MIAMI, FL - MARCH 26: Images of match between Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and John Isner of the United States at the Miami Open held at the Hard Rock Stadium on March 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida (Photo by Mike Lawrence/ATPTour.com)

Old Guard vs. New Guard: Top Players Come to Win at Citi Open

“It’s been a good year so far.”

That’s the low-key summary of 2019 from Reilly Opelka, the up-and-coming American tennis powerhouse who won his first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour title in February, and saw his world-ranking climb to an all-time high of 53 in May – just a few years into his career.

“It was a big accomplishment for me – a huge step in the direction I’ve always wanted to go in,” he says of the win. “And I hope it’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more I want to accomplish and that’s definitely a really good steppingstone toward the progression.”

Next up for Opelka is DC’s legendary summer series, the Citi Open, from July 27 to August 4. Formerly known as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the series has been drawing District residents (an average of 72,000 each year) to its Rock Creek Park location since 1969.

While summer in DC might not be the preferred weather for all players, Florida-based Opelka loves the playing conditions. He says the high heat helps his style of play.

“I get a lot of help from the court with my serve. It bounces higher when it’s hot, and the ball goes through the court more. So from a conditions standpoint, it’s a good setup for me.”

Opelka’s rankings in the tennis world have been climbing since he turned pro, around the time he won the 2015 junior Wimbledon tournament. The athlete is almost 7 feet tall, making him the tallest ATP-ranked player in tennis history. While he tried his hand at many different sports as a kid, tennis was always his main focus.

“I went to public school and had a lot of friends in the neighborhood, so I spent a lot of time throwing the football, playing baseball, playing basketball.
But tennis was always a priority for me, even at a young age.”

With his incredibly powerful serve, Opelka has drawn comparisons to another U.S. tennis stalwart who also happens to be one of the top players in the world – and one of the tallest. John Isner, currently ranked No. 11 in the world, has been at it about a decade longer than Opelka. But he is still improving every year, achieving his highest career ranking ever just last year: No. 8 in the world.

Isner and the Citi Open go way back to his debut year in 2007, where just six weeks after turning pro, he made a splash and battled his way to the finals but lost to Andy Roddick in two sets. Isner made the Citi Open finals in 2013 and 2015 as well, losing to Juan Martin del Potro and Kei Nishikori respectively. When asked about his chances at this year’s tournament, Isner lightheartedly says that maybe he will finally win it all and take home the big trophy.

“I’ve had some great memories competing in DC and have been close to winning a few times. Do I think this could be my year? Sure, why not? I’m looking forward to being back and playing in front of great DC fans.”

Now a veteran of many Citi Opens and tournaments in general, Isner can spot talent when he looks at a new crop of U.S. players – and he sees it in Opelka.

“Reilly has a lot of potential and is on the right track. He’s a good friend of mine as well and obviously, we can relate on many levels. I think if he stays healthy [and] continues to work hard and develop, then the sky is the limit.”

Catch Isner and Opelka at the Citi Open from July 27 through August 4 at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. Tickets start at $25. Learn more at www.citiopentennis.com.

Rock Creek Park Tennis Center: 16th and Kennedy Streets in NW, DC; 202-721-9500; www.citiopentennis.com

Photo: Hayley Olivenbaum

Behind the Bar: Staycation Edition

Vacations, no matter how lovely, are never quite long enough. You deserve more than a weeklong romp on the beach and there are ways to recreate that magic without straying far from home. Enter Coconut Club, located catty-corner to Union Market, and The Wharf’s Tiki TNT: two places that can help you recreate vacation vibes while whipping up drinks that are tasty and tropical. While I fully encourage taking as many trips as you can fathom, you can make any day a little sunnier when you walk through the doors and up to the bars at both of these locations.

Coconut Club’s Chris Chapman, Tina Hatano and Adam Greenberg // Photo: Aliviah Jones

Coconut Club

Four months ago, a brightly colored storefront popped up near Union Market on Penn Street – a quickly expanding destination for food and drink in the District. It belongs to Coconut Club, the creation of Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay champion Adam Greenberg.

It’s an airy oasis in a neighborhood that still feels charmingly industrial – think an open-air door, bright murals, tropical flavors and plenty of plants. Greenberg drew from his travels to warmer climates in places like California, Cuba, Hawaii and Miami.

“The idea is that you are on vacation,” Greenberg explains. “You’re at the beach so it should be carefree, whimsical, a little bit fun. It shouldn’t be so serious.”

Chris Chapman, who manages the bar along with Tina Hatano, echoes that the laidback sentiment plays into all they do. The bar anchors everything from its location in the middle of the space, and is slightly reminiscent of a swim-up bar at a destination beach club.

“We wanted to be approachable and not overwhelming,” he says. “There are not a lot of decisions to make – just fun. We try to keep that rolling and stick with that vibe on both sides, from the bar and the kitchen.”

Not one to skew tropical, beachy or sunny when you order a drink? Coconut Club still has you covered.

“There’s something for everyone,” Hatano adds.  “If you want wine, it’s not going to be something that requires a 20-minute description. It’s going to be something like a really nice, classic sauvignon blanc. If you want a cocktail, you can get something spirit-forward. You can get something fruity.”

In the four months since they’ve opened their doors, the team has kept a pulse on what everyone who’s taken a mini-vacation at Coconut Club has had to say, and looks for ways to conduct their brand of fun in an even more effective manner.

While wildly Instagrammable drinks like the “That Thing’s On Fire” will stay on the menu, Chapman notes they’ve got some changes up the sleeves of their tropical shirts. “A classic cocktail list with Coconut Club’s variations [and] classic tiki and beach drinks that everyone wants to have and everyone loves” are all slated to make appearances on the menu.

The Rum Manhattan exemplifies this ethos – a smooth but not saccharine twist on the classic dark drink that uses toasted coconut, fat-washed rum for a cocktail that’s approachable but distinctly Coconut Club. The foodie destination recently introduced brunch, and plans to roll out a happy hour later this summer.

Coconut Club’s Rum Manhattan // Photo: Aliviah Jones

“Be on the lookout,” Greenberg says. “Even though [people] like what we’re doing, we’re only going to get better at what we do, which is great.”

It’s evident that even though the dedicated team desires to improve whenever possible, they’ve already tapped into a desire for whimsy paired with quality food and drink.

“We get people that come in dressed up for Coconut Club in Aloha shirts,” Chapman says. “It’s a thing! It’s like, ‘This is what we’re doing Saturday. Everybody get on Amazon and buy your stuff.’”

Hatano agrees.

“And that’s the whole point: just come here and have fun.”

540 Penn St. NE, DC; www.hellococonutclub.com

Tiki TNT’s Todd Thrasher // Photo: Hayley Olivenbaum

Tiki TNT

Tiki TNT’s giant smokestack can’t be missed by anyone entering the city via 395. Proclaiming the motto “Make rum not war,” the distillery and bar helmed by Todd Thrasher lets patrons know it’s a place to abandon personal and political troubles before crossing the Virginia state line and entering the three-story haven.

“We have a president that we all want to forget about – at least that most of us want to forget about,” Thrasher says as he explains the concept behind his latest creation, the potent TNT Problem Forgetter. “So, this was the kind of cocktail where you can come in and forget about everything that went bad during a bad day. You can have one, and you start feeling good right away.”

Much like the motto on the smokestack, it captures the essence of the spot, shaken into a colorful zombie glass.

“Every tiki bar seems like they have their one cocktail that represents who they are,” he continues.

