Connect with us

Music & Concerts

Tyler Glenn’s ‘Excommunication’ statement

On the outs with Neon Trees, gay frontman cuts loose



Tyler Glenn, Neon Trees, gay news, Washington Blade

Tyler Glenn’s new solo album is more daring than anything he did with former band Neon Trees. (Photo by Meredith Traux)

Utah-based electro-new wave revivalists Neon Trees rode their breakthrough single, 2009’s “Animal,” to an impressive wave of success. Similar stylistically to the Killers (for whom Neon Trees opened) with perhaps a bit more manic energy, Neon Trees’ sound was perfect for a period in which the pop charts were blitzed with ‘80s-inspired electronica.

They scored a Top 10 hit in 2011 with the upbeat dance/pop “Everybody Talks” and their second album “Picture Show” made the Top 20.

Meanwhile, things were changing for lead vocalist Tyler Glenn. Neon Trees were all members of the Mormon Church, which holds a decidedly dim view on homosexuality. Glenn came out publicly as gay in April 2014, just two weeks prior to the release of the band’s all-important third album “Pop Psychology” (which ultimately sold far fewer copies than the band’s first two releases). Glenn’s announcement predictably caused a rift among fans, and it also evidently fractured Glenn’s family and Neon Trees itself.

According to a July 21, 2016 piece in Billboard Magazine, Glenn’s brother and the still-practicing Mormon members of Neon Trees were, at least as of the time of that interview, no longer on speaking terms with the singer. Another reminder, as if we needed one, of the steep price some individuals are forced to pay to be who they truly are as a person and an artist.

The good news for Glenn is that his first solo album, “Excommunication,” is as electrifying and upbeat as anything Neon Trees might have produced and boasts the added poignancy of exploring Glenn literally losing his religion. He addresses this trauma with piercing directness on songs like “G.D.M.M.L. GIRLS (God Didn’t Make Me Like Girls),” an explicit and defiant embrace of his sexuality in the face of superstitious rejection. Glenn pushes back against the condescending term “tolerated” and stands up proudly for exactly who he is.

Glenn has a well-developed sense of caustic sarcasm, which he liberally sprinkles through the album’s nakedly confessional lyrics. He explores the doubt, confusion, rejection and ultimate determination and yearning for freedom that Glenn experienced while going through such a pivotal period in his life. This was a real change in personal spirituality for Glenn. He was a devout Mormon, a true believer and yet he knew he had same-sex attraction from an early age.

That long simmering sense of shame and confusion finally gave way to acceptance, defiance and affirmation that he has every right to be the person he should be and he is in no way lesser than those who choose to follow a mythology that they believe elevates them to a spiritual and moral superiority to their fellow humans. He explores these concepts with a pulsing modern pop energy, an album that’s simultaneously fun and deeply meaningful. On songs like the kinetic “Trash,” Glenn skewers the self-righteous with their own hypocrisy, derisively sneering “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

At times, like on the retro groove “Shameless” and the manic new wave thriller “First Vision,” Jake Shears and Scissor Sisters seem to be an obvious influence on Glenn’s sound, and that’s not a bad thing. Glenn doesn’t stray too far from the general vibe he helped cultivate with Neon Trees, but “Excommunication” is ear candy more daring and sonically adventurous than any of his past work. He also shows himself once again to be a first-rate vocalist, especially on the dramatic ballad “Midnight.”

The album closes with “Devil,” a cunning mix of heavy electronic pop with gospel influences and the recurring hook “I found myself when I lost my faith” that is ultimately the album’s defining theme. Glenn’s solo debut finds himself reveling not only in his ability to finally, without reservation, come to terms with his true self, but in his ability to finally shrug off those who can’t accept it. “Don’t pray for me, don’t pray for me, no,” he sings derisively.

“Excommunication” is not only a declaration of self, it’s a road-map for those who may be where Glenn was several years ago, filled with fear, doubt, confusion and an absence of self-worth. This album is exactly the kind of testimony they need to hear.


Music & Concerts

The Atlantis to showcase musical legends of tomorrow

New venue, a near replica of original 9:30 Club, opens next month



A look at the interior of the original 9:30 club. (Photo public domain/Library of Congress)

A new nirvana for music fans opens next month adjacent to the 9:30 Club. Dubbed The Atlantis, this intimate venue embraces a 450-person capacity – and pays homage as a near-replica of the original 9:30 Club.

The $10 million venue comes courtesy of I.M.P., the independent promoter that owns and operates the 9:30 Club and The Anthem, and operates The Lincoln Theatre and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The Foo Fighters will inaugurate The Atlantis on May 30, which is also the 9:30 Club’s anniversary. Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl, during a concert in 2021, kicked off speculation that I.M.P was planning to open a new venue, noting that, “We’ll probably be the band that opens that place, too, right?”

Other big names on the inaugural 44-show run roster: Franz Ferdinand, Barenaked Ladies, Third Eye Blind, Spoon, and Billy Idol.

To thwart scalpers, The Atlantis utilized a request system for the first 44 shows when they went on sale two weeks ago. Within four days of the announcement, fans had requested more than 520,000 tickets, many times more than the total 19,800 available. All tickets have been allocated; fans who were unable to snag tickets can attempt to do so in May, when a fan-to-fan ticket exchange opens.

While I.M.P. oversees multiple larger venues, “We’ve been doing our smallest shows in other peoples’ venues for too many years now,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. “We needed a place that’s ours. This can be the most exciting step in an artist’s career.”

The 9:30 Club holds 1,200 people, while The Anthem has space for up to 6,000.

