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Live Review: Ciaran Lavery with Dustin Furlow at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 21st June 2018

 
By on Monday, 25th June 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

It isn’t too often that I attend a seated show. As some of you know, Carrie is the singer/songwriter wonk on staff, not me. I’m used to standing in front of loud amps for whichever pop, rock or electronic gig I’ve chosen for the night. I felt pretty much out of my element, but perhaps this is me turning over a new leaf. Are laidback coffee shop gigs in my future? Have I ::cough:: gone soft? I’ll chew on that thought another time.

I arrived just as American Dustin Furlow began his set. He’s from Virginia Beach, pretty much on the opposite side of the state, but of course not as far as the Northern Irish headliner had to travel. Furlow is an award-winning singer/songwriter, billed as one of the most accomplished in Southeastern Virginia. Something that is nigh impossible to reproduce as other club shows is that gentle, priceless intimacy between artist and fan in a place like this. There’d be a sense of awkwardness in those clubs from both parties if a story like Furlow’s about his drunk on bourbon, shirtless father floating in water, the inspiration for ‘Cherokee Lake’, was told from the stage. And yet, when the story is told at Jammin’ Java, it is a touching tale.

Dustin Furlow Jammin Java 2018

I admit to writing off most singer/songwriters if the melodies and lyrics they offer are weak. What became clear through the two instrumentals in the set alone is that Furlow is a virtuoso on acoustic guitar, something rare and not applauded in popular music these days. Watching his fingers dance across the fretboard was pretty incredible, and this is coming from someone who gave up on guitar because remembering the chords was too hard. When he sang, a surprisingly soulful voice came out on songs like ‘Evergreen’ from his 2017 EP ‘Solo’ or a jaunty cover of the Lindsey Buckingham-centric Fleetwood Mac foot-stomper ‘Big Love’ to close out his set.

TGTF have had wonderful opportunities to cover Northern Ireland’s Ciaran Lavery the last few years, mostly around his appearances during SXSW 2016 and 2017. I wonder why the alt-folk troubadour from the village of Aghagallon isn’t a household name yet like Frank Turner. For me, there are two things that make Lavery stand out head and shoulders above everyone else: his emotional, honest lyrics delivered in a gorgeous Irish brogue. Pretension doesn’t exist in his songwriting, as each tune shows Lavery’s heart on his sleeve.

Ciaran Lavery Jammin Java 2018

Early on, he impressed with the rawness of social anxiety chronicled in ‘Shame’ on his 2013 debut LP ‘Not Nearly Dark’. This past spring, he released ‘Sweet Decay’, his third studio album; at this show, he described how writing with others and having to worry about their opinions as an uncomfortable situation. You couldn’t hear this at all in the a cappella version of the title track he delivered stood in front of us, all in white as a model of vulnerability with aplomb. Lavery’s piano cover of The National’s ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ was an unexpected triumph, finally making the song palatable to me. ‘Wicked Teeth’, a song about going to the dentist (allegedly!), comes across sweetly, revisiting the theme of vulnerability and combining it with love and desire.

Between songs, he seemed entirely relaxed, as if he was giving us a performance in his front room for his best mates. When he asked if anyone in the crowd wasn’t from DC, an audience member yelled, “Dublin!” Lavery chided him with, “you know, I recently played there and with my whole band, you didn’t have to come this far!” Laughter. His story about his trip on Aer Lingus to the States and his difficulty in using their thin, tiny provided blanket was relatable to those of us who have attempted this during a transatlantic flight. Good-natured snufflings abounded. This is a down-to-earth guy with an honest heart and eager to talk to strangers in bars. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the North American towns he has left on his tour of our continent through the start of July, spend an evening being spellbound by him and his music. He plays tonight at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.

 

Live Review: Foy Vance with Rams’ Pocket Radio at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 9th November 2013

 
By on Monday, 18th November 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

Photos by Cheryl Demas

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of seeing Northern Irish soul singer Foy Vance play Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. However, those of you in the UK and Ireland will be soon be treated to the same pleasure, as Vance begins touring his new album ‘Joy of Nothing’ on your side of the pond.