For years, Thrasher has been known for his careful craft, making bitters and other cocktail ingredients around the DMV while also running the Eat Good Food Group (speakeasy PX, Kaliwa, and Virtue Feed & Grain, to name a few). With Tiki TNT, he’s able to enact a new level of craftsmanship with every drink as Thrasher’s Rum is distilled onsite.

“I make the rum how I want the rum to taste,” he explains. “I’ve been making cocktails and ingredients for years and years and years now. It just gives something extra. Now I can make ingredients. I can make bitters and the base spirit, too.”

In the case of the signature TNT Problem Forgetter, there’s a two-drink limit. But the boozy offering will certainly make you forget your problems as the name suggests, as will the vibrant atmosphere Thrasher and his team work tirelessly to cultivate. While there are plenty of structural details that delineate Tiki TNT from the norm, he says it’s the “spirit of Aloha” that truly makes the whole experience come together every day.

TNT Problem Forgetter // Photo: Hayley Olivenbaum

“You have to live Aloha – live nice and live friendly. We tell the staff, ‘You have to have that Aloha spirit. You have to be warm. You have to be welcoming. You have to be fun because we live in DC, which is a high-stress place.’  Last night, everyone that came in here was like,  ‘Oh, this is like a vacation.’”

With Tiki TNT’s third-level rooftop now open, providing a stunning view of The Wharf and across the Potomac, it’s easy to forget you’re not in the tropics with locally crafted rum in hand and a holiday-esque feeling surrounding you.

1130 Maine Ave. SW, DC; www.tikitnt.com

Photo: Eleanor Petry

Julia Shapiro Presents Imperfect Perfect Version

Julia Shapiro didn’t want to talk about it. In April 2018, amid health concerns, a fresh breakup and an existential crisis, she couldn’t tour anymore. Her indie rock outfit Chastity Belt cancelled what was left of their tour, sparking a long overdue period of self-discovery for Shapiro.

Her solo sound doesn’t differ much from the pathos of her beloved band. The music is still constructed upon a lyrical foundation that ranges from witty banter to existential thought experiment. The low-key instrumentation and soft melodic choruses are where the subtle differences become noticeable.

With questions of self and very real trepidations concerning the literal grind of touring, the artist had already planned to explore music solo. Upon returning to a newly empty Seattle apartment, she transformed the space into a makeshift studio and dove headfirst into writing, performing and producing songs that would become her latest release: Perfect Version.

“This is like its own thing,” Shapiro says of her solo project. “I think it’s helpful because if I was in a nice studio, there would be too many options. Having limitations and having to do it myself, I had to go with what sounded best.”

Shapiro has learned from last year’s record cycle. She’s checking in with herself and her bandmates more, and generally feels “way better.” Chastity Belt has a number of dates confirmed for the winter and she’s currently touring for Perfect Version, with a stop at Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe in Adams Morgan later this month. She’s ready.

On Tap: You recently said you were questioning whether you were interested in music anymore and pondering why you fell in love with it. At what point did you decide to start even thinking about music again?
Julia Shapiro:
I’m always questioning what I’m doing. At the time, I felt exhausted from how much we’d been touring and disillusioned from the whole album process. I never thought I’d stop making music, but at that point, I didn’t want to tour anymore. Coming back, I started writing songs right away. I got really attached to the demos and thought they were good. I figured, “Why record another version?” because I’m lazy and they had a kind of magic.

OT: You basically self-produced Perfect Version. Were you learning on the fly or did you have the demos at the ready?
JS:
There’s no one right way to mix something. I just used my ears. Doing it with someone else could have sounded more pro, but this is more personal. I don’t love records that are only high fidelity. I like demos because they feel more personal and there’s a uniqueness to them. I don’t think your average listener will be able to tell it’s not the best quality. It sounds like music.

OT: Are you officially renting out your apartment as a studio?
JS:
A couple of my friends have asked me to produce things but I haven’t started on them yet. I don’t know what it would be like to produce someone else.

OT: Did you feel any pressure for your solo album to sound different than Chastity Belt or [your punk band] Childbirth? It seems slower and more melodic than your previous work.
JS:
I didn’t really think about it. I hoped and assumed it would sound different. It’s going to be in the same vein because I’m writing the songs. Writing parts of my own songs seems so easy, because I know exactly when the transitions are.

OT: From your time in other bands, how different was it for you to answer to yourself? Was it difficult?
JS:
I had feedback because I needed to make sure I wasn’t completely in my own head and doing something weird. I still had people to bounce things off of, but ultimately, all the creative decisions were mine. It felt really good to be totally in control. That’s kind of f–ked up, but it felt good. I made the music video [and] did the album cover myself, and it made it easier. It was a very different experience.

OT: How did you settle on the title Perfect Version? When I first saw it, all I could think of was how one of my favorite aspects of your songwriting is this unabashed imperfection.
JS:
The whole experience of writing the record was about embracing my flaws and embracing imperfection, and it’s represented by this record that isn’t perfect. The song [“Perfect Version”] is inspired by that scene in Lady Bird when Lady Bird goes dress shopping with her mom and they’re getting in a fight and she says, “I want you to be the best version of yourself.” And she replies, “What if this is the best version of myself?” I related to the mom [because] I tell myself I should always be improving. I’m going to always strive to be better and [sometimes], it’s not going to happen. It’s embracing that.

OT: Even when you and your bands are having fun with lyrics and being whimsical and silly, you seem to always be dealing with a sense of existentialism – from the perils of Tinder to coming to the conclusion that you’re bored all the time. Would you agree that going further in this direction was completely natural for you?
JS:
It’s not something I consciously thought about, but yeah, I guess it is the next level. It’s even more vulnerable – it’s less funny and more earnest.

OT: How did you go from leaving the Chastity Belt tour to where you are now? How big of a role did Perfect Version play in helping you heal and grow?
JS:
I’m still transitioning a little bit, but I feel way better than I did a year ago. [Chastity Belt has] a ton of tour dates we’ve been setting up and it feels kind of daunting. It feels like I’m in a really good place. We got really lost in the last album cycle. We felt forced to do a lot of things we didn’t want to do, and I didn’t like it. Labels feel that you need to fit in these little boxes and stay within these lines, and we wanted to feel more in control and be intentional. I was kind of having an existential crisis, like, “Who am I outside of this band?” It was fun to have a few months to not be in the band.

OT: When you talk about your label asking you to do things you didn’t want to, was that actually happening or was it a more subconscious sense of duty?
JS:
Kind of a bit of both. Subconsciously, we felt this pressure we hadn’t realized. Now, we’re just kind of questioning everything and making sure that everything is in our control. Even with music videos – we don’t need to do something crazy. We can record something on an iPhone. Stuff like that, where the label goes, “Are you sure about that?” Our album covers, they let us get away with that, and our new one is really f–ked up looking. They’re like, “Are you sure?” and we’re like, “Yeah, absolutely.” They’ll challenge us, but you have to stand your ground. Maybe we weren’t confident enough in our ideas [before], but now we’re like 100 percent. Them challenging us on it makes us think it’s good and interesting.

Shapiro headlines Songbyrd on Monday, July 22. Doors open at 7 p.m., tickets are $12-$15. Follow her on Twitter @cool_slut.

Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; 202-450-2917; www.songbyrddc.com

Dwell // Photo: courtesy of Sofar Sounds

Sounds of the City: Outside the Music Box

Whether it’s go-go blasting from a street corner shop or jazz drifting up from a suburban basement, the energy of the creative spaces where music is produced sets the rhythm and determines the pulse that a city can become known for.

