The Fridays at Fort Totten summer concerts in partnership with The Modern at Art Place are every week, 6-8 p.m. On July 12, residents enjoyed R&B group Pebble to Pearl and tasty bites from the CapMac food truck.
FedExField, the stadium that normally hosts the Washington Redskins, played housed bonafide rock royalty on July 3, as the Rolling Stones visited the DMV on their latest tour. Playing hit after hit, the Stones lived up to their status by delivering a truly raucous evening. Photos: Mark Raker Photography
If you’re tuned into the jazz music scene, then you’ve probably heard the name Mark G. Meadows. Best known for his social change album, 2016’s To The People, wherein he encourages his listeners to look toward their future how to best handle the successes and failures.
He meditates on how to best move forward as a nation, while also making sure we take care of each other. We were able to sit down with him and talk about his upcoming performance at AMP by Strathmore and the creative process for his new album, Be The Change.
On Tap: What brought you into jazz music originally?
Mark Meadows: Honestly, my dad is my biggest influence in terms of jazz; my dad, Gabriel Meadows, [he] is a jazz vocalist in Dallas. I started with classical piano when I was five. He actually lied to my Russian piano teacher, saying I was six. She didn’t take anyone under the age of six. I would go to my dad’s gigs and would listen to him play jazz, I already had the ear, that’s when I began taking formal lessons with Nora Jones’ teacher Julie Bunk.
OT: What do you love about the jazz world?
MM: I love the fact that it is never the same and always fresh, no matter what song or what field I am performing in, we are already listening to create and to create something new. Similar to having a conversation with old friends, no matter what, you always enter the conversation not knowing where it’s going to go.
OT: Where do you typically draw your inspiration when writing your songs?
MM: My personal experiences, without a doubt. My music is very telling of my personal life. It is generally my therapy. I use my music to grapple with different life choices I have to make and whether it be career choices or more philosophical thoughts or relationships. Everything I write stems from a sincere honest place and that phase of my life.
OT: How did you feel post-2016? And how did that inspire your next works?
MM: Sure, well 2016 was a crazy year, the year I released To The People, my mantra for social change. It was also the year that I played the lead role in a musical called Jelly’s Last Jam. Where I took on a whole new world of possibility and connections, a fearless leap for me. After that, I was dazed and confused, between a whirlwind of dropping the album and having my first experience acting. I didn’t know which direction to go in, whether I was an actor, musician or music director. It shook me after I made this statement of change and how far we have to come, what’s the point all the time I spend and all the messages I want to convey. Is it being lost? from that came Be The Change, which is about what your change is, whether smiling to someone on the street, we all can and should do something to make that change.
OT: What do you hope to achieve with Be The Change?
MM: After everything I had done, that we still as a country made the decision we made and I saw all the alt-right groups and things I never thought I would see again. I thought “man, maybe I’m not really making a difference.” After some meditation and conversation I realized I am, it sounds a lot like Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror,” this is my 2019 version of that.
OT: Any pre-show rituals?
MM: I like to spend time with my band and talk and hang with them. Most importantly, I need 5-10 minutes by myself to meditate and convince myself of my mission to communicate joy, love and understanding to people.
OT: What is it that you want listeners to be aware of when listening to this album?
MM: I want them to be aware of listening to music outside of their comfort zone. People who know my music know that the track is not my normal sound, it is my attempt to be the example of the change. In order to be the change you have to change the way you talk and interact with people, you have to change your circles. My attempt to reach outside the typically jazz, soul and R&B world. To be honest, most of the people who are my fans probably think and have the same political views as me, we as a world need to try and find a way to interact with those who are different than us.
OT: What are you most looking forward to with your next performance?
MM: I’m looking forward to performing a very special evening to what I hope will be an amazing audience. I don’t set expectations, I live in the moment and on July 11 I will give my all to the crowd, and hope they are with us.
Mark G. Meadows plays at AMP by Strathmore on July 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets $18-$32. For more information visit the website.
AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, MD; 301-581-5100; www.ampbystrathmore.com
For one night only, DC’s indie, soul, jazz and psych rock group novo played a tribute to the music of Amy Winehouse at Pearl Street Warehouse on June 29. Photos: Kimchi Photography
SATURDAY, JULY 6
Indie group Gringo Starr will be celebrating their 10-year anniversary by releasing their very first live album this summer. The garage rock group hails from Atlanta, Georgia, which is better known for its hip-hop legends; but the indie rockers are far from that and no less legendary. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $10. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club
Immigrant & Refugee Music Festival
As we celebrate Independence Day weekend, Echostage will celebrate musicians of immigrant descent. Artists varying from Africa, Greece, Colombia and much more will come out to promote their heritage and influences for the community through music. Musicians like DJ CYD, Martha Afework, Yannis and many more will perform and inspire people from all walks of life to learn, dance and sing to music from all around the world. Doors at 4 p.m. Tickets begin at $29.99. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com
SUNDAY, JULY 7
A career spanning more than 30 years, Angie Stone graces the stage one more time performing soulful classics. An R&B legend, her melodic voice captivated audiences for years. A soulful jazz artist within her own right, her long stable career is largely due to her lyrics, highlighting a number of adversities facing black women. Releasing her album Dream in in 2015 proved her groovy approach to music still leaves her audience wanting more. Doors at 5 p.m. Tickets begin at $55. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com
TUESDAY, JULY 9
If you’re into soul artists like Alicia Keys and India.Arie, you will surely love DC-based vocalist Cecily. Her mellow and rich sound can be described as a combination of R&B, folk and jazz. Growing up, Cecily got her musical influence from her parents, who listened to artists like Smokey Robinson and Miles Davis. Her latest album Songs of Love and Freedom delves into Cecily’s experience with vulnerability in love while her bold lyrics perfectly encapsulate the beauty of new beginnings. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $22. Blues Alley: 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bluesalley.com
WEDNESDAY, JULY 10
Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker)
Nick Murphy, previously known as Chet Faker, is an Australian singer and songwriter, most notably known for his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” His latest album is reminiscent of a poppier and more jazz-oriented Bon Iver. While there is some lack of cohesion, it still provides very easy listening and pushes him above and beyond where he started when he was only known for his iconic first cover. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $36. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com
THURSDAY, JULY 11
Blink-182, Lil Wayne and Neck Deep
For all you 90s babies, Blink-182 was probably prominent on your mix CDs, but there was likely some confusion when they announced they were touring with famed rapper Lil Wayne. Rock and rap are traditionally different sounds. Historically, both have contributed tremendously to music, so if one of your friends likes rap and the other prefers rock, this show has hits for both. Show at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $37.50. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.livenation.com
Stephen Marley is an eight-time Grammy-winning artist and producer, not to mention the second son of Bob Marley. Marley started his career at the tender age of six, singing and dancing with siblings in Ziggy Marley and the Melody Shakers. The group’s first single “Children Playing In The Streets,” was produced by their father in 1979. Since, Stephen has helped produce singles by his brother Damian, not to mention released numerous albums of his own. For the past two years, Stephen has helped developed and curate Kaya Fest, a music festival that educates the public on cannabis and honors the legacy of his father. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $29.50. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com
FRIDAY, JULY 12
Backstreet Boys made their debut in the late 90s when pop boy bands were peak culture, as the Boys competed with groups like NSYNC and 98 Degrees for supremacy. In the beginning, they had a larger fanbase in Europe than the United States due to mainstream pop being kept off the radio, but their stateside stardom was a when, not if. Their most iconic album Millennium went multi-platinum, with singles like “I Want It That Way.” The record lived high in the charts as their blend of hip-hop, R&B and pop was exceptional for its time. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $190. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com
With an upbeat tempo, dope lyrics and a momentum to move, Brecreation brings a celebratory vibe to the music scene. His writing capabilities convey such a deep message within his music, you can’t help but fall in love with his energy. His grasp on combining rap and pop beats will leave you enticed and wanting more, allowing the listener to bob their heads and move their feet to singles like “Enough” and “Midnight.” With a deep connection to the DMV area, being from Gaithersburg, Maryland, he wanted his first show to be in the nation’s capital. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but a $5 donation suggested. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com
The Weeklings are set to bring back nostalgic hits from The Beatles for this performance, busting out hits like “I Am The Walrus” and “Paperback Writer.” Along with performing Beatles classics, The Weeklings have recorded two studio albums at Abbey Road studios in London, which include original work and songs inspired by The Beatles. The Weeklings can be heard on Sirius XM’s The Beatles Channel. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $20. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com
SATURDAY, JULY 13
It’s not your typical karaoke, there’s no “Bennie And The Jets” or “Love Shack,” more Tupac and Kendrick Lamar. Trap music has been an influence within the black community; advocating for controversial issues, empowerment and more. Jason Mowatt started trap karaoke as merely a joke, but eventually him and his friends played on the idea of a trap version of karaoke. Starting with just 40 people, since then, thousands have come out to enjoy a night filled with fun and trap music. Gracing cities from Los Angeles, California to Atlanta, Georgia and building a platform where all walks of life can come out and enjoy singing their favorite music. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $22. Howard Theatre: 620 T St. NW, DC; www.thehowardtheatre.com
SUNDAY, JULY 14
Nas & The National Symphony Orchestra
