23Mar

Physical battle with St. Louis leaves Capitals battered, blue

The streaky Washington Capitals were unable to find a veteran goaltender before the NHL trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean they sat idle. General manager Brian MacLellan acquired a pair of forwards — Seattle’s Marcus Johansson and Arizona’s Johan Larsson — to bolster his team’s lineup in preparation for the postseason.

Johansson was back in D.C., where he spent his first seven seasons, in time to play the St. Louis Blues, while Larsson remains sidelined as he recovers from sports hernia surgery. MacLellan’s hope is that these veterans can provide coach Peter Laviolette with stability and consistency that has been lacking due to injuries and uneven play from rookies and younger players.

Unfortunately, Washington was unable to take advantage of Johansson’s first game back in a Capitals’ sweater since 2016 due to shoddy team defense and an overall lack of discipline.

“We gave up way too much in the first period,” Laviolette said after the 5-2 loss. “Too many mental mistakes, too many soft mistakes. Too easy to play against.”

The Caps were outshot 38 to 21, lost 63 percent of their faceoffs and generally looked a step slow on the night, as they dropped their second-straight home game. With 17 games remaining, nights like this are going to need to become few and far between for this season to end in anything other than disappointment.

22Mar

Underoath at The Fillmore

Fun fact: Underoath started out as a Christian metalcore band back in the late 90s. While plenty has changed over more than two decades of work, including a roster of 15 musicians who have at various times been members, the Tampa-based band still delivers.

In honor of their ninth studio album, Voyeurist, Underoath hit the road on a 27-city North American tour. Originally, they were supposed to be accompanied by Every Time I Die. But unfortunately, the band broke up in between the time the tour was announced and Underoath was scheduled to hit the road. In their place, Spiritbox and Bad Omens joined the fun and helped set the stage for a wonderfully entertaining evening.

Frontman Spencer Chamberlain, lead guitarist Timothy McTague, bassist Grant Brandell, rhythm guitarist James Smith, drummer Aaron Gillespie and keyboardist Christopher Dudley used absolutely every inch of the stage during an action-packed 15 song set, which included a two-track encore.

By the time they broke into their current single, “Hallelujah,” bedlam had completely overtaken The Fillmore. The sellout crowd clearly fed off of the amazing energy reverberating from the stage and gave back everything they had.

21Mar

Spiritbox at The Fillmore

When husband and wife duo of Mike Stringer and Courtney LaPlante formed Spiritbox in 2017, they absolutely raised the bar for couples everywhere.

The band, comprised of singer LaPlante, guitarist Stringer, as well as bassist Bill Crook and drummer Zev Rose, has quickly ascended up the ranks and is now a mainstay on hard rock charts across the country (and obviously north of the border as well). Their debut full-length album, Eternal Blue, has been universally loved and, if the sellout crowd in Silver Spring, Maryland, was any indication, their fanbase cannot wait to experience these songs live and in person.

Their set kicked off with 2019 single, “Rule Of Nines,” which was a great tone setter. They immediately jumped into “Circle With Me,” which had the entire building singing along and by the time they got to “Blessed Be,” the entire audience was eating out of their hands. It seems inevitable that Spiritbox are destined for big things. Their look. Their sound. Everything about the band garners attention.

20Mar

Bad Omens at The Fillmore

The highest compliment I can give Bad Omens is that my 10-year-old son demands we play their music whenever he wants to get pumped up before one of his travel soccer games. That’s how much my family and I enjoy their work.

Ever since we first heard “Careful What You Wish For,” we’ve been hooked. Needless to say, when I found out the Richmond, Virginia, band was playing locally, I knew I had to be there. Having already purchased a ticket for the show, I was beyond thrilled when I received word that I would be able to cover the show. Singer Noah Sebastian, guitarist Joakim Karlsson, bassist Nicholas Ruffilo and drummer Nick Folio were only on stage for 30 minutes, but they made the most of their allotted time.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing Bad Omens, here are links to “Like A Villian” and “ARTIFICIAL SUICIDE.” Both are absolutely worth your time.

