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Friday, July 19, 2024

The Scene: Don’t Shoot The Bunnymen

Memorial Day marks the commencement of the summer music season. Outdoor venues are fully booked Dear Readers, many wonderful performers visiting the DMV. Make sure to take a moment and check the schedules at Merriweather Post, Wolf Trap and Jiffy Lube for Imagine Dragons, Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr., Pixies, Counting Crows, Rail Road Earth and host of others.

Over the winter, I was lucky to see Cole Chaney at DC-9. Quite honestly, backed by a superb band he knocked my socks off. Imagine Dylan’s songwriting skills combined with a huge voice. Just takse a second to listen to “Spirit.” Walking in the footsteps of breakout alt country star Tyler Childers, who has led off a renaissance of Appalachian music, Chaney will be at Metro Baltimore on Aug. 8. Well worth the drive up.

Who doesn’t love singing along to “Mr. Brightside? The Killers arrive at Merriweather Post on Sept. 8.

Heard: Echo and the Bunnymen

Last Thursday, I took the time machine back to my college years. In the early 80s, Echo & The Bunnymen ran on repeat at college dance parties.

The band, touring for the first time in years, stopped at the 9:30 Club. Titled “Songs to Learn & Sing,” the tour is a reprisal of the group’s famous hits. I looked forward to grooving to “The Killing Moon” and “Rescue! Would Ian McCulloch atmospheric croon stand the test of time?

My partner in crime threatened to go full on Goth. I considered wearing my favorite top hat emblazoned with a skull and cross bones and letting her decorate my peepers with black eyeliner. In the end, as a couple who both are already receiving AARP solicitations, we dressed for comfort, skipped and chose to arrive just before the band took the stage, weaving our way through the crowded throngs to my favorite spot on the stage right wall.

The band opened up with “Going Up” from their 1980 breakthrough album, “Crocodiles.” They was tight and the crowd started moving. This was perhaps the high point of the performance. By the time the band had made it to “Rescue,” the lead Ian McCulloch was “jumbled up” and “losing his touch” as the lyrics go. The crew “came to his rescue,” propping him up with a stool.

I don’t know if the 64-year-old McCulloch was simply past his prime or drunk as a skunk. But the contrast between his geriatric mien and the energy of the band was palpable We walked out soon after.

This bunny needed a nap.

Heard: Hair

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Signature Theatre’s production of the rock musical Hair. The play is a complex and flawed project. Set in the late 1960s, it explores the difficult choice faced by a young man drafted to serve in the Vietnam War.

Its two male protagonists, the hippie leader Berger and the draftee Claude encounter each other in New York’s East Village. Berger’s “tribe” leads Claude in an exploration of the boundaries of sexuality and drugs endemic to the decade’s counter culture. The production in its day was notorious for its nude scene and portrayal of the contemporary drugs.

The Signature production moved rapidly from number to number. Lost was the sense of outrage and urgency at the Vietnam War that drove the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention or at Kent State. Perhaps, this is lost in recent decades as the notion of a nation in arms with citizen army has been replaced by a military composed of career soldiers.

I digress.

While I came for a play, I stayed for the music. The young cast was simply superb. The opening “Age of Aquarius” was sung by a woman whose pipes rivaled Aretha’s. The voices of the two male leads didn’t disappoint. There was not a dud among the remainder of the performers and the orchestra was superb.

I walked out humming “Let the Sun Shine In.” How appropriate for these times.

A Look Ahead

I first fell in love with the voice of Canadian-born multi-instrumentalist Allison Russell when I heard her perform with Amy Helm and Luther Dickinson years ago at the now defunct City Winery. Since then, I have seen her at the Barns and The Birchmere. Catch her at the 9:30 Club on Oct. 31.

Finally, straight out of Ireland, Fontaines DC are returning to the 9:30 Club on Oct. 19. Expect a high energy performance as they take “Jackie Down the Line!’

Andrew Lightman is an avid live music fan and audiophile. He can be found at andew@hillrag.com.

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