Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

ARTECHOUSE Provides Home for Digital Art

What museums are to preservation, ARTECHOUSE is to exploration. The new art gallery, dedicated to housing art created with technology, opened its doors to the public in southwest DC, a short walk from L’enfant Metro Station, on June 1. The innovative gallery features works by different artists, all of whom rely on technology as their medium. The current exhibition, XYZT: Abstract Landscapes, is the work of French artists Adrien M. and Claire B.

With 10 installations, nine interactive, ARTECHOUSE is noticeably different than what comes to mind when you think of traditional art. Rather than untouchable paintings on a pristine white wall, moving images react to each person who stops to explore. Instead of muted conversation at a socially acceptable decibel, the gallery is full of the exhibition’s sound effects and the voices of patrons trying to figure each installation out. ARTECHOUSE is kept dark, so the projections of XYZT are easily visible, and at the end of each piece, there seems to be another unexplored corner.

In addition to providing endless entertainment, interacting with exhibits introduces a slew of benefits. ARTECHOUSE cofounders Tati Pastukhova and Sandro Kereselidze, who are no strangers to contemporary art or the DC art scene, understand the value of interacting physically with art.

“We’ve learned that people would connect to the art when the artist would be there to explain to them, to bring them into their world,” Pastukhova says. “With the possibilities of technology and digital art, there’s less need for that. You can connect to the art much easier and you can understand it better. I think that’s the biggest thing that you can gain, is really to be able to immerse the person, to get them to explore the art and connect to it.”

But ARTECHOUSE bridges more divides than the one between artist and audience. Many people live under the impression that art and technology are two irreconcilable poles, one ruled by emotion and the other by logic. Here, one has no place without the other.

“It’s very important for [people] in the field of technology to work with the creatives to create something very unique,” Kereselidze says. “That’s what our vision with this space is, to kind of incubate, and to be the space where the creatives and technologists come together and do something really amazing, [and produce] new creations for the public to experience, like what we see today.”

Although ARTECHOUSE resembles a gallery from the future, many of the installations are reminiscent of familiar experiences: walking through grass, playing with sand, manipulating bubbles in a bath. In the uncharted territory of electronic art, XYZT relies on familiar sensory memories to connect with the audience.

“As humans, sometimes it’s really hard for us to connect to a 2D visual piece,” Pastukhova says. “I think performance art and film are [easier to comprehend] to us. But with technology, we’re able to connect to the visual art as well. You’ll see with XYZT, it brings out the emotions, it lets you be a part of the creative process, it lets you understand it better.”

So, whether you’re an art buff, a tech nerd or just searching for something other than a sanitized museum, ARTECHOUSE delivers captivating installations waiting to be explored. Tickets are $10-$15 and can be purchased from www.artechouse.com.

ARTECHOUSE: 1238 Maryland Ave. SW, DC; www.artechouse.com

Photo: Pop-Up Magazine
Photo: Pop-Up Magazine

Pop-Up Magazine Brings Old School Medium to Life

A magazine is traditional media – the long, medium and short documentation of news, pop culture and social justice, or injustice. Writers, journalists, poets, artists and photographers constantly tap the pulse of society, digging deeper to investigate the very blood which keeps our world alive with a fervor and time commitment colossally more vast than a daily newspaper or local television newscast.

Those same characteristics are why Pop-Up Magazine is a must-attend event for those who missed last night’s rendition at Lincoln Theatre.

Authors are presented below a spotlight, where they read impactful prose to an auditorium of folks, who likely grew up abandoning their parents in store aisles to lunge at the vibrant pages calling out to them. Accompanying the writers, filmmakers and photographers is the Magik*Magik Orchestra, making the spectacle feel like NPR Live, a true variety show melding a dynamic blend of topics under the umbrellas of news, music, art, humor, etc.

I sat down not knowing what to think of this idea. I didn’t know if “magazine” was the right word, because I grew up flipping through Harpers and The Atlantic; I perpetually read stories worth thousands of words. On a stage, those aren’t possible to vocalize – too many pauses and breaks, too many attention spans at risk. The words were minimized in favor of the orchestra, the visuals, the interaction.

Magazines are meant to move people, to connect us to different parts of the world we can’t venture to. Pop-Up did just that, whether it relayed a relatable story of being fired for an abundance of reasons like “McFired” by Yassir Lester or whether it focused on the heroics of a person countries away such as Fazeet Aslam’s “Fatima.” These stories felt very magazine-ish – an alternative to a news story, a different and intriguing way of observing a common happening or an uncommon individual.

Like a number of other products operating under the care of print advertising dollars, the industry is experiencing a renaissance period where the people making decisions must adapt. Some shifted to online, some decreased issue counts and some folded, closing their doors permanently.

However, people always seem to flock to these colorful pages. Whether you’re in airports, dentists offices or grocery stores, the look and feel never lost appeal to the masses, even if they ultimately don’t want to pay for it. Magazines will never lose their assets: the way stories carry more girth and feel entirely personal, or how the elevated design work eases the eyes – and don’t forget the gritty photos between blocks of texts to unearth the beautiful and ugly truths.

Without copious amounts of words, the authors of the respective stories rely on visuals and sound to carry more of the weight. This allows stories worthy of large page spreads come to life in 10-minute increments such as Lu Olkowski’s “Armed Poetry,” which used audio clips and animations to illustrate how poems toppled the Somali government decades ago. There were even tapes of modern works to reflect the political landscape of today’s world handed out at the end.

The most interactive moment of the night undoubtedly occurred when the audiences joined the orchestra in a karaoke sing-a-long of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,’” which Brittany Spanos’ “Sing at Your Own Risk” story deemed the worst tune to request from people running karaoke bars.

So, no, the Pop-Up Magazine is not a traditional publication. Not in the sense that it combines stories of varied length onto pages to purchase, but you can pick up the company’s California Sunday Magazine for that. Instead, the event captures the essence of what a magazine is supposed to be: a collection of intriguing items curated by talented storytellers and editors meant to evoke thoughts and laughs.

