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Photo: John Canery

Cupid’s Undie Run Returns To Continue Fight Against NF

It all started with a crazy idea…

That’s how Cupid’s Charity, the group behind DC’s Cupid’s Undie Run on February 8, opens their story on the website. The idea of a mile(ish) run through a DC street in the winter came from co-founders Brendan Hanrahan, Chad Leathers and Bobby Gill. The trio dropped their pants in solidarity and frolicked for charity to help end neurofibromatosis (NF), a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body.

The inaugural event kicked off in 2010, and has grown since. With different sister events offered all over the country, the fundraisers have helped raise almost $20 million. To learn more about the festivities, we spoke with race director Ashley Casper about the event’s mission, what people can expect from this year and why the cause is worth the chills.

On Tap: How have the races changed since 2010? Are there any plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary? 
Ashley Casper: The inaugural 2010 event took place in DC and was a trial run to determine local interest and potential fundraising levels, bringing in more than 500 participants and fundraising more than $12,000. Since our very first Cupid’s Undie Run in 2010, we have spread awareness of NF and raised more than $18,900,000, thanks to the 107,000 undie runners and 247,000 donations that have supported more than 225 events across the country. [All] of net proceeds from our programs goes specifically towards NF research through our partner, the Children’s Tumor Foundation. The event has gotten larger over the years, but the one thing that always stays the same is our mission to end NF.

OT: What are some aspects that surprise people who sign up? Are there things participants mention to you regarding things they didn’t expect? 
AC: People often are surprised to hear that we run in undies in February, but there is a really great reason for it! We run in our undies because people with NF can’t cover up their tumors. They can’t put clothes on to feel more comfortable, so why should we? Also, while the event is pants-optional, we encourage participants to wear what they are most comfortable in. Tutus, onesies, bathrobes, costumes (we even have a costume contest!) are all encouraged. The important thing is that people show up, have fun and raise money for charity!

OT: What are some of the festivities people can expect aside from the race? What kinds of activities are planned? What are the ones people respond to most?
AC: At Cupid’s Undie Run, the party is as big as the one mile(ish) run is “brief.” Thanks to the support of local sponsors like DC Fray, Hot 99.5 and DCW50. The four-hour party features a DJ, a photobooth, mascots, awards for top fundraisers and a lot of energy.

OT: Have any pointers for first timers? 
AC: First, join or start a team, Cupid’s is a lot of fun with friends! There are prizes for top team fundraisers and people are very creative with team costumes. One of my favorites from 2019 was an entire team dressed as Waldo from Find Waldo. Two, layer up! Even if you’re wearing undies, you can add knee socks, scarves, hats and gloves to stay warm. Three, if your outfit does not leave room for pockets, no problem! Cupid’s offers fun awards for fundraising for NF and if you raise $250, you earn official 2020 Cupid’s undies PLUS open bar – no need for pockets.

OT: How do you all establish the goal year by year? 
AC: Our mission is to end NF and that is what drives us every year to increase fundraising and awareness. We’re always pushing ourselves to create the best event possible for our participants and increase our fundraising.

OT: Lastly, what does it mean to you to be apart of an event like this, with a fundraising angle? 
AC: It’s very rewarding to be a volunteer Race Director for the DC Cupid’s Undie Run. I have met so many wonderful people and families affected by NF, and the money we raise has a very real impact on their lives. The Foundation’s research initiatives have generated 116 pre-clinical studies that have led to 16 clinical trials. Being a part of an event that truly puts the FUN in fundraising and has such a positive impact on those affected by NF means everything to me. Every one mile(ish) we run and every dollar we raise gets us one step closer to a cure.

For more information about the race or how to get involved, visit www.cupids.org

Photo: DC Fray

Five Reasons You Need To Pickup A #FrayLife Passport ASAP

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Eager to explore the city with your friends but on a tight budget? Don’t let #FOMO get the best of you. Make fun possible with a #FrayLife Passport instead.  

Get your hands on one of the best new ways to get to know everything DC has to offer from food and drink to one-of-a-kind experiences. Here are five reasons why you need a Fray Passport.