DC’s sound has shifted in waves over the decades, largely because the spaces where music is being made are continuously evolving. While the doors of most of the great jazz clubs that once lined U Street have closed and the back rooms and basements of punkdom are harder to come by, in 2019 there are more opportunities to hear live music than there have been in years. But it’s not necessarily the newly opened, traditional-style concert venues that are leaving their mark.

The emergence of brick-and-mortar spaces cared for by artist collectives – more intentional than DIY houses and more accessible than corporate clubs – are the places where the sounds of DC are generated today. And that sound is inextricable from an ethos of community participation in shared experience.

Rhizome DC takes physical shape in an early 20th-century house sitting just on the DC side of Takoma Park. Its founders established what is now a thriving 501(c)(3) after Pyramid Atlantic Art Center moved to Hyattsville and left a hole in the local arts community. The house draws its namesake from French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s concept: “Unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature.” That is, the space is built for multitudes of connections.

“Our main goal is to have lots of different things happening at the same time and nourish each other,” says Michael Smith-Welch, a member of the collective that keeps Rhizome running. “That’s what makes it exciting.”

The whiteboard schedule hanging in the kitchen marks events and shows every day and night of the month. As far as music goes, that means everything from jazz to experimental rock. In its first year, 600 acts came through the doors. Rhizome recently hosted the third annual installation of the Seventh Stanine Festival, a compilation of local musicians and accomplices like funk rockers Beauty Pill and instrumental ensemble Tone.

“A lot of those acts can’t play at the bigger places and it’s what we like: experimental,” Smith-Welch continues.

Rhizome is like a breathing machine – even the bathroom is converted into one big musical instrument. Strum any surface and the room emits an electronic feedback buzz in varying tones. It is also malleable to the needs of its community.

Beyond music, Rhizome offers workshops on fermentation, film and electronics, yoga classes, and an art lab for teens. While no one lives in the house, it does occasionally play host to resident artists, like the group of women who applied for a grant to have space to create while navigating new motherhood. An exhibition currently on display throughout the house is an installation of works from the Justice Arts Coalition, an organization that supports and sponsors incarcerated artists.

Across the city in the Trinidad neighborhood of Northeast DC, a back-alley carriage house is home to Dwell, an “off-grid creative space.” Like Rhizome, Dwell started as an alternative venue for local music when many others were shuttering doors or moving locations. And while it still caters largely to musicians, Dwell too has expanded with the energy of its community.

With no official address and printed maps given to event hosts for distributing to attendees, organizer Hannah Bernhardt says people are already jazzed when they arrive for the first time because they’ve had to interact with the neighborhood in a way they’re not used to just to find the space. Once they do, there is more whimsy in navigating the space itself.

“You get to journey through all of the levels of what happens here,” Bernhardt says. “On the first floor, there is a garage and a boat and evidence of woodworking projects [not to mention a pool table from Black Cat’s renovation days], and you go to the second floor and there’s music happening and the lights are flickering, and then you go up to the roof where there is a garden and a fishpond.”

The fishpond is a cistern of collected water used for the rooftop garden, a gathering spot for people to socialize between musical sets. It was all built out by hand by volunteer members in the community.

Dwell’s programming is managed by Bernhardt and Holly Herzfeld, childhood friends who grew up in the area. They strive to create a space that is welcoming for both the musicians who frequent and anyone who happens to find their way into Dwell.

“There’s a sensitivity and an openness that happens that’s really amazing,” Bernhardt says. “I often hear people say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this, but it feels like home.’”

Her father David Bernhardt, who owns the physical building, adds, “People who return over a number of visits have a deeper, richer understanding of what’s going on.”

Someone who comes for a show with friends might return alone for a yoga class. This past May’s Dyke Fest drew hundreds of first-timers and familiars alike.

“We are trying to guide the way that space interacts with people,” Bernhardt’s father continues, “to value all the individual groups, tribes and circles that is the Venn diagram of our city and then bring them together. And this becomes Dwell. It’s especially important while Washington is changing again, and so dramatically, that we can set the tone for what is the culture [and] the music in the city and the vibe.”

Hole in the Sky (HITS) DC is another artist collective that congregates in an off-the-beaten-path performance and studio space. Unlike Rhizome and Dwell, however, HITS’ mission is a little more geared toward the needs of artists rather than visitors.

Though iterations of HITS have existed for about a decade, the collective’s current form really began to take shape about five years ago when a few artists set up studio space in the lofted building on the edge of Brookland that actually feels like a literal hole – not in the wall, but in the sky.

Annmarie Dinan Hansen is one of the lead organizers at HITS, which she describes as a “very fluid space,” one given to the “wants of those who are invested most in it” – a.k.a., those paying for the lease on the building. For Hansen, who has a punk background, that means a focus on punk music and “facilitating art forms that are underrepresented performance-wise.”

“We’re constantly navigating what it can and should be,” Hansen says.

That navigation hasn’t come without its challenges.

“There was a time when it had a reputation as not a particularly safe space for women,” notes Hansen, a vibe she hopes is changing. “We’ve been having a lot of events.”

HITS hosts a variety of collaborative gatherings, exhibitions for juried art shows, and other collectives and individuals in need of space to make, display and be inspired by art.

Conner Casey, a woodworker, folk musician and current HITS member, says that in addition to performance, the space is crucial for working artists.

“[This] can’t even exist as anything other than DIY,” he says. “It needs to be used as an arts space.”

Despite the enthusiasm of the communities that they build and serve, the “out-of-the-box” and “under-the-radar” nature of spaces like Rhizome, Dwell and HITS does not make them immune to developers’ dreams. Rhizome’s landlords, for example, own the Starbucks down the street and have visions of condos replacing the rickety white house on the hill.

But one thing is certain: DC needs these spaces. In them, music is binding force and a natural backdrop to the multitudes of expression that they foster. The subtle undertone of the sound they release seems to be: our city’s arms are open…come create with us.

Dwell: alley behind the 1200 block of Florida  Avenue in NE, DC (between Montello and  Trinidad Streets); www.dwelldc.info
Hole in the Sky DC: 2110 5th St. Unit 2, NE, DC; www.holeintheskydc.com
Rhizome DC: 6950 Maple St. NW, DC; www.rhizomedc.org


Support the Scene

A slew of small “official” venues around town also give lots of love to local bands. You can stumble into one of the following spots on pretty much any night of the week and likely catch an up-and-coming musical act.

Comet Ping Pong
Comet has been serving pizza and wicked backhands since 2006. It has also hosted thousands of live shows. Don’t miss local faves Park Snakes on July 15. 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

Dew Drop Inn
Dew Drop is the hippest little train track hideaway in town. They just celebrated their fourth anniversary with a whiskey fountain and free hot dog bar. Don’t miss the triple threat of Lightmare, Dot.s (ATL) and Erotic Thrillers on July 11. 2801 8th St. NE, DC; www.dewdropinndc.com

Marx Café
If you dig jazz, blues, DJs and the Revolution, get your Commie ass to Mt. P’s Marx Cafe. 3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, DC; www.marxcafemtp.com

Pie Shop
The folks running Pie Shop are local musicians themselves, so they know what’s up. Plus, you can order sweet and savory pies from Dangerously Delicious downstairs and enjoy the rooftop patio between sets. 1339 H St. NE, DC; www.pieshopdc.com

The Pinch
14th Street feeling a little too posh these days? Head to the Pinch, go down to the basement lounge and revel in a good, old-fashioned punk show. 3548 14th St. NW, DC; www.thepinchdc.com

Slash Run
Named “best neighborhood joint” in 2018, their slogan kind of says it all: beer, burgers, rock ‘n’ roll. 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.slashrun.com

Photo: Trent Johnson

What’s On Tap: Denizens’ New Riverdale Location Offers Customers A Wide Variety of Drinking Options

There is no better way to kick off the summer season than checking out Denizens Brewing Co.’s new location in Maryland’s Riverdale Park Station. The 12,000-square-foot production facility and taproom, which opened on May 25, is nestled between Whole Foods, District Taco and several other restaurants. The array of beer, cocktails and food options allows for any customer to come in and find something to enjoy, no matter their preferences. We caught up with the new spot’s general manager Coleene Rosenbach to talk about how the Riverdale location is different from Silver Spring’s and what customers can expect this summer.