For more information about future Pop-Up Magazines, visit the website.

Photo: Fiola Mare’s Facebook
Photo: Fiola Mare’s Facebook

10 Raw Bars to Keep You Cool this Summer

When patio weather hits, our taste buds immediately start to crave cold, briny oysters, sweet, chilled lobster meat and bright, zingy ceviches. The clean and refreshing flavors from raw bar menus are just perfect for outdoor dining, so this month we’re highlighting our favorites – many of which have stellar al fresco seating. You’ll want to chill out at these 10 raw bars all summer long.

Conosci
This pearl hidden inside Alta Strada in City Vista is not your typical raw bar. Michael Schlow’s intimate 31-seat restaurant offers three tasting menus nightly, each featuring intriguing crudo dishes with seafood, vegetables and meats. As such, there’s not a whole lot of actual cooking that takes place in the kitchen, which consists of just a toaster oven, an induction burner and a rice cooker. Though the dishes change regularly, a few highlights have included uni flan with crab espuma and lobster roe powder and razor clam poke with mint, grapefruit, orange, rice masago and chili paste. 465 K St. NW, DC; www.conoscidc.com

Fiola Mare
Of course, Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s lavish ode to the sea has a top-notch raw bar menu. It features frutti di mare platters with delicacies like tiger prawns, sea urchin, king crab, caviar, scallops, mussels, langoustine, lobster and more. Diners can also order oysters by the half dozen and four types of high-quality caviar. The restaurant’s beautiful terrace right on the Potomac River will make you feel like you’re dining on the coast of Italy. 3050 K St. Suite 101, NW, DC; www.fiolamaredc.com

Hank’s Oyster Bar
Take your pick from the three DMV locations of this staple oyster bar. The original Dupont Circle restaurant has six seats at the raw bar, where you can watch the oyster shuckers go through about 1,500 oysters a day on average. You could also sit on the 40-seat patio and down a few sake oyster shooters. The raw bar at Hank’s on the Hill is on a raised platform, so every seat in the house has a view. There’s also a small outdoor patio where you’ll want to tackle the seafood plateau with oysters, jumbo shrimp cocktail, ceviche, middle neck clams, Old Bay peel-and-eat shrimp and chilled lobster. In Old Town Alexandria, be sure to try Hank’s proprietary oyster, the Salty Wolfe. Dupont Circle: 1624 Q St. NW, DC; Capitol Hill: 633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC; Old Town Alexandria: 1026 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.hanksoysterbar.com

Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
The namesake stone crab is the signature crustacean at this seafood spot. Joe’s founders popularized these unique crabs in the early 1900s when they began serving the claws on the front porch of their house in Miami Beach. Stone crabs can regenerate their claws, so fishermen harvest one claw at a time and then throw the crab back into the Gulf of Mexico. The raw bar menu also goes beyond the Florida favorite, with jumbo Alaskan king crab, East Coast oysters, jumbo shrimp cocktail, ceviche and more. 750 15th St. NW, DC; www.joes.net/dc

Le Diplomate
Every meal at this classic French café should start with one of the loaded seafood plateaus. The towers feature several unique mollusks, shellfish and crustaceans that you don’t typically find on a raw bar menu. The petit and grand plateaus feature varying quantities of oysters from both coasts, little neck clams, top neck clams, razor clams, king crab, snow crab, jumbo lump crab meat, lobster, Blue Bay mussels, shrimp, fluke and welks. It’s all served with mignonette, cocktail sauce and French cocktail sauce. For a true Parisian experience, enjoy your plateau on the sidewalk patio while watching the world go by. 1601 14th St. NW, DC; www.lediplomatedc.com

Old Ebbitt Grill
This historic tavern is a mainstay for oysters, especially during oyster happy hour. All oysters are 50 percent off daily from 3-6 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. (2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday). Between daily service and special events like the International Wines for Oyster Competition and Oyster Riot, Old Ebbitt goes through an impressive number of oysters. But don’t worry, the shells go to good use after they’re slurped clean. The restaurant group works with the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) to recycle shells and create reefs that will support future oysters in the Chesapeake Bay region. 675 15th St. NW, DC; www.ebbitt.com

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
Oysters are king at Black Restaurant Group’s Pearl Dive. In addition to a selection of East and West Coast varieties, the group has joined forces with Rappahannock Oyster Company to raise a signature oyster, the Old Black Salt. Grown in the salty waters of Black Narrows in Chincoteague, these oysters have one of the highest salinities of any oyster on the market. Enjoy a few on the half shell, along with a bounty of other sustainably harvested seafood, at the four-seat raw bar inside or on the compact patio. 1612 14th St. NW, DC; www.pearldivedc.com

Rappahannock Oyster Bar
No visit to Union Market is complete without a stop at the raw bar owned by the pioneering Rappahannock Oyster Company. Their sustainable oyster production has helped revitalize the native Chesapeake Bay oyster population, and they’ve since set their sights on doing the same for the Chesapeake scallop. At the oyster bar, you can sample the company’s own oysters, as well as seafood platters and plenty of cooked seafood dishes. After you order, you can take your food and eat at the communal tables outside the market. 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.rroysters.com

Siren by Robert Wiedmaier
This featured spot in our New, Notable, No Longer column happens to have a stellar raw bar. The crown jewel of these offerings is the Grand Plateau: two tiers of oysters, little neck clams, Skull Island prawns, Maine lobster and sashimi. They also have beautiful caviar service and a handful of raw small plates, like big eye tuna with kalamansi lime, sesame seed, wakame seaweed, macadamia nut and avocado mousse, and fluke tiradito with yellow pepper juice, pickled vegetables and smoked trout roe. 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC; www.sirenbyrw.com

Whaley’s
As a partner of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, Whaley’s only serves seafood that meets the program’s stringent sustainability standards. They also recycle their oyster shells with ORP. This means you can slurp oysters and crack crab legs knowing that you’re helping ensure a healthy ocean for future generations. For even more eco points, try Whaley’s propriety River Keeper oyster from Rappahannock Oyster Company; the proceeds benefit Anacostia Riverkeeper. There are also epic seafood towers with gems like smoked catfish rillettes, grilled calamari salad, sea urchin, little neck clams, poached mussels, shrimp, lobster and crudo of the day. You’ll want to dine on the spacious patio with views of the waterfront. 301 Water St. Suite 115, SE, DC; www.whaleysdc.com

Photos: Trent Johnson
Photos: Trent Johnson

Airøspace: An Earthbound Rapper Inspired by the Stars

The National Air and Space Museum feels like home to 25-year-old Anthony Alexander Mathison II. Today, he’s donning a black shirt and a backpack, and if you didn’t know better, you’d see a tourist; another passerby accompanying his travel companion, both peering down at various blocks of text to carefully read the information preserved by the Smithsonian. But the exhibits and galleries depicting space and flight are an area he knows more intimately than any earthbound apartment or house.

Online, Mathison is better known as Airøspace, a DC rapper who unapologetically uses clips of anime to promote his music. When his aggressive lines are compared to those of rapper Tyler, the Creator, he pays respect to the Odd Future hip-hop collective before correcting you on the actual inspiration for the lyrical outbursts: metal.

“[Metal and hip-hop] are very closely related,” Mathison says. “There’s a division because you know, they’re screaming and you sometimes can’t understand what they’re saying, but it’s the loudness. In the black community, you’re only supposed to listen to gospel, jazz or like, Prince. You’re not encouraged to go find metal music.”

You can hear this on the two songs released in promotion of his upcoming July record Nocturne, the opposite side of his November mixtape Analog.

“I’ve been working on it for about five months,” Mathison says. “I like writing and listening to albums you can absorb all the way through. Analog is more visceral and [taps into] raw expression, and the other is telling it how it is. Like, when you get in a fight with somebody, you’re in fight or flight mode; you’re in it. Nocturne is like the calm after the fight.”

Mathison has fought throughout his life, both figuratively and literally, bouncing house to house in various locations from Southeast DC to different parts of Maryland. He was largely raised by his stepmother after his biological parents gave up that responsibility. To fill the void, the young child attended church, but the institution carried its own issues.

“I was a pretty bad kid; I got suspended a lot. Sh-t was just rough. I got in a lot of fights, had a lot of angry outbursts. I grew up in a lot of different ‘hoods. I had a ton of identity issues, just trying to understand myself as a person. As a kid, you soak up knowledge and wisdom from the people around you. My stepmother was my mom, but she also wasn’t. She did her best.”

Despite his trouble, Mathison found solace in the drums at the church he and his stepmom frequented. From there, his love of music blossomed, but he wasn’t able to play with the percussion instruments as much as he wanted, so he eventually gave up. That was until he heard Jay Z’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, and anything by Eminem.

“I liked the creative aspect,” Mathison says. “As far as what got me in this musical mindset; it came after Eminem. I remember playing Pokémon Blue and “My Name Is” came on MTV, and I really started loving hip-hop from there. I’m like, ‘What the f—, how did he do that?’”

Despite his realization, Mathison says he didn’t take hip-hop seriously until 2016. He performed, made music and constantly wrote rhymes, but fear held him back. Instead of gaining steam with this passion, he reverted back to the scared child without direction. His lack of knowledge discouraged him from giving music his all, but that all changed with Analog and next month’s Nocturne.

“Clarity. I want people to hear clarity. I feel like there are a ton of rappers that don’t talk about their lives. The least I can do is be honest. I want people to find themselves in it. I want people to discover who they are. Life’s a growing process, and you don’t always have to be who others want you to be.”

When he was younger, Mathison always sought role models and belonging – the high schooler banging metal out of his headphones, the wide-eyed child doodling characters who originated in some Japanese scrapbook. Now, he’s a man peering up at the stars, whether they’re pictures hanging from a wall in a famous DC museum, or vibrant twinkles piercing the darkest night.

“It’s funny because people get caught up in their daily lives. But, we’re literally floating on a ball of water. I want to know what’s beyond that. If we expanded our views, we’d stop being so egotistical.”

For more information on Airøspace and to see where he’s performing, go to www.airospace.bandcamp.com

Airospace 6 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Photo: Rey Lopez
Photo: Rey Lopez

Jessica Weinstein Paves the Way for Funky Cocktails

I’m looking through a menu and deciding if I want something with eggplant and garlic, or perhaps ramps and scallions. Maybe something with yogurt? Or something more savory with saffron and bouillabaisse? Only I’m not browsing the seasonal food menu at your favorite tapas joint in town. I’m looking at the latest cocktail concoctions from head bartender Jessica Weinstein at Hank’s Cocktail Bar in Petworth.

“I had this idea to do this ‘food production’ thing,” explains Weinstein of her new menu, set to be unveiled on June 20.

It’s more comprehensive book than small menu though, offering sections such as “food production 101” and “market fresh” to go along with the classic cocktail riffs she calls “not so classics.” As for the funky food ingredients, she thinks about what’s fresh, and she takes full advantage of the knowledge – and the produce – she can find in the kitchen.

“A lot of it is communication with Chef [Jamie Leeds],” says Weinstein. “We start figuring out the technique side from the kitchen.”

Plus, with a culinary background of her own, she also has the wherewithal to grab a handful of this or that and just make something happen based on a sauce, flavor profile or concept.

“I love to be able to go into the walkout [kitchen] and just steal everything,” Weinstein says with a laugh.

More specifically though, she looks into seasonal produce that’s available, and sees what she can get her hands on and what types of flavors could potentially play nicely with others.

“I read The Flavor Bible a lot,” she says. “It’s my favorite thing to ruminate on.”

The drink that started it all for her new menu was the Club Med, made with saffron-infused Avion tequila, coconut water, lemon, burnt sugar, Amaro Nonino and Pernod Pastis.

“That’s when I realized ‘food production 101’ had to happen, [and] I fell in love with the idea. It also felt like a fun way to interact with the back of the house, too.”

