Fall Music Preview: Top 5 Must-See Shows in the District

Although the end of summer is swiftly approaching and festival season is coming to a close, the DC concert scene is showing no signs of slowing down. To help make the difficult challenge of choosing which shows are worth the splurge, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 concerts that will certainly give you the best bang for your buck.

1. Bruce Springsteen: September 14 – Nationals Park

Critics and fans alike agree there is no live performer that compares to Bruce Springsteen. If you’ve always wanted to see him live, but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet – this is the tour to do it. During the second leg of his tour, Bruce typically eliminates most of his newer songs and focuses solely on the classics. Although tickets range anywhere from $150 to $500, Springsteen will surely put on a show that justifies every last penny. The rock legend’s concerts usually eclipse the three-hour mark, (he recently played a four-hour show in Europe.) Bottom line? Wear comfortable shoes!

2. Madonna: September 23 and 24 – Verizon Center

Fresh off her memorable halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVI and a series of headline-grabbing shows abroad, the undisputed Queen of Pop is finally bringing her MDNA tour to the the U.S., and the District is one of her first stops. The 53-year-old superstar still knows how to put on a show, and critics have hailed this tour is her most elaborate and entertaining to date. Expect lots of dancing, pyrotechnics, a state-of-the-art light show, and of course — a time-warping medley of her eighties classics. Based on her recent performances, you may even witness an intentional wardrobe malfunction. Madge will headline two nights at the Verizon Center and there are very few tickets remaining for both shows, so nab one before they’re gone! (Tickets range from $100-$400.)

3. Dr. Dog: November 2 – 9:30 Club

Indie rockers Dr. Dog have generated quite a buzz after the release of their sixth album, “Be the Void.” Known for combining psychedelic rock elements with Beatles-esque hooks and intricate vocal harmonies, Dr. Dog’s unique but familiar style will appeal to a variety of music lovers. The Philadelphia natives are all veteran performers, and their authentic eccentricity and charm makes for an entertaining live performance. These guys are quickly becoming the ‘next big thing’ in alternative music, so be sure to catch them at the intimate 9:30 Club, (tickets are $25,) while you still have the chance. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

4. The Who: November 13 – Verizon Center

The Who, one of the most iconic, influential rock bands of all-time are back on the road for what many expect to be the final tour of their career. The surviving members of the band — singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend — will perform the entirety of their classic 1973 album “Quadrophenia,” along with a selection of their most memorable hits. Tickets are still available and range anywhere between $50-$350. Don’t miss the legendary British rockers take the stage in what may be one of their final live performances.

5. Bob Dylan: November 20 – Verizon Center

Bob Dylan is an essential live experience for music lovers of every generation. With the impending release of his 35th studio album, “Tempest,” due out in September,  the folk icon recently embarked on a massive, 84-city nationwide tour, and DC will be one of the final stops of The Never Ending Tour 2012. Dylan will be joined on stage by former Dire Straits frontman, Mark Knopfler. The musical duo, who collaborated on 1979’s “Slow Train Coming,” and 1983’s “Infidels,” were well received by fans after touring Europe together last year and decided to perform side-by-side in the States for the second leg of the tour. Although it seems like Dylan has no interest in ceasing his live performances anytime soon, there will eventually come a day when the 71-year-old singer/songwriter lifts a guitar pick for the final time. Tickets go on sale later this month and will surely sell out quickly. Don’t miss out on the chance to see a living legend live in concert right here in the District.

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A Guide to Finding your Smithsonian

Whether you’ve been a DC Denizen your entire life or are a newbie to the District, its a safe bet that you haven’t been to all of the Smithsonians.  This wonderful (and did I mention, FREE) chain of museums spans the DC area and makes for a great Saturday or Sunday afternoon activity.  But with so many to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which to visit!  So we’ve have taken the liberty of reviewing a few to make the choice a little easier.

The American History Museum

Highlights: The American History museum boasts a HUGE selection of important pieces of our Nation’s History.  From the flag the Star Spangled Banner that inspired our national anthem, to the original muppets, this museum is full of interesting relics for the interested observer.  The museum also hosts the famed First Lady Inauguration gown collection, which is a definite must-see.

Downsides: Since D.C. is known for its history, this museum gets VERY crowded with tourists on the weekends.  The long lines and crowded exhibits do not make for an ideal museum experience.  Also, they recently removed Julia Childs’ kitchen for refurbishing, which is a bummer.

