A socially conscious reggae legacy and a former J-14 Magazine heartthrob are among the musical acts ushering in spring in the District. Check out these shows across three venues and one historic parade as the semester comes to a close.
National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade: Aaron Carter
Constitution Ave., between 7th and 17th streets | April 12 | Free along parade route. Grandstand seating $20
Aaron always tried to be the fliest kid on the block. Maybe, just maybe, he can be the fliest one on the National Mall.
Alongside the likes of “American Idol” winner Candice Glover and gospel singer Regina Belle, the former teen icon will serenade crowds with tales of Shaq-defying basketball skills and legendary house parties (we hope). After an eight-week stint on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, the pop star and brother of a former Backstreet Boy released “Dance With Me” with rapper Flo Rida in 2011 and embarked on his “After Party Tour” in 2013.
Carter’s auto-tuned return to pop comes after an impressive stint as Matt in the off-Broadway show “The Fantasticks,” a gig which gives some credence to Carter’s vocal chops.
with Jo Mersa, Wayne Marshall, Zedicus
Lincoln Theatre | April 17 | $31+
The political undertones of Bob Marley’s most progressive lyrics are amplified even more blatantly in the work of his son Stephen Marley, who frankly addresses public perceptions of African history, religious zeal and trust – or mistrust – among other topics. On tracks like “False Friends,” Marley delivers aphorisms with a soulful vocal grit, lamenting those who “let you down,” singing, “So my son always care in mind / A faithful friend is the hardest thing to find / It is better to be an open enemy.”
He dips into electro-dance music with “Rock Stone” without straying too far from reggae staples: a steady bass and clipped funk guitar steer the song to its electronic breakdown crescendo. Marley’s iteration of modern reggae mirrors its traditional sounds, but his candid lyricism tackles social issues with refreshing modernity.
Awesome Con Awesome Con-Cert feat. Andrew W.K.
with Adam Warrock, Rare Candy
Black Cat | April 19 | $20
When your personal axiom is “party hard,” it’s not difficult to attract a crowd, whether at cave-like D.C. concert spots or a convention for comic and “geekdom” aficionados. Musician, producer, Cartoon Network game show host and almost-cultural ambassador to Bahrain, Andrew W.K. hasn’t released an album since 2009, but his pro-debauchery ethos is as salient as ever.
W.K. commands his crowds to embrace excess with songs like “Party til You Puke” and “Party Hard.” But there’s more to W.K. than blood-soaked T-shirts and beer funnels: His 2009 album “55 Cadillac” is entirely instrumental piano, oscillating between rapid jazz riffs and moving lyrical frills.
He’s also released anime-inspired EPs strictly in Japan. Sounds fit for a comic book convention.
Nels Cline: An Evening with the Nels Cline Singers
The Hamilton | May 4 | $16+
You easily find beauty and forethought in the untidy jazz ramblings of Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, who corrals fellow instrumentalists – and no singers, despite his band name – for free-jazz sets. Cline’s experimentalism can put off listeners averse to some discord. While “Divining” is a gentle lapse into spacey strings, “Red Line to Greenland” is a frenetic, screeching venture into a jazzy prog rock climax. Yet Cline’s mastery over effects pedals, with each one precisely employed throughout his improvisations, elevates his playing to a level that’s at once technically admirable and sonically entrancing.
This article appeared in the April 7, 2014 issue of the Hatchet.