Posts by Ryan Kailath

Ryan Kailath has been trying to get home to California since the year 2000, when his ship was wrecked off the Northern shore of Eastern Pennsylvania. This is his first writing gig, though you can read more angsty drivel at the ryPod, if angsty drivel is your thing. Ryan currently resides in Fredericksburg VA, where he holds two restaurant jobs nervously over his shoulder, like a tray of crystal goblets waiting to be dropped for simpler, steadier employment.

This Week In Music…

Picks for the week of Friday, January 20 — Thursday, January 26.

Dear everyone: thanks for reading the site. We love you too, and we want to keep helping you find the best local music, week by week. Check our venue listings page for a more complete calendar.

Friday Jan 20 >>

Washington Social Club
Washington Social Club

Washington Social Club starts off the week with a show at Jammin’ Java. These hyped-up rockers love to have a good time, and their live show reflects it. Opening up is retro-pop group Pepper’s Ghost, as well as another local band, Adelyn. FREE MP3: “Are You High (Live)” by Washington Social Club

Mike Holden isn’t only a well known singer/songwriter, he’s one of the biggest supporters of local music in the DC area. Now it’s time to show him some support. Mike will be playing in-store at Revolution Records this Friday. Sarah Kryscio kicks things off at 7pm and Mike will follow her. This will be a FREE performance and copies of his Level EP will be for sale that night at the store.

The 9:30 Club is partying like it’s 1996 on Friday with a couple of bands I swore had disappeared. Less Than Jake headlines this tour, appropriately titled “In With The Out Crowd,” with Big D and the Kids Table opening up. Also playing are DaMone and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldiers.

Saturday Jan 21 >>

Alcian Blue
Alcian Blue

Alcian Blue creates sound textures unlike anything we’ve heard in years. They’ve put out some great singles and compilation tracks, but if you really want to hear this band, you need to see them live. Which is why they are our PICK OF THE WEEK, playing at the Galaxy Hut with The Third Programme.

DC-based music webzine BigYawn is celebrating their 2nd birthday with a party at DC9. They’ve invited three bands to play the show: Aluminum Babe, Cedars, and Breaking Laces.

Sunday Jan 22 >>

Disconnect is an electro-based solo artist on Lujo Records, a DC-based label representing some of our favorite local bands. He is playing the Galaxy Hut on Sunday.

Cecilia is a six-piece band from New York. Five of the members are family. Laura Veltz, one of Cecilia’s lead vocalists, comes to the Iota Club & Cafe, with local singer/songwriter Taylor Carson opening up.

Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players
Trachtenberg Family
Slideshow Players

Evan Bliss fronts the local band the Low Life, but is playing a solo show Sunday at the Iota Club & Cafe, with Shane Hines and the Glass-Bottom Boats opening up.

Nellie McKay is headlining a show at the Birchmere on Sunday, and to be honest, I have no idea who she is. Opening up however, are the fabulously entertaining Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players, a family (the drummer can’t be older than 10) who collects vintage slide collections from garage sales & thrift stores, and turns the lives of these strangers into whimsical pop-rock tunes. A must see.

Monday Jan 23 >>

Most people remember the Meat Puppets from their appearance on Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged. The Brothers Meat, however, have gone on to successful solo careers. Curt Kirkwood is playing at the Iota Club & Cafe with Mike Maloney.

Tuesday Jan 24 >>

This is a big week for the Iota Club & Cafe. Tuesday sees A.J. Croce, a versatile jazz and blues musician who has recorded with Ry Cooder, Robben Ford, and T-Bone Burnett. You may have heard of his famous father. He is playing with Jesse Elliot of DC’s own These United States.

Wednesday Jan 25 >>

Christmas was a month ago already. Weird, huh?

Thursday Jan 26 >>

Evan Dando
Evan Dando

Evan Dando, formerly the frontman of The Lemonheads, is playing at the Iota Club & Cafe on Thursday night. His set is opened by Andy Zipf, a local singer/songwriter with an arsenal of electronic tricks.