Best For: Sneaking out on a lunch break or visiting not during tourist season.  However, if you have visitors, it is also a very flexible museum: you can spend hours on each floor with a history buff, or just float in and glimpse the “Star Spangled Banner” with your less-interested folks.

Baby Cheetah!

National Zoo

Highlights: Located just North of the city, the zoo is a nice escape from the heart of D.C.  Obviously the pandas are a must-see, but the zoo also has lions, tigers, and, at the moment, baby cheetahs. Let me repeat, BABY CHEETAHS!  A little off the beaten path is the Jungle house, which is an exhibit designed to feel like walking through a jungle: complete with monkeys and birds dashing around overhead.

Downsides: The zoo gets very crowded, especially on nice days during the summer.  If lots of kids running around isn’t your thing, I would recommend skipping any Saturday or Sunday in June/July/August.  Also, it is a little outside the center of town, and a few blocks from a metro.  Lastly, its in a pretty touristy spot, so if you want to grab a bite to eat before or after, I would suggest walking toward either Metro.  The restaurants right out front are kind of pricey, and nothing special.

Best For: An afternoon with friends during non-tourist season.  The zoo also has a Zoo Lights festival in December, which is also free, and is a way to see the animals from a different perspective.  Also, the Zoo is great place to bring families.

Natural History Museum

Highlights: Most big cities have Natural History Museums, but as a Smithsonian, this one is kind of the king.  From lots of bones, to a live butterfly exhibit, to the Hope diamond, this museum has a number of must sees for the science and/or natural history buff. Don’t believe me?  You can check out their virtual tour. Also they have an IMAX theater, if that’s up your alley.

Downsides: The museum is not the easiest to navigate, its definitely worth asking for a map.  Also, its really large, which means it holds a lot, but it also takes a good chunk of time to see everything.

Best For: The location, right in the middle of the National Mall, and next to the American History Museum, makes it a great stop for a day of Smithsonian hopping.

Air and Space Museum

Highlights: There is at least one thing for everyone at the Air and Space Museum.  History buffs can see the actual 1903 Wright Flyer, and Charles Lindberg’s Spirit of St. Louis.  For the scientists, there is the Apollo 11 command module, Albert Einstein Planetarium and the chance to touch a moon rock!  And for thrill junkies, there is a flight simulator. The Air and Space museum also boasts an IMAX theater, so check out showtimes before your visit.

Downsides: The collection is so large, that it can be really intimidating.  Also, because a lot of the planes and satellites are hanging overhead, its a bit difficult to find which signs apply to which objects.  Also, this is another museum that gets very crowded during tourist season.

Best For: Finding your inner astronomist or pilot.  Its worth it to try to do the whole museum, but make sure you carve out a decent chunk of time.  I would recommend making it your first museum visit, so that your eyes don’t glaze over while you read all the crazy space facts.

This is NOT an exhaustive list.  If you’d like to see what other Smithsonians there are, mainly art ones, a list of all of them can be found here.

Which Smithsonian is your favorite?  Sound off in the comments!

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Review: Roger Waters at Verizon Center

Over three decades since its release, Pink Floyd bassist and lyricist, Roger Waters, has reignited the legendary live spectacle of the band’s wildly successful and equally influential concept album, “The Wall,” by performing the entirety of the record to sold-out crowds across the nation. Late last month, the awe-inspiring visual and musical masterpiece finally arrived in the District. Over 80,000 Pink Floyd fans of seemingly every age and demographic packed into the Verizon Center to witness the sheer spectacle of “The Wall,” fully prepared to be completely blown away.

A jaw-dropping, 40-foot-high “brick” wall served as the backdrop for Waters and his 11-piece band for the majority of the two-hour show. Waters and his ensemble played the critically-acclaimed album in its entirety, carefully replicating each note of the original recordings with flawless precision all while mesmerizing the crowd with vibrant, bold visuals and astounding pyrotechnics.

Creative differences and personality conflicts ultimately led Waters to leave Pink Floyd in the mid-1980s, and although he and his former bandmates have yet to reconcile, the English rock icon managed to find admirable replacements for every member of the band. David Gilmour’s vocals were performed by Robbie Wyckoff, and his voice complimented Waters’ infamous screams quite well. Guitarist Dave Kilminster had the difficult task of recreating Gilmour’s legendary solo on “Comfortably Numb,” — a feat which the newcomer completed flawlessly. During “Mother” Waters sang an unexpected but hauntingly beautiful duet with his younger, more tortured self – harmonizing with a live performance recorded nearly thirty years ago. 

