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Down in the Reeds artwork by Noah Friedman Studios

Down in the Reeds Organizers, Performers and more Talk DC’s New Fall Festival

Leading up to Down in the Reeds’ first year as a beacon for music, healing and hope in DC, On Tap spoke to four individuals involved in the festival about their roles, contributions and what healing through music means to them.

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Aaron Abernathy, Musician

On Tap: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got started as a musician and your experience in the DC music community?

Aaron Abernathy: I got started as a musician in Cleveland, Ohio. I learned how to play the piano by ear and my mom caught wind and threw me into some piano lessons. I started singing around seventh grade. My choir teacher, Mrs. Patrick, was really adamant about pushing me into singing. I didn’t think that I could, but she pushed me that way and it ended up working out. She helped me discover that I had a voice. From there I started singing in choir in middle school and high school [then] I started singing in an acapella choir, which was our top choir at our high school. And it really started to help me develop my ear as far as harmonies and arrangements were concerned.

I went on to Howard University to major in music business and jazz piano. I created a demo because I wanted to be a songwriter, and my roommate started selling it on campus one day and gave me some money, and said “Hey, I’m selling a demo.” And so that lead to me doing a lot of shows. My band that was formed at Howard, we started to see if we could perform on U Street. And it was actually a Hurricane Katrina benefit that allowed me to perform with local artists at the time. That’s when I really got my start locally and I just started working from there. DC is where I started my professional music career and I was thankful that, being from outside the city, I was embraced.

OT: There’s a huge emphasis and with this festival on the healing power of music and what a powerful tool it can be in that regard. What does the healing power of music aspect mean to you personally as a musician?

AA: I have an album out now that talks literally about healing after a breakup, and I think all of my albums have to do with healing. On my first album I speak about how family and purpose helps you heal. And on my second album I speak about how the community needs to come together and heal. And, and on this latest album, again, I speak about finding restoration after heartbreak – you know, all of us go through heartbreak. So we have to find a way to heal and be better.

OT: That’s a really beautiful connection. So tell me a little bit more about, the inspirations and influences that you take into account when you’re writing and recording. especially on your most recent album.

AA: Inspiration, for me, comes from everywhere. Especially when it comes to songwriting. I love reading…and writing is important to me because I feel like we are supposed to speak for the community…I’m supposed to be a voice. It’s my mission. I’m responsible for the words that come out of my mouth, and the music and vibrations that I put out into the world.I can like name artist and books I’ve read for days now, but even with being a Christian man, like I know how important words are, you know? The heart speaks out of your mouth. And even when you’re writing music, like I said, like there’s a vibration in even the music that goes out. So I’m very cognizant of like how music makes people feel and how it can [create] a mood.

OT: hat do you think that you contribute to the lineup of a festival? Why are you looking forward to being a part of it?

AA: When I get on stage, I really pride myself and my band in bringing good energy and uplifting people through music. I’m into that vibration and making people want to get up and dance and smile and see our energy and I know that our energy will rub off on there. So it’s always good to come back and give back to the community who gave me a start.

OT: As someone who grew up in a different city and then came here and was fully embraced by DC, what do you think makes the local music scene special?

AA: I think DC is special because number one is the nation’s Capital. People are always coming in and out of the nation’s Capital, but there’s a certain energy in the music. I mean, DC has his own music, and Gogo already has like this culturally rich like music that is progressive. So I think, just to speak to the scene, it’s always had this youthful energy that I loved that…has an identity, musically, unlike anywhere else. To have that right here in the city that makes it super special thing, you know? Because most cities don’t have their own musical music culture.

OT: Other than down in the reeds? Are you working on anything else? Do you have any other upcoming, uh, tour dates or?

AA: I am headed to Europe in November to do a tour. And I’m playing in the city, at Sotto. I’m doing an intimate show with my band on November 2nd.

Aaron Abernathy will perform at the festival at 4:30 p.m. on the Parks at Walter Reed Main Stage.

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Artis Moon Amarché, The Boundless Eclectic

On Tap: Can you start by telling me about yourself, your background and your work as The Boundless Eclectic?