Spend a Little, Save A LOT

Why pay full price on a night out or Sunday Funday when you can save 50 percent? There are more than $250 in savings in the Fray Life Passport with BOGOs galore. You’ll find 2-for-1 flights of rare whiskey samples at RiRa, 2-for-1 margaritas at Nellie’s, and even a 2-for-1 brunch deal at Medium Rare, just to name a few deals. 

You can even get savings on savings. Passports are $30, but you can save 20 percent by entering promo code FRAYPASSPORT20. Each offer is valued at $15-$20, so the passport basically pays for itself after one or two uses! Make memories. Save money. 

More Than Just Drinks!

Most city passport-type programs only offer deals at bars for beverages. While we love a good cocktail or brew, the #FrayLife Passport includes deals and exclusive offers on food, drinks, activities and even gym memberships. Not just your typical happy hour. 

#FrayLife wants you to see more of DC than a bar’s liquor shelf. We want you to hook you up with a discount at Topgolf and Arlington Escape Room, or help you save on workouts at Balance Gym, F45, and Pacers Run Club. Eat, drink and explore DC. 

Get to Know the DMV, Not Just DC

A #FrayLife Passport gives you the perfect opportunity to try a cuisine you’ve never had, visit a neighborhood you’ve never been to, or give that new exercise fad a try. If for some reason it wasn’t what you expected, you can at least feel good about the fact that you didn’t have to pay full price! With deals in Maryland and Northern Virginia, in addition to DC, you can get out and explore everything the DMV has to offer.

Rotating Deals, Year Round

New deals each season! There will be a summer/fall Passport as well with new offers on things to eat, drink and do in the DMV so you’ll never get bored. 

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Shake up your routine and use this opportunity to try something new with your friends. It’s an ideal way to impress your special someone on your next date night, and is a fantastic way to explore the city if you happen to be new here…or even if you’ve lived here for years. 

Sold on it yet? Get your Fray Life Passport now! Over $250 in savings for just $30. Did we say $30? Not so fast! Enter the promo code FRAYPASSPORT20 for 20 percent off your order. 

All orders include free shipping. Passports offers will be valid until June 30. For more information, visit www.fraylifepassport.com.

Sponsored Content

Anafre's pork shank // Photo: courtesy of Anafre

Anafre Offers Variety Of Mexican Seafood Flavor

If you are familiar with Mexican restaurants Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana and El Sol, you will know that the chef behind them, Alfredo Solis is not joking around with the food. (And if you are not familiar with those spots, you should get yourself there). 

Anafre, the coastal Mexican restaurant by the same group marks yet another labor of love. Opened this past November in Columbia Heights, Anafre showcases the diversity and depth of coastal Mexican cuisine, aiming to transport diners on a lovely culinary journey around Mexico.  

The name comes from the Spanish word for a “portable oven,” traditionally a clay pot that has an opening in the bottom where hot coals are placed that then heat up the dish atop the pot. In many Mexican countryside homes the anafre might be the only stove used. At the restaurant, this style of cooking is interpreted in an open kitchen where most items are prepared over charcoal.

Anafre’s vibe is chill and relaxed, the ingredients and food is always fresh and delicious, and the dishes are hearty and creative. It’s a perfect spot to let loose with friends for drinks or dinner. Best of all, everything is extremely reasonably priced, with entrees starting at $12. Oh, and did I mention the yummy cocktails?

Mole old fashioned // Photo: courtesy of Anafre

The drink list is made up of cocktails leaning heavy on Mexican whiskies, sotol, tequila and mezcal. The restaurant’s take on the Old Fashioned features Solis’ signature mole sauce – the drink is spicy, boozy and a must try. The Piña Colada Viaja a Mexico is a take on the classic cocktail that includes mezcal in addition to rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice and Tajín Mexican seasoningHowever, any of the cocktails by Heriberto Cassanero, previously of Reliable Tavern, Bar Lorea and Little Havana are enjoyable, and feature a range of concoctions in the price range of $10-$14. 

For appetizers, don’t miss the oysters al carbon con crab meat – oysters baked with jalapeno butter, topped with a generous heap of crab meat, a bit of cheese and served with bolillo bread – you’ll want it to soak up all that delicious butter. This dish was  lovely and decadent – and at $13 for six oysters, it’s an excellent deal. Other appetizers feature guacamole with lobster, seafood nachos with crab, and shrimp and pickled jalapenos. The queso fundido – prepared on top of the grill in a plant leaf with huitlacoche makes for a lovely presentation and tasty dish that’s just a bit different from other queso fundidos. 