Each performance was accompanied by a series of dazzling visuals projected across the enormous wall that spanned the entire width of the Verizon Center stage. The precision and technicality that went into the visuals was extremely impressive; as small, individual images filled each brick in the wall and faded in and out of view to creating various cohesive images that spanned the entirety of the wall.

When Waters and co. performed “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1,” a song in which the record’s protagonist (Pink) attempts to cope with his father’s death in World War II — a replica of a 1930’s combat plane soared above the crowd, crashed onto the stage and illuminated the arena with a shower of sparks. Simultaneously, individual images of casualties of war flashed on the wall creating an somber yet captivating visual montage.

During “Bring the Boys Back Home,” Waters and his ensemble disappeared behind the wall, presumably so the audience could focus their attention solely on the myriad images of poverty and famine that filled every brick of the wall. Onscreen quotes by Kafka and George Orwell flashed on the screen, and the song concluded with a chilling but memorable image of a starving African child in the center of the wall. 

In the show, 68-year-old Rogers certainly proved that he is not only a brilliant lyricist and talented musician, but he is also one of the most dynamic, captivating live performers of all-time. From floating balloon animals the size of a bus, to jaw-dropping pyrotechnics, “The Wall,” has undoubtedly secured its place in rock legendry as one of the most astonishing stage performances of all-time. However, the raw, introspective reaction each song evoked in the crowd illustrated the unparalleled emotional power this record still possesses even thirty years after its release, which, I found to be the most spectacular feat of all.

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Donna Drives DC

How did “Donna Does DC” turn into “Donna Drives DC?” Blame it on the rain. Literally. I had every intention of doing DC like the natives. I was going to park, take the train, and explore every crevice of DC, but the sky was gray and threatening to explode at any moment and I had to rethink. I decided to “drive dc.” Yes, it’s exactly how it sounds. Instead of doing an intimate tour of DC, I decided to explore DC in my car. I started at Georgetown University, then went to U-street, H-street, and then got lost trying to find my way out of the city. These pictures are not in chronological order, but they are grouped together to tell a story. All of these photos are taken from my car and I do not suggest that anyone try this.

This picture does not do the National Cathedral justice. The building is an amazing architectural feat.

This is part of a monument on Kenilworth Ave off of H St. in NE DC. On the opposite side of the street, there was an extension of this monument with three columns.

This is a mural off of H-street and 8 street NW.

This “piano cafe” on H-Street NE is beautifully and intentionally created.

I wanted to get a shot of Ben’s Chili Bowl because not only have I’ve never eaten there, I’d never even seen it before. This shot was pure luck. I only took pictures when I was at a red light and I was fortunate enough to have a red light directly in front of Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Even if you’re not doing a drive-through tour of DC, you can still appreciate the architecture of NW DC. It’s easy to see much has not changed since the 19th century. Everything is so elegantly designed.

I had to take a picture  of the Georgetown Theater at the intersection of O street and Wisconsin Ave, NW.

Here is Healy Hall, the most recognizable Georgetown University building. Go Hoyas!

For some reason, I did not realize that H-street and China Town are the same place.

Everything in and around China Town is beautiful.

If you have not passed under this arch, then you have not entered China Town.

My dream is to shop on Wisconsin Ave, but now I must settle for walking on Wisconsin Ave. and merely dreaming about patronizing Tiffany’s and Jimmy Choos.

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Washingtonian Center

“Eat at Joe’s.”

My whole reason for stumbling upon the Washingtonian Center is to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack. My friend had been badgering me for weeks to go to Joe’s Crab Shack. I’ve seen the commercials, but I’ve never been moved  to make the hour drive to the closest Joe’s Crab Shack, in Gaithersburg, MD until one was recently added in Arundel Mills Mall. I finally caved after agreeing to help another friend promote her book at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, and my other friend took it as the perfect time to remind me of the close proximity of Joe’s Crab Shack and the book festival. So it seems my Saturday was going to be the Gaithersburg Book Fest and Joe’s Crab Shack.

