Landmark Music Festival will take place in DC along the National Mall this Saturday and Sunday. The festival will serve as a platform to educate a new generation of Americans about the values, ideals and history of America’s Front Yard while also providing vital funds to meet the hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance backlog currently facing our mall. Great music for a great cause!
Sure you should go see The Strokes and Alt-J and probably skip Drake (half joking), but the question remains — Who do you go see that you’ve never heard?
I cheated and included Dr. John even though you’ve already heard of him because he’s a living legend. Also, I have a soft-spot for New Orleans for obvious reasons. Hence, Rebirth is on here as well. The other 5 artists you may or may not already know.
Cliffnotes: Two regional acts to catch… If you want your indie rock fix definitely do not miss Richmond based act, Avers. For those of you wanting to keep the summer vibes steady with some world music go support DC’s very own kings of tropicalientes, Los Empresarios.
Dr. John & the Nite Trippers
Miller Lite Stage • 1:30-2:30 • Sunday
The legendary Dr. John is a six-time Grammy Award-winning musician and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Known throughout the world as the embodiment of New Orleans’ musical legacy, Dr. John is a true icon in American culture. His colorful musical career began in the 1950s when he wrote and played guitar on some of the greatest records to come out of the Crescent City, including recordings by Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Joe Tex and Frankie Ford.
Dr. John headed west in the 1960s, where he continued to be in demand as a session musician, playing on records by Sonny and Cher, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones’ “Exile On Main St.” During that time he launched his solo career, developing the charismatic persona of Dr. John The Nite Tripper. A legend was born with his breakthrough 1968 album “Gris-Gris,” which introduced to the world his unique blend of voodoo mysticism, funk, rhythm & blues, psychedelic rock and Creole roots. Several of his many career highlights include the masterful album “Sun, Moon and Herbs” in 1971 which included cameos from Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger and 1973’s “In The Right Place,” which contained the chart hits “Right Place Wrong Time” and “Such A Night.”
In addition to his six Grammy wins (1989, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2013), he has received six other Grammy nominations over the years. In 2007 he was nominated for “Sippiana Hericane,” his Hurricane Katrina benefit disc. After Hurricane Katrina Dr. John immediately stepped up to the plate with generous relief fund-raising concerts and recordings. In 2007 he was also inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame. In 2008 he released “City That Care Forgot,” winning him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. His album “Locked Down”, released in 2012 with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys also won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album. In 2013 Dr. John was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tulane University alongside His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Dr. John’s critically acclaimed “Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch” is a tribute to New Orleans music legend Louis Armstrong. Dr. John and the album’s co-producer and arranger Sarah Morrow released “Ske-Dat-De-Dat” in fall, 2014. After a half century of creating music for others and himself, Dr. John continues to write, arrange, produce and interpret with a passion that has yet to wane.
Jefferson Stage • 12:30-1:30 • Sunday
Psychedelic pop. Blistering garage rock. Fuzzed-out shoegaze. Free-formed throwback jams. With their amps cranked high and their voices doused in reverb, Avers brew up their own kind of spacey swirl. It’s a sound that keeps one foot in the past and the other in the present, like some kind of 1960s time capsule unearthed by a group of 21st century indie kids.
And it sort of happened by accident.
On a summer night in 2013, two Richmond based musicians got together to talk shop and geek out over psychedelic records. It went well. The next time, they brought along some additional friends. Before long, a proper six-piece had formed, with The Head and the Heart’s Tyler Williams on drums and some of the city’s best frontmen including James Mason (the Mason Brothers), James Lloyd Hodges (Farm Vegas), Alexandra Spalding (Hypercolor), Adrian Olsen (Hypercolor), and Charlie Glenn (the Trillions) swapping their way between bass, guitar and keyboard duties. Everybody sang, adding harmonies and background vocals to the band’s noisy sweep.
In just over a week, ten songs were written. The music was ethereal and expansive, with electric guitar riffs that sprawled skyward into the ether and deep-seated percussion that brought everything crashing back to earth. Avers recorded everything as they went along, setting up shop at Olsen’s own studio, Montrose Recording. Located on an historic Richmond plantation and featuring some of the same vintage equipment used by hometown heroes like Sparklehorse and Brian Harvey, Montrose became the band’s official home base, a place where new sounds could be coaxed out of old instruments.
