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Charlie Burg at DC9
“A car doesn’t have to be some heavy symbol of freedom or youth or some shit. It can literally just be your high school car.” So reads a tongue-in-cheek portion of the scrawled, glitching handwriting superimposed over the video for Charlie Burg’s latest single, “97 Avalon.” The song is the first single off of the Detroit-bred, New York-based singer-songwriter’s upcoming album. It’s an expansive work, a six-minute soundscape that vividly distills memories Burg made in his 1997 Toyota Avalon. The accompanying video finds Burg dancing like a modern Johnny Marr beside a collage of home videos and journal entries, culminating in footage of his childhood home being demolished as a grandiose guitar solo takes over. “97 Avalon” is a sophisticated turn for Burg, who came up in the house show scene as a student at Syracuse University (a school that boasts many musical alumni, including Lou Reed and Clairo). To try and neatly tuck Burg into one genre is a losing battle—every time you try to pin him down, he wriggles free. His earliest work nestles itself somewhere between Ableton-produced bedroom pop and experimental jazz, with features from indie rappers lending a hip-hop sensibility. But the four songs on his 2016 EP, Live in Peter’s Attic, bring Vampire Weekend’s debut to mind. And on a series of three EPs, released between 2017 and 2019, Burg veers between being a harmonic romantic with lyrics as pinpointed as Taylor Swift’s, and a force of rhythm and funk reminiscent of his hometown’s Motown tradition. My personal favorite version of Burg doesn’t live in my Spotify library, but on YouTube. There, Burg has steadily released acoustic renditions of his music over the years. Stripped bare of all their flourishes and bold production choices, the threads that run through his genre-defying songs reveal themselves: soulful melodies, surprising chord progressions, and lyrics that contain stories, all delivered with skillful guitar and an unforgettable voice. “97 Avalon” is Burg’s most compelling work yet. That’s promising—in a recent email to fans, he described the track as “really just a glimpse of the depths to which i intend 2 plunge with this project.” Catch a glimpse for yourself when he stops by 9th Street NW. The show has been rescheduled to 7:30 p.m. on May 2 at DC9, 1940 9th St. NW. dc9.club. $13. Proof of vax required.