“Every day becomes better when listening to Queen.”
This quotation was culled from a tweet posted by the esteemed proprietor of Richmond Playlist, and I have to say that truer words were never spoken. When is the last time you heard a Queen song without your mood improving? I mean seriously, whose day was ever ruined by “Don’t Stop Me Now” or “Under Pressure“? And don’t get me started on “Fat Bottomed Girls,” a song that’s so awesome I had a hard time believing it was real the first time I heard it. Well just yesterday, a friend sent me a link to videographic evidence that conclusively proves this assertion beyond a shadow of a doubt. In the above clip, a drunk Canadian man sits in the back of a Royal Mounted Canadian Police car, having been arrested for, well, being drunk. But does he take that shit lying down? Hell no. He dusts off his vocal chords and performs “Bohemian Rhapsody” IN ITS ENTIRETY. Take that Mounties! This brave performer (who looks like the illegitimate love-child of Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers) clearly comes out the better man in this scenario and most certainly has some serious Internet stardom coming his way. The moral of the story? Queen makes everything better. So try not to get arrested this weekend, but if you do end up in the back of a cop car, you know what to do.
Queen — “Bohemian Rhapsody“
You know what’s fun? Getting a sneak preview of something. There’s nothing like mixing exclusivity with instant gratification. Simply deee-vine. In just a second, I’m going to pass along a not-so-sneaky trick for getting your grubby paws on new tunes before they’re released, one that doesn’t involve going around the artist’s back and finding an involuntarily leaked copy.
Here’s the totally above-board trick… if it’s feasible, go see the band whose album you’re salivating over. Not only will you probably hear how the new material sounds live, you may even walk away with the album in hand. This happened late last year at the RVA Music Festival, when the Trillions were selling advance copies of their new album (which is fantastic), and it happened again his past Saturday night when I saw Dana Buoy open for Youth Lagoon at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington D.C. During his set, Buoy proprietor Dana Janssen, who is also the percussionist for a group called Akron/Family, announced that even though his debut solo album Summer Bodies isn’t out yet (it won’t be until May 8), advance copies were available for purchase at the merch table.
So last Wednesday’s show at the National was quite the hootenanny. I already wrote about how much I enjoyed the outstanding headlining act, the Head and the Heart, but I have to say a few words about the fine work done by Black Girls in their opening set. There’s nothing like catching one of your favorite bands on the perfect night. Homecoming shows are always special, but this was the RVA group’s first stop in town after their most packed string of dates yet, having spent March on a trans-American/Canadian tour with the above mentioned, Seattle-based headliner. The atmosphere on Wednesday was appropriately celebratory, and Black Girls’ music fed off the welcome-home-y energy throughout, sounding equal parts powerful and joyful. And it wasn’t just who started off the evening but what as well, given that having “South Carolina” at the very top of a setlist is akin to waking up in the morning and immediately downing one of those giant Red Bulls that only truckers and people who sell Red Bull to truckers drink. From these first few moments until the closing notes of “Broadway,” the band channeled all the energy in the room into what may have been the best performance I’ve seen them give. You often hear about how busy concert schedules like the one they had in March render a band tighter or more polished, and this is undoubtedly the case for Black Girls, as well. But two of the band’s greatest strengths are a loose, confident swagger and a willingness to take chances, and the road seems to have, somewhat paradoxically, nurtured these qualities as well. As precise as each member’s performance was, it seemed like I was also hearing some additional layers and stylistic flourishes that I hadn’t before. Gillihan’s vocal improvisation was as far-reaching and captivating as I’d ever heard it, and the use of synth felt bolder and more emphatic than I remembered, shining a light on an aspect of their recently released album Hell Dragon that I absolutely loved. As a side note, this post doubles as an official, 5-alarm, all-hands-on-deck Merch Alert. I snagged the above pictured t-shirt just a few minutes after they concluded “Broadway,” and I was not the only one clamoring for one. I suggest grabbing yours at the earliest opportunity, as they appear to be too fly to last long. And even though iTunes technically has an infinite number of Hell Dragon downloads left in stock, I encourage springing into action on that front as well, given how great the album is. Get a taste of the #snuffrock awaiting therein by previewing “Broadway” and “St. Simons” below.
Black Girls — “Broadway” [Spotify/iTunes]
Black Girls — “St. Simons” [Spotify/iTunes]
So this past Friday night, I spun at a super exclusive club. So exclusive that only two people were allowed in. I bet you’re dying to know which club it was, right? OK, OK, I’ll tell you, but you can’t tell ANYBODY. It was… my living room. That’s right, the two people in attendance were me and Mrs. You Hear That, who was sleeping peacefully on the couch the entire time. Sounds bumpin’, huh? Awww yeah! Because my set was so underground, I wanted to share some (11, to be exact) of the tunes we — OK, I — listened to while we — OK, I — watched college basketball. If you want to consider this a basketball playlist, go right ahead. Just know that it has nothing to do with basketball and would probably ruin even the most well-intentioned Final Four watch party. Just for fun, in spite of my sub-par photography skills (Glare? What glare?), I snapped pictures of all the records I played. What can I say? I’m a sucker for album art. Hope you enjoy!
My introduction to the Head and the Heart came courtesy of an RVA Magazine interview with drummer Tyler Williams, who took a leap of faith a few years back by moving from Richmond to Seattle to join the group. He did so at the suggestion of another former Richmond resident, Jonathan Russell, who is half of the band’s founding partnership (he also happens to be a former high school friend of Williams’). File what I’m about to say under “Small and Mostly Meaningless Coincidences,” but I read this article in the midst of my own westward journey, aboard my very first cross-continental flight, bound for Portland. As tenuous as that connection may have been, I was pretty damn excited to see what the west coast was like, and reading about these fine Virginia gents heading west made me feel adventurous as well (so much so that I bought the 7-inch single of “Down In The Valley” while in Portland, even though I had no idea what it sounded like).
Reliving that adventurousness is one reason I was so excited about heading to the National this Wednesday evening to see the Head and the Heart in person (another reason being that Richmond’s outstanding Black Girls was one of the two opening acts — more to come on their performance in a separate post). And there was so much to love about the headlining set — singer and violin player Charity Rose Thielen’s impressive voice and magnetic personality won the crowd over completely, and Russell playing a solo acoustic tune to kick off the encore was a treat — but it was the last song of the night that best illustrated why I love the Head and the Heart so much.