Thursday was Devotchka at 6th & I Street Synagogue. Friday was Bruce & The E Street Band at Nationals Park.
Devotchka (means “girl” in Russian)—they are from Colorado and started as a house band for burlesque shows. (The last time they were in DC, they played 9:30 Club and had these women dancing/twirling from these ribbons of silk fabric hanging from the rafters—very Cirque de Soliel). You may know them from the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack. The band is four people: Nick is the lead singer, guitar player and keeper of the Devotchka sound, Tom is a classically trained violinist and also plays the accordion on some songs, Jeanie (the chick) plays the upright bass and the Sousaphone (and my friend Bill tells me she was in a Civil War reenactment band before Devotchka), and my favorite—Shawn—the drummer, percussionist, trumpet player and keyboard player. They dress formally and are usually color-coordinated.
Last week’s show was in the sanctuary of the historical synagogue in Chinatown—which also doubles as a concert venue. The band performs on what I would call the “altar” (as a Catholic) and the concert-goers sit in the pews. There’s no standing in the aisles—that big 9:30 Club bouncer is there to ensure everyone follows the rules. 6th & I sells soda, water and beer that they put in these branded tumblers with a lid—like a travel coffee mug. You can bring the beer to your pew.
Devothchka’s sound is unique—a little polka, a little mariachi, a little angsty Smiths—some people call it “gypsy punk.” And because of the special venue, they brought in some additional musicians—two more violins and a cello, another trumpet player, another percussionist, a clarinet player and an oboist. The additional musicians added depth to the sound, and with the dimly lit sanctuary, the crowd of obedient hipsters sitting quietly in the pews, you could really lose yourself in the music. Their sound is upbeat and engaging and haunting and oftentimes seems more European than American. And they are SO GOOD live—it was a treat to see them in such an intimate setting.
How It Ends:
The next night, I went to see Bruuuuuce at the biggest venue in DC. I’m pretty sure everyone on this blog has seen the E Street Band, so I’ll just share a few observations:
- There were lots of old people attending the show who don’t get out much and are not familiar with the protocol on the Metro. I was actually scared that I was going to get trampled at some point.
- The people with seats on the field had a grove of port-a-potties at their disposal. They were set up in the Nats bullpen. Gross. And I hope it doesn’t impact Clippard for the next home stand, we need him on his game.
- Bruce looks incredible for 62—especially when you put him next to most of the Boomers sitting in the stands—its impressive.
- Someone in the crowd handed Bruce a slice of pizza at one point, and he took a bite…that was kind of gross too.
- Someone else had their 4-year-old son on the field (They did give him those HUGE headphones, to help protect his ears.) And the parents handed him over to Bruce during “Waiting on a Sunny Day” because the kid knew the words. Of course, as soon as Bruce put a mic in the boy’s face, he stopped singing. It was really cute.
- There must be like 25 people in the band at this point—I couldn’t see the entire stage from my seats, so it could be a bit smaller, but there are at least 20 people.
- The crowd could not get enough of Clarence Clemons’ son filling in on sax. Early on (I think it was during Hungry Heart), Bruce looked at Clemons junior and said, “You weren’t alive when this song came out” And there’s this really nice silent video tribute to Clarence during Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.
- He added “Viagra-taking” to the list of adjectives when telling the crowd they’ve just seen The E Street Band. Funny.
- They did a few classics in a reggae-ish style and some in a more blue-grassy style. I liked the interpretations.
- I was kind-of expecting them to play “Glory Days”—I mean, we’re sitting in a baseball stadium. Sadly, they didn’t—the only disappointment of the show.
- The E Street band has SO MUCH FUN doing these shows—it amazes me that they still perform like it’s their first tour. If you can’t have a good time with the E Street Band, you need meds.
- I saw them for the first time in 1985 (Born in the USA) at RFK stadium, with my mom. (I still have that concert t-shirt!) We sat next to a reporter from Rolling Stone and I remember him saying to me “You haven’t seen them before? You’re going to love this—they pour their hearts out for the fans.” He’s right and it was worth the $100 to sit in the upper deck on Friday.