Artis Moon Amarché: As a DC Native, I was raised on Jazz & Justice, and I’ve been into all the arts as long as I can remember. I’ve had an unconventional life by most people’s standards. My dad was close friends with the owners of one of DC’s oldest jazz venues, The One Step Down (closed in 2000), and my mom was a waitress there for a bit. From birth in the Fall of ’73 until I was 4, we lived in an apartment directly upstairs from the club, and I spent a lot of time in there growing up, especially those early years. It felt like home to me, throughout my childhood. I soaked in jazz like osmosis, and as I reflect back now, I see how it has influenced almost everything about my life.

Growing up, I was always involved in music, dance, theater, and visual arts. After three years in Indiana (seeing my father’s parents transition out of this world), when we returned to the DC area, in a converted school bus mobile home, we wound up in Arlington, where we remained for the rest of my childhood. I was fortunate that the Arlington public school system, from my experience, truly valued the arts and provided a lot of (free) opportunity for exploration there. I consumed them voraciously, they gave me life, helped me to make sense and order of what felt in some ways like a very chaotic world. We were pretty poor, but my life was rich with arts & culture. My dad was a single father, and DC cab driver until I was about 12, and funds were limited, but he was always very supportive of whatever I wanted to do and somehow always followed through on my initiatives, whether it was dance lessons, private piano & voice instruction, community theater, art workshops, you name it. He was always an arts aficionado, so he took me to shows at the Kennedy Center, and art openings, museums, etc. And then riding around in the cab with him, plus at home, I grew up listening to WPFW – Jazz & Justice Radio. The One Step and WPFW undoubtedly are both a huge influence on the foundation of my life and who I am today, and the conviction that everyone deserves to be free and to express themselves in a fulfilling way which is honored and valued.

I always balked when well-meaning folks would tell me, “You know, Artis, Jack of all trades, master of none…” I loved all of the arts and knew I could not completely give any of them up, so I have made it work for me! They have served me well and influenced one another as I’ve moved between them with an ebb & flow, successfully mastering & building a career around whichever one(s) was/were my focus at the time. This is what gave birth to the idea of ‘Boundless’ for me a long time ago – the idea that we can do anything we want to do. I’ve had a number of businesses under the umbrella of Boundless over the past 20 years.

I’ve lived a rich life as an independent interdisciplinary artist and educator, teaching and performing tap dance & percussion in the U.S. and abroad, producing, directing, & choreographing numerous residencies and performances; doing a bit of visual art exhibitions and mural work; teaching theater, visual & language arts, along with my unique Museum As Classroom series; and working as a photographer, writer, & editor, both for news organizations and the community at large (my photo site is BoundlessPhotoArts.net).

During my entire adult life, I have also worked with a range of mindfulness, meditation disciplines and contemplative practices, and I became a Reiki Master 9 years ago. There was an organic progression, for me personally, drawing me to shift my focus from healing through entertainment to more personal engagement in the arts & healing, and more intimate interactions, diving deeper with folks, supporting individuals and groups in exploration of Path & Purpose. I am thrilled to be forging my way in the healing arts and honored to integrate my roles as healer, artist, musician, dancer, mother, and yogi. I love to combine various traditional practices with innovation.

As the Boundless Eclectic, my passion is guiding people to set themselves free, sharing tools & practices for Deep Restoration & Transformation. I am all about helping people to empower themselves in their growth and healing. My healing arts offerings include a variety of meditation classes such as Yoga Nidra, sound healing & sound baths; corporate engagements, special events, workshops, including monthly Moon Circles & Reiki trainings; retreats; talks on holistic approaches to wellbeing; and unique 1:1 sessions drawing on meditation, Holistic Life Coaching, sound healing, Reiki, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mind-body skills, and arts processes. This work is heart medicine, providing the opportunity for you to actively dive deeper in your personal journey.

In addition to my healing arts business, I am a single mother of three amazing kids, ages 8 to 17, and primary caregiver for my 89-yo father, and my 34-yo disabled brother who recently moved in with us, so that all keeps me busy! I am grateful for a supportive community.

OT: Down in the Reeds is placing an emphasis on the healing power of music. I noticed on your website you use music, sound and creativity in your work. Can you tell me more about what music means as a healing tool to you and how you use it?

AMA: Music is everything. It has been part of the fabric of societies I’m sure since early human existence. Music has the power to heal people, both on the physical and metaphysical level, on the micro and macro level. It’s so deep. At the root of it all is Love.

