Photo: Courtesy of Black Cat
Photo: Courtesy of Black Cat

The 25 Lives of Black Cat

Black Cat has sold out countless shows, with killer acts on regular rotation at the 14th Street music venue. Drawing big names like Radiohead, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Killers and more, the double-level DC mainstay hasn’t quit booking national tours and amplifying local bands since opening its doors in ’93.

But its biggest accomplishment since opening? Owner and founder Dante Ferrando laughs on a recent call with On Tap, offering a blunt reply.

“Managing to stay open for 25 years would be the first [accomplishment] to come to mind,” he says. “It is a tough business. There’s a lot of ups and downs. You have to constantly recreate little bits and pieces to make things work.”

Black Cat is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month with a two-night lineup on September 14 and 15 of some of the venue’s favorite bands to work with. Ferrando seems like he doesn’t want to favor any particular act, but mentions Mike Watt – who’s part of the Friday night lineup – as an example of a musician that means something to the Black Cat team.

“We had a ton of good [musicians] that we asked and a ton of good ones that we got,” Ferrando says of how he culled talent for the anniversary shows. “It’s very tough unless you really want to blow huge amounts of money to get people to change their plans. Everyone’s on tour and has different things that they’re doing.”

As the drummer for local post-hardcore band Gray Matter, opening a music venue might have seemed like an obvious interest for Ferrando – but he’s also a natural entrepreneur. He owned Dante’s, a 14th Street restaurant and emphatic supporter of DC’s music scene, before opening the Black Cat. He says 9:30 Club monopolized the punk and alt-rock scenes at the time, but Ferrando had his own vision.

In its original location on F Street from 1980 to 1996, 9:30 was a “good, tiny punk-rock dive” for a 200-person show, according to Ferrando. At the time, he saw a need for a DC venue that was more accommodating to both fans and bands performing there, like a dressing room and more space for the audience.

“We did something that was needed in the city at that point in time. It was something we needed to have.”

With some healthy competition, 9:30 Club has since moved and improved – and both venues were able to carve their own identities in the city.

“My route was definitely more of the smoky bar or traditional club, [and 9:30 Club has] more of a concert production vibe,” he says. “I think it ended up balancing nicely in the end.”

Ferrando describes their current spot as a Hail Mary; the Black Cat moved to the larger space, still on 14th Street, in 2001.

“If you came to the area now and tried to get a space this big, I would be terrified to know how much that would cost.”

In the 25 lives of Black Cat, Ferrando has witnessed some shifts in the music scene. He says their first five years were the height of indie rock, with a unified local and regional rise of independent record labels and bands feeding off each other’s energy and style.

“I like times like that. It’s great to just have a great band. But if you have four great bands that all know each other and are bouncing stuff back and forth because they’re seeing each other’s shows, those sort of environments are very exciting to me. I just haven’t seen that to quite the [same] degree recently. I always hoped for those little hotspots to pop up and there’s not much you can do to create them aside from waiting for when they start happening.”

He says the fan-musician dynamic has changed too.

“Something that I kind of miss: there used to be a time where if a band was pretty big, a member of that band [playing] with their new act would draw really well. Nowadays, nobody cares. They might like the band, but the direct relationship to the band isn’t as intense as it used to be.”

But the volume of bands and people coming out is still growing, because new listeners can learn about an up-and-coming band through a few Internet clicks. With more venues popping up, local bands play more often now than they did before – and the venues are doing really well, according to Ferrando.

His Friday night anniversary show lineup includes Des Demonas, Subhumans, Ocampo Ocampo & Watt, Ted Leo, Dagger Moon, Scanners, Honey, and Felix & Sam. Des   Demonas guitarist Mark Cisneros calls the Black Cat an oasis in a changing district with new luxuries drawing people with wealth.

“The Black Cat is a home for everyone who’s still here playing music left in the scene,” Cisneros says. “It’s still a stronghold for the DC punk rock scene. It’s one of the best clubs in the world and it’s a real privilege to play there. We’re all thankful that Dante is still going with it and making a home for us.”

Ferrando’s band is set to play a couple of songs on Saturday night.

“It has nothing to do with Black Cat particularly,” he says of Gray Matter’s mini-reunion. “It’s just an opportunity for me to fly old friends in and do a show, which we haven’t done since the 20th anniversary. I’m particularly psyched about that.”

On Saturday, Ex Hex, Hurry Up featuring Kathy Foster and Westin Glass of The Thermals, Algiers, Hammered Hulls, Wanted Man, and Foul Swoops will share the stage with Ferrando.

“You get to catch some of the best local bands we’ve got and some really cool out-of-town bands too,” he says. “There’s a lot of people who’ve been coming here for a lot of years. It’s good to have just a fun party sometimes.”