On Tap: How did you decide on the Riverdale location versus other locations in the DMV?
Coleene Rosenbach:
This is a really great area. Lots of different types of neighborhoods intersect here. We’re always looking for areas where we can really be a part of a growing neighborhood. When we initially opened in Silver Spring five years ago, what we saw was an area that was just starting to become a lot more popular with the young professional groups, as well as already having an established familial suburban feel.

OT: What are some differences with the new Riverdale location compared to that Silver Spring location?
CR:
The focus at this production facility will be on our main sellers. As far as what we have to offer in the taproom, a lot of it is the same. We have far more taps here than over at Silver Spring, so we will be able to provide a larger seasonal selection once we get going.

OT: Do you think you will expand to other locations in Virginia in the future?
CR:
Opening this location was a two-year process, so we’ll probably take a little bit of a break before we open anything else. Right now we’re working with a couple of distribution companies to start being able to distribute into Northern Virginia.

OT: How do you plan to sell more beer to establishments in Northern Virginia, Maryland and DC? How much will the distribution increase?
CR:
We are hoping once we get the full production line going, it’ll probably quadruple the amount of beer we produce in a year, so we’re really trying to get ourselves out there.

OT: Which craft beer flavor is your best seller so far this summer? What are the best beer and food pairings?
CR:
From what I’ve observed, IPAs are just always going to be a thing. They’re always popular regardless. You’ll notice the trends, a lot of people are trying to focus on, like the hazy New England-style IPAs. We like to focus on lagers and more traditional takes on traditional styles of beer. As of right now, one of our more popular beers is actually a peach berliner weisse, the Georgia Ave., and it’s really light, low ABV.

OT: What are your recommendations for customers who come into Denizens and don’t love craft beer, but still want to try it out?
CR:
So one of our biggest things here is obviously we want to make beer approachable to everyone. We understand that not everyone is a beer snob and craft beer is definitely something that can be
intimidating to enter, but of course, we like to focus on what kinds of drinks people like in general.

OT: Beer marketed to women is often described as being fruity and low calorie. That being said, what tactics do you use to appeal to every customer?
CR:
We are the only fully female and minority-owned brewery, and again, as I said, we want beer for everyone. Regardless of if you’re the standard flannel wearing bearded beer aficionado or someone who really hasn’t had much of a foray into craft beers, we think we have something for everyone.

OT: There is a summer concert series at the River Park Station through August. How does that impact Denizens?
CR:
It’s been pretty great. We’ve definitely have had people hang out on our patio and hear [the concert]. I think it’s just been a really great kind of crossover. We definitely plan on being heavily involved in any kind of events that are being held in the shopping center [or] gathering area in general. Any kind of event that the Riverdale Association plans, we always try to be a part of it.

Denizens’ Riverdale Park Taproom is open from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 12 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information on the brewery, visit www.denizensbrewingco.com.

Denizens Brewing Co. Riverdale Park: 4550 Van Buren St. Riverdale Park, MD; 240-582-6817; www.denizensbrewingco.com


What’s On Tap July Listings

Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s coming up at a few of these fine establishments.

TUESDAY, JULY 2

Tuesday Brewsday
For the entire month of July, Kramerbooks and Afterwords café will be offering 18 varieties of half price pints and $1 wings. The 18 half price pints will include new limited and specialty run drafts and cans along with $1 wings. 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. Free admission. Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café: 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.kramers.com

THURSDAY, JULY 4

Mussels, Burgers & Beer: Fourth of July at the Sovereign
Celebrate Independence Day with your friends from The Sovereign. Come out and enjoy their signature 4×4 happy hour, which includes four different draft beers, cocktails and wines at $4 each. In addition, there will be two very special Independence Day-only deals, including $15 for a burger and beer or $20 for mussels and a beer. 12-8 p.m. Free admission. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

FRIDAY, JULY 5 – SUNDAY, JULY 7

Waterfront Beer Garden by Port City Brewing Company
Kick off summer at the Waterfront Beer Garden by Port City Brewing Company. Over two weekends, enjoy award-winning craft beer plus local food and entertainment, including live music and DJs. In addition to classics like Optimal Wit, Port City will highlight different beers during the weekend. Over Fourth of July weekend, attendees can enjoy beer with barbecue from Chadwicks on Friday and Saturday, Rocklands Barbeque’s food truck on Saturday and Smoking Kow BBQ’s food truck on Sunday. Cool off with treats from Dolci Gelati. Attendees can also enjoy lawn games, live music and DJs throughout. 5-8 p.m. on Friday, 12-8 p.m. on Saturday and 12-4 p.m. on Sunday. Free to attend. Waterfront Park:1 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.visitalexandriava.com

FRIDAY, JULY 5

DC Brau Half Price Pint Night
Enjoy cheap beer, tasty food pop-ups, board games and more at DC Brau’s Half-Price Pint Night. All flagship beers are 50 percent off all night. 3-11 p.m. Free admission. DC Brau Brewing Company: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

Tour de Pour Friday Night Happy Hour Rides
Come out and experience this happy hour series hosted by Bike Lane Brewing and Lake Anne Brew House. Park and gear up at Bike Lane Brewing, then take a fun group ride to Lake Anne Brew House for a beer and pretzel pit stop before returning to Bike Lane for another. Don’t have a bike? Contact Bike Lane about a test ride on one of theirs. Valet racks are provided at Lake Anne for parking. Rides are led by a Bike Lane employee. All skill levels and speeds are welcome for this casual, fun spin between Reston’s two breweries. Riders will depart promptly at 6 p.m. from The Bike Lane. Free admission. Bike Lane Brewing: 11150 Sunset Hills Rd. Reston, VA; www.thebikelane.com

SUNDAY, JULY 7

The Schneeeule Brauerei Showcase
Join ChurchKey as they feature the unparalleled beers of Schneeeule Brauerei. They will pour five of their exciting sour German brews alongside co-founder Andreas Bogk. Don’t miss the chance to try these old world and modern takes on Berliner Weisse which includes Marlene, Imgard, Kennedy and Yasmin. Not to be outdone, ChurchKey will also pour the incredibly rare August, the only U.S. keg of this one-of-a-kind sour Bock. All Schneeeule drafts are priced individually by the glass and 4-oz. tasting pours. 12-11:30 p.m. Free admission. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 10

Belgium National Day Beer Dinner
Join Granville Moore’s for a four-course sumptuous dinner with Ommegang and La Chouffe inspired beer pairings. The dinner will consist of cuisines ranging from shucked PEI mussels, pan seared scallops to pan-seared lamb tenderloin, as well as Belgian chocolate and cherry tart for desert. 7-10 p.m. Tickets $60. Granville Moore’s: 1238 H St. NE, DC; www.granvillemoores.com

Summer Of Sour Series: The Classics of Cantillon
All summer long, The Sovereign is rolling out a slew of rare sour beers every week. Join as they showcase some of their favorite producers of Belgian-inspired sour beers from across the globe. The series is set to showcase the Classics of Cantillon, the legendary Lambic producer of Brussels. On this night, The Sovereign will pour four of Cantillon’s most iconic blends, including rare kegs of Fou’Foune and Kriek alongside bottles of Rosé de Gambrinus and Classic Gueuze. All Cantillon beers will be priced individually by the glass and in 4-oz. tasting pours. 5-11:30 p.m. Free admission. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

Yoga & Beer at Fair Winds
Fill your sails with this monthly mindful movement and drinking experience. Attendees will enjoy a fun hour-long yoga class and then toast to the good life with a tasty Fair Winds craft beer. The brewery and yoga studio gets warm in the summer without AC; be prepared for warm yoga, hydrate well before class. All levels are welcome, no experience needed. Bring your own mat. 7-8:30 p.m. Free admission. Fair Winds Brewing Company: 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.eatyogadrink.com

THURSDAY, JULY 11

Civic Circle Happy Hour
Celebrate democracy and register to vote with bingo to benefit The Civic Circle at Denizens. Participants will have the chance to win patriotic prizes. The event also featurs voter registration by HeadCount and a non-partisan group that works with musicians to promote participation in democracy. 7-9 p.m. Free admission.Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

SATURDAY, JULY 13

6th Annual Port City Old Town Pub Crawl
Port City’s annual Pub Crawl returns for the sixth time on the streets of Old Town Alexandria. The brewing company will be at local restaurants near the Alexandria waterfront, stamping pub crawl passes and handing out swag. From 1:30-2:30 p.m. attendees will go to any of the participating locations to grab their pass. From 1:30-6 p.m.  stop at all locations, look for the PCBC team and get a stamp. Participants can stay and enjoy some brews and food specials at their favorite spots. Finally, stop by the Port City Tent from 5-6 p.m. with your completed pass and get a limited edition pint glass. 1:30-6 p.m. Free admission. Port City Brewing Company: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Denizens Brewing Co.’s 5th Anniversary
Join Denizens in celebrating their fifth anniversary with a spectacular line up of music and dancing performances. Attendees don’t forget to dress in your best Mardi Gras outfit for a chance to win a free beer. The brewery will also have a bead contest. Don’t miss out on the fun, as this popular brewery celebrates five years in the biz. As they say in New Orleans, let the good times roll. 5 p.m. -12 a.m. Free admission. Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

Jailbreak Brewery Tour
Come take a tour with Jailbreak Brewing Company to see where the magic happens. The tour includes four beer samples and a pint to take home. 1-4 p.m. Tickets $10. Jailbreak Brewing Company: 9445 Washington Blvd. North Laurel, MD; www.jailbreakbrewing.com

Yoga & Beer at New District Brewing
Roll out your yoga mat at New District Brewing Company for a luscious, hour-long vinyasa flow led by a talented, registered yoga instructor. After class, stay for a refreshing craft beer and great company. This mindful movement experience is accessible to all levels, beginners to advanced. Bring your own mat. 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. $20 online tickets include yoga and a beer ticket; $25 for walk-in tickets if space is available. New District Brewing Company: 2709 South Oakland St. Arlington, VA; www.newdistrictbrewing.com

THURSDAY, JULY 18

Brew at the Zoo
Hold onto your brews. This year the friends of the National Zoo are turning DC’s best beer festival into a prehistoric party. Attendees will journey to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo for unlimited beer tastings from 70-plus breweries, live music, food truck fare and much more. It’s three fantastic hours of dino drafts and fossil food. Guests can show their support for Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) and the Zoo’s shared species-saving mission at Brew at the Zoo, where beer finds a way. 6-9 p.m. Tickets start at $30. Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.nationalzoo.si.edu

FRIDAY, JULY 19

Beer Garden Bass
Enjoy music and food at Denizens Brewing Co.’s Silver Spring location for a night of bass and beer on the patio. DJ InnoVadar will be behind the decks, so mark your calendars because you don’t want to miss it. 8 p.m. – 12 a.m. Free admission. Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

SATURDAY, JULY 20

America’s Best Brew Fest
America’s Best Brew Fest is a celebration of the very best craft beer. Guests will enjoy live music, outdoor games, amazing food vendors, arts and more. The festival features more than 80 different brews and amazing selections of wine, including a huge rosé garden, delicious varieties of cider, hard sodas, gluten-free options and much more. Tickets grant attendees with unlimited tastes of hand-picked beers, wines  and ciders. 12:30-8 p.m. Tickets begin at $17. The Bullpen: 1299 Half St. SE, DC; www.brewfestdc.com

Jazz at The Beer Garden
Enjoy the Jazz Trotters at this super beer garden. The beer garden is connected to a butcher shop, so guests can partake in quality dining alongside some outdoor fun. They are also a local, independent market who prides themselves on the fact that their focus is on quality, local products. 5-9p.m. Free admission. Westover Market: 5863 Washington Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.westovermarketbeergarden.com

SUNDAY, JULY 21

Belgian Independence Day Celebration
This Belgian Independence Day, The Sovereign is celebrating in style by popping some of their favorite bottles. The brewery will offer 21 of director Greg Engert’s personal picks at truly unbelievable prices. Highlights include some classic Belgian Gueuzes from Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Girardin and Tilquin, and some stunning beers from American stalwarts Oxbow, Jester King and Crooked Stave. 12-11:30 p.m. Free admission. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

Pints and Paws
Studies have shown that pet ownership and beer drinking may contribute to a longer life. In that spirit, DC Brau Brewing Company will be hosting the Humane Rescue Alliance for a meet and greet of some of DC’s most eligible kitties and canines. DC Brau will donate $1 per pint to the Humane Rescue Alliance throughout. Guests can shop for the newest pet gear and treats from The Big Bad Woof, and you may even go home with your new best friend. 12-3 p.m. Free to attend. DC Brau Brewing Company: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

MONDAY, JULY 22

Port City Joggers & Lagers
Start your week off with a Monday evening run from Port City Brewing Company. First, meet at the brewery tasting room before heading out for a one, three or five-mile run. Participants should expect a fun crowd, support from Pacers Running staff and occasionally vendors provide shoes to try out. 7-9 p.m. Free admission. Port City Brewing Company: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 24

Pickleball & Beer Party
Get ready for some pickleball – this new sport is making a big wave! It’s super fun and easy to learn. Come out to play while having a couple of beverages and snacks on the tennis courts. This event is BYOB. 5:30-7:30p.m. Free admission. McLean Swim and Tennis Association: 1700 Margie Dr. McLean, VA; www.mcleanswimandtennis.org

 

Photo: Chad Moore

Yeasayer Bring Episodic “Erotic Reruns” to 9:30 Club

A quick Google search on the band Yeasayer will show they fall under the genre of “experimental rock.” The Brooklyn-based trio consisting of Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton and Anand Wilder have long been revered for their clever lyrics, electronic influence and inventive aesthetic.

But on their fifth studio album Erotic Reruns, released in June, the band looked to new sources for inspiration, drawing from the urgent and guitar-heavy sounds of seminal bands from the 60s and 70s. We caught up with Keating ahead of their stop in the District on July 12 to talk new music, the ideal setlist and why 9:30 Club is an important venue to them.

On Tap: Your new record Erotic Reruns has more guitar and rock influences than some of your past work. What inspired that sound to really come through here?
Chris Keating: I think we were looking to make something very immediate. I wanted the songs to be under three minutes and reference some of the 60s and 70s music I liked: some Bowie stuff [and] The Velvet Underground. We tried to make it guitar-based and not as electronic as some of our past albums.