Growing up in the projects of Queens in New York City, Nas used his exposure to his legendary album Illmatic, a reality piece within “the golden age” of rap. These adversities helped him one of the greatest records ever. Since, he has challenged the stereotypical view of rap, going in depth with his experiences of being a black man in America. Tracks like “The World is Yours” and “If I Ruled the World” gave listeners a sense of hope that even though discrimination was always lurking, there was hope. Poetic in verse and sincere in rhyme, the Wolf Trap experience provides a twist on his usual performance with the accompaniment of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $50. The Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org
TUESDAY, JULY 16
Malaysian singer and songwriter Yuna steadily rose to fame in the mid-2000s after uploading her songs on Myspace. It wasn’t until releasing her debut hit “Deeper Conversation” that she started to gain an international audience, leading to recorded tracks with Pharrell and a coinciding performance with him at Lollapalooza in 2012. Her upcoming album, Rogue, which features tracks with G-Eazy and Tyler, The Creator will make its debut on July 12. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com
WEDNESDAY, JULY 17
Harry Jay and NINA
Harry Jay is a man of many talents, ranging from 4-plus octave range to being a natural lyricist. His twist on funk, rock and soul has allowed music lovers alike to gravitate to his music. Specifically, amongst both Boston and DC, he has a wide range of supporters, alongside his band The Bling, who together have effortlessly sold out shows after the release of their first EP, Truth. The other artist on the bill is NINA, influenced by the depth of Joss Stone, the voice of Aretha and the powerhouse that is Beyoncé. Her newest single “I Can Do Better,” empowers the everyday women to become go-getters. Her pop-soul genre allows the listener to be active while listening, but at the same time captivate her unique sound. Doors at 6 p.m. Free. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com
THURSDAY, JULY 18
Waiting on the next Two Door Cinema Club album? Well, Cayucas may be able to tide you over until then. Twin brothers Zach Yudin and Ben Yudin are an indie pop band, hailing from Santa Monica, California. Their most recent album Real Life provides a real summer soundtrack, the type you would see in a movie where they are driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in California. The duo will give you all the calm beachy vibes the warmer months have been missing so far. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com
The Native Tongue Fest
Celebrating 30 years of hip-hop, The Native Tongue Fest will celebrate the Native Tongues collective, as well as other notable artists. The lineup includes Jungle Brothers, Monie Love, Black Sheep and Brand Nubian. Part of the proceeds will be donated to The American Diabetes Association in honor of the late Phife Dawg. Doors at 5:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $70. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com
FRIDAY, JULY 19
Members of PRETTYMUCH originally auditioned on the X-Factor to pursue solo careers, but didn’t form until judge Simon Cowell believed they’d be better off as a group. The American-Canadian music group quickly rose to fame in 2017, releasing their single “Would You Mind,” which recieved tons of praise. Their teeny-bop sound is very similar to the U.K. group One Direction. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $31. DAR Constitution Hall: 1776 D St. NW, DC; www.dar.org/constitution-hall
Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World
Two bands come together for one mega-rock performance taking you back to the late 90s. Third Eye Blind pulls their influences from classic and pop-rock. Their debut single “Semi-Charmed Life” reached the top 10 on the Billboard in 1997. The band broke up in the early 2000s, but eventually came back together in 2009 and released their fourth studio album, Ursa Major. Jimmy Eat World started their music career in the emo-core genre, but as their audience broadened, the group morphed into an alternative rock and power pop band. Their latest album, Integrity Blues, blended electronic sounds and their rock roots, proving yet again their music isn’t confined to a singular genre. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $29.50. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com
SATURDAY, JULY 20
Dave Matthews Band
Being the kings of improvisation, Dave Matthews Band quickly took the rock industry by storm. Formed in 1991, they continue to amaze fans with their unexpected performances while largely sticking to their classic material. With the soothing strum of a chord magnified by their musicianship, there’s no wonder how successful they’ve been over the past two decades, selling out arenas, being at the top of musical charts and still having thousands of loyal fans. The use of violins, saxophones and many more instruments electrify their music, making it almost impossible for fans not to enjoy a live show. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $49.50. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.bristowamphitheater.com
Emerging from Philadelphia in the summer of 2018, with their debut album A Light on Each Side, Stereo League quickly took reign over the city. Classified as a recording collective, they frequently collaborate with numerous artists across all genres of music. It didn’t take long for fans to catch wind of this group, which put them on a nationwide tour with sold out shows, leaving fans coming back for more. The collective is planning on releasing a second album this summer and will give DC9 a sneak peak. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets $12. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club
TUESDAY, JULY 23
One of the savviest musical minds of our time, there is nothing he can’t do with a guitar in his hands. Hit after hit, John Mayer has charted all major music pop charts making it almost impossible to compare. Inspired by the great Jimi Hendrix, his guitar solos alone bring thousands to fill stadiums. Classics like “Waiting On the World to Change” and “Your Body is a Wonderland” will have you singing along to the nostalgia of what was the beginning of an era that continues to this day. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $49. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com
It’s hard to fit The Marías into a category because they touch on so many different genres of music: a little jazz, some indie and even psychedelic. The Marías are uniquely “strange.” Their soulful tunes paint a vivid picture fans easily grasp onto, and songs “Cariño” and “I Don’t Know You” helped the group gain national acclaim. Their gentle approach to each song resonates a calmness within each listener, proven in their soulful cover of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” With an authentically eclectic style, their sound is more than enough to keep fans enticed and wanting more. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $18. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com
WEDNESDAY, JULY 24
