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All words: Erin Holmes

After a couple big-name shows at the 9:30, I was really looking forward to a night of local favorites and good music upstairs at the Black Cat on Friday. BYT’s awesome Randy Scope interview also got me pumped for the concert’s four-band bill, with Scope’s new outfit Diamond’s Ahead and Greenland, another DC fave, as openers. I enjoyed that the crowd was a little more full and enthusiastic than usual for these respectable opening bands, and once Diamond’s Ahead thanked the fans and “their friends” for coming, I realized it would be like this all night: it was a Homecoming show not just for Olivia Mancini but also for her fellow musicians; it was a launch party for Birdlips’ new album and Randy Scope’s new band; it was a DC reunion for all of these musicians, their friends, their fans, and their friends who happen to be fans.

What this all meant: bustling crowd, long sets, late night, and lots of cool free stuff at the merchandise table (my roommate and I picked up two Christmas mixes (why not?), each with its own unique piece of art (beautifully painted boxes), and a free copy of Randy Scope and Olivia Mancini’s studio project entitled The Sleeping Secrets. Woo hoo, free stuff!!!).

Birdlips was a highlight of the evening since this duo— Clifford John and Lindsay Pitts— has a really interesting folk-indie sound, rich percussion and tones capped with their beautiful vocal harmonies (Pitts’ voice is incredible!). Expect to hear more of these two in the near future. Unfortunately, the noisy crowd did not complement their style; but I couldn’t gauge whether this was distracting or upsetting to any other concert-goers (fans who weren’t friends?). I know we’re all supposed to be “bright” and “young,” but maybe Birdlips’ droning, beat-heavy tunes might have gone over better if they went on before eleven o’clock to a more receptive crowd. Yet many people trickled back to the merchandise table once the band mentioned that the proceeds from their “One Tongue” album sales would go toward a hopeful trip to record more in Vegas.

The lucky survivors (there were plenty) at 12:11am were left to jam out to Olivia Mancini and the Mates, who sound-checked their way into a little improv-instrumental session they deemed “Friday Night at the Black Cat” (orrr as it should have been called, “Early Saturday Morning at the Black Cat”?). Olivia’s excitement to be there really showed throughout the entire set along with the enthusiasm of the Mates (all in fun form) despite the late performance. A consistent set with many standouts (“The Easy Way,” “The Strangest Things,” “My Old Ways,” “I Wouldn’t Worry,” and more) make Olivia and the Mates a definite live treat! They are like a lesser-hyped version of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (similar name, too).

All in all, concert-goers hopefully walked away with some free music, some not-free music, a five dollar T-shirt, and the experience of having ingestd a buffet of different DC bands. It was an I <3 DC kind-of-night at the Black Cat.

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