May/Early June Concert Roundup

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.

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April Concert Roundup

A Month of Firsts

April has been a crazy month- from my 28th birthday, to work events, to spending time with friends, it’s been a busy month. And in the midst of all the craziness of a wedding (not mine), a baby shower (also not mine), and birthday celebrations (those were mine), I also attended five concerts in April. This month was a month of many firsts- all five of the concerts were for artists that I’d never seen before and four of the venues were places I’d never been before. April also saw my first mechanical bull ride, first Jewish wedding, and first time taking part in Record Store Day (shout out to me for scoring the Eric Church RSD release!) With the constant busyness of life, I need to remind myself that being busy is a blessing- it means I’ve got a job, I’ve got friends, and I’ve got interests that I’m able to pursue. Interests like the many live music events that I get to attend, like the ones below!

Dom Flemons Duo- Pearl Street Warehouse (April 4th) 

April 4th, 2018 marked several firsts for me: my first time at the Wharf, my first time at Pearl Street Warehouse, my first time seeing Dom Flemons, and my first time seeing someone play the bones. Yes, the bones. It’s an actual musical instrument and Dom played them for us that night. There were also some for sale at the merchandise table. You might know Dom from his former band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, which he was in with Rhiannon Giddens. For his CD release that night, Dom performed some tunes from his new album Black Cowboys. He also did an interview on stage for the Smithsonian (Smithsonian Folkways, maybe? I don’t remember) where he discussed some of the songs and the history behind them. This man knows his stuff and is an exceptionally talented musician and singer too!

Featured song: Caroline Chocolate Drops- “Hit ‘Em Up Style” (no, Dom didn’t play this for us that night but who doesn’t love a Blu Cantrell cover??)

Colter Wall- U Street Music Hall (April 7th) 

The devil might wear a suit and tie but Colter Wall wears deeply unbuttoned shirts. Well, at least he was at his show at U Street Music Hall on April 7th. Since I reference this song, I’ll get my complaining out of the way- Colter Wall didn’t play “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie.” When my friend asked him why after the show he said they were rushing him off. That’s understandable, especially since there was a 10:30 p.m. show after his. But still. How do you not perform one of your top songs? I won’t dwell on this too much especially since he did play some of his other hits including “Sleeping on the Blacktop” and “Motorcycle.” He was also hanging around after the show by his van and agreed to take pictures with his fans (see mine below), which was cool!

Just a few quick words on Colter Wall that have nothing to do with his performance. For me, Colter’s music brings to mind the artists and songs of country past- his song “Thirteen Silver Dollars” could be inspired by Emmylou Harris, the “Queen of the Silver Dollar,” as he makes a reference to having a “belly full of baby’s bluebird wine” (if you don’t get the reference, she has a song called “Bluebird Wine.”) He also makes a “Blue Yodel No. 9” reference in this song. Then there’s “Sleeping on the Blacktop,” which, in my opinion, sounds similar to Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” His song “Fraulein” is also a cover song, which was written in 1957 by Lawton Williams and first sung by Bobby Helms. Townes Van Zandt also did a cover of this song. It gives me hope that there are country artists out there who are able to pull from the sounds of the past and bring them into the present. Colter Wall is definitely one of those artists.

After the show, it was brought up by one of the people that I attended the show with that his murder ballad “Kate McCannon,” one of his most famous songs, promotes violence against women. That really got me thinking. Where do we draw the line between what we support in real life and what we’re willing to accept in our music? Late last month I participated in the March for Our Lives and yet a few weeks later I’m listening to Colter Wall singing about putting three rounds into a cheating Kate McCannon. Listening to, and even liking, songs that go against my own personal beliefs is an issue I struggle with. This is especially the case with country music- a genre that often glorifies things that I do not support in my personal life. The killing of one’s spouse is not a theme reserved solely for the men though as women also kill their husbands in country songs. This led to a discussion about the songs in country music where women are the the ones killing their spouses. Songs like Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” being two of the first examples that came to mind. Is a woman killing her abusive husband more acceptable than a man killing his cheating wife? I won’t get into that here since this is just a concert write-up but I think a post dedicated to this topic is worth writing at some point. I’ll hopefully get around to writing that at some point.