Make Redito, formerly known as Spazzkid, is a Filipino musician based out of Los Angeles, California. His fusion of pop, J-pop and beat music is characterized in a completely new sound of his own making. Taken from a multitude of cultures, his techno add-ons creates a new perspective on “trap techno.” Even though his music has taken on a role on its own, his ability to combine three different genres allows him to reach a much broader audience. It’s unique, fun and uplifting, and creates an ambiance of all around good vibes. Doors at 10:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com
FRIDAY, JULY 26
Ibibio Sound Machine
Hailing from London, Ibibio Sound Machine has become known as a live music collective that produces hits perfect for Friday nights at the club. Their chanty melodies coupled with steady beats of drums and other instrumentals incorporates influences from West African funk, disco, modern electro and post-punk to produce a modern take on 70s funk and electronic music of the 80s. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $20. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com
The man, the myth, the legend Johnny Gill is gracing The Birchmere’s grand stage. A career spanning more than three decades, including classics like “Can You Stand The Rain” and “Rub You The Right Way.” He serves as one of the few that have allowed his humanitarian acts and his love for teamwork to help carry his career, along with his voice. He is one of the few that have had a successful group and solo career. With his unforgettable contributions to New Edition and LSG, his voice still reigns supreme as he further cements his legacy in the nation’s capital, the first stepping stone in his career. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $95. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave.Alexandria VA; www.birchmere.com
TUESDAY, JULY 30
Corinne Bailey Rae
Three-time Grammy-nominated artist Corinne Bailey Rae made headway in the U.K. and the United States with hits like “Put Your Records On” and “Like a Star” back in 2006. In 2011, Rae released The Love EP, where she did covers by artists like Bob Marley and Prince. Her cover of Marley’s “Is This Love” won her a Grammy for the Best Female Performance category. Rae’s sound can be described as soul, pop and R&B wrapped into one. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets $40. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com
Queen and Adam Lambert
In their new tour, Queen and Adam Lambert are coming together to bring the Rhapsody Approaches tour. Mixing old classics with some new tunes, there will be something for everyone at this show. While the combination may seem a bit odd, Lambert is a perfect lead for this iteration of Queen and he credits Freddie Mercury as an icon of self-identity for him. The marriage between the two has brought Queen back and allowed Lambert to play with his childhood heroes. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $200. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com
WEDNESDAY, JULY 31
Cosmic Charlie plays to the tunes of The Grateful Dead. A cover band since 1999, Cosmic Charlie continues to pay tribute to this unique, charismatic band that left audiences dancing in their seats. An eclectic band mixed with rock, country, folk and blues, which helped them become “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world.” Since the death of one of their band members, Jerry Garcia, their spirit has lived on through Cosmic Charlie. Filled with the style and energy of the Dead, their covers aren’t always perfect as no show is ever the same, and they use their own foundation to add to the legacy of The Grateful Dead. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $15. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com
Four years ago, three volunteers with Girls Rock! DC considered joining musical forces and forming a band. Karen Foote, Saman Saffron and Ebony Smith went on with their busy lives but reunited a year later at the organization’s afterparty to discuss the band. A mutual friend offered up a basement practice space, and the musicians who had long admired each other’s abilities from afar officially created Honey.
“It was kind of amazing,” says Foote, who plays guitar. “I think we were all on the dance floor at one point and the three of us were dancing and we were like, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s do this band thing.’”
Foote and her bandmates have been playing music in some capacity for most of their lives, but Girls Rock! DC brought their talents together. The music education organization “aims to create a supportive, inclusive and creative space for girls and non-binary and trans youth of varying racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities, identities and experiences to develop their self-confidence, build community, rise up and rock out,” per their website. And for Honey, the experience led to the creation of new music.
The band draws from their varying backgrounds, experiences and personal tastes to create a brand of indie rock that’s powerful and relatable. Although the trio only has one EP, I’m Your Best Friend, Admit It, they cover everything from dealing with the eponymous “F–kboy” to romantic relationships. And the places from which they find inspiration are as wide-ranging as their lyrical subject matter.
“I feel like we all bring such different influences,” Foote says.
Vocalist and bassist Saffron echoes that sentiment, adding, “I think it’s funny sometimes, because we’re a pretty big span of ages and upbringings, but sometimes someone will start playing a song as a joke in band practice and we’re like, ‘Yeah. That’s awesome. Blink-182. When are we going to cover that?’”
Drummer Ebony Smith agrees.
“I think what really works well for us is that we just have different backgrounds and genres that we bring in and blend together. We can put them together and it just ends up being really cool. It’s something I really appreciate and enjoy.”
Outside of their time in Honey, the group’s daily work lives vary greatly. Foote is a videographer, Saffron works in nonprofit programming and Smith for an engineering firm. Busy schedules don’t keep them from their work in the band, though, and they emphasize the importance of taking time to nurture creative work outside of their professional lives.
“It can be challenging but rewarding to explore that creative outlet,” Smith says. “We all love music and we love what we do. But I think sometimes when people think about forming bands, they don’t think about the back end. It’s not just going out and playing music and partying and stuff like that. It takes a lot of work and a lot of communication. You have to think of everything that’s included in playing music with your friends.”
For Saffron, she’s found the right balance by treating band time as non-negotiable.
“Being like, ‘Well, [on] Tuesday night, this is what I’m doing,’” she says. “And also, voice memos are my best friend. With a couple of our songs, it’s been like, ‘Oh, I’m in the bathroom. I have a line idea. I’m just going to sing it right now into my phone. I’m going to put it away six months later. I need a bridge for this song that we’re working on. This will go well here.”’
