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Photo: Trent Johnson

SHAED Rise To The Top Together

The path to making it in music has never been linear. In the social media age, it’s become a bit cleaner – blog support, streaming and ravenous music fans on the Internet rallying behind you can quickly take an artist out of local obscurity and into the national spotlight. For DC’s SHAED, an electro-pop trio formed in 2016, a combination of almost every success marker in music of the past 20 years brought them to where they are now.

In the literal sense, they’ve joined On Tap outside the LINE Hotel in Adams Morgan on a sunny spring day. The trio of vocalist Chelsea Lee and twin brothers and multi-instrumentalists Max and Spencer Ernst arrived with all their gear in tow, and after our interview were straight off to New York. While radio play, streaming support and a strong fanbase all tangibly factored into their meteoric rise to success with only EPs and singles released, it’s their sheer hustle and willpower to make it in an industry constantly changing and challenging them that’s perhaps the key factor in their ascension.

“The last six months, we’ve been on a headlining tour,” Lee says. “We did a lot of radio promo, we’re working on an album and we’ve been writing a ton. It’s been really, really great. Obviously, the Apple commercial lifted off a bunch of things for us.”

The Apple commercial in question wasn’t even just an Apple commercial. When the new MacBook Air debuted at the end of 2018 at the annual Apple summit, SHAED’s song “Trampoline” soundtracked CEO Tim Cook’s unveiling. An artist’s song appearing as a sync in these iconic commercials is a badge of honor after the brand established itself as a musical tastemaker in the early 2000s. With this kind of exposure, doors begin to open – and quickly. But the band didn’t even know when to expect the change.

“Like nine months ago, Apple reached out to us because they were interested in using ‘Trampoline,’” Max explains. “We got them all the files, but then didn’t really hear anything for months. Two weeks before the commercial actually aired, they reached out and said, ‘We’re going to use your song.’  They didn’t tell us what it was for, and they didn’t tell us until that day. So the day everyone else saw the commercial was they day we saw it, too.”

“Tim Cook did the announcement in Brooklyn and I was like, ‘Let’s just livestream this and we’ll see what’s going on,” Lee adds. “Spencer and I were in the car driving, Max was at home and I just put it on. And Tim Cook goes, ‘Aaaaand the MacBook Air!’ I said to Spencer, ‘Wouldn’t it be so funny if our song came on?’ and it did. Spencer and I had to pull over and scream.”

“Trampoline” is a perfect introduction to the band’s polished, haunting pop sound. Its lyrics could even serve as an ethos to another thing that’s made the band so successful – their connection to one another. Friends for many years while pursuing other musical endeavors – Lee as a solo artist and twin brothers Max and Spencer as alt-folk band The Walking Sticks – their relationships eventually blossomed into the band as it exists today. Lee and Spencer are married, and the three live together and have a palpable bond evident in person and in their music.

The chorus in “Trampoline” is the somewhat wistful, “When I dream of dying // I never felt so loved.” Spencer says it’s all about embracing your worst fears and finding joy in what terrifies you. To be able to write a lyric this heavy, the people around you must love you very much. It’s clear this is the case for each member of the band. Their incredibly deep bond goes beyond allowing them to make great music; it allows them to embrace the unknown in all aspects of their lives, no matter how frightening.

The trio works on music from a studio in their shared home. They’re the first to admit that spending so much time together, even outside of recording or touring, would be less than ideal for many musicians. But from the outside, it’s clear it’s given them an edge.

“Our routine is to get up in the morning, eat breakfast and go right into the studio,” Lee says. “Over the years, we’ve gotten more comfortable with each other. We’ve been able to work through problems. Getting to know each other is such a complex thing and then on top of that, living together and spending so much time together…”

“It’s a unique dynamic, for sure,” Max says, finishing Lee’s thought. “I’m sure it wouldn’t work for a lot of people. But we just love making music together. Financially, too, it’s great.”

Spencer notes that, “There are times, clearly, when you spend so much time together you get on each other’s nerves.”

“But we give each other our space,” Lee continues. “It works out great for us. We’re traveling all the time now. We definitely get on each other’s nerves. But we also definitely know how to handle it and work smoothly through things.”

In addition to the support they provide each other, their native DC is also essential to SHAED’s success. They credit local outlets, venues and fans for their early successes, and for still following closely as they enjoy their newfound mainstream notoriety.

“It’s not a huge scene, but it’s very tightknit,” Max says of their experiences at home. “If you’re making cool music here, there’s ways to be seen and there’s an audience for it. People still come out to shows – even if you’re not on a huge headlining run around the country – people still come out and support local artists.”

This summer sees the band off to a whole host of amazing new endeavors including sets at festivals like Japan’s Fuji Rock, BottleRock in Napa Valley and Lollapalooza. With tons of material in their arsenal, the trio is in the process of putting together a new album and aiming for a fall release and subsequent tour. All of these events will surely invite new fans into their intimate sonic world, but in the meantime, they’re leaning on each other as things continue to evolve.

“Being a musician and being in this world is so hard,” Lee says as she puts one arm around each Ernst brother, and they lean into her. “To have this constant support – these people that you can rely on and trust and feel at home with – is huge for us. These two are the kindest people in the whole world. It’s really nice to have that family vibe.”

SHAED play DC101 Kerfuffle on Sunday, May 19 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Tickets start at $55. Gates open at 4 p.m. and the show begins at 4:30 p.m. For more on the event, visit www.dc101.iheart.com. For more on SHAED, visit www.shaedband.com.

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD 410-715-5550; www.merriweathermusic.com

Photo: Courtesy of Adams Morgan Day

Festival Makers: The Creative Minds Behind DC’s Iconic Events

Festivals can often be sensory overload for attendees. With food, drinks, art and whatever else you can think of all interlinking to create a vibrant atmosphere for those who participate, it’s no doubt that putting all these moving pieces in place takes a ton of work. Who are the masterminds behind are favorite local events? We caught up with a few of the creatives behind the scenes at some of the most iconic DC festivities.

Funk Parade
David Ross, Festival Organizer
Jeffery Tribble Jr., The MusicianShip Executive Director

On Tap: Why did the MusicianShip decide to start running Funk Parade?
Jeffery Tribble Jr.:
I’ve been a volunteer for a couple years so I was already promoting it and knew how effective it was. With our organization being all about creating musical experiences to benefit young people in underserved communities, it seemed like another great way to bring exposure to our cause.
David Ross: I was legacy. I was with Funk Parade last year. I was the third person. I was the first official hire. [Founders] Justin [Rood] and Chris [Naoum] had done it so long. When they wanted to take a step back, the MusicianShip seemed like an amazing opportunity to continue the tradition.

OT: What new things did you all want to implement and what was the festival already doing well that are you looking to accentuate?
JT:
As an educational organization, our emphasis is more on education this year. We’ll have a conference and an extension on the academy of funk, and we’re also going to have a marching band exhibition. We don’t only want to entertain and have a good time; we want to educate and for people to be better than they were when they first came. There have been some talks of Funk Parade East [at entertainment and sports arena St. Elizabeths East], but it’s more likely to be a 2020 effort if it happens based on conversations we’ve had with other interested parties and sponsors.
DR: There’s some interesting activations we haven’t done before. I’m most proud in the way we’ve creatively used U Street. We’re not using the big theatre settings for our showcase. We’re using the environment. We’ve adjusted because we’re using smaller venues like SXSW.

OT: How did the collaboration beer with Aslin Beer Company come to be?
JT: We brainstormed different ideas to raise the profile of the festival and by extension, raise the profile of Aslin. Because we are attached to so many venues, it made a lot of sense to offer the Funk Parade beer in said venues, and we are also using it as a fundraiser.