No Second Troy is a local DC band that has been building a serious buzz since their debut in 2003, playing the SXSW festival and other major events. They are playing DC9 on Thursday, joined by Snoozebox and Taylor Carson.

Closing out our week in music is a show at the 9:30 Club featuring the jazz and pop-influenced Jack’s House, who are joined by soulful rockers Politicks.

This Week In Music…

Picks for the week of Friday, January 13 — Thursday, January 19.

Well kids, it’s another great week for music here in the DC. Check out our venue listings page for a more complete musical calendar.

Friday Jan 13 >>

The Hickories
The Hickories

Friday is another chill-out night at the Iota Club, a perfect venue for The Hickories. Read our review of their latest release, Lost in Pennsylvania here. Opening up the show is singer/songwriter Shannon Brown, as well as roots-rockers David Kitchen & the Demolition. Free MP3: “Mystery to Me” by David Kitchen & the Demolition

Saturday Jan 14 >>

Army of Me
Army of Me

Army of Me is back home with a vengeance, headlining a show at the 9:30 Club. Monopoli, who headlined last week at the Black Cat, are opening up, along with the Sketches.

DC9 is putting on the shoegaze-inspired Middle Distance Runner, along with Hello Tokyo, the Omega Band, and Camera.

Local garage rockers The Bonapartes are playing the Galaxy Hut, with The Guins opening the show. Free MP3: “Concentric” by The Bonapartes

Marah has often been compared to Springsteen or Paul Westerberg of the Replacements: gritty narrative guitar-driven rock. They are playing the Iota Club with singer/songwriter Andrew Grimm (of June Star) on Saturday.

The Double
The Double

Rounding out this packed Saturday night is our PICK OF THE WEEK: Celebration and The Double at the Warehouse Next Door. Hailing from Baltimore, Celebration is a frantic three-piece who just recorded their debut album with David Sitek and the other boys from TV On The Radio. The Double also hail from New York, on Matador Records, that little indie label that seems to never go wrong. This show nears the end of their tour together. Free MP3: “Idiocy” by The Double

Sunday Jan 15 >>

Continuing last week’s Dischord reunion, Craig Wedren (formerly of Shudder To Think) is playing Sunday night at the Black Cat. Opening up the show is Amy Miles, an electric songwriter who has taken the New York press by storm. Free MP3: “Heavy Packer” by Amy Miles

The Galaxy Hut is hosting an unusual event, with live hip-hop all night, featuring Praverb, Teflon, Lokie, Mike Mess, and Spoon.

Kristin Hoffman
Kristin Hoffman

The IOTA Club is still the most reliable place in town to catch mellow singer/songwriters, as they prove on Sunday with a show featuring Andrew Norsworthy, Rose Polenzani and Kristin Hoffman, all of whom love sharing a taste of their music for free. Free MP3’s: “Something Else Instead” by Andrew Norsworthy, “Blue Angel” by Rose Polenzani, “Mary” by Kristin Hoffman

Monday Jan 16 >>

Paul Kamran is a singer/songwriter with “alt-country and electronica twinges.” He’s playing at the Galaxy Hut on Monday, joined by The Greek Embassy. Free MP3: “Outlaw” by Paul Kamran

The Black Cat backstage sees mp3 blog darlings Death By Sexy joined by girl-fronted rockers Soraia.

Tuesday Jan 17 >>

Jupiter Sunrise
Jupiter Sunrise

Say what you will about Myspace Records, but they’ve certainly got their promotion down. LA-based Jupiter Sunrise have exploded since their inclusion on the first Myspace volume, and are bringing their indie-pop to Jammin’ Java, where they will be joined by The Echoes.