There is the community component of the way music performance brings groups of people together, all united toward something, perhaps love of a particular style of music, or a particular artist. There is the community/cultural component in societies where coming together to make music, sing, dance, tell stories, is a natural, integral part of life, and a part of how they express their love for one another. You find this all across the world, through space and time. I feel that’s part of what American society is missing, is that for the population at-large, outside of churches, communities don’t generally have a regular opportunity to come together in that way. There is the power of music to bridge cultural divides and remind people of our oneness, of our humanity. There is the power of music to calm and soothe the mind, body, and nervous system, both by being relaxing to listen to, as well as because of the vibration of the sounds, quite literally. And there is the enormous healing power of expressing your soul by playing music, finding your voice, whatever that is. Music improvisation in particular is so empowering and liberating.

In reflecting how I got to where I am today, with the theme of the healing power of music as the backdrop, and hearing the experiences, stories, and ideas of some of the other Stakeholders, it has inspired an understanding of my life path in a new context, how certain dots have connected…. and how my process and flow in everything I do is heavily influenced by Jazz, tap dancing (both uniquely American art forms), and dissent, all a huge part of my roots.

In my work now, I play with music and sound in an intuitive way. My sound baths are sort of like a concert you listen to laying down, with your eyes closed. But there is more at work. Deep Restoration and Transformation takes place during these sessions. I have had people tell me they gone through more productive inner work in one of my sound baths than in years of therapy. Part of what I’m providing is a safe, held space for people to Be with themselves, sometimes guided in specific reflection and contemplation.

I typically begin with guiding folks in some mindfulness and breathwork, helping them drop into themselves, into their bodies, feel that shift, that sigh of relief. I progress through an improvised soundscape on various instruments. Because I am also a Reiki Master, that Divine Life Force is also flowing through me and my music, and I do my best to give some individual attention to each person in the space. The music journey I provide has two purposes. One – to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, letting your body know it’s safe to turn off the fight-or-flight response that is usually on the ready, and surrender to total relaxation; feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin are released in the brain, and the brain waves slow down to the Theta state, which is the slowest vibration before deep sleep, and the same place as dream state. Two – to move energy; some of the instruments are very powerful for clearing out trauma, energy blockages, and even physical ailments. In particular, instruments that are made with metal or crystal interact with the body and the biofield on a cellular level, they actually can repair your DNA. This is not just woo-woo, it has been scientifically proven.

In my 1:1 work, I incorporate sound healing sometimes as guided by intuition, say with crystal bowls or frame drum, and sometimes I also will engage my clients in arts processes such as visual art, writing, singing/chanting, dancing, drumming. There are a number of reasons for this – self-expression is healing, sometimes we discover things through the arts by exploring in that nonverbal place in ourselves, uncovering things hiding in the subconscious that we didn’t even know were there, helping us to get to the heart of the matter and gain clarity on what it is that we are growing through.

Now, with my music partner Donne Lewis aka the Wychdokta back in DC, I am excited to explore the combination of more performative music combined with healing energy, which is what you will experience with us at Down in the Reeds.

OT: What drew you to Down in the Reeds and made you want to be part of it?

AMA: I was thrilled when I was invited by Chris Naoum, on recommendation from a couple of friends, to be a sponsoring partner of this festival and member of the programming committee. I love everything about the concept, including the fact that rather than focusing on one particular music style, we are showcasing the rich, diverse heritage of DC’s music scene. I was excited by the eclectic group of folks invited to be Stakeholders for this project, and the opportunity to be a part of something like this from the inaugural year. Also, I have produced and directed a number of shows over the years, but have never been involved in putting on a festival, so I was excited to learn from being involved in the more of the logistical aspects of something like this as well. And I loved the idea of sharing the universality of music healing and meditation with those who may have never experienced it.

OT: What will you be offering at the festival?

AMA: Boundless Eclectic is opening the main stage at noon with a performance that fuses music with ceremony. I’m excited to be working with two women who are powerful solo performers in their own rights – my dear sister, sand dancer Donne Lewis, aka the Wychdokta, and producer/singer/songwriter Tamara Wellons, both artists who, like myself, are deeply rooted in the American tradition of Jazz & improvisation with an eclectic mix of other influences. There is a synergy between us that feels like reaching into infinity.