OT: The shorter songs leave the album at just under 30 minutes (29:05 to be exact), which seemed like maybe a different approach to a full-length album.
CK: In theme with the title, Erotic Reruns, we wanted it to feel like a half-hour TV episode. People these days have a tendency to overload and pack an unlimited amount of material onto a streaming album. One of my favorite albums that came out in the last few years was the Pusha T album [Daytona] that was only seven songs long. I really appreciated that because I listened to it a few times and I was like, “Oh, a lot of other albums have like 21 songs on them.” We wrote about 20 songs and just decided it was a cool concept to come in under half an hour.

OT: The brevity almost makes you enjoy an album as a whole even more. Almost every album that I love has a couple of songs where I think, “I don’t really know why this is here.”
CK: It’s very rare that you can just listen to an album all the way through. And I think partly that is because we have this short attention span culture when it comes to music. It’s also partially because we want to curate our own singles, but it’s cool when an album can be played the whole way through. We tried to make it work that way.

OT: How did you decide what to include while avoiding filler or an overly long album kind of vibe?
CK: To be honest, I’m not really sure. At a certain point, you start listening through and you’re like, “Eh, I don’t know about this one” or “Yeah, let’s do that one” or “Let’s put out another seven-song record in a year.” When you start listening to them and you think [about] what works together in a group, some things stand out as outliers. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s really sort of an aesthetic decision.

OT: Yeasayer already has a rather large back catalog of music before you even factor in the new album. How do you curate the setlist you have now, and balance the old and new?
CK: We basically play the entire new album because it’s short enough. Then, we still have another 45 minutes of stuff from older records to play for [a total of] an hour and 15 minutes. You’re playing a new song, an old song, a new song, an old song. It usually works out pretty well if we time it right.

OT: It must feel good to incorporate a little bit of both. I would imagine as an artist who just made this new material, you’d really want to share it but not forget about older material or audience favorites.
CK: Oh, definitely. I hate it. I mean, just like everyone else, I hate it. I hate going to see a band when I know they’re only playing new stuff. We are very much of the mindset of, if a song was popular 10 years ago, you just keep it in the rotation. Maybe you shuffle some in and out. I guess there’s some level of artistic integrity to abandoning your back catalog, but I always thought it was a little frustrating.

OT: Speaking of live shows, you recorded your live album Good Evening Washington D.C. at 9:30 Club in 2013. Why did you decide to record it there, and what are you looking forward to being back there on your upcoming tour?
CK: Anand [Wilder] and myself both grew up in Baltimore. When we were in high school, the 9:30 Club was a really big deal. Whenever a friend was able to drive, we were going there to see bands like Pavement and Kool Keith, or The Roots and Weezer. It seemed like we were there once every few months. It was always just a special place. I didn’t realize how great it was until we started traveling the country and playing other clubs. DC is so lucky to have something like that there. I think it’s probably the best c lub of that size in the country, if not the world. It’s always a stop everybody looks forward to. It’s the kind of place where I’ll see a lot of family members and friends. I’ll look out in the crowd and see teachers from high school, which is really cool. Some random person will stop me at the dressing room door and be like, “Hey, we went to school together” or I might run into someone I haven’t seen in 20 years.

Yeasayer return to 9:30 Club on Friday, July 12. Tickets are $30, and doors open at 8 p.m. For more on the band and their new album Erotic Reruns, visit www.yeasayer.band.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com

Photo: courtesy of Washington Mystics

Continuity Fuels Washington Mystics’ Fast Start

After a 3-0 sweep in the 2018 WNBA finals against the Seattle Storm, it would have been easy, perhaps even understandable, for Mystics coach and general manager Mike Thibault to want to shake up the roster. Though the team had reached the last round of the playoffs, they couldn’t so much as take a game off the loaded Storm.

On the other hand, continuity in sports is rare. Traditionally in basketball, teams with the most talent prevail due to the nature of how few people can physically play at a single time. The Mystics aren’t short on talent, but there’s more than just ability on the loaded roster.

The team, off to an 8-3 start since opening play in late May, knows who they are early. The ball is buzzing around the court with tremendous energy, the kind that can’t be bought or manufactured, that can only be earned with trust and understanding.

“When we lost the finals, it was straight back to business,” forward Tianna Hawkins says. “We were hurt and upset that we didn’t win. So coming into training camp, everybody was ready to go in and go to war.”

One early indicator of a team’s togetherness is assists and the Mystics have shown an incredible aptitude for sharing the ball early this season, averaging more than 27 per 100 possessions.

“The chemistry of playing together has a lot to do with it,” Thibault says. “We’ve done a good job with spacing. We penetrate and kick out to shooters. I think the other part of it is if you shoot the ball well, you’re assists go up. It’s all a reflection of the rhythm of the shot and if you make a shot.”

The Mystics are also leading the league in scoring with an absolutely blistering 108.7 points per 100 possessions. Though part of this points binge is a continuity among players with Elena Delle Donne (16.4 ppg) and Kristi Toliver (11.8 ppg) both picking back up as the team’s leading scorers, another explanation for the uptick is the team’s increase in three-point attempts, leading the league with about 33 per 100 possessions.

“And to put more shooters on the floor,” Thibault adds. “We have post players who can all shoot. Sometimes, our post players are our best shooters.”

So far the team has only lost to the Connecticut Sun and the defending champion Storm, as the group has proven beyond any potential hangover from last season’s run. It’s not uncommon for teams who lose the finals to start sluggish the year after, but the Mystics have so far avoided this fate.

“It’s a new season and we’re motivated,” Toliver says. “Usually, when you have the same people coming back, you’re going to click earlier than later. This is the start we should be off to. We’re continuing to learn every day.”

After injuries to the Storm’s Sue Bird and last year’s WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart, some prognosticators picked the Mystics as title favorites. However, the team has so far been immune to any external pressures, adopting a cliché but effective “one game at a time” mantra.

“We know what we’re capable of as a basketball team and we’re taking it one day at a time,” Toliver says. “Everybody in this league can win it. There’s a lot of good teams. Whether people are choosing us or not, we’re not too concerned with it. We had [to believe] in ourselves when people picked us eighth.”

Pegged as preseason favorites, the team is well on its way to capitalizing on its fast start by turning in another strong postseason effort. But the team knows playing well early doesn’t necessarily translate to a championship.

“We know it’s going to be tough to get back to where we were last year,” Hawkins says. “We have a target on our back, but it’s a good feeling to have.”

With a modern style, players who trust one another, and a new home court at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Congress Heights, the team couldn’t have realistically asked for a better start to the season.

The Mystics return home to play the Phoenix Mercury on Wednesday, July 10. For more information about the team’s current season, visit https://mystics.wnba.com.

Entertainment and Sports Arena: 1100 Oak Dr. SE, DC; https://mystics.wnba.com

Ryan Hunter Mitchell (left) and David Cabrera (right) // Photos: Trent Johnson

Be Kind, Recline: SUNS CiNEMA Still On-Air

The On-Air sign hovering to the left of the door is off.

There are no films scheduled for the middle of a Tuesday, and standing on the sidewalk just beyond the red carpet and ropes that lead to the entrance, it’s hard to tell if the lights are on inside. The navy blue awning jutting from the pink bricks reads “SUNS CiNEMA” in vibrant cherry letters. Those words also hang on a large vertical sign in sight line for cars whizzing by.

The theater’s size isn’t indicative of the typical cinemas you’re used to – especially not the ones having a tough summer after an explosive start thanks to Avengers: Endgame. Rather, this building in Mount Pleasant once housed a cell phone store on the floor level with an apartment upstairs. Now, it belongs to movies and cinephiles.