OT: Is this year more about sustaining the momentum of festivals past as opposed to putting a new stamp on Funk Parade?
JT:
You hit the nail on the head. This year is about sustainability and [maintaining] what has been done historically. After we do it successfully, then we can look at how to grow it. To be honest, I don’t have substantial thoughts on what we might do differently in the future. We’re so focused on making this Funk Parade [that] given the ecosystem of the parade and all of the [participating] venues both big and small, it fosters opportunities for growth.
DR: From having worked on it last year, the MusicianShip asked the right questions immediately. Any hiccups that came along the way, we were able to adjust them. This year, what I’ve seen is stronger preparedness and because of that, you’re allowed to grow.

OT: Why do you think the Funk Parade is so impactful for the local community?
JT:
Music changes lives and is a powerful platform, drawing young people to achieve in all areas in life. Music is a way to advance conversations about social justice and any other movement across time. It also doesn’t hurt that it facilitates a good time. We bring a lot of the city’s and the nation’s best musical acts to perform on this day. When people come out and experience it, it’s always new and friendly and the spirit of it is all about unification – which we need, especially now.
DR: I think this is a festival where DC allows itself to let loose. So often as a city, our identity is tied to what happens at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. People don’t know about the rich culture we have here. People really want to celebrate the city they live in, and this is a great place to do so – maybe more than any other event we have.

The sixth annual Funk Parade takes place on Saturday, May 11. The festival is free to attend and features music from 1-7 p.m.,a parade from 5-6 p.m. and a featured showcase at 8 p.m. Various locations on U Street in NW, DC; www.funkparade.com

AFI Silver Film Festivals
Todd Hitchcock, AFI Silver Theatre Director of Programming

On Tap: How does the AFI balance so many festivals? What goes into planning each?
Todd Hitchcock: We’re mindful of what we’re going to do throughout the year. [They’re] what we call curated festivals. [Our staff] attends major festivals throughout the year beginning with Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and Toronto; at least two of us are attending and seeing as many films as we can, which is typically 50-plus. In all of these cases, you have to whittle it down and make a decision on what we’re going to include.

OT: How important is the balance of countries included to the authenticity of the festivals, particularly the Latin American Film Festival and the European Union Film Showcase?
TH:
When you embrace that identity and focus, that means that films from smaller countries are going to have an opportunity for inclusion and to get screened. It’s wonderful when you find a film from say the Baltic countries or in Eastern Europe; for instance, we’ve had a lot of success with Hungarian films. In Latin America, you could say that the region as a whole doesn’t get enough representation in the film world. We’re going to push to include Ecuador and Paraguay. We’ve had some terrific films from those countries.

OT: How do you approach the festivals in fresh ways?
TH:
I think our audience has a strong association with these festivals. If you graph it out, there’s been a growth spurt. These are new films from these countries, and in many cases, this is the only chance [the audience will] have to see them. The DC area has people from all these countries living here because of its diversity; it works out for everyone.

OT: Why do you think film is a medium that lends itself well to a festival setting?
TH:
I would say year in and year out, we find exciting films. There’s more than enough to be excited about as far as quality and exciting, innovative films. It’s an opportunity to see something that they might not otherwise see. The newness factor: that’s the huge reality of the film business. It’s exciting.

Upcoming Film Festivals at AFI Silver Theatre include the DC Caribbean FilmFest from June 6-12, the Latin American Film Festival from September 12 to October 2 and the European Union Film Showcase from December 4-22. For more information on these and other festivals screened at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, visit www.afi.com/silver. 8633 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.afi.com/silver

By the People Festival
Nicole Dowd, Program Director of the Halcyon Arts Lab

On Tap: There are a lot of moving parts with the By the People Festival. How do you select a curator and then work with them on the theme?
Nicole Dowd: We identify a curator a year in advance of the festival. We ended up with Jessica Stafford Davis [this year] because her focus hasn’t really been present in the art world over the last decade. I think that we definitely knew that we wanted to work with her in some capacity and some of the qualities other than her own amazingness are finding people with a strong vision.

OT: How far out do you plan?
ND:
We move pretty quickly. We’re quite nimble in the way we produce programs and events. In two to three months, we were pretty set on who we wanted to showcase. For myself, coming from the art and museum world, it’s a very quick timeline. Artists are very excited to be part of it and we work heavily with them to make something impactful in a relatively short amount of time.

OT: How do you balance the mediums of the work presented? 
ND:
A lot of it is dictated by the specific site. There are two roads working together. One is thinking about what would be most appropriate for the site: is it going to be performative or a painting? And then we think about who is going to look at the artwork: what’s most accessible and impactful?

OT: Tell us a little bit about this year’s new gallery feature.
ND:
People asked us last year where they could buy the art, so we’re trying to create an environment for artists who identify with the DMV to exhibit and sell their work to new [or local] collectors. That will take place at a location in Georgetown, and it’ll be open from June 8-23. It extends the festival and makes it more inclusive for some of the artists in the location.

OT: Why do you think a festival is such an effective way to deliver art, and what has the response been from attendees?
ND:
There are so many people [who view museums as] a barrier to appreciating art. So for us to meet people where they’re at – whether they’re in a public square or on the river or in their neighborhood – it’s a good way to get people engaged with art.

The 2019 By the People Festival takes place in various locations around DC from June 15-23. For information about the participating artists and locations, visit www.bythepeople.org.

Adams Morgan Day
A. Tianna Scozzaro, Festival Organizer

On Tap: When you took the reins of the festival four years ago, did you think it would be where it is now?
A. Tianna Scozzaro:
I knew that the festival and the community were too strong for it to die. I’m so proud of what’s grown out of that really desperate place. We had two years where it was on the sidewalks and it was pretty lean, but last year was our 40th anniversary and this year, we have committees ready to go for September.

OT: Why did you feel so strongly about Adams Morgan Day continuing, and what are some of your favorite aspects?
ATS:
I think it’s eclectic and diverse in a way that is [true] to its identity. It was one of the [first] few neighborhood festivals in DC. In the past few years, we’ve seen the demographics of the city change [and] a lot of other great festivals have risen up. There’s a history of Adams Morgan Day that’s really special.

OT: What is surprising to people that may not know AdMo very well? Why is it important to introduce it to people who may be less familiar?
ATS:
I think the number of locally owned businesses that have been around for decades. Some people go to Adams Morgan for dancing and a jumbo slice but may not know of the great bookstores and the most delicious churros in town. It’s important for these local businesses to have an outlet that spotlights them. The funkiness as a whole is great: there’s been graffiti arts and hula hoop contests and [other] interactive, creative opportunities for people to participate in. We always need more of those activities in DC.

OT: Where do you think it’s going in the future? How do you see the festival evolving?
ATS:
The festival started as a park potluck [and] grew to its heyday in the 80s. That’s when DC was less safe, but this provided an opportunity for people to get out, celebrate and listen to go-go music. My desire would be to see the festival become sustainable with sponsors that support the festival as an intrinsic part of the neighborhood business and community cohesion.

Adams Morgan Day takes place Sunday, September 8. 18th Street in NW, DC; www.admoday.com

Photo: Rey Lopez

Game-Centric Bars Offer Next-Level Experiences

With a reputation for attracting the Type A working crowd, DC is a hardworking town deserving of a well-needed break from time to time. Enter bars with plenty of distractions in the way of arcade games, social sports and communal entertainment that also provide elevated dining experiences over the typical pub grub. In the past year, the city has seen a wave of bar openings that go beyond the usual food and drink offerings whether they be sport, arcade games, or providing a place to gather and unplug from the 9-5 grind.

