Another month (and some change) have passed which means it’s time for another concert roundup. While I’m always happy that my favorite artists come through DC, my wallet is not. This year I’ve definitely traded in travel (especially international travel) for music. Though I am traveling to Texas this summer, that trip is highly centered around country music. In fact, I’ll be going to a concert while I’m there- Cody Jinks at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, Texas. Cody hasn’t come through DC since I’ve had the great fortune of discovering him so if Cody won’t come to me, I’ll go to him! You can find a full list of upcoming shows that I’ll be attending at the end of this post.
Brandi Carlile- The Anthem (May 20th)
Brandi Carlile‘s concert on May 20th at The Anthem is one I’ll always remember. It was the last night of her tour (and second night in a row at The Anthem) and she went out with a bang! Her new album By the Way, I Forgive You came out earlier this year and is truly a masterpiece. There are certain songs on this album, like the featured song below, that really resonated with me. This album was co-produced by Shooter Jennings and Dave Cobb so you know it’s good. Seriously, Dave Cobb is the King Midas of music- everything this guy touches turns to gold! Seeing her perform these songs live was an emotional experience to say the least. She started the night with the song on the album that hit me the hardest, “Every Time I Hear That Song,” which really choked me up. The struggle to hold back my waterworks also happened during “The Mother” and “The Joke,” both of which are off her latest album (the line in “The Joke” about carrying your baby on your back through the desert got me good!) And of course she played her most famous song, “The Story,” which would make even a statue get a little emotional. She performed every song from By the Way, I Forgive You and that was just fine by me because it meant I got to hear all of my favorite songs off the album like “Sugartooth” and “Hold Out Your Hand.” And as a new Brandi Carlile fan, this album helped launch me into full throttle fandom!
Some highlights from the night included Pete Souza (former Chief Official White House photographer for Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama) joining her and Darlingside, the opening act, on stage to perform during the encore. Together, they ended the night with “Hold Out Your Hand.” Pete is a big fan, which I already knew from following him on Instagram. Before calling him up on stage, Brandi called Pete “the shadiest mother fucker in DC.” That he is. Also, while singing “Hold Out Your Hand,” the lights came on and you could see everyone in the audience clapping their hands and singing along. One of my favorite things about concerts is when the artists talk with the audience in between songs- I feel like it really gives you a glimpse into their personality. Brandi talked a lot at her show, which I loved. She’s funny and smart and talked about the things that matter most to her like being a mother and her family’s right to exist in this country. She also provided the stories behind some of the songs, like “Fulton County Jane Doe” (that’s an interesting story so look it up if you’ve got the time/inclination). Getting to know Brandi a little better in between her songs was a major highlight of the night!
This past month, the nominees for the Americana Music Honors and Awards were announced and of course Brandi was included in several categories. When the nominees first came out and I saw that Margo Price, Jason Isbell, John Prine, and Brandi Carlile were all nominated for “Artist of the Year,” my first thought was “can there be a four way tie??” Her album is also up for “Album of the Year” and despite being up against The Nashville Sound and All American Made, I can say that Brandi (and this album) deserves this. That’s saying a lot because if you know me you know that Margo Price is my idol and that I absolutely adore Jason Isbell. But guys, her album was THAT good! You can find the full list of nominees here.
Featured song: Brandi Carlisle- “Every Time I Hear That Song”
Willie Nelson and Sturgill Simpson with Cris Jacobs- The Anthem (May 27th)
I was a little apprehensive going into Sunday night’s show. Willie Nelson was supposed to have performed the night before in Charlotte, NC but instead, after two attempts, he tossed his hat out into the audience, never actually performing. This was apparently due to a stomach bug. Thankfully, Willie had recovered enough by the next night to make it out on stage and play a full set. While I do love me some Willie, the main attraction that night was Sturgill Simpson. It was my second time seeing both Willie and Sturgill as I saw both of them back in September (though they weren’t together, I saw them within two days of each other). Unlike the last time I saw Sturgill, the audience was standing during this show, which I thought made the overall experience a lot better. Who can sit still and listen to Sturgill?! I was also five rows back from the stage (shout out to me for always being early and getting to take advantage of that GA seating!) which meant that I really got to see what was happening on stage (well, aside from the annoying couple in front of me who insisted on holding onto each other the entire set and forming one big person instead of two separate people. Y’all suck!) I also got several compliments on my “Who the Fuck is Sturgill Simpson?” t-shirt! I’m thinking that most people there knew who the fuck he was!
I will say that I was a little disappointed that Sturgill and Willie didn’t play a song together. That would have been such a cool performance to witness. Especially since Sturgill covers a song made famous by Willie on his first album- “I’d Have to Be Crazy.” I’m just happy that Willie, at the ripe old age of 85, is still willing and able to keep performing. As he sings on his latest album Last Man Standing, “I don’t wanna be the last man standin‘, or wait a minute maybe I do.” We’re happy to have you as the last man, Willie!
The opening act that night, Cris Jacobs, was from Baltimore (though two members of the group were from Richmond, VA). I had listened to them a little bit in preparation for that night and really like their sound. A couple songs of theirs worth checking out are “Jack the Whistle and the Hammer” and “The Devil or Jesse James.”
Now that I’ve attended two shows at The Anthem (within a week of each other), I want to say a quick word about this venue because it’s pretty dang cool! I like that the concession stands are in the same room as the performance so you don’t have to worry about missing your favorite song if you get up to grab a drink. I only stayed on the first level though so next time I’m there I’ll be sure to check out the upper levels and give you all a full report.
Featured song: Sturgill Simpson- “Brace For Impact (Live A Little)”
Justin Townes Earle with Lilly Hiatt- The Birchmere (May 29th)
When I first bought tickets to this show I must not have realized that Lilly Hiatt was also performing. After realizing it much later, I was pleasantly surprised to see her name on the lineup. With the release of her latest album Trinity Lane, I had gotten into Lilly’s music and really taken a liken to her. Getting to see both her and Justin Townes Earle made for a really special night!
Since this was a solo show, both of them played with just their guitar and microphone alone on stage. There were no bands and no big production, which made for an intimate show. And it was at The Birchmere in Alexandria- a cool venue with posters of past performers, like Waylon Jennings and Steve Earle (Justin’s dad!), decorating the hallway. You can also sit down and eat during the show. Warning: if you get the fish tacos, they are messy!
If we’re being honest, I liked Justin’s stories and commentary more than the music portion of the night. What’s great about small venues like The Birchmere is that artists feel more comfortable talking with the audience. The fact that this was a solo show also helped in that regard. I’m glad Justin felt comfortable enough to talk with us because he shared some crazy stories about his past (and also provided BBQ recommendations if you’re ever in Memphis). Sitting close to the stage at a solo show is also pretty neat because you get to really see the artist as they’re singing their songs. Justin does this thing where he makes little noises between verses sometimes. While I’m not sure why he does that, I like it. He’s also an incredible guitar player- being able to watch his hands on his guitar as he played each song was something to see! In between stories, Justin did manage to play some songs including his own stuff like “One More Night In Brooklyn” in addition to some blues songs.
What’s cool about both Justin and Lilly is that they’re the children of famous musicians- Justin Townes Earle being the son of Steve Earle and Lilly Hiatt being the daughter of John Hiatt. Justin’s namesake is also the late great Townes Van Zandt. But don’t think these two are just riding on their daddys’ names- they’re talented singers, songwriters, and musicians in their own right.
You can’t be the son of Steve Earle without getting political (check out my post on liberal country music featuring Steve Earle here). And that’s not a bad thing, in fact, we need more Steves and Justins in music now more than ever. Justin brought up the opiate crisis on stage and asked why something is only a crisis when white kids start dying from it. He elaborated on this topic and encouraged us to ask the right questions to people who are dealing with addiction. Instead of asking something insensitive like “what’s wrong with you?” or questions like that why not ask “why do you hurt?” Asking the right questions is a step in the right direction to understanding addiction and the crises that come from it. I’m sure someone in the audience needed to hear Justin’s words that night.
A highlight of the night was meeting Lilly. She was very personable and I loved that she came out after her set and after Justin’s set to greet fans and sign merchandise. I told her that I was going to Margo Price’s show on Friday and she told me to say hi to Margo and that Margo would like me. Though, as expected, I didn’t get the chance to meet Margo at her show a couple of nights later. I also think Margo is way too cool for me! I should also take this opportunity to mention that Lilly is a nominee for “Emerging Artist of the Year” for the Americana Music Honors and Awards. If you haven’t checked out her new album Trinity Lane yet, you need to get on that!
