Studio 1784 / Blog

This Saturday: The Triumphant Resurrection of Run for Cover

It’s taken three years, but the beloved benefit show Run for Cover is coming back to the Black Cat this Sat. July 25.

The raucous event, which ran each year from 2002-2012, morphed from a group of pun-friendly local musicians crowding in original organizer Joe Halladay’s Falls Church basement to perform famous covers to an annual concert at the Cat. Run for Cover went from cult favorite to sold-out success and eventually became a benefit concert, with proceeds going to Fort Reno’s concert series or Girls Rock! DC, a summer camp that teaches girls and young women to play in bands and grow their own self-worth.

Black Hills frontman and Black Cat sound engineer Aaron Estes was the brains and brawn behind Run for Cover’s comeback. A six-year Run for Cover veteran with the best Daft Punk band the show had ever seen, Estes has been itching for its return since the last iteration in 2012. Estes and his pals found themselves wistfully pondering what bands they’d want to cover and what punny names they’d use if Run for Cover ever came back. “It’s the thing my fellow bandmates and my friends who are musicians...it ends up being a default conversation sometimes,” Estes says.

Abstract conversations turned serious at the beginning of this year, when Estes reached out to Halladay to discuss a potential resurrection. Halladay gave Estes and his crew a reluctant go-ahead to plan their own cover show, and the two began texting each other about what the revitalized benefit show would be called.

“We had names like In Living Cover, Cover Me Bad,” Estes says. “And I think [Halladay] just started to get excited again, and he was like, ‘Alright, we’re back in. Call it Run for Cover. Let’s do it.’”

With Halladay’s blessing, everything else fell into place. The Black Cat booked the show for July 25, cover bands old and new started returning Halladay and Estes’ calls, setlists were drafted, and Girls Rock! DC was selected as the show's beneficiary.

Run for Cover’s decade-long stretch inspired lively shows and some highly creative puns for band names (watch a treasure trove of YouTube videos for evidence). Estes wants to bring back the same DIY vibes, but with a little more organization and planning. “One thing we’re trying to make sure we do right is being efficient. There have been a couple years where the stage managing hasn’t been as good; the show has run super late,” he says. This year, the first band will go on at 8:45 p.m., which Estes hopes will get the audience out on time. “While it does have this off the rails feel to the night—it’s like this kind of wild and crazy party feel—we’re trying to keep it just so it doesn’t get out of control and devolve into this 2 a.m. thing where people are like, ‘What the heck’s going on?’”

So far, Run for Cover’s lineup is full of legacy performers. Tereu Tereu’s Ryan Little, a sporadic Washington City Paper contributor whose covers of the Who’s tunes have been a Run for Cover fan favorite, will perform again. Short Lives and We Were Pirates’ Kate Rears Burgman will perform as Hirvana with Alexia Kauffman from local Americana band the Torches. These bands place a premium on wordplay: Depëche Motörhead, Le Cougre, Van Schleibaum, and Estes’ own What About Bob? are highlights.

With a still-growing lineup, Estes says he’s preparing for any stunts Run for Cover’s impulsive creativity might inspire. A 2005 Duran Duran cover band, aptly named the Girls on Film, surprised audience members when former Black Cat general manager Bernie Wandel showed up wearing only a saxophone.

Estes says he can’t imagine any of Saturday's bands doing something quite so shocking, but he's open to surprises. “There has kind of [been] one curveball [that's] come at us within the last couple days,” Estes says. “Never mind, we’ll leave that one shrouded in secrecy.”

Beres Hammond at Howard Theatre

For the better part of five decades, Jamaica’s Beres Hammond has captivated reggae fans with his pleading, syllable-stretching R&B delivery. The veteran crooner usually lends his soulful style to romantic tunes known in Jamaica as lovers rock, but he’s also testified about social justice on smooth tunes like “Truth Will Live On” and “Putting Up Resistance.” On his last release, the 2012 double album One Love, One Life, he devoted one disc to love songs and one to tales of struggle. Using a calm, measured tone on the flattery-filled verses of “In My Arms,” Hammond duets with a female singer, pouring on the passionate melisma during the chorus and asking her to put her head on his shoulder. The phrasing might sound old-fashioned, but Hammond’s gift for catchy melodies and his band’s measured accompaniment keep his music from feeling retro. In a Jamaican music world filled with flashy, motor-mouthed dancehall rappers and purist Rastafarians, Hammond presents a sleek alternative. Beres Hammond performs at 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. $39.50–$75. (202) 803-2899. thehowardtheatre.com.

