Tag Archive | howard theatre

The Indie Artist Edition

flyer-goapele-wayna-howard-theatreLast week I took advantage of a Goldstar deal and went to see Goapele. I actually had been tracking several concerts this month to see if they ultimately became Goldstar deals but only one came to fruition. As I vowed that 2013 will be a year (still a real struggle) of rebuilding. I have been trying to save money. This means an over reliance on outings that cost less than $20. Despite vocal complainers, I actually like the Howard Theater. It’s pretty, easy to get to and sounds good, especially on the second floor. The sucky things about the Howard – service and food – can be advantages as often you can skip the $10 minimum because the servers forget about you, lol.

I got there promptly as intended to miss the opening act. I’ve heard her before at other DC events and I am not a fan of her voice. I have a mental block against high-pitched nasally singing voices. In fact the only other singer with this style of singing I can think of is Ayo. That is how much of a block exists.

Goapele was in great voice. However, she needed backup singers. I hate when performers don’t have backup singers. As much local talent exists, she could have employed some talented locals to back her up for the night. It was really obvious when she sang my favorite song by her, My First Love. The recorded version has this swelling background scatting that was sorely missed live. I remember I saw Ne-Yo at the Essence Music Festival eons ago and he didn’t have backup singers. I was shocked. He was a major R & B artist at the time, what was he thinking? My other complaint was that Goapele ran all of her songs together. I don’t really think her songs sound a lot alike as some artists do. So the lack of a pause or suitable transition was a bit jarring. I get that she might not be one that chats with the audience or provides little talky interludes, but a simple, “And now…” would have helped.

Oddly, I’ve always thought that Alice Smith had this unique, smoky rocker chick voice that I couldn’t place. However, on this night I felt that Goapele and she sounded eerily similar on some songs. As an aside, I went to the Hyattsville Arts Festival that weekend and the acoustic stool (not really a stage) had another singer that sounded like both Goapele and Alice. I started to scream, “Change honey, you are in for a difficult road.” Some voices are extremely popular with the masses and that list is very narrow, lol. For another aside, Britney Spears’ recorded voice is nothing like her actual singing voice, which is why she lip syncs so much. I read that in an article once and it blew my mind. The shaping that occurs in the record industry is a lot.

Back to Goapele, I did enjoy the concert despite my quibbles. I still think she could benefit from some old-school Motown stage coaching, but I think this of almost all independent artists that I see. My theory is that you will make the majority of your living from stage shows so you need to make them as electrifying as possible to ensure people keep coming back for more.

The Overambitious Edition

Running a bit late, but here goes. I had multiple plans for this weekend, but the snow and a headache reduced my packed weekend from 5 to 2 events.

Jose James at the Howard Theater

Jose James at the Howard Theater

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing Jose James at the remarkably frigid Howard Theater. Seriously, the place was freezing. People wrapped themselves in coats and scarves. Growing up in Michigan I was always taught that if you bundle up in your coat indoors, what will you do when it’s 20 degrees or more colder outdoors? Therefore, I never walk around in outerwear (a sweater or shawl only) no matter how cold it is indoors. And really, is it every 24 degrees inside like it was that day outside.

But back to the show. I admit that I am not familiar with Jose James’ music. I spent the last few years not discovering new music, but revisting old artists. This has been a great experience musically but has placed me woefully behind the curve on current non-ubiquitous artists. However, my friends love him and the concert was only $18 due to a wonderful Goldstar deal, so I was happy to purchase a ticket. I could not quite sing along, but the songs were, lacking an action verb, amazing. I actually dislike dinner concert venues, because I prefer to face the stage not look over my shoulder at the performer. Plus, the tables were too close together and we didn’t have much breathing room. But as the night wore on, I realized that the set-up worked. James approaches his jazz-infused songs quite slowly and methodically, letting his music seep into your consciousness.  Also, James has a unique ability to let his band shine and he may often stand slightly off stage as they perform. If warmer, the show with its crammed seating and intimate setting would lend itself to a throwback 50’s Harlem Jazz club, a rare occurrence in this modern time.

Changing America exhibit at National Museum of American History

Changing America exhibit at National Museum of American History

Next, that weekend, a friend invited me to a group outing to visit the Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the  March on Washington, 1963 exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Another admittance, I am not fond of history as an academic discipline. Current, last hundred years or so, history is easy. Television, newspapers and magazines capture and disseminate information (hopefully) as they happen as with the March on Washington. Prior to that the information gets fuzzy. Very fuzzy.

Think back to all of the rancor about the recent Lincoln film. History scholars were upset that the film depicts Lincoln as a great emancipator when his reasons for freeing slaves weren’t all together altruistic. Personally, I don’t care if Lincoln didn’t like or respect African-Americans as the historians claim as long as we were freed. That’s where the split materializes. People have this need for everyone to have pure hearts and actions. I don’t require heroes and heroines, just people who make the right decisions when necessary.

The saying goes that history is written by the victors. There are pockets of history that is written, stories that are written but not shared, and events that are distorted. Seeing these artifacts—Lincoln’s hat, Frederick Douglass’ letters, official records–makes history more tangible, but motives and thoughts will always be missing, especially without diaries or journals. The visit spurred an hours-long conversation about activism, race and the upcoming generation. Not that we solved the world’s problems, but critical thinking is always a great thing. And maybe that’s what history can provide.