“This will be where we help introduce new artists to the world… our smallest venue will be treated as important, if not more, than our bigger venues. If the stories are told right, both the artists and the fans begin their hopefully longterm relationship. Its stage will support bourgeoning artists and the legends of tomorrow,” Hurwitz said. Hurwitz and the team developed a tagline for the new venue: The Atlantis, Where Music Begins.

Hurwitz got his start at the original 9:30 Club, originally located at 930 F St., N.W. He was an independent booker of the club for the first six years and then he bought it, and managed the move from its original location to its current location in 1996. The venue first opened in 1980.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, I.M.P. communications director, provides further insight. “We were missing small venues in our umbrella. Big acts don’t start in stadiums. We need a place for emerging artists and for the community to discover new acts. The Atlantis can help new artists grow.”

While design elements are still coming into focus, Schaefer says that the space will be intimate, with almost no separation between the artist and the crowd. “There will be energy on both sides of the stage,” she says.

Although The Atlantis is set to be a replica of the original 9:30, I.M.P. has spared no expense. Schaefer notes that the sound and light systems use the latest available technologies, similar to next door at the current 9:30 Club.

The Atlantis takes over the footprint of now-closed Satellite Room. The venue will have at least two bars flanking the stage; cocktails but no food will be available.

Schaefer notes that since its early days, 9:30 Club and I.M.P. “has always been a place where people are welcome. People come and feel safe with us.” 9:30 Club has hosted several LGBTQ Pride parties, the BENT dance party series, and other events for LGBTQ patrons. Particular acts of note during the kickoff run include Tegan & Sarah and Tove Lo.

The Washington Blade was a neighbor to the 9:30 Club at its original F Street location back in the 1980s. Despite their proximity, noise wasn’t an issue for on deadline nights, when Blade staff worked late hours.

“We would of course work later hours back then,” said Phil Rockstroh, a longtime Blade staffer, in a 2016 Blade interview. “Everything was typeset and done by hand without computers and fax machines so getting through deadlines was much more time consuming.”

Rockstroh said the noise wasn’t a distraction.

“It wasn’t too bad as older buildings were constructed more solidly,” Rockstroh said. “There was only one entrance to the building and you entered so far to the elevator that went up to the other floors and then continued down the hall to the entrance to the 9:30 Club. Frequently at night if I was coming or going, there were people spilling out the doors.”

“The Blade has always had a friendly relationship with the 9:30 Club,” he added.

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

National Philharmonic to perform classical, contemporary works

Violinist Melissa White returns



The National Philharmonic will host “Beethoven’s 7th” on Saturday, April 15 at 8 p.m. at Strathmore.

Past and present will collide in this performance of contemporary works and classical masterpieces. Maestro Piotr Gajewski will direct Valerie Coleman’s “Umoja, Anthem for Unity for Orchestra” Violinist Melissa White will also return to the Philharmonic to perform Florence Price’s sweeping, melodic “Violin Concerto No. 2.”

Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased on the Philharmonic’s website.

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Bruce & Janet & John Legend, oh my!

Slew of iconic acts hitting the road after pandemic cancellations



Janet Jackson is among the iconic acts touring this spring.

Pop and rock icons are releasing their pent-up pandemic frustrations by mounting huge tours this spring and summer. After three years of canceled and postponed shows, everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Janet Jackson is hitting the road at long last. But save your coins because the TicketMaster algorithms are driving ticket prices to astronomical highs. Here are a few highlights from D.C.-area venues this spring. Although some of the iconic acts aren’t coming until summer — Beyonce, Madonna, Pink — several others are hitting the road this spring.

Betty Who plays March 10; Keyshia Cole headlines the All Black Extravaganza 20 Year Anniversary tour on March 18; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to town on May 3; Seal brings his world tour to town on May 10; and the beloved Pixies are back on the road with a new North American tour stopping here on June 10.

9:30 CLUB
Don’t miss Gimme Gimme Disco, an Abba dance party on March 18; Inzo arrives on March 31, followed by Bent on April 1; Ruston Kelly brings his The Weakness tour on April 17 along with Purr; The New Pornographers show on May 19 is sold out but there are tickets available for the May 20 show; The Walkmen have added a fourth show on May 23 because the other three shows are sold our;

Living legend Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back with a vengeance, playing one of four area shows on March 27. (They’re in Baltimore the night before.) If you missed out this time, don’t worry, Bruce is playing Nats Park in September as well as at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. April 1 brings the R&B Music Experience, including Xscape, Monica, Tamar Braxton, and 112. Blink-182 comes to town on May 23. And this summer watch for Sam Smith to continue his hot streak, bringing his “Gloria” tour to town on Aug.4.

Janet Jackson makes her highly anticipated return to the stage this spring, arriving in our area on May 6 along with guest Ludacris. The LGBTQ ally and icon has promised new music on her upcoming “Together Again Tour,” which follows the pandemic-related cancellation of her “Black Diamond Tour.” Jackson also plays Baltimore’s newly renovated CFG Bank Arena on May 13.

John Legend plays two nights at Wolf Trap on June 2 and 3; Charlie Puth follows on June 4. Wolf Trap also hosts the Indigo Girls on June 7 just in time for Pride month. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Smithereens at the Birchmere on March 17. Fans of ‘80s alternative will be lined up for the Church also at the Birchmere at April 4, followed by Suzanne Vega on April 26. Amy Grant returns to the stage this spring and plays the Birchmere on May 2. Echostage plays host to a slew of buzz worthy shows this spring, including Ella Mai on April 8 and Fisher on May 12.

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade