Concert Review: Ben Ottewell, September 24, Drake Hotel

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During his time in Gomez, Ben Ottewell has always stood out among the three singers in the band. Even when he wasn’t taking the lead, his distinctive voice with its gravelly tone added much to their sound and was often used almost tactically, deployed during a chorus or at the moment when it would have the greatest effect in a song. It’s hardly surprising then that out of all his bandmates, he’d be the one to branch out into a solo career.

With three solo albums under his belt, including his latest,  A Man Apart, Ottewell took to the stage at the Drake Underground on Sunday night and played a set made up of numbers from those albums alongside a healthy serving of Gomez songs. While new songs like “Watcher” and the title track from the new album were well received, the biggest crowd response definitely came for Gomez songs such as “Bring It On,” “Free To Run,” “Rhythm And Blues Alibi,” and especially set closer “Tijuana Lady.”

A friend at the show on Sunday described Ottewell’s voice as a whispered scream. It’s true, he’s got that raspy voice and he can absolutely belt it out when he needs to, but at the same time it’s also a very delicate, soft voice in many ways. That softer side becomes even more apparent when it’s just the man and his guitar alone on stage.

Concert Review: GoGo Penguin, September 23, Lincoln Hall

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Preface: The first three paragraphs of this review are self-centered narrative. To read the rave review of GoGo Penguin, please feel free to skip to the 4th paragraph.

Embarrassing fact: I haven’t been to a show in 9 months. 9 months! I could have had a baby! I could have traveled around the world! I could have fled the USA to escape our new political regime (but Ricky wouldn’t agree to marry me so I couldn’t. Thanks for nothing Ricky.) Did I? No. Nothing as exciting as any of that. My explanation (not an excuse by any means) is simply the boring details of every day life mingled with a move from the 202 to the 312 (i.e. DC to Chicago).

So I’ve been in Chicago – nervously wondering how to “redebut” myself to the concert scene – meanwhile not making any significant progress or ticket purchases (indecision for the fail!). Then, Friday, the answer came from above. And by “above” I mean from my 6’2″ concert buddy who moved to Chicago from DC several years ago and has kindly taken me under his wing since my move. His simple text: I know a great band, GoGo Penguin, is coming through Lincoln Hall Saturday. Want to join?

I must admit I didn’t say yes right away – I was nervous! What if I hated it? I went through all the things in my mind that I didn’t love about concerts: late set times, overly chatty bands, crappy venues, bad track selection – the list went on and on. But… what the heck? After a few minutes of nervous snacking (I’ve fallen into a bad Frito habit since moving to Chicago) I texted: Yes. Send. Done. Best decision ever.

GoGo Penguin was phenomenal. The timely and scruffy-but-well-groomed trio hailing from the UK took the stage right around 10 PM after their delightful opener (Mattson 2) finished a lovely set. Double bassist Nick Blacka played a perfect MC role – graciously thanking the appreciative Chicago crowd for hosting the trio’s first visit to the Windy City and introducing drummer Rob Turner and pianist Chris Illingworth. They diplomatically fielded Manchester versus Real Madrid taunts and entertained the audience’s banter just long enough to be polite before always returning the focus to the prize of the night: the music. GoGo Penguin delivers an amazing mix of traditional jazz with acoustic flare. The balance between the three instruments is always impeccable, keeping the listener on his or her toes just enough while also providing a relaxing, almost hypnotic beat. I honestly don’t know how these three jive so well – you’d think it would take endless hours of precise practice – but the feeling of improvisation and unique composition is palpable in each piece. I loved it. Everyone loved it. It’s hard to pick a favorite track – the band’s newest album Man Made Objects is a masterpiece and their other albums are equally as fantastic. If I were to recommend one or two tracks for the new listener, it would be “Protest” or “All Res” – but I’d urge you to explore the band’s library and definitely catch a show.

No excuses.

