MeShell NdgeOcello has done it again

I love me some MeShell — her voice, her “shit, it’s worth a try” attitude with music….and just her overall bad-assness.

A couple of years ago I saw her live when she did the tour of just Prince covers — ranging from his punk music days to Purple Rain and even the classic LoveSexy album. it was mind-blowing to hear her twist on his classic songs — shit, I read that he even attended two of the LA shows and Questlove was trying to get her to record the concert for an album. It was THAT good.

So, when she announced ‘Ventriloquism’ a couple months ago — an album made up of covers from some of her favorite 80/90s R&B songs — I kinda lost my shit.

Well, it’s not out yet, but NPR has dibs on it and it’s available to streat on their site. Check it out — her covers of Prince’s It Never Rains in April or even Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s I Wonder if I Take You Home are, for lack of a better word, stunning.

Check out this phenomenal write-up from Rodney Carmichael of NPR Music and take advantage of the site’s “First Listen” before “Ventriloquism” drops on the 16th.

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The 2015 KJStJ Event Season Has Started

After a 3 weeks of laying low and taking in the holiday season I’m back on the event wagon! Tonight I will be seeing ?uestlove at the Howard Theatre and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve been a fan of ?uestlove and The Roots since I was in college — specifically when they came to the UMass Amerst in 1995. They were opening up for Redman, who was riding high from his popular Whut? – The Album as well as guest spots on various tracks that were blowing up college and urban radio. The Roots were still “underground” with two albums — Organix and What More Do You Want?!?!? — under their belts, so a college tour is perfect.

As most students who go to a college in the boondocks (Amherst, MA, for all is awesomeness, forces you to be a bit creative when it comes to looking for a nightlife) I had tickets to the show. Actually, the Black Mass Communications Project and other student groups on campus did a phenomenal job at bringing some great concerts to UMass, and this was before the Mullins Center came into existence.

So, here I am at the concert (I’ll assume it was at the Graduate Student Ballroom — specifics at that time are a bit…ahem….hazy) with a crew of folks. The Roots come out and amazed the hell out of the audience — when you think of Rap music, you think of two turn tables, a couple MCs and a ton of hype men. Nope, this was a band just breaking all “norms” and providing some awesome music at the same time.

Well — we got some extra time with Black Thought, ?uestlove and the rest of the crew that night as Redman smoked some serious weed and couldn’t do his set. So, instead of just shutting down, these guys just played a second set with some of Redman’s music for us.

For years, I just assumed this was a “UMass legend” and that Redman has decided not to show up – but recently (the other day) one of my friends confirmed this to be true. Yep, he was on campus alright and some lucky students living in Gorman got to see him lifted to a whole other level. Let’s be honest, the weed supply in the Amherst area was ridiculous as that point in time.

For real though — since that time I was a fan of The Roots and made the point to support and follow them through the years as they broke out from under the radar to now being looked upon as one of the most versatile bands in show business.

I say all of this because — well, I’m honestly surprised that story is true and I’m excited for a chance to watch ?uestlove do his thing on the turntables. It’s the perfect way to begin 2015 and I can’t wait to see what random songs he digs out of his collection to share with the packed house.

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Some Time Thinking About Laura Izibor, Nick Hakim & The Alabama Shakes

So, I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but I haven’t been to a concert since December 16th when I went to “A Johnnyswim Christmas” concert at The Hamilton. Johnnyswim was beyond awesome doing selections from their catalog as well as classic Christmas favorites.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time — the group I went with was in the mood to have fun….and have fun we did.

A couple of my friends even let me do my best Elf on a Shelf impression

A couple of my friends even let me do my best Elf on a Shelf impression

So, here I am almost 3 weeks later living a life with no random concerts to attend after work or on the weekends. I didn’t realize how insane my evenings have been until this hiatus. Well, maybe when the wait staff at the Hamilton Live greeted me with “Hey, I’ve seen you here before. You usually sit over there *pointing to my perch on the upper level*” during the Johnnyswim concert. Yeah, that’s a bit insane.

But, I digress. The past couple of weeks, while either at the gym or pretending to get work done while everyone was on vacation, I’ve been able to let my brain go into overdrive with random thoughts.

Without further ado, here are 3 of my wishes for 2015:

A new album and/or tour from Laura Izibor About 5 years ago my boy, Mike, asked if I had heard about “that black Irish chick.” Seriously. Since I didn’t know what he was talking about so I literally Googled “black Irish chick” — and Laura Izibor appeared. I fell in love with her music immediately. Stuff like “Shine” and “From My Heart to Yours” was stuck on instant repeat on my IPod. I bought her full album, Let the Truth Be Told, the day it dropped.

We talked about our hair -- no lie

We talked about our hair — no lie

Then, I saw her in concert for the first time and was blown away. Laura’s voice is beyond phenomenal and her stage presence blows the roof off the freakin’ place. Afterwards I got a chance to meet her and talked about our natural hair and connected about our similar family situations.

Ever since then, I’ve managed to see her every time she came to DC and just kept purchasing her EPs and singles as they were being released. I haven’t seen her in DC since 2011 — so I’ve decided that 2015 deserves some Laura Live (possibly the DC Jazz Festival?!).

Seeing Adele live — finally Throughout the years I have focused on random artists that I would like to see live but haven’t yet — for one reason or another. Ben Harper’s tour would always skip the DC/Maryland/Virginia area. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings would come to town whenever I was away on vacation or business travel. Johnnyswim wasn’t coming into DC at all. Well, my obsessive tracking of concerts and the uptick of some awesome venues eventually let me tick off each of the aforementioned artists. Adele’s been here once, and her concert sold out at the 9:30 Club sold out in a second. I have faith that I’ll be able to finagle tickets the next time she’s here — it’s destined.

Nick Hakim hitting it big Have you heard of Nick Hakim? If not, you really need to check out his recent releases Where Will We Go Pt. 1 and Where Will We Go Pt. 2. I first heard Nick when he opened up for Emily King at The Hamilton Live. They did a beautiful duet during the shows. This is one of my favorite songs from him.

His voice is just so….for the lack of a better word, chill. I know he has been touring Europe lately and I’m hoping to see him at The U Street Music Hall on January 24th.

Seeing the Alabama Shakes When I think “Badass” Brittany Howard immediately comes to mind. Her voice, attitude on stage, and musical chops is just out of this world. My friend, Bonnie, and I are major fans of Alabama Shakes. Brittany seems like someone I would love to hang out with, have a couple of whiskey and just talk shit.

When we heard they were coming through to DC, we made the mistake of taking a moment to discuss which day we should go. By the time (it was maybe 5 minutes) we decided, the tickets were sold out to both shows. So, for now, I have to be content to just watching videos on YouTube.

Well, those are my top 3 wishes…of course, give me some time and a couple of drinks and I could go on. Thankfully, my music hiatus will come to an end when I get to watch Questlove DJ next Friday at the Howard Theatre. Yes, I shall begin 2015 on the right musical note…..or scratch…..well, you know what I mean.

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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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D’Angelo Breakin’ it Down and Johnnyswim Putting Us in the Christmas Mood

Last week was the perfect week to end 2014 on a high note. I’ve been lucky with this year – it started off “eh” and ended up being one of the most positive years (work and personally) that I’ve had in a long time.

black-messiah-640I was looking forward to last Tuesday because I was going with friends to see A Johnnyswim Christmas at The Hamilton (which is now literally a block away from the new job – SWEET!). But, then the unthinkable happened – D’Angelo released “Black Messiah” the day before. No warning, no ads, no nothing….just dropped the album on ITunes and at midnight and watch the internet blow up.

I won’t even attempt to review the album – there are people paid to break down each song and technical nature of it, but I will share my thoughts. I’ve been a fan of D’Angelo since his first album. That should come to no surprise to people who know me; I am drawn to older music. After breaking down the importance of the SOS Band during a basketball game, a friend’s coworker told me that I was born 20 years too late.

ap-dangelo-4-715x359This is how I feel about D’Angelo. From the moment Brown Sugar dropped, listening to him was like digging the crates for Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield or Wilson Pickett albums. He has an old soul and I appreciate that. Black Messiah reminds me of these older albums – albums with a message to them, albums that make you really listen…like stop multi-tasking, sit your ass down and pay attention. Like any new album, I’ve listened to it multiple times to really give it a chance to hit me from all levels, and it’s done that. It’s a reminder that music can make you think and move you to make true changes.

I highly recommend it. So far, my favorite songs are 1000 Deaths and The Door.

Johnnyswim ticketSo, I had 24 hours of complete D’Angelo frenzy until my attention turned to Johnnswim. I’ve been a fan of this duo (and their awesome fellow band members) for about 4 or 5 years now. An intern at a previous job clued me in on them and I was hooked. However, it wasn’t until I had a chance to see them live that I fell in love.

JohnnyswimAmanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez are the couple we all want to hate – but can’t. They are hilarious on stage and invite you into their world so effortlessly that you can’t help but adore them. The back and forth between them during songs, and the bands ridiculous talent makes you realize good people do win the race.

2013-14 has been a whirlwind for these guys. Like most indie artists, Johnnyswim would put out EPs, of 3 or 4 songs a couple times a year and they have a wonderful YouTube presence. Then, after 6 years fans were treated to the ultimate Diamonds – their first full album. And, what an album it is. I’ll admit, it’s one of the few that I’ll listen to from beginning to end without skippin over a track.

A Johnnyswim ChristmasThis year they also released A Johnnyswim Christmas, 7 tracks of Christmas joy with their own twist on the classics. I quickly scooped it up along with tickets to see them perform the songs live. I’ll admit it, I wasn’t feeling Christmas this year, with the new job I didn’t have the time to head to the West Coast where my immediate family now resides. But, this concert, which started with video of both Amanda and Abner as children on Christmas Day, infused me with the Christmas spirit.

The crew I went with had a blast for almost 2 hours of singing, laughing and clapping along. During the concert, they debuted a song written to help raise money for an organization working to improve the lives of children in villages in India. You can actually download Hallelujah from Itunes and Amazon with all the proceeds going to Visiting Orphans.

This is how cool they are.

Merry Christmas everyone!! See you next week.


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What I’m Grateful For — the 2014 Music Edition


2014 has been a phenomenal year for me on all fronts – so I’m grateful for all the opportunities and experiences I was able to add to my life story. As most of you know, music was involved with pretty much most of these experiences, so I wanted to share the “Top 10 Things I’m Grateful For –Music Edition.”

These are not in any specific order as I’m just typing at will

10. Stevie Wonder – I was fortunate to have tickets for the “Songs in the Key of Life” tour when it came through Washington, DC. To experience the songs I grew up listening to in person with an almost-sold out crowd at the Verizon Center was beyond comprehension. If you haven’t listened to the album in a while, definitely throw it on – Stevie Wonder’s words are more than needed right now.

9. Shazam—Actually, I think my friends are grateful for Shazam in my life. I’ve stopped obsessing over random songs heard on tv or while at a bar and just whip out my phone instead. Granted, I’ve probably spent a ton of money from buying random songs via the app, but my mind can rest now that I know what I’m jamming to.

DSCN13678. Artists Getting Their Due – I love how some of the artists I’ve been following for years are getting some major props lately. When I realized Prince threw in a cover of Alice Smith’s “Another Love” in his Saturday Night Live performance (the 2nd to last song) I almost fell off my couch. I’ve been an Alice Smith fan since her first album, “For Lovers, Dreamers, & Me” dropped in 2007. There’s Sia, who’s been releasing albums since 1997’s Only See and I have been singing/dancing along to “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a SmileDiamonds from the Annie Soundtrack (yes, I’m a grown adult jamming to the Annie soundtrack, it’s good). And, there’s JohnnySwim — I learned about them from an intern at my job 5 years ago, and immediately fell in love with their music and how they would released EPs a couple times a year. This year, we finally got “Diamonds” which blew everything out of the water – and I has the opportunity to see them live, which made my world.

Me and Trombone Shorty7. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue – I’ll be honest, I’m much older than him, but I love me some Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his band, Orleans Avenue. Actually, I think I’m at the age when I just want to make them a home cooked meal and talk music. I see them live every time they come through DC (I missed one of the 3 performances this year because I was sick as a dog) and it’s never boring. If you haven’t seen them yet, I highly recommend checking these guys out – it’s one huge party and everyone enjoys it. What I appreciate with Troy and the other musicians who have made a huge name for themselves outside of New Orleans, is that he gives back through his foundation and working with the kids in the city.

6. Over the Ear MP3 Headphones – I have a mop top of curls, I wear glasses and I use an IPod with a worn out headphone connection. In short, I’m a nightmare for anyone selling audio. Thankfully, I’ve found headphones that are comfy, have great sound, don’t press my hair down into a weird style or make my glasses crooked – and all this for under $100.

