Musicians hold a mesmerizing and often mystical appeal. Onstage, in the club, even walking down the street – they are the rock gods, the jazz greats, the punk queens. They are also real people.
While you’re not thinking about that as you fist pump or sway awkwardly side-to-side at their shows, if they’re not winning Grammys, most of them also have day jobs. Sure, you get it. Your best friend’s boyfriend who plays bass is also a barista at the local café, and the drummer from that one band that you follow too closely on Facebook is the bike courier who delivered flowers to you that one time and you wanted to ask for his autograph but you thought it was weird.
But in DC, the meaning of “musician with a day job” is a little different. Here, I’ve run into people playing sick riffs on the weekend only to roll into the DOJ in suit and tie Monday morning. Or picking a banjo and kicking an ankle tambourine in-between interviewing people as a journalist for Science Magazine. Or, you know, mixing hip-hop records after getting home from the IT department at NASA.
All real people.
Take, for example, Steve Jabo. Have you been over to the National Museum of Natural History to check out the brand new dino hall yet? Well, we’ve got Jabo to thank for that. At NMNH, he’s a preparator of vertebrate fossils, which means he puts dinosaurs together.
He’s also been playing in bands since the seventh grade, and for the past 22 years with local rock cover band Consider the Source (a.k.a. The Woodford Reserve when playing without one member who is now based in Georgia). Jabo and his bandmates get together every Thursday to practice in his Arlington, Virginia basement where he has a full setup.
“It’s kind of just unspoken and we really take pride in the fact that everyone shows up,” he says. “There’s no drama. We’re good friends who really like music. Our number one priority is the music, and that makes everything more enjoyable.”
The band has played lots of classic local spots, including the late Bangkok Blues and Luna Park Grille. These days, they’re semi-regulars at Clare & Don’s in Falls Church where they play literally everything you could imagine – from Elvis Costello and Tom Petty to Patti Smith and Bowie.
“It’s hard to find new stuff [that is appealing to lots of people]. I like to do our own take on things and change it up.”
Wondering what the dinosaurs listen to? As far as music in the Paleo Lab at the museum, Jabo says he starts the day listening to “something mellow, like classical music or jazz.” Then, he works his way “up to something with a little more energy,” which can mean almost anything.
“My music collection is 12,000-plus tunes of everything from Gregorian chant…to hip-hop…to punk rock. I’ll usually just hit the ‘Shuffle All’ button and let it ride. If I’m doing something really delicate under the scope, I’ll put the earbuds in and listen to Miles Davis or Puccini arias to get in the zone.”
That said, Jabo generally subcribes to a “gotta keep ’em separated” mantra when it comes to his career and his passion for music. Alex Dent, on the other hand, tries to find as many ways as possible to merge the two. When not writing music and performing with his punk rock band Weird Babies, Dent is an enthomusicologist at George Washington University.
Dent uses linguistic theory to explore the influence of music in cultures. Prior to joining the world of academia, he had an “ah-hah” moment while working as an Outward Bound instructor with at-risk youth.
“This thing happened where the kids started talking to me a lot about their music, and I became a lot better at working with them when I was listening to what they were listening to,” Dent says. “At that time, it was a lot of Public Enemy.”
When he realized music was the language he most wanted to understand, Dent traveled to South America for his dissertation on policing and the DVD pirating history of Brazilian punk rock. When he returned to the States, he started playing a lot of his own music under a small Chicago label – but was somewhat restricted in terms of his research work. These days, however, as a tenured professor with a couple of books under his belt, Dent is done with boundaries.
“The more I can integrate my academic work and teaching with my music, the happier I am,” he says.
Right now, that looks like collaboration with a composer to teach a class on sound, researching cell phone use in local teenage populations, studying the resurgence of punk in DC and, of course, playing with his band Weird Babies.
“Shows I like playing the most are benefit shows,” he says. “We recently did one for gun control at St. Stephen’s and for [DMV immigration services organization] Ayuda at Rhizome. I’m wondering what it would be like to create a kind of pedagogical instrument for helping students think about the relationships between arts and community activism and civic engagement.”
Taking musical pedagogy and activism to another level, Adele Marie – whose hauntingly beautiful voice stopped me dead in my tracks at a show last winter – is a board-certified music therapist at the John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents.
“In high school, a friend asked me, ‘What do you want to study in college?’ and I replied, ‘All I know is I want to do something where I can help people,’” she says. “I didn’t hear the words ‘music therapy’ until the beginning of my community college enrollment, but as soon as I did, I never seriously considered any other career path.”
The artist works with adolescents and young adults ages 10-21 who experience various manifestations of emotional and/or behavioral issues caused by a broad scale of traumas, mental illnesses, autism spectrum disorders and other diagnoses.
“My two favorite parts about my work are communicating with my clients through music and sharing a musical space with them, and witnessing their growth and progress,” she says.
But the intense adversity many of her clients face is challenging.
“Music therapy is not always pretty. It does not always involve beautiful music-making – in fact, it may involve complete chaos.”
In terms of her own musicianship, like Dent, she has found DC to be a hotspot for musicians looking to share creative processes. She cites the DIY community as being especially supportive, opening up gig opportunities at spots like Boundary Stone, Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House’s Vinyl Lounge, Dwell and FRESHFARM Markets, among others.