The rest of the menu spans a variety of tacos, tortas and dishes. We very much enjoyed the chile relleno taco – tortillas topped with cheese stuffed chilis. The fried oyster taco was also delectable and comes with red cabbage, chipotle aioli and avocado. These tacos are not petite and as they are the “guisado” or stew style – they are substantial, homey and absolutely fantastic. At about $4, again I’m surprised at the incredible value for something so high quality. 

Another excellent dish is the 12-hour pork shank – it’s extremely tender and the meat falls off the bone, as one would expect from 12 hours of slow cooking done right, the marinade is thick and rich and spicy, and forms a delicious plate of food. There’s a reason this made it over from the Little Havana menu. It also makes excellent leftovers – and you likely will have leftovers as it’s another generously portioned dish. It’s almost ridiculous that this dish is only $14 – I would gladly pay double that. 

Other entrees are also solid and consistent – Anafre’s  abundance of seafood dishes honor Mexico’s many beach communities including Puerto Nuevo, also known as “Lobster Village,” where lobster is deep fried, split open and topped with butter. At Anafre, Puerto Nuevo-style lobster is accompanied by rice, beans, flour tortillas and topped with jalapeno butter.  The seafood enchilada is stuffed with shrimp and crab and topped with a red salsa – a hearty dish. 

To take full advantage of the charcoal grill, Solis also makes a Pollo A la Brasa – chicken cooked over wood charcoal making for a tender and tasty meat, and a slightly charred but crispy skin. The yuca fries here are fantastic, thinly sliced as opposed to the wedges typically found and crunchy all around. A whole chicken and three sides is just $22.

Dishes at Anafre are simple, elegant and fabulous, as the restaurant shows off the variety of Mexican seafood flavors – not something you find very often in Mexican restaurants. The food and drinks speak for themselves and I’d definitely come back here for a fun time with friends

Anafre: 3704 14th St. NW, DC; 202-758-2127; www.anafredc.com

Andrea Harris Smith as Nya in "Pipeline" // Photo: C. Stanley Photography

Studio Theatre’s Pipeline Depicts Correlation Between Struggles Past And Present

In one poignant scene in Dominique Morisseau’s play Pipeline, Nya, a black mom who teaches in a resource-strapped city school, shares the poem We Real Cool with her students. The Gwendolyn Books poem used to be a favorite of hers. But now its message hits a little too close to home.  

On another part of the stage, shrouded in darkness, Nya’s son Omari acts out the lines of the poem: “We skip school. We real cool… We jazz June. We die soon.”  

It’s the last line that chokes Nya up.  

When it was time to send her son to school, Nya chose a predominantly white college prep school, thinking this would give him a brighter future than the decaying urban alternative where she has taught for decades. But now Omari is in trouble. He hit a teacher and ran away. Suddenly, Nya fears she has made the wrong decisions for her son. Or worse: That regardless of her choices as a parent, her son will be caught up in a system that has led generations of black boys to live in America’s shadows.   

Pipeline’s title refers to the school-to-prison pipeline many young men of color face in America and the broken education system that feeds into itMorisseau was inspired to write Pipeline after reading Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, which traces racism in America with a direct line from slavery to today’s education inequality and high rates of incarceration for people of color.  The play runs through February 16 at Studio’s Mead Theatre. 

“Dominique is such a master at taking very big societal issues and harnessing them into characters’ lives, desires, dreams, and truths,” Awoye Timpo says

Timpo is directing Pipeline at Studio Theatre this month. This is her third time directing a Dominique Morisseau play and it’s this ability to personalize big societal problems through the lens of individual characters that keeps drawing her back to the material 

What makes Pipeline a great, great play, is that it asks some very big questions about who we are, where we come from, what we aspire to be and what stands in the way of us achieving those things,” Timpo says 

And it does so through the lens of a mother and son whose problems are instantly relatable. In Pipeline, we catch the characters in a deep moment of crisis

“From the moment we meet Nya, we are watching her try to figure out if her son’s actions are a result of her own personal failure as a mother,” Timpo says. And the weight of that question is enormous. 