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Colter Wall and I (April 7, 2018)

Featured song: Colter Wall- “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie” (because he didn’t play it that night!)

Ruby Boots- Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe (April 10th) 

The show at Songbyrd on April 10th was super intimate. For the most part it was just Ruby Boots and her friend on stage playing guitar and electric guitar then later in the night it was just a solo Ruby Boots. No drummer, no fiddler, just Ruby and her mate (she’s Australian so I said mate). While I wish more people had come out to support her, having a small group there was nice. Ruby Boots was cracking jokes and telling stories, including one about Bill Murray. She also mentioned that she’s friends with Nikki Lane, who I love. I bet hanging out with these two would be so much fun! It was a real treat getting to hear about Ruby Boots’ personal life and the stories behind some of the songs. I’m not sure if she would have been as engaged with the crowd had there been a large group there. I also love her Australian accent! Aussies rule, mate!

One joke she made was about her new album. She told us that the album is titled Don’t Talk About It, “so don’t tell anybody!” Well, I am telling people- sorry! In addition to singing songs from Don’t Talk About It as well as some of her older songs, she also sang a Tom Petty song and even came off the stage out into the audience with her friend, leaving the guitars behind, to sing an acoustic version of Lucinda Williams’ “Jackson.”

I hope Ruby Boots had fun at Madam’s Organ after the show!

Featured song: Ruby Boots- “It’s So Cruel”

Lindi Ortega and Hugh Masterson- Union Stage (April 24th) 

There’s a great press quote that describes how Lindi Ortega should be onstage- “fun and frightening.” Though I wasn’t really scared at her show, I can understand how she earned this description as some of her songs carry dark themes. Lindi told a story about wanting to sing her song about dying and her guitar player responded with, “Which one? You’ve got six.” I think this anecdote sheds light on the “frightening” side of Lindi. However, it’s the “fun” part (and her shiny red boots) that the fans show up for. Her latest album Liberty is a spaghetti western-esque concept album which follows a character from a dark place in their life to a more happy place at the album’s end. Lindi made sure to play some of the songs from the end of the album (the happy part) to balance out her “frightening” persona. This included songs like “Lovers in Love,” “In the Clear,” and the Spanish song from the album, “Gracias a La Vida.” She also played my favorite song of hers, “Ashes.”

Lindi Ortega and I (April 24, 2018)

Her opening act was someone I had maybe heard of before but had never really listened to. Well, shame on me! Hugh Masterson was really good- not only did I enjoy hearing him sing his songs but his stories in between the songs were funny and helped to counteract the seriousness of his songs’ content. It’s all about that balance!

Featured song: Lindi Ortega- “Afraid of the Dark.” I’ll include this song here because I do like the dark stuff. As Lindi sings, “Don’t get any closer to my heart if you’re afraid of the dark.” Yeah, same.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers and Zephaniah O’Hora- Pearl Street Warehouse (April 26th) 

Sarah Shook has me all shook up, y’all! I’ll admit that before the show I was so intimidated by this chick. But seeing her on stage and hearing her talk with the audience in between every song, I’m no longer intimidated, as she seems to be really chill and friendly. Actually, the whole band seems to be. Except Kevin- he’s a prima donna (that’s an inside joke only people at the show will get. Sorry, Kevin!) Sarah and her band, the Disarmers, rocked Pearl Street Warehouse on April 26th, which happened to be the first night of their tour. Their songs have an upbeat sound that make lyrics like “I can’t cry myself to sleep so I drink myself to death/I got cocaine in my bloodstream and whiskey on my breath/Ain’t a thing that I can change to get my luck up/I guess I’m just too much of a fuck up” make you wanna get up out your seat and sing along! Her lyrics are raw with lines like “the bottle never lets me down the way you do” and “there’s a hole in my heart ain’t nothin’ here can fill/ But I just keep thinkin’ surely the whiskey will.” Though these lyrics might pack a punch, they’re also served up with a heavy dose of reality thanks to their honesty and Sarah’s delivery. She almost makes you think that you can make it up to mama by getting that “mother-heart tattoo.”