17Mar

Welcome to the Carson Wentz show

My first season covering the local professional football franchise was 2005. During that time, it’s safe to say Washington hasn’t had much in the way of stability at the NFL’s most important position. In fact, the list of quarterbacks who have started at least one game during the last 16 seasons is downright depressing: 

Mark Brunell. Patrick Ramsey. Jason Campbell. Todd Collins. Donovan McNabb. Rex Grossman. John Beck. Robert Griffin III. Kirk Cousins. Colt McCoy. Alex Smith. Josh Johnson. Mark Sanchez. Case Keenum. Dwayne Haskins. Kyle Allen. Taylor Heinicke. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Garrett Gilbert.

When the Commanders (that’s going to take a while to get used to) take the field this fall, they will do so with Carson Wentz behind center. That’s because, after missing out on Matthew Stafford last year and not being able to entice Russell Wilson to join the burgundy and gold, the Commanders struck a deal with the Indianapolis Colts to acquire the second-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The details:

Colts receive: 2022 second-round pick (No. 42), 2022 third-round pick (No. 73), conditional 2023 third-round pick
Washington receives: QB Carson Wentz, 2022 second-round pick (No. 47), 2022 seventh-round pick (No. 240)

Washington becomes Wentz’s third team in three seasons, which means he’s looking for some semblance of stability as well. Historically, he’s known for a strong arm while struggling, at times, with accuracy and decision making. Will this marriage of convenience between Carson and the Commanders stand the test of time? Or will both be on the rebound once again in the not-too-distant future? For better or for worse, we’re about to find out.

06Mar

Vanecek, power play get Caps back on track

When last we checked in on the Washington Capitals, they had boarded the struggle bus and were trying to figure out how a promising start to the 2021-22 campaign went sideways. The situation looked bleak as the Caps went winless at home during the entire month of February, but the return of several of key players from the injured list provided welcome reinforcements as the expansion Seattle Kraken came to town for the first time.

Vitek Vanecek, T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha were all in action after missing chunks of the season due to various injuries and ailments, and their presence absolutely made an impact. When Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov scored less than a minute apart in the first period, Capital One Arena was rocking. And when Seattle responded with goals late in the first period and in the first minute of the second stanza, the Capitals didn’t panic.

They instead turned to the power play, which has let Washington down for much of the season, to find a way to regain the lead. Power plays goals by Conor Sheary and Alex Ovechkin allowed the home team to once again push ahead and an empty netter by Sheary sealed the 5-2 victory for the red rockers. Vanecek made 29 saves en route to his 12th win of the season.

At the end of January, the Capitals’ power play ranked 30th in the league, converting on just 13.9 percent. In their last 13 games though, Washington has scored 13 goals on the man advantage, converting 30.2 percent of the time. Getting key players like Nicklas Backstrom, Oshie and Mantha back in the lineup has clearly made a different with the special teams unit.

Can these players provide the spark this team has lacked of late or do drastic measures need to take place between now and the trade deadline for this franchise to make another run at Lord Stanley’s most prized possession? Strap in for the ride, folks, because we’re about to find out.

05Mar

Zero 9:36 at Union Stage

The Monster Energy Outbreak Tour claims to focus on artists at their breakout moment. With alumni such as Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore, The Chainsmokers, Logic, Post Malone and 21 Savage, it’s difficult to dispute that notion.

As Zero 9:36 hits the road for the first time as a headliner, courtesy of the tour, fans have every reason to believe the Philadelphia native is next in line for a breakout. Not that he hasn’t accomplished plenty already. Since 2019, Zero 9:36 has amassed more than 66 million streams for his two EPs and rocketed to number one on Mediabase’s active rock airplay chart in 2021.

Additionally, he was named one of SiriusXM’s Future Five for 2021, and his single “Adrenaline” was Octane’s most-played hard rock song in ’21. Basically, while everyone was stuck at home dealing with the pandemic, they were listening to Zero 9:36 on heavy rotation.

On his second night as a headliner, Zero 9:36 was already in a groove, although he did joke that they failed to pack a printer with the rest of the band’s equipment, so they didn’t even have a printed setlist to go off of. That minor snafu aside, the D.C. show was excellent. It even included a surprise cameo from No Love For The Middle Child, who joined Zero 9:36 to perform “Come Thru.”

If Zero 9:36 does come through your town during his current cross-country tour, go see him and share in his breakout moment.

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