The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone differently. Some people spent their newfound free time learning to bake bread. Some plowed through every binge-worthy television show they could find. And then there’s NEEDTOBREATHE.

Turns out the South Carolina-based rock band made the most of their newfound time – releasing not one, but two albums since the pandemic shut down everything and everyone. Last June, NEEDTOBREATHE dropped their seventh studio album, Out Of Body, and then they surprised everyone by releasing Into The Mystery this past July. 

This came about last fall, when the five members of NEEDTOBREATHE quarantined together in a house in Columbia, Tennessee for three weeks as they wrote, recorded and produced their eighth full-length studio album.

“Normally this would take us three years to do, and we’re gonna try and do it in three weeks,” said front man Bear Rhinehart in the trailer for the band’s upcoming documentary, titled “NEEDTOBREATHE: Into The Mystery.”

Armed with an abundance of new material, the Grammy nominated band hit the road for the first time in two years as they embarked on a 38-city tour, which included a stop in Washington, D.C. 

Their performance at The Anthem that night sent a clear message to the more than 6,000 fans in attendance that they were ready to make the most of their allotted time as they dove headfirst into a two-hour set that included 26 total songs. That show and this band were, as their song says, “What I’m Here For.”


Switchfoot at The Anthem

With apologies to friends and loved ones, more than anything during the pandemic, I missed live music. The venues, both big and small. The abundance of emotions and energy from those on the stage as well as those in the crowd. The opportunity to support artists who create the content that resonates so deeply. 

Having all of that abruptly taken away for a year and a half was a gut punch I never saw coming. And now that society is slowing returning to some semblance of normalcy, live music sure does feel like what the doctor ordered. (Well, that and vaccines. But I digress.)

I don’t know for sure, but it feels like the members of Switchfoot were in the same boat. They took to the stage at The Anthem Sunday night as if they were making up for lost time, and then proceeded to put on an amazingly captivating performance. Let me say without hesitation or reservation – nobody is having more fun than these guys these days.

Switchfoot kicked off their high-energy set with “Where I Belong,” which was fitting after the pandemic robbed us all of concerts and the track clearly clearly connected with the more than 6,000 fans in attendance who agreed with the sentiment. From there, they went right into one of their biggest hits, “Meant to Live” before launching into “Float” with a disco ball, amazing lighting and multiple bubble machines adding to the moment.

By the time they finished their 45-minute set, Switchfoot had absolutely crushed another memorable performance and reminded everyone how the Grammy Award winning band has been able to deliver consistently for more than two decades.


Any Given Sin at Baltimore Soundstage

At its core, Any Given Sin is a hard rock band for the people.

The music created by lead singer Victor Richie, guitarist Mike Conner, bass player Rich Stevenson and drummer Mike Showalter is embraced by a rabidly passionate fanbase, known as Any Given Sinners, who earn regular attention and praise from the folks at Sirius XM’s Octane channel.

Following in the footsteps of popular singles such as “Dynamite,” “Another Life” and “Insidious,” Any Given Sin released “The Way I Say Goodbye” in early 2021. They also signed with FM Music Management and Mascot Records, which is why it’s a safe bet if you haven’t heard of them yet, you will in the near future.

Before embarking on a 14-city tour with Nonpoint, Saul and Dropout Kings, Any Given Sin made a special stop at the Baltimore Soundstage in the band’s home state. After Relentless Souls, With Satellites, Breakforth and Crashing Atlas got everyone warmed up, Any Given Sin tore the house down with a high-energy hourlong set.


As losses mount during dismal season, Nats focus on future

Three years ago, the Washington Capitals celebrated winning the Stanley Cup in grand style, complete with parades, fountains and countless other locations and actions not suitable for print.

Two years ago, the Washington Nationals celebrated winning the World Series in a slightly more subdued style, much to the chagrin of local party planners and bottle shops.
Since those franchise altering victories though, both franchises have struggled to find similar success. The Caps have qualified for the postseason each of the last three seasons, only to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The Nats finished fourth in their division last year and have once again toiled in mediocrity again this season.

But while the local professional hockey team decided to double down on its aging core of veterans in hopes of winning one more championship before Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom head off into the sunset, the Nationals opted to handle things differently.

Just two years after winning the franchise’s first-ever World Series, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made the difficult decision to blow it all up — trading away core players and franchise pillars in a series of moves that — for better or for worse — will have long-lasting ramifications.

Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Daniel Hudson, Kyle Schwarber, Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison, Brad Hand and Jon Lester were all shown the door. 

In their place, a dozen prospects, to include 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray, 23-year-old catcher Keibert Ruiz and 25-year-old outfielder Lane Thomas, were acquired in hopes of expediting the rebuilding of D.C. baseball team.