Honey has had some memorable experiences throughout the time they’ve been together. Foote recalls playing the Black Cat’s anniversary show last year – a show she describes as one of the shortest they’ve played but one of the best, nonetheless. They also brushed elbows with the legendary Ted Leo while tuning in the back room as he was looking for a place to meditate.
“We were tuning [in the] dressing room and Ted Leo came in,” Saffron adds.
Foote continues, saying he was looking for a quiet space in the backstage area.
“He was like, ‘Hey, do you mind if I come in [and] sit here for a little bit?’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ But I think we were still too disruptive, so he left. And I had not yet been like, ‘Hi, I’m Karen.’”
“We were like, ‘Wait, did we just strong-arm Ted Leo?’”
“But then we got to talk to him later and he was so nice,” Foote says. “That was my favorite.”
The band recalls the support they’ve received from their EP release show and the Girls Rock! DC community overall.
“Every experience that we’ve had has been someone who’s a few degrees of separation from Girls Rock! DC,” Saffron says. “Obviously, having been around for more than 10 years, it’s a big community.”
The band’s personal experiences speak to the necessity of the organization’s existence. The musicians lead by example, but hope the future looks different for up-and-coming musicians.
“It’s so rare that we play with a band that’s all girls, or trans folks or gender-expansive folks,” Saffron continues. “So often we’d show up and we’re like, ‘Hello, lineup of all dudes. Hello, lineup of predominantly white folks. Nice to see you.’ I don’t want young people to feel like they have to be perfect. I don’t want them to feel like they have to be experts in order to do something. People who see themselves reflected all the time are treated as individuals all the time.”
“I definitely feel that shows – especially because we are an all-female band. It’s like, ‘Oh, we have to super nail this’ or people are going to be like, ‘Look at this all-women band!’”
Saffron concludes with, “I would love for music programs like Girls Rock! DC to not even be necessary; for them to just be fun rather than being something that needs to happen, politically speaking.”
Honey plays Slash Run on Monday, July 22. For more information on Honey and to listen to their EP I‘m Your Best Friend, Admit It, visit www.honeymusicdc.bandcamp.com. Visit www.slashrun.com for more on the show.
Slash Run: 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; 202-838-9929; www.slashrun.com
Whether it’s go-go blasting from a street corner shop or jazz drifting up from a suburban basement, the energy of the creative spaces where music is produced sets the rhythm and determines the pulse that a city can become known for.
DC’s sound has shifted in waves over the decades, largely because the spaces where music is being made are continuously evolving. While the doors of most of the great jazz clubs that once lined U Street have closed and the back rooms and basements of punkdom are harder to come by, in 2019 there are more opportunities to hear live music than there have been in years. But it’s not necessarily the newly opened, traditional-style concert venues that are leaving their mark.
The emergence of brick-and-mortar spaces cared for by artist collectives – more intentional than DIY houses and more accessible than corporate clubs – are the places where the sounds of DC are generated today. And that sound is inextricable from an ethos of community participation in shared experience.
Rhizome DC takes physical shape in an early 20th-century house sitting just on the DC side of Takoma Park. Its founders established what is now a thriving 501(c)(3) after Pyramid Atlantic Art Center moved to Hyattsville and left a hole in the local arts community. The house draws its namesake from French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s concept: “Unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature.” That is, the space is built for multitudes of connections.
“Our main goal is to have lots of different things happening at the same time and nourish each other,” says Michael Smith-Welch, a member of the collective that keeps Rhizome running. “That’s what makes it exciting.”
The whiteboard schedule hanging in the kitchen marks events and shows every day and night of the month. As far as music goes, that means everything from jazz to experimental rock. In its first year, 600 acts came through the doors. Rhizome recently hosted the third annual installation of the Seventh Stanine Festival, a compilation of local musicians and accomplices like funk rockers Beauty Pill and instrumental ensemble Tone.
“A lot of those acts can’t play at the bigger places and it’s what we like: experimental,” Smith-Welch continues.
Rhizome is like a breathing machine – even the bathroom is converted into one big musical instrument. Strum any surface and the room emits an electronic feedback buzz in varying tones. It is also malleable to the needs of its community.
Beyond music, Rhizome offers workshops on fermentation, film and electronics, yoga classes, and an art lab for teens. While no one lives in the house, it does occasionally play host to resident artists, like the group of women who applied for a grant to have space to create while navigating new motherhood. An exhibition currently on display throughout the house is an installation of works from the Justice Arts Coalition, an organization that supports and sponsors incarcerated artists.
Across the city in the Trinidad neighborhood of Northeast DC, a back-alley carriage house is home to Dwell, an “off-grid creative space.” Like Rhizome, Dwell started as an alternative venue for local music when many others were shuttering doors or moving locations. And while it still caters largely to musicians, Dwell too has expanded with the energy of its community.
With no official address and printed maps given to event hosts for distributing to attendees, organizer Hannah Bernhardt says people are already jazzed when they arrive for the first time because they’ve had to interact with the neighborhood in a way they’re not used to just to find the space. Once they do, there is more whimsy in navigating the space itself.
