Beloved electronica duo Thievery Corporation will play as part of Event DC’s summer concert series at the Entertainment & Sports Arena this Saturday, July 24. It’s a perfect opportunity to welcome Washingtonians back to live performances and concert venues.
The duo basically designed the ambient, wistful soundtrack for every boutique hotel, swanky nightclub and other palaces of panache since the mid-1990s. Combining hip-hop beats, reggae, bossa nova and global musical influences, their music is internationally celebrated for its sophisticated, eclectic and cool sound.
Their live shows, however, are anything but chill. Energetic and dynamic, D.C. hospitality visionary Eric Hilton and Rob Garza play with a live band of incredibly talented musicians and welcome a roster of brilliant vocalists onstage to perform. Their shows are sweaty, dance-filled and euphoric-inducing. Their performances aren’t shows, but rather interactive events.
“This show will be a little bit surreal because I haven’t been to a concert since the shutdown,” Hilton recalls. “My last concert was in early March . It was maybe New Order or Bryan Ferry. The first concert I’ll go to [post-quarantine] is our own, which is pretty cool.”
He admits he’s never been to the Congress Heights-based venue, and isn’t sure what to expect.
“But I know we’ll play lots of great songs and have fun. I’m sure there’ll be a great crowd there.”
The arena, home of the Washington Mystics and a performing arts venue, seats 3,000 and is likely to present a different vibe than the band’s usual haunts like the 9:30 Club. This will be their first show in the District since performing at the Kennedy Center’s REACH in September 2019.
During the pandemic, Hilton kept busy with a trio of new albums.
“I just stopped doing Thievery Corporation music and started doing my own music. I found myself making music for live shows all the time. I want to make music that’s more personal. That’s why I decided to go solo.”
Recorded in autumn 2019 and winter 2020 at his studio in D.C., and released in June 2020, “Infinity Everywhere” was Hilton’s solo debut after 25 years of recording with Garza. Hilton plays almost all the instruments for an atmospheric and chill album. This was closely followed by the director’s cut of “Impossible Silence,” a soundtrack without a film (but deeply inspired by la nouvelle vague cinema). Hilton’s third solo album, “Ceremony,” which comes out in August, is about centering oneself, connecting to the universe and embracing being alone.
“Rob and I are really good friends, but we’re bicoastal,” Hilton says. “We don’t see each other that often, sometimes at shows, and we talk on the phone.”
The incredibly successful duo shares a musical sensibility and lasting friendship, but their philosophies are as far apart as their geographical locations. Listening to Garza and Hilton’s recent solo works seems akin to what music fans must’ve experienced in the early 1970s exploring McCartney and Lennon’s solo records and then reconstructing who contributed what to each Beatles album.
Simply put, Hilton enjoys being in a duo — his other full-time career is working alongside his brother Ian creating a series of successful restaurants and bars throughout the District — but doesn’t like too many cooks in the kitchen. He felt over the years, Thievery Corporation’s work with other artists made the experience a little bit too communal. On the other hand, Garza’s latest venture GARZA is styled as a collaborative musical experience.
Hilton also found the pace of making Thievery Corporation music a bit slow. His trio of albums released within 15 months shows that Hilton can write, record and produce quickly on his own terms. The grueling life of being a touring group is another major difference between the musical partners. Because of Hilton’s deep roots and his hospitality ventures in D.C., he finds the demanding pace on the road too much.
“I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of shows and visited over 50 countries, and it’s not really the lifestyle I can deal with anymore.”
Hilton will remain focused on his solo albums, reopening restaurants that were closed during the pandemic and finding new opportunities throughout the District. This includes a second outpost of U Street taqueria El Rey opening next month in Ballston, Virginia, as well as another endeavor with Solace Brewing Company slated to open in Navy Yard at the end of the summer.
He also hopes to see a (safely) packed house this Saturday evening.
“As a fourth-generation Washingtonian, I am very excited to be part of the reopening of the city. I definitely encourage people to come out and celebrate.”
Eric Hilton’s next album drops on August 20. For more details on his solo venture and “Ceremony,” visit here. Visit thieverycorporation.com for more on the duo and follow them on Instagram @thieverycorporation.
Event DC’s summer concert series kicks off on Thursday, July 22 with Grammy-nominated steel guitarist Robert Randolph and The Family Band, then stalwart go-go band Junkyard Band will bring down the house on Friday, July 23. Thievery Corporation plays on Saturday, July 24 with D.C.-born, international Latin pop phenom Jason Cerda and opener Thomas Blondet. The series closes on Sunday, July 25 with special guests Los Adolescentes, a 13-piece salsa band from Venezuela, as well as an interactive salsa showcase. Tickets are $5-$50 and may be purchased here.
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