Her opener, Zephaniah O’Hora (yes, his actual name) wasn’t half bad either! I especially liked his song “High Class City Girl from the Country.” He’s from Brooklyn, which I find to be really interesting. This guy goes to show that country really is country wide!

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers (April 26, 2018)

Featured song: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers- “Dwight Yoakam” (is Dwight Yoakam really that anxious??)

Upcoming Concerts (* means tickets are already purchased) 

5/18- The Weight Band feat. members of The Band, Levon Helm Band, & Rick Danko Group at The Hamilton
*5/20- Brandi Carlile at The Anthem
*5/29- Justin Townes Earle- Solo Tour at The Birchmere
*6/1
– Margo Price and John Prine at Wolf Trap
*6/8- The Steel Woods at Jammin’ Java
*6/29- Turnpike Troubadours and Charley Crockett at Friday Cheers (Richmond, VA)
*7/21
– Ray Wylie Hubbard at City Winery
7/24- Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit at Wolf Trap
8/2– Amanda Shires and Sean Rowe at The Birchmere
10/13- Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show at Jiffy Lube Live

Currently listening to: Jade Bird- “Lottery.” I felt so bad for missing her set when she opened for Colter Wall so I felt it would only be right to mention her here!

Celebrating Sobriety and Song: A Concert Review of Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Better Late Than Never

How long do you have after a concert to write a decent concert review? Hopefully it’s about one month because that’s how long it’s been since I saw Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The concert took place on February 6th at the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric in Baltimore. Despite the amount of time that’s passed since then, I think I can still write a post that will do the performance justice.

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Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (Photo courtesy of nodepression.com)

In my holy trinity of songwriters, Jason Isbell sits beside Leonard Cohen and John Prine. As a songwriter, few people are able to tap into such a wide range of emotions like Jason Isbell. With songs like “Last of My Kind” and “Cover Me Up,” Jason knows how to articulate the feelings of loneliness, love, and vulnerability perfectly.  I’m not the only person who feels this way- his latest album, The Nashville Sound, was featured on numerous “best albums of 2017” lists (both official and unofficial lists).  Oh! And this album won the Grammy for Best Americana Album just a couple of weeks before the concert. He performed just about every song from this album that night-  “Cumberland Gap,” “Hope the High Road,” “Last of My Kind” (I’m not crying, there’s something in my eye), “Chaos and Clothes,” “White Man’s World,” (the politically charged song we need now more than ever) “Molotov,” “Tupelo,” and a song that I relate to all too well, “Anxiety.” During the encore, he sang a Drive-By Truckers song and “If We Were Vampires,” for which he had also just won the Grammy for Best American Roots Song. The only song from The Nashville Sound that he didn’t sing that night was “Something to Love.” As someone who absolutely loved The Nashville Sound, it was great getting to watch the band perform these songs live.

In addition to his songs with the 400 Unit, Jason also played some songs from his solo albums Southeastern and Something More Than Free. Songs like “24 Frames,” “Stockholm,” and “Something More Than Free.”

A Song of Love and Sobriety 

While his wife, Amanda Shires, who is the fiddler for the 400 Unit, isn’t always at the shows with the rest of the band (she has her own solo career- check her out!), I had the good fortune of seeing her perform that night. One of the highlights of that show was watching Jason sing the love song that he wrote for her, “Cover Me Up,” to her. The rest of the band left the stage for the occasion leaving Jason and Amanda on stage for an intimate performance. I realize how lucky all of us at the show in Baltimore were that night to have Amanda there and to be able to witness this expression of love.

Before the show, my friend that went with me brought up the fact that Tuesday was Jason’s six year anniversary of being sober. Amanda also pointed this out before he sang “Cover Me Up.” I needn’t tell you how moving it was to hear Jason sing the line “but I sobered up and I swore off that stuff, forever this time during “Cover Me Up” that night. After that line, the whole place applauded in support of Jason’s accomplishment. Thank you Jason for letting all of us at the Modell Lyric join you in celebrating six years of sobriety!