Don’t miss the Black Cat’s 25th anniversary shows on Friday, September 14 and Saturday, September 15 on the venue’s mainstage. Doors at 7 p.m. both nights. Tickets are $25 per night. Learn more at www.blackcatdc.com.

Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4490; www.blackcatdc.com

drake-migos-2

Music Picks: September 2018

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6

Foxing
One of the most impressive emo bands of the past 10 years joins some of the genre’s most exciting new voices on tour. Foxing celebrated the release of their third (and best) record, Nearer My God, last month. The album garnered critical acclaim and solidified the band as some of the most talented musicians in the post punk game. Joined by Kississippi (whose first full length album Sunset Blush is a hot contender for one of my favorite albums of 2018) and Ratboys, this show is the grown-up emo kid’s dream.  Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $15. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

HOLYCHILD
This duo of GWU grads are returning to their old stomping grounds to usher in the newest era of their sound, which vocalist Liz Nistico describes as a change of pace from the cheerleader-esque “brat pop” of their 2015 LP. The same fun, electronic-based heart is there, but with more emotional lyricism and introspection, as Nistico shifts to more self-analytical content where she explores her ideas about love, her relationship with her father, and adjusting to becoming more prominent in the music industry and on social media. Check out the show to get a taste of this new material before their new album (which is still under wraps) drops. Show starts at 11 p.m. Tickets start at $13. 21-plus. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

Lil Baby & YK Osiris
Since his release from prison in 2017, Lil Baby has been on the fast track to success. After some big-name collaborations from artists like Drake, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, he’s embarking on his “Harder Than Ever Tour” aptly named after his debut LP that dropped in May. Eighteen-year-old YK Osiris will also be joining him on this tour. The recent Def Jam signee made his claim to fame from the buzz from his single “Valentine,” which caused record labels take notice of the young rapper/vocalist, especially after the single was remixed by Lil Uzi Vert. Be sure to check out these two up-and-coming stars when they come to the Fillmore. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27.50. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

U.S. Girls
Righteous anger about the chaotic world we live in has never sounded so good. U.S. Girl’s Meg Remy gifted the world with her massive, sparkling and timely record In a Poem Unlimited and takes it to the city that needs it most this month. Remy meditates on themes of misplaced power, violence against women and righteous revenge that makes you think as much as they make you want to dance. Join the catharsis at Miracle Theatre, with Remy as your regal guide. Doors at 7:30. Tickets are $15. The Miracle Theatre: 535 8th St. SE, DC; www.themiracletheatre.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

Jon B
Jon B is coming to Birchmere this month to bless us with his smooth R&B sounds. Upon first listen you’d never guess that the “They Don’t Know” singer was born in suburban Rhode Island. He gained inspiration for his sultry R&B sound from listening to records in his grandparents’ record store and carved out his own niche by working alongside artists like 2Pac and Babyface in the late 90s. If you’re in the mood for a little 90s R&B nostalgia, don’t miss this show. Doors at 7:30p.m. Tickets are $45. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.birchmere.com

Still Corners
Chillwave will never die and anyone who tells you otherwise just isn’t paying attention. Still Corners are proof of this. They’ve been crafting airy, dreamy songs since the early 2000s and haven’t stopped. The duo is touring around their release of the album Slow Air last month, and there’s no better way to round out your summer than vibing with the band and their smooth sounds at the intimate DC9 space. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $13. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11

Yuno
Do you ever see an opening band that totally blows you out of the water and makes you wonder how the hell they’re not headlining shows across the country? That’s how I felt after seeing Yuno open for Twin Shadow earlier this summer. The newly minted Sub Pop signee released a six-song EP full of white hot bangers that make the perfect soundtrack to your early fall vibes. Combining elements of pop, indie rock and R&B, Yuno’s universal appeal is going to catapult him into the mainstream any day now. Just try getting “No Going Back” out of your head. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13

Drake with Migos
Drake has had a whirlwind year. It seems that neither a scalding diss track, nor the blowback from allegation of hiding his son from the public and appearing in blackface can keep this man from charting on the Billboard Top 100 with a cute summer bop. He and Migos are gracing the Capital One Arena with their presence this month for the Aubrey & The Three Amigos tour. It sounds like the title of a spaghetti western, but it’s unlikely they’ll follow through on that theme and come out donning cowboy boots and twirling lassos. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $65. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

Tigers Jaw
Tigers Jaw is touring around the 10th anniversary of their self-titled album, and I am officially old. While I saw the band touring for their album Spin last year, I’m still keen on the idea of reliving my most emo years screaming the words to “The Sun” and “Plane vs. Tank vs. Submarine.” Take it from me, kids: you never really outgrow your emo phase. Embrace it. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Robyn Riot
No one at Robyn Riot will judge you for dancing on your own. DC area DJs MAJR and Jeff Prior are joined by Chicago native Greg Haus to bring you all of the Swedish pop queen Robyn’s greatest hits, all night long. The inimitable artist recently returned after almost a decade on hiatus with the sparkling single “Missing U” and the promise of a new album on the horizon. While we all pray to the goddesses of pop for Robyn to plan a tour with a stop in DC, this dance party can tide us over and celebrate her iconic career. Doors at 10 p.m. Tickets start at $10. 18-plus to enter. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19

