Even casual listeners enjoy complaining that today’s pop is repetitive. Turn on the radio and it can be easy to confuse one artist for another, this week’s hit for one from two months ago. Helping combat that aural fatigue is Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox, a rotating cast of musicians led by New York performer Bradlee who are reinventing the pop wheel one song at a time.
The band, which plays the Birchmere January 19, has become famous for its YouTube channel featuring Top 40 songs recast in various historical styles—a ragtime “Call Me Maybe,” “No Diggity” as sultry jazz. (A doo-wop cover of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” has garnered more than 11 million page views.) “It’s about finding contrasts,” Bradlee says of deciding which tune to take on and what the sound will be. “By changing the genre, we change the meaning or the context of the song.”
The concept brings to mind “Weird Al” Yankovic, though Postmodern Jukebox’s songs aren’t parodies but playful homages. Bradlee filmed many of the videos, which feature performers dressed to match the era and musical style they emulate, in his Queens apartment using a fixed camera on a tripod—until noise complaints got him kicked out, inspiring him to name the band’s current gigs the Eviction Tour.
The relatively low-cost setup allows for a quick turnaround so the group can stay current with what’s on the radio. Bradlee cites another benefit: “The honesty of such a method draws people in—we’re doing everything live, not dubbed videos.” So far, they’ve turned their songs into four albums, including the aptly named Historical Misappropriation, released in September.
As for the critique that all modern music sounds alike, Bradlee says it’s not new: “You can recognize a ’50s song or a ’40s song because there are elements evocative of the specific era. In a sense, you can look at any musical period and see how it reflects the culture.” That’s certainly true of Postmodern Jukebox’s live act, which incorporates dancers and a theatrical element—or as Bradlee puts it, “The Lawrence Welk Show with more twerking.”
Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox play the Birchmere's Flex Stage January 19. Tickets ($25) are available online.
This article appeared in the January 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
When Kali Uchis tells her new music industry friends that she grew up in Northern Virginia, they tend to respond with sympathy.
“They are like, ‘Oh man, it’s probably like really racist there and there are cows everywhere,’” the 21-year-old singer says. “A lot of people don’t give Virginia credit. Pharrell, Missy Elliott—a lot of people come from here.”
Uchis, who was born in Colombia and moved to NoVa when she was about seven, would very much like to join those musicians in the pop-culture pantheon. Her career started in 2013 with “Drunken Babble,” a mixtape she recorded in a small, shared apartment near Old Town.
Her sleepy, cabaret-style vocals and vintage California vibe won her an online following and caught the attention of Odd Future rapper and producer Tyler the Creator, who offered to work with her on her debut album, Por Vida, which drops January 27.
Dusty deserts and vintage cars often feature in Uchis’s music videos, but she says Northern Virginia was important to her development as an artist. The area’s cultural diversity inspired her eclectic aesthetic, which she further developed at Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School.
“I was really grateful for the photography classes, the art classes, and the video classes,” she says. “They would let me skip all my other classes and stay and work on my projects.”
Before Uchis moved to Los Angeles this past weekend, we took a peek inside her suitcase to see what else she brought with her from NoVa:
- A black wig. It was originally part of a Halloween costume, but Uchis is taking it so she can go incognito. “You know how my fans are,” she explains. “They’re crazy.”
- A white shag carpet and a useless rotary telephone. “I take those two things everywhere I go. They just make me feel comfy in my room.”
- White, over-the-knee boots. Uchis bought them via eBay for $60, to replace a pair of white boots that got stained by pink smoke during the shooting of the “Know What I Want” music video.
- An alien incense holder. “Aliens are definitely real,” Uchis says.
Here's "Lottery," a song from Por Vida:
One Direction wasn’t even there, yet they still managed to steal the show at Hot 99.5’s annual Jingle Ball Monday night. When the crowd, made up of primarily pubescent girls, spotted the boy band amid other music videos and teaser images flashing across the jumbo screens of the Verizon Center, they let out an earth-shattering roar. But when lights went out and the concert started, it was not 1D who took the stage but rather fellow Brit Charli XCX, who bounced onstage in a punkified cheerleader outfit for a rendition of her blockbuster summer single “Boom Clap.”