The current season was lost long before Rizzo pulled the trigger on these deals. At least now, the remaining games on the schedule carry more meaning as management evaluates which of these young players might eventually guide the Nationals back to glory.


Unheralded players pave way to preseason victory over Cincinnati

When the Washington Football Team hosted the Cincinnati Bengals for a preseason game, it marked the return of the local fanbase back into FedEx Field. After the pandemic forced the majority of last season’s contests to be played behind closed doors in empty stadiums, the gameday atmosphere was much more festive with burgundy and gold clad supporters involved — even if it was ultimately a meaningless exhibition.

And what those fans witnessed, especially when it came to the four drives involving Washington’s first-team offense, was a mixed bag. Quarterback/future beard model Ryan Fitzpatrick completed seven of 13 attempts for 96 yards, but failed to lead the team into the endzone for a second-consecutive outing. Running back Antonio Gibson, receiver Terry McLaurin and tight end Logan Thomas all relatively quiet showings as well.

Once the starters were done for the night, rookie running back Jaret Patterson, the undrafted undersized roster hopeful, shined brightest as he carried the ball 16 times for 71 yards and a touchdown. He might have been a long shot when he was initially invited to rookie camp, but Patterson is most definitely viewed through a different lens these days. No one would be surprised if he actually made the 53-man roster at this point.

While his numbers might not have been overly flashy, second-year wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden also had a strong showing — with three receptions for 38 yards and a highlight-worthy back-shoulder catch on a two-point conversion. Considering just how little Gandy-Golden did during his rookie season, the player and his coaches must be pleased to see him contribute.

Ultimately, that’s what these contests are all about — staying healthy and getting an in-depth look at the players vying for a spot in the bottom half of the roster. Sending fans home with a 17-13 win is truly just an added bonus.


The day the season died

Historically speaking, All Star weekend serves as a fitting moment for baseball clubs to pause, assess the situation and choose the best course of action for the remainder of the season. While Juan Soto turned heads during a strong showing in the home run derby and Max Scherzer once again took the mound as the National League’s starting pitcher, this season has not been particularly kind to the Washington Nationals.

Injuries and inconsistencies up and down the roster have resulted in a disjointed and disappointing campaign thus far, putting general manager Mike Rizzo in the unenviable position of having to prepare for multiple scenarios during the second half of the season as his ball club sits in fourth place with a 42-47 record. 

If the Nationals were to wake up and realize that they’ve wasted the first 89 games of the season, then Rizzo could strategically add a player or two before the MLB trade deadline in hopes of a late-season division title run. Or, in the event that the final sprint to the finish line is more of the same, the conversation could turn much darker with the Nats becoming sellers as they give up today in hopes of a better tomorrow.

Exactly one game into the second half of the season, a 24-8 thumping at the hands of the San Diego Padres, the Nationals made let Rizzo off the hook. There are no more difficult decisions to make. Soto aside, this team doesn’t have the offense, defense or pitching to compete in a watered down NL East.

After allowing San Diego (which doesn’t even have a football team anymore) to score three touchdowns and a field goal, Washington has officially concluded the competitive portion of the 2021 season. Sure, an optimist might say, “It’s only one game.” But that optimist would be wrong. It’s been 90 games. And none of them have shown anything other than the fact that these Nationals, as currently constructed, simply aren’t good enough.

So enjoy these players while you can. Chances are, a few of them won’t be around much longer.


As England falters, D.C. United rises to the occasion

While millions worldwide turned their attention to the European Championship as England battled Italy in the finals, our nation’s capital hosted an international soccer tournament of its own — with D.C. United taking on Costa Rica’s Alajuelense in the 2021 Capital Cup finals.

When the inaugural tournament was originally announced last month, it was intended to be a four-team event. Unfortunately, due to health and safety protocols, both Alianza FC (El Salvador) and Club Puebla (Mexico) were unable to participate, so the “tournament” became a two-game tie between the remaining parties.

After D.C. United scored a 1-0 victory over Alajuelense via midfielder Felipe Martins’ free kick in the 87th minute Wednesday, the black and red entered Sunday’s finale with the narrowest of leads.

While both teams had several chances throughout an entertaining matchup, it was forward Jovanny Bolivar’s 68th-minute tally that ensured D.C. United won the 2021 Capital Cup over Costa Rica’s Alajuelense (2-0 on aggregate).

Forward Kairou Amoustapha appeared to score for the home team three minutes later on a link-up play with Bolivar, but the would-be goal scorer was deemed to be offside on the play. 

Although Gareth Southgate and the Three Lions were unable to “bring it home” in the Euro 2020 finals, Bolivar’s goal and several key saves by goalie Jon Kempin ensured D.C. United avoided a similar fate and actually earned some hardware during one of the most soccer-crazed weekends of 2021.

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