I can’t believe I never knew the Washingtonian Center existed, but then again I can. Those in Baltimore are not always privy to the gems of DC. The Washingtonian Center is a great alternative to the National Harbor in DC and International Harbor of Baltimore. The location is hidden, but not completely isolated and there’s a wide variety of eating and shopping choices, including a Target. We, of course, had Joe’s Crab Shack. I know it seems like I’m never impressed with anywhere I eat, but that’s not true. As a Marylander, I have ridiculously high expectations for my seafood and Joe’s Crab Shack did not meet those expectations.

Our service was decent, but a man had to find someone to wait on him after sitting idly for 30 minutes. The food came quickly, but I would have liked if Joe’s provided something complimentary while we waited.  I’m not sure what they would have served, but the nachos that the table behind us was enjoying looked like a great option. My friend and I both had the crab daddy feast bucket, which includes Snow crab legs, Dungeness crab  legs, and King Crab legs, corn, potatoes, and sausage. Although I enjoyed the bucket, it wasn’t the best seafood I’ve ever had. My friend gave me his Dungeness crab legs because he only wanted the snow crab legs. If only he realized that the was a snow crab only bucket.

After eating at Joe’s, we took a walk around the center and had Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt.

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Donna Does DC A Pre-post

I’m going to shed my Baltimorean skin and become a Washingtonian for a few hours. I’m going to do DC like the natives. I’ve worked and played in DC, so I’m not a complete novice, but there is a lot of territory I have yet to cover. I’ve heard the buzz about U and H-streets, as well as Adams Morgan, so I’m anxious to see if they live up to the hype. I’ve also never eaten at Ben’s Chilli Bowl, which is an institution in the District, so that may be where we lunch. It will be exciting to see how DC has evolved, and determine how it compares to it’s neighboring city to the north — Baltimore.

In preparation for my trip, here are a few pictures from Tumblr. Follow us at dcdenizens@tumblr.com






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Review: The Tallest Man on Earth at 9:30 Club

Rising indie superstar Kristian Matsson, known commercially by his stage name, The Tallest Man on Earth, played last week to a sold-out crowd at the 9:30 Club. The popular Swedish singer’s intricate lyrical style and raw vocal performance has drawn sharp comparisons to Bob Dylan, and Thursday evening he put on a show that proved he was indeed worthy of the bold association.

Matsson flashed a smile and gave the crowd a quick wave as he emerged and picked up one of the five beautiful guitars displayed behind him. He greeted the crowd enthusiastically and burst into a new song from his most recent record, “There’s No Leaving Now.” Throughout his 90-minute set, Matsson pleased the crowd of adoring fans with a variety of songs off all three of his studio albums, but they flowed together seamlessly with a familiar tone. It was often hard to differentiate which songs were his most recent work, because they almost sound as though they’re merely an extension of one of his previous melodies. That sense familiar melancholy is a large part of The Tallest Man on Earth’s wide appeal; if you like one of his heart-wrenching tunes, you probably like them all.

Matsson has become known for his charm and charisma during his live performances, and his show on Thursday was no exception. He kept the sold-out crowd mesmerized for the entirety of his set with his subtle, quirky remarks and lively non-verbal interaction with the audience, ranging from winks to dancing. But in between the fun, there were also precious moments of musical and emotional beauty — moments that showed the poignant songwriter, and audience, at their most vulnerable.

Matsson transitioned between guitars several times throughout the show, but he played each one so effortlessly it seemed as though they were merely another appendage on his body. His stage set-up was incredibly simple, but he did make use of the only on-stage prop – a wooden chair – a few times throughout the performance. He sat down during particularly challenging riffs, only to stand up again within seconds.

It is rare to see an artist sound the same live as they do on their recordings, but Matsson has clearly mastered this difficult feat. He sounded vocally identical, but added some instrumental accompaniment during his most acclaimed songs such as “Love is All,” “I Won’t Be Found,” and (the crowd favorite) “King of Spain.” The piano and electric guitar added tremendous depth and vigor to his poignant, acoustic ballads.

The magical evening ended with a stunning rendition of his new album’s title track, “There’s No Leaving Now,” along with an emotional performance of “The Dreamer,” during which the crowd enthusiastically (and tearfully) sang every word.  His poise, stage-presence, and undeniable, raw talent proved that at 5’7,” he’s still The Tallest Man indeed.
UPDATE: This was not Matsson’s D.C. debut show.  Post has been edited to reflect.

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