Soon there were sweet peas in the Shelling Peas is Torture, in reference to the tedious task of shelling peas that those in the kitchen know all too well, while eggplant and garlic get put to use alongside El Silencio

Mezcal in the Pass Me the Deadly Nightshade. The deviously green Scallion Stallion showcases Ilegal Mezcal handcrafted liquor, with an assortment of fresh greenery, from ramps to green onions to cilantro.

As Weinstein talks about her latest concoctions, inspirations and experiments, there’s a real giddiness and excitement behind it all. You can see the cocktail nerd wheels turning as new ideas and riffs continue to pop up – and don’t worry, that’s not only a compliment, they’re her words, not mine.

“It’s fun to come here and do some nerd stuff,” she says.

The smaller space and reduced chaos at Hank’s Cocktail Bar in Petworth affords her that opportunity, whereas the busy scene at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont was often more about meeting the demands of a
high-volume, high-pace atmosphere.

Here though, as she’s talking through her drinks, she may decide one needs extra depth and so she reaches for some sherry, while another might need a touch of salt to take it to the next level, or an aromatic drop of oil delicately placed onto its surface as a finishing touch. She’s dedicated to nailing those little details, always progressing, and continuing to move her menu forward rather than letting it get stagnant.

Perhaps the showstopper of the new menu though is the Bearnaise, served in a honey bear container.

“[It’s] the favorite nerd moment in my career,” she says.

The drink is made with Absolut Elyx vodka, orange juice, Greek yogurt, honey, tarragon and Peychaud’s, and is a deceptively creamy, sweet and refreshing choice for this time of year.

It’s fun and it’s eye-catching, but as with all the new drinks she’s creating, it’s not simply about showmanship, or wackiness purely for the sake of it. The drinks have to stand up on their own accord.

“That’s where I feel like a lot of bar managers mess up,” she says, as they pursue whatever wacky ideas they’ve dreamt up without considering if people will actually enjoy the drinks, which is the point, after all.

Of course, some creative pizzazz and flair never hurt.

“I want people to look at my drinks and know they’re mine. But there’s serious flavors there, too.”

Hank’s Cocktail Bar: 819 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.hankscocktailbar.com


Funky Ingredients & Where to Find Them

Dram & Grain
Alligator meat: The Gator Wrestlin’ & Paddle-Backs cocktail has Chartreuse infused with alligator butter. 2007 18th St. NW, DC; www.FB.com/DramandGrain/

Espita Mezcaleria
Chapulines (grasshoppers): The Five Suns cocktail has a line of crushed chapulines resting atop the drink. 1250 9th St. NW, DC; www.espitadc.com

Hank’s Cocktail Bar
Garlic, eggplant, saffron, peas, ramps: Jessica Weinstein is relishing the opportunity to unleash her cocktail nerd with the entire new cocktail menu at Hank’s, including the Bearnaise, served in a honey bear container. 819 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.hankscocktailbar.com

Photo: Nick Donner
Photo: Nick Donner

Yoga with a View

Beer, brunch and even baby goats can be part of your yoga experience these days. If you’re new to the practice, or need a way to relax and play, these options are a great way to spend an hour. This summer, rooftops, parks and outdoor spaces all over town are hosting yoga classes (many of them free), and what could be more energizing than doing sun salutations by a sparkling pool overlooking our beautiful city?  

For that poolside experience, Epic Yoga holds morning classes on the roof of the Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle. Start the morning with vinyasa flow high above the bustle of one of the most famous neighborhoods in DC. Purchase a pool pass at the front desk and you can make a day of it, swimming in the refreshing turquoise water and sunning before heading off to lunch, seeing an exhibition at the Phillips Collection or browsing the recently expanded stacks at Kramerbooks.

Live on the Hill? Rooftop yoga classes are held daily at East Side Yoga, where you’re invited to “feel the sunshine on your face as you practice amidst a lush, fragrant garden full of herbs and flowers.” It’s the first yoga business in DC to build an outdoor studio on its rooftop, and it’s become a warm, welcoming gathering place for neighborhood yoga enthusiasts. Soothing playlists mingle with the sound of birdsong from the trees, giving city dwellers a much-needed taste of nature. After evening classes, stick around for BYOB happy hour amongst the greenery.

Alexandra Martone leads classes at the Farm at 55 M Street, one of Up Top Acres’ urban farms growing on rooftops throughout the city.

“It’s right next to Nationals [Park], and has a gorgeous view of the city and the National Monument,” she says.

Her goal is to help “DC Type A people relax.” There are plenty of studios with a competitive edge, which is a natural impulse for the young, driven professionals who flock to the District. Instead, Martone wants to create a vibe that is welcoming to all body types and abilities.

“For me, yoga has been more of a personal practice,” she says. “I actually injured myself last summer. I kind of lost sight of what yoga is about.”

Martone has been practicing yoga for 10 years, since she was 15. As she became more flexible, the yogi started posting photos on social media in increasingly difficult and impressive poses.

“It’s fun to show people what you’re doing, but I probably got too caught up in it and pushed myself too hard.”

The instructor of three years is still recovering from her injury, taking it slow and bringing this experience to her students.

“I stepped back and reevaluated what I was doing,” she explains, after realizing, “everyone’s body is different. Don’t worry about what the person next to you is doing. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, just how it makes you feel.”

Kathleen O’Keefe, one of Up Top Acres’ three cofounders, says, “I often find yoga a bit intimidating, and studios a little too stuffy for my taste. I love being able to practice yoga outside, and think being able to take in the city skyline from a rooftop farm is a great respite from city life.”

This sentiment is echoed by Kelly Carnes, who has managed yoga classes on the Kennedy Center’s rooftop terrace and started the yoga program on the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden plaza in 2015.

“I like to have a lot of fun with my practice,” Carnes says. “I like to play, and I like to create accessibility points to yoga. There’s a stereotype that you have to be a fit, skinny, blond woman in expensive Lululemon pants. But yoga is beautiful because it’s diverse. It’s customizable, and it should be.”