“A heart on the run keeps a hand on the gun
You can’t trust anyone
I was so sure what I needed was more
Tried to shoot out the sun
Days when we raged, we flew off the page
Such damage was done
But I made it through, ’cause somebody knew
I was meant for someone”

Not to criticize Jason, because I would never, but I was upset that he didn’t sing “Elephant“- I was prepared for a good, cathartic cry. I had checked out the set lists of his shows beforehand and saw that he had been including “Elephant” some nights so I thought maybe I’d get to see him perform it. Oh well! From my research, I knew that he wasn’t performing my favorite song of his, “Traveling Alone,” on this tour. That was probably for the best as I most likely would have been inconsolable if he had and nobody, I mean NOBODY, wants to see that!

Concerts on Concerts on Concerts

Since we’re on the topic, I’ll take the time now to talk about some upcoming shows that I’m going to (*) or are interested in seeing:

*3/15– Shane Smith and the Saints (song to check out: “All I See Is You“)
3/16– Nefesh Mountain- a Jewish bluegrass group (yep, you read that right)
*3/23– Lee Ann Womack (song to check out: “All The Trouble“)
*4/7– Colter Wall (that voice though)
*5/23– Margo Price at the Ryman Auditorium-I impulsively bought tickets to see Margo at the Mother Church of Country Music (with Colter Wall opening) and am still debating actually going (it would also be two days before the opening of the new Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum so I’m thinking about making a couple days out of it and sticking around to see the exhibit. And I can always use an excuse to go to Nashville!)
6/1– Margo Price and John Prine
10/13– Chris Stapleton, Marty Stuart, and Brent Cobb

If you’re gonna be at any of these shows or are interested in attending any of these, holler!

The Life I’m Choosing 

Are you living the life you chose? Are you living the life that chose you?” asked Jason Isbell as his concert that night. If my life consists of seeing incredible musicians in concert like Jason Isbell and the others mentioned above, then yes, I am living the life I chose, and it’s a great one!

Currently listening to: Bobby Bare- “Streets of Baltimore.” Because it’s the greatest song about Baltimore I know!

Burnin’ My Barn in Tyler Childers’ Honky Tonk Flame

Hello everyone- long time, no see! While I should take this time to apologize for my two month hiatus, I won’t simply because of the fact that I was spending that time well and doing things that make me happy. Since my last post, I’ve been lucky enough to see two of my favorite new artists in concert- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and Tyler Childers. After this past Thursday night’s Tyler Childers concert, I thought the blog could use another concert review. I actually started writing this yesterday with a pen and a notebook (old school, right?) since my power was out because of the crazy wind we’ve been having. I’ll try my best to make out my chicken scratch writing for the post below.

Tyler Childers at the Rock and Roll Hotel (March 1, 2018)

Before Thursday (3/1) night’s concert , I said that “Tyler Childers could sing the phone book and I’d pay to listen.” I realize how outdated a saying like that is nowadays because who still uses a phone book? Seriously, we had one delivered to our house not too long ago and I stared at it like “what the hell am I supposed to do with this?” I reckon it might have made a good doorstop. Perhaps I should update the saying to be more 2018 appropriate- “Tyler Childers could sing the names of my Instagram followers and I’d pay to listen.” Does that work? If you have any better suggestions, send ’em my way.

No matter what I would listen to Tyler Childers sing, this post is about what he did in fact sing. The concert Thursday night was at the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC and it was my first time there. The show was sold out and needless to say the place was packed! I also waited too long to get my ticket and wound up paying about five times the original ticket price. But was it worth it? Yep!

Tyler sang some of my favorite songs from his latest album Purgatory, which Sturgill Simpson helped produce along with David Ferguson. Songs like “Feathered Indians,” “Honky Tonk Flame,” “Universal Sound,” “White House Road,” “I Swear (to God),” and the song he introduced by calling it a redneck interpretation of reincarnation (or something like that), “Born Again.” He also sang the love song for his wife off of that album, “Lady May.” After the song finished I heard the guy next to me tell the lady that he was with that she was his “Lady May.” I don’t think there’s anything sweeter a man could ever say to a woman. Who says rednecks aren’t romantic?

Tyler also sang a couple of songs that I was newly familiar with like “Charleston Girl.” I had only discovered the song the morning before the concert and instantly took a liking to it. There were a bunch of songs I had never heard before and I reckon many of these came from his time with his old band, The Food Stamps. This was the case at least for two of the songs I remember liking and later looked up-  “Messed Up Kid” and “I Got Stoned and I Missed It.” While the guy in front of me was giving everyone in the room a contact high, I’m glad I wasn’t stoned and missed this concert.

Kelsey Waldon, another Kentuckian, opened for him and it was my first time seeing her in concert as well. I had listened to her just a little bit before Thursday night but hearing her perform live was a much better way to get introduced to her and her music. Not only does she have a beautiful voice but she’s super sweet in person. I made a new friend at the concert on Thursday (one I had known from Twitter and finally met IRL) and we hung around after the show and talked with Kelsey. He’s known Kelsey for a while- they’re from the same part of Kentucky and he’s somewhat related to her. The three of us had a nice chat that included talking about Margo Price and Buffalo Clover.

All around, Thursday night was a great time and I’m so glad that I made the last minute decision to go. You can bet that next time either of these two comes through the DMV that I’ll be there. I’ll also make sure to buy my ticket early next time so that I don’t wind up paying an arm and a leg to see them!

I’ll conclude this post with one final thought- KENTUCKY! This state just keeps on cranking them out- Chris Stapleton, Angaleena Presley, Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Kelsey Waldon plus the classics like Keith Whitley, the Judds (so many redheads!), and Loretta Lynn. The latest Oxford American magazine was even dedicated to Kentucky and featured some fantastic articles, especially the one on Sturgill Simpson by Leesa Cross-Smith titled, “Ain’t Half Bad,” which is a reference to Sturgill’s song “You Can Have the Crown.” I found myself agreeing so strongly with a lot of her article and it felt good to know that someone shared my opinions on Sturgill.

To celebrate, I created a Spotify playlist, “Kentucky Got Lucky.” This playlist features all of the great Kentuckians listed above along with songs that just remind me of Kentucky. Also, it has NAPPY ROOTS! (Throwback to my youth!) I only wish Sunday Valley (Sturgill’s old band) and the Food Stamps (Tyler’s old band) were available to stream so that I could add them to this playlist. You can find that playlist here.

Currently listening to: All of the wonderful sounds of Kentucky!

Ladies Love Outlaw Music Festivals

Shotgun Willie, Shot of Espresso Brittany

This morning, for the first time in my life, I ordered an extra shot in my (venti!) Americano at Starbucks. The reason why? I didn’t get home until almost 1:30am last night after driving home from the Outlaw Music Festival in Camden, New Jersey and I had to drag my butt to work this morning. But was it worth it? You bet!

I had been wanting to go to this concert for weeks (maybe even months) after seeing the lineup. I mean, Eric Church AND Willie Nelson. Plus Sheryl Crow, who I’ve been listening to since the nineties. I’ve also been writing about Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats on the blog lately so figured getting to see them live would be cool as well. And I know a few songs from The Avett Brothers and my friends have told me they’re great live. I figured with this many quality acts in the lineup, I couldn’t go wrong. Despite wanting to go for so long, I actually bought my ticket very last minute, like the day before. I was hoping one of my friends would decide to come along but after many desperate pleas (including on social media), I gave up. And you know what? Going solo was fine (I’ll get into this more at the end of the post.)

Like Father, Like Sons

Particle Kid was the first act at the festival. And of course, since I’m early to everything, I was there before he even went on, which meant I got to watch his entire set, which was only like 30 minutes. He sang some weird songs, which he even admitted to. I was wondering why he was included in an “outlaw” music festival as nothing about him really screamed “outlaw” or even “country.” I later found out, during Willie’s set, that Particle Kid is Willie’s Kid (his son, Micah). When they advertize “Willie Nelson AND Family” that’s the family they’re talking about.