Charles Bradley at 9:30 Club in DC

When Charles Bradley sings “Victim of Love,” the title track on his latest album, he makes the emotional point—about his affection for a woman who may never return to him—very clear, stretching out the word “victim” to multiple syllables. The gritty-voiced singer has earned his right to cry. Abandoned by his mother at eight months, spending his teenage years sleeping in New York City subway cars, and later discovering that his brother was murdered, Bradley has survived some deep, dark hard times. But thanks in part to his sister taking him to see the Godfather of Soul at the Apollo Theater, Bradley has also found an outlet for his pain. Singing first with a broom as a mic, Bradley later graduated to clubs, and did a James Brown–influenced act at night while working as a cook by day. He was discovered by the R&B revivalists at Daptone Records, which (with affiliated label Dunham) has released two confessional and critically acclaimed albums from Bradley. Recent tracks now include a dash of hope, demonstrating what perseverance and a little love can accomplish.

Go-Go and Classical, Together at Last

At some point, orchestra directors got it into their heads that the way to attract younger audiences was to perform collaborative concerts with hip, youthful bands like Aerosmith, Scorpions, and Styx. Cut them some slack for being a bit behind; it’s the thought that counts. They may not save classical music, but classical-rock collaborations are by now a permanent fixture, providing a money-making niche for both symphonic pops programming and pop stars with symphonic pretentions. And it's nice to see the trend expanding beyond the confines of dinosaur rock. Composer/director Liza Figueroa Kravinsky has her own uniquely local spin on classical crossover with the Go-Go Symphony, which she founded last year. With 20 members, it’s more of an ensemble than full orchestra, so they rely on the Capital City Symphony to provide a string section—given their focus, it’s no surprise they are heavier on brass and percussion. She says they've been well received so far by both classical and go-go crowds, though their biggest test will be this Friday, when they open for Trouble Funk. In the longer term, much like The Roots, they’re hopeful calling themselves a symphonic orchestra will be a way to sneak go-go into venues in which it’s been banned for "security reasons." Figueroa Kravinsky spoke with Arts Desk in preparation for tomorrow’s 9:30 Club show.

Musicians, Does Your Website Matter ?

An online place you can call “home” You probably feel like you have a ton of “sites” online. You’re on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and handfuls of other places you barely remember creating an account for. Yep, you’re out there. And so is everyone else. Their profiles and feeds look just like yours, because you signed up for the same service, were given the same general design/settings options, and you all follow the same rules and guidelines, because you’re part of a community. And that’s totally cool. Services like that are integral to a musician’s success these days, and they’re absolutely useful and beneficial. But what these services are NOT is something that is wholly yours, and maybe more importantly, something you’ve taken the time to create, maintain, and take pride in. And that matters. A lot. Why you need to have your own band website Ask anyone who writes about music, books bands, or works in the “industry.” Sure, you might not be completely written off if you don’t have your own site, but you’re going to be taken much more seriously if you do, and you’re going to build a bigger email list, see more social traction, and get more gigs. Here’s why: * Having your own site makes you look professional. It shows that you put in the extra effort and are taking your career (or at least your music) seriously. * People want a one-stop destination. If I’m checking out a new band, I hit their website first. It’s the easiest way to get a quick overview of what they’re about, where else they’re active (through links to social sites), and to sign up for a mailing list if I’m feeling intrigued enough. * You are at the center of the experience. Along those same lines, a standalone website is really the only place a band or artist can effectively display their “brand.” Other sites may let you mess around with color schemes and other elements, but your own site is the only place where people can get the full experience of you and your work. * Your own site gives you total control, meaning you never have to worry about whether or not people are actually seeing your updates, or if they’re getting lost in the shuffle. Anything you post will be right there until you don’t want them to be. * Social media platforms come and go. While website styles may change, having your own site isn’t going to go out of style. I tried to tell this to the tons of bands who pressed up their CDs a few years back with their Myspace URL on them, but they wouldn’t listen. Think they’re still updating that page? Nah. Think they might still have those CDs for sale? Probably. What do you think? Do you have your own site? If so, how has it helped you? Don’t have your own site? Why not? Let us know in the comments! Create a professional musician website in minutes with HostBaby. Try it FREE for 30 days!

