll head you off at the pass--it's beyond worth the trip.

Hot August Blues 2011
Hot August Blues Festival, Oregon Ridge Park, August 18.  This is a favorite from last summer that stepped things up three-fold.  Justin Townes Earle, Trombone Shorty, Gov't Mule, all in a gorgeous state park with a slope that provides panoramic views of a hilly Maryland countryside.  A VIP ticket gets you wine, beer, and food included - get the DD a ticket and make a weekend out of it.

Floydfest, July 26 - 29.  Hip bluegrass in a Virginia venue?  If only we weren't double booked.  But with a line-up featuring Alison Kraus & Union Station, Bruce Hornsby, Ha Ha Tonka, Dawes, Sara Watkins, and a badass sounding marching band, it sounds like a nice reprieve from the hot city asphalt.

Silopanna, Anne Arundel Fairgrounds, August 11. The line-up last year looked killer, but a hurricane put a stop to the show.  Area music fans are looking forward to a second try.

Firefly Festival, Woodlands at Dover Speedway, July 20 - 22.  This is arguably the best in the area--featuring at least more than one band with a new album--though it is questionably "in the area".  In case you haven't seen the Black Keys in the past six months, this is your chance!  Also take the opportunity to catch those bands you've heard of but never listened to: Head and the Heart, Heartless Bastards, and a sample of those in lines 6-13 on this page.

Legends of Hip Hop, Celebrate Fairfax, June 8.  After seeing the return of SWV on the Wendy Williams show (which in and of itself is an admission), I'm nostalgic for some music from my childhood growing up in a hip-hop household.  With Digital Underground, Young MC, and others.

Fort Reno...

National Parks Service Summer in the City...

Anything we missed, or that you're looking forward to?

May 6, 2012

Magnetic Fields - 9:30 Club - April 9, 2012

In full disclosure, the Magnetic Fields are one of my favorite bands of all time.  Stephin Merritt and gang make fun of melancholy, pairing upbeat music with ho-hum, witty lyrics that stand alone as literature.  It was clear on the evening of April 9 that the crowd at 9:30 thought so too, the new fans in particular laughing at every unexpected turn of phrase.  I'd been looking forward to the show for months, a club version replacing the band's usual DC tour stop at Lisner auditorium.

Opener Devotchka's "acoustic" set was a perfect warm-up, although hardly acoustic (accordion, electric bass).  But the sparser arrangement made their music seem different.  It was less whirligig sans sousaphone.

Then headliner took the stage (and in the interim, I'd convinced a Devotchka die-hard to stay, to relish the Magnetic Fields presence in such a small space).

There were a few noticable downsides to the venue almost immediately.  With music and lyrics that stand alone as performance, the band plays seated, a bad companion to the 9:30 Club's built-for-standing stage (think low to zero visibility).  At times, Stephin seemed almost annoyed with the audience (who, in Lisner, knows better to be on its best behavior).  And with the inherent club cacophony, band banter was minimal.

And yet, the Magnetic Fields still managed to dazzle.  Where Stephin stepped back, Shirley shone through, tackling the vocal lead on much of the setlist, and the ukelele.  Claudia still managed to play her stage role as band mom, and the two silent partners (Sam and John) filled out the rich sound, per usual [on a side note, I encourage you to rent the documentary Strange Powers if you really want to "get" the band dynamic].

It's hard to pick set highlights, but the new album held its own against old standbys.  Quick!, with My Husband's Pied-A-Terre, Your Girlfriend's Face, and Andrew in Drag, took place next to 69 Love Song favorites Book of Love, Come Back from San Francisco, and Chicken w/ It's Head Cut Off, as sterling examples of the band's signature sound.

I always get my money's worth going to see this band.  This time was no exception.

April 9, 2012

Plants and Animals - Red Palace - April 6, 2012

That's Not the End of That

Canadian rockers Plants and Animals rolled through town on Friday, bringing their easy-on-the-ears indie pop to the Red Palace.  The band has been together for over 10 years, which is apparant from their cohesive live performance.  Leaning largely on their new record, 'The End of That', the band moved effortless through the setlist.  Standouts from the new record included the acoustic, finger-picker 'Before', 'Song for Love', and the driving 'Lightshow'.  Fans of their 2010 break-out record, 'La La Land' were not disappointed, especially with 'Game Shows' and 'Mama Papa'.  Frontman Warren Spicer was reasonably energetic, but the real treat was the pose and presence of guitarist Nic Basque whose on-stage spirit was infectious. 

Opening band This is the Kit was a good pairing, with pleasant melodies hovering over guitar, bass or banjo.  The only real complaint from the night was the crowd.  Now I'm all for making new friends, but perhaps a rock concert in a small club is not the best venue for that (I'm looking in your direction Meetup DC).  The floor was full of concert newbs more concerned with filling their friend lists than appreciating the musical offering, but that's par for the course around here.

In general, these guys made the most out of that tiny stage.  If you are unfamiliar with the band, do yourself a favor and head to their website, itunes, mog, etc, and pick up their two latest offerings.  We'll be sure to let you know when they come back around.

April 2, 2012

First Aid Kit - Black Cat - 3/30/2012

Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg--better known as First Aid Kit--filled the Black Cat Friday for a super sold out show.  They opened for Bright Eyes at 9:30 recently, and brought their similar brand of sound to the smaller stage for their first headlining show in our city.

The girls' shtick (pretty singing sisters!) might've been a huge draw for the thick-rimmed, but it played a close second to their beautiful voices, a kind of chemistry akin to other folk vocalists, and at the same time special to the two as siblings.  Like the songbirds they sing about in Emmylou, the Soderberg sisters are endearing in harmony and fun to watch.  Blue showcased a slightly more uptempo sound, while Emmylou, In the Hearts of Men, and an acoustic [insert song] stood out as breathtakingly signature.

A single complaint (minus the audience talking, to be expected at Black Cat)--they got an incredibly rich sound musically with just three people on stage, leaving us looking for a bassist.  Johanna's keyboard took the place of several additional musicians, which perhaps in a larger venue, they might be able to flush out a bit.

This band is clearly on the way up, and if they can keep their songwriting teeth sharp, we'll all be saying, "remember when..."