DC newcomer SPIN recently opened its eighth location a hop, skip and a jump away from Metro Center, a hub for the downtown working crowd. Malin Pettersson, SPIN’s grand opening manager, reflects on what makes the ping-pong club an attractive destination for District denizens.

“You have to disconnect a little bit after work,” Pettersson says. “Everyone is so busy doing big, important jobs. SPIN is a place where you can really disconnect. We’re in the basement too, so you kind of have to disconnect.”

An oasis from the burdens of office life, the social sport club is an ideal refuge.

“When you play [ping pong], you can’t really focus on anything else but the ball,” he continues. “You can’t think about your issues at work or what you have to do. You just have to let go and watch that ball. I think that’s something that DC needs: a place to disconnect.”

At its core, SPIN is all about offering a place to create relationships on a personal, individual level.

“I think it’s great that [we] don’t want to sit still and want to have an activity, because it’s so much easier to connect with people that way.”

Beyond the escape aspect, SPIN offers an easy environment for folks to let loose and connect over an elevated bar menu and brews.

“Our chef is Filipino so he’s putting a little bit of an Asian twist on some of the items there and it’s been very well-received.”

Notable menu items include the fried chicken banh mi and crispy shrimp bao buns.

The Eleanor in NoMa is another bar raising the game when it comes to menu offerings and entertainment. When owner Adam Stein took the menu into consideration, he focused on comfort foods with some seasonal twists.

“We try to be super eclectic,” he says. “Even though a lot of our stuff falls into the bar category, we make as much as we possibly can in-house.”

Inspiration for some dishes came from the kitchen’s collective history of working together (think elote loco-style hush puppies or whimsical dishes from Stein’s childhood like the spaghetti sandwich.

“It was really important to us to elevate the food, the drinks and the service.”

Another important factor in his decision-making process? Keeping a sense of DC authenticity on the menu. 

“We definitely made sure we involved a lot of the local producers. A lot of our spirits [and beers] are from DC, Maryland and Virginia. In terms of food, we try to be seasonal, so we use a lot of local purveyors.”

Branded as a bowling lounge, bar and grill, The Eleanor caters to a multitude of crowds. No matter who walks in the doors, the mini-bowling lanes, arcade games and pinball machines ensure that anyone and everyone will have a good time.

Players Club on 14th Street offers an approachable cocktail program with throwback games in an environment where guests can have a “laid-back and entertaining time at the bar.”

“The venue works cohesively as a bar, a place to watch sports and an entertainment venue with plenty of options,” says director of operations Scott Herman.

Guests mostly fall into the category of “young professionals to bar and restaurant industry friends that stop by on their night off,” according to Herman. Although the retro basement bar doesn’t offer its own food menu, patrons can have items delivered from nearby Shake Shack.

“People love being able to order Shake Shack without having to leave the bar.”

At the end of the day, it all comes back to building an authentic connection.

“It’s been interesting to see how much people enjoy the games,” Herman notes. “We see lots of couples on dates – having games to play is an easy icebreaker for people that are just getting to know each other.”

Learn more about these game-centric bars below.

The Eleanor: 100 Florida Ave. NE, DC; www.eleanordc.com
Players Club: 1400 14th St. NW, DC; www.playersclubdc.com
SPIN: 1332 F St. NW, DC; www.wearespin.com


Game-Filled Watering Holes

Looking for a quick escape with friends? Whether you live in DC proper or across the bridge, the surrounding areas have plenty to offer in the way of social activities and fun distractions to take you away from the daily grind.

Bar Elena
Adam Stein also co-owns the H Street spot focused on eclectic comfort food (think fancy nachos topped with cotija, radish and black bean puree and General Tso’s wings), local shellfish, and a seasonal cocktail program with diversions that come in the form of pinball machines, skee-ball and classic video games like Ms. Pac-Man. Rounding out the bar’s offerings are two happy hours to draw in the after work and late-night crowds. 414 H St. NE, DC; www.barelenadc.com

The G.O.A.T.
The Arlington sports bar is home to 50-plus HD TVs to catch all the live sports action, plus a gaming lounge complete with the newest arcade games and throwback favorites like shoot-to-win basketball and skee-ball. Snack on next-level bar food such as filet mignon skewers, bulgogi wonton tacos and pastrami egg rolls. 3028 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.thegoatva.com  

Jackie Lee’s
Brightwood Park’s Jackie Lee’s has fun on the forefront of its bar offerings. Patrons of the neighborhood spot can partake in vintage arcade games while chowing down on comfort pub fare like bacon-wrapped jalapeños and knocking back cold brews. Communal tables, Art Deco décor and an assortment of throwback games add to the social bar experience. 116 Kennedy St. NW, DC; www.jackieleesdc.com

Kraken Axes
What better way to let loose than by satisfying the primeval urge to hurl axes? The indoor axe-throwing haven recently relocated to Penn Quarter where guests can take a less traditional route to bar games. Throw back some brews while throwing axes and order up beer, wine at the bar and small plates from Kraken’s next-door neighbor Cedar Restaurant.
840 E St. NW, DC; www.krakenaxes.com

Pizzeria Paradiso Game Room
The local pizza chain’s Georgetown location debuted its game room early last year. The basement bar’s walls are splashed with colorful murals and it’s filled with familiar games like pinball, shuffle ball and skee-ball in addition to a rotating list of popular arcade games. As one can expect from Pizzeria Paradiso, the beer offerings are on point with 60 cans and eight taps featuring rotating craft brews. 3282 M St. NW, DC;
www.eatyourpizza.com/game-room

Punch Bowl Social
An adult playground of sorts, Arlington’s barcade features 25,000 square feet of restaurant, games, outdoor patio space and social activities galore. At the tri-level entertainment destination, guests can take part in all kinds of amusements including karaoke, bocce, bowling, table games (think Giant Scrabble, ping pong, billiards and foosball) and arcade favorites. Bar offerings include plenty of shareable items like sheet nachos and green chorizo fries to go along with boozy punch (of course), craft brews and signature cocktails. 4238 Wilson Blvd.  Arlington, VA; www.punchbowlsocial.com/location/arlington

Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life with Smithsonian Folklife Festival Director Sabrina Lynn Motley

Before pursuing roles as vice president of Vesper Society and senior director at Asia Society Texas Center, Sabrina Lynn Motley was a little girl often wandering the halls of various Los Angeles museums. 

“Museums made sense to me because they were a place of learning,” she says. “But [they’re] also a place where you can hide out while your imagination soars.”

A professional life behind the scenes, tucked in offices within vast buildings housing art and artifacts, always made sense to Motley. After successful positions in programming and exhibition planning, the Smithsonian tapped her in 2013 as the new director of its famed Folklife Festival.

Delivering a cultural smorgasbord on the National Mall since 1967, the event focuses on global cultural heritage and connects people to hidden gems of society. This year’s theme is The Social Power of Music, and though the programming has been shortened from 10 days to only two because of the government shutdown, it’s sure to once again evoke emotions and conversations.

To learn more about the festival and Motley, we met in her tucked-away museum office and discussed her early enthusiasm for culture, the shortened festival and the responsibility she feels to engage minds.

On Tap: Did you always want to be in the museum industry growing up?
Sabrina Lynn Motley:
Yeah, I was one of those kids. I loved me some museums. I was one of those kids who didn’t like the circus [or] going to parades. My mother would say that I was one of those weird kids who you’d stick in a gallery and I’d be as happy as can be. My mother knew I was weird.

OT: Everybody’s weird to some extent.
SLM:
Yeah, but let’s be real. I’m an African-American woman of a certain age and I’m sure my mother was like, “I have this little black kid who’s into museums and into this world.” And to her credit, she let me go and explore it. I thank my mother daily for allowing me to be odd and curious. Not every kid gets that, no matter what color they are.