Catch folk-rock project Adele Marie & The Milkweeds at Velvet Lounge on August 28, and learn more about these unexpected musicians and their bands below.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 6
Since his controversial arrest with ICE in early February, there has been a lot of uncertainty in 21 Savage’s music career. He’s had a lot of challenges coming back into the music industry; however, he used his experience to give back to his community. His sophomore album i am> i was, is a testament to that. Savage approached this album with more sentimental songs: “A Lot,” “Letter 2 My Momma” and “All My Friends” progressed his artistic expression. His duality of gangster rap and emotions exemplifies through this album, which allows his listeners to be completely captivated. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7
Peter Michel began his career at the early age of 17, touring with his band at night and finishing his studies during the day. Developing a love for classical music in early adolescence, he expanded his creativity by crossing over to the guitar and songwriting, which led him to form the band Hibou. The Seattle-based musician has released four studio albums leading him around the world, reaching audiences far and wide that ultimately put him in his position today. Michel’s vocals play on 80s indie pop, fueled by guitar melodies and flux arrangements. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets $12. Pie Shop: 1339 H St. NE, DC; www.pieshopdc.com
THURSDAY, AUGUST 8
Copper Chief brings a spunky twist to country music. Deep in Texas influence and even deeper in brotherhood, Chief has been gracing stages nationwide to give you a taste of country-infused rock ‘n’ roll. The group, made up of Mike Vallerie, Rio Tripiano, Justin Lusk and John Jammall II, has created more of a music family than an ensemble. The momentum of this band is promising, after winning at the 2019 Texas Regional Radio Music Awards and becoming USA Network’s fan favorite. Their boundary crossing sound is influenced by soul, psychedelic and blues. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $12. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com
FRIDAY, AUGUST 9
Nalani & Sarina
Identical sisters Nalani & Sarina have utilized their musical inclinations to create a savvy approach to pop music. Their spunk brings new energy back to music and their pop-soul approach drives this kind of music forward. With such a free ambiance, they touch on subjects including individuality, subjectivity and inclusivity while empowering women. Each set is different, and they always play on improvisation, so it’s no telling what they have in store for their fans. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com
SUNDAY, AUGUST 11
Nappy Roots is back to grace the stage after years of retirement. Rooted in southern Kentucky influences, the hip-hop group took the industry by storm. Intertwining folk and rap and bringing a new perspective to music. Collaborating with renowned artists like Anthony Hamilton, Greg Nice and more, their unique sound drew fans in and ultimately led them to sold more than 3 million albums. Nappy Roots managed to go out on their own and create a new wave of music. With the release of their tenth mixtape Sh!t’s Beautiful, they have built a 20-year career that continues to surprise the music world. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $25. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com
Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter and producer Yeek brings back the nostalgia of artists like N.E.R.D and No Doubt while also creating a unique sound. His mix of hip-hop and punk rock allows the listener to be completely captivated and experience a new age of music. In 2017, he released his debut album Sebastian, turning heads and pushing his stardom forward. Yeek’s most recent releases analyzes his progression as an artist, yet still pays tribute to his old works. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14
Coated in poetry and slick in rhyme, Common has a career spanning over 30 years. He has challenged the ideal rap artist by preaching nothing but authentic life and social experiences – and his upcoming tour is no different. The Let Love tour is the result of the release of his memoir Let Love Have the Last Word, where he exclusively talks about his trials and tribulations as a black man growing up in Chicago. His vulnerability not only in his book as well his tour opens up a completely different side of Common his fans have never seen before. The melodic tone that renders your attention will leave you captivated and also as vulnerable as he is. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $32. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC; www.warnertheatredc.com
Resurfacing after almost a decade, David Berman shocked the public with his return of four new singles and a different band: Purple Mountains. It was surprising that after dismantling Silver Jews, Berman didn’t return right away for a solo career – but he’s back with a new sound that all his fans will enjoy. Stricken with loss and self-reflection, his music narrates the disintegration of friends, family and fans that were once dear to him. His sensitivity throughout “All My Happiness is Gone” may scare his fans due to the interpretations of addiction and suicide, but it examines his growth as an artist almost a decade later. His psychedelic approach to each song may seem overdramatized, but in a sense, that’s what makes it beautiful. There is no perfect song, which circles back to his reality. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com
THURSDAY, AUGUST 15
This London-based DJ and producer has a way of quenching the thirst of all those who listen to him. Catching Flies reaches right into your soul to the deepest depths through his melodic, percussive beats. He uses all genres – hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul, pop and more – to create this unique experience. Earning a fan base of some of the greats including Giles Peterson, Annie Mac and Huw Stephens, he has built a musical platform that’s uniquely diverse and dynamic. His new album Silver Linings, released in early July, is naturally moving and emotionally structured. Show at 10 p.m. Tickets $10. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com
The Jonas Brothers
After years of anticipation, The Jonas Brothers have returned – and they’re all grown up. After crushing millions of young teen hearts in 2013 when they announced their split, Nick, Joe and Kevin went their separate ways. But after years of longing, our prayers have been answered. Their comeback single “Sucker” brings a more seductive, edgy vibe to this heartthrob band. We all love the classics – “Burnin’ Up,” “LoveBug,” “Year 3000” – but Happiness Begins examines their progression as artists. The brothers have always been a force, but their individual artistry shines throughout this album. Additionally, it examines the diligence and work ethic they all acquired driving the boy band industry after years of separation. This tour is something we’ve all been waiting for, and The Jonas Brothers aren’t going to disappoint. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $115. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com
First known for her YouTube channel, Tessa Violet found stardom by gaining a million subscribers for her quirky videos and vlogs. She garnered national attention with her hit single “Crush,” released in June of last year. It surprised all of her fans and subscribers that her musical talents went beyond the kid-like videos she made for her channel, earning her respect in the music industry with this more mature take on pop music. She later released numerous singles that her fans seem to love, and now Violet is taking a break from YouTube and hitting the road on this tour to really embrace the lifestyle of pop music. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com