Things only got louder from there, as the concert launched into its usual lineup of tween-friendly Top 40 artists, with the ugly-Christmas-sweater-clad crew from Hot 99.5’s Kane Show providing banter and promoting contests between performances. (Headline “host” Nick Jonas, however, took the stage a mere three times to introduce a few acts and sample a bit of his new single “Jealous.”)
OneRepublic’s set served as a welcome break from all the hot pink and bubble letters flashing on the screen with their foot-stomping, hand-clapping tunes like “Counting Stars,” and took the crowd back to a kinder, gentler time called 2007 with “Apologize.” Rixton, a British cover band, promoted the forthcoming release of their debut album and opened strong with a cover of R. Kelly’s “Ignition.” Shawn Mendes, likely unknown to anyone above the age of 16, dazzled his target audience as he asked for their energy in a nervous, cracking voice while performing his single “Life of the Party.”
Kiesza, clad in loudly printed leggings, led a spontaneous aerobics class as the crowd went crazy to “Hideaway.” After the cardio session, Grammy-nominated Meghan Trainor reminded us why she’s been dominating the airwaves the past few months by performing her inescapably catchy hits “All About That Bass” and “Lips Are Movin.” Then it was time for Lil Jon to whip the crowd into a frenzy by helpfully reminding everyone where to find the window and the walls. Jingle Ball veteran Jason Derulo, who last year gave the crowd a mere peek at his infamous abs, said “Merry Christmas,” and stripped off his shirt for his final song, “Trumpets.”
“Lovatics,” in their old Demi tour shirts, squealed as their idol took the stage to belt out “Give Your Heart a Break” and “Really Don’t Care,” and threw in Frozen’s “Let It Go” for good measure. Next came another dance break courtesy of Calvin Harris on the turntables, complete with a seizure-inducing light show. Jessie J, who initially thought she was in New York rather than DC (perhaps a reasonable mistake since she just did that Jingle Ball four days ago), recovered from her blunder with an energetic performance of “Burning Up,” and later returned with the princess of the night, Ariana Grande for their earwormy collaboration “Bang Bang.” Grande, in winter white—yes, with the ponytail—provided the most Christmasy material of the night with her new single “Santa Tell Me” before launching into non-yuletide-oriented songs like “Break Free” and “Problem.” Those who were still thirsty for Charli got another taste as she took the stage once more with Rita Ora and Iggy Azalea for a group performance.
Somehow, despite screaming for three consecutive hours, the audience reached new levels when it was finally time for 5 Seconds of Summer to perform. The boys, in skinny black jeans, marched out onstage with guitars in hand and hair slicked up in crazy styles and offered hits like “Amnesia” and “She Looks Perfect” to a nonstop chorus of shrieks.
Judging from the tweets that scrolled along the bottom of the jumbo screens flanking the stage, the night was a roaring success. As one particular fan tweeted, “I am breathing the same air as 5SOS. #blessed.” Happy holidays indeed.
Jingle Ball is crazy!! Every single artist has been on point best show evaaaa #HOT995JingleBall— Alyssa Shouse (@ItsAlyssaShouse) December 16, 2014
hearing Ariana's vocals live is blessing omg #HOT955JingleBall— yaya ✿ (@yayabalbed) December 16, 2014
jingle ball is so freaking amazing im peeing myself #HOT955JingleBall— Grace (@gracieee7321) December 16, 2014
Legit just started twerking when Iggy came out no lie #HOT995JingleBall— Elizabeth Kemp (@ElizzyKemp) December 16, 2014
The Head and the Heart
DAR Constitution Hall
The Seattle folk-rockers released their second album in October 2013, featuring songs inspired by travels they embarked on after their self-titled 2011 debut. $34.