OT: How did you get into festival planning from a sociological perspective?
SLM:
That is a question I get asked all the time that I have no way to answer. I’m a cultural anthropologist by training and disposition, and I’ve done work in museums for most of my professional life. Before this, I largely focused on an intimate scale, so having this opportunity to do what I’ve done for many years with people who are so committed to this kind of work at a larger scale on the National Mall, which has such historic significance to this country, was a challenge that I wanted to take. Even on my worst days, there’s still something in the back of my head that says this work in this way at this place is really a gift, and I’m really fortunate to be able to do it.

OT: Was there a particular reason you gravitated toward programming? Was it a function of necessity or did you choose to go that route?
SLM: No, I chose to do it because I really like the way that culture brings people together and not always in a loving, peaceful way – because sometimes it’s hard. Culture has the power to connect and disrupt and make change – I wanted to be in a place where I could facilitate that [by] coming to the Smithsonian where there’s research and community engagement components, and a real sense that cultural heritage is valuable.

OT: Switching gears to this year’s Folklife Festival, it’s shrinking to only two days. What kind of adjustment period did you go through upon returning from the government shutdown?
SLM: It was not an easy call to make. Certainly, we know there are people that have been coming to this festival since it started in 1967, and their kids and grandkids come. No one wants to disappoint our visitors. I think in this case, we decided to put those relationships with our partners, our artists and the public ahead of just pushing something out onto the Mall.


Can’t Live Without
A hearty laugh with my mom
Meals with friends and family
Irish breakfast tea
Good movies and better books
Music, music and more music


OT: Was that always the plan to have the Social Power of Music and Year of Music coincide?
SLM: Yeah. Huib Schippers, who runs the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and to a large degree acted as the champion of the Year of Music initiative, has said publicly and privately that an inspiration for the Year of Music was the Folklife Festival as well as the Social Power of Music. It was a nice coming together of a lot of factors.

OT: With this year’s focus on music and the shortened calendar, do you feel any pressure to differentiate it from other area music festivals?
SLM: Probably no more than yes. We have a commitment to do the Folklife Festival and what that means is engaging community, being researched-based and stoking larger conversations. In that way, we have a commitment and the pressure to do what we do, even if it’s two days. People should leave knowing that they had a festival moment.

OT: I feel like all music can carry social context, but what specifically were you focused on when piecing together this year’s programming?
SLM: It wasn’t about genres or songs; it was really about the way music and sound functions. How does music create community? It’s a natural environment, it’s a social environment, it’s all of those things. What I was hoping was to have the festival break open those ideas and surprise people. How are people actively using music and sound to create community and to connect with community? How do musicians make change where they think change is needed and lessen tensions when they think that’s needed? Our job as festival makers is to explore all of that with our visitors.


Folklife festival Must-Haves
Curiosity about the work of festival participants and staff
Quality time at our marketplace and food vendors
A good hat, sunscreen and water
A quiet moment in one of the Smithsonian’s museums
Music, music and more music


OT: What were some of the best parts about planning this particular festival despite the timeline?
SLM:
The theme has resonated with a lot of people and in some way, we knew it would be meaningful. But the response we’ve gotten both from the artists and the public has been positive. It’s allowed us to link to all sorts of people in community. Honestly, working as a staff, we’ve had to manage our own internal disappointment and frustration over the shutdown. But the fact that we’ve been able to focus on these two days, it’s reminded us of our mission and the opportunity we have to do this wonderful work.

OT: How do you go about identifying themes you want to hit on?
SLM:
One of the common denominators is trying to be relevant because of the way people think of folk and traditional arts as something old, dead, gone. There are a lot of ways those connect us to a shared humanity, and I don’t mean in a hyperbolic way. I really do think the interweaving of history, knowledge, skills and practice is something that’s very integral to what it means to be human. For us, our notion of folk is broad.

OT: Would you say that the battle for relevance is one of the tougher challenges?
SLM:
Mhmm. And money. [laughs] On a serious note, you’ve got to fight for attention. Say [there’s] this person weaving this beautiful grass basket from the Georgia Sea Islands or a singer delivering a devastating hip-hop song from a suburb of Paris; if they’re all in the same creative continuum, we want you to stand here and be present with us on the Mall.

OT: These festivals are great because they take a piece of the museum and put it in a more palatable platform. Do you feel a responsibility to spark interest in and push more people toward the more traditional settings?
SLM:
We try to make the festival very participatory so they can have a conversation or get their hands dirty and make a clay pot. We focus on the reflection of our own culture too; it’s not just you go to the Mall and have a good time [and] then you leave. Can we set up these environments where people carry things away from them that speak to their own lives? It’s a feedback loop we’re trying to facilitate. We take a lot of responsibility and we think about it all the time. Some of it is you just throw the seeds out there and they’ll bloom five or 10 years from now, and we may never know it.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival takes place on Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30. Features of this year’s The Social Power of Music-themed festival include Smithsonian Folkways Recordings musicians, Grammy-nominated rapper GoldLink, producer Ruby Ibarra and others. National Mall in DC; 202-633-6440; www.festival.si.edu

Photo: Taste of Reston

Your Guide To DC’s Neighborhood Festivals

The diverse neighborhoods of DC, Maryland and Virginia are ready to showcase all they have to offer now through the fall. Food, drink, art, dance and music abound in every corner of the DC area, giving you an excuse to check out a new pocket of your extended neighborhood every weekend. Read on to get the inside scoop on some of our staff picks for the 2019 festival season.

SATURDAY, MAY 11

Funk Parade
Funk Parade celebrates DC’s vibrant music and arts, the history of Black Broadway, and the spirit of funk that brings DC together. From the first year in 2014 to now, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians from all corners of the District have come together for Funk Parade. This year’s event features countless acts such as the Chuck Brown Band, Michelle Blackwell, Reesa Renee and more. Festivities begin at 1 p.m. Free to attend.Along U Street in NW, DC; www.funkparade.com

SATURDAY, MAY 11 – SUNDAY, MAY 12

Bethesda Fine Arts Festival
This year’s Bethesda Fine Arts festival features 130 artists in various genres including live rock, jazz and reggae music. Walk through the festival and peruse unique jewelry, clothing and furniture on display. Then stop by local restaurants to enjoy pizza, barbecue, sandwiches and ice cream. Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Free to attend. Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle: Along Norfolk, Auburn and Del Ray Avenues in Bethesda, MD; www.bethesda.org

SATURDAY, MAY 18 – SUNDAY, MAY 19

Quarterfest
Enjoy a food, beer and wine festival showcasing the diversity of Arlington’s food scene as Taste of Arlington becomes Quarterfest. This festival transforms Wilson Boulevard into a vibrant dining, shopping and family-fun festival for all ages. Experience a restaurant crawl showcasing eateries of the neighborhood and an extended two-day outdoor concert and pop-up street pub. 12-6 p.m. Free to attend, but tickets ($46.35-$123.60) are required for food and drinks. Wilson Boulevard between N. Taylor and N. Quincy Streets; www.quarterfestballston.org

SUNDAY, MAY 19

Old Town Festival of Speed and Style
The lower three blocks of King Street will be blocked off and vintage cars from the 50s, 60s, 70s and select luxury race cars will be there. Join special fashion events and pop-ups around Old Town that make the event great for everyone. All proceeds will benefit charity partner ACT for Alexandria, a community foundation focused on increasing charitable investment and community engagement. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. Free to attend. 200 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.festivalspeedstylealex.com

SATURDAY, MAY 25 – MONDAY, MAY 27

Rockville Hometown Holidays
Enjoy several dozen live performances on four different stages featuring rock, reggae, country and Americana artists. There will be marching bands, floats and more. The Memorial Day Parade starts at 10:30 a.m. Various times. Free to attend. Rockville Town Square: 30 Maryland Ave. Rockville, MD; www.rockvillemd.gov

THURSDAY, MAY 30 – SunDAY, JUNE 2

Herndon Festival
The Herndon Festival takes place in historic downtown Herndon and attracts an average of 80,000 people each year. This outdoor festival provides a fun-filled experience by combining the joy of an outdoor concert with the thrill of a summertime carnival. There’s something for everyone. Thursday 6-10 p.m. Friday 5-11 p.m. Saturday 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Free. www.herndonfestival.net

FRIDAY, JUNE 7 – SUNDAY, JUNE 9

Celebrate Fairfax!
This annual festival features concerts on eight different stages with headliners like Better Than Ezra, Smash Mouth and more. The festival features an abundance of other attractions like a petting zoo, carnival rides and a karaoke championship along with nightly fireworks and plenty of great food. Friday 6 p.m. – midnight, Saturday 10 a.m. – midnight and Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Various ticket packages and admission prices available. Fairfax County Government Center: 12000 Government Center Pkwy. Fairfax, VA; www.celebratefairfax.com

FRIDAY, JUNE 14 – SATURDAY, JUNE 15

Taste of Reston
Taste of Reston, produced by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, is the largest outdoor food festival in the area and was voted Northern Virginia’s Best Food Festival multiple times in recent years by Virginia Living. Reston Town Center will host the event’s restaurants and community vendors, plus live entertainment on three stages. Friday from 4-11 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Reston Town Center: 11900 Market St. Reston, VA; www.restontaste.com

SUNDAY, JULY 14

Silver Spring Arts & Crafts Summer Fair
Check out the Silver Spring Arts & Crafts Fair this summer featuring arts & crafts, food and beverage vendors, and many fun family activities. 2-8 p.m. Free to attend. Silver Spring Veterans Plaza: 1 Veterans Pl. Silver Spring, MD; www.silverspringdowntown.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 24

17th Street Festival
Since 2010, the 17th Street Festival has been celebrating 17th Street and its diversity of restaurants and retailers. There are 100 vendors with more than 60 artists and makers displaying everything from fine art to jewelry, ceramics to crafts, and every creative item in-between. Other vendors include area nonprofit organizations, politicians, entrepreneurs and local businesses. The kids’ zone has activities for children including a large slide, soccer, snow cones, face painting and games throughout the day. All-day event. Free to attend. 17th Street from P Street to R Street in NW, DC; www.17thstreetfestival.org

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 8

Adams Morgan Day
As DC’s longest-running neighborhood festival, Adams Morgan Day celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. The event is a family-friendly celebration with music, art and activities for all ages. Adams Morgan welcomes residents and visitors alike to meet neighborhood businesses, artists and service organizations. Attendance and entertainment are free, and local businesses and restaurants offered deals for the day. 18th Street to Kalorama and Columbia Roads in NW, DC; www.admoday.com

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

Clarendon Day
At this year’s Clarendon Day, there will be tons of arts and crafts vendors featuring everything from apparel to jewelry to art and photography and more. There will also be a number of food purveyors including many of Clarendon’s favorites. With local in mind, there also be several local nonprofits in attendance to make it easy for the community to connect with its service providers. Times TBA. Free to attend. www.clarendon.org

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6

Takoma Park Street Festival
The 38th annual Takoma Park Street Festival will once again host a talented mix of local artists offering paintings, photographs, pottery, silk-screening, bath and body care, stained glass, jewelry, woodworking, textiles, ceramics, kids’ items, and much more. Nonprofits, local companies and a variety of food vendors will also participate. In addition, Takoma’s indie businesses will be open and welcoming visitors. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Along Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, MD and Carroll Street in NW, DC; www.mainstreettakoma.com

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13

H Street Festival
H Street Festival is one of the most anticipated and highly attended single-day festivals in DC. The festival is 11 blocks long and has 14 staging areas that are diversely themed and programmed to target the different segments of audiences. The staging areas feature music of different genres, dance, youth-based performances, interactive children’s program, fashion, heritage arts, poetry and much more.Along H Street in NE, DC; www.hstreetfestival.org

Photo: Courtesy of D.C. United

Ben Olsen Still Kicking As D.C. United Head Coach

When Ben Olsen hung up his cleats in 2009, the famed D.C. United midfielder figured his 24-year relationship with soccer had ended. After college ball at the University of Virginia and an entire Major League Soccer career with D.C. United, Olsen hadn’t yet considered a coaching career as a way to deepen his relationship with the sport he gave his life to. Despite his hesitation to man the sidelines, he joined the team in 2010 as an assistant coach. Just a few months later, after a poor start to the season, the team installed him as head coach. 

“It was a strange way to get a head coaching job,” Olsen says. “In some ways, it was my first job. I was swimming for a couple years. Going from [being] a player, that doesn’t prep you to be a coach. Of course, you get knowledge about how you want the game to be played, but you’re not prepped to manage and deal with a group of 30 men and their emotions.”

Fast forward to today, Olsen is still leading the D.C. United team on the field. Though a lot has changed since taking over as the interim head coach, Olsen has led talented teams and underachieving ones and seen years of great investment and their leaner counterparts. The 41-year-old has amassed more than 100 wins and counting throughout his 14-year tenure, the longest of any D.C. United head coach.

“It’s rare to have been at a club this long – not only from a coaching standpoint but piggybacking on a great career. It’s been a huge part of my life. I’m humbled and burdened with this responsibility to get these fans a championship. That’s the goal, and that would be a success, to get these fans that have been great to me a championship.”

Few iterations of this team have been as strong as this season’s unit, featuring the legendary Wayne Rooney, Luciano Acosta and Júnior Moreno. The team raced off of to a hot start, winning three of its first four games and capitalizing on the momentum from last year’s late season run.

“We were hoping we could pick up where we left off, and we were able to do that for the first month of the season [by] having the same group return,” Olsen says. “The relationships were there. Preseason, we pushed the group a little bit further toward our identity and how we wanted to start winning games. Sometimes early in the season, you can catch teams that aren’t really who they are yet. Now we’re at a tough spot where you have injuries and suspensions, and you have to rely on your depth.”

As Olsen mentioned, the team has come back down to earth since their blistering opening month. The team had a record of four wins, two losses and two draws as of late April.

“We’re on track,” Olsen says the day after a 0-2 defeat to New York City FC. “The parity in the East is very strong [and] to get caught up in how we’re doing in the standings is a bit silly. You’d rather start this way and have some wins under your belt, but things change quickly in this league. You try to stay level and just get better by tactically figuring out how the group can be at its best.”

This season also marks the first full slate of home games at the team’s new Audi Field. Playing his entire career at the historic RFK Stadium, Olsen notes the differences in a number of areas from players to staff – and how much the entire organization has evolved for the better.

“Audi Field was the first step of D.C. United taking a step [toward] becoming an elite MLS team. That’s the catalyst of this resurgence. With that comes Wayne Rooney and some of the younger players. I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs and now to come out of some of those lean years, you have to enjoy the moment because things change.”

D.C. United returns to Audi Field on Wednesday, May 15 versus Toronto FC and on Saturday, May 18 versus the Houston Dynamo. For more information on Olsen and the team, visit www.dcunited.com.

Audi Field: 100 Potomac Ave. SW, DC; 202-587-5000; www.dcunited.com

Photo: Rosie Cohe

Sweet, Like Durand Jones and The Indications in Springtime

When the weather finally picks up in DC, so does H Street. Up and down the block, people are out enjoying the air and nightlife, and on April 16, Rock & Roll Hotel was packed with people there to watch Durand Jones and the Indications. The night was just short of warm and there couldn’t have been a sweeter way to celebrate it than the Indications’ 70s soul-inspired music.

