Audiophile : Akwitz

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Audiophile Concert Series – Hot August Music Festival @ Oregon Ridge Park


It’s been quiet on The Audiophile of late, but it’s not because there hasn’t been music to talk about.  Speaking of which, this past weekend hosted an event worth chatting about.

First of all, the festival truly lived up to its name with an incredibly hot and sunny day, so shade was at a premium.  While the lineup itself boasted of no premiere-billed headlining or click bait acts, the lineup as a whole made for an enjoyable event.  Ditching the “Blues” nomenclature, the Festival rebranded itself this year as simply the more general Hot August Music Festival which more aptly fit the year’s lineup.  The festival is an interesting one, including 3 stages, one of which, is in an intimate and secluded grove of trees.

The all-day affair began at noon with an excellent opener on the main stage, Shakey Graves.  The perfect early afternoon show, the Texas band indulged the audience with an engaging and entertaining, albeit early in the day.  Their show was highlighted by their performances of Hard Wired and Dearly Departed, both coming off the band’s latest album, And The War Came.

After that, we ventured over to catch Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, a local jam-friendly funk band who have a knack for putting on quite a show.  This performance was quite worth catching as they happened to cover both The Beatles’ Get Back and Deee-lite’s Groove Is In The Heart in addition to their own music.

Next on the docket was a transition back to the main stage for Railroad Earth.  This group has an interesting blend of music.  Traditional bluegrass dynamic in terms of instrumentation, their music also ventures into the folk, country and even Celtic styles, for an interesting mix and range of music.  Their performance happened to fall at the hottest part of the day late in the afternoon, and the sun really started taking its toll on the festival goers at this time.  This being the case, their performance couldn’t have come at a better time, as it filled the slow period with enjoyable music as the festival goers partook in food and drink to amp up for the later shows in the evening.

This was personally followed by a brief respite by taking a tour of the grounds in search of cooler environs and to do some people watching before taking in a bit of The Revivalists.  After the recovery period came the Punch Brothers.  Well, it was almost the Punch Brothers, 4/5ths to be exact.  The quintet’s bassist was visibly absent as he had apparently gotten stuck in Boston unable to make a flight thanks to an unfortunate air traffic control system hack.

Despite being bass-less, the always dapper dressed gentlemen made do without and peppered the crowd with jokes at their missing member’s expense.  The group made up for the missing player and gave the crowd an enjoyable performance to lead up to the headliners.

Speaking of headliners, Counting Crows are one of the Maryland local groups that made good in the 90’s.  Lead singer Adam Duritz often refers to his Baltimore roots in many of his lyrics as reference as well. The group kicked off their show with one of the band’s higher energy tracks Rain King.  Follow this up immediately with an entirely syncopated rendition of Mr. Jones.  One of the highlights of the band’s show was their intimate performance of Colorblind which also included an excellent pairing of lights to go along with it.

The other big highlight, and my personal favorite of the night was the band’s 15-minute medley performance of Goodnight Elisabeth and Pale Blue Eyes.  The band did depart for a brief faux exit and then returned for a short 2-song encore including a high energy rendition of Hanginaround which was received very well.

Unfortunately, the overall show was a bit disappointing.  Despite the highlights mentioned above, the show conspicuously lacked two tracks that would have been immediately acknowledged by the crowd as favorites: Round Here and Raining In Baltimore.  Both tracks include the most intimate references to Baltimore, the place in which they were performing.  On top of that, they ended about 20 minutes short of their scheduled time slot which was a let down after their brief encore.

All-in-all, the day was a big win.  Your humble narrator went into the day not intending to see every act or capture every performance on camera and just enjoy the day and the company, and that was exactly what happened.  The day may have lacked the “star power” of some of the more nationally recognized events, but had tremendous lasting power in terms of enjoyment for the event as a whole.

Instagram: @AudiophileAkwitz



Now Playing: Counting Crows – Hanginaround


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Audiophile Concert Series – Glass Animals w/ Gabriel Garzón-Montano @ 9:30 Club


It was a fine Wednesday to spend in the nation’s capitol enjoying some quality live music.  That is exactly what everyone at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC got thanks to the performance of UK band Glass Animals.

Before I get to the headliners though, I do want to make mention of the opener Gabriel Garzón-Montano.  This solo artist hails from Brooklyn and was born from a unique mix of French and Colombian parents.  His musical style is that of neo-funk and soul and draws instant connections to Stevie WonderJason MrazMaxwell and John Legend.