I’ll be bringing meditative vibes with wooden flute, metallophone, crystal bowls, drums, and more. You will experience the magic of the Wychdokta with percussive sand dance and movement, energy healing (Reiki), and Tamara’s scintillating vocals. Together we will be blessing the performance area and the festival grounds, imparting a unique experience that will intrigue your eyes, ears, and soul.

We will also have a tent next to the Healing Partners Tent representing my business (theBoundlessEclectic.net) where my daughter Adobe (adobemoon.com) will be vending art & jewelry made by the two of us. there will also be 15-minute Reiki & massage sessions offered during portions of the day, a friend will vend all-organic and ethically sourced textiles, and people can learn more about meditation, Reiki, sound healing, holistic life coaching, and more.

In addition, I will be collaborating with Jeneen Piccuirro – Creatrix, of Soul Voyage – to activate the Healing Partners’ tent where we will have more intimate offerings of extended improvised soundscapes, and some activations for families with music and visual art.

OT: What do you think a festival like Down in the Reeds brings to the DC music and creative community overall?

AMA: I really feel that in some ways this is more than a music festival, it is a consciousness-expanding festival, providing our audience the opportunity to be exposed to music, people, and practices that they might not otherwise find in their lives, and likewise, providing the artists an opportunity to reach new patrons. Providing everyone with the opportunity to connect – with one another, with our Unity, and with love through music, which is so healing for ourselves individually, as a community, and as a city. That collective love also helps to heal all the hurt in the world.

And again, part of what makes this festival unique is that we are celebrating the diversity and heritage of DC’s music scene. We have made attending the festival accessible for all, and we also are providing an opportunity for vendors to join us at no cost, plus taking conscious actions to engage the local community.

OT: What do you hope participants gain from your specific offerings at the festival, and from the festival overall?

AMA: The work I’m doing with Sound Healing, meditation, and Reiki is really more Universal than one might presume, a melting pot (thus ‘Eclectic’) that I have organically and intuitively added different ingredients to over the years – which is metaphoric of what’s really great about the U.S. of A., all of the influences that have come together here over time. I hope people who come to Down in the Reeds will enjoy experiencing something new and feel inspired, empowered, centered, balanced, and renewed.

At our first Stakeholder meeting, as we were distilling down what this is really about, Dom Flemons and some of us were speaking about the universal healing nature of music. We can chant Sanskrit mantras, we can sing Spirituals, play the Blues, we can spit poetry, play a drum, play banjo, bass, piano, or simply let healing sounds and vibrations of different instruments wash over & through us as we have time to just Be with ourselves… ultimately, it is all different expressions of the same energy: We do it because it feels good! It’s healing, it’s cathartic. It allows a release, a transmutation of energy, an alchemy of the soul. It brings us closer to ourselves, and closer to one another. And I love it. I love bringing different elements together, building bridges, opening minds, shifting perspectives, and witnessing transformation.

OT: What kind of dialogue do you hope your work opens with those who see and work with you?

AMA: Ultimately, I hope my work opens an honest and compassionate inner dialogue that helps people reduce stress in their lives, get centered on their life path, and undergo life-changing transformation. I am here to hold space for that. A lot of people have never even heard of sound baths or sound healing. Some people think of meditation and Reiki as too woo-woo, or inaccessible, or sometimes even that it is in contradiction to their religion, which is not the case. I always like to let people know that this is nothing new, people have been healing themselves and one another with music, touch, vibrations, meditation and contemplative practices, and other arts, in one way or another since the beginning of time. I have never had someone leave a session more stressed than when they arrived, and I have witnessed transformation and miracles again and again. The arts are such a valuable tool of self-discovery. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it, just do it because it feels good! I don’t expect anyone to just take my word for it, the best thing is for them to experience it themselves!

My work with people, whether in groups or 1:1, transcends religious orientation and really has so much to do with helping people liberate themselves, helping them find what really resonates with them, what brings them joy, fulfillment, and purpose, helping them to manifest their dream life, while also helping them to find peace in the present moment.

Alongside Wychdokta and Tamara Wellons, Artis Moon Amarché will be at the Parks at Walter Reed Main Stage at 12 p.m. You can also find Amarché at the Music Healing Tent alongside Studio in the Woods. 

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Chris Naoum, Listen Local First

On Tap: How did Down in the Reeds originate? Why did you want to start this festival?