The Indications are touring their sophomore record American Love Call, a best R&B record nominee for the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) Libera Awards, alongside artists like Blood Orange and Charles Bradley.

The Indications have so many things going for them. They have the instrumentation and arrangement style of their inspirations down pat. Think Curtis Mayfield’s “So In Love” or Brenton Wood’s “I Think You Got Your Fools Mixed Up.”

They can also play funk, like they showed Tuesday on their song “Groovy Babe.” More than that, Durand Jones strikes a great balance as a frontman. He’s a happy medium between performers like Meg Remy of U.S. Girls and BadBadNotGood.

In the two times I’ve seen US Girls the only thing Meg Remy said was that there would be no encore because “there are no encores in life,” and if I ever see BBNG again it’ll be too soon, because their frontman almost never shuts up.

But more than any of that, it’s the voices of the Indications that make it for me, particularly that of frontman Durand Jones and drummer Aaron Frazer. Jones may not have Frazer range (not that he’s that far off), but he emotes like an Otis Redding or James Brown, and Frazer’s falsetto could put him into The Delfonics or The Emulations.

The best songs of the night were the ones that had these two playing off each other, like “Don’t You Know” or “Circles,” both off American Love Call, though Frazer’s solo ballad “Is It Any Wonder” might still be my favorite of theirs. They played it as an encore, and it’s quite the song to have in your backpocket.

It was also the first Indications song I heard. I didn’t really like it at first because it sounded so much like music was made 50 years ago, but a lot changes in a month. I spent the weeks following in Colombia hearing almost only cumbia and to come home and hear American music, and American music like Durand Jones and the Indications was the sweetest thing.

Sorry for being a prude about it at first, guys, you’re beautiful, can’t wait to see in DC next time.

For more information of Durand Jones and the Indications, follow them on Twitter.

Illustration: Nick Caracciolo

Devoured Offers Sustainable Alternative For DC Waste

Americans excel at wasting food. According to an article on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s website, the country disposed of 37.6 million tons of food waste – with nearly 94 percent of it going to landfills or combustion facilities – in 2015. Essentially, it was rendered uneaten and utterly useless.

The simplest way to reduce these numbers is to cut back, but for most, reducing waste is not that simple. Another alternative is being realized in the District by local company Devoured, which strives to help businesses in the city be more responsible by turning what could be trash into compost.

Founder Walker Lunn set out to help the World Bank Group cut down on their waste in 2006. As a student studying hospitality management, he began piecing together a program that would help redirect food products thrown away to compost facilities rather than landfills or incineration facilities.

Lunn says, “Once we started working with [the World Bank], it became a question of, ‘How do we stop this problem?’” When food waste goes to a landfill, it ends up rotting in an anaerobic environment and produces methane. It causes global warming and takes what could be a valuable resource and loses it forever. What we do is take it to a compost facility where the waste is mixed with sticks, leaves and grass, and it’s decomposed.”

According to the EPA, compost is organic material that helps plants grow. Made up largely of food scraps and yard waste, at least 30 percent of what we throw into a trashcan could instead be used as compost. The soil supplement is sold at retail locations such as Home Depot and other gardening outlets.

“Everyone we spoke with – restaurants and hotels – were like, ‘This is cool [and] we want to do it, but we’re concerned about cost,’” Lunn says. “Cost, space, odor and training were really the things that came up at first.”

Lunn and his team began working on a model that would enable Devoured to pick up the heaviest, wettest, most challenging parts of waste to transport to compost facilities, which are generally farther than landfills or transfer stations. In order to reduce odors, the company makes frequent pickups for their client base, which is largely made up of office buildings and hotels throughout the week.

“When we started, we couldn’t get another company to haul it,” Lunn says, laughing. “I wanted to hire a contractor, but I couldn’t get anyone to do it. The only compost company was in Cambridge, Maryland, so it was really tough. So much has changed.”

One of these changes is the frequent use of biodegradable, compostable products such as cups, plates and bowls.

“It’s transformed what we transport because it used to be mostly food,” he says. “Now a huge part of what we collect is packaging. I don’t think there’s any point of buying a compostable product unless you send it to a compost facility. Like any business, we have a sales process, and our business is mission-driven.”

With the increase of waste and global warming awareness, there’s no question the business has grown. And while some companies reach out to Devoured specifically because of their own green initiatives, there are others who are still looking to minimize their hefty trash bills.

“It’s case by case,” Lunn says. “[For] some of our clients, it’s part of their mission. For professionally managed business, the interest and willingness to do it comes from the benefits it provides, but the justification is typically driven by savings – or at the very least, breaking even.”

Another change in the past decade has been the competition. With a heightened awareness of food waste and the damages it can cause to the environment, Lunn is no longer the only game in town. Despite this, he maintains that his clients are ones that other businesses envy; looking ahead, he’s largely hopeful for what’s in store for Devour.

“Scaling up is part of [growth].”

To learn more about Devoured, visit www.devoured.co. Contact Lunn and his team at [email protected] or 202-810-9751.

Illustration: Nick Caracciolo

The Cannabis Conversation

Cannabis legalization has been a hot topic for decades, but as federal legalization of the plant and its byproducts inches closer, policymakers, advocates and enthusiasts are in the weeds with conflicting state and federal laws. For the District, cannabis legality is particularly convoluted – especially when taking the different strains and uses of cannabis products into account.

Industrial hemp, for example, lacks the chemical compound of THC, which is responsible for producing the high that consumers get after ingesting the leaves of a regular marijuana plant. Industrial hemp has been descheduled as a schedule one controlled substance under federal law, but regular marijuana has not.

Then there’s byproducts of industrial hemp to consider like cannabidiol (CBD oil), which has surged in popularity because of its health benefits studied and tested by scientists internationally. It’s so trendy, in fact, CVS announced on March 21 it will begin selling CBD products in 800 stores across eight states.

While people who consume marijuana and its byproducts for medicinal purposes have more protection from the law in DC than those who consume it recreationally, the state of the plant’s legality is confusing, to say the least.

The Law

The distinction between DC and federal law is murky, especially because the District’s budget is controlled by Congress. But by looking at the timeline of legislation, one can start to parse out what is allowed – and what isn’t – in DC regarding marijuana and hemp consumption, possession and sales.

The Agricultural Act of 2014, or Farm Bill, was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on February 7 that year. While the bill reauthorized and established various federal agricultural programs, the most important aspect of the bill for cannabis advocates was the allowance of institutions of higher education or state departments of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. Regular cannabis, however, remained a schedule one controlled substance alongside heroin and cocaine under federal law – where it still remains today.

Four years later, the Agricultural Act of 2018 passed, opening up the industrial hemp market by allowing states to regulate their own hemp production and research. But just because states are allowed to grow hemp doesn’t mean its byproducts are legal. Martin Lee, director of Project CBD, a nonprofit dedicated to CBD oil advocacy, takes issue with this aspect of the law.

“One of biggest problems – now according to the Farm Bill – is it’s legal to grow hemp and contents within hemp plant,” says Lee, who authored Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana. “But once it’s extracted out of the plant, it’s not clear what the legality is. [This bill] is like a patch for bad software, [and] it’s impossible to patch up the bad software of the Controlled Substances Act.”

The Controlled Substances Act is the federal law under which cannabis is classified as a schedule one substance. This makes recreational possession, consumption and the selling of cannabis illegal at the federal level, but DC’s robust medicinal program is licensed and protected to prevent the Department of Justice from targeting medical cannabis providers who are in compliance with state law.