The singer/songwriter’s 2014 self-titled album is her first collection of entirely original tunes in 13 years. Never one to shy away from exploring the boundaries of her sound over her long career, she’s nailed what might be her most fully realized work. $55.
Some of the TV projects she’s been involved in have been panned (Smash; Sean Saves the World), but her musical talent (Broadway’s 9 to 5) has never been in doubt. Hilty applies the latter to Christmas music from the Great American Songbook. $65.
Zion’s Muse: Three Generations of Israeli Composers
The Ariel Quartet explores Israel’s relatively young but rich musical legacy, stretching from the 1930s work of composer Paul Ben-Haim to contemporary pieces by Menachem Wiesenberg. $44.
Guaranteed you’ve heard at least one of their electric-guitar-driven holiday tunes—now watch them perform their “rock opera” The Christmas Attic live for the first time. $42 to $73.
He’s shed the impressive beard but not the eclectic reggae sound that earned him a Grammy nomination. Hear tracks off Akeda, Matisyahu’s fifth album, which came out in June. $35.
Chuck Brown Band
Bethesda Blues and Jazz
The backing band of the late Godfather of Go-Go performs some of Brown’s greatest hits. Frank “Scooby” Sirius, formerly of the local band Lissen, joins the lineup. $25.
December 28 (December 27 sold out)
After six studio albums, the gypsy-punk band sounds more raucous than ever. Same goes for its frenetic live show, which has been known to involve crowd-surfing. $35.
The Brooklyn duo of Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser gained a following for their synth-soaked remixes of tracks by Cut Copy, Moby, and LCD Soundsystem, among others. Holy Ghost’s original tracks are equally worth a listen, as their sophomore effort, September’s Dynamics, proved. $20.
The Rhett Miller-fronted Dallas band celebrated its 20th anniversary this year by releasing its 16th album, Most Messed Up. The new tunes reflect on two decades in the music biz. $35 to $85.
Ballet West’s The Nutcracker
This version of the holiday classic—created by the Salt Lake City company’s founder, William Christensen—is a Washington favorite. $56 to $165.
Cirque de la Symphonie
A kind of Cirque du Soleil designed specifically for concert halls—with acrobats, jugglers, and cortortionists performing feats choreographed to the music of the NSO Pops. $20 to $98.
Observe the weeklong holiday with this event featuring dancers from the contemporary West African company Coyaba and its related academy, along with other special guests. $25 to $30.
The Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker
Hailing from the same country as The Nutcracker’s composer, this company has brought the production to Washington regularly since 1993. $28 to $88.
If you’re a fan of The Daily Show’s early years, there’s a good chance this Georgetown Law grad wrote some of your favorite lines: He won an Emmy for his work with the show’s original writing team. Hear him deliver his jokes his own way. $17.
A John Waters Christmas
Not to be confused with the 2004 album compiled by Waters, this show gives the kooky director a platform to poke fun at holiday memories and traditions. $49.50.
Good for the Jews
Writer Rob Tannenbaum (I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution) and David Fagin of the indie band the Rosenbergs team up for this tongue-in-cheek show of musical comedy. $20.
Pizza Underground—a.k.a. the pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band fronted by former child star/Mila Kunis’s ex-boyfriend Macaulay Culkin—plays the Black Cat Friday night. This is not the first time the group has played in Washington, but where previous shows sold out faster than you could explain the concept of the band to a friend, it appears tickets are still available for tonight’s show, for $15 apiece.
We thought about trying to interview the band, but they apparently only answer pizza-related questions. We also considered shelling out for the show—until we learned it comes with the risk of being brained by a beer bottle.
So in case you want a taste of the deep-dish fun without the threat of bodily harm (aural or otherwise), we rounded up a few more things you can get for around the same price as a Pizza Underground ticket.
3 copies of Mystic Pizza on VHS ($5.40 each)
Relive the magic of a time before Julia Roberts was a massive star and before the real-life Mystic Pizza owner owed its employees six figures in back pay.