Suns Cinema’s first showing came in 2016 after years of planning and crowdfunding by owners David Cabrera and Ryan Hunter Mitchell. Cabrera is on the short side, with curly dark hair and an extremely easygoing demeanor. Mitchell is tall and lanky with straight, long hair and thick frames; he looks like a mix between the best skater you’ve ever seen and every thrifter who swears they get their shirts from Goodwill.

Posters line both sides of the entryway. On the left is the original screening room, but now it’s used more regularly as a bar. The space contains several movie references, from zebra-adorned wallpaper as seen in Royal Tenenbaums to obscure newspaper clippings lauding a Polish auteur. The new and improved theater is directly above, even though it used to be just a guy’s living room.

The lights were indeed on earlier, as both Cabrera and Mitchell are clearing chairs from a screening held the night before. On Mondays, the first-floor room operates as it had for three years prior, but on the other nights, the upstairs space is center stage. With an operation so niche built on screening foreign art films, classics with cult followings and B movies, Suns is not only surviving but expanding and evolving – further proving that the city’s appetite for obscure films and unique experiences is only growing, just like the theater itself.

“We never imagined more than this size, and we still don’t,” Mitchell says. “We wanted to recreate the model of showing our friends movies.”

The allure of Suns is definitely the spectacle. There aren’t rows of stadium seats bolted to the floor or giant soda dispensers that look like they’re from the future. Instead, the appearance is distinctively dive-ish, with low lighting accompanied by a simple beer and cocktail menu. The seating is an assortment of beach and patio furniture interspersed with antique-looking theater seats. During screenings, people are in close quarters out of necessity – there aren’t empty showings very often at Suns.

“So, why should we exist?”

Michell asks the question rhetorically, shifting in a barstool.

“An element of that is a bar – it’s fun and social,” he continues. “You’re definitely experiencing a movie differently when you’re dealing with people in a place that’s cool to hang out and [you can] have intermission discussions. We’re kind of a one-stop shop for all of that.”

Cabrera and Mitchell tag team coming up with themes each month. The duo also edits, cuts and promotes trailers for films on the schedule. July’s focus is Creature Features, with movies like 1954’s original Godzilla, Troll Hunter, The Fly and the first two Alien flicks. There are few recent releases here, and the only blockbusters you’ll see are decades old.

“Maybe come for something you like, but also watch a trailer for something weird,” Mitchell says. “Hopefully, people come and think, ‘Okay, there must be a reason they picked this movie I’ve never heard of.’ And sometimes they aren’t worth seeing.”

Cabrera laughs, admitting they’ve promoted movies neither had seen and upon watching, became “horrified.” That’s part of the risk with this structure. When the friends set out to establish their own movie theater, they did so with a rough sketch of a business plan and literally no idea how to reach out to distribution companies.

“We kind of figured it out as we went along,” Cabrera says. “Figuring out distribution was very challenging, especially because there isn’t a tutorial or a website you can look up with how-to’s for owning a movie theater. We just got lucky.”

Even for single showings, dealing with distributors can be an expensive process – one that’s becoming pricier still. But most tickets at Suns costs about $8-$10, far less than mainstream admission. Bar sales help offset some of the more notable features (this is where the new second floor comes in). Since officially opening on May 11, the first floor now remains a bar on Tuesdays through Sundays.

“The charm of Suns was that it’s a bar and a small space, but that business model created a lot of confusion for people,” Cabrera says. “When your bar hours on a weekend are contingent on the length of a film, if you show a little bit of a longer movie, [then] people show up popping the door open at 10 p.m. and awkwardly leave like, ‘Oh, okay.’”

Outside of the Blade Runner-themed drink station tucked away in the corner, the second floor feels more like a traditional theater setting when compared to its downstairs counterpart, including elevated seats toward the back, dark walls and a larger screen.

“We’ve definitely been able to accentuate and play up the two roles separately,” Mitchell says of the dual bar-theater setup. “The constant flux was confusing. You couldn’t, like, shake a cocktail during the movie.”

Even with the bar open on most nights, the passion for these two is the experience they’re able to provide while movies are on the big(ger than a TV) screen. They aren’t mixologists or “cocktail-ologists,” as they say, although Cabrera does make a kick-ass drink.

He begins to pour shots of Malört as we speak. He’s standing behind the bar thinking about the specifics of his transformation from a casual moviegoer into a hardcore fan of the artform, and now an owner of a business whose life blood is fellow film enthusiasts. He thinks it was probably college, but then second guesses where he even stands on the pendulum of cinematic fanatics, figuring he’s not much different than anyone else who puts a DVD in and pushes “play.”

“[In 2007], I watched Breathless, which is a [Jean-Luc] Godard French new-wave movie, then this Czech movie called The Loves of a Blonde. I watched those within a week based on people’s recommendations. That made me curious about what else was out there and kind of created a new paradigm for me of movies as a broader medium. They could be this or this or this.”

Mitchell echoes the sentiment, adding how influential clerks behind the counters at video stores were for him. He also notes his affinity for punk music and B movies. He keeps up with blockbusters and popular films on a regular basis, but both tastes have grown tremendously out of necessity.

Suns wasn’t their first foray into curation.

In 2011, the influenced became influential as Cabrera and Mitchell began inviting swaths of friends for standard “movie nights.” With a blank wall, a bed sheet and a $300 projector bought on Craigslist, the pair hosted themed parties each requiring a certain level of participation from guests – whether it be contributing a pot of pasta for an Italian feature or margaritas for an art film from Mexico.

“You’d meet people on The Hill who were into indie music or who worked in bars, and we were friends with a lot of those people,” Mitchell says. “We’d invite them over for movies. It was a very unpretentious film club – not even a film club.”

The parties were natural. They had smart friends who shared interests in other forms of art, so why not share eclectic movies, too?

“I noticed we had a lot of friends who were really articulate and understood a lot about music,” Cabrera adds. “There was a language and an understanding to that. There didn’t seem to be that with movies in DC. If I would spend time in New York and you’d [name] a director, everyone’s like, ‘Oh yeah, totally.’ There’s more of a common knowledge because everyone has been exposed to it, whereas here it didn’t seem like that was the case as much.”

As they explain the lineage of Suns, it’s obvious not much has changed for either in this regard. Cabrera still suggests movies to patrons and Mitchell still has a day job as a hairstylist in the neighborhood, popping in and out to help. The two still do most of the work around the shop and bear all the responsibility for their triumphs and stumbles.

Suns Cinema is the ultimate living room for 30 or so people to get excited about movies, complete with a full bar and popcorn machine. Cabrera and Mitchell act as your guides before, after and during intermission, each vacillating between a Blockbuster employee of the month and friendly neighborhood bartender. How many films where a wild idea turns into a success story have they seen? Undoubtedly countless and probably in several different languages. But Suns Cinema isn’t a fictional place like the video store in Be Kind Rewind – it’s real life.

“I don’t think either of us had some dream of owning a movie theater,” Mitchell says. “The mission statement has stayed the same. The original idea is that we would put a sheet on our wall and invite our friends and anyone else to come watch movies that we thought were kind of cool.”

To learn more about Suns Cinema and their “kind of cool” movie showings, visit http://www.sunscinema.com.