Childish Gambino & Rae Sremmurd
This concert is already legendary, and it hasn’t even happened yet. The multitalented Childish Gambino is joining forces with hip hop phenoms Rae Sremmurd for his “This Is America” tour. I’m hoping he busts out some of the choreography from the video, but I guess the only way to know for sure is by going to the show. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $49.50. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

Whitney Rose
Rewind to January 2017. Whitney Rose was primed to release her first recording of the year, South Texas Suite, a countrypolitan valentine to her hometown of Austin, Texas. Days before the EP hit the streets and Rose kicked off a four-month worldwide tour, the burgeoning songwriting force packed her boots for Nashville, where she entered BlackBird Studio A to reconvene with the Mavericks’ Raul Malo. In one short week, Rose, Malo and co-producer Niko Bolas crafted her acclaimed latest effort, Rule 62. Rose is a unique and inimitable writer and performer, and has been highly lauded for her work, with nearly 400 shows in the past two years leading to international notoriety. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $10. 21-plus. Writeup provided by venue. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 20

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams
Multi-instrumentalist-singer-songwriter Larry Campbell and singer-guitarist Teresa Williams’ acclaimed eponymous 2015 debut, released after seven years of playing in Levon Helm’s band – and frequent guesting with Phil Lesh, Little Feat, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, brought to the stage the crackling creative energy of a decades-long offstage union. A whirlwind of touring and promo followed, and when the dust cleared, the duo was ready to do it all again. Which brings us to Contraband Love (released in 2017) a riskier slice of Americana. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $20. 21-plus. Writeup provided by venue. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

Owl City
I’d like to make myself believe that I knew I’d have the opportunity to see Owl City perform live during adulthood. My younger self would say to me “You would not believe your eyes…” I still hold a large amount of resentment in my heart for the DJ that came to my homecoming during my sophomore year of high school and played this song as the literal last song of the night. It made absolutely no sense, but my friends and I looked at each other in utter confusion and kept dancing anyway. The moral of this story is that “Fireflies” still slaps and always will. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Rooney
Did you know that Anne Hathaway’s love interest from The Princess Diaries is in a band in real life? If you didn’t, you should get to know Rooney. Blessing Mia Thermopolis with her first foot-popping kiss isn’t the only thing Robert Schwartzman has done, as he’s also the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist in the band, an actor and a filmmaker. You could say the last bit runs in the family, since he is related to the Coppola family. Rooney formed during his high school years in L.A., and they have made some really feel good tunes in their almost 20 years as a band, such as 2007’s “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” The Cosmic Interlude tour is all about Schwartzman finding the balance in his many passions. His film The Unicorn debuted this year at SXSW, and much of the new content Rooney is set to release this year comprises the movie’s soundtrack. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Trillectro 2018
This star-studded festival is sure to be the highlight of this month’s musical performances. Artists like SZA, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Rico Nasty, The Internet and many more are gathering in Columbia for this occasion, as well as a lot of local favorites like Jungle Fever, Girlaaa and Innanet Jamez. I would say more, but just know that if you miss this you’ll be missing out for sure. Doors at 12 p.m. Tickets are $79-$199. Merriweather Post Pavillion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.trillectro.com

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

Graham Coxon
While he’s widely known as the guitarist for britpop greats Blur, Graham Coxon has accomplished a lot as a solo musician. In addition to four albums, Coxon recently lent his talent to the soundtrack of the Netflix original series The End of the F***ing World. He now embarks on his first ever solo tour in the U.S., and the intimate dates are not to be missed by Blur fans, Britpop enthusiasts or fans of original soundtracking. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $29.50. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

The Growlers
The pioneers of all things cheery and sad return to DC on the heels of their most recent release Casual Acquaintances. The band is known for curating an impressive cast of like-minded musicians and encouraging fans to dress up in surreal and spooky costumes at their West Coast beach goth festivals. Now, DC is being treated to a stop on the wild ride that is the band’s self-described “psychedelic carnival.” We have no idea what to expect, but we’ve got our best beach goth costumes ready and we’ll see you on the dance floor for a night of surprises. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $30. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 24

Hana Vu
“Bedroom pop” has become an overused buzzword thrown onto any artist with dreamy, DIY tendencies. More than a sound, bedroom pop is a feeling: wistful, wanting, staring at your ceiling while lamenting whatever’s on your mind. Hana Vu is the textbook definition of this, and her rich but mournful voice that sounds much older than her 17 years make for a perfect addition to her confessional lyrics. Artists like Vu give hope for music as an inclusive and all-consuming outlet for whatever weighs heavy on you. It’s impossible not to find your own feelings in these songs. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $10. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