TUESDAY, AUGUST 20
Born in the Bayou, Tab Benoit has crafted a career rooted in soul. The Louisiana native has used his guitar to paint a picture of the Delta Blues that lies deep within him. Benoit started playing the guitar at an early age, learning from blues legends Raful Neal and Tabby Thomas, and has since taken his skills to the next level. Benoit was destined to become the phenomenon that he is today, bringing the Bayou to the DMV for a can’t-miss performance. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $35. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria VA; www.birchmere.com
FRIDAY, AUGUST 23
Brittany Howard is taking a break from her Grammy winning band Alabama Shakes and strutting out for her solo career. Her debut album Jaime brings a modern twist to this once country artist’s sound. Her album, set to debut in early September, brings a psychedelic funk, soul-defined and hip-hop accented sound that highlight her past. Howard goes into depth with sexuality, family tragedy, religious indifference and much more. She is finally stepping out on her own two feet and is definitely a solo artist to watch. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $55. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com
King of electronic trap production RL Grime has brought a vibrant twist to the dance music scene. Working with artists like Ty Dolla $ign, Kanye West, Miguel and more helped him revamp his sound into something completely unique. There is no holding back – Grime’s continuously released hit after hit. His deep and aggressive chord progressions won’t allow your feet to stop moving, and the artist’s high octaves and percussive bass are captivating. His fans have traveled far and wide to see what he’ll come up with next, so don’t miss him at Echostage this month. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com
SATURDAY, AUGUST 24
The Beach Boys
The boys are back. The Beach Boys are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a reunion tour. Music spanning multiple generations will bring people from all walks of life – creating an almost religious experience. Coming almost full circle, Mike Love and the boys have relished in the opportunity to come together again and this reunion is the perfect excuse. They’re also creating a new studio album, That’s Why God Made the Radio, that examines the fruition of their iconic sound over a 50-year period. All-American classics like “Surfin’ USA,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “California Girls” return to the main stage as The Beach Boys brings us back to this magical time of music. Doors at 1:30 p.m. Tickets start at $35. Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org
SATURDAY, AUGUST 24 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 25
There is no one quite like Tame Impala in the industry today. The psychedelic pop stars have created a sound that is unmatched, as the Australian natives have brought the 60s into modern music. With the emergence of color, root of pop-rock and accents of soul, they challenge the typical take on pop music. Stepping onto the scene in 2010, Kevin Parker and his band released their debut album Innerspeaker, which gained worldwide praise for creating an entirely different entity in pop music. They went on to release multi-platinum studio albums that garnered national attention, leading to sold-out stadium shows across the globe. Their influence on the sonic universe will take you on an experience that’s out of this world. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com
THURSDAY, AUGUST 29
Rooted in contemporary jazz with accents of rock and pop, Kindo is an unlikely success story. Since releasing their debut EP almost a decade ago, they’ve sold 30,000 records worldwide and have 2.5 million Spotify plays and 3 million views on YouTube. But that is just the beginning to their success. From their humble beginnings in Buffalo, New York, they created their unique sound via the influences of Radiohead, Robert Glasper and Justin Timberlake. With R&B and Latin accents conjoined with sophisticated lyrics, they keep their fans moving. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club
SATURDAY, AUGUST 31
Danielle Nicole Band
Grammy nominated for best contemporary blues album, Danielle Nicole has taken the blues industry by storm. Once the lead singer of Trampled Under Foot, Nicole has since stepped out on her own and is becoming the blues musician she has always wanted to be. Catering to a younger crowd, she wants the authenticity of music to inspire the next generation. With the strum of her guitar, the brass of the bass and the underline of the drums, she has created something soothing to the ear. She has slowly but surely created a name for herself, and this tour is just a testament to her growth as an artist. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com
This dynamic duo crosses boundaries of soul and Afrofuturism. They blend the acoustic sounds of guitar and the bass of heavy drums with inspired lyrics to create the beautiful sound that has reached international audiences. Since their debut mixtape in 2015, ASASE YAA, they have created a following that has amassed all over social media and continues to push their career today. Gaining national attention, they’re quickly becoming one of the most prominent soulful groups of our generation. As full-time college students at NYU, they managed to travel all across the world. Now, they have come into their own through their artistry as powerhouses in today’s music industry. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com
SATURDAY, AUGUST 31 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
Labor Day Weekend Music Festival
Lincoln Theatres is rounding out the summer with its Labor Day Weekend Music Festival. Come enjoy a free two-night festival filled with some of the greatest artists to grace our nation’s capital. Musicians, bands, producers and more will grace the stage to give local music lovers a diverse show. So come out to Lincoln Theatre to listen to the soundtrack of DC’s 2019 summer. Show starts at 7 p.m. Free. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com
Brian Palmer had a small yet inventive idea that sparked a festival authentically highlighting the DC music scene.
He performed all across the nation’s capital with his band Fellowcraft, meeting many talented artists along the way. He later realized the potential of DC’s music scene and wanted to shed light on what others were overlooking, so he created radio show and podcast DC Music Rocks to highlight the local music community. Alongside this year’s festival coordinator Daniel Roberts, he crafted the idea to produce an event that would incorporate everything he’d witnessed on the road.
“We look at the DC scene and see the amazing amounts of diversity and great artistry, and no one really knows it’s there except for the small groups of people in each scene,” Roberts says. “But it’s not well-known outside of DC.”
This year’s DC Music Rocks Festival will be held at the 9:30 Club on August 17. Participating artists range from reggae to indie pop, showcasing the stylistic variation that epitomizes the local music scene. Not bound by expectations or competition, this festival creates a supportive, inclusive atmosphere. In keeping with the festival’s mission, Palmer and Roberts searched for artists across the DC area that would fit their vision – but this proved challenging due to the fact that most of the participants seemed to be white male guitarists.
