Posts

Graphic: Julia Goldberg

DC Musicians Take Day Jobs To The Next Level

Musicians hold a mesmerizing and often mystical appeal. Onstage, in the club, even walking down the street – they are the rock gods, the jazz greats, the punk queens. They are also real people.

While you’re not thinking about that as you fist pump or sway awkwardly side-to-side at their shows, if they’re not winning Grammys, most of them also have day jobs. Sure, you get it. Your best friend’s boyfriend who plays bass is also a barista at the local café, and the drummer from that one band that you follow too closely on Facebook is the bike courier who delivered flowers to you that one time and you wanted to ask for his autograph but you thought it was weird.

But in DC, the meaning of “musician with a day job” is a little different. Here, I’ve run into people playing sick riffs on the weekend only to roll into the DOJ in suit and tie Monday morning. Or picking a banjo and kicking an ankle tambourine in-between interviewing people as a journalist for Science Magazine. Or, you know, mixing hip-hop records after getting home from the IT department at NASA.

All real people.

Take, for example, Steve Jabo. Have you been over to the National Museum of Natural History to check out the brand new dino hall yet? Well, we’ve got Jabo to thank for that. At NMNH, he’s a preparator of vertebrate fossils, which means he puts dinosaurs together.

He’s also been playing in bands since the seventh grade, and for the past 22 years with local rock cover band Consider the Source (a.k.a. The Woodford Reserve when playing without one member who is now based in Georgia). Jabo and his bandmates get together every Thursday to practice in his Arlington, Virginia basement where he has a full setup.

“It’s kind of just unspoken and we really take pride in the fact that everyone shows up,” he says. “There’s no drama. We’re good friends who really like music. Our number one priority is the music, and that makes everything more enjoyable.”

The band has played lots of classic local spots, including the late Bangkok Blues and Luna Park Grille. These days, they’re semi-regulars at Clare & Don’s in Falls Church where they play literally everything you could imagine – from Elvis Costello and Tom Petty to Patti Smith and Bowie.

“It’s hard to find new stuff [that is appealing to lots of people]. I like to do our own take on things and change it up.”

Wondering what the dinosaurs listen to? As far as music in the Paleo Lab at the museum, Jabo says he starts the day listening to “something mellow, like classical music or jazz.” Then, he works his way “up to something with a little more energy,” which can mean almost anything.

“My music collection is 12,000-plus tunes of everything from Gregorian chant…to hip-hop…to punk rock. I’ll usually just hit the ‘Shuffle All’ button and let it ride. If I’m doing something really delicate under the scope, I’ll put the earbuds in and listen to Miles Davis or Puccini arias to get in the zone.”

That said, Jabo generally subcribes to a “gotta keep ’em separated” mantra when it comes to his career and his passion for music. Alex Dent, on the other hand, tries to find as many ways as possible to merge the two. When not writing music and performing with his punk rock band Weird Babies, Dent is an enthomusicologist at George Washington University.

Dent uses linguistic theory to explore the influence of music in cultures. Prior to joining the world of academia, he had an “ah-hah” moment while working as an Outward Bound instructor with at-risk youth.

This thing happened where the kids started talking to me a lot about their music, and I became a lot better at working with them when I was listening to what they were listening to,” Dent says. “At that time, it was a lot of Public Enemy.”

When he realized music was the language he most wanted to understand, Dent traveled to South America for his dissertation on policing and the DVD pirating history of Brazilian punk rock. When he returned to the States, he started playing a lot of his own music under a small Chicago label – but was somewhat restricted in terms of his research work. These days, however, as a tenured professor with a couple of books under his belt, Dent is done with boundaries.

“The more I can integrate my academic work and teaching with my music, the happier I am,” he says.

Right now, that looks like collaboration with a composer to teach a class on sound, researching cell phone use in local teenage populations, studying the resurgence of punk in DC and, of course, playing with his band Weird Babies.

“Shows I like playing the most are benefit shows,” he says. “We recently did one for gun control at St. Stephen’s and for [DMV immigration services organization] Ayuda at Rhizome. I’m wondering what it would be like to create a kind of pedagogical instrument for helping students think about the relationships between arts and community activism and civic engagement.”

Taking musical pedagogy and activism to another level, Adele Marie – whose hauntingly beautiful voice stopped me dead in my tracks at a show last winter – is a board-certified music therapist at the John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents.

“In high school, a friend asked me, ‘What do you want to study in college?’ and I replied, ‘All I know is I want to do something where I can help people,’” she says. “I didn’t hear the words ‘music therapy’ until the beginning of my community college enrollment, but as soon as I did, I never seriously considered any other career path.”

