The Wharf has become the newest hub of excitement & entertainment in the DC area. The Southeast waterfront is now home to countless retaurants, shops, and venues, including The Anthem, Pearl Street Warehouse, and my personal favorite, Union Stage.
From the same people that brought us Jammin Java in Vienna, VA, Union Stage is a sleek and minimalistic spot that is hidden in a nook right off the water. With amazing shows booked for the upcoming months, (including Lomelda over the summer!), this venue is surely not one you'll want to skip out on.
When I went to see Palehound and Weaves on February 10th, it was my first time there and I was completely blown away- both by the amazing lineup of musicians and the space itself.
Unfortunately, I came late and missed Tall Friend- an artist I was greatly looking forward to seeing live. Especially since they made me cry within three seconds of listening to their 2017 album, Safely Nobody's... (I'm a sucker for voice-mail messages). With a style that is comparable to Adult Mom and Emily Yacina, Charlie Pfaff of Tall Friend lights a match that gets close enough for the listener to be both warmed and burned by it.
Despite my tardiness, I did make it in time to catch most of Weaves' set.
Canadian band, Weaves, were one of my favorite discoveries of 2017 with the release of their first album, Wide Open. A powerhouse of attitude and talent, the band is unapologetically badass. With each member comfortable in their own skin and bringing their own unique flair to the performance, they are original and lively. I would liken their set to a slap in the face, but in a really good way.
The cathartic rock outfit will thankfully be returning to the area along with Stef Chura next month -- 04/18 @ Metro Gallery in Baltimore,
Headlining act, Palehound, played a deeply emotional and evocative set. With hard-hitting lyrics that tie together seemingly unconnected moments into an intricate fabric of love and loss, it's hard to not feel every emotion expressed by Ellen Kempner.
The Boston-native uses her guitar and candid voice to depict the world around her on her most recent album, 2017's A Place I'll Always Go. Walking through the produce section, eating food with a lover in her room, reliving the memory of a donut shop. These mundane, reflective, and occasionally anxiety-laced vignettes are what make Palehound so special. They can put on an incredible show that gives you life while simultaneously making you cry. It's quite the feat.
I was able to ask Ellen a few questions about Palehound's success, her ridiculously cute cat, Syd, and more. Read the interview below:
Q & A w/ Ellen Kempner of Palehound
Ava: How are you handling the transition from the Boston diy scene to a more traditional sense of "success" and critical acclaim?
Ellen: I haven't really thought about it much that way. I guess the main thing I've noticed about this is that because we tour so much now, it's harder for me to get up and go to a DIY show once I'm home, mainly out of laziness. I do still really enjoy playing solo living room sets and stuff like that.
A: What made you want to start making music in the first place? Was it music you listened to as a kid? If so, what or who inspired you?
E: My dad always played music growing up so I got it from him, he gave me my first few guitar lessons. I was struggling to find something to identify because I didn't care about sports so guitar seemed to be the best options. Once Avril Lavigne came around I was all in, she was my hero.
A: At times your songs are extremely personal- does sharing yourself in that way feel comfortable? Would you consider it a coping mechanism to share these emotions with others?
E: It helps for me to have an outlet for all of my anxieties. If I don't get them out one way or another I just explode and become totally useless. Performing the songs for other people has also grown to be really helpful for me, it helps to see other people feeling like I do and finding something to hold on to through my songs.
A: Do your songs still feel as emotionally charged or heavy even after having performed them for so many people?
E: Yea they absolutely do. Part of performing for me is harnessing that emotion and performing it in a way that isn't too detrimental to my brain, while also trying to communicate.
A: I'm a big fan of Syd and would love to know more about him. What's he like? Any funny stories? (follow him on instagram: @sydkitty)
E: He's the best cat in the whole world!!! He's so cuddly and playful and actually really in tune with me emotionally. If i'm crying or having a rough moment he will actually come cuddle up to me! Not to mention most nights he sleeps right next to my face the whole night, not waking up until I do. I have countless stories about him that I think are funny that will probably just sound like babbling in this context.
A: Lastly, I actually love Blueberry donuts! But since you think they're the worst... what would you consider to be the best one?
E: Haha this is the reaction I've gotten from most people regarding that lyric, which is surprising to me! I love Boston Cream I know that's so basic.
Ellen and the gang haven't announced any upcoming Palehound shows in DC just yet, but if you're willing to drive a few hours up to see them open for Courtney Barnett in New York or Philly, I assure you it'd be worth it! --
5/16 @ Union Transfer in Philadelphia & 5/19 @ Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn