It’s with a heavy heart that the D.C. music scene said goodbye to the venue The Dunes this week. While I could spend way too many words describing why it was so special — I will never forget the Sleepy Kitty show there where I, along with Evan Sult, the drummer to Sleepy Kitty and former drummer of the eternally underrated Harvey Danger, learned that we were “goners“– local singer/songwriter/guitarist Jonny Grave, who has a show at Black Cat on May 23rd, captured it beautifully earlier this week on BYT, and I’d rather just share that with you:
“It’s like a living room in a group house with seven roommates. A space that’s not too big, but deceptively spacious, with limitless potential. Dance parties and DJs, bands from all over the country, yoga, crock pots and NFL games on the projector screen, dozens of artists sketching away at fold-up tables, art on every blank wall…
Last night was the end. Alex Tebeleff shot me an invite earlier in the week saying ‘One last show at the Dunes.’ There’ll be an official farewell party next week, of course. The Dunes is still booked with private parties until May 1st, naturally. But last night was the last night The Dunes did what it set out to do.
What I found uplifting about last night’s show was the attitude of the people in the crowd. Instead of walking around with a “Well, this sucks,” attitude, everyone maintained an attitude of “Okay, so what’s next?” People seemed to be holding hands a little more than usual. They seemed to dance for the sake of dancing, because dwelling on the eventual and inevitable closing of the door was too much to bear. At least, that’s what I chose to believe when I was walking through the crowd with my camera.
Spaces like the Dunes are a necessity for creating an environment that fosters creativity and artistic initiative. This is a city whose skyline is dotted with construction cranes, erecting a new cookie-cutter condo every quarter. House concerts, DIY-style shows, art for art’s sake help drive the creative forces of the town beyond the expansion of the Stavropolous and Hilton empires.
The Dunes did that for us. The Dunes was more than a venue for performers like me. It was a blank canvas. There was no idea too wild, there was no concept too impossible. I play anywhere between twelve and twenty shows a month. There is nothing like a show at the Dunes, and I suspect there never will be again.”
And now some music. to obsess over!
Follow the Tunes You Should Know in 2014 Spotify Playlist!
- Baths – “Obsidian”
A brief confession: I had no idea who Baths was before I saw him/them destroy a set at U Street Music Hall last week which gave me a much needed reminder on why that place is important and special.
And I wasn’t even there to see him; I was checking out and getting a chance to hang out with the absolutely charming and infinitely talented dudes behind Young Fathers, and they just so happened to be opening for what in my mind was some generically-named headliners (who just so happened to sell out the venue).
Fortunately, former guest writer Ben Wormald and my ex-housemate Lindsay both seemed so keen on this group that I felt compelled to check them out. Even more fortunately, Ben let me in on a fact that puts this guy and this album in a context that makes it infinitely more intriguing…
Will Wiesenfeld, the man behind Baths, wrote this when he thought he might die.
Yep. While putting together this album, he was diagnosed with E. coli, which he assures you “is as gross as the face that you’re making.”
Sonically, it sounds like the kind of dark but cooing synth pop that we were told Passion Pit was going to deliver with their sophomore album (I mean come on, mental illness and addiction and all we got was “Take A Walk”?) but when you realize the mindset this album was stemming from, lines like “And it’s not a matter of if you mean it/It is only a matter of come and fuck me” hit just a little harder.
And live, well, it’s just something indescribable.
Wiesenfeld, who is a classically trained musician, looks like a much-younger Ed Helms, and he sings with the kind of intensity that the Nard Dog would admire, but Wiesenfeld washes away the funny from the tragic clown character and instead fully exposes his emotional intensity. The lows are low, the highs are high, and the powerful moments are the kind of things that make me go to shows at 11pm at night on a Tuesday.
Ben told me after the set he was worried that Bath’s wonderful album wouldn’t translate to a live setting well and was ecstatic to not be disappointed, which I find funny in hindsight because as I left the club that night, shaken by his performance, I was worried that it wouldn’t translate to the record as well as I would want.
The truth is, it’s an apples and oranges situation (one of those “albums is a journey/live music is an ‘experience'” kind of things), but this guy is talented enough that you should really experience both.
- Shakey Graves – Live at KJHK
Shakey Graves is one of those last minute additions to the column that gets shoe-horned in just because his sheer talent alone supersedes any sort of context or commentary I could really give by having a week to do research on him.