Chris Naoum: The festival was the fortuitous collision of a couple different ideas that I had been incubating with a couple different partners. First, Daniel Buchner and I who have been working on Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival for over seven years have been talking about starting up a new event and after working on a special headlining showcase with Grammy Award Winning Musician Dom Flemons in 2018 we were interested in working with Dom on a new event as a partner.

Independently about 2 years ago Cultural DC invited the arts community to come check out The Parks at Walter Reed. The second I saw the amphitheater, I knew it was going to be an awesome place to have a festival. The natural amphitheatre is a gorgeous outdoor space but I also had a feeling that the sound was going to be amazing (I found out later that it definitely was) I originally connected them with other festival folks in the city but since the space is designed to be an open public space, those employing the standard ticketed model of events did not find it as ideal.

The third part of how the festival came together involved another local music group and their story. Those of you who don’t know of the War and Treaty, you should check them out. We have had them at festivals and events for a couple of years. They are an amazing band fronted by Michael and Tanya Trotter. Michael and Tanya have told their story in many different places including this recent CBS interview. Their story kind of begins around the old Walter Reed Army Hospital and also revolves around the power of music to heal. Dan and I had been speaking with Michael and Tanya and they encouraged us that this was the message we needed to carry forward if we were to organize a music festival at the old Walter Reed Army Hospital.

So the short version is we shared the story with Dom and Vania and then reached out to Cultural DC and the developers to see if they wanted to host a fall music festival celebrating the power of music to heal across culture and community. The rest is history.

OT: Why did you choose this specific location?

CN: I think that location is incredibly important when it comes to festivals and events. The location is a huge part of the story, it sets the atmosphere and the feel. The space needs to complement the music and the theme. The bucolic historic campus of the old Walter Reed Army Hospital is the ideal location to spend a fall day outdoors listening to music and embracing the history of the space and the healing power of the art itself.

OT: Can you speak more to the festival’s emphasis on the healing power of music? How are you working to educate and promote this?

CN: I had been thinking about what healing through music means for over a year. Every time I found myself talking with someone about it I would get different examples of how it related to that individual’s experience or that of their family. Whether it was friends who grew up in a family of army veterans and blues musicians or friends who’s family used to host pickin jams in rural West Virginia the idea of coming together through music to heal seemed to cross all genres and cultures. I would hear about use of music in eastern meditative practices, music through through religion and church, and the roll drumming plays in healing and communion in African and Native American traditions.

Furthermore the deeper you look into healing and music the more you learn about the actual science and real therapeutic benefits of music and sounds.

I have been a huge believer in the healing power of music from my own personal experiences but I also felt that embracing the topic of healing through music involved too much of a focus on spirituality. From speaking to folks I realized that healing through music is as much spiritual as communal and all experiences are unique to ones self. That understanding really helped push the theme of this festival out into the open.

On the 19th we are bringing in musicians, presenters and speakers who embrace the power of music the heal through their own music, presentations or stories. One stage will be all music performances and the workshop stage will be performance, presentation, jam and demos from creatives of all cultures and backgrounds from across the DMV.

OT: What do you hope attendees gain from this event?

CN: There is a little bit for everyone. If you just want to come and enjoy a full day of amazing music outdoors with delicious food and drink you can just do that. If you want to check out some workshops or go talk to some of the music healing partners and take part in some of the demos, you can do that. If you want to go all in and spend time learning and listening to the presenters, working with the music healers and joining in the participatory jams then you can do that too.

OT: As it’s the first year of Down in the Reeds, what is your vision for the festival and for your involvement in it going forward?

CN: I hope that this is just us scratching the surface of something that goes much deeper. With more time and resources there are so many ways this event can grow.

I hope that with more time and planning we can partner with folks doing very interesting work in this space including the NIH and the Kennedy Center as well as organizations like the American Music Therapy Association. We also know so many folks who have done some amazing films on these issues and would love to bring in those film makers to present their work.

More artist, more stages and more ways to engage with different communities and the public is what we hope to accomplish.

OT: Why would you encourage someone to spend the day at Down in the Reeds?

CN: This is DC’s newest outdoor fall festival. You are going to love it. Come for the music, come to learn and embrace the healing power of music, come for the food, the art, the vendors the outdoor activities for the whole family or the beer garden!