Particle Kid wasn’t the only son of Willie’s performing at the festival as Lukas Nelson was also in the lineup. Once again, I did not realize that he was Willie’s son, though this one should have been a little more obvious from the last name and the amazing locks of hair. Oops. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real were the second act and they were really good.  He even got the crowd (or at least what was there of it at that point) to sing along to “Find Yourself.” Lukas made the crowd laugh by talking about an ex-girlfriend of his named Georgia and how he has to play “Georgia On My Mind” with his dad every night and how that’s a bitch of a situation. That same girl led to him to write the song “[Forget About] Georgia,” which he played right after telling that story. He even played guitar with his teeth at one point- I didn’t even know that was possible! This kid isn’t just riding on his dad’s name- he’s a talent in his own right with a powerful voice and great guitar playing skills. I was impressed!

Both Micah and Lukas joined Willie on stage during his set at the end of the night and played with him throughout its entirety. I was wondering why they called it “Willie Nelson and Family.” Well now I know.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats Sweating it Out in the Day

I’ve written about Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats on this blog a couple of times now. Though I don’t consider them country, and they’re definitely not outlaws, I think they have a unique sound and deserve recognition. The variety of instruments that the Night Sweats use is impressive in and of itself. In a world where music is so often done on a soundboard and is so overproduced, it’s nice to see musicians playing actual instruments, like the saxophone. I was happy that they played the three songs of theirs that I really like- “Look It Here,” “I Need Never Get Old,” and “S.O.B.” – the latter being a big hit with the crowd, myself included.

Nathaniel Rateliff and Some of the Night Sweats. (My camera takes horrible pictures apparently.)

Brothers in the City of Brotherly Love

Micah and Lukas weren’t the only brothers who got to perform together at the Outlaw Music Festival. Brothers Scott and Seth Avett a.k.a The Avett Brothers were next in the lineup, along with bandmates Bob Crawford and Joe Kwon on cello. They started off by singing “Clay Pigeons” – a Blaze Foley song that I recognized from the John Prine cover. That wasn’t the only classic country song they covered as they also did George Jones’ (and apparently also The Grateful Dead’s?) “The Race Is On,” which was also covered by Sawyer Brown in 1989 and is the version I’m most familiar with. I actually enjoyed watching them- I think both of the brothers are great singers and they even sang my favorite song of theirs, “Live and Die.” I was, however, a little disappointed that they didn’t sing “I and Love and You,” which is probably their most popular song. I think the crowd at the Outlaw Music Festival would’ve been way more receptive of that song than the one they did where they rapped.

If a Sheryl Crow Concert Makes You Happy, It Can’t Be That Bad

In her set, Sheryl Crow sang some of her new stuff that the crowd and myself were unfamiliar with. But she didn’t disappoint because she still did all of her classics. I’m talking about “Strong Enough,” “If It Makes You Happy,” “My Favorite Mistake,” and “All I Wanna Do.” You remember those songs from the radio back in the ’90s, right? I know I sure do. In fact, she was probably the artist there that I have my oldest memory of. I’m not sure what my first Willie memory is but my I can remember Sheryl Crow’s music from when I was a kid. After twenty years of listening to her, it was pretty cool to see her live. Including acts like Sheryl Crow in the festival meant that I got to see people that I probably wouldn’t have paid to see on their own.

Lukas Nelson made another appearance during Sheryl’s set, coming out to help her play “Midnight Rider” by The Allman Brothers Band. Lukas definitely has the voice to sing that song!

Sundays Are For Church

I bet you guys thought you’d never see it but I actually went to Church on a Sunday!

This was my seventh time seeing Eric Church in concert and my first time seeing him perform an entire set acoustic style. It was just Eric and some guitars- no Joanna, Craig, Jeff, Jeff #2, Driver, or Lee. Just Eric. He started off his set with “Mistress Named Music”-  THE SAME VERSION THAT HE DID AT RED ROCKS! (Sorry for yelling!) A.K.A. the “Mistress Named Music-Red Rocks Medley” that I wrote about here complete with Bob Seger, Loggins and Messina, Little Feat, Billy Joel, and George Strait worked into the middle of it. Getting to witness that was worth the ticket price, the price to park, the gas, the drive, and the overpriced food and drinks alone!