Tracked live and produced by the bandmates themselves, Empty Light is a tribute to chance encounters and shared goals. It’s the sound of a young band coming together, blending a plurality of influences the epic sweep of Spiritualized, the guitar-fueled freakouts of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the cultish crunch of Brian Jonestown Massacre into something singular. It’s a record that invites you to turn on and tune in… but it won’t let you drop out. Empty Light is too rousing for that. —Andrew Leahey
BMI Stage • 5:30 – 6:30 • Saturday
The London Souls’ unique reinterpretation of classic hard-hitting rock and roll formulae recalls elements of the past with an ever-present boundless energy, fit to cement their place in the future.
Tash and Chris have been nothing short of a best-kept-secret among New York City concertgoers since the band’s formation in 2008, building a fervent and dynamic fan base leveraged by their ever-substantiated reputation for consistently well-rehearsed and impassioned, explosive live performances. The band’s celebrated sound and spirit draws significant influence from the driving force of British rock pioneers Cream and Led Zeppelin, to billowing and bouncing funk and soul, to the layered harmonies and memorable hooks of The Beatles and The Hollies, to the contemporary psychedelia of My Morning Jacket among many more. – Official Bio
Rebirth Brass Band
BMI • 7:30-8:30 • Saturday
Whether seen on HBO’s Treme or at their legendary Tuesday night gig at The Maple Leaf, Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band is a true New Orleans institution. Formed in 1983 by the Frazier brothers, the band has evolved from playing the streets of the French Quarter to playing festivals and stages all over the world. While committed to upholding the tradition of brass bands, they have also extended themselves into the realms of funk and hip-hop to create their signature sound. “Rebirth can be precise whenever it wants to,” says The New York Times, “but it’s more like a party than a machine. It’s a working model of the New Orleans musical ethos: as long as everybody knows what they’re doing, anyone can cut loose.” In the wake of the sometimes-stringent competition among New Orleans brass bands, Rebirth is the undisputed leader of the pack, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Following the Grammy-winning Rebirth of New Orleans, Rebirth Brass Band is at it again with Move Your Body, an infectious, groove-laden collection of hip-shakers sure to saturate the dance floor.
Rollicking originals like “Who’s Rockin, Who’s Rollin'”? and “Take ‘Em to the Moon” reaffirm the band’s position as head of the brass throne while the rasta-esque “On My Way” and leave-nothing-to-the-imagination lyrics of “HBNS” showcase the unit’s talent for penning unabashed party starters.
Boasting a mastery of Rebirth’s signature “heavy funk” sound, Move Your Body pushes and swings, leaving behind an 11 track thumbprint, approved by the Frazier brothers themselves, of a sultry Tuesday night spent dancing on their home court at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans. – Official Bio
BMI Stage • 3:30-4:30pm • Sunday
The Suffers are a ten-piece band from Houston, TX who are redefining the sound of Gulf Coast Soul, intertwining elements of Classic American Soul with Rock & Roll. Both sonically and visually arresting, the large ensemble packs each position of the rhythm section and horn section with a level of talent and taste that provides the perfect foundation for singer Kam Franklin’s massive voice. The band’s sincerity and emotion are laid bare in their music, which has garnered an audience so broad and varied that they may prove to be the panacea for a jaded and stratified live music scene. The Suffers will be releasing their debut LP Make Some Room in 2015, hitting the road aggressively.
BMI Stage • 1:30-2:30 • Saturday
The Empresarios are ready to bring tropicaliente beats to the world again this winter, after spending much of 2014 in the studio the group’s third album is complete. The Vibes continues to bring the warm Latin sounds that fans have come to expect from Empresarios but with new surprises. The Vibes includes collaborations from Miami based Colombian rapper Ephniko and DC-based salseros Orquesta Salsaley.
After the success of their previous album El Sonido Magico, it held the #1 spot on the CMJ World chart for 5 weeks with notable airplay on NPR, KEXP and KCRW, Empresariosbrings The Vibes. It is a cohesive collection of tracks that incorporate the band’s varied influences, including salsa, house, reggae, dub and hip-hop. The Empresarios have retooled their approach and their signature tropicaliente sound has truly come of age in The Vibes.
