The Washington Post

Savages, Rock the Bells, the Julie Ruin top September’s must-see D.C. concerts

The Julie Ruin, led by Riot Grrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna, center, performs at the Black Cat in September. (Shervin Lainez)

After summer’s inevitable lull, September heats up as performers return from the festival circuit and set about wooing fans at club shows and in arenas. This month, it’s not the size of the bills that excites, but the depth of the talent. The Rock the Bells festival will bring a slate of buzzy young rap upstarts, Strathmore welcomes a singer who’s taking jazz by storm and post-punkers the Julie Ruin returns Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna to the stage after a too-long hiatus. Here are five shows to see, rated by their buzz:

The Julie Ruin

Kathleen Hanna’s electro-fueled Le Tigre made for some joyous dancing, but I couldn’t help but feel a nostalgic thrill when the Riot Grrrl pioneer reprised her distinctive punk-rock caterwaul in the first few notes of “Oh Come On,” the first single from her new project, the Julie Ruin. Hanna enlisted a band this time that includes her old Bikini Kill bandmate, bass player Kathi Wilcox.

Buzz factor: 7. Hanna took time off from music after battling Lyme disease, so this will be her first D.C. performance in some time. And the group’s debut, “Run Fast,” comes out next week, just days before the show.

Likelihood of a sellout: High.

Sept. 7 at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. 202-667-4490. $15.

Watch: The Julie Ruin’s “Oh Come On


The British foursome is riding a wave of buzz after their ferocious, unmistakably Joy Division-esque live performance stole the show at this year’s South by Southwest music festival. Now the bleak, black-clad band must contend with soaring expectations.

Buzz factor: 8. Still, Savages’ sold-out show at the Rock & Roll Hotel earlier this summer left me feeling as if I was watching a band playing themselves in a movie — so slick was their poise and so one-note were the tunes. But incessant touring may have loosened up these post-punkers by the time they return to a bigger venue, the 9:30 Club, next month.

Likelihood of a sellout: Medium.

Sept. 10 at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. 202-265-0930. $20.

Watch: Savages at the Pitchfork Music Festival, “She Will

Fall Out Boy

When emo rockers Fall Out Boy disbanded nearly four years ago, it felt like the predictable petering out of the whole coif-driven genre. The raw, melodic group that formed out of the hoodie-wearing Chicago club scene seemed to have gone Hollywood, its radio-friendly sound turned vacuous. It’s no wonder, then, that when band members announced a reunion this spring they also admitted that they weren’t sure whether anyone cared anymore.

Buzz factor: 8. The band’s album, “Save Rock and Roll” — which, if you know the back story, perhaps should have been called “Save Fall Out Boy” — has done remarkably well. The arena tour is also moving a surprising number of tickets, with several sold-out dates.

Likelihood of a sellout: High.

Sept. 10 at Patriot Center, 4500 Patriot Cir., Fairfax. 800-745-3000. $39.50.

Watch: Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)

Sachal Vasandani Quartet

Thirty-something Chicago jazz singer Vasandani has spent the past two years scooping up accolades for his unique vocal style, which seems to pull from a dozen genres at once. Hints of Bon Iver, Frank Sinatra, Sade and, curiously, the pronounced clarity of a Broadway belter, all can be heard in the crooner’s work; jazz fans haven’t hesitated to dub him one of the best vocalists in the business. His quartet, which veers toward modern, thrillingly spare musical choices, is just as compelling.

Buzz factor: 7. His ascent has been rapid, and there are few better places to see a jazz quartet like Vasandani’s than the luxe Music Hall at Strathmore.

Likelihood of a sellout: High.

Two shows on Sept. 20 at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. 301-581-5100. $30.

Watch:Sachal Vasandani Quartet perform “Nancy

Rock the Bells

The hip-hop festival lands in RFK Stadium this year after previous appearances at Merriweather Post Pavilion, but there are bigger changes afoot: It’s growing to two days and making room for rap’s poetic new generation. The festival was known for its old-school flavor (those who have played the festival include legends A Tribe Called Quest, Rakim and a not-particularly-excited-to-be-there Lauryn Hill). But this year a hit list of hot young stars, such as Wale, Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt (who, along with Frank Ocean, are among the brainy, deeply talented grads of L.A.’s Odd Future crew), make the festival that much more appealing.

Buzz factor: 8. The old-school lineups were reliably entertaining, but it’s rare that so many of rap’s young stars will be in one place. Hip-hop fans should line up for this year’s fest.

Likelihood of a sellout: Low.

Sept. 28-29 at RFK Stadium, 2400 East Capitol St. SE., Lot 8. $86.50-$186.50 daily; $128-$338 two-day passes.

Watch: J. Cole’s “Power Trip” (explicit)

Lavanya Ramanathan is a features reporter for Style.



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