Certified as a yoga instructor in India, she recently left a career in public relations to explore other aspects of life. She discovered Congressional Cemetery while walking her dog in the neighborhood. The 35-acre green space is an off-leash dog park. Now she teaches a weekly all-levels class, Yoga Mortis, at the cemetery, just up the street from the Stadium-Armory Metro stop.

“Cemeteries back in the 19th century, in the Victorian era, functioned as city parks,” she says, “because we didn’t have separate spaces for recreational activity.”

Families came to picnic and enjoy the warm weather and cool grass. After World War II, city parks were established, and cemeteries were neglected. Because it’s located next to Capitol Hill, people recognized the cemetery as a green space celebrated by dog walkers who got together to rehabilitate it.

She developed a communications plan for the cemetery, also a nonprofit organization, for her capstone project as a master’s degree candidate at Georgetown University. She recommended programming, including yoga, to revitalize the nearly forgotten park-like locale in the heart of the city.

She was excited about “the idea of being able to bring new people into the space who might not otherwise have an opportunity or even know about it. People can have a really fulfilling experience in the space that brings them joy.”

Her teaching style combines vinyasa poses and a lighthearted touch, usually based on a theme.

She’s particularly fond of epic movie soundtracks, using them as an inspiration for sequencing poses to tell a story with the body, keeping it safe, of course. She created a Batman class that incorporates wing shapes into the session, while her Star Wars program transforms the Warrior II pose into a Jedi vs. Sith battle. Students face each other across their mats, and “as we extend and come back down, we’ll bring our light sabers with us,” she says, making “zsoom” sounds mimicking a saber in action.

“When we squat down, we’ll be in our Yoda pose,” she adds.

Carnes wants to “put a smile on people’s faces so they don’t take it or themselves too seriously, and allow themselves to try something new.”

She doesn’t hesitate to play with the setting. On April 30 (the halfway point in the year to Halloween, and the peak of cherry blossom season), she led a zombie-themed class.

“It’s the best place outside of the tourist-ridden Tidal Basin to see the blossoms,” she explains. “It’s gorgeous, it’s magical.”

Clearly, they all had a lot of fun.

“We all dressed up in our zombie gear. I had a Halloween playlist, and we got spooky.”

If all this sounds too much for you, and you just want to relax in a pretty setting, Carnes sums it up best.

“There are plenty of studios, teachers and styles to try. Everyone is on their own personal journey, with their own body, goals and needs.”


Up Top Acres

Our cover story was shot on location at the Farm at 55 M Street, one of the best spots in DC to experience rooftop yoga and home to one of Up Top Acres’ urban farm spaces. Up Top was founded in 2014 by three friends: Kristof Grina, Kathleen O’Keefe and Jeff Prost-Greene. The DC natives met while attending Wilson High School, and after graduating from college, they regrouped with a bold idea to make “eat local” closer to home. They established a series of rooftop farms on high rises in DC and Maryland.

“I studied urban planning and have always been interested in how we can create more sustainable, holistic cities,” O’Keefe says. “I loved that rooftop farming intersects a lot of issues facing our cities today, from local food systems, to storm water management, to access to green space. Kristof, Jeff and I have strong ties to DC and our community, and wanted to start something that improves our hometown and the lives of the people that live here.”

They run five farms in all and host events at the M Street location. They offer yoga, farm tours, pop-up dinners with local chefs, tastings and cocktail hours.

“We want to open up our farms to as many people as possible,” O’Keefe says, “so we also host workshops about growing food and offer educational programming to local schools.”

For a list of Up Top Acres farms and events, visit www.uptopacres.com.


Outdoor Classes

East Side Yoga holds rooftop classes daily (times vary) in a lush garden of herbs, trees and flowers. After evening class, stick around for BYOB happy hour and watch the sun set over Capitol Hill. 518 10th St. NE, DC; www.eastsideyogadc.com

Epic Yoga on the roof of the Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle invites preregistered yogis to Sunday morning vinyasa flow class by the pool at 8 a.m. 2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; www.epicyogadc.com

Free Outdoor Yoga at CityCenterDC is on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. through June 27. The huge space surrounded by swanky shops has room for dozens of yoga lovers. 10th & H Streets in NW, DC; www.citycenterdc.com

Monday Evening Yoga at 6 p.m. Up Top Acres urban farm means vinyasa among the vegetables. Breathe in the smell of fresh earth and tasty greens after a long day at work. The Farm at 55 M Street, 55 M St. SE; www.uptopacres.com

Spark Yoga in the Park features free yoga classes in Strawberry Park in Fairfax’s Mosaic District on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. and Thursday evenings at 6:30 p.m. All levels are welcome and no preregistration is necessary. Strawberry Park in Mosaic District, Fairfax, VA;
www.sparkyoga.com

Yoga Mortis is a drop-in class offered every Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Congressional Cemetery, either outdoors or in the picturesque chapel located at the heart of the 35-acre green space. The cemetery also serves as an off-leash dog park, so a friendly dog or two might join you. 1801 E St. SE, DC; www.congressionalcemetery.org

Photo: Funimation's Facebook page
Photo: Funimation's Facebook page

Sounds, Screams & Saiyans: Dragon Ball’s Christopher Sabat

Christopher Sabat wasn’t born in a state, and he loves to tell you this. “You” being fans in line at a convention, Reddit AMA-ers or even the numerous actors screeching into a microphone behind a padded sound booth. He wants you to guess, so you’ll guess wrong.

“I’m really proud to say that I was born in Washington, DC,” Sabat says. “I don’t know, it makes me feel special. I’ll say, ‘I bet you $100 you can’t guess what state I was born in.’ And I’m always right.”

Sabat’s voice was made for radio, but he’s no disc jockey. Instead he’s a Saiyan, Namek, robot and, of course, human; it just depends on what character he’s lending his distinguishable vocal cords to on that day for that script.

From June 16-18 in the Washington Convention Center, Sabat will be lending his voice and time to the attendees at Awesome Con as a featured guest.

“When I was younger, I used to connect things together.”