In one 20-minute live video (thanks to Adam Sharp at A Song For The Day), this artist from Austin, TX, who has the kind of well-manicured drifter look that makes you at least understand why your girlfriend wants to sleep with him, successfully revived my interest in bluesy garage rock.
But one quick semi-related thought:
Do you think the Black Keys ever thought we’d care this little about them? There’s no way, right? They wouldn’t have been talking so much smack about Jack White. And I know they’re a blue-collar band who toiled in anonymity for ages, but did they really have to make themselves and their once-inspiring blues rock so apathy inducing?
- Furniteur – “Modern Love”
- Blanche Has Friends – “You’re Lonely As…”
This was too weird a coincidence for me not to post about, but members of two very different D.C.-scene stalwarts very recently released side project material of electronic-pop variety.
Kevin Bayly and Mike Toohey from BRETT have begun collaborating with artist/musician Brittany Sims under the moniker Furniteur, while Drop Electric lead-singer Kristina Reznikov just threw up a Soundcloud page for her side-project, Blanche Has Friends.
Brittany told me that she’s “loved Brett from the beginning – a bunch of talented musicians creating really great electronic music with an amazing live set,” and that while she started working with them visually at first (she developed and created the artwork for the EP Rap Songs x Visions), she ended up singing on a song that eventually became “Glass Hearts,” a track that is now a bonus on their upcoming full-length. She says that Furniteur already existed as a concept she had been working on, but her “relationship with members of Brett as producers and collaborators helped [her] formally realize [her] musical vision.”
And she’s got some high ambitions: “My goal with Furniteur is to tie visual aesthetics and the sonic components together. I am currently focusing on utilizing all of my creative muses as inspiration for a series of paintings and drawings that share the same aesthetic as the music.”
Blanche Has Friends, on the other hand, is most likely a result of Kristina learning to play with Ableton as Ramtin began using it more and more on Drop Electric’s latest album. Most of the tracks fall a little too “Ableton-experimental” for lack of a better term for me, but I did find myself really enjoying “You’re Lonely As.” That staccato bass line is great and the odd bit of syncopation is perfect for Kristina’s emotive voice.
And now, it’s time for a very special edition of…
AURAL PLEASURE WITH FRIENDS: Nate Cover edition.
Editor’s Note: I beat Nate Cover last round in All Things Go’s March Madness tournament, which will finally be ending soon, and I just wanted to remind him of that.
- Movement – Movement EP
I didn’t do so well in economics during my freshman year of college, but it doesn’t take a financier to understand the laws of supply and demand. The music industry works in the same way, with trends cropping up based on a demand from active listeners like the ones who’d read a column called “Tunes You Should F**king Know… This Week.”
You should take that as a compliment.
In just the last few rotations of the Earth, we’ve been blessed with the contentious PBR&B saga and the oh-so-trendy synth-poppers., but I’m calling it now: electronic R&B is gonna be huge.
A genre dominated by The Weeknd, electronic R&B is only getting better with newcomers like Sam Smith, BASECAMP, and Raleigh Ritchie (who also happens to play Gray Worm in HBO’s Game of Thrones). But most of us are depriving ourselves of the beautifully robust music scene that exists on the opposite side of the world. Even after Lorde put New Zealand on our radar, it’s the Aussies who are shafted by our cyclical music consumption.
If you’ve been paying attention, you are currently salivating at the promise of an Australian electronic R&B artist. And thus, the stage is set.
Movement is an Aussie three-piece who I first saw by chance as a supporting act in probably the smallest club in all of New South Wales. It was one of their earliest live shows, but the vocals alone were enough to give the whole place chills.
It’s been nearly a year since they released their first single, “Feel Real,” and after a short-yet-tittilating string of singles, their debut self-titled EP does not disappoint.
Movement’s EP goes down smooth, with injections of elegant instrumentation that keep your interest peaked from top to bottom.
The lead track, “Like Lust,” has been bouncing around the blogoshphere with hits from conversation-starters like Pitchfork and Hype Machine. But you need to keep digging through this EP to uncover the full artistry of Movement’s EP. These three know what they’re doing… but what do I know? I’m just a guest of the very gracious Bryce Taylor Rudow. Listen below (or above? I don’t know where this embed’s going) and get acquainted with Movement’s Aussie vibes.