“Encanto,” a love song to the island of Puerto Rico written by lead vocalists Frankie Rosado and Felix Perez, could be the next anthem for their cherished motherland. Tracks like “No Vamos A Parar” continues to showcase the vocals of Rosado and Perez.
Always ready to get people dancing, the Empresarios have several upbeat party tunes like “Morena”, “A Fuego Lento” and “Pa’ La Calle”. The album’s title track, “The Vibes” featuring vocals by Ephniko offers a distinctive reggae and hip-hop sound. Fusing together traditional elements with modern ones is a specialty of the Empresarios and they do it with great skill on “Salsoul”, which features the Salsaley Orquestra horn section. Reggae is familiar territory for the Empresarios, and the track “Placeres” wafts in like a true Jamaican aroma. The album is rounded out with “Rootsy Jam” and “Alegria”, two dubby, downtempo grooves complete with melodica throughout.
The group has been quietly busy in their recording studio, as well as touring in the United States while establishing themselves internationally in Latin America and continuing to cater to their hometown fan base in Washington, DC with a weekly presence on the ever popular U Street.
When recording The Vibes, the Empresarios turned to Paul Chaconas and John Bowen for production and Sonny Cheeba, the band’s DJ, provided dance floor references. The end result is a unique album with distinctive sounds made for a great time under the warm sun, just as if you were at an Empresarios concert.
BMI Stage • 7:30-8:30 • Sunday
“We feel comfortable not knowing exactly where we’re headed,” says Red Baraat’s founder and bandleader Sunny Jain. “We’re very much about trying things out and taking risks. Sometimes it doesn’t work,” he laughs, “and sometimes we stumble upon things that are really exciting.”
Landing squarely in the latter category is Gaadi of Truth, the third and latest full-length studio effort from the New York dhol and brass ensemble. While still retaining many of the propulsive and uplifting musical elements that fired their first two albums, 2010’s Chaal Baby and 2012’s Shruggy Ji — and which led NPR to famously dub Red Baraat “The best party band in years” — Gaadi of Truth is an even deeper affair, both instrumentally and conceptually.
“When we originally started in 2008, the group was going to be rooted in Punjabi music,” Jain explains. Born and raised in Rochester, NY as a first generation Indian American, Jain drew upon his early musical education for the concept of Red Baraat. “I grew up hearing Indian classical music and devotional songs at home,” he recalls, “and my dad was always listening to 1960s Bollywood music on reel to reel. For Red Baraat, I really wanted a large band with a massive sound, but just drums and horns. The horns were really looking back at the brass band tradition of India, which was something I’d grown up with and seen since I was five years old. I wanted to put the dhol drum in front — the dhol is the dance drum of northern India, which you also hear in the film music of Bollywood — and fuse it with the Punjabi rhythms and the Indian brass band tradition. But Red Baraat wasn’t intended to just be a replica of an Indian brass band, it wasn’t intended to be any one thing. I was specifically looking for a diverse cast of players that were going to bring something else to the music.”
As Gaadi of Truth reveals, Red Baraat’s sound has broadened considerably over the past six years, expanding to embrace digital and electronic flourishes alongside the band’s original acoustic underpinnings. “With Gaadi of Truth, the new steps are that I’m putting the dhol through some effects pedals,” Jain explains, “while our sousaphone player is processing his sound through various synth effects.” The band’s open approach to sound and community is also reflected by the participation of indie-rock guitar giant Delicate Steve Marion, who flexes his six-string muscles on “Bhangale” and Sikh MC Mandeep Sethi, who guests on “Zindabad”. The record also includes club-ready remixes of “Layers” and “Horizon Line,” created by Karsh Kale and Lost In The Trees, respectively.
Conceptually and lyrically, Gaadi of Truth reflects the band’s experiences since the release of Shruggy Ji, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Music charts and propelled the band on a two-year world tour that included performances at Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, and the Monterey Jazz Festival, along with clubs, theatres, and arts centers. Along the way, they sold out rooms as diverse as the Luxembourg Philharmonic and the Bowery Ballroom, and performed at the request of The White House, Peter Gabriel, TED, and the Olympic Games. While the acclaim and the sold-out shows were incredibly gratifying, the grind of playing 150 dates a year took its toll, as did the challenges that unfortunately still come with the territory of touring as a multi-ethnic ensemble.