Bring a blanket or some folding chairs come by yourself or bring the family!

Chris Naoum is a co-organizer of the festival and founder of DC music initiative Listen Local First.

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Dom Flemons, musician

On Tap: Can you start by telling me a little bit more about your personal involvement, kind of how you became involved with Down in the Reeds and what your role in the festival looks like?  I understand you’re not performing but have been heavily involved with getting this off the ground.

Dom Flemons: Absolutely. I first met Chris and Dan at Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk several years back when I performed there. Earlier this year Chris had reached out to me and he told me that he wanted to do this festival over at the historic Walter Reed hospital site, which is near where I live in Silver Spring. So I’m just down the street and I’ve seen the way they’ve been rebuilding that site and that they’re wanting to re-fashion the site and the hospital so that it can cater to, as well as help develop, different parts of the community: the arts community, the schools and education. There’s an array of amazing programming that I think the neighborhood could use and it would be a wonderful way to commemorate the history.

It was unfortunate that I was not able to get the date free to perform at the festival. That happens, you know, but we’d like to continue to cultivate and develop the relationship with the Walter Reed hospital side. The main things to let people know that this site’s open. And then as we’re moving forward, we’ll start putting on some bigger programming and really try to bring in the community in a wonderful and holistic way.

OT: Outside of just raising that awareness, what else has your role encompassed so far?

DM: Chris and Dan called me right from the very beginning. So I’ve been here through the whole conceptual part of the festival. I’ve met with the board. I’m part of the advisers and as well as on the committee that decides  how we’re doing stuff. So I’ve been involved in the day to day in that regard, my wife and myself. So we were putting our American Songster stamp on the Down in the Reeds festival so that people can know that this is something that they can really get behind. Because for me, healing was the key thing that Chris explained to me as being the goal for the festival, which was something a little bit different than I was used to. Most of the time, you know, music festivals are for a good time and a party and for everyone to just enjoy themselves over the weekend. But with this festival, they’re really trying to make an effort to put out some positive energy and create a positive space that will hopefully reverberate through the community. 

OT: That seems like a really powerful message to have just in the greater DC area too. Can you tell me a little bit more about what music as a healing power means to you and how you hope to communicate that through this festival and just through your work as a musician in general?

DF: One of the big parts of my work as a musician is awakening cultural memory. And I do this through the original songs as well as traditional songs where I tried to think about the underlying messages that connect people through song. And that’s a big part of my work. And so for example, if I were to play a certain type of banjo song and someone remembers that their grandparents, maybe a grandfather, played the banjo when they were growing up, it takes them to a specific time and place in their lives where remembering those positive memories through music. And again, we don’t even have to be talking about the same song, but the feeling that creates this sort of positive inward message that almost awakens cultural memories. Sometimes the deeper implications are there. But other times when I’m presenting my material, I’m trying to awaken those deeper perceptions of strength and empowerment, of being able to uplift oneself.

Just knowing that your culture is strong enough to lift you up in that way. That’s a big part of my music as an individual. And so for the festival, that’s a big part of the whole conceptual idea. There are so many different artisans, artists as well as musicians, poets, politicians, activists, speakers, writers that are all within the DC area that, if we can just pull them all into one space, that since they’re local people can respect that their local talent. We’re trying to put them on to a higher plane with the local community. A lot of times people live here but they do their work elsewhere. And so we’re able to put a hyperfocus on local talent in whatever form it might manifest itself within the community and focus it on this historic site.

OT: What do you hope that attendees gain from this event, and why would you encourage someone to spend the day at Down in the Reeds?

DF: We want people to come in and have a great time. It’s a beautiful space. There’s some wonderful open lawns. There are also these beautiful different parts of the amphitheaters and these amazing benches and a wonderful fountain. In a world where there’s so much concrete, especially in DC, to be able to go into a place that is a beautiful, a national landmark as well as being a wonderful nature…gives them a little space. They get to be able to breathe and take in the open air. There’s nothing better than that. And then you have great music as well.

Dom Flemons, also known as “The American Songster,” is a co-organizer of Down in the Reeds in addition to being a Grammy-award winning musician.  

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Don’t miss Down in the Reeds on Saturday, October 19 from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. at the Parks at Walter Reed, located at 1010 Butternut St. NW, DC. While admission is free, a donation of $10 is suggested to ensure all participants are compensated and the festival can continue its mission in the future. For the full lineup and more information, visit www.downinthereeds.com.