Thursday Jan 19 >>

The Sentiment manage to be incredibly noisy and locked tight in a groove at the same time. These locals are playing DC9 on Thursday, joined by the Philly-punk Zelazowa and Blacksburg, VA’s nu-prog Running With Scissors. Free MP3: “A Must Have” by The Sentiment

Naked in Ashes — Movie Review

Naked in Ashes photophoto courtesy Paradise Filmworks

Naked in Ashes is a documentary dedicated to the yogis, or Hindu mystics, of India. These holy men carry on a 5,000 year-old ascetic tradition, denying the needs of the body for the sake of spiritual enlightenment. Los Angeles-based filmmaker Paula Fouce has managed to tell their story with great sympathy and esteem, while at the same time ignoring, inflating, or simply (and most likely) misunderstanding the essence of her subject.

Naked in Ashes poster
Naked in Ashes
(Paradise Filmworks)
Rated: NR
starstar (out of 4)
Official Site

If you know nothing about Hindu mystics, you should see Naked in Ashes. After all, any movie about yogis is better than no movie about yogis. It has beautiful footage of the Himalayan lakes and mountainside. If you are familiar with this sect, you will quickly realize that the film suffers not so much from it’s misguided vision as from the great opportunity it misses. The staggering need for focus and improvement is evident from the opening credits on. Fouce gets closer to this infamously hermetic group than most Westerners will in a lifetime, yet fails to paint an accurate portrait of their mission and context within the greater subcontinent. The film misses some of the basic facts crucial to an understanding of the Hindu yogi’s spiritual life.

Some of those basic facts: In India, yogis are generally referred to as sadhus, from the sanskrit “to practice [meditation].” These men halt all pursuit of the three Hindu goals: kama (pleasure), artha (wealth), and dharma (duty), and instead seek moksha (liberation) through prayer and meditation. Naked, dreadlocked sadhus (such as the primary figure of the film, Shiv Raj Giri) are called Naga. Clothed sadhus with knives or swords are called Jata. Each deity in the Hindu pantheon inspires a different sort of sadhu.

While Fouce may well have done her homework, her film does not reflect it. Rather than use the industry-standard documentary subtitles, she dubs the yogis’ speech with Indian-accented English, and employs a hackneyed voice-over narration throughout the film. After following a loosely organized group of yogis to the Kumbh Mela, a holy festival along the banks of the Ganges, Fouce pulls her loose narrative full circle to Santosh Giri, the 14-year old sadhu-to-be who opens the film. One can see why Fouce chose this orphaned boy as the emotional center of the story; his wide-eyed obeisance to the new world around him is mirrored by her own.


One Week Only!
Now Playing at E Street Cinemas.
GENRE(S): Documentary
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes, Color

This Week In Music…

Picks for the week of Friday, January 6 — Thursday, January 12.

Fall is usually our show season in DC, but this Winter week kicks off 2006 with a little of everything: Salsa, Bluegrass, Reggae, Funk, Folk, and of course our famously independent DC Rock scene. Make sure to dress warm, and check our venue listings page for a more complete musical calendar.

Friday Jan 6 >>

Bio Ritmo
Bio Ritmo

Bio Ritmo is a nine-piece Latin dance band from Richmond, VA. With a sound that hearkens back to the salsa masters of the 1970s, Bio Ritmo has been engaging audiences around the country for the last 14 years. The Iota Club & Cafe has booked them Friday for an uncharacteristic solo engagement. No fan of authentic Latin music should miss this show.

Ricky Skaggs has been ruling the bluegrass roost for over thirty years. An accomplished singer and mandolin player, Skaggs joined Ralph & Carter Stanley at the age of seventeen, going on to record some of the most influential bluegrass albums ever made. Though he plays the occasional newgrass tune, Skaggs’ music is still rooted in old-time traditional gems, echoing his adage that “country rocks, but bluegrass rules!” Kentucky Thunder joins him for this two-night engagement at the Birchmere.

Soldiers of Jah Army, Washington DC’s own White Reggae outfit, are throwing a party at the State Theatre, to celebrate the release of their new album Get Wiser. The show will be recorded for a live DVD, so make sure to trim those nappy locks and wash your patchwork pants. Jah Works opens the show.

