Butch Walker, The Wind and The Wave + Suzanne Santo in D.C. and Philadelphia, August 2016

Who: Butch Walker, The Wind and The Wave and Suzanne Santo 
200 Pound Tornado of Rock N Roll Destruction Tour
When: August 24/26, 2016
U Street Music Hall (D.C.) and Theater of the Living Arts (Philadelphia, PA)

Show Notes

(Preemptive tl;dr: I got a little long-winded. This bill was worth it. But keep scrolling if you want to get straight to the photos.)

Fun fact: I used to think it would be fun to be a music critic. After writing a few never-published blog drafts, I came to the conclusion that I was basically incapable of being negative, or critical in any way, shape or form, really. I have music that I love, and music that I, uh…don’t love, of course. But a few thoughts crossed my mind:

  • “Music is so subjective. Why is a random person’s opinion of it seen as enough to objectively determine whether it’s good or not?”
  • “If there are people out there that like it, doesn’t that mean that it’s objectively good enough for those people?”
  • “The fact that these people even have the skill to write a song, sing a note, play an instrument, or work a crowd is both pretty cool and a hell of a lot more than you can do when it comes to music.”
  • “Who the hell am I to criticize that, even if their work doesn’t personally appeal to my ears?”

There’s something for everyone and someone for everything. You’re not going to like everything I like, and I’m not going to like everything you like. And that’s okay.

So, I decided to take pictures instead.

That being said…

If you go to a Butch Walker show and somehow manage to not be musically impressed, I have an ENT to whom I can refer you. I think your ears are malfunctioning.

I got into Butch Walker’s music about a year and a half ago–a bit late to the game, relatively speaking. I’d heard his name as a producer on a lot of commercially successful (what does that even mean, these days?) music, and I’d noticed that several musicians I follow on Twitter had mentioned him at various points…so I finally decided that if so many super-talented people thought this guy was super-talented, I should probably give him a listen. At the time, 2015’s Afraid of Ghosts (iTunes / Spotify) had just been released. Hooked, instantly. Now that I’m familiar with the whole catalogue, I suppose that’s the equivalent of becoming a Springsteen fan because of Nebraska or something. No matter–they’re both great records. I saw the tour supporting Afraid of Ghosts, and the deal was sealed: this guy had skyrocketed to my top echelon of live performers, even without a band behind him.

This tour was a bit different, to say the least. Walker’s excellent new album, Stay Gold (iTunes / Spotify / artist’s site), races in unabashedly with engines roaring after the understated and poignant tone of his last release–and the tour was structured to match. Full band this time, the set started with a five-song chronological chunk of the album’s track list, which was equal parts nostalgia, visually evocative and easily-sung-along-to lyrics, and danceable tempos. Check out “Wilder in the Heart” (iTunes / Spotify) and “Ludlow Expectations” (iTunes / Spotify)–two of my favorites.

From there, the set took the audience back through a solidly assembled collection of songs from Walker’s past albums. The electric guitar-violin duel between Walker and opener/band member Suzanne Santo on “Bed on Fire” (iTunes / Spotify) was a highlight, as were a soulful take on “Closest Thing to You I’m Gonna Find” and the balloon-and-confetti-drenched main set closer, “Hot Girls in Good Moods.”

If you get the chance to see Butch Walker live, just do it. Even if you don’t know the music. From the acoustic and emotional shows on the last tour to the rowdy dance parties in support of Stay Gold, Butch Walker is one of those performers who kinda just makes you feel a little more alive.

And one more thing: he always manages to put together a great touring bill.

I found The Wind and The Wave‘s music randomly a couple of years ago–I was in Nashville for the weekend, and I wanted to see some local music venues that weren’t filled with bachelorette parties and drunk bros. I decided to go to 3rd and Lindsley–there was a show sponsored by Lighting 100 that night, and they had tables and food. Those were pretty much my criteria, since I’d been walking around all day.

I ended up absolutely loving The Wind and The Wave’s set, and they’ve been a regular member of my playlists ever since. I was excited to learn that they’d been working with Walker this year (especially right on the heels of Walker’s collaboration with another one of my favorites, Brian Fallon), and even more so when the tour bill was announced. There’s nothing like killing two birds with one stone (even if it’s kind of a horrible metaphor. Not as bad as the one about swinging a cat, I guess.)

I loved hearing several new songs from their upcoming album, Happiness is Not a Place–it sounds like it will be every bit as great as their debut album, From the Wreckage (iTunes / Spotify). Give that one a listen if you like rock-folky-soulful-alt-country-gritty-acoustic-electric-little-bit-of-everything music. I mean that in the best way possible–it’s just hard for me to categorize. Genre boxes suck anyway. They’ve released two singles from the upcoming record as well, and I’m sure they’ll get stuck in your head: “Grand Canyon” (iTunes / Spotify) and “Happiness is Not a Place” (iTunes / Spotify).

I thought that they were a great fit opening for Walker–energetic and similarly strong with both lyrics and melody, but less heavy, instrumentally. A perfect dynamic for the bill, really. They’re about to head out on tour with Kaleo and Bishop Briggs…most shows on the tour are sold out (see band’s site), but if you’re in one of the few cities that aren’t, they put on a great set.

Speaking of the bill, it really was incredibly strong all the way through. The first opener, Suzanne Santo (also of alt-folk duo honeyhoney), has a soulful, powerhouse voice and was equally impressive with her own songs as she was as part of Walker’s touring band, the Aftermath. She’s also got a Walker-produced album in the pipeline (surprised?), and while no songs have been officially released yet, you should keep an eye out for it and give honeyhoney a listen (iTunes / Spotify / artist’s site) in the meantime. She plays a fierce violin in Walker’s band, and if the lyrics hold true, doesn’t water down her whiskey. Both of those factors make for a great performance. Did I mention that she recorded harmonies for Stay Gold? And in the live set, she takes over Ashley Monroe’s part on “Descending” (iTunes / Spotify) as well as closes the show with Walker on an emotional duet of “Record Store”…see a clip of a live performance from NJ here.

Well, if my recommendation of everyone on this bill hasn’t gotten through to you yet, I don’t think it’s going to at this point. 😉

A few notes on the photos: all Butch Walker photos are from the show in my own Washington, D.C. at U Street Music Hall. They have an incredibly tight stage, which made photography simultaneously difficult (no photo pit, people constantly shifting around, lots of gear visible within the frames) and fun (there’s nothing quite like an up-close-and-personal, sweaty, loud rock show.) The photos of The Wind and The Wave are a mix of shots from D.C. and Philadelphia. Unfortunately my crowd position was not conducive to getting great shots from Suzanne Santo’s opening set in D.C. (being 5’1″ means my photos are all heads until I manage to find that little window of opportunity through the crowd), but I did get some fun ones of her performing with Butch Walker’s band. Enjoy!

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