Under the still-blazing Summer sun, a line formed outside of D.C.’s Rock And Roll Hotel early Friday evening. As the doors opened, women in understated-yet-expensive outfits, couples, old heads and a few scattered teenagers began filed into the venue for the sold out show featuring Margaret Glaspy and Alexander F.
At the front of the stage, a older man in Doc Martens read a comic. A group beside me ate nachos. Craft beers seemed to be the drink of choice. When I travelled upstairs for a drink, a second event had already kicked off a totally different vibe for Rock and Roll Hotel’s bi-monthly Bear Meet Up and DJ Night at their rooftop bar.
So it was something of a surprise when Alexander F came wiggling, seizing, jogging and high kicking on stage, ripping through a set that fell somewhere between Nic Offer’s tireless dancing and my dream hardcore set — all of the bedlam and bombast without edgelords purposefully hurting people.
Starting off with their absurdist self-esteem boosting single “Soft Coffins,” the band blasted through a set of songs that, on first listen, seemed like relatively straightforward garage rock, but upon live viewing now felt like the raw embodiment of punk.
Alex Toth of Rubblebucket, fronting the band in a white jumpsuit, flailed his way into the crowd more than once — though his attempts to start any sort of pit fell somewhat flat as audience members enthusiastically but bemusedly jumped and danced along, eschewing too much contact.
But perhaps that’s for the best. After jumping into the crowd mid-set, Toth climbed back to the stage and dramatically collapsed on the floor, joking between breaths he wished he had not had sushi at dinner.
The crowd dialed from anticipation to exhilaration by the time Alexander F left the stage (with, of course, another dive into the crowd). Even Glaspy herself seemed enthusiastic — she stood unobtrusively at the corner of the stage for the set’s first half, nodding her head along. By that time, it was nearly impossible to move. Concertgoers packed in tightly, stretching to the back of the bar.
A close observer would have seen Glaspy around the venue earlier in the night, folding shirts at the merch table and setting up the stage. Despite this, it was difficult not to be at least a little starstruck as she took the stage, playing songs from her excellent album Emotions and Math.
It was clear the crowd felt the same, as audience members enthusiastically cheered and sang along for the album’s title track, not to mention cheering along as Glaspy ripped out solos.
Even while starstruck, Glaspy’s sheepish jokes brought her back down to earth — though it seemed she was liable to blow the roof back off again diving into the next song.
In the middle of the set, Glaspy’s drummer and bassist left the stage as she performed three solo covers: Lucinda Williams’ “Fruits of My Labor,” “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James and “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young.
After the rhythm section returned, Glaspy debuted two new songs. The first, detailed the unfolding fallout of a relationship at a slow tempo, before letting loose with a blistering solo.
“I know you know the feeling well/it doesn’t take too much to tell/I can’t see your face/but I can hear your heart breaking,” she sang, some of her trademark rasp, reserved during most of the show, finally surfacing.
The second went in the opposite direction: “It’s about time you know I’m just what I told ya/one heart and two arms waiting to hold ya,” she belted.
Glaspy played out on a slower note, with “Memory Street.” But before she left the stage she shouted out to Alexander F, and noted that she’d be back at the merch table to say hello.
And as I grabbed a shirt and an Alexander F tape, we said hello/great set/goodbye to Glaspy and ventured out into the D.C. streets to begin our journey back to Richmond.
Check out pictures by Craig Zirpolo below: