The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

4 concerts to catch in the D.C. area over the next several days

Greensky Bluegrass. (Dylan Langille)
5 min

Greensky Bluegrass

Sure, Greensky Bluegrass’s genre is in the band’s name, but that doesn’t stop the group from experimenting. More than two decades since the Michigan-based quintet formed, Greensky Bluegrass has shown there is no limit to the boundaries it’s willing to break. Its latest release, “Stress Dreams,” is a pandemic album if there ever was one. Fast beats and dance-worthy guitar and banjo breaks are coupled with melancholy lyrics about the simultaneous disarray of the world — and of everyone’s psyches. Consider the chorus of the song “Monument”: “You can build a castle / But it crumbles to a cave / Funny how a monument / Looks just like a grave.” It’s a song about best-laid plans — with a speedy banjo that thrums with an optimism at which the lyrics only hint. On “Screams,” a song about holding on to the leftover pain of a relationship, the strumming feels closer to your ear. The guitar squeaks are like lumps in your throat as lead vocalist Paul Hoffman belts, “I starve to prove that I heal / Confirming all of my fears / I need your screams in my ears / Something real I can feel.” In true bluegrass fashion, a banjo tiptoes around that devastating admission. Jan. 27 and 28 at 7 p.m. at the Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW. $45-$75.

Amir Alexander

Amir Alexander began DJing in 1993, and his sound and skills have continued to evolve over the last three decades. His latest EP, “Love Notes to Brooklyn,” strips back some of the heavier production choices listeners might expect to hear in Chicago house music and have grown to expect from Alexander’s extensive discography. On the titular track, vocals are coming at you from all sides, so electronically distorted they barely sound human. There’s a deep, sensual beat that anchors the track’s soulfulness. By the end of the song, the voice is louder, and faster percussion makes the beat sound like it’s cracking at the edges. “The Deepness” takes the taste of soul music found in the title song and turns it into a whole meal. It’s a slow and provocative buildup; a subdued, dance-worthy beat pounds as if it’s struggling to break out of a locked box. Another voice comes in, but it’s less distorted this time. Still, it echoes as the sounds of nature an ocean’s wave or a bird’s chirp are heard in the distance. After Alexander’s long tenure as a mainstay in the DJ community, his progression is a delight. Jan. 28 at 10 p.m. at Flash, 645 Florida Ave. NW. $10-$20.

Sara Curtin

Sara Curtin’s songs carry a sweet honesty. This is evident on “Blame Time,” the first song of her 2017 project, “Or So It Seemed.” A slow and steady strumming immediately evokes nostalgia as Curtin’s crystallike voice floats in. It’s a song about fading relationships; the folksy D.C. native blames time, as the title says, but also herself. Curtin hits the crux of why fraying friendships hurt with lyrics like, “Syndicated memories of running wild in Brooklyn.” Curtin’s storytelling never reaches saccharine levels of longing but instead finds a balance between vivid recall and honest introspection. On “When Was the Last Time,” she asks the titular question again and again, her layered vocals pushing the listener to sway. Curtin is singing about lost gratitude, about when life gets in the way of appreciating life. “We all seem used to it / And I’ll be the first to admit / I’m happy in bed at sunrise,” she sings, her voice angelic as she delivers a stinging realization. On her 2023 EP “Goodbye Forever,” Curtin sings with her signature clarity but a newer aggression. The woman’s plight of constantly apologizing takes center stage on “So Sorry.” She opens the song swinging — “Sorry I can’t control my mouth / My mouth / Sorry I can’t control what comes out / Or how it sounds to you” — as her voice floats above rock-and-roll-y drums and an echoing electric guitar. Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at Pearl Street Warehouse, 33 Pearl St. SW. $12-$15.

Dry Cleaning

The cover art of Dry Cleaning’s 2022 album is a light pink bar of soap with blonde strands of hair on it spelling out the title, “Stumpwork.” A strange image on its own, but not when considered with the ethos of this British post-punk band, known for routinely taking the least expected musical turns. Florence Shaw’s calm, sometimes stoic delivery teeters between talking and whispering. The song “Hot Penny Day” is particularly groovy. A twisty bass meets a faraway-sounding sax while Shaw says things like, “I see male violence everywhere,” her breath extending the last syllable like a warning. Serene guitars and slow drumming give “Driver’s Story” a more laid-back feel, and Shaw’s delivery takes a dreamy tone. “I’m not the total package,” she says, her consonants sticking to her tongue. Dry Cleaning’s debut 2021 album, “New Long Leg,” cemented the band’s idiosyncratic identity. In the song “Strong Feelings,” Shaw says, “My only ambition in life is to rip the roots of your hair,” in a matter-of-fact tone over mystical-sounding soft-rock-esque guitar and drums. The band excavates seemingly minute observations on life, on how the small things become the big things. Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St NW. $25-$50.