Saturday Jan 7 >>

Remember when Ska fell off in the mid 90s? The Pietasters don’t. These local skankers have been rocking steady for over 10 years, and are back with a new live DVD filmed at the 9:30 Club, where they are playing Saturday night. Joining the band will be The Slackers, 33 West, and The Rootworkers.


Saturday also brings our PICK OF THE WEEK to the Black Cat: three bands formed from the afterbirth of the Dischord roster. Ris Paul Ric is Chris Richards, who played just about every instrument at one point in his career with Q and Not U. He describes his new effort as sounding like “the quieter songs off the last two [Q and Not U] records.” Richards is touring with Black Eyes’ Dan Caldas, another member of the Dischord family, on drums. French Toast is made up of Jerry Busher (one of Fugazi’s drummers) and James Canty (Nation of Ulysses, the Make Up), two multi-instrumentalists who have been in the DC scene for years. Supersystem, the show headliners and one of my favorite live bands, is simply El Guapo with a new drummer. The band changed their name rather than step up to the copyright challenge from another “El Guapo,” based out of Chicago. Get the whole story here. If you like synth-heavy dance-pop, this show was made for you. Check out the cool poster for this show here. Free MP3: “Breakfast” by French Toast (off the Bugman EP).

If you missed Ricky Scaggs on Friday and are dying for some roots bluegrass, he is playing a second night at the Birchmere.

Finally, for all the starfuckers in the audience, Mattie Safer of the Rapture will be guest DJing at DC9’s monthly art-punk party, Electrotease. James Friedman and regular DJs Ca$$idy and People’s Champion round out the night.

Sunday Jan 8 >>

Page France
Page France

Arlington indie-poppers the Five Maseratis are playing the Black Cat on Sunday night, with local rockers the Ambitions opening up.

Page France have taken the new folk scene by storm, getting a great response from indie bloggers & press. The group hails from Maryland, and are touring now in support of their second release, Hello, Dear Wind. Opening up this show at the Galaxy Hut are DC rockers These United States, and Paleo, who describes his music as “psych folk indie lounge rock balladry.”

Get Him Eat Him
Get Him Eat Him

If not for the post-Dischord groups forming like Voltron at the Black Cat on Saturday, this show at the Warehouse Next Door would be our pick of the week. Get Him Eat Him, a five-piece from Providence, RI, is fast on its way to being the hottest band to ride a Moog since Motion City Soundtrack. Their catchy, up-tempo synth songs manage to remain interesting in a genre that seems oh so 2003. The Fake Accents, from College Park, MD, are opening the show, along with “swoon punk” outfit Drums vs. Jules. Free MP3: “Exposure” by Get Him Eat Him.

Tuesday Jan 10 >>

Page France
Travis Morrison

Tuesday sees The Travis Morrison Hellfighters headlining at the Black Cat, maybe. As Travis posted on his website: “The Black Cat show is not up in the air per se, but it is showing a tendency to unexpectedly leap, like an ill-trained Jack Russell Terrier.” We’ll keep our fingers crossed. Opening up we have locals Cataract Camp and Hand-Fed Babies.

Exotic Fever Records has two bands playing the Warehouse Next Door on Tuesday: Mudsugar Favorites Ricky Fitts, who just released a fabulous debut album. Joining them is Mustangs & Madras, from Denver.

Wednesday Jan 11 >>

Last month we told you about Mieka Pauley, the young Bostonian who came out of Harvard Square to sweep the traditional folk scene off it’s feet. She’s back in town, playing with Justin Rosolino and Harriet Street at Jammin’ Java. Free MP3: “Run” by Mieka Pauley.

Thursday Jan 12 >>

Isaac Hayes
Isaac Hayes

Isaac Hayes is a King among men. Literally. He was coronated King of the Ada coastal district in Ghana, where he built an 8,000 square-foot educational facility. That’s not why we want you to go see him at the Birchmere on Thursday. In addition to voicing “Chef” on South Park, Hayes is an Oscar and Grammy-holding musician, one of the great early soul artists off Stax Records in Memphis, the birthplace of rock & roll.

Monopoli is playing a different kind of show on Thursday, when Ducati descends on the Black Cat to show off their 2006 models. Opening up for Monopoli is the Meek, featuring former members of Blind Melon and the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

This Week in Music… New Year’s Eve

This week is pretty dead. Except for New Year’s Eve, that is. Instead of a full week’s picks, we’re gonna highlight four options for you to ring in the new year with. You can compile your own list from our venue listings page. Me, I’ll be mixing drinks for rich people all night. So have some fun for me.

Saturday 12/31 — New Years Eve>>

Robert Randolph
Robert Randolph

Robert Randolph brings his unique take on the pedal steel to the 9:30 Club. A recent favorite on the hippie jamband scene, Randolph brings a funky flavor to the instrument reminiscent of Sly or Stevie. Massachussets-based State Radio open the show, which is unfortunately sold out. Don’t forget that hippie crowd out front though…

The Seldom Scene
The Seldom Scene

The Birchmere is putting on a classier act with newgrass powerhouse The Seldom Scene. These boys have been building momentum since the early 70s to reach their current status as the best-known progressive bluegrass band on the scene. The Good Deale from Annapolis, MD are opening up the show.

Peaches O'Dell
Peaches O’Dell

The Black Cat is hosting an uncharacteristic night of swing music, rhumbas & tangos, and other mod-hipster Hollywood fare, with Peaches O’Dell and her Orchestra. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Peaches and her 11-piece band, and I can say that they put on a swell show. The New Year’s Ball at The Black Cat also includes DJ Mark Zimin (Mousetrap, Wag) spinning all night on the Backstage. Tony Anthony & his Malvivants keep things alive in-between Peaches’ sets with their retro-lounge jazz.

The Washington Social Club
The Washington Social Club

Finally, for the indiest of offerings on this New Year’s Eve, we have The Washington Social Club playing at DC9. These DC mainstays have built up quite a buzz in the last year with their frantically energetic live show and debut album. After the show, WSC drummer Randy and Liberation Dance Party DJ Bill Spieler will keep the party going.

This Week In Music…

Picks for the week of Friday, December 23 — Thursday, December 29.

Happy Holidays! We have a surprisingly full list of great live music for this busiest of weeks. Make sure to check our venue listings page for a complete calendar.

Friday Dec 23 >>

The Slickee Boys
The Slickee Boys

Long-time DC residents will no doubt remember The Slickee Boys, the garage-psych group that helped usher in the 80s scene, alongside bands like Bad Brains and Minor Threat. The boys are back in town and playing a gig at the Iota Club & Cafe. Mark Wenner (The Nighthawks) opens up the show with his rockabilly outfit, Switchblade.

If you’re a fan of modern blues, you already know that Bobby Parker is playing Friday Night at Madam’s Organ. If you’re new to the genre, don’t worry; you’ll recognize the artists Parker has toured with, including Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

Saturday Dec 24 >>

We couldn’t find any bands willing to compete with St. Nick. Take tonight to set out the milk & cookies, try and get the kids to bed, and enjoy a tall glass of grandma’s homemade whiskey egg-nog. You deserve it.

Sunday Dec 25 >>


Matisyahu has caused quite a stir since the release of his debut album earlier this year. Sam Endicott (The Bravery) says it best: “Just your average Hasidic reggae rapper. Yeah, you heard me. This guy is a straight-up Hasidic Jew from New York who busts mad flow over dancehall and reggae beats. This is the future of music.” Catch Matisyahu and every Jewish family in the District at the 9:30 Club this Christmas. I hear there’s an all-night special on Chinese take-out, to boot.

Monday Dec 26 >>

Clutch follows Christmas with a bang, bringing their “pro-rock” metal to the 9:30 Club on Monday night. Hidden Hand, Fireball Ministry and Wooly Mammoth open the show.

