Carolina Chocolate Drops

Carolina Chocolate Drops

David Wax Museum, Birds of Chicago

Tue, April 8

Doors: 7:00 pm

9:30 Club

Washington, DC

$25

Sold Out

Carolina Chocolate Drops - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
Carolina Chocolate Drops


In early 2012, Grammy award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops released their studio album Leaving Eden (Nonesuch Records) produced by Buddy Miller. The traditional African-American string band's album was recorded in Nashville and featured founding members Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons, along with multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins and cellist Leyla McCalla, already a familiar presence at the group's live shows. With Flemons and McCalla now concentrating on solo work, the group's 2014 lineup will feature two more virtuosic players alongside Giddens and Jenkins - cellist Malcolm Parson and multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett -- illustrating the expansive, continually exploratory nature of the Chocolate Drops' music. Expect a new disc from this quartet in 2015.

The Chocolate Drops got their start in 2005 with Giddens, Flemons and fiddle player Justin Robinson, who amicably left the group in
2011. The Durham, North Carolina-based trio would travel every Thursday night to the home of old-time fiddler and songster Joe
Thompson to learn tunes, listen to stories and, most importantly, to jam. Joe was in his 80s, a black fiddler with a short bowing style
that he inherited from generations of family musicians. Now he was passing those same lessons onto a new generation. When the three students decided to form a band, they didn’t have big plans. It was mostly a tribute to Joe, a chance to bring his music back out of the house again and into dancehalls and public places.

With their 2010 Nonesuch debut, Genuine Negro Jig—which garnered a Best Traditional Folk Album Grammy—the Carolina
Chocolate Drops proved that the old-time, fiddle and banjo-based music they’d so scrupulously researched and passionately
performed could be a living, breathing, ever-evolving sound. Starting with material culled from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, they sought to freshly interpret this work, not merely recreate it, highlighting the central role African-Americans played in shaping our nation’s popular music from its beginnings more than a century ago. The virtuosic trio’s approach was provocative and revelatory.
Their concerts, The New York Times declared, were “an end-to-end display of excellence... They dip into styles of southern black
music from the 1920s and ’30s—string- band music, jug-band music, fife and drum, early jazz—and beam their curiosity outward.
They make short work of their instructive mission and spend their energy on things that require it: flatfoot dancing, jug playing,
shouting.”

Rolling Stone Magazine described the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ style as “dirt-floor-dance electricity.” If you ask the band, that is
what matters most. Yes, banjos and black string musicians first got here on slave ships, but now this is everyone’s music. It’s okay to
mix it up and go where the spirit moves.
David Wax Museum - (Set time: 8:15 PM)
David Wax Museum


"Suz and I started this band as friends," says David Wax, "but now we’re married and have a child and have our family on the road with us. The stakes are different."

Those stakes are what lie at the heart of David Wax Museum's fourth and boldest studio album to date, Guesthouse (to be released October 16 on Thirty Tigers). It's the sound of a band reconciling the accountability of marriage and parenthood with the uncertainty and challenges of life on the road; of coming to terms with the limitations of the "folk" tag that launched their career and pushing past it into uncharted musical territory; of reimagining their entire approach in the studio to capture the magic and the bliss of their live show. In typical David Wax Museum fashion, the songs on Guesthouse are simplistic and sophisticated, elegant and plainspoken all at once. Rather than succumbing to the weight of the newfound responsibilities that landed on their doorstep, the band has leaned into the challenges to capture a brilliant portrait of the messy beauty of it all.

The roots of David Wax Museum stretch back nearly a decade, and all the way from New England to Mexico. As a student at Harvard, Wax began traveling south of the border to study and immerse himself in the country's traditional music and culture. Back in Boston, he met fiddler/singer Suz Slezak, whose love of traditional American and Irish folk music fused with Wax's Mexo-Americana into a singular, energetic blend that captivated audiences and critics alike. Their 2010 breakout performance at the Newport Folk Festival made them the most talked-about band of the weekend, with NPR hailing them as "pure, irresistible joy." They released a trio of albums that earned escalating raves everywhere from SPIN and Entertainment Weekly (who described them as sounding "like Andrew Bird with a Mexican folk bent") to the New York Times and The Guardian (which dubbed the music "global crossover at its best"). They earned an invitation to return to Newport, this time on the main stage, as well as dates supporting The Avett Brothers, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Buena Vista Social Club, and more.

It was on the road over these past few years as the band and audiences grew, though, that Wax could feel their exuberant live show evolving beyond its formative roots.

"I felt empowered to start the band because of my time in Mexico studying folk music," Wax explains. "In Boston, the term 'Americana' or 'folk' was just this catchall to describe what everyone was doing. It was helpful to use that to talk about our music at first, but we've found that our hearts feel most shaken, and the band fires on all cylinders, when we're putting on a rock show. What we've tried to retain about our folk origins is the warm sound of people playing acoustic instruments together in a room. But, by embracing more of an indie rock approach, we've colored this record with synthesizers, layers of percussion, and adventurous sonic processing. The mental shift of it helped us feel like we could do anything we wanted. There were no rules that we had to follow in terms of what was 'authentic.'"