Jay Rock
Jay Rock has been releasing some heat as of late. We still haven’t forgotten about the greatness that is “King’s Dead” from Black Panther, but he’s got some new songs for us to enjoy on his latest release. The new album features amazing solo tracks as well as collaborations from many TDE label mates and the rare J. Cole feature. Catch him at the Fillmore this month performing tracks from Redemption. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20-$75. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz is making his way to The Anthem for his Raise Vibration tour, which shares a name with the new album he’s set to drop this month on September 7. His DC stop is one of only eight dates for this leg of his world tour, so it’s definitely not one you should miss. Plus, each ticket purchase for the album comes with a free physical copy of the album. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $75-$125. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25

Diana Ross
The legendary Motown diva is coming to Bethesda’s Strathmore theatre for two nights. Come see the only woman to ever have number one singles as a solo artist, as well as part of a duo, trio and ensemble as she performs some of her most timeless classics like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You Can’t Hurry Love” and more. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $69. The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25

Fickle Friends
This upbeat, indie-pop quintet has some fun new material on their new album You Are Someone Else that debuted this past spring. Their brand of beachy synth-pop is slightly reminiscent of something that would’ve hit big in the 80s, paired with decidedly modern production, courtesy of the same person that worked on music for The 1975, Arctic Monkeys and Two Door Cinema Club. The English band made waves with their single “Swim” and scored a contract back in 2015. Join them at DC9 this month for what’s sure to be a fun performance. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13-$15. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26

SALES
I love SALES. I’m not just talking about when I go to the store and get discounts, though I love that too. SALES the band is an Orlando based guitar-pop outfit that stole this writer’s heart with their self-titled EP released in 2014. Since then, they’ve released their debut LP in 2016 and their most recent album Forever & Ever dropped this past July. They make ambient, stripped down pop melodies with light, airy vocals. Their Spotify description says it best: SALES is “all the pop, no industry bullshit,” and if you’re into that you should go see them live at Rock & Roll Hotel this month. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $17-$19. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER  28

Blood Orange
Dev Hynes, the UK based artist and producer better known as Blood Orange, released his reflective third album just a few weeks ago. Negro Swan boasts an impressive 16 tracks, featuring artists like Diddy, A$AP Rocky, Janet Mock and more. More impressive than any collaborator is Hynes’s chops as a producer that truly let his political and timely lyrics shine. Don’t miss the virtuoso bring his music new and old to DC. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

Future Islands
If in 2014 you were living under a rock and somehow missed Future Islands’ front man Samuel T. Herring’s oddly spellbinding performance of “Seasons (Waiting on You),” go look it up. Even if you’ve seen it, go look it up again. Be mesmerized. Take notes so you can dance like him at this show. Herring’s dance moves are just one of the reasons we’re looking forward to this Baltimore-based trio taking the stage at The Anthem. Their most recent release, The Far Field, was one of 2017’s best albums – chock full of bangers from start to finish, not to mention a collab with none other than Blondie’s Debbie Harry. Don’t miss the Baltimore band in action. Doors are at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $41. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29

Belly
If I had to pick a favorite genre, it would be dream pop. The pioneers of that sound are making their way to DC and I am so excited to pay homage to Belly for carving out a space for the genre in the music world. Tanya Donelly and company returned this spring with their first album in nearly 25 years, Dove, that reminded fans why they’re the best at what they do. Come for the 90s hits, stay for the new jams – it’s sure to be a dreamy, psychedelic night. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Krantz
After leaving his home state of Iowa, traveling the world, touring with a band called The Effects, Jeffrey Danger eventually landed in Nashville. He hit the studio between tapings of MTV’s music competition American Supergroup (where he eventually became a finalist). Following the release of his self-produced solo album, He joined forces with Erik Theiling, Tee Tallent and Adrian Flores, who he met on the Broadway circuit. Together they bring a psychedelic/pop/rock edge equipped with provocative lyrics. Krantz embraces frantic ecstasy and a meaningful look within. The new record takes on several personalities, drawing influences from pop to reggae. Doors at 7 p.m. Free. 21-plus. Writeup provided by venue. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

SHAED
DC’s very own are celebrating the release of their Melt EP at Rock & Roll Hotel. The trio is basically unstoppable and are surely poised for alt-pop stardom. Before they skyrocket into the music world and make their hometown proud, come spend your Saturday celebrating with them. Confession: I’ve seen SHAED three times and it’s a guaranteed feel good dance party each show. Catch me for round four front and center cheering them on. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Brabo
Photo: Courtesy of Brabo