Suns Cinema: 3107 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, DC; www.sunscinema.com

Swan Lake by the American Ballet

Stage and Screen: Aziz Ansari, Swan Lake, Aladdin and More

THROUGH JULY 14

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
In 1930s Chicago, Arturo Ui would stop at nothing to become the next tyrant. Ui would’ve been just a stranger you met on the street, a neighbor in your local market; but influenced by greed, money and power, he conquered the cauliflower industry. Playwright Bertolt Brecht’s clear depiction of a modern-day Hitler is renewed in this production directed by John Doyle. Times vary. Tickets $25-$45. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

TUESDAY, JULY 2

Aziz Ansari:  Road to Nowhere Comedic Tour
After a fall from grace following a sexual misconduct allegation in early 2018, comedian Aziz Ansari will return to the public eye in his first tour since the controversy. His argumentatively contentious allegation has created a new discovery in his comedic expression. Ansari uses his witty, sarcastic and socially progressive charm to push the conversation forward. The set will highlight his life after public scrutiny and what lies ahead for him as a public figure. There’s no doubt all seats will be filled, laughs will be heard and questions hopefully answered. This is the official return of Aziz Ansari as a comedic artist. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $30. DAR Constitution Hall: 1776 D St. NW, DC; www.dar.org/constitution-hall

TUESDAY, JULY 9

Pilobolus
Dance company Pilobolus continues to push the limitations of human physicality through performance art. Using the medium of poetic movement, this group continually challenges their bodies, whether stretched, bounded or morphed together, to better create a versatile view of humans in the physical form. Join in this interactive performance as they create a unique narrative using the only thing they came in with: their bodies. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $29-$69. The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

THURSDAY, JULY 11 – SATURDAY, JULY 13

American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake
This timeless ballet classic involves a love story combining magic, romance and tragedy to tell the tale of Odette and Prince Siegfried. Based on reputation, American Ballet Theatre’s rendition has continually exceeded expectations, providing majestic movements in gracious unison that have left audiences in awe for generations. Under the choreography of Kevin McKenzie, Wolf Trap hosts this romanticized depiction of an essential classic. Starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets $25-$80. Filene Center at Wolftrap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

THURSDAY, JULY 11 – SUNDAY, JULY 14

UrbanArias: Juliet Letters
Elvis Costello’s Juliet Letters was drafted to create several musical interpretations of Shakespeare’s famed character Juliet. Filled with passion, despair and betrayal, UrbanArias will perform a series of narratives by Costello and Brodsky Quartet in a cabaret setting. The show features characters ranging in age and backgrounds to provide a dynamically dramatic performance to pay tribute to some of Shakespeare’s best written work. Thursday to Saturday shows at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets $47. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, Virginia; www.sigtheatre.org

THURSDAY, JULY 18

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 11 Tour
The Emmy winning RuPaul’s Drag Race continues to strut its stuff for the 11th season, and the starring queens don’t plan on stopping any time soon. The queens, dragged in style and grace, are once again ready to head down the runway and put on a show. Make sure your wigs are secure and edges laid, because this show is going to be one for the books. They are coming to break necks! Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $37. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

THURSDAY, JULY 18 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

Disney’s Aladdin
Come enjoy the hit Broadway musical Disney’s Aladdin, as it graces the JFK’s center stage. From the producers of The Lion King, comes the magic fairy tale of a young lad and his Genie. Tony Award-winning James Monroe Iglehart gives a performance of a lifetime bringing nothing but comedy, beauty, and magic to the stage as Aladdin’s very own Genie. So strap in your magic carpets, grab a lamp and be ready to discover a whole new world. Times vary. Tickets start at $39. Opera House at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

SUNDAY, JULY 21

DC Improv: Murder Mystery Comedy Show
Die Laughing Productions is back in DC with another night of comedic fun. Taking it back to the 90s with “Hit Me ‘90s One More Time,” this show features comedians involved in a narrative pitting their characters against one another for the hottest concert ticket of the year, Ace of Base. This fun-filled night will have you laughing out of your seats and enjoying nostaligc flashbacks, all while trying to uncover a murder mystery. Come out and celebrate the 90s with the DC Improv group, and just maybe you’ll make it out alive! Starts at 7 p.m. Tickets $19. DC Improv Comedy Club: 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.dcimprov.com

Founder Tristan Wright // Photo: Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria

Lost Boy Cider Plants Itself in Alexandria

When former banker Tristan Wright was diagnosed with a severe soy allergy a few years ago, he realized he wanted to make some changes in his life.

“I had spent 16 years in the industry,” he says. “And one day when looking in the mirror, I realized I was doing something that I didn’t love and wasn’t passionate about any longer. A lot of that had to do with that diagnosis. As you get older, you begin to hear that ticking clock and think more about your mortality. I didn’t want to wake up in a hospital room one day and not be able to say I had done something in life that was worth the risk.”

Wright had recently started drinking cider because he needed to give up whiskey and beer. He researched what was out there, and couldn’t find too many ciders that he wanted to drink. Like kismet, he was sitting on the couch one day watching a ballgame when a commercial for Angry Orchard cider came on, and he had a light bulb moment.

“It was almost like someone was telling me I should start a cider company. I was looking for something to do, and here was an opportunity to do something really cool.”

A month later, he found himself at Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Oregon sitting in a cider production class led by cider professionals from the Pacific Northwest.

“I immediately connected with those in the room and spent a couple of weeks out there going through 19 different cideries,” he says. “From there, I enrolled in Cornell’s viticulture and enology [the study of grape cultivation and the study of wines, respectively] program, studying yeast cultures they use in wine and the science behind the craft.”

His business plan was finally on its way. On June 8, Wright opened Lost Boy Cider – the first cidery in Northern Virginia – in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood. His cidery produces a variety of traditional and innovative hard ciders, with almost 100 percent of their sourced apples grown in Virginia.

“Our ciders are all bone-dry with no residual sugars. They are in the 6.9 percent range. Our belief is you can go and source very good apples, hand ferment them and introduce dry cider the way it should be.”

For now, the cider is coming from trees on Glaize Apples’ properties in the Shenandoah Valley. The process involves Lost Boy fermenting the squeezed apple juice and then crafting the liquid into one of the cidery’s signature ciders. The menu features Bottle Rocket, made with jalapeños; Spicoli, made with pineapple; and Slasher, made with raspberries.

Lost Boy Cider has an apple orchard onsite adjacent to its tasting room with semi-Dwarf Golden Delicious varieties from Stark Bro’s, a Mississippi Delta-based company. Once fully grown to roughly nine feet, the apple trees will produce nearly 80 gallons of juice. The first harvest is planned for fall of 2020.

“We are licensed in the state as a farm winery and you cannot do that in the state without controlling land where 65 percent of your product comes from,” Wright explains. “You must control an orchard in continuous or adjacent space to where your tasting room operates from.”
Lost Boy Cider will also receive a $60,000 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) program grant.

“We’re incredibly grateful for it, and we’ll use that money to build out and deepen our laboratory area so we can continue to understand what type of ciders we are making. The money comes in waves and it requires me to utilize Virginia resources, which we planned on doing anyway. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The theme of the Lost Boy logo is to motivate people to explore the opportunities they are presented with.

“It’s not about being lost, but really about being found.”

Lost Boy’s instant popularity at the grand opening last month proved to Wright this is a place people wanted to see.

“I knew our cider was good and we worked very, very hard on it, but I had no idea that the community would support us in the way that they did. I opened the doors at noon and by 12:04, we had exceeded our occupancy load. There was a line of 80 people outside and throughout the day, people were waiting up to 45 minutes in line to get in.”

About 1,400 people came through the doors by day’s end, and cider was flying off the shelves.

“It was just incredible and we’re looking forward to more. It feels really good to know the hard work we have put in the last couple of years is hopefully going to pay off.”

Lost Boy Cider: 317 Hooffs Run Dr. Alexandria, VA; 703-868-4865; www.lostboycider.com