“They are a dime a dozen, and I happen to be one of them,” Roberts says.
Nonetheless, diversity was a huge element of success for the festival, which meant more culture, more women and more music. The festival features six artists that have manifested their careers by developing original sounds, including Sub-Radio and Iza Flow.
Made up of childhood friends, Sub-Radio brings their own flair to indie music. Lead vocalist Adam Bradley describes their sound as “indie pop with a dance atmosphere.” They don’t fit in the usual boundaries of chill, elastic pop; instead, they craft upbeat tempos and psychedelic twists.
Iza Flo, a mesh of different women, ages, backgrounds and cultures, is one of the few bands on the scene that exemplifies an energy the DC community craves. Diora Brown, the group’s MC, describes their sound as “a lot of soul with hip-hop elements [and] a unique nostalgia that reminds you of the 80s.”
Though they only formed this April, Iza Flow developed an approach to music that is naturally authentic. With such a positive and early beginning, performing at this festival provides them with an accepting outlet to dive into their craft and career as a group.
Even though the festival’s platform is built on diversity, the goal is also to expose artists to a higher platform. Roberts, who has his own record label, discovered that there aren’t enough musical outlets in DC for artists to reach a broader audience. Navigating the steps to reach national recognition can pose an enormous challenge to local artists, and Roberts and his collaborators want to use this festival to create more opportunities.
The DC Music Rocks Festival also pushes the local music scene forward with the support of nonprofit The MusicianShip, which helps at-risk youth through music education. Sub-Radio is a huge advocate for music education, considering it is one of the vital points that led to the creation of the band.
“We love to advocate for music education whenever possible,” says guitarist and vocalist Matt Prodanovich. “Four or five of us took classical guitar lessons in high school, which was one of the big factors on how we met and formed our band.”
This is a festival built on the diversity of its artists and their stylistic expression. Don’t miss the authenticity and vibrancy of DC’s local music scene at the DC Music Rocks Festival on Saturday, August 17 at the 9:30 Club. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.dcmusicrocks.com.
9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202 265-0930; www.930.com
Correction: In a previous version of the story, the wrong photographer was credited. This mistake has been amended.
I’m on the second floor of H Street’s Maketto sipping a latte when I realize I’m not 100 percent sure what the two people I’m meeting look like. I type their collective name, The Factory (stylized ThFctry), into Instagram and realize both Matt Jackson and Avery Showell aren’t ones to beat their chests. There are few proper selfies of the duo, as the stream of photos consists almost entirely of DC artists the two have interviewed or are celebrating – often both.
Despite this, they aren’t strangers to self-promotion, and have carved out a niche for themselves in the surrounding DMV by dabbling in several mediums to promote local hip-hop. The pair curates monthly playlists of entirely new releases and hosts artists cutting their teeth on their self-titled radio program produced at Full Service Radio inside AdMo’s LINE Hotel.
“We’re like hybrids,” Jackson tells me matter-of-factly after he and Showell arrive. “When we run into people, they don’t know whether to treat us like radio DJs of old or new-age playlisters. It’s like a weird gray area of curation that we’re in. Some people call us podcasters, some people call us radio hosts.”
Before the two climb the stairs of the coffee shop, I’m finally able to find a picture of them from a previous recording session. But it’s one of those Insta slideshows and theirs is the last one, buried underneath candids and posed shots of their interviewee.
Today, they are dressed like they’re coming back from the YMCA after a run of several 5-on-5’s in basketball shorts, thrifted T-shirts and athletic shoes. They’re dressed for the outside heat, so scalding the power cut out as they were ordering their iced coffees. Just as they sit down, the Maketto speakers come back on. It’s a hit from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s 2011 collaboration Watch the Throne, before the latter wore Trump’s hat and said flagrant things on TMZ.
“We’re going to do a Kanye interview one day,” Jackson says assuredly. “We’ve got some ideas for Kanye that we got to talk to him about – crazy, crazy ideas.”
At Salisbury University in 2014, the idea that Jackson and Showell would be hosting a radio show in the nation’s capital would have seemed like one of those “crazy ideas.” Showell’s primary goal in college was getting comfortable on a microphone and he wasn’t shy, quickly hosting different shows every year for the school’s radio station. The subject matter was “everything,” but he and his cohost at the time kept music a constant focal point.
“My background was always from the perspective of someone who wanted to get into the journalism side of it,” Showell says about his early on-air experiences. “I grew up in love with music, artists and genres. It was: How do I take this to a new level of engagement? What’s my next level?”
For Jackson, Salisbury marked his fourth college of attendance. Despite a music background, including a stint with a preteen, church-based, gospel hip-hop group, his primary focus for higher education was basketball. He played at three schools before arriving in the small Maryland town, calling himself the “college Rudy Gay.” Upon enrolling and acclimating to a lifestyle less consumed with athletic endeavors, Jackson linked up with Showell and discovered a connection through their backgrounds and the shared desire to highlight local artists.
“Every DJ we saw that was going in [to the college radio station] was using it like some kind of chill period of their day,” Jackson says. “They were going in there to chill with their friends and joke around, but they weren’t focusing on content. We thought, ‘Why don’t we do it like we’re on Radio One or SiriusXM right now?’ Taking that initiative at that time made us stand out.”
Their show was titled “Thank You for Not Snitching,” named after a music blog. In the middle of 2015, the radio show outgrew the small website, which left all parties a little unsettled. After parting ways, the friends were forced to decide on a new platform, name and mission, and thus ThFctry was born.