New and Notable: Augie’s, The Green Zone and The Meatball Shop

New

Augie’s
Open: August 1
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: For the next several months, Alexandria has a hip new outdoor hang. Augie’s, a forthcoming restaurant from the team behind Mason Social, is temporarily serving mussels, frites, beer and more on their spacious brick patio draped with string lights. The building is undergoing renovations in preparation for a spring opening, but the team wanted to take advantage of their al fresco dining space during the favorable weather. The menu during the pop-up represents about a third of what will be offered when the full restaurant is complete. There’s a selection of small plates and entrees, but the main attraction is the various preparations of mussels in sauces ranging from a house broth with garlic-herb butter, bacon and beer to a fiery Thai green curry with purple eggplant, Thai chilis and coconut. To complement the mussels and frites, the beer selection focuses on Belgian and Belgian-inspired brews. The selection will expand to include approximately 200 bottles and 25 drafts when the restaurant officially opens. While the patio is the real draw, there’s also some indoor space upstairs with high top tables, bocce ball and board games. The pop-up will close in early winter. 1106 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.eataugies.com

The Green Zone
Open: July 26
Location: Adams Morgan
Lowdown: After four years of popping up around town, this Middle Eastern cocktail bar found a permanent home in the diverse Adams Morgan neighborhood. Owner Chris Francke says The Green Zone is, in part, an attempt to dispel the stereotype that people in the Middle East don’t drink or party. The spices and ingredients he’s showcasing in his 12 original drinks are ones commonly found in the region’s cuisine, but haven’t often been translated to cocktails. Some recipes are riffs on classic nonalcoholic beverages, like the seasonal frozen Mint Lemonade spiked with vodka or gin. I found it to be the ideal patio sipper, especially when enjoyed via the bar’s stainless steel straws. His signature creation is the Janissary Corps, made with Green Hat gin, pistachio, lemon and “silky magic.” Downstairs, the colorful tile bar is the anchor of the neighborhood hangout, while the second floor turns into a dance club with featured DJs on weekends. In addition to cocktails, sample beers and wine from Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Georgia and Turkey. The food menu consists of Lebanese and Levantine street food like falafel, hummus, spicy wings and mana’ish, a thin flatbread that envelopes za’tar, labneh and vegetables. 2226 18th St. NW, DC; www.facebook.com/thegreenzonedc

Little Havana
Open: August 10
Location: Columbia Heights
Lowdown: Restaurateur Alfredo Solis has expanded his portfolio to include more than Mexican (El Sol and Mezcalero). He teamed up with Chef Joseph Osorio to bring a splash of Cuba to Columbia Heights. At Little Havana, a painted “neon” sign emulating the Miami Vice logo ties together the murals covering the walls, featuring Cuba’s colorful streets as well as some of the country’s cultural icons like Celia Cruz, the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez, revolutionary Che Guevara and Osorio’s godmother Mimi, who was the inspiration behind the restaurant. Mimi taught Osorio the art of Cuban cooking, and her recipes have come to life on the menu. Classic dishes like ropa vieja, vaca frita and empanadas are offered alongside modern interpretations like Cuban rolls – essentially a Cubano sandwich crossed with a spring roll. Of course, Osorio also makes a traditional Cubano, which he says is perfect thanks to Mimi’s lechon recipe. Flashes of Colombia are present as well, with ají picante from Osorio’s parents’ hometown. The compact bar in the back of the restaurant is stocked with all kinds of rum from the Caribbean and Latin America, plus tropical ingredients like mango, hierbabuena and guanabana. There are original creations like La Vida es un Carnaval with papaya, raspberries, ginger syrup, lime and a blend of rums, but I’ll never turn down a classic daiquiri. The spot-on rendition at Little Havana hit all the right notes. 3704 14th St. NW, DC; www.littlehavanadc.com

The Meatball Shop
Open: August
Location: 14th Street
Lowdown: New York City’s Meatball Shop has rolled into town, bringing with it a menu of build-your-own meatball meals. Start by choosing your balls – classic, spicy pork, chicken, veggie or rotating specials – and then dress them in sauces like tomato, spicy meat, gravy, Parmesan cream or pesto. Next, pick a style: naked, in a bowl, over a bed of greens or in a sandwich. The customizable menu also has a few recommended plates, including combinations like spicy pork balls with Parmesan cream sauce over broccoli and rigatoni with an added kick of hot sauce. Round out your meal with appetizers and sides like crab cake balls, veggies, polenta and pastas. In addition to the saucy food offerings, expect a selection of beers, wines and cocktails – plus plenty of ball jokes. The 14th Street location is the first shop outside of New York. 1720 14th St. NW, DC; www.themeatballshop.com
NOTABLE