Since Camden, NJ is practically Philly, he did Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” before jumping into “Springsteen.” I had hoped that he would play this song since we were in Philly and since he always plays a song from The Boss before “Springsteen.” Well, my wish came true!

I would also like to point out, especially for people who think I’m an obsessed Eric Church fan, that I probably saw some of the biggest Eric Church fans ever at the show last night. One woman had his face (from the Chief album cover) tattooed on her back shoulder. If there were a competition for the craziest thing a fan has done, I think getting a tattoo of someone’s face is a good contender for winning it. I can understand getting song lyrics, which I think this woman also had, but someone’s face is on another level. There were also people there who had seen him the night before in Alabama and came all the way to Philly to see him again. According to their sign, they saw him three nights in a row, so Tuscaloosa and Orange Beach, Alabama (or as Eric likes to call it LA- Lower Alabama.) I might’ve driven from Falls Church, VA to Camden, NJ but the people who drove from LA (remember, that’s Lower Alabama) to Camden have definitely got me beat!

Despite it being an acoustic performance, Eric made sure to include all of the Church Choir’s favorite things about his live shows into last night’s performance (many of which I wrote about in my post, “A View from the Church Pew.”) People held up their boots during “These Boots,” he took shots of Jack from the mini bottles that fans brought for him after singing “Jack Daniels,” and he messed up his own songs.

I will say that I was disappointed that he didn’t sing “Leave My Willie Alone.” This would have been the perfect opportunity for it! At least he sang “Record Year,” which references the Red Headed Stranger.


Having a Willie Good Time

Willie Nelson and Trigger- the guitar that’s been with him since 1969!


Excuse me while I go put a checkmark in the box beside Willie Nelson‘s name on my country concerts bucket list. If you want to see a musical legend, and I’m not just talking about a legend in country music, but a legend in all genres of music, then look no further than Willie Nelson.

His set included a song for Waylon, “Good Hearted Woman,” and a song for Merle, “It’s All Going to Pot.” He also sang some of my favorite Willie classics like “Always on My Mind” and “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground.” He also played “Georgia On My Mind” and everyone who was there for Lukas’ set remembered the story about his ex and started laughing at the displeased face he made when they started playing.

For an eighty-four year old, Willie has still got it. As he sings in “Still Not Dead“:

“I run up and down the road and makin’ music as I go
They say my pace would kill a normal man
But I’ve never been accused of bein’ normal anyway
And I woke up still not dead again today”

You got that right, Willie!

As I previously mentioned, his sons Micah and Lukas also joined him on stage for his set, playing guitar and other instruments and singing. Since this was a “Willie Nelson and Family” affair, Bobbie Nelson, who Willie calls “Little Sister” also joined in on piano. While he may call her “Little Sister,” she’s actually two years older than him and yes, she’s biological sister. I guess “Big Sister” just doesn’t have the same ring? Bobbie was also recently inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. (Congratulations, Bobbie!) One thing I would like to say is that the Nelson family has got some good genetics when it comes to hair!

There’s still one other family member who was up on that stage with Willie that I haven’t mentioned yet and that’s Trigger. Trigger is Willie’s guitar that he’s had since 1969. As Willie says, “Trigger’s like me, old and beat-up.” I don’t know anything about guitars but this one is a Martin N-20 acoustic and if it’s the one Willie has been using for the past 48 years, then it must be a good one. He’s named after Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger because as Willie says, “it’s kind of my horse.” One time, when Willie’s house caught on fire, he ran inside and two saved things: a pound of weed and Trigger. If you wanna learn more about good ole Trigger, there’s a Rolling Stone exclusive documentary about him here.

At the very end of Willie’s set, The Avett Brothers and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats joined him on stage. They got the whole pavilion to join them in singing “I’ll Fly Away.” If I tell people that I got to sing with Willie Nelson it wouldn’t be a lie!

A poor quality video of Willie singing part of “Always On My Mind” is below. Look at how close I was!