The Jammin’ Java show was the final gig of the North American leg of Vance’s tour, and the Saturday night audience had the room filled to capacity. True, it’s a small venue, but its intimate size and acoustics are perfect for Vance’s soulful solo style, as opposed to the Tabernacle in Atlanta, where I last saw him open for Ed Sheeran in January. Perhaps it wasn’t the venue that seemed to dwarf Vance on that night, but the other acts on the bill, hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks and the aforementioned ginger headliner. As the main act on the bill at Jammin’ Java, Vance was much more confident and relaxed; he appeared right at home on the small, sparsely equipped stage.

As Vance gained popularity in America on the strength of his opening act for Sheeran, it follows that his new fans would pay special attention to his choice of guests on his own headline tour. In this case, the opening act couldn’t have been more stylistically different from Vance. Fellow Northern Irish musician Peter McCauley, who uses the stage name Rams’ Pocket Radio, makes the kind of electronic synth-driven music that brings to mind old TV episodes of ‘Friends’ with Ross on his tiny Casio keyboard. That’s, of course, if you aren’t familiar with Rams’ Pocket Radio, and I was not.

Rams Pocket Radio Vienna

Once he started playing, I found very quickly that I had made a mistake in not taking a listen to him sooner. His clear, evenly measured melodies and pleasantly modulated singing voice allowed his intriguingly erudite lyrics to capture my attention. (I probably shouldn’t mention the fact that I had to consult a dictionary while reading through the liner notes of his album, ‘Béton’, which I was impressed enough to purchase from the merch table.) His music falls squarely into the dreaded ‘progressive’ category, but I found it to be surprisingly listenable, despite its purposefully streamlined, deliberately minimal aesthetic, partly inspired by the Functionalist industrial designs of Dieter Rams. While most of the songs on Rams’ Pocket Radio’s setlist were accompanied by synthesized drums, Vance came on stage and took drum kit himself at one point, making a minor cameo before his own set began.

When Vance did begin his own set, it was McCauley on the drum kit and Conor McCreanor on bass providing the rhythm section. In contrast to the taut precision of Rams’ Pocket Radio, Vance appeared mellow and relaxed from the outset. He opened with ‘Be the Song’ from 2012 EP ‘Melrose’, but from that point forward focused almost exclusively on songs from ‘Joy of Nothing’, which recently won the inaugural Northern Ireland Music Prize. Eight of the 10 songs on that album appeared on the set list this night, and the audience were clearly familiar with them, especially ‘Janey’ and the anthemic ‘Closed Hand, Full of Friends’.

Foy Vance Vienna

Vance’s relaxed mood quickly carried over to his audience. We were quiet with anticipation at the beginning of the show, but his banter and storytelling ability, no doubt the product of growing up as the son of a preacher, soon warmed our hearts and won our rapt attention. Just over halfway through the set, he made the first of several seamless deviations from his original set list, introducing a new song about his current girlfriend, whom he affectionately described as ‘a keeper’. We obliged his request to keep our cameras in our pockets to avoid having the song appear prematurely on YouTube, but this is definitely a tune to keep your ears open for. Perhaps also owing to the easygoing nature of this final gig, Vance accepted a cheeky request from the front row for an old favorite tune, the poignant masterpiece ‘Indiscriminate Act of Kindness’. He closed the set proper with ‘I Got Love’, a simple, soulful tune with an extended suspension in the bridge that left us literally begging for an encore.

At this point, it has become accepted practice for Vance to finish his shows with the well-known ‘Guiding Light’, which is also the final track on ‘Joy of Nothing’. The song is more of an ‘au revoir’ than a final good-bye, and we wistfully joined in singing the chorus at the end, knowing that our evening was well and truly drawing to a close. In the style of a master performer, Foy Vance left us with warmed hearts and smiling faces, but also with the hope of seeing him perform again in the future.

Catch Vance on his current UK and Irish tour; all the dates are here.

Foy Vance set list Vienna

 

Live Review: Kodaline with Diane Birch at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 13th October 2013

 
By on Tuesday, 15th October 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

One of the greatest blessings as the American-born editor of a music Web site with a focus on the UK music scene is being able to see those bands you saw so much potential in as they became a success in the UK, and then see that success translate stateside. This is exactly what happened Sunday night at Jammin’ Java, the venue that played host to Irish band Kodaline‘s first-ever headline show in the Washington, DC area, and wow, was it a memorable one. The show was so airtight sold out, I had friends that wanted to come and they couldn’t buy tickets even though they really wanted to be there. Not to worry, friends. They will be back soon…

Diane Birch Washington live 1

We were rather unimpressed by the lateness of the start, which was mostly caused by the tardy arrival of opener and New York City-based singer/songwriter Diane Birch, who then needed time to sound check. Luckily for her, the night was to begin pretty early, so the delay wasn’t too bad. Admittedly, I haven’t followed Birch’s career closely, and all I could remember of it was her 2009 album ‘Bible Belt’ and its whiffs of ’70s soul. On the cover of that album, she’s wearing a hat ala Blossom. So imagine my surprise when she came out in short shorts and black tights, and then proceeded to…wait for it…bring out the funk.