Considering these lofty comparisons and obvious influences there is a lot of potential clearly visible in his music and voice.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t seemed to get it completely right just yet.  While his voice is unique and draws comparisons to that of Stevie Wonder, he falls just a bit short.  His compositions and production are similar to Maxwell and John Legendonce again something is just a bit off or missing.  It’s not anything glaring in his performance or compositions that makes his sound just that bit off, but more of a bunch of small things that a bit of coaching could fix.  Don’t get me wrong, he has composed some excellent tracks already, the perfect example was his opener on the evening Everything Is Everything.

It’s his other compositions unfortunately that miss the mark.  The potential is definitely there, things just need a bit of a tweak.  It seems both in his recorded performances as well as live he tends to zig when he needs to zag and things fall flat consequently.  It is a shame, because the potential is clearly visible, and I believe a slight nudge in the right direction may be all it takes to garner fantastic results, as the cat definitely has talent.   We shall see if he receives that sort of attention.

Sooooo, now let’s move onto the main event of the evening, Glass Animals.  The UK lads really brought it to the sold out 9:30 Club that evening. Kicking the show off with Black Mambo the boys knew how to get the show started on the right foot.  The band’s mellow yet sensual vibes permeated the room all night, while lead singer Dave Bayley remained active on stage all night and continuously danced around.

The show included a rendition of Gooey that seemed to go on forever (of which no one in the crowd was complaining) and a super slow version of Hazey.  Toes was another track that the band mellowed the hell out of and made it sexy as all get out.  To add to the already enjoyable show, the band debuted live for the first time a track they released earlier that day online as well, Gold Lime.  The track is a fusion of Erykah Badu’s The Healer and Yeah Yeah YeahsGold Lion in the typical Glass Animals format with fantastically catchy results.

The group played an hour-long set before departing the stage, to a roaring sustained ovation from the crowd.  They returned for a brief but excellent two-song encore, beginning with their popular Kanye cover Love Lockdown and closing with a massive performance of Pools.

All in all, this was a fantastic show for a Wednesday night.  Relatively low-key in musical style, yet high in peanut buttery vibes; a perfect mid-week breakup of the work week.  Be sure to check out some photos from the show on the Instagram and in the full photo album linked below.

Instagram: @AudiophileAkwitz

More of my photos from the night: Glass Animals w/ Gabriel Garzón-Montano @ 9:30 Club



Now Playing: Glass Animals – Gold Lime

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Audiophile Concert Series – Sweetlife Festival – Sunday @ Merriweather Post Pavilion


This weekend was more than just the closeout of May, but also Sweetlife Festival in Columbia, MD.  The two-day festival featured a number of acts, both old and new at a venue that is one of the premiere year-round outdoor venues in the country.

Speaking of which, a video has recently gone viral from Saturday night’s performance by Kendrick Lamar who invited a fan up on the stage to rap m.A.A.d. city who absolutely killed it, giving the festival a lot more visibility.  I however, only was in attendance for Sunday’s festivities, and an enjoyable (albeit incredibly humid) day filled with music.

Upon arrival I was immediately greeted with a free ticket upgrade thanks to 9:30 Clubs “Friends With Benefits” Program which made the day that much more enjoyable.  The afternoon kicked off with HOLYCHILD on the main stage under the pavilion.  Although it was a relatively sparse crowd (thanks to it being the first show of the day), they band came out with a ton of energy and choreographed dancing as they breezed through their songs and enlightened the audience that the dual leads of Liz and Louie had originally met nearby.  Their backup instrumentalist/dancer Kenton however stole the show with his dance moves.

I then shot over to the Treehouse stage for the next couple of shows.  The next act on the day for me was Sun Club, a band that mixes the atmospheric guitar sound of Explosions In The Sky with a very punk vocal attitude.  These local boys outta Baltimore were a sparkling surprise and my discovery of the day.  Their live show was on point and they totally rocked the garage rocker look.

There was a bit of a break in the lineup after this and so I indulged in the food truck array.  I splurged on the loaded pulled pork carnitas from The Sprouted Spoon (which was absolutely phenomenal) and ate that while partaking in DC rapper Goldlink.  His flow was on point and his dj may have actually been better.

Up next was the Brooklyn trio Wet.  Competing with Charli XCX, the relatively new band was still able to pull a sizable crowd.  Unfortunately the show began with some real technical difficulties, delaying the band’s start about 10 minutes.  You can tell they are relatively new to touring, as they seemed unsure as to what to do onstage or how to interact with the crowd, but the music was good and highlights included their performance of the band’s newest track Deadwater and You’re The Best.