Tuesday Dec 27 >>

Quasi, Mates of State, The Aquarium…I love organ/drum duos. After turning heads at this year’s SXSW festival, Brooklyn’s Benevento/Russo Duo signed on Mike Gordon of Phish for a few select dates, including Tuesday night’s show at The State Theatre.

Wednesday Dec 28 >>

James Brown
James Brown

Wednesday is Star Time at the 9:30 Club. The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Mr. Please Please, the one and only James Brown headlines our sold-out show of the week, month and year. The Godfather of Soul is joined by The Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, in a night that will make music history.

If you failed to get tickets for the Browns, try The State Theatre, where The Wailers are still rocking. Jabali Afrika opens the night.

Thursday Dec 29 >>

Rah Bras
Rah Bras

If Wednesday left you hungry for more tight grooves, stop by the 9:30 Club to catch Black Thought, ?uestlove and the rest of The Roots. Oh, yeah, make sure you have tickets before you go because this show is also sold out.

Thursday proves itself the new Friday once again, with three great bands representing the DC scene. Trans Am, The Apes, and Rah Bras are playing The Black Cat. Make sure to wear your earplugs, your dancing shoes, and that new baby tee from Urban that you gave your sister for Christmas.

This Week In Music…

Picks for the week of Friday, December 16 — Thursday, December 22

With the holiday season well underway, we’ve got a slow week for live music here in Washington. Fear not, loyal reader! We’ve still hand-picked the best and brightest for your enjoyment. Check out our venue listings page for a fuller music fix.

Friday Dec 16 >>


Friday opens the weekend strong with a film showing at The Warehouse. Entitled Afro-Punk, this 66-minute documentary tackles race identity issues below the surface of the punk rock scene. Sounds fabulous. More info here.

Baltimore’s Lake Trout is playing The Black Cat on Friday night, in support of their newly-released full-length album Not Them, You. Cedars and Gun are opening up.

Saturday Dec 17 >>

Saturday night sees touring veterans Army of Me coming home to DC for a headlining show at The Black Cat. The Whips and The Bonapartes open the show, making it a night of all-DC rock. Check out the show poster.

Sunday Dec 18 >>

Mieka Pauley
Mieka Pauley

Mieka Pauley is our pick of the week, opening up for college coffeehouse staple Dean Fields on Sunday night at The Iota Club & Cafe in Arlington. Mieka got her start as one of a hundred street singers on Harvard Square, but quickly moved out of Boston and began touring the country full-time. This talented young songstress even won the first ever Starbucks Emerging Artist Award!

Monday Dec 19 >>

Go and finish your Christmas shopping!

Tuesday Dec 20 >>

Go and finish your Chanukah shopping!

Wednesday Dec 21 >>

Go and finish your Kwanzaa shopping! This joke is tired, and so am I.

Thursday Dec 22 >>

Trixie Little
Trixie Little

Thursday proves itself the new Friday once again, with a barrage of great live music. First and foremost of these events is A John Waters Christmas live at the 9:30 club! Sure to be night of fantastic filth and debauchery, the show will be opened by local act Lobsterboy, as well as Charm City’s favorite burlesque superhero Trixie Little.

The Mistletones continue the tradition of eclectic holiday music mash-ups at The Galaxy Hut. These boys, including members of Weird War and Trans Am, are going to be playing a night of surf-style Christmas music. Think The Ventures’ Christmas Album meets The Make-Up.

And finally, if all you really want this Thursday night is some straightforward, heart-warming whiteboy reggae, stop by Whitlow’s on Wilson to see Soldiers of Jah Army, or as the guy with four dreadlocks who sells drugs outside my house calls them, SOJA.

The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam — Movie Review

The Keeper photophoto courtesy Arrival Pictures

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

That is likely the most famous verse of The Rubaiyat, a collection of poems by the Persian mathematician and astronomer Omar Khayyam. Khayyam is most famous in America for his poetry, whereas in Iran he is equally noted for his scholarly achievements, such as his famous correction of the Persian calendar. The new film biography opening this week at E Street Cinema combines these angles beautifully to paint a whole portrait of Omar Khayyam, the man and the myth.