Diane Birch Washington live 2

It was a (nice) kick in the rear. Her set was filled mainly with songs from her brand new album on S-Curve Records, ‘Speak a Little Louder’; in a genuine way, Birch explained why the song and album had that name: because sometimes you need to speak a little bit louder to be heard. I found this inspiring hearing this from a fellow woman but I can see this applying to anyone, male or female. Her new single ‘All the Love You Got’, allows her voice to soar while maintaining the soulful edge of ‘Bible Belt’ that won her fans. As for the funk, ‘Love and War’ was a highlight, making me imagine bell-bottomed dancers cutting a rug under the mirrorball (which, hilariously, was actually spinning that night at Jammin’ Java). I especially liked her set closer, ‘Lighthouse’, in which she asked the audience to clap a syncopated rhythm along with her.

Jammin’ Java is not a big place (200 capacity) but for most international acts on their first tour of the States, it is not uncommon to play here or the other two venues in DC that are comparable in size, Black Cat Backstage and DC9. Cheryl had said to me that she was surprised that this venue had sold out for Kodaline, since when she’d seen them open for the Airborne Toxic Event in May when I was on blog work holiday in England, there were few people who even knew who they were. Credit the album coming out ahead of the tour (uh, by less than a week?), the quality of said album, Spotify, the videos, the charm of the guys themselves…and you have a sold out show. Not an easy feat for any band on their first trip to our country, so I think the band deserves a pat on the back.

Kodaline Washington 2013 live 1

Rather than rest on their laurels, the Irish group didn’t disappoint, playing track after track from their debut album ‘In a Perfect World’. Let me summarise the things we learned on this evening. ‘The Answer’ is “probably” frontman Steve Garrigan’s favourite song, and judging from a hyperactive girl who begged for it, he made her year by playing it. Despite its inevitable location somewhere in the middle of the set list, ‘Love Like This’ brings the house down. ‘Way Back When’ offers Kodaline the opportunity to take a step back in time and revisit days when they would sing in someone’s bedroom, dreaming of success one day. (Bless.) The band do an absolutely blinding acoustic version of Sam Cooke’s ‘Bring It On Home to Me’ that has to be heard to be believed. (I tried videotaping it but the lighting was terrible. If we can salvage it, we’ll post it.)

Kodaline Washington 2013 live 2

Oh, and Cheryl and I think Steve finally got over his ex-girlfriend: I’ve seen them five times now and he would always preface ‘All I Want’ explaining it was a song about her and he hoped she would never hear about it. No such intro in Washington, and with drummer Vinny May Jr. hitting the skins with such gusto, there’s no mistake that with a thunderous ending like that, it’s not entirely a sad song. Frankly, with the 100+ fans waiting for them after the show, in a pretty orderly queue I might add, I’m sure the hurtful memories of an ex are the furthest thing from his mind now. The best way to get over a broken heart? Write about it and be a huge success. That’s the best revenge.

After the cut: the set lists from the evening.
Continue reading Live Review: Kodaline with Diane Birch at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 13th October 2013

 

Live Review: The Parkington Sisters with Alex Guthrie at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 2nd October 2013

 
By on Wednesday, 9th October 2013 at 2:00 pm
 

The October night that sent me out for a show at Jammin’ Java was quite a bit warmer than standard for our area, but what really warmed my heart was a young Georgia boy who I had never heard of. Hailing from Marietta, Georgia, Alex Guthrie is the kind of kid that you hope you happen upon early in his career. The satisfaction of being able to say “I saw him when…” will be abundant. This guy is headed for greatness. Twenty years old and already with 7 years of playing the guitar under his belt, Guthrie’s skill on the acoustic was impressive. His tunes, peppered with originals and covers, were vivid and energetic.