The artist works with adolescents and young adults ages 10-21 who experience various manifestations of emotional and/or behavioral issues caused by a broad scale of traumas, mental illnesses, autism spectrum disorders and other diagnoses.

“My two favorite parts about my work are communicating with my clients through music and sharing a musical space with them, and witnessing their growth and progress,” she says.

But the intense adversity many of her clients face is challenging.

“Music therapy is not always pretty. It does not always involve beautiful music-making – in fact, it may involve complete chaos.”

In terms of her own musicianship, like Dent, she has found DC to be a hotspot for musicians looking to share creative processes. She cites the DIY community as being especially supportive, opening up gig opportunities at spots like Boundary Stone, Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House’s Vinyl Lounge, Dwell and FRESHFARM Markets, among others.

Catch folk-rock project Adele Marie & The Milkweeds at Velvet Lounge on August 28, and learn more about these unexpected musicians and their bands below.

Adele Marie: www.adelemarie.bandcamp.com
Consider the Source: www.fb.com/considerthesource
Weird Babies: www.weirdbabies.bandcamp.com

Artwork: www.billfick.com

Outlaw Artists Take Printmaking on the Road

Outlaw printmaking. Those two words are not some sort of statement. I’m not standing on a step ladder in a free speech zone protesting the medium because a) Why would anyone do that? and b) I don’t know enough about printmaking to stand in front of random strangers on the street discussing the art form.

No, outlaw printmaking is a genre within the medium. Just as rock and rap provide a certain aesthetic in music, so does outlaw printmaking in the fine arts. Bill Fick is one of the members in the movement.

“I’m very comic-y and cartoonish,” Fick says about his work. “It can be just an iconic image. It’s not really telling a story, but people can form their own narrative from the images. Outlaw printmaking is not particularly defined. It’s a lot of artists working in print with a general rock vibe: sometimes satirical, sometimes edgy.”

The renowned artist and veteran teacher is currently on the Speedball Roadshow – U.S. Printmaking Tour. Joined by fellow printmaker Carlos Hernandez, the show is designed to ignite a fervor in people willing to learn about their styles and journeys. The Lee Arts Center in Arlington is set to host the duo on May 12 for a free, six-hour session.

“It’s an educational process,” Hernandez says. “We teach and show our audience the spirit of printmaking. You get your fingers dirty and you create something that people aren’t familiar with. We’re spreading the gospel, if you will.”

Though the art form doesn’t classify as a religion, these two live and breathe the process. Both began their printmaking journeys in college, and though they each approach the medium with a different background – Hernandez with typography and Fick with block carving – each exudes passion for their shared profession.

“When I was in college, I used to do a lot of gig posters with Xerox,” Hernandez says. “It had a punk rock quality to it, and all the great gig posters that were made in the 60s and 70s served as great inspiration. Graphic design and printmaking go hand in hand; it lets me use those [same] techniques.”

Fick adds, “[Printmaking] naturally became a medium I work with. I love the carving process when you transfer the block onto a piece of paper, and I love the history of graphic art.”

A combined offering of these radically different perspectives and approaches is a colossal component of the tour, as each stop includes a modified itinerary pending the wants and desires of the venue. The Lee Center sequences aren’t quite nailed down as of yet, but Fick and Hernandez are up for whatever is necessary.

“A lot of it is media-specific, so we’ll focus on screen printing and get technical,” Fick says. “At the same time, we’ll be working on the release print and take turns on the special piece. By the end, we’ll have a mash-up or [the students] will do a totally separate process.”

Hernandez continues, saying that sometimes the students want something different, and each artist has their own vision.

“We can introduce different styles, and we try to add to their existing programs,” he says.

The duo collaborates on pieces throughout the workshops, each taking turns like friends playing a single-player video game. The pair have worked in tandem on countless pieces at previous trade shows, conventions and tours, so stepping on and off on at different points has become second nature to them.

“[When] we started working together, we’d always have crowds wherever we were,” Hernandez says. “We’ve had universities and other centers interested in the way we present printmaking. There’s a mystery to the work we do. People want to know how to cut a block and burn a screen.”

Most of the time, Fick and Hernadez produce posters, which requires Fick to carve out an image on a block to be printed. Hernandez follows up with printed text.

“It’s all about recognizable imagery,” Fick says.

Join the printmaking outlaws on Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lee Arts Center. The session is free, but registration is required. Learn more about the event at here, and about the individual artists at www.billfick.com and www.carloshernandezprints.com.