Though Sabat was born in the not-state of DC, he moved to Houston, Texas as a child. His father worked for IBM as a database expert, so technology was always of interest in the household. For the young kid, sounds were a cause for fascination.

“I didn’t have the Internet,” he says. “All we had were people who were around, and for me that was engineers and programmer types. I always gravitated toward audio, and that’s what drew me into working with studios. I used to connect things together. I’d go to the library and check out sound effect records. I had multiple record and tape players, and I would play them all at the same time. Acting is important, but as a director and casting guy, I’m always interested in how people sound together.”

Sabat’s infatuation with sound paid dividends, as he received a scholarship to the University of North Texas as an opera singer. Due to a rather strict regimen of not drinking and talking (basically all college kids want to do), Sabat eventually transitioned to a major in radio, television and film. While he enjoyed the switch, his undeniable success story didn’t begin with graduation.

“I had maybe 40 credits left,” Sabat says. “I got offered this job in Fort Worth, and my thought was, ‘Should I take the job or get this piece of paper?’ My parents were livid, but it ended up being the best decision of my life.”

“’You like to do voices?’ and I said, ‘yean.’”

If the words Saiyan or Namek seem familiar, it’s because the alien species belong to the Dragon Ball franchise – a manga-turned-anime about adventures with a child named Goku. At least that’s how it starts. Akira Toriyama’s creation is largely cited as almost uniquely responsible, along with Pokémon, for permanently imprinting the Japanese genre into the American pop culture zeitgeist. If you watched the Toonami block of programming on Cartoon Network from 2003 until present, you’ve likely heard him bellow as the Saiyan prince Vegeta or growl as baddie-turned-father figure Piccolo. And while Sabat’s name appears in the credits of numerous other titles, it all started with this show.

“My involvement with Dragon Ball was pure luck,” Sabat says. “I mean, I was just a 20-something dude who was smoking a lot of weed, making music and hanging out. I wasn’t concerning myself with the future of anime, and neither was Funimation at the time. They were just trying to make a popular show.”

Popular is a massive understatement. Dragon Ball has transformed and evolved with countless revitalizations over the past two decades, including successful films in Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F, and a new series currently airing on Cartoon Network and Crunchy Roll titled Dragon Ball Super. Along with the growth in episode counts and video game iterations, the franchise has undeniably been immortalized by the number of people on YouTube and social media who dedicate entire channels and websites to the fandom of Dragon Ball.

“I really feel like everything has come together in this culmination of pop culture, and everything is coming back,” he says. “All these kids who were running home every day are in their 20s, have jobs and are nostalgic now. Everything that was popular is popular again.”

But how did Sabat get involved with the product? Basically, it’s another tale of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

“I had a friend, Carly Hunter, and she worked for Funimation when they had like four employees,” Sabat says. “They were just importing Dragon Ball and recording dubs in Canada. I used to joke about what she did for a living, which was take out the dirty things. She changed Master Roshi’s beer to juice, and ‘HELL’ to ‘HFIL.’”

“I love [Vegeta] for that reason. I couldv’e never played Goku – he’s too good.”

As both a director and performer in Dragon Ball, Sabat has given life to a number of cartoon characters, but his portrayal as Vegeta is easily his most identifiable and prominent. The Prince of Saiyans has gone from bonafide villain to anti-hero to loving father and husband, but his ambition to best lead character Goku has remained his rock.

“As an actor, I feel so grateful in retrospect, growing up over the past 18 years. A lot of people think Goku is the lead to the show, but oddly enough, Vegeta has the best lines, the best character development and he repeatedly does amazing things.”

Vegeta also holds perhaps the most famous catchphrase in the English version of the series with, “It’s over 9,000.” Lately, the Saiyan badass has become, well, softer. Dragon Ball Super has allowed the character to grow into a role far different from the man who came to Earth in search of immortality, destruction and revenge.

“People ask me what my favorite thing about Super is, and the answer is that it exists,” Sabat says. “Playing Vegeta for the past 18 years was like being Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Every video game is telling the same story; every redub is the same story. I wanted something new and fresh.”

One episode of the new series features the scowling Vegeta throwing away his ever-important pride to make sushi out of a giant octopus.

“I love the octopus scene,” Sabat says. “I love his interaction with Bulma [his wife]. It’s like how a really angry person approaches these situations, you know? It’s basically what he would say.”

“Fans weren’t all that kind at the time.”

Being synonymous with a legendary TV show allows those who have sacrificed time and effort to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but the series wasn’t necessarily expected to be as successful stateside as it became. In fact, the first people to approach Sabat at conventions during those early days were detractors.

“I got to go to conventions, and I started to see fans were watching the show,” he says. “They didn’t like some of the changes that had happened. We were working on really crude equipment back then, and it was all pretty janky.”

Some of the changes fans disparaged were dialogue revisions, or mistranslations that led to inconsistencies in the story. A lot of those modifications were to help American audiences transition into fans, and some were to curb the violence and raunchy humor. These days, the series is much more faithful to the original – a fact that Sabat is proud of.

“Most of what Funimation does now is try to maintain the original essence of any property. The scripts are well-written by experienced writers who truly understand Japanese terminology. With Dragon Ball, we do that too, but part of the fun with that show is we’re sort of able to play around with subtle changes.”

At Awesome Con, Sabat won’t be jeered at, as those days are long in the past. And while most patrons will ask for mundane catchphrases he’s uttered thousands of times at countless conventions, he’ll still maintain a chuckle – and a growl.

Awesome Con will be held at the Washington Convention center on June 16-18. Tickets for the weekend are $75; day pass prices vary.

Walter E. Washington Convention Center: 801 Mt. Vernon Pl. NW, DC; 202-249-3000; www.awesome-con.com 

Photo: Courtesy of Matador Records
Photo: Courtesy of Matador Records

Stevie Jackson Reaffirms My Lasting Love Affair with Belle and Sebastian

The perfect pop song. The languid lullaby. The cheeky ballad. Alone-in-your-bedroom disco spinner. From the “Blues are still Blue” to “Dear Catastrophe Waitress” and “Seymour Stein” to “Nobody’s Empire,” you’d be hard-pressed to find an occasion or an emotion that a Belle and Sebastian song doesn’t express.