Alex Guthrie live

Not content to stand alone on his rich full voice, Guthrie strummed through an impressive set that included a virtuoso guitar solo in ‘Red House’. Bluesy and heartfelt, Guthrie calls to mind one of my current favorite artists, Foy Vance. Drawing on a song he recently won a songwriter’s contest with, Guthrie filled up the room with ‘Broken Man Blues’ like a pro, looping himself like every good bluesman. And of course, covering Paolo Nutini’s ‘Rewind’ showed his real skill, amping up a gentle pop song to a rolling anthem. I have my sights set on seeing him play again, and this time I will be ready.

The rest of the night was filled with the most amazing sounds of the Parkington Sisters. This quartet of sisters – Ariel, Sarah, Rose and Nora – grew up on Cape Cod playing music from their earliest years. The four women were spread out across the front of the stage in a rather non-standard arrangement and rotated through an impressive array of instruments. Clearly talented, each sister could play at least two of the assembled collection, including a piano, electric and acoustic guitars, violins, a viola and an assortment of percussion pieces.

Parkington Sisters live 1

Powerful vocals, shared amongst them all, and impossibly tight harmonies characterized this group. From the first note, you could tell that not only did they love singing together, but you were going to love listening to them. Although the instrumentation beneath their vocals was widely varied, it was never elaborate enough to distract from the women and what they were offering. Being sisters, their voices were well matched so that when switching who sang lead it was not distracting. I imagine on a recording you may not notice at all unless you paid careful attention.

The title track from their new EP ‘Inside My Head’ was such a joyful, bouncy number I couldn’t help but bop about in my seat. Equally strong were ‘September’ and ‘Shadows’. Despite having several EPs and a full length, they excelled at choosing rousing covers. Everything from Rhianna to Leadbelly got a gorgeous folk touch from them. Their biggest moment came with a Dolly Parton cover. ‘Jolene’, already a plaintive lament detailing the insecurities of love, was taken to new heights with the omnipresent four part harmony and a soaring crashing build.

Parkington Sisters live 2

Four sisters singing in a folkish style might have had the chance to slip into precious but with exceptionally adept string arrangements and well developed percussion, the Parkington Sisters avoided that hazard. What was offered up instead was a night filled with beautiful harmonies and upbeat stories from the heart.

 

Live Review: The Kin with Find Vienna at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 9th October 2012

 
By on Wednesday, 17th October 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

The evening started off early for me this night. I was privy to a ‘musical robbery’ that the Kin was going to commit before the gig and I was poised to capture it on film. The band storms into an unsuspecting establishment like a diner, sings a song while pacing throughout the place, and then leaves. And not always on their own – they have been kicked out of more than one place! I had first learned of these 2 years ago when I saw them playing support for the Coronas. I have been wanting to be present at one ever since. With that in the bag (see the video at the end of this post), I headed over to the venue for the main event.

Opening up that night was a formerly local singer songwriter named Struan Shields. Odd name, but a lovely voice. He seemed very young up there just him and his guitar, but after joking that he felt naked, he had us all on his side. The second support came from Find Vienna (pictured above), a Philadelphia four-piece. Since I am originally from Pennsylvania, when they took the stage, I had images of ‘south Philly’ flash through my head – low cut vest tops, combat boots, and gold chains. However, when lead singer Patrick Mencel opened his mouth, it was more like an angel singing than the roughness I expected. Not to say this is an angelic band or anything, they have the full on indie rock sound one would expect. Their EP ‘In Flight’ is a delightful find.

My third time seeing the Kin play and I can still say that I have never been to a show quite like it. They can make it feel like you are the only one they are singing to. From writing lyrics that go directly to the heart of the matter to bringing the show off the stage and right down on the floor, they make every gig an intimate affair. Sometimes the band can get you to sing along, some can get an effective call and response going, and others even let the audience take over singing the lyrics. The Kin, however, can do all this, even when not everyone in the audience is familiar with the music.