“We had to start a whole new thing because coming off of working with a blog, you don’t want to go after the same stories or same artists,” Jackson says. “We went back to the drawing board, because even if we were doing a good job finding new artists then, we have to an even better job now and make those new relationships.”
Showell adds, “That was a crucial period. That was the moment that everything fused together into something that more resembles now.”
Life at the LINE
Both Jackson and Showell graduated college in 2016, leaving behind the familiarity of the university radio booth in favor of returning to DC. Though the two were able to cobble up funds for bills by doing odd jobs around the city, they were also laying a foundation for their next radio endeavor.
“It was a year of due diligence,” Showell says. “It was us interacting with everyone we’d need to call upon once we got set up. Down the road, it’s like, hey, they know who ThFctry is.”
Eventually, people did start to take notice of the curating dynamos as they began introducing themselves to all of the artists they promoted via social media, forming relationships and cementing a foundation for a robust guest list. As everything lined up perfectly for ThFctry’s on-air return, the LINE Hotel announced its plans to host an Internet radio station.
“Timing is everything,” Jackson says. “It was divine timing. I sat on the idea for a few months, afraid to hit send on the email [to ask for an audition]. We went to the hotel on New Year’s Eve [for] some random party. I was stalking Jack Inslee’s page. I know what he looks like. We were about to leave because we couldn’t get in, and the one guy we came to see walks out to smoke a cigarette.”
Inslee, Full Service Radio’s founder and creative director, told them to send an email. Jackson did. He sent two more over the course of the next five months, before Inslee finally gave them an audition in the summer.
“We thought it wasn’t going to happen,” Jackson says candidly. “We went in there and bodied it the first time – one take Drake.”
The formula of the show was simple, a call back to hip-hop radio in the 90s. Interviews with artists would be interspersed with music from their latest mixtapes, bringing a nostalgic, retro feel to the program and a personal connection to the local talent.
“I want an artist to [be able to] drop locally, because they can’t go to [93.9] WKYS to play their whole album,” Jackson says. “[The station] is just not going to do it, or at least they haven’t been doing it. I felt like that model was the most effective. [On] the first couple of episodes, we just played all of our favorite music that you don’t know about, but we needed to add that personal touch.”
Local Lists + Future Forays
In-between radio booths, Jackson and Showell became Internet investigators in search of new local music. SoundCloud became a useful tool as the website operates as a stomping ground for up-and-coming artists. However, the limitless supply of songs can be difficult to sift through. That’s where ThFctry came through with their monthly “Sounds and Smoke Daylists,” available on SoundCloud.
“That’s a great part of it,” Showell says. “There’s definitely something to mastering how to navigate SoundCloud or making stations [based on] music you like. It’s that combined with submissions [and] word of mouth.”
“[Follow] the trail of quality,” Jackson adds. “Most quality artists work with other quality artists. We canvas the platforms pretty well and we’re super active on social media. I always knew there were artists here.”
ThFctry’s own trail of quality doesn’t end at playlists and podcasts, as the duo has a score of ideas for future multimedia projects including an upcoming radio tour consisting of stops at the LINE’s sister hotels.
“We’re going to be kicking it with artists for like a week, so we can have a good amount of content,” Jackson says. “[And] just really shine a light on something not only we can use, but they can use while they go along. We’re just going to be doing dope shit.”
Check out ThFctry’s dope shit, including playlists and full episodes of their radio show, at www.soundcloud.com/thfctry. For information regarding their upcoming schedule and future projects, follow them on social media @thfctry. Learn more about Full Service Radio at www.thelinehotel.com/full-service-radio.
Correction: A previous version of this story identified Matt Jackson as Matt Jones. We regret this error.
As we sat over a cup of coffee, 25-year-old Walter “Bobby” McCoy spoke to me in a way only someone who has been in the theatre world for 10 years can: vividly and with gusto. The Helen Hayes Award-winning music director’s smile reached up to his eyes with every story he shared with me about his experiences. McCoy, who hails from Falls Church, Virginia and now resides in nearby Manassas, commutes to Shirlington’s Signature Theatre, Dupont Circle’s Keegan Theatre and the DMV’s Levine School of Music for various projects. He’s currently juggling music direction for Keegan’s Legally Blonde from August 3 to September 1 while working at several theatre camps with students of all ages.
Not everyone can say that they thrive in chaos – some may even find it overwhelming. But when you are in the theatre world, it is often your life. McCoy fits into this chaos in his own way: starting off as a piano accompanist for his high school chorus at 14, he was able to pick up the scores easily. This ultimately led him to be on the other side, directing kids and adults alike and garnering attention from the professional theatre community with three Helen Hayes Award nominations by his early 20s. I picked McCoy’s brain on a recent July day about his foray into DC’s theatre scene.
On Tap: Tell me how you first got started with music growing up.
Bobby McCoy: I think my first experience was in my general music class in elementary school. I was really attracted to accompanying singers and watching the interaction between my music teacher and the accompanist. I loved being a part of that and seeing how she would work with people.
OT: Where did your passion for music come from?
BM: My passion started when I started taking chorus class in seventh grade. I had just started playing the piano. I was fascinated with the accompanist, [the idea of] someone playing with a whole group of people. [That was] the bug that bit me. Eventually, this led to me playing full concerts as an eighth grader.
OT: What brought you into the theatre world as a musician?
BM: I took a leap. I saw that Marshall High School was doing Company, so I signed up. Eventually, I was an assistant music director. I was very green. After that, I did Chicago, and then that summer I saw that the Little Theatre [of Alexandria] was doing Company and I went in [and got the job of rehearsal pianist at 15]. It has been sort of nonstop since that moment.