Burger Board at BLT Steak
Location: BLT Steak
Lowdown: This downtown steakhouse recently added adventurous new burgers to their lunch menu, each satisfying carnivorous cravings. The Burger Board goes beyond the standard dry-aged beef burger with recipes like the Duck Double stacked with two beef and Moulard duck patties, cheddar, pickles and a zesty mayonnaise sauce. The Harissa Lamb Burger pairs a seven-spice lamb patty with tahini cucumbers, tomato and garlic labneh. The Crab Bama Burger is an amped up crab cake topped with chicken-fried smoked salmon, cabbage slaw and Alabama white barbecue sauce. The king of the board is the “American” Wagyu Burger, which blends trimmings from the restaurant’s various steak offerings into a rich patty rounded out by American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and dijonnaise. 1625 I St. NW, DC; www.bltrestaurants.com/blt-steak/washington-d-c/

Steak Frites Program at Brabo
Location: Brabo
Lowdown: Chef Sebastien Rondier has launched a new offering that is a mouthwatering study of an iconic French brasserie dish. The Steak Frites program consists of four distinctive, dry-aged butcher cuts from Creekstone Farms: ribeye, filet mignon, hanger steak and the show-stopping, 22-ounce bone-in côte de boeuf for two. Each of the steaks is served with whipped Roquefort butter or a black peppercorn sauce. And of course, every steak is accompanied by double-fried frites and dipping sauces. The menu will continue to grow with new cuts and sauces depending on market availability. 1600 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.braborestaurant.com

Photo: Anna Moneymaker
Photo: Anna Moneymaker

Post Shift Theatre Shines Light on Service Industry Artists

When a group of workers in the service and hospitality industries gathered in the back of a Northeast DC distillery to perform a series of 10-minute plays the evening of August 27, it was with every intention of playing on the actor-waiter cliché.

Post Shift Theatre held their annual A Night of New Works at Republic Restoratives. Tickets sold for $10 each and the back of the bar was packed with viewers for both showings. This year’s theme for the plays was temperature – an idea chosen for its multiple meanings to different kinds of service workers.

“We spent a lot of time thinking of important words in the service industry and were really interested in ‘temperature’ because of all of the things that it could mean in a kitchen,” said artistic director Clancey Yovanovich.

“That kind of customization was something we wanted to hone in on and explore the entire spectrum of heat, from very cold to very hot, and what that means to people.”

The event included six 10-minute performances, ranging from comedic to serious in tone and dialogue. Some plays used the theme literally while others explored the idea of temperature in relationships both familial and romantic.

Each play was an interesting take on the idea of temperature and its multitude of meanings but the night could have used a little more cohesion, especially with the transitions from comedy to more serious and back again.

Despite that, actors were able to transform the large room, dominated by heavy machinery and a unique smell, into whichever setting their performance required – be it a hip bar, a cluttered home of recently divorced parents or an emergency room. Each performance managed to establish a setting with a clever, minimal use of props.

According to Yovanovich, Post Shift Theatre’s goal is to continue performing in more nontraditional spaces that emphasize the theatre company’s deliberate connection to the service industry.

“There’s so, so many artists secretly hiding in aprons in restaurants and we want to explore that too,” Yovanovich said.

These spaces do provide their own challenges, however. The performance would have benefited from some sort of microphone usage to amplify the actors’ voices above both the occasional intrusive sounds of distillery machinery and even above the lively and engaged audience members themselves. While most actors were able to project, some of the quieter moments were lost in a vast room that was probably not designed with performance in mind.

Regardless of the kinks, Post Shift provides entertainment for both fans of local theatre and supporters of those in the service industry, as well as representation for the artists who inhabit both worlds.

Keep up with the theatre company’s events and news on Post Shift Theatre’s Facebook page

IMG_6075

New Order at The Anthem

“We are sorry it took us so long to get back here,” Bernard Sumner, lead singer of New Order, announced to the crowd at the sold-out Anthem on Tuesday. “We have been apologizing to every state we visit.”

Well, it was worth the wait as New Order’s performance exceeded expectations. They played continuously for two hours, treating their fans to an array of classics. The most impressive aspect of the show was the creative variations the band used. They didn’t just perform their music as it was written, rather they extended and improvised throughout the evening. It was evident they were having just as much fun on stage as their fans were having.

Highlights included “Love Vigilantes,” “Your Silent Face” and “Subculture.” The band performed in front of massive screens projecting dynamic visuals including jellyfish, song lyrics and videos of waves and beaches. New Order closed out their evening with an encore consisting of three Joy Division songs, ending with “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Enjoy these few photos from the evening. Photos and write-up: Shantel Mitchell Breen

Photo: Courtesy of Terry Fator
Photo: Courtesy of Terry Fator

America’s Got Talent Winner Terry Fator Brings Winston and Friends Nat Harbor

As the winner of the second season of America’s Got Talent, ventriloquist and singing impressionist Terry Fator captured the hearts and funny bones of millions of viewers. After, he catapulted his notoriety into one of the biggest Las Vegas deals in history—a five-year deal at the Mirage worth nearly $110 million.

