It’s a great time to be an Erasure fan.
Anticipation is high for the band’s new album, “Tomorrow’s World,” slated for an Oct. 3 release. It’s the dynamic synth-pop duo’s first full-on album release since 2007. Band mates Andy Bell and Vince Clarke have been wowing audiences all summer on a world tour that’s found them stopping off in Dublin, Berlin, Moscow, Rio, Mexico City and more. A U.S. leg began this week in Tampa. They’re heading up through the South with stops scheduled for D.C.’s 9:30 club Tuesday and Wednesday. Upcoming shows in Houston, Dallas and Portland are already sold out.
The band’s first two albums, “Wonderland” and “The Circus” were re-released in elaborate three-disc special editions in July.
“When I Start To (Break it Down),” the first single from the new album, was released this week and features production by Frankmusik, who’s also touring with the band and whose production credits include the Pet Shop Boys and Lady Gaga. A five-track maxi with remixes drops in September.
And the road trek has brought the band rave reviews. A July festival appearance inspired the Scotsman to gush that their “huge catalog of hits has stood the test of time” and that, “it was impossible not to get carried away with the sheer joy of it all.” Their local appearance with Cyndi Lauper on the 2007 “True Colors Tour” drew equal raves.
Lead singer Andy Bell, who’s gay (Clarke is straight), says the tour has been going amazingly well and that “World” is his favorite new Erasure album in a decade.
During a rehearsal break in Tampa, he took time to talk with the Blade.
“[The tour] is fantastic really,” he says in his impossible-to-resist British accent. “In Lima, I couldn’t believe it really. There was the whole shebang, with escorts and police and everything. We did 12 shows in six countries in 20 days. Wow.”
The set list doesn’t change radically from night to night, though Erasure does throw in certain songs if they have particular relevance to a certain town. Like b-side “When I Needed You,” which charted in Argentina where they just performed an acoustic rendition of it.
“It’s not always necessarily the stuff that charted,” Bell says of the band’s philosophies of set list construction. “You kind of tend to choose the familiar stuff and the stuff you want to do. It’s really like being a DJ in a way where you’re trying to create something, a sort of theatrical soundscape where things from different albums lead nicely in and out of each other and there are a few nice surprises. When you’re doing a show, it’s a bit like having a fairground attraction or a store.”
Bell is amused to see how audiences are different around the world. South American audiences often bring their babies to the show.
“It’s very Catholic there so you see all these babies and little children. They’re very passionate about it. Not really over the top, but they really want their baby to hear the music. It’s not that they couldn’t find a babysitter or something.”
Audiences there tend to skew younger too, he says. In America, they’re more vocal. But in Europe, the band’s audiences aren’t as gay as one might imagine.
“There’s kind of a joke in the UK among some of my friends,” he says. “They say there’s nothing more straight there than an Erasure fan. We do get some really, really hetero people there.”
So what gives? And why do aging dance divas continue having UK chart success when U.S. radio has put them out to pasture?
Bell theorizes that the way people enjoy live music there has been a factor.
“The culture there for concerts is more a sense of people coming out and going on a sort of holiday where you have these huge outdoor spaces like club spaces and even at concerts you have a sort of a rave kind of sensibility that comes to the music. It’s all outdoors. But there’s also a European type of melody idea that seems to be coming into American music more that’s completely outside of hip-hop of course. It’s almost like the Atlantic Ocean is getting bigger but the music is still moving back and forth. Things are getting more mixed up in the waves and it’s not so separate now.”
Bell, who’s used his Erasure hiatuses to release solo albums the last few years (his last was “Non-Stop” in 2010), says it’s always a joy to reunite with Clarke.
Part of the appeal is trading off being at the helm with collaboration, he says.
“A solo album is never done by yourself but when you go off and do your solo record, you can tell them more what to do. Vince won’t do what I tell him to do. The solo work is more about being egoistical and being in control but also what I like about Erasure is not being in control. Vince kind of likes to guide things, but it’s a partnership. We choose the songs together, the playlist for the live shows and now with the new record, everything feels fresh again. It’s like new laundry and you know that you’re embarking on the world with this product. Which sounds so cold, but you’ve got this new record, something you’ve made together and you’re going out on the road with it. You have to go out and work it just like everybody else. It feels really good, like you’re a dynamic duo.”
Bell says he and Clarke’s personal relationship is more a “working partnership” than a close friendship but, “There is love there underneath and respect and admiration.”
“When it comes to the crunch, you have to be there for the other person.”
A few other topics come up in our closing moments.
In the cutthroat entertainment industry, does the cream eventually rise?
Bell says he knows “thousands of very talented people who don’t necessarily get the break,” but just as important as getting the break is the work that comes after it.
“You can’t just be willy-nilly about it. It’s really hard work so it’s something you have to be passionate about. It’s not a nine-to-five job. Like everything, it takes real dedication.”
Being openly gay in pop music is “getting easier, but by teeny-tiny increments.” He says it’s still “much easier for a straight artist, always has been.”
And as for the new record, Bell says he’s “very, very happy.”
“I really love [2005’s] ‘Nightbird,’ but I’d even put (‘Tomorrow’s World’) a few notches above that. I’m just really pleased with where we are, Vince and myself. There are lots of exciting things to come. We’ve re-laid some foundation and it’s a good foundation.”
The evolution of the open house
The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished
In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.
The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population.
According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.
Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool.
Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day.
Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.
The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well.
Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.
Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.
The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.
Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements.
One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves.
Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.
Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.
But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties.
I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned.
On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.
After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.
D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market
Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory
With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.
Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.
Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.
Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.
Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”
D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.
We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.
Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.
Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.
Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at glassshousere.com.
Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms
Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.
DODGE DURANGO SRT HELLCAT
Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds
For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.
The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.
Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.
LAND ROVER DEFENDER X
Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds
For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.
Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.
Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.
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