OT: Why did you want to pursue GALA Hispanic Theatre’s In the Heights as a music director? What about the storyline stood out to you?
BM: I grew up in a Hispanic family, and a lot of the things that they go through and the cultural aspect of the show was really appealing. The music was something that reminded me of the authentic culture I grew up with as opposed to the stereotypical Latin number that you would see in a show like Chicago, for example.
OT: How did you feel when you were nominated for three Helen Hayes Awards and won for In the Heights at only 23?
BM: It was really weird. I was happy I won but I was nominated for three shows, so I was sort of like, “Which one am I rooting for?” I did a lot of work for Heights. It was my first time going out of town for a show. I was proud of that show and happy that it got the recognition.
OT: Why did you choose Levine School of Music’s Performance Institute as an institution to work as a music director?
BM: I’ve been on the faculty here for three years. I like inspiring young kids to find their voice. There are a lot of times when people don’t have artistic opportunities, and I love being able to help people become better artists.
OT: How would you describe your directing style?
BM: Collaborative. I like seeing what people bring to the roles, but I am also particular about the way I teach things. I know a lot of people who will teach a number and then clean it [up] after, but I do the opposite. Breathing and dynamics are from the get-go for me – if it gets lost to technique, it won’t happen.
OT: What has been your favorite show to direct? What would be a dream production for you?
BM: Legally Blonde. I’ve done it three times – it’s my first professional production [and] definitely a different caliber of performers. Dream productions: Sweeney Todd with a full orchestra and Sunday in the Park with George. Both are [Stephen] Sondheim musicals and I love all of his works.
To catch McCoy’s work in action, be sure to check out Legally Blonde at Keegan Theatre from August 3 to September 1. Various times. Tickets are $62.
Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; 202-265-3767; www.keegantheatre.com
One of the District’s most popular pop-up bars started with a Christmas miracle.
“It was not my idea,” Drink Company CEO Angie Fetherston admits.
Instead, she borrowed the theme from a friend in New York, adding a uniquely DC spin to what would become something of a seasonal phenomenon in the city.
“We thought, ‘We love Christmas – let’s get together and throw up some decorations,’” she says, referring to her partners at Drink Company.
Fetherston made a call to Adriana Salame, who was living in Los Angeles at the time, with a brief explanation of the concept and a simple, “I know you love Christmas. Are you in?” She was – as was the rest of the DC area.
“We started off with a regular bar schedule,” Fetherston continues. “We had to hire more people overnight because the line was out the door. The joy and nostalgia that people felt when they walked through the door was a piece of magic.”
Miracle on Seventh Street first came to life in 2015 at Drink Company’s now-closed Mockingbird Hill bar. The goal was to have fun and bring a little more extra community spirit to the season.
With the success that Miracle on Seventh Street brought, Fetherston, Salame and the rest of the Drink Company team realized that they had stumbled upon something really special. They began to brainstorm other fun ideas for potential pop-ups.
For the first few years, the pop-up bars lived within the three neighboring bars that Drink Company owned on Seventh Street in Shaw: the aforementioned Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich and Southern Efficiency.
“Every time we did it, people expected bigger and better,” Fetherston says. “At one point, we had to make a choice. We couldn’t do the builds and activations without closing the bars in-between.”
With the pop-up bars becoming increasingly popular and intricate, the Drink Company team made the decision to permanently close the three locations and turn it into one large spot that allows for separate activation spaces.
While the inventive pop-up bars, also known as PUBs, keep the team on their toes, they’re also still at the creative helm of two permanent locations: award-winning cocktail bar Columbia Room in Blagden Alley and Chef Johnny Spero’s modern American restaurant Reverie in Georgetown.
“We didn’t think about it in a way to try and tick boxes off,” Fetherston explains of the PUBs. “We just pick [a theme] that excites us, and we do it. Someone comes up with something awesome and we all get into it.”
These casual brainstorm sessions have brought about the smash-hit themes for pop-ups including Game of Thrones, Cherry Blossom, Royal Wedding, the Halloween-themed PUB Dread and more.
The ideas are the easy part, but bringing to life an entirely immersive experience is nothing short of a work of art and true labor of love. Salame is now the special projects manager at Drink Company. Together with Matt Fox, Drink Company’s special projects director, they bring outrageous and wild visions to life by hand.
“High-production experiences and atmospheres are really what the people respond to, not just the spirit of Christmas and cookie dough cocktails,” Fetherston says. “[Matt] was the one who took it to the next level.”
Each pop-up varies in production lead time and execution. Salame makes two or three trips to Home Depot daily and physically constructs entire sets. Some take four days to build and are done in Fox’s backyard, while others take months and require assembly within the actual bar space. Christmas, of course, is the most elaborate.
“Each project is so different,” Salame says. “It’s always a new task I’ve never conquered before. There’s a lot of prep work involved, too.”
The sets are so fantastical that Drink Company’s team often has to be prepared to prevent theft and destruction when patrons come in.
“I used to blame it on the people,” Salame chuckles. “But now I blame it on the design for not being bar-friendly. I try to make things yank-proof.”
The craziest prop someone ever tried to steal was a giant gold reindeer from the front window. The most common items to go missing are the themed cups.
“We lost [between] 2000 [and] 2,500 pieces of glassware after the second [pop-up],” Salame adds. “People used to actually leave their IDs and passports here so they didn’t have to return the cups. I think now people have calmed down.”
Every single prop and set used for the pop-up bar’s various themes is built by Salame, Fox and a team of volunteers.
“We live in this world of very high-end, precious culinary arts,” Fetherston says, referencing Columbia Room. “This pop-up [format] is really a revelation for us. It’s more than just amazing drinks. It’s about connection.”
Their work is perhaps best highlighted by its most recent iteration, Levels Unlocked, which opened in late July and runs through September 29.
The three spaces have been converted into a gamer’s version of heaven on Earth. Each space pays tribute to three popular games: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, NBA2K19 and Overwatch. It truly is like walking into the TV screen and through each of these games.
Salame chimes in with a laugh.
“You’ve got to be there for the nerds.”
With that as the goal, consider this pop-up bar’s level unlocked.
Check out Drink Company’s Levels Unlocked pop-up through September 29. Learn more at www.popupbardc.com/esportshome.
Drink Company: 1843 7th St. NW, DC; 202-316-9396; www.popupbardc.com/esportshome
Open: May 20
Lowdown: The mother-son chef duo behind popular Laotian restaurants Thip Khao, Padaek and Sen Khao have opened a fourth concept, this one with a more playful vibe. Named for a mischievous monkey deity, Hanumanh is where chefs Seng Luangrath and Bobby Pradachith can let their creativity run free. It’s designed to evoke Laotian night life vibes, like the bustling markets that light up after dark. The tiki bar is the heart of the petite restaurant, with a few tables and ample bar seating. There’s also a spacious outdoor patio in the back surrounded by greenery and shaded by umbrellas. Inside and out, the space is bursting with color, from the intricate monkey murals on the walls to the fresh and bright ingredients on the plates. The small menu changes frequently, but mainstays include a banana blossom salad, red coconut crab curry and tapioca dumplings filled with a savory caramel of salted radish, pork and peanuts. Drinks are ideal for quenching thirst after spicy bites. A popular favorite is the Hanumanh: banana-infused Lao whiskey, brown butter condensed milk, passionfruit, vanilla and mango served in a cheeky monkey cup. When you go, note that the restaurant does not take reservations. 1604 7th St. NW, DC; www.hanumanh.com
Patsy’s American + Randy’s Prime Seafood & Steaks
Open: May 31 and July 30
Location: Tysons Corner
Lowdown: Great American Restaurants are an institution in Northern Virginia, and now the group has opened two restaurants honoring the institutions behind the empire. Patsy and Randy Norton are the namesakes for Patsy’s American and Randy’s Prime Seafood & Steaks, housed in the towering red-brick GAR Complex in Tysons Corner. Patsy’s is a nostalgic ode to the company, bringing back customer favorites from the various restaurants over the years. The menu feels familiar, with raw bar platters, salads, sandwiches, seafood, meats and pastas. The space is modeled after an old-fashioned train station, with skylights, green ironwork and a classic station clock. Two murals – one of a carnival scene and another of celebrities and famous faces – add a touch of whimsy. Next door, Randy’s is dedicated to premium cuts of meat and seafood served in sophisticated surrounds. Dishes like oven-roasted branzino and a lobster-crab cake with lobster beurre blanc stand out. After your meal at either spot, you can walk a few steps to the new Best Buns Bakery & Café for desserts like milkshakes, cookies and cupcakes (or some fresh bread to take home). 8051 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA; www.patsysamerican.com and www.randysprime.com
Open: May 29
Lowdown: Known for hearty Italian comfort food, chef Michael Schlow wanted to show guests a lighter side of the cuisine with his first foray into fast casual. Prima’s bowls are rooted in the Mediterranean diet, with staples like whole grains, olive oil, roasted vegetables, seafood and lean meats. Incidentally, everything is gluten-free, and there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Guests can choose to customize their own bowl with greens or grains, house-made dressings, antipasti-style veggies and legumes, proteins, dips and spreads and crunchy toppings. You can also leave your meal in the hands of Schlow and his culinary director, Ed Scarpone. Options include chef-crafted bowls like the della nonna with meatballs or the vegan ortolana with broccoli, roasted baby carrots, sweet peas, black lentils, tri-color quinoa, marinated baby artichokes, wild mushrooms, Calabrian chile and red pepper spread and balsamic vinaigrette. The ingredients are sourced locally when possible, with an emphasis on sustainability. The space feels more like a full-service restaurant than fast casual, with glass garage doors, wood accents and dangling greenery reminiscent of al fresco dining in an Italian village. 7280 Woodmont Ave. Bethesda, MD; www.craveprima.com
Shilling Canning Company
Open: July 10
Location: The Yards
Lowdown: From 1935 to 1958, Shilling Canning Company was a family business selling canned produce in Finksburg, Maryland. Six decades later, Reid Shilling is paying homage to his heritage with a restaurant by the same name. Shilling began his career working with chef Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bistro on the west coast, but soon returned to his mid-Atlantic roots. He cooked at The Dabney for a year before deciding to open his own restaurant with his wife, Sara Quinteros-Shilling. The tavern-style restaurant is centered around an open kitchen that features a copper-clad wood-burning oven, a raw bar and a chef’s counter. The design takes after the original canning facility, with floor-to-ceiling windows, whitewashed brick, dark woods, white shiplap and vintage cans on display. A charcuterie aging room, glass wine storage and a soon-to-be greenery-enclosed patio accent the space. The planter boxes on the patio grow myriad herbs, edible flowers and small produce like cucumbers, tomatoes and hearty varieties of kiwis which are used to garnish and accent dishes and drinks. The Chesapeake-centric menu changes daily, but always incorporates local, seasonal ingredients and preservation techniques from his family business. Current highlights include small plates like honey cakes topped with benne butter and Surryano ham and Chesapeake rockfish with fennel, red potatoes, potato rouille and spicy tomato broth, as well as large plates like dry-aged Rettland duck crown with duck confit boudin, beets, preserved plums and black walnuts. 360 Water St. SE, DC; www.shillingcanning.com
Buena Vida Social Club