In the District, Initiative 71, a voter-approved ballot initiative that went into effect in February 2015, legalizes recreational consumption and possession of less than two ounces of marijuana – as long as the adult is at least 21 years of age. Growing up to six plants and consuming marijuana is also legal in the privacy of one’s own home, but public consumption is still illegal.

Gifting marijuana under Initiative 71 is allowed as long as the amount is one ounce or less and there’s no goods, services or money exchanged for the product. This makes the commercial sale of marijuana products illegal but medicinal sales are still allowed, which explains the small number of medical dispensaries in DC.

Although Initiative 71 basically legalizes public possession of marijuana, albeit a few caveats, a federal officer still has the right to arrest anyone holding any amount of marijuana in the District under federal law. So, to answer the question: Is weed legal in DC? Sort of, but advocates remain optimistic for the not-so-far-off future of marijuana descheduling and legalization.

Advocacy

Groups all over the country are pushing for a change in legislation at the federal level, but the one place to celebrate cannabis nationally is right here in DC at the National Cannabis Festival.

Festival founder and executive producer Caroline Phillips says she and a group of cannabis advocates started the festival in 2016 for two reasons: to give supporters of legalized cannabis a place to congregate and confer with one another while celebrating the cause, and as a fresh way to have the conversation by creating an all-inclusive event no matter a person’s identity.

“We wanted to create an event that’s accessible and approachable for a broad range of people from all backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities,” Phillips says. “You’ll see people from 21 to 80 years old from all backgrounds [and] speaking different languages, but all coming together over the shared love of a plant.”

The 2019 National Cannabis Festival will take place on April 20 at the RFK Stadium Festival Grounds. Phillips says in its first year, the festival saw about 5,000 attendees; this year, she’s expecting around 20,000.

“The response has been incredible,” she says. “We’re very lucky to have been so warmly received by our [community] of enthusiasts, patients, business owners and advocates. It’s exciting to see the way activists are taking the lead and working with for-profit organizations to make sure the cannabis industry is always connected to its grassroots – pun intended.”

While live music, an epic food court and a large selection of vendors will be the focal points of the event, the festival is also hosting a policy summit the day before on April 19. The policy summit aims to bring together “a diverse group of activists and leaders from government, business, healthcare, veterans groups, and civil rights organizations to discuss today’s most pressing cannabis policy challenges and opportunities,” according to the festival’s website.

The summit is free to the public and will be the landing point for a multitude of important discussions on cannabis policy, including the media’s coverage of cannabis, the path to federal legalization, and the need for FDA regulations on hemp and marijuana consumable products.

Morgan Fox, media relations director at the National Cannabis Industry Association, says the importance of FDA regulations is an especially big issue when looking at the medicinal side of the cannabis industry because patients deserve to know what exactly is in their medication.

“All cannabis advocates right now are looking forward to the day when they can work hand in hand with regulations like the FDA to ensure the medications that we put into hands of patients are safe,” he says. “Just in the same way you want to know what’s in the food you’re eating, it’s critical for people to know what’s in the plant.”

FDA regulations on cannabis will not only protect consumers but also allow for wider research and testing to be performed on the plant, which could lead to new and exciting discoveries about its medicinal properties, according to Phillips.

“Regulations would allow for us to develop and allow standards to be set by doctors and scientists, creating an environment for a product that is already in the hands of adults and going to continue being used on a broader scale not only in the U.S. but also around the world,” she says. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to support regulation and legalization in a burgeoning cannabis industry.”

Erica Stark, executive director at the National Hemp Association, confers with Phillips but includes the benefit of the doubt for marijuana, hemp and CBD oil producers that are doing the best they can to provide quality products to their customers.

“[The lack of regulations] is a very large problem in that consumers don’t know how to tell if they’re buying a quality product or not,” she says. “There’s plenty of good quality companies out there that are doing things the right way – the problem is bad actors out there.”

This month, the FDA plans to begin public hearings on allowing companies to produce CBD-infused food products, as commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the House Appropriations Committee in late February.

But before the FDA can begin setting regulations for the cannabis industry writ large, Phillips says the first step is descheduling the plant from the federal controlled substances list and then legalization, although she would like to see both happen simultaneously.

“Activists on the federal level are trying to push the government to full legalization and would like to see the government immediately deschedule cannabis so we can have broader testing,” she says. “A lot of folks are looking at the next presidential campaign cycle with candidates in support of legalization.”

The Future

While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the future of cannabis looks like in the District and the country at large, one thing all the experts sourced here agree on is growth. On the CBD oil side of things, Lee of Project CBD says he believes the trend of hemp-based oils will continue and expand exponentially once regulations are in place.

“CBD has disordered the cosmos of the federal government,” he says. “It’s the hottest thing going these days. What we need are policies that facilitate wide access to CBD products but also regulate them on the basis of public health concerns.”

Stark at the National Hemp Association thinks the CBD oil market in particular will depend on the FDA and how they choose to regulate it.

“Assuming the FDA goes down a reasonable path [with regulations], the CBD industry will expand exponentially,” she says. “It’s already quite large and will only get larger as demand increases.”

Meanwhile, Fox from the National Cannabis Industry Association says he thinks the cannabis industry will likely follow the model of the beer industry, with big producers handling the average consumer market and smaller, localized producers serving the organics and artisan market.

“I really think consumer demand is going to shape the industry as opposed to corporate interest,” he says. “Because of the time at which this industry is evolving, I think corporate responsibility and ethics in sourcing is going to be more important [with cannabis] than most consumer products because of the culture of the consumers’ concerns.”

Phillips of the National Cannabis Festival thinks the industry will follow along a line similar to what Fox proposes; but she’s focused on the District specifically and reiterates her point on the importance of regulation.

“Because you’re allowed to do home growing in DC, it allows a lot of cannabis connoisseurs – not unlike craft brewers – to experiment with different strains at home and see what they can grow,” she says. “The danger of the unregulated market that we have in many states is patients can’t always be certain how a plant has been grown.”

Tap these educational resources to learn more about cannabis legalization.

National Cannabis Industry Association:
www.thecannabisindustry.org
National Hemp Association: www.nationalhempassociation.org
Project CBD: www.projectcbd.org

To learn more about cannabis in a festival setting, check out the National Cannabis Festival on Saturday, April 20. Doors open at 12 p.m. Tickets are $45.

RFK Stadium Festival Grounds: 2400 E. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.nationalcannabisfestival.com


CBD in the District

District Hemp Botanicals
Established in May 2017, District Hemp Botanicals was the first hemp-based CBD store to open its doors in the DMV. The shop boasts a wide selection of CBD and hemp products, from CBD salves and massage oils to bath bombs and gummy edibles. 9023 Church St. Manassas, VA and 19 Wirt St. SW, Leesburg, VA; www.districthempstore.com

National Holistic Healing Center
This medical dispensary located in Dupont Circle now serves all registered DC, Maryland and Pennsylvania medical marijuana patients as well as registered patients from select states. Led by CEO Dr. Chanda Macias, who has dedicated more than 15 years to understanding how medical marijuana can impact patients, the center has 98 percent patient retention and adds more than 100 new patients per month. To purchase marijuana products from the center, one must be a registered medical marijuana patient. 1718 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.nationalholistic.com

Relâche Spa at Gaylord National Resort
Starting this month, Relâche is featuring 50-minute CBD oil massages for a limited time. Spa director Debra Myers says if customers respond well to the specialty massage, she will consider adding the offer permanently to Relâche’s menu. “CBD is touted to decrease anxiety, lower inflammation, reduce pain and help improve sleep, which can all be achieved topically through the CBD hemp oil used during the massage service,” she says. Each massage costs $185 and the CBD oil used is Mary’s Nutritionals hemp oil and muscle relief compound. 201 Waterfront St. National Harbor, MD; www.nationalharbor.com/gaylord-national

Vim & Victor at The St. James
There’s a little something for everybody at Vim & Victor. Chef Spike Mendelsohn created the menu with health and wellness enthusiasts in mind, as well as everyday community members. Pro tip: try Mendelsohn’s own line of CBD-infused PLNT waters. 6805 Industrial Rd. Springfield, VA; www.vimandvictor.com

Chaia taco lineup // Photo: Maya Oren

Power Plants: The Rise of Vegetables as a Main Source of Energy, Not Alternative Fuel

It’s no secret there’s been a recent uptick in healthy dining options in the nation’s capital. Plant-based and vegetable-forward restaurants have taken root in the District, and they’re championing the idea that healthy food can also be tasty food. From local expansions to international brands, DC is adding more and more vegetable-friendly options to an already growing list of new restaurants. Just don’t call it a trend.