A used copy of Kitchen Workshop—Pizza by Ruth Gresser ($13.78 and up)
Any of these locally available, Anna Spiegel-recommended pies (prices vary)
- Charcuterie pizza at Vin 909—“in Annapolis, but well worth traveling for”
- Margherita with buffalo mozzarella at 2 Amys
- Pizza with chorizo and red peppers at Pupatella
- Fennel-and-salami pizza at Ghibellina
- Clam pie (or the Staven for garlic-lovers) at Pete’s Apizza
- Anything from Vace
- Anything from Meat in a Box, Plus Did Someone Say Pizza?—“not gourmet, but pretty tasty, even sober”
- Unlimited pizza brunch at Piola
A pizza-themed shirt from Etsy ($16.98)
Whimsical and customizable!
Or two pairs of pizza socks from Beloved Shirts ($6.95 each)
Not bold enough to go Full Pizza à la Katy Perry? These make a more subtly cheesy statement.
1/100th of a free tattoo, courtesy of &pizza
The local chainlet is offering gratis ink for any customer who spends $1,500 on its food. Worth it?
Vijay Iyer: Music of Transformation
The pianist/composer—awarded a MacArthur “genius grant” last year—presents for the first time in Washington his work “Mutations I-X” as well as a multimedia piece inspired by the Hindu spring festival Holi. $20 to $55.
At this show, the 64-year-old R&B legend will play the entirety of Songs in the Key of Life, his hit 1976 double album. $49.50 to $149.50.
The R&B superstar postponed the release of his eighth album, originally expected by the end of the year, so braving the arena crowds might be the only chance to hear his new material for a while. $42.50 to $178.
Rural Alberta Advantage
Rock & Roll Hotel
The name might bring to mind delicate folk music, but this Toronto act puts out robust indie rock that’s at once wistful and upbeat. $14.
Orion Weiss With the Salzburg Marionettes
The American pianist pairs with the Austrian marionette theater, in existence since 1913, to offer adults and children a new way to experience classical favorites. $45.
Fans of the TV series Friday Night Lights know Lucca for his poignant cover of “Devil Town.” The former Mickey Mouse Club member was also a finalist on the reality show The Voice in 2012 and released a new EP in March. $17 to $25.
After performing in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, the Israeli troupe brings its vocal theatrics to Washington, reproducing the effects of a full orchestra through beatboxing and other sounds. $28 to $72.
Washington Chorus: Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis
One of the greatest choral works comes to life with help from conductor Julian Wachner, soprano Julia Sophie Wagner, and tenor Vale Rideout. $15 to $70.
Sixth & I
The two Barr siblings started out in jazz and indie rock before settling into their current woodsy Americana style, accompanied by classically trained harpist Sarah Pagé and bassist Andrès Vial. The group’s second album, Sleeping Operator, came out this fall. $13 to $15.
We Were Promised Jetpacks
Rolling Stone named this Scottish punk outfit’s In the Pit of the Stomach one of the best under-the-radar albums of 2011. With nearly 40 stops on their current tour, on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s unlikely their new album, Unravelling, will need such a distinction. $20.
National Symphony Orchestra: Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite
Bulgarian conductor Rossen Milanov leads a performance of Stravinsky’s breakout work along with Busoni’s Piano Concerto, Opus 39, with pianist Garrick Ohlsson and the Washington Men’s Camerata. $10 to $85.
Fillmore Silver Spring
The rapper—who has collaborated with artists as diverse as 2 Chainz, Taylor Swift, and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo—performs songs from Underground Luxury, released in December. $30.
The Dismemberment Plan
After breaking up for nearly a decade, the DC indie rockers got back together in 2011. Watch them perform their latest, Uncanney Valley, while their reunited front holds. $25.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
With a name as quirky as its sound, this Baltimore four-piece offers psychedelic funk rock tailor-made for dancing. The band released its first full-length album in July. $15.
Sutton Foster With the NSO Pops
The actress (from the erstwhile ABC Family show Bunheads) and Tony winner sings Broadway hits from shows including Anything Goes and Shrek the Musical, in which she originated the role of Princess Fiona. $20 to $88.
Kalanidhi Dance: Krishna, Love Re-Invented
This work by Malaysia’s Sutra Dance Theatre tells the legend of the Hindu embodiment of love through Odissi, one of India’s classical dance forms. $40.
Neil Greenberg: This
American Dance Institute
Choreographer Greenberg partners with sound designer Steve Roden and lighting designer Joe Levasseur for this new piece, which examines the collaborative process and the human desire to make meaning. $31.25.
Ballet ADI Evening With Loni Landon
American Dance Institute
The house company, Ballet ADI, performs a commissioned work by New York artist Loni Landon exploring gender and how people occupy various spaces in their lives. Also on the bill: a new piece by Washington Ballet alum Runqiao Du. $31.25.
The DC native, one of In Living Color’s original cast members, has appeared in Strictly Business, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, and other movies. $20.
One of the first openly gay female comics to appear on network TV, Westenhoefer has earned fans for her brash, up-front style. $45.
The deadpan comedian has branched out from standup to books, movies, and radio—he became a panelist on NPR’s Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! this year. See his new show to find out how humor has landed him in hot water. $27.50 to $37.50.
Marley—no relation to the reggae musician—became a Guinness World Record holder in 2010 for longest standup performance. He managed to go 18 hours without repeating jokes, so you’ll almost certainly hear something new this time around. $17 to $20.
In case you needed another reason to look forward to the Wizards’ Verizon Center game against the Milwaukee Bucks this Saturday, here’s one: The team has just announced that Grammy-nominated hometown rapper and “die-hard Wizards fan” Wale will serve as a “creative liaison” for the upcoming season. What does that mean? His songs will be featured in the team’s intro video, he’ll help design merchandise and collaborate on social-media promotion, and he’ll also participate in charity projects with the team.
But here’s the part you’ll actually care about: Wale will perform live at the Verizon Center Saturday as the part of the pregame player introductions. Freedom High School’s marching band will also perform outside the F Street entrance to the Gallery Place Metro, and the Wizards girls will be available for photo ops.
Wale’s “creativity and vision will help enhance our in-game experience, and his commitment to the Washington, D.C., community is a perfect blend with our charitable pillars,” says Joe Dupriest, Monumental Sports senior vice president, in a press release. The artist himself adds, “As a D.C. native and lifelong Wizards fan, this is truly an exciting and organic relationship for me. We’ve got some exciting projects up our sleeve that will roll out throughout the season.”
Tickets to Saturday’s 7 PM game are on sale now, starting at $25. A concert and a basketball game for the price of two cocktails? Sounds like a good deal to me.
It's been about 24 hours since Foo Fighters compelled a mad dash to the Black Cat by people hoping to get tickets to their "surprise" show at the 14th Street, Northwest, club on Friday night. With the club's capacity of just 700, it took minutes for the set, pegged to the band's HBO series Sonic Highways, to sell out.
But there's always the secondary ticket market, and lucky for us voyeuristic types, the after-market for super-exclusive concert dates unleashes a special class of offers. Below, a few of the more audacious lengths to which Washingtonians are willing to go to get into Friday's show.
Will pay a 1,522 percent markup: Tickets, most of which were sold in pairs, went for $23 (including surcharges) at the Black Cat's box office on Tuesday. But one gentleman is willing to pay $350 for just one of them, if you're willing to ditch your date. "I'm a 29 year old guy, originally from Europe. Not looking for a date, just to go and enjoy an awesome rock show," he writes.
Will pay in cash and Skrillex tickets: "I'll trade you [S]krillex Friday night tix + cash to make this happen, or just straight up cash," writes this Craigslist seeker, which seems as much a comment on the deejay abilities of Sonny Moore as a plea for Foo Fighters tickets.