Lowdown: The final piece of La Esquina de Clarendon is complete with the opening of the Buena Vida Social Club. Led by Ivan Iricanin of Street Guys Hospitality, the three-level corner houses TTT Mexican Diner, Buena Vida and now the open-air resort-style club on the top floor. The rooftop channels Acapulco, Mexico with bright shades of aqua and mauve, a lounge area, tropical and frozen cocktails (featuring agave and sugar cane spirits), low-ABV options, casual fare and build-your-own tacos. The space is open for drinks and dinner, as well as brunch on the weekends. On Thursday through Saturday nights, a DJ will be spinning. 2900 Wilson Blvd. third floor, Arlington, VA; www.buenavidasocial.club
Double Deckers in Marshall
Lowdown: The main drag in this charming Virginia town is giving new meaning to the term party bus. Two big red antique double decker buses have parked themselves in the middle of the action and are open for business, serving up picnic-style eats and local wine. Johnny Monarch’s is a “bustaurant” owned by chef Brian Lichorowic, who named the business after the pen name his father used to write love letters during WWII. The menu offers sandwiches, classic savory pies and modern takes on TV dinners. Much of the produce used in the kitchen comes from Lichorowic’s hydroponic growing systems operating nearby. The Bubble Decker brings the booze, operated by Cave Ridge Vineyard from Mount Jackson. They offer various sparkling wines including a summery rosé. The lawn outside the buses hosts live music on Wednesdays and Sundays. Seating is available on the top level of each bus, as well as at picnic tables outside. The party buses are open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday from 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Johnny Monarch’s: 8374 W. Main St. Marshall, VA; www.johnnymonar.ch and Cave Ridge Vineyard: 1476 Conicville Rd. Mount Jackson, VA, www.caveridge.com
THROUGH SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7
We all remember seeing Disney’s iconic animated film Aladdin as 90s kids. With a recent adaptation of the film, this is the best time for the hit Broadway musical to make its way to the Kennedy Center. From the producer of Broadway’s The Lion King comes the timeless story of Aladdin, a thrilling new production filled with unforgettable beauty, magic, comedy and breathtaking spectacle. It’s an extraordinary theatrical event where one lamp and three wishes make the possibilities infinite. Various times. Tickets start at $39. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org
TUESDAYS THROUGH SEPTEMBER 24
Harold Night is Washington Improv Theater’s weekly homage to the world-famous long-form improv performance known as Harold. The show begins with suggestions from the audience, and the players create what the audience is imagining right before their eyes. The night ends in a free jam where the audience is invited to try improv side by side with the actors and performers – no experience necessary. Seating is first-come, first-serve so it would be best to get there on the earlier side. Pay what you choose. Show starts at 8 p.m. The Source: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; www.witc.org
MONDAY, AUGUST 5 and MONDAY, AUGUST 19
Comedy, Magic & Martinis
Mix and mingle with your fellow speakeasy-goers at the Mansion on O’s magical event. Instead of a stage and curtains, this will be closeup magic and it’s sure to shock and surprise you every step of the way. The speakeasy will be a bit hidden, so you may have to do a bit of sleuthing to find the six famous Houdini clocks. You’ll also be able to enjoy themed rooms and exhibits as well as $10 martinis. Doors at 5 p.m. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $50. The Mansion on O: 2020 O St. NW, DC; www.omansion.com
THURSDAY, AUGUST 15 – SATURDAY, AUGUST 17
DC Black Film Festival
The Miracle Theatre and Mayflower Hotel present this festival featuring notable films like Solace, Oklahoma is Black and Murder in Mobile, as well as web series and television content by and about people of African descent. Visit the website for more information about the 2019 festival showcase, including a full schedule of events. Various times. Tickets start at $15. The Miracle Theatre: 535 8th St. SE, DC; www.dcbff.org
SUNDAY, AUGUST 18
Signature Theatre Open House
To start off its 30th season with a bang, Signature Theatre will be hosting its annual open house in mid-August. Starting at noon, you’ll be able to enjoy performances every 15 minutes as well as master classes, family cabarets, games, crafts and much more. One new addition this year: you’ll be able to enter a lottery to win free tickets to the theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. The event runs from 12-7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org
THURSDAY, AUGUST 22
After being nominated for an Emmy for his writing on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Brian Parise is back to provide many laughs and standup for audiences of all ages to enjoy. Parise got his start in the DC comedy scene and quickly became a rising star before moving on to host a monthly comedy show in Brooklyn. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. The Comedy Loft of DC: 1523 22nd St. NW, DC; www.dccomedyloft.com
MONDAY, AUGUST 26
The Goethe-Institut Washington is partnering with Scena Theatre to present a series of workshops featuring selections of the latest and greatest plays to appear on the Berlin stage. This reading features Look Who’s Back, a play adapted from the novel – both of which were written by Timur Vermes. This will be the last reading of the series, so don’t miss it. Show starts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets free with registration. Goethe-Institut Washington: 1990 K St. NW, DC; www.goethe.de
THURSDAY, AUGUST 29 – MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 23
Small Mouth Sounds
To start off Roundhouse Theatre’s 41st season, Small Mouth Sounds focuses on six people who find themselves on a weeklong silent retreat in the woods. As they move through the week together, they begin to realize that being able to look “inward” is much more difficult when you are trying to get to know those around you first. Artist Director Ryan Rilette has created a show where the audience will find “equal parts humor and tenderness.” Various times. Pay what you can. Roundhouse Theatre: 4545 East-West Hwy. Bethesda, MD; www.roundhousetheatre.org