“You get to journey through all of the levels of what happens here,” Bernhardt says. “On the first floor, there is a garage and a boat and evidence of woodworking projects [not to mention a pool table from Black Cat’s renovation days], and you go to the second floor and there’s music happening and the lights are flickering, and then you go up to the roof where there is a garden and a fishpond.”
The fishpond is a cistern of collected water used for the rooftop garden, a gathering spot for people to socialize between musical sets. It was all built out by hand by volunteer members in the community.
Dwell’s programming is managed by Bernhardt and Holly Herzfeld, childhood friends who grew up in the area. They strive to create a space that is welcoming for both the musicians who frequent and anyone who happens to find their way into Dwell.
“There’s a sensitivity and an openness that happens that’s really amazing,” Bernhardt says. “I often hear people say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this, but it feels like home.’”
Her father David Bernhardt, who owns the physical building, adds, “People who return over a number of visits have a deeper, richer understanding of what’s going on.”
Someone who comes for a show with friends might return alone for a yoga class. This past May’s Dyke Fest drew hundreds of first-timers and familiars alike.
“We are trying to guide the way that space interacts with people,” Bernhardt’s father continues, “to value all the individual groups, tribes and circles that is the Venn diagram of our city and then bring them together. And this becomes Dwell. It’s especially important while Washington is changing again, and so dramatically, that we can set the tone for what is the culture [and] the music in the city and the vibe.”
Hole in the Sky (HITS) DC is another artist collective that congregates in an off-the-beaten-path performance and studio space. Unlike Rhizome and Dwell, however, HITS’ mission is a little more geared toward the needs of artists rather than visitors.
Though iterations of HITS have existed for about a decade, the collective’s current form really began to take shape about five years ago when a few artists set up studio space in the lofted building on the edge of Brookland that actually feels like a literal hole – not in the wall, but in the sky.
Annmarie Dinan Hansen is one of the lead organizers at HITS, which she describes as a “very fluid space,” one given to the “wants of those who are invested most in it” – a.k.a., those paying for the lease on the building. For Hansen, who has a punk background, that means a focus on punk music and “facilitating art forms that are underrepresented performance-wise.”
“We’re constantly navigating what it can and should be,” Hansen says.
That navigation hasn’t come without its challenges.
“There was a time when it had a reputation as not a particularly safe space for women,” notes Hansen, a vibe she hopes is changing. “We’ve been having a lot of events.”
HITS hosts a variety of collaborative gatherings, exhibitions for juried art shows, and other collectives and individuals in need of space to make, display and be inspired by art.
Conner Casey, a woodworker, folk musician and current HITS member, says that in addition to performance, the space is crucial for working artists.
“[This] can’t even exist as anything other than DIY,” he says. “It needs to be used as an arts space.”
Despite the enthusiasm of the communities that they build and serve, the “out-of-the-box” and “under-the-radar” nature of spaces like Rhizome, Dwell and HITS does not make them immune to developers’ dreams. Rhizome’s landlords, for example, own the Starbucks down the street and have visions of condos replacing the rickety white house on the hill.
But one thing is certain: DC needs these spaces. In them, music is binding force and a natural backdrop to the multitudes of expression that they foster. The subtle undertone of the sound they release seems to be: our city’s arms are open…come create with us.
Dwell: alley behind the 1200 block of Florida Avenue in NE, DC (between Montello and Trinidad Streets); www.dwelldc.info
Hole in the Sky DC: 2110 5th St. Unit 2, NE, DC; www.holeintheskydc.com
Rhizome DC: 6950 Maple St. NW, DC; www.rhizomedc.org
Support the Scene
A slew of small “official” venues around town also give lots of love to local bands. You can stumble into one of the following spots on pretty much any night of the week and likely catch an up-and-coming musical act.
Comet Ping Pong
Comet has been serving pizza and wicked backhands since 2006. It has also hosted thousands of live shows. Don’t miss local faves Park Snakes on July 15. 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com
Dew Drop Inn
Dew Drop is the hippest little train track hideaway in town. They just celebrated their fourth anniversary with a whiskey fountain and free hot dog bar. Don’t miss the triple threat of Lightmare, Dot.s (ATL) and Erotic Thrillers on July 11. 2801 8th St. NE, DC; www.dewdropinndc.com
If you dig jazz, blues, DJs and the Revolution, get your Commie ass to Mt. P’s Marx Cafe. 3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, DC; www.marxcafemtp.com
The folks running Pie Shop are local musicians themselves, so they know what’s up. Plus, you can order sweet and savory pies from Dangerously Delicious downstairs and enjoy the rooftop patio between sets. 1339 H St. NE, DC; www.pieshopdc.com
14th Street feeling a little too posh these days? Head to the Pinch, go down to the basement lounge and revel in a good, old-fashioned punk show. 3548 14th St. NW, DC; www.thepinchdc.com
Named “best neighborhood joint” in 2018, their slogan kind of says it all: beer, burgers, rock ‘n’ roll. 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.slashrun.com
Julia Shapiro didn’t want to talk about it. In April 2018, amid health concerns, a fresh breakup and an existential crisis, she couldn’t tour anymore. Her indie rock outfit Chastity Belt cancelled what was left of their tour, sparking a long overdue period of self-discovery for Shapiro.