Once the initial contract was over, the resort signed him again and again, and Fator has been performing regularly in what is now called the Terry Fator Theatre for almost a decade.

“Even in my wildest dreams, I didn’t expect a deal like this to come along,” he says. “It wasn’t long before this that I was performing at people’s homes or just doing a set in a small venue. Never did I think that something like this would come along.”

Of course, Fator credits his menagerie of “puppet friends” with helping him get to such a place. Be it Winston, the impersonating turtle; Emma Taylor, the little girl with the big voice; or lounge singer Monty Carlo, the ventriloquist knows the audiences’ love for his characters is what has propelled him to career heights.

“I’m coming up on my 10th year at the Mirage and every year I add characters and try to do something relevant to what’s going on,” he says. “For instance, when David Bowie passed away, I always wanted to do something with Bowie and Bing Crosby coming together, and I already had Bing in my Christmas show, so I invented a Bowie puppet so they could sing ‘Little Drummer Boy.’ I let inspiration decide what I am going to be creating.”

Although he comes up with the ideas, he admits he’s no craftsman so he hired what he considers to be the best of the best puppet makers to help his friends come to life.

“Most of my puppets are made by the same people who work for the Muppets, and that’s the pinnacle,” Fator says. “Steve Axtell is one of the top in the world, and he does more of the latex. Then there’s Chance Wolf who is new to the business and his stuff is incredible. I find the top talent and the best.”

On September 6, Fator and his puppet friends will be coming to the MGM National Harbor, where the audience can expect his trademark impressions, storytelling, singing and maybe even a little dancing.

“I have a lot of new stuff. I’m always updating and changing characters and routines, so even if someone has seen me before, it’s going to be a different show this time around,” Fator says. “One of the most characters I do now in my Vegas show that I just started bringing on the road is my Donald Trump.”

While this might seem a bit dicey in the DC area, Fator shies away from politics and just has fun with the character.

“Whether you love him or hate him, you will leave not knowing what side of the aisle I am on,” he says. “He’s a big character. I don’t make fun, I have fun. You’re guaranteed to laugh.”

Fator first learned the art of ventriloquism as a fifth grader after checking out a book on the subject from his school library. Not long after, he won first prize at a church picnic for his first live ventriloquism act.

Last year’s America’s Got Talent winner was 12-year-old Darci Lynne, a young ventriloquist who Fator helped mentor on her journey to the top prize.

“It’s very important for me to inspire the next generation. To me, the greatest compliment I can have is to one day be watching someone on television and they say ‘my inspiration was Terry Fator.’ I feel that keeps your legacy alive,” Fator says. “I think of Edgar Bergen, who died in the 1970s, but I was inspired by him and he lives on. I feel it’s a big role of any ventriloquist to keep the art alive.”

In addition to Bergen, Fator was inspired by people like Willie Tyler, Jeff Dunham and Shari Lewis, and one of his absolute favorites was Jay Johnson, who played Chuck on the adult comedy Soap, who was never without his puppet, the wisecracking Bob in any scene.

“I was too young to watch because of the adult themes, but anytime Chuck and Bob would come on, my parents would call me into the room and I could watch, but then after it was over, I had to leave,” Fator says. “Jay is a great among greats and one of the best ventriloquists to ever be, so what a great one to inspire me at such a young age.”

At his show, Fator honors the military and first responders, and donates the profits from any merchandise sales to the Terry Fator Foundation, which supports numerous military and first responder charities. In fact, he was recently awarded the prestigious Bob Hope Award due to his continued excellence in supporting the nation’s military.

“It’s a very inspirational show and when people leave, they are going to feel on top of the world,” he says. “I just want to take people away from their problems and issues and just let them laugh and feel better about themselves.”

Terry Fator will perform at the MGM National Harbor 8 p.m., Thursday, September 6. Tickets start at $17. For more information click here.

MGM National Harbor: 101 MGM National Ave. Oxon Hill, MD; 301-971-5000; www.mgmnationalharbor.com

IMG_0024

Beach House at The Anthem

Beach House closed out their US tour this past Saturday night to a full house at The Anthem. The set list featured 16 songs including favorites such as “Wild,” “Space Song” and “Sparks,” but also emphasized lesser performed songs off their latest album 7, such as “L’lconnue” and “Girl of the Year.” Seeing Beach House perform live is not just about the music. The band delivers a visual experience that accompanies their sound and creates a dreamlike atmosphere. Beach House closed the show with a three-song encore that included “Heart of Chambers.” The band crosses the pond to begin their European tour next week.

