Lots of young Brit folk in Alexandria VA last night – unfortunately the venue was barely a 1/3 full. The bill was a three act stunner. Starting out with Mumford & Sons for a jolly 30 minute set — a very fun foursome. They are an engaging group of lively young guys who seem to get a big kick out of singing their songs as we got from listening to them.

The second act was Johnny Flynn. An amazingly talented musician with a great band in support – Johnny played no fewer than 4 instruments including his wonderful vocal abilities. I suspect he has soul of elderly bluesman from a previous life. Had to pick up his CD A Larum after and love it already.

Finally, Laura Marling (subject of my July 25 entry) played a gorgeous set. I knew about her lovely voice but for some reason, I didn’t really focus on her talent as a guitarist (probably because I’ve seen little video of her in performance). I was alternately mesmerized by her fingers as well as her face. I get the feeling she is a rather shy person so I hope performing isn’t too much of a struggle for her. Her backing band was excellent (including Marcus Mumford on drums, other instruments and vocals) and the rapport was fun including a giggle fit at the beginning of the last song Alas I Cannot Swim. I would have loved to hear Typical and New Romantic but that’s just my personal preference.

My one picky note about the whole evening had to do with the sound levels at the Birchmere. It was a little loud for me. I had hoped not to need earplugs but since my ears are quite sensitive I found it to be just a bit wince making. It’s unfortunate that I suffer from tinnitus and loud sound levels really aggravate it. I was lucky in that I thought to bring my iPod with in-the-ear headphones and I could use them as an impromptu earplugs – just took the edge off the sound and I could enjoy everything without wincing or worrying. I hope I didn’t look rude wearing headphones to a concert – I really was listening!! ( I guess that’s just TMI on me or what!)

I wish I had thought to take my camera but I completely missed that one. Here is are videos from YouTube from all the acts so you can a feeling for the experience.

Mumford & Sons

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit

Laura Marling

High-Fidelity Memories on Record Store Day : NPR Music

Sometimes I think I’m the only person with vinyl records anymore. Yes, I know that’s not true but it feels like it is.

Even rarer than vinyl is the independent record store. I know of one here in DC although I suspect there could be a few others. When I was in high school, I bought most of my records from the local Ben Franklin down the street. It had a limited selection and occasionally I would find something really good like George Carlin’s Class Clown album.

Now I’m a bargain hunter and get things from Amazon.com or download from iTunes. It’s not the same as browsing through the local store (we have a great local chain called Olsen’s) but at least digital downloads don’t involve packaging and shipping costs.

I also buy from eBay which is almost like an independent store since you can get hard to find CDs, cassettes and vinyl LPs. You can get alot of used stuff that is still in good condition, too. I hate to see music thrown out. It just breaks my heart – like seeing someone’s photographs in a trash bin.

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Steichen, Sold on The Celebrity Aesthetic – washingtonpost.com

The link is for a review of our recently opened exhibition “Edward Steichen: Portraits” at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s a positive review but it seems to have a bit of an edge to it.

“Self-Portrait With Brush and Palette” is a celebrity photograph, an early one, one of the first. If you want to understand the knack of Annie Leibovitz, or the useful affections of Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel, or how dress-up self-promotion got so deep into the art world, this 107-year-old image is a place where you might start.

It’s half artwork, half ad.

It’s great exhibition – not too large, not too small, very intimate. Here is the link to the official site for the exhibition:

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