Let’s Get Political (sung to the tune of Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”) 

Maybe it’s the times we live in but I feel like that kid in the “The Sixth Sense” these days except I see political messages. That’s not a complaint because I think it’s important for artists to speak out and use their microphones for good. The first political message that stood out to me at the festival was in The Avett Brothers’ “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full Of Promise,” especially in the following lines:

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it”

It’s not just the lyrics, as they were definitely not written for the Orangutan in Office, since the song is from 2009 but it was the hand motions that Seth made when he sang that line about the man that’s elected. You know the hand gesture someone makes to indicate that someone talks too much where flap your four fingers against your thumb. Maybe it’s just me but I saw this as a reference to Trump since the man does talk way too much.

Image result for talking hand gesture gif
(Hand gesture referenced above)

Not only that but Willie Nelson’s “Living in the Promiseland,” which he sang with The Avett Brothers and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, has some pretty relevant lyrics to the political times we have found ourselves in (see the lyrics below). The music video for this song starts off with an old news story in black and white about refugees, victims of Nazi persecution, arriving from Europe by boat. As the video points out, many of the children are orphans. As Willie starts to sing, with an American flag bandana on his head of course, images of a diverse array of Americans appear throughout the video. Including this song on the setlist each night of the Outlaw Music Festival seems like a way of getting a message out about refugees and immigrants. Especially when you take into consideration Willie’s own politics. He spoke about this song in an interview from January of this year saying, “I recorded a song called ‘Living in the Promiseland.’…It’s about welcoming everyone: ‘Living in the promiseland, our dreams are made of steel. The prayer of every man is to know how freedom feels. Bring us your foreign songs, we will sing along. …’ Come on, America. We love you. We’ll help you. We’ll find a spot for you.” And when asked, “so you’re not for building walls?” Willie responded with “Fuck no.”  I won’t get too much more into politics now since this is a concert review so I’ll save my thoughts on this subject for a another time.

“Give us your tired and weak
And we will make them strong
Bring us your foreign songs
And we will sing along

Leave us your broken dreams
We’ll give them time to mend
There’s still a lot of love
Living in the Promiseland”

Also, whatever happened to the “Willie Nelson for President” campaign? That’s a serious question. If anyone knows what the status of this is, please let me know.

Image result for willie nelson for president

Merch

With so many great artists, and merchandise available for each of them, my poor wallet definitely took a hit. I got an Eric Church t-shirt that I had been thinking about for a while and since I know for a fact that it’s not for sale on his website, I decided to go for it. It’s the “Eric Fucking Church” t-shirt. Yes, I realize this is the second shirt I’ve bought in the past few weeks that has the f-word on it (the other one being my “Who The Fuck Is Sturgill Simpson?” t-shirt). No, I do not care.  Nor do I give a fuck. I also got a Willie Nelson t-shirt since I couldn’t not. A poster for the show and an Eric Church koozy also made the (figurative) shopping cart.

Ridin’ Solo

What was unique about this experience was that it was the first concert I’ve ever done solo. And I didn’t just do a concert solo, I did a whole daylong festival solo. Plus the drive to and from Philly all by my lonesome. And you know what? It was actually kinda fun. Thankfully I sat next to some cool people and they obviously had great taste in music so we had a lot to talk about. I walked away from the festival having learned an important lesson- don’t be afraid to do things by yourself. In fact, every once in a while, do something like going to a concert alone. If you really wanna see a performance, seeing it alone won’t make it any less enjoyable. And it’s good to spend time alone for personal development. It also forces you to meet new people.

The Pit or Bust

This was also my first time sitting in The Pit. Like I’ve never been that close to a stage at a major concert in my life. Sure, I might’ve paid a pretty penny for my seat but if you think about how much a pit seat would be to see each of those artists separately, it was a bargain! After getting to see this show up close and personal, I don’t know if I can go back to nosebleed seats.

 

If you guys ever get a chance to attend an Outlaw Music Festival, I highly recommend it. Also, take me with you! Or you can just do like I did and go alone. Either way you’ll have a Willie great time!

AND if you’re interested, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real will be coming to the DMV area in November, performing at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Wednesday, November 15th. Get your tickets here.

Currently listening to: Waylon Jennings- “Ladies Love Outlaws.” Oh yes, they do! This song is also the inspiration behind this post’s title, if you were wondering.