Afterwards, I trotted back over to the main stage to catch the end of Charli XCX’s show, including her solo rendition of Fancy (you know, the Iggy Azalea one) and Boom Clap.  She even led the crowd in an audacious feminism-first “Pussy Power” shout-and-response chant which the crowd ate up.

After that short hiatus, I made my way back to the Treehouse for a fabulous performance from San Fermin.  While it may have taken the octet a while to set up and get tuned and mic’d up accordingly (there were lots of fingers pointing in the air), the band’s performance was on point.  Their show was highlighted by performances of Sonsick, Emily and Philospher and they closed out with a stellar rendition of Jackrabbit.

That was my last show at the Treehouse, and over I traipsed back to the pavilion seats to catch a majority of Phantogram’s performance.  I can tell you, I gained a whole new level of respect for Phantogram after seeing them live.  Their live show is fantastic (and I personally think, better than their studio recordings) and they bring a tremendous energy to the stage.  I only wish they didn’t conflict with San Fermin.  I walked in as the group was performing Turning Into Stone and was instantly hooked.  Josh Carter (half of the duo) slayed the sampler on Fall In Love while Sarah Berthel crushed vocals on tracks like Don’t Move and Nothing But Trouble.

After Phantogramcame the Aussie Vance Joywho continues to tour on his début album (which topped The Audiophile’s 2014 Album Of The Year).  The acoustic guitar solo artist ran through his music with a little history behind each of the tracks and how they came to be (surprise, surprise a lot of them have to do with “your gal”).  Sadly, he is mostly immobile during his performance thanks to his double duty playing guitar and singing (without the use of a headset mic).  Highlights from his performance include the tracks Mess Is Mine, Play With Fire and Georgia.  Unfortunately, at long last on the day, is where my phone finally gave out and alas no more memories were captured by yours truly.

Well, the show must go on, and so they did.  Marina and The Diamonds followed shortly after with a top-notch performance.  The stage was littered with giant inflatable fruit to promote her latest album released earlier this year, FROOT.  Her show was full of energy and movement and she adorned herself with a Froot headpiece (seen below).  Having never really gotten into and listened to this UK songstress, I really enjoyed her show.  Her renditions of I Am Not A Robot and How To Be A Heartbreaker were definite highlights.

Banks played at the same time as Marina and The Diamonds and I chose the latter as I had seen the former already back at U Street this time last year.  Luckily, I didn’t miss out on much, as they live-streamed it in the pavilion as Marina and The Diamonds got set up on stage.

Finally came the highlight of the night, the headliner of the evening, Calvin Harris2014’s highest paid DJ did not disappoint.  Pitted up against The Weeknd, Calvin absolutely tore it up to a packed crowd.  Once again, the start of his performance was also live-streamed onto the pavilion screens for all the squatters to enjoy as well without being there.  Equipped with a fortress of lights (including three separate layers of light walls), my location dead center couldn’t have been better placed for the ideal viewing  (and picture/video-taking) vantage point for what came up on the multitude of screens.  I personally danced my ass off for the entire set which included all the hits, including: Feel So Close, Outside, Sweet NothingWe Found Love and Summer.   There is a reason Calvin Harris unseated Tiësto as the top-grossing DJ with his top-40 friendly produced tracks.  The show included plenty of bass drops and EDM-friendly riffs to fill the space between, but also remixed other tracks that aren’t part of his discography with great success.  The show included a stellar light show, confetti cannons, smoke geysers and even pyrotechnics, all the while Harris remained in the dark silhouetted by the backdrop of his fortress of lights.

Calvin closed the show out with the John Newman-featuring hit Blame and set off fireworks from atop the pavilion to the audience out on the lawn.

All-in-all, despite the music, the young crowd seemed surprisingly un-enthused.  While the lineup wasn’t incredibly strong in terms of big names, it did provide plenty of firepower for what was an enjoyable Sunday.  I easily traversed the grounds and made my way from show to show with ease and found good viewing spots for each.  Sun Club should see a big bump in their following after that excellent early afternoon show and Phantogram was my surprise of the day with their impressive live show.

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Instagram: @AudiophileAkwitz

More of my photos from the night: Sweetlife Festival 2015 – Sunday



Now Playing: Phantogram – Turning Into Stone