5 tips to turn your next single into a big hit

A recent post on MusicThinkTank by Lukas Camenzind takes a look at what made the song “Thrift Shop” by CD Baby artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis such a huge success, selling over 7 million copies (one of the best-selling singles in years). The article is called “How to Score the Next BIG Hit.” Check out the full article for all the details, but I’ll summarize his main points below. 1. Don’t be married to your first single — “Thrift Shop” was the 5th single off the album The Heist. Once it blew up, listeners went back and gave new life to those older singles. As Lukas says: “Release and promote a series of individual songs. And: If it’s not a hit, switch. Don’t keep pushing a song that’s not getting any traction on its own. Keep releasing new songs until one catches on.” 2. Be different — “Thrift Shop” goes against many hip-hop grains. It’s memorable, in part, because it does surprising things within and with the confines of a genre. So, don’t try to sound like someone else. Be yourself. 3. Have fun, and lots of it — Do you remember the first time you heard “Thrift Shop?” Probably put a smile on your face, because there’s humor in the lyrics and production. And we love to share funny things online. 4. Get anthemic — As Lukas says: “Thrift Shop is not just a song – it’s an anthem. Why? Because the song is a symbol that captures the ACTUAL cultural phenomenon of the cash-strapped hipster (by choice or not), on the hunt for vintage clothes.” What current cultural phenomenon is missing an anthem? Write it! 5. Have visuals, will travel — The lyrics are visually evocative, thus providing the perfect setup for an accompanying music video — which has now been viewed on YouTube almost half a BILLION times. So the lesson here is simple: make great videos.

SK Flexes his M.O.J.O

Virginia artist SK blew some fresh air into the column this week. The rapper, producer, and songwriter delivered a simple, crisp new video for “M.O.J.O” from his promising Rock N’ Roll Voodoo mixtape. Like the rest of the project, "M.O.J.O" is produced by SK, who easily rides an infectious beat heavy with 808s. The song begins with a horn-heavy sample over synths; there’s also another sample in the background that’s reminiscent of an old BET commercial. SK opens the song aggressively: "Now I ain’t never been a coke dealer/But that don’t mean I ain’t never peddled dope, nigga/Between them black and white keys I found hope, nigga."

Best Local County for Music (Prince George’s County)

While Montgomery County is planning a “Task Force on the Night Time Economy” to study ways to reinvigorate its music and after-hours scenes, Prince George’s County has quietly become the best place to see live music outside of D.C.—without organizing a single committee meeting to serve that goal. The county’s liquor board has shut down establishments linked to violence, but the venues that remain offer a diverse, vital set of options. The large Hyattsville nightclub Cococabana has been booking a who’s-who in Latin entertainment, from the reggaeton of Zion & Lennox to the salsa music of El Gran Combo. In rock, DJs at the University of Maryland’s WMUC have been busy booking indie-pop gigs at a house in College Park called The Cottage. The intimate Harmony Hall in Fort Washington has featured old-school soul from the likes of local girl group The Jewels. The Crossroads in Bladensburg offers reggae dancehall, while go-go lives at the Tradewinds in Temple Hills and other spots. Not impressed by D.C.’s live music scene? Try crossing the city’s eastern bo

Best (Underground) DMV Mixtape-Shy Glizzy, Fxck Rap

In the classroom of DMV hip-hop, Shy Glizzy began as a disruptive presence. He was all about Twitter beef, excited to make enemies and plant flags. By the December release of his mixtape, Fxck Rap, Glizzy had cultivated a fanbase of fiercely loyal young kids, who now trumpet their fandom with T-shirts emblazoned with “Glizzy Gang.” It’s easy to understand his popularity: Fxck Rap is amoral, paranoid, and deeply aware of the threats that lurk close by. Glizzy raps about his Uncle Stu’s cocaine problem, his run-ins with violence, and his bad behavior at school (he claims to have been booted from four D.C. schools and one in Maryland). Throughout the tape’s lean 12 tracks, his choruses take the shape of simple and frequently downcast slogans, and the beats are from obscure dudes—Nard N B, AllSteezy, Rico Beats, Mayo, Basement Beatz—that paint a haunting backdrop for Glizzy’s autobiographical blues and toasts to binge balling. Beneath it all, there’s a ring of desperation: Glizzy’s father was murdered at 19, and Glizzy recently turned 20.

Wale, Folarin

At his core, Wale is a DMV hip-hop outsider—born to Nigerian parents and schooled in Maryland, he was a good kid raised on big-budget rap albums from the late ’90s. But he was never high-fashion enough for the jet setters, and packaged into Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group, he’s the least threatening member this side of Omarion. With Folarin, Wale loses the sulking attitude of recent work and opens up about his major-label gaffes, calling himself “a poet that adjusted poorly to cameras.” That line is rapped on the soul-sampling, Jake One–produced “Limitless,” which exemplifies one of many moments on the 21-track tape where Wale finds his pace and utterly destroys. (His spoken-word, for-the-ladies bullshit is relegated to only one song, “Bad.”) On the Rick Ross–assisted “The Show,” Wale’s cool, raspy vocals sound the best that they ever have; he’s come a long way since his 2008 breakthrough, The Mixtape About Nothing. With “Get Me Doe,” Wale’s 2Chainz and Beat Billionaire collabo, he pens Maryland a veritable get-up, stand-up anthem. By the time he calls himself the “voice of the city” on the tape-closing “Never Never Freestyle,” it’s difficult to disagree. —Ramon Ramirez