Interviews with participants and co-organizers were edited for length and clarity. To read the full interviews, check out www.ontaponline.com/down-in-the-reeds-interviews. For more on each interviewee, see below.

Aaron Abernathy: www.aaronabernathy.com
Artis Moon Amarché // The Boundless Eclectic: www.theboundlesslife.net
Chris Naoum // Listen Local First: www.listenlocalfirst.com
Dom Flemons // The American Songster: www.theamericansongster.com

Photo: Doug Van Sant

All Things Go Fall Classic Brings Music, Activism and More to Union Market

With a name like All Things Go Fall Classic, the festival’s attendees would likely expect a laid-back day of tunes enjoyed in the crisp autumn air. But those who joined the two-day celebration at Union Market in the infamous DC humidity experienced an energy and crowd that wouldn’t have been out of place at Coachella’s annual music festival.

Saturday’s sets featured an all-female lineup with acts ranging from Billie Eilish to festival curator Maggie Rogers. Sunday proved an equally as jam-packed schedule of various genres with everything from classic pop to R&B – check out our highlights below.

The Provo, Utah-based band The Aces brought their take on guitar-driven power pop early on Sunday. While the assumption could be made that many attended for bigger names, scores of Aces fans made their way to the front and sang along to every word of the songs the four-piece group played. Bandmates even brought a cake onstage for drummer Alisa Ramirez, who celebrated her 21st birthday, prompting fans to join a spirited “happy birthday” singalong.

Following the high-energy dance party that was The Aces, New York-born, DC-based R&B artist Cautious Clay mellowed out the crowd with his smooth lyrics and choir-layered choruses. “Cold War” was easily the crowd-pleaser with dreamy, electronic beats and truth-seeking lyrics asking “but if we spoke like we meant it/would you reference/this open part of me” had the crowd closing their eyes and swaying in time.

Up next was rising indie star Two Feet a.k.a. Bill Dess. The New York City native’s relatively quick rise in popularity started with a drunken online upload of seductive, electric guitar-heavy song “Go F*ck Yourself” that had the All Things Go crowd dancing. The bluesy, beachy “I Feel Like I’m Drowning” where Dess sings of a “suspicious” lover also proved a fan-favorite, including getting lots of radio love as of late. Talking to the crowd, Two Feet was both funny and perhaps a little unsure of himself, but one thing’s for certain – the guy can shred on guitar.

The fun wasn’t just in the music though; in between music acts, concert attendees could grab a pint of ice cream from Vice Cream while waiting in line for a photo booth or to sign their name on one of two giant globe-like balls. There was even a tent where hairstylists braided festival goers’ hair thanks to emBRAZEN – a wine brand that celebrates bold women from history with their selections, including a Celia Cruz chardonnay, Josephine Baker red blend and Nellie Bly cabernet sauvignon.

After hair braiding and stocking up on Vice Cream, a packed crowd started to form in front of the stage as everyone waited to experience the effervescent MisterWives. Singer Mandy Lee encouraged the audience to sing along to hits like “Drummer Boy” and “Our Own House.” Most songs were met with extended jam sessions via Lee and her bandmates, even incorporating Destiny’s Child’s hit “Survivor”at one point, as a dedication to survivors of sexual assault. The powerful stance was also, in Lee’s words, a reflection of the love and light she felt at the festival besides the tumultuous goings on in DC that weekend.

The aforementioned MisterWives joined the concert bill days before the festival began. They took the slot previously occupied by singer songwriter Garrett Borns, better known as BØRNS, after several people came forward stating the singer was responsible for sexual misconduct. The festival, which touted an all female lineup on Saturday had a choice to make – turn the other cheek or serve as an example to others in the music community by disallowing an alleged abuser a platform.

All Things Go issued a statement that Borns would no longer perform at the festival. By doing so they clearly and confidently sent the message that their festival was no place for misconduct and one that would amplify voices aiming to make the music world safer. Sunday was surely a celebration of that, and All Things Go provided a winning combination of hope, fun and progress. It’s like no other festival in DC, or perhaps the country, and we’re already counting down to the next one.

For  more information about All Things Go Fall Classic, click here.