One cool piece of merchandise that I picked up at the show was a cassette tape of Justin’s Kids in the Street album. Problem is I don’t have a cassette player. Even still, it makes for a cool addition to my music collection. While vinyl has been back in style for a while now, I don’t actually see cassettes making a return.
Featured songs: Justin Townes Earle- “Harlem River Blues” and Lilly Hiatt “The Night David Bowie Died”
Margo Price and John Prine- Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (June 1st)
Because this show was so early in June, I decided to include it in this post. What a night- I got to see Margo Price, who I’ve been a big fan of for quite some time, open up for John Prine, one of my songwriting idols. It was also my first time at Wolf Trap, which is a really beautiful venue.
I’ve been wanting to see Miss Margo Price in concert for quite some time and on Friday night that dream finally game true. When she’s not warning you about the “cocaine cowboys” she’s getting real about politics singing about issues like the pay gap and the Iran-Contra Scandal. (Though she didn’t sing any of those songs on Friday night). She also knows how to kick back and have fun as evidenced in songs like “Hurtin’ (On The Bottle).” I was happy that she performed stuff from her first album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter in addition to her new stuff. Her first album really helped make me a fan of Americana music. She was one of the first artists in that genre that really stood out to me and songs like “Hands of Time” and “How the Mighty Have Fallen” really made an impression on me. Getting to hear her perform “Hands of Time” and “Tennessee Song” that night was something special.
Friday night was my second time seeing the incredible (and one of my favorite singer/songwriters) John Prine live and oh boy was he great! His new album, The Tree of Forgiveness, came out on April 13th. Fun fact: I share a birthday with this album! I feel honored to share this day with such a great album. On The Tree of Forgiveness, Prine proves that he’s still got it (as if there was ever any doubt)! There are so many great songs on this album, adding themselves to the catalog of wonderful songs he has amassed in his lifetime. Songs like the summertime anthem, “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door” and a happy perspective on the afterlife, “When I Get To Heaven.”
The brightest highlight of the night included John and Margo singing “In Spite of Ourselves” together. I had hoped that Prine would seize upon the opportunity of having Margo there and decide to do this duet! Another highlight was Prine talking to the audience. This man is hilarious! A memorable quote of his from the night came right before he played “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.” He said that he wrote that song in 1968 as a political song and it’s still a political song today. But he’ll keep playing it until they get it right! Here’s to hoping that one day John Prine doesn’t have to play this song!
This post is chock full of Americana Music Honors and Awards nominees including both Margo and John. Both are nominated for “Artist of the Year” (along with Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell). John won last year so I’m not sure what the chances are that he’ll win again, but hey, it’s possible! Margo is also nominated for “Album of the Year” for All American Made and for “Song of the Year” for “A Little Pain.”
Featured songs: John Prine- “Egg and Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967” and Margo Price- “Hands of Time”
Upcoming Concerts (* means tickets are already purchased)
*6/8- The Steel Woods at Jammin’ Java
*6/29- Turnpike Troubadours and Charley Crockett at Friday Cheers (Richmond, VA)
*6/30– Turnpike Troubadours and Charley Crockett at 9:30 Club (yeah, I’ve got it on here twice. I may skip the Richmond show and go to the DC one but still TBD.)
*7/6- Cody Jinks, Colter Wall, and Ward Davis at Whitewater Amphitheater (New Braunfels, TX)
*7/21– Ray Wylie Hubbard at City Winery DC
7/22– Lori McKenna at City Winery DC
7/24- Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit at Wolf Trap
*7/25- Nikki Lane at Rock & Roll Hotel
7/28– Arctic Monkeys at The Anthem (this show is already sold out but I’m hoping that some cheap ones appear on StubHub)
8/2– Amanda Shires and Sean Rowe at The Birchmere
8/22– Shooter Jennings at City Winery
*9/12– Sarah Shook and the Disarmers at Pearl Street Warehouse
9/28– Jade Bird at Rock & Roll Hotel
10/5– Turnpike Troubadours at Spring Pavilion (Charlottesville, VA)
10/13- Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show at Jiffy Lube Live
10/15- Tyler Childers at 9:30 Club
Currently listening to: Dolly Parton- “The Story.” From Cover Stories: Brandi Carlile Celebrates 10 Years of The Story (An Album to Benefit War Child). This album is a charity tribute album featuring various artists like Margo Price, Kris Kristofferson, and of course, Dolly Parton.