The first time I saw the Glaswegian natives live was from the back of the crowd at what must have been a sold-out show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in 2006. That was three years after my high school boyfriend had given me a gift even more lasting than our first crushing love – two burnt CDs of B&S albums If You’re Feeling Sinister and Tigermilk.

By the time I was cruising the back roads of South Jersey with “Stars of Track and Field” soaring through the speakers, Belle and Sebastian was already six years and six albums into a career as one of the greatest indie pop bands of my generation, and I fell harder for them than I had for the shaggy-haired intellectual who introduced us.

Fourteen years (and approximately 143 mixes including at least one B&S song) later, the romance hasn’t faded. Not one bit. My affair with Belle and Sebastian is constant, comfortable and always satisfying. They
continue to redefine electronic, surprise with the versatile use of female vocals and explore sexuality, religion – all of the big questions.

And as I found out after talking to guitarist/singer Stevie Jackson in advance of the band’s July 30 show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, they are just people, like all of us, navigating life and death and friendships and crises – living their own versions of reality in the place they call home.

On Tap: Can you tell me about the upcoming tour and your show at Merriweather? It’s an interesting lineup with Spoon and Andrew Bird, and locals Ex Hex. What can we expect to hear this time around?
Stevie Jackson: That’s a big bill, isn’t it? That’s a lot of bands! The show kind of grows as it goes along with every subsequent record. You’ve got more choice, but it’s always quite integrated – old songs integrated with the new. It will be a mixture of the last 20 years. Every time you go out, there are things from the past that rise up; some you haven’t played for awhile, then something fresh. We were rehearsing a couple of days ago a song we hadn’t played for years. At first I was holding my guitar and I was like, “I have no idea,” but then it comes flooding back – muscle memory – and it’s like time travel to my 2004 self, and my fingers know where to go.

OT: How do you guys stay fresh, excited and still making music that is meaningful after 20 years?
SJ: You don’t slow [down], basically. It’s actually 21 years we’ll be making records, and I think there was a period about 10 years in when we didn’t do anything for a couple of years. We probably needed that at the time. We’ve never split up. But to be quite frank with you, Courtney, we have to make a living these days. I don’t have any children, but a lot of the other guys do. The impetus is, as working people, they have to provide for their families. I suppose when you’re younger, the whole point of being in a band is to avoid work. You have a romantic notion [of what being a musician is]. Then about 10 years in I thought, “Oh man, it’s a job.” But then it occurred to me: “It’s the best job in the world.”

OT: You have stayed in Scotland throughout your career. How much of a part does your home play in your music?
SJ: The music is infused with [Glasgow]; the characters in the songs and just being here. I think the music’s still got that. For years, we’ve left Glasgow to record. We go somewhere and get it done; no distractions. And sometimes that can infuse – where you are when you record – give a slight flavor. But even still, the music is very Glaswegian as far as I’m concerned.

OT: There is a distinct difference between your and frontman Stuart Murdoch’s songwriting styles. Who are some of your own musical influences and icons?
SJ: They all died last year. David [Bowie] was very hard. I didn’t know him; that’s the beauty of it. He was like the cool big brother you never had. He was really a visionary.And Prince as well, because I didn’t see that coming. It was just a shock. It seemed really unfair because he was so young and worked so hard.

OT: What did your parents listen to? What were the albums that played in your house, that shaped your own tastes?
SJ: Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence LP. There was a Motown compilation, which I wore out. The Mamas & the Papas. Barbara Streisand’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2. I still listen to that. The Four Seasons [here’s where I swoon when Stevie sings “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”]. A couple of Beatles [albums]. A Good Vibrations 45 by The Beach Boys; I played that one a lot. Frank Sinatra – my dad liked that one. A live album of [Wings’] Wings over America. A big one was my mom’s favorite, Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.” I still play that lot. After I left home, the ones I didn’t steal I bought myself. Thank you, I enjoyed that question.

OT: Who are you outside of the band? What do you do when no one’s around?
SJ: Another excellent question. I just feel like I am, you know? People have asked me what it’s like to be famous, and I don’t consider myself remotely famous. I’m in my 40s and I’m just that guy who’s in bands. I’m not saying it totally defines who I am, but it does in a way. It’s my job and my hobby rolled into one. When we started the group, Stuart was kind of specific that we’d do this band thing but the stuff we produced would be a representation of our everyday lives. We’re just people living here with flats and bills to pay and mortgages like anyone else. I’m not down in the clubs hanging. I’m a homebody; I like to stay home.

OT: Speaking of being a homebody, the world is pretty crazy in a lot of ways right now. What do you do when things are just sh-t? For example, I sometimes listen to “Seymour Stein” on BBC Sessions.
SJ: The BBC one is the best one, yeah. Well, thankfully my life doesn’t go that badly. There are ups and downs. I like to go to sleep. I either sleep or drink my way out of it. Music always takes me to a place anyway. Especially when I was younger – there’d always be a song. [Bob Dylan’s] Blood on the Tracks when you had a breakup, you know?

OT: One last question before I let you go. Are you a cat or a dog person?
SJ: Dog. The cats generally tend to be girls. I’ve known cat-like girls all my life. They cover the cats. I’d rather the company of a dog when it comes to animals.

Photo: Courtesy of WASC
Photo: Courtesy of WASC

NMWA’s Fresh Talks Attempt a Fresh Take on Arts and Activism

In 2017, effective activism and social engagement demand the shrinking of silos and breaking of barriers between and among disparate groups and movements. The National Museum for Women in the Arts (NMWA) is attempting to do just that through its Women, Arts and Social Change (WASC) initiative, now in its second year. Fresh Talk, the cornerstone of WASC, is a series featuring “curated conversations by women from a range of disciplines – people whose socially conscious ideas are reshaping lives, economies and communities.”