Part of the inspiration for the shift was the presence of guitarist and producer Josh Kaufman, who sat in with the band on tour and added new sounds and textures that the they'd never experimented with before. When it came time to record Guesthouse, the band knew he had to helm it in the studio.

"The songs entered this Technicolor, 3D world with Josh," explains Wax. "Aside from his contributions to the arrangements, he really wanted us all to be in a room playing the music together live so that the groove would be central. We brought in two other drummers, and there was a real focus on having as much percussion happening at the same time as possible. We gravitate towards that naturally because of the Mexican influences, all of the syncopations and 6/8 dance rhythms and the energy that that gives us, but we really embraced it this time around."

That emphasis on groove sucks you in from the opening seconds of the kickoff track, "Every Time Katie," a whispered come-on that roils and pulses like an anxious heartbeat and features gorgeous call and response vocals from David and Suz. It's followed by "Dark Night Of The Heart," which pushes the sonic envelope further than any previous David Wax Museum track, blending chamber strings, psychedelic vocal filters, explosive drums, and swirling synthesizers.

Written partially in Mexico and partially in western Massachusetts, the lyrics on Guesthouse find Wax writing with more direct, personal honesty than ever before.

"I had felt really reluctant to talk about personal stuff in the past," says Wax. "I was writing personally, but there were lots of things I was obfuscating or filtering through a character to protect myself from putting too much out there. But it got to a point where it was taking a lot more energy than it was worth to maintain that privacy. When we had our daughter, Calliope, it felt like this sudden release because talking and singing about our lives was becoming more and more integral to what we were doing as artists and who we were as people."

The title track, which draws on several traditional Mexican songs for musical inspiration, is a tongue-in-cheek reflection on the life of a traveling musician hunting for a free place to crash, while "Lose Touch With The World" faces down the reality of living a life far removed from that of your friends and family, and “Young Man” is an earnest musing on growing older.

"It's about being a parent and coming to terms with what your ambition is," explains Wax. "What part of that is essential to who you are, and what part can you let go of? We have to check in with ourselves and ask what we're doing and why we're doing it more often now because we're not just us putting ourselves through the mental and physical sacrifices of touring anymore," he continues. "Now Calliope is going through it with us, and Suz's dad and my cousin Jordan are going through it with us on the road. And because we're constantly checking and making sure we're doing this for the right reasons, that we feel honest in our hearts about it, I think that's brought new life to what we're doing and a new energy and a new level of commitment."

It's a sentiment brought beautifully to life on "Everything Changes," as Wax and Slezak sing, "Everything changes / when two becomes three." The song was written in response to all of the good-natured warnings about what having a child would mean for the couple, the freedom and sleep and sanity they might lose out on. Instead, they choose to focus on everything they've gained: a beautiful daughter, a stronger bond with their families and fans than ever before, and without a doubt, the most exciting album of their career. For David Wax Museum, the stakes may be higher, but that just means the rewards are even bigger.
Birds of Chicago - (Set time: 7:30 PM)
Birds of Chicago
Birds of Chicago is a collective based around JT Nero and Allison Russell. Whether touring as duo or with the full family band, the dynamic pair has emerged as one of the most compelling blends of new voices in North American Roots music.

After several years of enjoying collaboration, they released “Mountains/Forests”, in 2011, under the JT Nero banner, and tapped into the bewitching power of their voices together for an entire record. Featuring the musicians who would round out their performing ensemble, “The Clouds” and Michelle McGrath, an Ohioan singer and picker, the result was resounding critical raves from fans, press and radio alike.

Winning new fans on both side of the Atlantic inspired the creation of an official band and “Birds of Chicago’s” 1st album under the new name came out in October of 2012. The echoes of mountain gospel, street corner doo-wop and classic soul, accompanied by just a banjo and guitar, are haunting. Fired by a full band, it’s full tilt revival!

2013 was filled to the brim with more international touring, and they still found time to tie the knot, write new songs, and end 2013 with the release of a live record, “Live From Space,” and ring in New Year celebrating the birth of baby Ida Maeve!

Performance & touring highlights include: Canada’s acclaimed Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café, High Sierra Music Festival, Strawberry Music Festival, Hillside Music Festival, eTown, American River Music Festival, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Elephant Revival, Ragbirds and more.

Chicago & Montreal are their dual home bases, but really they’re “at home” on the road. Pick most any night and you’ll find them playing a festival, performing arts theater, amphitheater, pub, VFW hall, roller rink (they wish) or living room - their voices intertwined in songs of hope, despair, love…. and electric seahorses. And honey bee apocalypses. And ice cream. It’s familiar and strange stuff - the everyday and the magical. They won’t be hard to find.
Venue Information:
9:30 Club
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
http://930.com