Photos By Andy DelGiudice, Review By Jeb Gavin
There are few sentences I could compose to better encapsulate DC music like: Saturday night at the 9:30 Club I saw Thievery Corporation play Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose.” Yet I know, for a fact, there are people willing to complain about it. I did see Thievery Corporation Saturday night at the 9:30 Club. It was a great show. This post is in fact about the show. And yet because it’s the soapbox I have, I intend to use it to full effect.
Every couple of years there seems to be a spate of articles decrying something about DC’s culture. Most recently it’s been regarding the food scene, but it’s just as often about the music scene, theater, arts, what have you. It’s not just the article decrying it. It’s all the responses- the ones that say we’re a scrappy underdog on the national or global stage, the ones that say we’ve arrived and give the reasons, the ones that demand DC has always been unique because x and y and z and seek to demonize everything outside DC right up to the border. It’s stupid; it’s a canard; it’s a waste of damn time for everyone. We can’t be here and coming and not even close all at the same time, and worse yet, blind to what we do have. (I feel I should add as a disclaimer: yes, even the suburbs of DC are DC, both in culture and population. That said, Baltimore is not DC. This comparison gets made on occasion, usually the same time as preseason football starts up, and it only ever appears in articles to rile loyalties. It’s as pointless a contrast as arguing over DC’s “scene.”)
What we’ve got are groups like Thievery Corporation, and their three night stand at the 9:30 Club. Thievery Corporation is DC. Not in the sense that people sporadically make things metaphors for the convenience of making a point. They are DC. The eclecticism, the mix, the politics, this is what we are: history and culture stacked on top of one another, commuter and local and urban and suburban.
The show I saw was all of that and more. As usual, core members Rob Garza and Eric Hilton were joined on stage by a host of musicians and a rotating cast of vocalists, embodying all the group’s different influences. A guitar swapped out for a sitar at times, turntables front and center flanked by drummer and percussionist; the tablas giving way to go-go beats swapped out for reggae grooves- there is a sense that this is world music run amok, and yet it still comes together so effortlessly. Even the few false starts, doing a song over again not hitting on the right cylinders the first time, or trying with one singer and her realizing she can’t do the song justice, it didn’t slow down the evening.
Nothing really slows down here. The bickering, the people moving in and out, the flight, the gentrification, this is all of us. We are the history and the shifting neighborhoods, this ebbing culture that we all seem to want to complain about but also enjoy and tout. There is no progress to be made in bemoaning what we don’t have, unless you step up and make it happen. Whether or not you like their abrasive politics, or if you gave up on trip-hop at the turn of the millennium, Thievery Corporation makes damn good local music, and that makes for a good time. Thievery Corporation is DC. We are DC. Let any among us not constructively criticizing decamp for Delaware or points elsewhere.