This past Sunday evening, a packed audience filled the fifth floor auditorium at the NMWA for this season’s penultimate Fresh Talk: “How can the arts inspire environmental advocacy?” Examples of past conversation topics include “How can the arts advance body politics?” and “How can makers change the world?” By my estimate, at least 100 attendees gathered to participate in the session, which featured an impressive lineup of panelists including Amy Lipton, director and curator of Ecoartspace; Miranda Massie, director of New York’s forthcoming Climate Museum; Jacqui Patterson, director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program; and Laura Turner Seydel, chairperson for the Captain Planet Foundation; along with DC-based environmental justice advocate and new media journalist Kari Fulton, who moderated the post-presentation Q&A.

The conversation had a promising opening, with a video welcome from Mary Robinson in which the former president of Ireland and current president of the foundation/chair of the board of trustees of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice read aloud Jane Hirschfield’s compelling poem “On the Fifth Day” (“On the fifth day/the scientists who studied the rivers/were forbidden to speak or to study the rivers…”) What followed were four 10-minute slideshows in which each panelist covered a topic significant to her work, including plastic waste campaigns, a new museum dedicated to studying climate, rap songs about food desserts and a retrospective of 20 years of environmental art.

Provocative points were made to be sure, like considering the ways in which “artists have always been first responders,” and the idea that museums can be catalysts for change because they are perceived as trustworthy establishments. They provide the physical, social and emotional space to create conversations and facilitate learning and understanding about the vast, making it palpable, personal and tangible. But the slideshows did not fully complement one another, and without time to really talk through connections, missed the mark on creating a cohesive thread of discussion. The Q&A opened up the dialogue a bit more, but where I think the event really came alive was in the post-presentation “Sunday Supper.”

Sitting side-by-side at long tables set with white cloth in the museum’s main hall, we strangers became new acquaintances over a lovely meal, joined in breaking bread by our mutual desire and interest in understanding how art can and does catalyze change, especially in regard to a changing climate. I had hesitated to stay for this portion of the evening, and surely would have left much less inspired had I not.

The last Fresh Talk of the 2017 season, “Who are the new superwomen of the universe?” (Wednesday, June 14) will explore a “new wave of superheroines entering the comic universe, leading the fight for justice and dispelling traditional stereotypes in fiction and beyond.” Go. And stay for Catalyst, a cocktail hour with a topic and a twist.

Learn more about Fresh Talk here.

National Museum of Women and the Arts: 1250 New York Ave. NW, DC; 202-783-5000; www.nmwa.org

Photo: Courtesy of MoKi Media
Photo: Courtesy of MoKi Media

Renowned Mixologist Jeff Bell Takes Over Columbia Room

The insanely creative mind of world-renowned mixologist Jeff Bell (of NYC-based speakeasy PDT) and the culinary prowess of executive chef Johnny Spero combined forces this week for a two-night takeover of epic proportions at the James Beard Award-nominated Columbia Room in Washington, DC.

Bell, whose stardom in the mixology world is rightfully earned, paired his inventive cocktails with Spero’s one-of-a-kind conceptions for a tasting menu that was a match made in heaven. It all started with the perfect setting – Columbia Room’s tucked away signature tasting room, dimly lit with a dramatic long bar, and just the right combination of old-school vibe and intimacy.

“I’m a guest in the house here, so I wanted to be respectful of my colleagues for the week,” Bell told On Tap. “Johnny was very open to coming up with new food, and I came up with new cocktails. We basically put down a list of our wants and demands; flavors you want to work with; spirits [and] wines, and then the kind of food Johnny wants to do; and what could pair with what. And then we slowly worked through it all.”

Guests at the sold-out tasting experienced an array of flavor and texture combinations, starting with an amuse of spruce juniper cracker, deceiving to the eye with its paper-thin appearance resting on a napkin but bursting with flavor. It was paired quite perfectly with an “Appletif” cocktail, with a base of millstone-hopped cider that tasted like summer (rather than fall) thanks to the additions of grapefruit, spruce tip and suze (a bitter French aperitif).

We were off to an excellent start.

The next course was a true yin and yang, with a tasting of pickled green strawberries paired with what will now become my go-to summer cocktail, a rhubarb spritz, with just the right touch of sweetness to balance out the sourness of the berries. The cocktail was comprised of all of my favorite things and then some – rose, Tanqueray, rhubarb shrub (hello, seasonal ingredient), huacatay and sparkling water.

The second course was certainly my favorite – razor clams in a heavenly broth paired with an equally stellar “Amalfi Time” cocktail, destined to be another warm weather go-to cocktail. The clams were lightly cooked, with bloomed basil seeds and nasturtium, topped at serving time with a juice mixture of reserved liquor from the clams, grilled cucumber, dill, spinach and parsley, along with a small amount of garlic and dill oil. The best razor clams dish of my life, by far.

Next up was an ode to Chef Spero’s Baltimore roots, with his version of Baltimore pit neef – wagyu beef seasoned with smoked paprika and then kissed on charcoal (as any Baltimore pit beef should be) sitting atop a light bread filled with heavenly horseradish. The dish was paired quite appropriately with a “Pit Bull” – a variation on the classic Bloody Mary.

While I’m the one at brunch who orders the mimosa over the Bloody Mary, the “Pit Bull” won my heart for its unique character. Bell took stock from the wagyu beef and combined that with tomato water, onions and garlic, and strained it all out. Add scotch and the ideal-shaped ice cube, and you had a complex, savory drink that really complemented the Baltimore pit beef.

The tasting menu ended with a real palate awakening – a thin piece of dark chocolate dusted with highly condensed raspberry powder that tickled my taste buds. The last sip was once again a flawless pairing with the dish, a deep and earthy cocktail with a Guyana rum base.

For the ultimate food and cocktail pairing experience, be sure to make a reservation to try Columbia Room’s tasting menu. You will leave with a whole new level of appreciation for the detail and precision that goes into planning such incredible flavor combinations.

Columbia Room: 124 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; 202-316-9396; www.columbiaroomdc.com