Opening was San Francisco band, Papercuts. They started the evening with their dream pop melodies leading the way for the headlining performance. Photos and write-up: Shantel Mitchell Breen

IMG_0046

Hot August Festival 2018

Hot August Festival took place on August 18 at Oregon Ridge Park at Maryland. Photos: Shantel Mitchell Breen

Photo: Courtesy of Brewers on the Block
Photo: Courtesy of Brewers on the Block

Brewers on the Block Closes Out DC Beer Week in Style

Looking for meaderies, cideries and breweries? Well, of course you are, but very rarely are they so neatly tucked under the same banner. 

Brewers on the Block returns this Saturday as part of DC Beer Week, and is set to bring 35 of the region’s tastemakers together in the aforementioned subjects.

The annual event, now celebrating its fifth year, takes place at Union Market and is hosted by mixologist Gina Chersevani’s trendy brunch spot Buffalo & Bergen and summertime airstream bar Suburbia. This year’s rendition features a VIP component for $75 that grants folks access to the event an hour earlier, as well as specialty beer, hoptails and a reserved seating arrangement at Suburbia. 

For the fifth consecutive year, the team at 3 Stars Brewing Company – who just celebrated their sixth anniversary this month – is set to debut exclusive beers, with brewers onsite to answer questions. Some of the brews they’ll be featuring include the Techni-color Life Double Dry-Hopped IPA and the Trouble in Paradise Sour Ale.

“We’ve been to all Brewers on the Block since the beginning,” 3 Stars Owner Dave Coleman says. “This year the event is a bit more complex, but more thorough.”

Coleman co-founded 3 Stars with longtime friend Mike McGarvey, with a shared goal to put DC on the map as a craft beer destination. What began as a homebrew operation in McGarvey’s basement quickly became a viable business model for crafting “highly innovative drinking experiences.” Now, their award-winning team has released over 40 beers and built a reputation for crafting original brews.

If you’re looking for solid way to close out DC Beer Week, then head to Union Market for the festivities.

“Brewers on The Block is a great way to wrap up DC Beer Week and gives us in the business an opportunity to chat and mingle with other brewers and the public,” Coleman says.

Brewers on the Block runs from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, August 25. Tickets are $55; purchase them here.

Union Market: 1309 5th St. NE, DC; 301-347-3998; www.unionmarketdc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Constellation Theatre Company
Photo: Courtesy of Constellation Theatre Company

This Melancholy Play Gives Complex Look at Sadness

Staring into the distance, Tilly, Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce‘s star asks, “Do you ever long to cry?”

The play is a can’t miss 100-minute contemplation of what makes us happy, sad and completely depressed, written by Pulitzer Prize Finalist and Tony Award nominee Sarah Ruhl. Under the direction of Nick Martin at Source Theatre, Ruhl’s work addresses a full spectrum of emotions with pure laughter and quick glances.

Tilly is a small-town banker who persistently broods. However, if you look closely, a glimpse of hope is found on her tear-stained face. Perfectly played by Billie Krishawn, Tilly finds despair at every turn, even when she falls in love with her tailor, Frank, charmingly played by John Austin.

The affection between Tilly and Frank is sublime, as the two confide their inner anxieties to one another. However, their romance is only one of numerous awkward attempts at the lead’s hand.

Because Tilly’s overtly beautiful and emotional nature is so enchanting, she unintentionally mesmerizes every onlooker with her exaggerated sighs and romanticized explanations of love.

Her first victim is Lorenzo, played by Christian Montgomery. Lorenzo is Tilly’s eccentric therapist who falls for her somber demeanor, confessing love within minutes of their second session. Montgomery candidly portrays a humorous Italian immigrant who finds solace in Tilly’s musings of sadness and despair; he pounces, causing her to flee.

Next to fall head over heels is Frances, the romantically involved lesbian physicist-turned-hairdresser, who is captivated by the heroine during an uneasy haircut. The character, convincingly played by Mary Myers, is drawn to Tilly’s unexplainable neediness and yearns to be her savior.

The two later reunite with Joan, Frances’ partner. Joan, a nurse played by Lilian Oben, is hesitant, yet instantly taken as well. She attempts to soothe Tilly while insuring Frances keeps her distance.

In the latter half of the production, a pivotal shift occurs at Tilly’s birthday party, where oddly enough Lorenzo, Frances and Joan take part in a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. Neurotically laughing like children high on sugar, Tilly’s grim outlook is spent and she swells with euphoria.

Unfamiliar with the newly elated Tilly, the ensemble begins to revert. Grieving the figurative loss of their depressed friend, Frances, Frank and Lorenzo grow hopeless. They comically fight over bottled tears and ultimately decline further into their own pits of despair before they discover their own true happiness.

The marks of melancholy, though suggested in the title, seem less a farce, and instead realistically compelling, proving a witty take on mental illness in the glamorized 1950s. The satirical moments are most evident and appreciated in the many humorous interactions as they each vie for Tilly’s love.

Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce is showing at Constellation Theatre Company’s Source through September 2. Tickets are $19-$45.

Source: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; 202-204-7741; www.constellationtheatre.org