Her solo sound doesn’t differ much from the pathos of her beloved band. The music is still constructed upon a lyrical foundation that ranges from witty banter to existential thought experiment. The low-key instrumentation and soft melodic choruses are where the subtle differences become noticeable.
With questions of self and very real trepidations concerning the literal grind of touring, the artist had already planned to explore music solo. Upon returning to a newly empty Seattle apartment, she transformed the space into a makeshift studio and dove headfirst into writing, performing and producing songs that would become her latest release: Perfect Version.
“This is like its own thing,” Shapiro says of her solo project. “I think it’s helpful because if I was in a nice studio, there would be too many options. Having limitations and having to do it myself, I had to go with what sounded best.”
Shapiro has learned from last year’s record cycle. She’s checking in with herself and her bandmates more, and generally feels “way better.” Chastity Belt has a number of dates confirmed for the winter and she’s currently touring for Perfect Version, with a stop at Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe in Adams Morgan later this month. She’s ready.
On Tap: You recently said you were questioning whether you were interested in music anymore and pondering why you fell in love with it. At what point did you decide to start even thinking about music again?
Julia Shapiro: I’m always questioning what I’m doing. At the time, I felt exhausted from how much we’d been touring and disillusioned from the whole album process. I never thought I’d stop making music, but at that point, I didn’t want to tour anymore. Coming back, I started writing songs right away. I got really attached to the demos and thought they were good. I figured, “Why record another version?” because I’m lazy and they had a kind of magic.
OT: You basically self-produced Perfect Version. Were you learning on the fly or did you have the demos at the ready?
JS: There’s no one right way to mix something. I just used my ears. Doing it with someone else could have sounded more pro, but this is more personal. I don’t love records that are only high fidelity. I like demos because they feel more personal and there’s a uniqueness to them. I don’t think your average listener will be able to tell it’s not the best quality. It sounds like music.
OT: Are you officially renting out your apartment as a studio?
JS: A couple of my friends have asked me to produce things but I haven’t started on them yet. I don’t know what it would be like to produce someone else.
OT: Did you feel any pressure for your solo album to sound different than Chastity Belt or [your punk band] Childbirth? It seems slower and more melodic than your previous work.
JS: I didn’t really think about it. I hoped and assumed it would sound different. It’s going to be in the same vein because I’m writing the songs. Writing parts of my own songs seems so easy, because I know exactly when the transitions are.
OT: From your time in other bands, how different was it for you to answer to yourself? Was it difficult?
JS: I had feedback because I needed to make sure I wasn’t completely in my own head and doing something weird. I still had people to bounce things off of, but ultimately, all the creative decisions were mine. It felt really good to be totally in control. That’s kind of f–ked up, but it felt good. I made the music video [and] did the album cover myself, and it made it easier. It was a very different experience.
OT: How did you settle on the title Perfect Version? When I first saw it, all I could think of was how one of my favorite aspects of your songwriting is this unabashed imperfection.
JS: The whole experience of writing the record was about embracing my flaws and embracing imperfection, and it’s represented by this record that isn’t perfect. The song [“Perfect Version”] is inspired by that scene in Lady Bird when Lady Bird goes dress shopping with her mom and they’re getting in a fight and she says, “I want you to be the best version of yourself.” And she replies, “What if this is the best version of myself?” I related to the mom [because] I tell myself I should always be improving. I’m going to always strive to be better and [sometimes], it’s not going to happen. It’s embracing that.
OT: Even when you and your bands are having fun with lyrics and being whimsical and silly, you seem to always be dealing with a sense of existentialism – from the perils of Tinder to coming to the conclusion that you’re bored all the time. Would you agree that going further in this direction was completely natural for you?
JS: It’s not something I consciously thought about, but yeah, I guess it is the next level. It’s even more vulnerable – it’s less funny and more earnest.
OT: How did you go from leaving the Chastity Belt tour to where you are now? How big of a role did Perfect Version play in helping you heal and grow?
JS: I’m still transitioning a little bit, but I feel way better than I did a year ago. [Chastity Belt has] a ton of tour dates we’ve been setting up and it feels kind of daunting. It feels like I’m in a really good place. We got really lost in the last album cycle. We felt forced to do a lot of things we didn’t want to do, and I didn’t like it. Labels feel that you need to fit in these little boxes and stay within these lines, and we wanted to feel more in control and be intentional. I was kind of having an existential crisis, like, “Who am I outside of this band?” It was fun to have a few months to not be in the band.
OT: When you talk about your label asking you to do things you didn’t want to, was that actually happening or was it a more subconscious sense of duty?