Concert Review: Scorpions, Megadeth, September 22, Budweiser Stage

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A late September show at an outdoor amphitheatre can often mean that you’ll be bundled up in layers, trying your hardest to keep from freezing, yet some unseasonably warm weather for this time of year meant that the Scorpions show at the Budweiser Stage felt more like the middle of summer. The heat didn’t deter some members of the band from wearing leather pants though – they are in a German heavy metal band after all.

Megadeth started things off with a bit of a greatest hits set, delivering classics such as “Sweating Bullets,” “Hangar 18,” “Peace Sells,” and “Symphony Of Destruction” during their roughly hour long set before the headliners took the stage. While Scorpions already had the crowd on their side, they threw in a bit of pandering for good measure, flashing a Canadian flag backdrop onto the screen early on in the night and it made me wonder if they do this for every country they play in. Do they have another version that features silhouettes of the band playing in front of say, the Uzbekistani flag or do they just get really excited about playing Canada? I was also left wondering why singer Klaus Meine pulled out a handful of drumsticks and just started tossing them into the crowd while they played “The Zoo.” To be fair, he did later use some of these sticks to play the cowbell, but it still seemed kind of odd for him to just start throwing a seemingly endless supply of drumsticks out there, especially when I thought for a second that he was pulling them out from inside of his jacket.

Speaking of drums, one of the highlight of the night was seeing new drummer Mikkey Dee, formerly of Motörhead, launch into an impressive drum solo right after the band played a cover of his former band’s “Overkill,” a solo that featured his drum kit rising high above the stage on a hydraulic lift. Other highlights of the night included “Blackout,” “Big City Nights,” “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” and that sweet whistling intro to “Winds Of Change. The band also played a few numbers off their latest album Return To Forever, including set opener “Going Out With A Bang.”  While that title (and the fact that, in some form, these guys have been playing together for around 50 years – yeah, they’re no spring chickens) would seem to suggest that this could be the last Scorpions tour, I am reminded that they pretty much announced that they’d be calling it quits a few years back and that didn’t seem to stick, so we’ll take it with a grain of salt.

Concert Review: Coast Modern, Salt Cathedral, September 22, U Street Music Hall

Posted on by Celeste in Concerts | Leave a comment


What do you call a surf rock band with a big splash of reggae, a tiny pinch of hip hop, and just a dash of Tenacious D silliness? You call them Coast Modern. The LA based duo came to DC on Friday to play a sold out show at U Street Music Hall.

The night started out with Salt Cathedral, a Colombian-born, NY-based global pop duo. The twosome might have been small but they were mighty in their stage presence. Lead singer Juli, rocking a red bandana with some kind of towering bow, crooned to the audience while Nico maneuvered his way around a guitar and a synth, creating alternately ethereal, catchy, and mellow sounds that buoyed the crowd along. The clear highlight of the set was a rollicking rendition of “Say My Name” that was very enthusiastically taken up by the crowd.

Next up was headliner Coast Modern. The main duo, Luke Atlas and Coleman Trapp, were joined onstage by a drummer and bassist, and bounced, hammed, and rocked their way through their 2017 self-titled debut album. Clear crowd favorites were “Guru,” “Dive,” and “Hollow Life,” which all became enthusiastic sing-alongs immediately. The group has an interesting mix of dark, introspective songs mixed with feel good, silly tracks (take a listen to “Cute”, literally just a three and a half minute ode to a cute girl including the lyrics “I choose you like a Pokemon.” Another gem from “Guru” is “Got some scruff on. Gotta shave it. Get my diet on. No more eating bacon.”) The group looked the part of the amalgam of genres they embodied, with the lead singer sporting a head of beachy-blond-wavy hair, the guitarist looking super clean cut and crisp, and the bassist wearing a Bob Marley tee (but interestingly looking like Jack White from the neck up). Whatever unique mixture the group has going on they make it work, and the band makes for a delightful Friday night.