5. Apps like BandsinTown and Songkick – Some people have asked me how I find out about so many concerts throughout the year. I wish I could say it’s because I’m connected and know a ton of people in the music business. Nope, I have BandsinTown and Songkick on my phone and IPod. With both apps, I can say who I want to follow and what cities (I pay attention to DC, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco)….voila! I have daily updates on concerts. Sometimes I receive updates before the actual venues make the announcement.

foofoighters4. Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways – I was in high school when Nirvana was EVERYTHING. It didn’t matter what you listened to, you loved that group. Because of that, I’ve always been a passive fan of The Foo Fighters – I know their music, I’ve seen the various concerts on Palladia, I really like Dave Grohl. When HBO started to promote Sonic Highways I threw it on my TiVO as something to watch while I cleaned my place on Saturdays. Eight episodes in and I don’t want it to end – this is the perfect show for a music junkie who is also into history. Just like some other behind the scenes type of shows, I’ve become invested in the people/city I’m spending a hour of my life with on Fridays. So much so that I’ve already purchased tickets to the Foo Fighters’ 4th of July concert here in Washington, DC.

3. Headphones at Work – I love how I’ve been in the workplace long enough that I can work at my desk. Want to get work out of me? Give me music. End. Of. Discussion.

DSCN1775 DSCN17462. D.C. Jazz Festival – I always wait too long to plan a trip to Jazz Fest in New Orleans, that’s how I do. But, DC has its own 7-day jazz festival that just keeps getting better each year. The past couple of years I’ve seen the Brass-A-Holics at the Hamilton for the DC Jazz Festival kick-off This past summer, to celebrate its 10th Anniversary, a 3-day party at The Capitol Waterfront, a new area in D.C. that has emerged in between the baseball stadium and the Navy Yard, was added to close out this fantastic celebration. The two days I attended with friends, I was able to see Gregory Porter, Rebirth Brass Band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and the Robert Glasper Experiment outside with a picnic (and adult bevvies). Who can complain about that awesomeness?

whos-awesome1. You – I am grateful for all the friends I know, and don’t know, who read my random pieces about music and react – may it be in agreement, with suggestions, or (in the case of some of my friends) a simple *smh*. Looking at 2015 calendar, that’s already filling up with fun concerts, I hope that I’ll be able to share some more random thoughts and suggestions, as well as find some more people to bond over some of those really cheesy 80s/90s songs we all hum along to while driving.

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A Weekend of Chaos — Or a Weekend in the Life of KJStJ

frazzled_tag_magnet-r1351250078e04833aaeab0f1f0a9f163_x7js9_8byvr_324It’s amazing when there are weeks when I look forward to having a moment to sit back and relax….at my cubicle. It’s Friday and I’m already tired of what’s going to be happening for the next 72 hours —

Saturday starts off with a visit to Skin Beauty Bar (@SkinBeautyBar), my favorite relaxing oasis. Some time, and laughs with the ladies there before Bonnie and I rush off to the Taste of DC (note to self: Check your calendar before jumping on a Living Social deal) and then it’s home to get ready for the always awesome Miss Adams Morgan Pageant with the crew.

Then Sunday, I’ll be at the 9:30 Club to see one of my favorite musicians — Citizen Cope — while Cope and the band celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the “Clarence Greenwood Recordings” album. This, I have to admit, is one of his best. Regardless if you are a fan, you have heard at least one song from it. For you Amazon Prime peoples….you can listen to the entire album for free. Give it a try, you probably will start looking to see when he’s coming through your city.

Cope during a performance at Rams Head Live the summer of 2013

Cope during a performance at Rams Head Live the summer of 2013

I’m a HUGE fan — anytime Cope is in the DC area I’m there. Shoot, one year Bonnie and I drove up to Towson to see him….and had a blast. Each performance is completely different and “new.” I’m actually surprised, especially since he’s run into me enough to recognize me, that I haven’t been put on a “do not let within 50 feet” list……well, that would break my heart as I’m not stalking, all those moments surprised the hell outta me. But, he gets points for recognizing a random fan from the DC area.

Actually, now that I look at what I’m up to, I’ve had more insane weekends, so I’m done whining.


Dupont Brass

Missed DuPont Brass (@DupontBrassHU) while they popped up a couple of weeks ago? You can still buy their new album “Crewsin: Sounds of the City”. It’ll help you get through the long 6 months until we see them again.

For those of you who are curious as to why I’m obsessed with the Brass-A-Holics (@BrassAHolics), I’m excited to let you know that they are swinging through DC again! Tickets went on sale for their November 15th show at the Hamilton (@thehamiltondc) earlier this week. If you have a chance, and feel the need to party — GO! But, get your ticket soon, their fan base here in DC is growing by the moment.

Well…I’m out — for those wondering, the new job is awesome and I’m finally settling in to a different workplace, which means — more random posts from me. See ya!

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