JS: Kind of a bit of both. Subconsciously, we felt this pressure we hadn’t realized. Now, we’re just kind of questioning everything and making sure that everything is in our control. Even with music videos – we don’t need to do something crazy. We can record something on an iPhone. Stuff like that, where the label goes, “Are you sure about that?” Our album covers, they let us get away with that, and our new one is really f–ked up looking. They’re like, “Are you sure?” and we’re like, “Yeah, absolutely.” They’ll challenge us, but you have to stand your ground. Maybe we weren’t confident enough in our ideas [before], but now we’re like 100 percent. Them challenging us on it makes us think it’s good and interesting.
Shapiro headlines Songbyrd on Monday, July 22. Doors open at 7 p.m., tickets are $12-$15. Follow her on Twitter @cool_slut.
Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; 202-450-2917; www.songbyrddc.com
A quick Google search on the band Yeasayer will show they fall under the genre of “experimental rock.” The Brooklyn-based trio consisting of Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton and Anand Wilder have long been revered for their clever lyrics, electronic influence and inventive aesthetic.
But on their fifth studio album Erotic Reruns, released in June, the band looked to new sources for inspiration, drawing from the urgent and guitar-heavy sounds of seminal bands from the 60s and 70s. We caught up with Keating ahead of their stop in the District on July 12 to talk new music, the ideal setlist and why 9:30 Club is an important venue to them.
On Tap: Your new record Erotic Reruns has more guitar and rock influences than some of your past work. What inspired that sound to really come through here?
Chris Keating: I think we were looking to make something very immediate. I wanted the songs to be under three minutes and reference some of the 60s and 70s music I liked: some Bowie stuff [and] The Velvet Underground. We tried to make it guitar-based and not as electronic as some of our past albums.
OT: The shorter songs leave the album at just under 30 minutes (29:05 to be exact), which seemed like maybe a different approach to a full-length album.
CK: In theme with the title, Erotic Reruns, we wanted it to feel like a half-hour TV episode. People these days have a tendency to overload and pack an unlimited amount of material onto a streaming album. One of my favorite albums that came out in the last few years was the Pusha T album [Daytona] that was only seven songs long. I really appreciated that because I listened to it a few times and I was like, “Oh, a lot of other albums have like 21 songs on them.” We wrote about 20 songs and just decided it was a cool concept to come in under half an hour.
OT: The brevity almost makes you enjoy an album as a whole even more. Almost every album that I love has a couple of songs where I think, “I don’t really know why this is here.”
CK: It’s very rare that you can just listen to an album all the way through. And I think partly that is because we have this short attention span culture when it comes to music. It’s also partially because we want to curate our own singles, but it’s cool when an album can be played the whole way through. We tried to make it work that way.
OT: How did you decide what to include while avoiding filler or an overly long album kind of vibe?
CK: To be honest, I’m not really sure. At a certain point, you start listening through and you’re like, “Eh, I don’t know about this one” or “Yeah, let’s do that one” or “Let’s put out another seven-song record in a year.” When you start listening to them and you think [about] what works together in a group, some things stand out as outliers. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s really sort of an aesthetic decision.
OT: Yeasayer already has a rather large back catalog of music before you even factor in the new album. How do you curate the setlist you have now, and balance the old and new?
CK: We basically play the entire new album because it’s short enough. Then, we still have another 45 minutes of stuff from older records to play for [a total of] an hour and 15 minutes. You’re playing a new song, an old song, a new song, an old song. It usually works out pretty well if we time it right.
OT: It must feel good to incorporate a little bit of both. I would imagine as an artist who just made this new material, you’d really want to share it but not forget about older material or audience favorites.
CK: Oh, definitely. I hate it. I mean, just like everyone else, I hate it. I hate going to see a band when I know they’re only playing new stuff. We are very much of the mindset of, if a song was popular 10 years ago, you just keep it in the rotation. Maybe you shuffle some in and out. I guess there’s some level of artistic integrity to abandoning your back catalog, but I always thought it was a little frustrating.
OT: Speaking of live shows, you recorded your live album Good Evening Washington D.C. at 9:30 Club in 2013. Why did you decide to record it there, and what are you looking forward to being back there on your upcoming tour?
CK: Anand [Wilder] and myself both grew up in Baltimore. When we were in high school, the 9:30 Club was a really big deal. Whenever a friend was able to drive, we were going there to see bands like Pavement and Kool Keith, or The Roots and Weezer. It seemed like we were there once every few months. It was always just a special place. I didn’t realize how great it was until we started traveling the country and playing other clubs. DC is so lucky to have something like that there. I think it’s probably the best c lub of that size in the country, if not the world. It’s always a stop everybody looks forward to. It’s the kind of place where I’ll see a lot of family members and friends. I’ll look out in the crowd and see teachers from high school, which is really cool. Some random person will stop me at the dressing room door and be like, “Hey, we went to school together” or I might run into someone I haven’t seen in 20 years.
Yeasayer return to 9:30 Club on Friday, July 12. Tickets are $30, and doors open at 8 p.m. For more on the band and their new album Erotic Reruns, visit www.yeasayer.band.
9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com
Rosslyn’s June summer concert series ended on Thursday, June 27 with Driven To Clarity. Guests enjoyed live music on the plaza, with a cold beer or wine from the outdoor bar in Rosslyn’s downtown space. Photos: Devin Overbey