The Keeper poster
The Keeper:
The Legend of
Omar Khayyam

(Arrival Pictures)
Rated: NR
starstarstar (out of 4)
Official Site

Biography may not be the best way to classify The Keeper. In fact it is a story, about stories and their telling, which adds freely to the scant body of knowledge about Khayyam’s personal life. Rather than maintaining strict historical accuracy, The Keeper flashes back and forth between ancient Persia and modern-day America, framing Khayyam‚Äôs life story as it is understood by a young boy.

12-year old Kamran is fascinated by tales of his ancestor Omar Khayyam, and it becomes his duty to keep the family’s oral tradition alive in America. A secondary drama unfolds around the story as Kamran’s father, who feels his family should forget the past and focus on being good Americans, steps in.

Shot in 37 days in 3 different countries, The Keeper was written, produced and directed by newcomer Keyvan Mashayekh, and while unpolished at times, it is simply gorgeous to look at. The romanticized version of Khayyam’s life is framed perfectly by the drama of the immigrant experience. The heart of the film lies in the connection between both worlds, focusing not on Khayyam’s much-lauded poetry, but rather on the poetry that was his life.


Starts this Friday at E Street Cinemas.
STARRING: Vanessa Redgrave, Moritz Bleibtreu, Rade Serbedzija, Bruno Lastra, Christopher Simpson, Adam Echahly, and Marie Espinosa
GENRE(S): Adventure, Drama, Family/Kids
WRITTEN BY: Belle Avery, Kayvan Mashayekh
DIRECTED BY: Kayvan Mashayekh
RELEASE DATE: Theatrical: June 10, 2005
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes, Color

Big Star – #1 Record/Radio City

Big Star Radio City
Get it at Amazon

INSTANT REPLAY: overlooked moments in music history — by Ryan Kailath

Big Star
#1 Record/Radio City
Fantasy | 1972, 1974, 1992

In 1967, a journalist asked Pete Townshend what kind of music his band played. “Power pop is what we play,” he responded, coining a term that is as widely misunderstood today as it is used. Big Star keeps true tradition with the genre’s confused legacy, as an impossibly influential band eclipsed by its own imitators.

Big Star has oft been called “the most famous obscure band in the world.” Formed in Memphis in 1971 and comprised of Chris Bell, Alex Chilton, Andy Hummel and Jody Stephens, the band recorded three albums in three years before breaking up. This CD combines the band’s first and best two records onto one disc.

Bell, Hummel and Stephens had been playing Led Zeppelin covers in the back room of Bell‚Äôs house for close to a year when Alex Chilton, a teen star who sang The Box Tops‚Äô #1 hit ‚ÄúThe Letter,‚Äù returned to Memphis and was invited to join the band. Influenced heavily by the sounds and styles of the British Invasion, Bell & Chilton decided to share songwriting credits for #1 Record, à la Lennon/McCartney.

One listen through the record shows this was not the case. Bell’s darker, edgier contributions (“Feel,” “Try Again”) stand clearly distinct from Chilton’s pop-inspired melodies and world-weary lyrics on songs like “Watch the Sunrise.” The songwriting duo’s love of The Beatles may not have been evident in their creative method, but they certainly shared Lennon and McCartney’s famous tension. Bell, clearly the team leader of the first Big Star record, left the band after the album failed miserably in both sales and charts, though it was critically acclaimed across the music press.

Big Star disbanded upon Bell’s departure, but reunited a year later after playing a successful reunion show for a music journalism convention in 1973. Now a trio, the band recorded their second album, 1974’s Radio City, with Chilton at the controls. This second record, marked by it’s pop sensibility and stripped-down production, is generally hailed as the band’s masterpiece. Many songs off Radio City are thought to be originally penned by Bell, though Chilton is vague on the subject. Chris Bell, who never fully recovered from the crippling failure of #1 Record, died tragically in a car crash in 1978, his promise unfulfilled. Bell’s solo project, I Am The Cosmos, was finished and released in the 90s by his older brother David.