Originally from Australia, brothers Thorald and Isaac Koren started this band, but it really came together with the addition of one-of-a-kind drummer Shakerleg. Seriously, ONE-OF-A-KIND. The man plays his entire kit with no sticks whatsoever, just taped up fingers. Ouch. Plucked straight out of a prime location on the NYC subway system, this former street musician has all kinds of street cred to get the place rocking.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQnXWjIrMhA[/youtube]

After about five songs, Isaac Koren leapt off the stage into the audience with his characteristic “Alright you lot!” and headed midway into the crowd. Thorald found him with an unplugged acoustic on his shoulder as they started into ‘America’, their tribute to their adopted country. Shakerleg soon joined them rolling a packing case into the circle, banging and stroking it like the true street musician he is. After three songs prowling, dancing, and singing with the crowd, the band reassembled on the stage to continue their set, peppered with yet to be released songs. The encore found them back out amongst us as the audience took over the singing of fan favourite ‘Abraham’. And, as gracious as they come, the band took their bows as we all belted out “When all is said and done, could we somehow be sons of Abraham”.

I have gotten the same incredible high from all the shows I’ve seen theirs. You come away from it feeling like you are part of it, like you really made a difference to the show. Musicians always say that they couldn’t do it without their fans, but it feels like the Kin really needs it. They do it for the punters and nothing else drives them as hard. They like to shake it up, they like to shock, and they will continue to do anything to get people involved. Their next album should be released early in the new year, and I hope they are back to tour it in my area soon.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmrrmLzAUCk[/youtube]

 

Live Review: The Rocketboys with Bearcat and Quiet Company at Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA – 13th September 2012

 
By on Tuesday, 25th September 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

It was definitely a lovefest at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA the other night. I went to see Austin, Texas’s The Rocketboys play. When I got there, I discovered that an additional band had been added, Quiet Company, who were their best friends, as we were repeatedly told. They aren’t touring together, they just happened to be in the same town on the same day and decided to do a one-off together. So amid the hugs and shared stage time, I managed to see not one but two stellar performances that rocked my socks off that night.

To start off the night, and initiate the love, local Andy Zipf took the stage with his brand of countrified rock often found here in the south. The Rocketboys keys player Justin Wiseman joined him for about half the set. Having seen Zipf play solo, I was impressed with how much better he came off with a full band behind him.

Second on that night was the aforementioned Quiet Company. Hailing from the same Texas town as the headliners, Quiet Company were far and away more than I expected and surely not properly represented by their name. The beardy, dark shirt, tie and waist-coated band looked like their name might imply, but what you got was a loud, throbbing, rich, slightly screamy dose of true indie rock and roll in your face. It was an absolute delight. And of course, half of the Rocketboys found their way on stage for the final song. I was right pleased to have been introduced in this manner to another great Austin band. But don’t ask them about SXSW – actual Austin residents think it is a nightmare and none of them have ever attended as punters. I have plans to cover their full set come November, so more then.

Sharing the bill and Invisible Children tour promotion with The Rocketboys, Bearcat is a female-fronted torchy, jazzy outfit that reminds me of the great songstresses of the ‘60s. Again, I spied the keyboard player as well as their drummer, Josh Rodgers, from the headliner gracing the stage. Singer Renee Yohe is the real life inspiration for the non-profit To Write Love on Her Arms, an organization dedicated to helping those who struggle with addiction, depression, self-injury, and attempted suicide. With just a touch of Adele and Amy Winehouse, Yohe captures your attention and you just want to watch her as she draws you to her with her presence and music.

When the night brought me The Rocketboys I was already fully satisfied with my evening, but knew more great music was to come. The ‘boys haven’t let me down before and I am happy to say I doubt they ever will. Having gone through a personnel change that saw 40% of the founding members step down, I was concerned about the resulting effect. I shouldn’t have been. If I dare say, I think their line-up is stronger now with the addition of youngster Kyle Samuel on guitar (complete with big black Xs on his hands to ward off any errant bartender who might accidentally hand him a beer) and Rodgers on drums. Singer Brandon Kinder, bassist Josh Campbell and Wiseman on keys complete the quintet as they ripped into ‘Marching to the Palace’ from their latest release ‘Build Anyway’ followed quickly by ‘All the Western Winds’, one of my favorites from their 2009 release ’20,000 Ghosts’.

Kinder sings with an intensity that shines through on every tune, wavering effectively at the emotionally wrenching spots. With the theme of loss in many guises to the rebuilding of self and soul woven throughout the new album, we were taken on a ride through the set from quiet self-reflection to gut busting joy, the music capable of soundtracking just about anyone’s life. Closing out the set with ‘The Best’ (official music video below), a song about the debt you owe to your best friends, the guys from Quiet Company joined them on stage. Certainly not surprising to see based on the blubbering earlier, it did make for a joyful, triumphant ending.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SK9CU74Y1bo[/youtube]

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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