Gaadi literally means ‘train’ in Hindi, though it can also mean ‘car’, ‘vehicle’ or ‘journey,’” Jain explains. “From the beginning of the band, the idea behind it was a sense of pluralism; I really wanted a diverse cast of musicians. I wanted different sensibilities, because that would make the vision stronger.” That desire for a sense of pluralism in the music stems from Jain’s lifelong observance of Jainism, one of the world’s oldest religions. Sunny’s father was a founding member of the Jain Association of Rochester, and his family line includes Jain maharaji’s (monks). Along with the vow to cause no harm to living beings, non-absolutism — or pluralism — is among the faith’s primary tenets. “The idea of pluralism and diversity was there from the beginning,” says Jain, “and this idea of the Gaadi of Truth — this journey of truth — comes from the fact that we all are traveling together and talking with each other, and because we all come from different backgrounds we have these different viewpoints, which is wonderful. And it’s acknowledging the fact that there is no absolute truth; it’s all relative. Everyone has their own opinion about things, but what’s great is this dialogue that’s occurring. We’re learning, you know? And as we’re going all over the world, traveling by bus, car, train, everything, we’re stumbling upon various communities and we’re meeting different people, and it’s an opportunity for them and us to learn about one another.
“But there’s the dark part of it, as well,” Jain continues. “’Gaadi of Truth,’ the title track of the album, is addressing the hard realities of traveling and all the work that’s involved in getting from show to show. There hardships of going through TSA at the airport — one of our guys, Sonny Singh, is a Sikh, and he always gets harassed and patted down a lot more than anyone else in the band does, because of his turban. We have two African-Americans in the band, and we’ll be driving in the South and get pulled over by a cop with some nonsense reason. And the constant thing of people remarking on the multi-ethnic makeup of the band, or me being asked questions like, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘I’m from Rochester, New York.’ But Jain also views these incursions as an opportunity. “Sometimes I’m offended by things, and I react in that matter — but other times I’m like, ‘Okay, this is an chance to engage. Everybody has a viewpoint, so let’s discuss these things.’”
Many of the other tracks on Gaadi of Truth are also rooted in the band’s pluralistic and forward-thinking outlook. “A lot of the songs are addressing the multiplicity of viewpoints,” says Jain. “There’s ‘Zindabad,’ which means ‘Long Live’ in Hindi. In that song, we’re saying that we celebrate life, we celebrate devotion — but we also celebrate agitation and revolution. Question things, and move forward, and support your friends and lovers, and listen to the voice of your heart. Long live all of that; but at the same time, we’re talking about community, about responsibility, about helping one another. When I was writing the song ‘Layers,’ I was reading Robert Lanza’s writings on Biocentrism, which is a different take on how we perceive things — that you have to involve the conscious and the unconscious in order to truly observe the world. And again that has to do with the Gaadi of Truth, the multiple ways of looking at things.”
But despite the presence of heavier lyrical themes and thoughts on Gaadi of Truth, Red Baraat’s music remains as intoxicating and celebratory as ever. “Red Baraat is still a party band,” Jain insists. “It’s not supposed to be a severely intellectual band, but there is an intellectual aspect to it because we’re all thoughtful citizens and individuals, and we’re all traveling around and having discussions. We’re not just slamming beers and going onstage and having fun — though there is that element to it, as well,” he laughs.
Even as you read this, Red Baraat’s music continues to evolve. “Looking back at where this band has come from, and seeing where it’s going, it’s very much like a breathing organism,” says Jain. “While there are certain elements of Punjabi music that will always be there, because of the dhol and the horns — having that energy and excitement of a live horn section is very important to me — things continually shape and move depending on the moment we’re in. I mean, we’re already moving on to a different path. We’ll be playing a lot of Gaadi of Truth live in the coming year, but we’ll be sounding slightly different, because we’ll be using some different instrumentation and different players.”
“The only consistent thing in this band is change,” he reflects. “We’re heading there, wherever there is!” – Facebook Official Bio