Big Star’s artistry and influence, though unrecognized during the band’s time, has proved indisputable in today’s music scene. R.E.M., The Replacements, The Posies and others all cite Big Star as one of their primary influences. In a recent poll conducted by Magnet Magazine, eighteen artists including Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney), Davey von Bohlen (The Promise Ring), John Davis (Superdrag), and Phil Elvrum (The Microphones) named Big Star tracks as their favorite power-pop songs of all time. If this record is not in your collection, it should be now.

This Week In Music…

Picks for the week of Friday, December 9 – Thursday, December 15

They’re predicting more snow this weekend, so make sure to suit up in your new hipster galoshes when heading out for shows. Here are some highlights for the week, but check our venue listings page for a more complete calendar.

Friday 12/9 >>

The Cassettes
The Cassettes

The Iota Club & Cafe in Arlington is the perfect venue to see the DC-based “rock ‘n’ roll vaudeville inter-galactic western troubadors” known as The Cassettes. They are playing a Hurricane Katrina benefit show on Friday with a who’s who of local talent, including the Black Cat’s favorite drum/keys duo The Aquarium, Disconnect (Clark of Motorcycle Wars), Caverns and Planar, a downtempo quartet from Richmond, VA. It’s sure to be a long night of interesting indie music.

If your local loyalties lie more with The Dave Matthews Band than The Dismemberment Plan, you’ll be happy to know that Kenin is returning to the 9:30 Club, joined by State Radio (Chad Urmston, formerly of Dispatch), and Honor By August.

Saturday 12/10 >>


Saturday night has something for everyone, including our pick of the week: Voxtrot are playing the Warehouse Next Door, with locals Soft Complex and The Antiques and Ceremony opening up.

Across town at DC9 you’ll find DC’s Greenland, with The Hard Tomorrows, District Records’ The Alphabetical Order and Richmond, VA’s The Rachel Nevadas. Check out the poster.

The Iota Club & Cafe is holding a benefit on Saturday for Hungry For Music, a local non-profit dedicated to inspiring underprivileged children by bringing music into their lives. The show will feature The Brindley Brothers, Timothy Bracken, Fire-Dean, and The U-Liners.

Finally, bluegrass fans can catch old-time legend Ralph Stanley at The Birchmere in Alexandria.

Sunday 12/11 >>

Des Ark
Des Ark

If you’re up for a dance party Sunday night, check out Sean Paul and Ms. Triniti at the 9:30 club. Sean Paul is inarguably the most influential artist in bringing dancehall ragga riddim out of the underground and onto the pop charts.

For a more low-key show with cheaper drinks, try Maryland “postrockexperimentalIDM” outfit Cutlery at The Black Cat’s backstage. Opening up is North Carolina’s Des Ark, who just released a fabulous split EP with Bellafea on the DC label Exotic Fever Records.

Monday 12/12 >>

Catch DC noise-pop favorites (the sounds of) Kaleidoscope Monday night at the Iota Club & Cafe, backed up by singer/songwriters Brandon Butler and Mike Maloney.

Tuesday 12/13 >>

If Walk the Line didn’t convince you to pull out your old Johnny Cash LPs, Tuesday’s tribute show at Jammin’ Java will. Headlined by Cold Hard Cash, the show is opened by Ty Braddock and Derrick Harris.

Wednesday 12/14 >>

Take a break from live music this Wednesday night. You need to save up for all those last-minute Christmas gifts, anyway.

Thursday 12/15 >>


The Iota Club & Cafe comes through yet again on Thursday night, with Mudsugar favorites The Damnwells and NYC rocker L.P.

For a harder sound, skip over to the Warehouse Next Door to see post-goth noise experimenters Off Transmission. Also playing the show is Jinxed at Twelve, and Fredericksburg VA’s power-pop quartet The Field Machine.