Homegrown taqueria Chaia recently opened its second location in Chinatown this January. From slinging tacos at farmers markets to their first location in Georgetown to the newest spot downtown, owners Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon have always remained committed to utilizing seasonal ingredients.

“Our business really wants to get people to eat more vegetables more than anything,” Stern says. “Support your local farmer and eat foods in season. What grows together goes together.”

In addition to serving up seasonally inspired tacos, Chaia’s newest location offers a lineup of local brews, ciders and draft cocktails. The ambiance and new offerings are key to the restaurant’s goal of making vegetables more fun.

“[Ten] years ago, being vegetarian or vegan or going into a restaurant that focused on that had the perception [that] there was no joy; you were just stripping your life of all the good things,” Simon says. “But that’s all changing with places like Chaia. We’re trying to make vegetables fun.”

Another component of their business model? Sustainability. Leftover tortillas are repurposed as the base for their spin on Oaxacan street food tlayuda. Cilantro stems are given new life as a sauce ingredient and discarded items are composted when possible. Hummus purveyor Little Sesame also looks to high-quality ingredients and seasonality for menu inspiration.

“The region that inspires our food is so built on fresh vegetables and big spices, and lots of ferments and pickles,” co-owner Nick Wiseman explains. “How we feel and shape the menus at Little Sesame is all around this idea of, at the end of the day, does it make you feel good?”

The hummus shop added its second location in Chinatown this March (the flagship spot is in Golden Triangle), where guests can order vegan options including their popular hummus bowls, pita sandwiches and dairy-free soft serve. More than just providing an exceptional in-restaurant experience, Wiseman and co-owner Ronen Tenne hope to build a community that transcends the walls of the physical space.

The owners even have an offshoot project, Wild Sesame, as “a way for us to strengthen the community we’re starting to build around these ideals of travel, outdoor cooking and storytelling.” It’s equal parts weekend getaway and outdoor adventure – an exploration of food and community.

“Food is the center, the focus of travel and this sense of adventure around food,” he continues. “We’re trying to really bring that spirit to Little Sesame and certainly what inspires us.”

H Street fast-casual concept Pow Pow made the switch to a completely plant-based menu last spring after two years in operation, and co-owner Shaun Sharkey believes DC is ready for more.

“I think DC has always been known as a city full of intelligent, forward-thinkers,” Sharkey says. “Plant-based food just makes sense in every aspect, whether you’re cutting back on a regular meat-based diet a day or two a week, interested in its benefits for the environment, or just interested in new flavors. Some chefs are really pushing the boundaries with plant-based food.”

Sharkey has a meat allergy and Chef Margaux Riccio has a dairy allergy; Pow Pow’s menu is a reflection of the foods they missed eating.

“Most of the menu items are developed that way,” he says. “This is more about fun food than anything else.”

The popular trolley fries are now topped with cashew cheddar and plant-based protein, the disco stick egg roll now features plant-based chicken, and their bowls have all switched over to plant-based chicken and seitan as protein options.

“We create all of the proteins and cheese in-house from scratch. Our focus is making good, plant-based food.”

Shouk founder Ran Nussbacher wants to remind the world that vegetables have been a mainstay of our diet for centuries, and it’s time to make a reconnection with the freshest produce possible.

“Eating a plant-based [diet] is a very positive experience, and it’s tasty and not lacking in any regard,” Nussbacher says. “I wanted to demonstrate that by bringing a compelling, appealing product that people would get hooked on, and that’s exactly what we’ve done with Shouk.”

The Israeli street food-inspired menu at Shouk’s Mount Vernon Triangle and NoMa locations features an oyster mushroom shawarma, fresh salads, pita and the famous Shouk burger. One of the healthier items on the menu, Nussbacher notes that despite chowing down on a burger, “You’re not eating health food; you’re eating delicious, decadent food that’s healthy.” And the recent addition of falafel to the menu has already proven to be a popular move.

“There used to be this perceived compromise that you could either get food that was really tasty or food that was really healthy, but you couldn’t get both,” the founder continues. “And what we do at Shouk – as well as others in the industry today – is eliminate that compromise and offer food that is exciting, tasty and healthy at the same time.”

Glenn Edwards, U.S. managing director of international fast-food chain LEON, shares a similar sentiment.

“I want to eat food I enjoy,” he says. “I don’t want to feel compromised in eating food that’s better for me. I want to eat food that’s delicious and oh, by the way, it’s better for me. Food should taste good and do you good.”

LEON opened its first North American outpost last summer on L Street and is hoping to change the way people view fast food. Fries are baked and the recently added, vegan-friendly LOVe Burger is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

Edwards says, “When we launch dishes, [we ask ourselves], ‘Does it taste really delicious? Would your best friend ask you for a recipe? Is it better for you?’”

It seems DC denizens agree that fast food can be good food; a second LEON restaurant is coming this summer. But you won’t find any marketing or advertising efforts to promote these restaurants as vegan joints. Instead, the focus is on preparing first-rate food offerings.

Chaia’s Stern notes, “You have to have a delicious product, and that’s why people are going to come.”

Regardless of protein preferences, get people in the door. And if they like what they eat, they’ll come back.

Chaia: 615 Eye St. NW, DC (Chinatown) // 3207 Grace St. NW, DC (Georgetown); www.chaiatacos.com
LEON: 1724 L St. NW, DC; www.leon.co
Little Sesame: 1828 L St. NW, DC (Golden Triangle) // 736 6th St. NW, DC (Chinatown); www.eatlittlesesame.com
Pow Pow: 1253 H St. NE, DC; www.eatpowpow.com
Shouk: 655 K St. NW, DC (Mount Vernon Triangle) // 395 Morse St. NE, DC (NoMa); www.shouk.com


Plant-Forward picks

Fare Well
Doron Petersan’s vegetable-centric bakery, diner and bar on H Street offers plant-based comfort dishes like Southern fried wings, pierogies and a steak platter made with Southern fried chickpea seitan. And don’t walk out the door without dessert: indulge in a brownie sundae and a daily rotating lineup of cakes from Petersan (of Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats fame). 406 H St. NE, DC; www.eatfarewell.com

Flower Child
Championing feel-good food, the national chain landed in Foggy Bottom at the start of the new year. The fast-casual joint features bowls, salads and wraps that come as vegan and vegetarian-friendly in a hip, colorful atmosphere. 2112 Pennsylvania Ave. Suite 101, NW, DC; www.iamaflowerchild.com/locations/washington-dc

HipCityVeg
The Philadelphia import arrived in the District in 2016 and serves up a 100 percent plant-based menu including burgers, salads, milkshakes and sandwiches. There’s even a Philly steak, an homage to the brand’s hometown. 712 7th St. NW, DC; www.hipcityveg.com