Will pay in cash and staving off the apocalpyse: Black Cat management was very stern in telling people who lined up after 4 PM that their chances of scoring tickets were close to nil. This sucker was clearly one of the late-comers who stood in the rain for nothing. But the stakes behind his $500 offer are drastic: "If my wife and I miss this show, it will be the end of the world."
Will pay in gadgets and pot: We'll let the full text of this ad do the talking:
I'm looking for 2 Foo Fighters Tickets. Will pay some serious cash and trade other valuables. I've got my old iPhone 5S and some ganj.
Cash and trade. Kind of a 2 for 1 for 2 tix.
Will pay in, um:
This superfan is offering $600 for a pair, but somebody should remind him it's the height of tackiness to wear a band's tattoo to the show.
And now, the horrible truth: As tempting as these offers of cash, drugs, and fending off Armageddon might be, if you have tickets to Friday's show, you should ignore these offers. The Black Cat's show announcement made very clear that it was recording the names of people who bought tickets as well as the names of their intented plus-ones. "Tickets are 100 percent non-transferable and non-refundable," the club stated yesterday. In other words, if you've got $600 but no tickets, bring your Foo Fighters-tatted forearms to the backstage bar for Ten Forward Happy Hour and buy everyone a round while they watch an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
UPDATE, 3:35 PM: In a tweet, the Black Cat's management says if you're not in line right now, you'll spend Friday night hoping Grohl comes down to the Red Room after the Foo Fighters’ set.
The Foo Fighters, the Dave Grohl-led rock band that frequently sells out large arenas and headlines at major music festivals, will play the 700-capacity Black Cat on Friday, the band announced Tuesday afternoon.
The surprise show is pegged to the second episode of the Foo Fighters’ HBO miniseriesSonic Highways, Grohl’s eight-installment documentary about the making of the band’s new album of the same name. Each track on the LP, due out November 10, was recorded in a different city, with the second song, “The Feast and the Famine,” recorded at Arlington’s Inner Ear Studios. The Black Cat set will also include a screening of the Washington episode, which features appearances by Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, Trouble Funk’s Big Tony, and other DC scene luminaries. President Barack Obama and Grohl’s fellow Northern Virginia expat Pharrell Williams make appearances, too.
The Foo Fighters appear to be playing small-club shows in every city where they filmed theSonic Highways series, but playing the Black Cat this Friday is obviously a bit more special for Grohl. Besides growing up in Springfield and getting his start in the hardcore band Scream, Grohl is also a minority owner in the 14th Street, Northwest, landmark.
Friday’s show goes on sale at the Black Cat Tuesday at 6 PM. Tickets are $20, plus a $3 service fee, and are only available in person and, more importantly, in cash. Yes, it’s going to sell out; for everyone who doesn’t get in, the DC episode of Sonic Highways airs at 11 PM on HBO (you could also try hanging around Georgetown’s Ri Ra, which the band has visited before).
The full cut of “The Feast and the Famine” won’t be heard until the end of the episode (or Friday’s set, if you’re lucky enough), but you can hear snippets of it in the preview below.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.
If you’re a music fan, chances are you already have a few go-to playlists: your workout list, your commuting list, your night-before-a-big-meeting options. But do you have one for the midterm elections? If the answer is no, fear not—Rachel Maddow has you covered. In a video aired on Late Night With Seth Meyers this week, the MSNBC host rounded up her top five tracks to get you through the stressful period, and, as befits Congress’s current standing with the American public, they’re all “angry punk songs.” DC’s musical legacy is well-represented: The list includes two local bands (Fugazi, Bad Brains), as well as tracks by Black Flag, Sleater-Kinney, and Husker Dü.
Check out the video clip and the track list below, and tell us what would be on your list in the comments.
1) “Bad Mouth,” Fugazi
2) “I Against I,” Bad Brains
3) “I’ve Heard It Before,” Black Flag
4) “Youth Decay,” Sleater-Kinney
5) “Books About UFOs,” Husker Dü