Actor Justin Weaks weighs in on Omari’s struggle.

“This is a young man trying not to be anything but himself, but it’s hard. It’s hard to navigate when you’re operating as a token and feel that from the students, the faculty, everyone. It’s hard to discover who you are when you have so many people telling you what you are or what you should become.” 

As Nya and Omari struggle to connect over the course of the play, Morisseau encourages audiences to reconsider the legacy of America’s past.

If you are trying to save someone, how do you contend with how we got here as you think about how to move forward?” Timpo asks. 

“I think what we have to understand when it comes to educating young people,” Weaks adds, “is that these are complicated human beings who have come to be educated. They are dealing with things at home that we may not know about, things that are very specific to that human. Difficult behavior doesn’t come out of nowhere. It has a source and it’s important to understand where these kids are coming from in order to give them the education they need.” 

Morisseau is known for incorporating the works of African American artists of previous generations into her plays. Gwendolyn Brook’s We Real Cool is a huge presence in Pipeline, as is Richard Wright’s 1940 novel Native Son, the story of a young black man whose crimes are portrayed as the inevitable outcome of a society that treats black men as criminals. Through these nods to writers of the past, Morisseau weaves their work into her own writing, creating a sense of legacy and reminding us that the struggles of the past are the struggles of the present.

It’s like she is saying that we have these ancestral spirits who are lurking inside us. The way she lets those writers vibrate in her work is really exciting,” Timpo says.  

“We as black artists now are standing on the shoulders of so many generations of artist who have come before us,” she continues. “The beautiful thing about Pipeline is that Dominique is capturing the sights and sounds of this moment in time even as we can feel the presence of other writers inside her work.”  

Pipeline runs through February 16 at Studio Theatre. Times and tickets vary by date. For more information abut the play, visit Studio’s website.

Studio Theatre: 1501 1rth St. NW, DC; 202-332-3300; www.studiotheatre.org

Photos: Ashley Habeck

Pilates Studio Empowers DC Residents For 21 Years

For 21 years, Excel Pilates DC has been a cornerstone business in DC’s Brookland neighborhood. 

What was just an empty space in 1998 transformed into a full blown Pilates studio when Lesa McLaughlin and former business partner Kerry De Vivo, talked the owner of the space into renting it to them. The two women built out the entire studio themselves, painting the walls and floors, and filling the space with reformers, wall units, chairs, barrels and more. McLaughlin calls the process “a labor of love.”

The term “Pilates” comes from Joseph Pilates, the founder of robust exercises centered around coordination, balance, strength and flexibility. 

“Empower Your Body, Empower Your Mind,” is the Excel Pilates DC motto. With a strong commitment to following the original teachings of Joseph Pilates, McLaughlin says that what makes her studio unique is that its teachings are “authentic.”

Lesa McLaughlin

McLaughlin grew up as a multi-sport athlete and pursued a dance degree at George Mason University. She went on to dance professionally, but was injured in a car accident toward the later part of her career, inspiring her to go to New York to practice and study Pilates. She then became certified in The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning in 1995, under the instruction of Joseph Pilates’ own student, Romana Kryzanowska.

Pilates was a natural transition for McLaughlin, and helped her find her way back to dance in a pain-free way. 

That is the intriguing part about the exercise method to many people. Regardless of fitness experience, McLaughlin said Pilates is for everyone.

“Pilates isn’t physical therapy, it’s exercise. It can be taught in a way that it’s for everybody,” McLaughlin says. “You don’t have to be an elite athlete or dancer to experience the work in a meaningful way.”

Having a meaningful experience with Pilates is one requirement candidates must have to go through McLaughlin’s teacher training program, along with several others. All of her teachings are classical, rooting from the original teachings of Joseph Pilates, which is one reason why Jaqueline Emanuel, an Excel Pilates DC instructor, fell in love with the studio. 

Emanuel joined the studio as a student in 2000, and knew she had the passion necessary to eventually become an instructor.

“What I like most about Pilates, and why I wanted to be a teacher, is because I believe in it so much. Anybody can do it,” Emanuel says. “It’s complete coordination of mind, body, spirit and I find that to be a unique quality in the movement.”

As the Pilates movement has grown over the years, so has Excel Pilates. In 2002, a second location opened in Annapolis Maryland, which is now owned and operated by De Vivo. Just five years ago, Alexandra Adams, a former student of Excel Pilates DC, opened another location in McLean, Virginia. These are the “sister” studios to the DC location.

Over the past 21 years of owning her own business, seeing the community that the studio has created is extremely satisfying to McLaughlin. Clients who frequented the studio when it first opened still travel today from other areas in DC to take classes, and there is something to be said for that.

“To know people are dedicated not only to the work, but to our studio, and to see people experience the work and do things they wouldn’t be able to do, that’s rewarding for me,” McLaughlin says. “That’s why I do it.”

To learn more about Excel Pilates DC and class offerings, visit www.excelpilates.com.

Excel Pilates DC: 3407 8th St. NE, DC; 202-269-3020; www.excelpilates.com

Photo: courtesy of Step Afrika!

A Step Above the Rest: Step Afrika! Returns To Strathmore

Step Afrika! was created in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, who wanted to honor the African American ritual of stepping – a polyrhythmic, percussive dance form that uses the body as an instrument – and preserve, expand and promote the art form. 

“We were the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping,” says Williams, the group’s founder and executive director. “It’s a custom dance form first created by African American fraternities and sororities as a way of expressing pride in their organizations.”

Today, the Step Afrika! troupe is comprised of 14 full-time artists. For the past 25 years, the DC-based organization has regularly engaged 30,000 college students across the nation, taught teamwork and discipline to 200 kids as part of the Summer Steps with Step Afrika! summer camp and expanded culture-based arts education for more than 20,000 DC, Maryland and Virginia school students.

The group has also appeared on Broadway and will be returning to the Great White Way in 2020, offering the latest in lightning-fast footwork, percussive chants and incredible synchronicity.

“We take the art form to the next level and put it right up there with ballet, modern and tap,” Williams says. “Our showcase is one of the best ways to get introduced to stepping for those who have never seen it.”

On January 12, Step Afrika! will return to the Strathmore to preview its latest production, Drumfolk. The performance, which was commissioned by Strathmore, traces the roots of step back to the African American percussive traditions of patting juba, hambone, ring shout and tap. 

Drumfolk reflects on the harsh realities of the American South and celebrates the fortitude of enslaved Africans who practiced these transcendent musical forms,” Williams says. “We’re going to be taking this show on a 10-city tour throughout 2020. To have Strathmore get behind us and help us with this work has been super important for us.”

He explains that Drumfolk is based on very little known events in American history that Step Afrika! feels have had a tremendous impact on the country.

“There was a revolt in 1739 called the Stono Rebellion, which was led by Africans against the system of slavery,” Williams says. “These were some of the first activists before the country even formed. Even though it was not successful in overthrowing slavery, it led to the Negro Act of 1740 where Africans lost the right to use their drums. We started to see African Americans using their bodies as the drums, and so many of our art forms can find their origins in his historical moment.”

The Strathmore program will also include Step Xplosion, a showcase of the region’s finest step squads. 

“We’re going to hit the stage at the Strathmore for one of our biggest performances of the year,” Williams says. “This show is where we invite step teams from across the country to share the stage with us and demonstrate the different styles of stepping that can be found across the U.S. This is a uniquely American art form and this show gives audiences a bigger look at the form.”

Among the featured step teams will be Eleanor Roosevelt High School’s Dem Raider Boyz Step Squad; Howard University’s Cook Hall Step Team; Paint Branch High School’s The Eclectic Steppers; the Hype Queens from North Carolina; and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

A DJ will play music in between the performances and Williams describes the atmosphere as going to be like “a college step show on steroids!” 

“These teams aren’t competing for money, they are just having fun and exhibiting their abilities, style and forms,” Williams says. “The shows are fun. They are interactive and there really is no fourth wall between the audience and the artists. We encourage audiences of all ages to come out, make noise and connect with our performers.”

Prior to the show, Williams will hold a conversation in the Music Center Education Room 402 to discuss the creative process behind Step Afrika!’s Drumfolk program. The talk is free, but registration is required as space is limited.

“I think more people should see and learn about this art form because it is a uniquely American art form and one of the few indigenous dance forms created in the last 100 years,” Williams says. “If you’ve never seen Step Afrika!, it’s a DMV experience that everyone should see at least once. We are DC’s most celebrated dance company and no one else in the word has a company like us.”

Step Afrika! performs at the Strathmore at 5 p.m. on Sunday, January 12. Tickets $35-$75. For more information, visit www.strathmore.org.

The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. Bethesda, MD; 301-581-5100; www.strathmore.org

Kittie Glitter and Elvis Presley // Photo: Studio Vision

Elvis Presley Cracks Jokes While Celebs Throw Punches (Sort Of)

On January 3 and 4, Astro Pop Events celebrated Elvis Presley’s legacy with their 10th Annual Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club at the GALA Hispanic Theatre. Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, is the kind of the star of the show, but people also enjoyed fights, improv and burlesque performances.

The first rule of fight club is to not talk about fight club. This review will slightly break the rule. While Elvis is the main attraction, the event loosely celebrates him. Before the show begins, patrons will hear his music and can grab merchandise. A man in the audience even wore a cape similar to ones Presley wore. Other members of the audience donned glasses that portrayed them with Presley’s iconic sideburns. His image was in the center of the stage, between two wooden cages where fighters would soon enter and exit. A woman in a sparkly dress, Kittie Glitter, joined a Presley impersonator at a table on to the side of the stage. Together they would emcee the show.

The performance stands out because it encourages some audience participation. During the middle of a skit, a member of the audience shouted out to the performers and rather than ignoring it, a member of the cast made a quick remark. The show does more than entertain the audience, but recognizes how important they are and actively engages with them. 

In the beginning, you meet Commodious, Presley’s toilet. Commodious is one of the few reoccurring characters. Commodious serves two purposes. His first purpose is to welcome the audience and begin the show. His second is to hold the traditional quaalaise toss. Audience members can purchase foam pills (noted as quaalaise), and their goal is to throw it into Commodious’ bowl. The cast held a raffle based on what got inside the bowl with the winner receiving a painting of Elvis Presley. 

The show was fun with the unique characters interacting with each other, and fan favorites returning for a royal rumble at the end. The diverse cast was brought to life with colorful costumes, and included real and fictional beings. For example, The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter made an appearance. Dr. Phil also walked through the cage to fight, with the actor who portrayed the TV personality doing an incredible job.

Fights typically had themes. For example, one theme was about different doctors squaring up and throwing punches. There were jokes and even monologues on top of the simulated tussles. 

The show is unique and a break from traditional comedy, best viewed with a drink. The cast drags you out of your comfort zone and makes you laugh at goofy slapstick battles, complete with snarky comments. The performance can be compared to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, both of which have their own cult following. The cast of Elvis’ Birthday Fight Club recognized this and eagerly handed out a thank you prize and an awards card to returning patrons.

You can catch the performance in Baltimore, Maryland  at Creative Alliance on January 17-18. For more information about that show, click here. For more information about Astro Pop Events, click here.

Shea Van Horn as Summer Camp // Photo: Jason Tucker

Summer Camp Rings In The Raging ‘20s with BENT

A new decade is upon us and the start of 2020 means we can channel (even more than we already do) the infamous Roaring ‘20s, where fashion was iconic and partying wasn’t only a way of life, but a risky thrill (thanks Prohibition). Celebrating the new decade with similar theatricality, this Saturday 9:30 Club will host BENT: Ringing in the Raging ‘20s

With just one year under their belt, 9:30 Club’s quarterly BENT parties have increased in popularity and scope with each event, consistently filling and transforming the venue in new and exciting ways. With a focus on celebrating LGBTQ entertainment, the quarterly parties for 2020 will focus on different decades from the 20th century, including 1970s disco, 1980s Halloween, PRIDE and this weekend’s Raging ‘20s.

BENT will be hosted by Pussy Noir and has a long list of entertainers including DJ L Stackz, Baronhawk Poitier, Lemz vs. Tezrah, Sean Morris, Baby and Majic Dyke. Also, DC DJ Shea Van Horn’s drag persona Summer Camp will debut on the 9:30 Club stage.

“Nightlife does shift and evolve, and some of the things that have changed in the last couple of years are for the better and I think that BENT is a good example of how things have changed to be more inclusive,” Van Horn says. “It’s a mix of DJs and performers and go-go dancers, and I think they’ve done a really great job of being more aware of a fuller queer community.”

Van Horn has long been a staple of the DC LGBTQ entertainment scene says Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director for I.M.P. Back in 2005, he, Chris Farris and Karl Jones created the non-profit, queer performance group CRACK with the goal of providing a space for local performers and artists who fell through the “cracks” of more traditional DC venues. Van Horn also co-produced and co-hosted Pride dance party MIXTAPE at 9:30 Club with DJ Matt Bailer since 2008.

After many years performing and DJing in DC, Van Horn moved to India with his husband and planned to take a hiatus there. His break lasted for about a year, but eventually he met local LGBTQ performers and promoters and dabbled in performing again. Now back in the District after more than two years, BENT’s Raging ‘20s party is more than a debut for Summer Camp; it’s also a return to the DC entertainment scene for Van Horn.

“Each time I get on the stage it still feels incredible and humbling and exciting to be on the same stage that idols of mine have also been on,” Van Horn says, having DJed as himself at 9:30 Club for MIXTAPE numerous times. 

As for it being Summer Camp’s first time at the venue, it will be special Van Horn says, especially as Camp has never performed in front of 1,200 people before. Playing on the theme, Van Horn is looking to bring an old Hollywood vibe to Camp’s performance, and may include visuals as well.

Van Horn adds that the 9:30 crew, especially BENT co-creator Steve Lemmerman, have done a great job in the way they’ve subtly but effectively changed the venue for each party, not just the décor but the energy of the room as well.

“I think they’ve done a really effective job at creating a night that has evolved and built off of the alternative, queer scene in DC over the last decade, but just seems like the next level, the next sort of iteration [of the scene],” Van Horn says.

Schaefer also highlights the shift in energy of 9:30 during BENT parties, saying you can feel the close-knit ties as you wander through the crowd.

“We hear a lot from friends that are in different cities across the country that are talking about BENT, and that’s something that is really flattering and encouraging,” Schaefer says. “What I would say is probably the most gratifying aspect of it isn’t just the fact that it sells out each time, but the feel once you walk in, and that really is a sense of community.”

Don your best flapper dresses and pinstripe suits and head to 9:30 Club on Saturday, January 4 for BENT: Ringing in the Raging ‘20s. The doors open at 10 p.m. Tickets $20 and are going fast. For more information, visit www.930.com.

9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com

Photo: courtesy of Drew Gibson

Virginia Native Drew Gibson Returns To Pearl Street

When Richmond native Drew Gibson released his debut album Letterbox in 2007, the singer/songwriter quickly developed a strong local following, with songs that harkened back to American days of country-blues and songwriters of yesteryear.  

By 2015, now living in Sterling, VA, Gibson came out with the critically acclaimed 1532, his third album, one that had a theme of family. Dedicated to his dad, who passed away a few years prior, the recording included tales of Gibson’s family beginning with its roots in Scotland.

After the success of his first concept album, Gibson returned to the format for his latest release, Shipbuilder, which came out in 2019, and carries a theme of water throughout.

“I felt that having a concept drew people in to my prior record, and it made it more special to have a theme,” he says. “As successful as that record was, I was really worried about how to follow that up because it was so personal. Over the course of time, I developed the theme about water metaphorically talking about the ups and downs of life.”

He considers Shipbuilder his best work to date and is happy his fans are enjoying it just as much as 1532

On January 5, Gibson will be performing a free show at Pearl Street Warehouse located on DC’s District Wharf, one of his favorite venues.

“It’s a full band show and we’ll be playing stuff across all four of my records,” Gibson says. “It will be a little less emphasis on just the new one, and really spanning equally among all four.”

Playing live is always an exciting time for the singer, and he’s happy to be kicking off the new year with this intimate show at a time when the band is at the best it’s ever been.

“Instrumentally, we can all breathe a little bit with expansion of solos and the night is going to be a lot of fun,” he says. “These are some of the best musicians in not only DC, but even on the entire coast.”

Gibson knew at a young age that he wanted to be a musician. Although he wasn’t a fan of his four years of piano lessons, once he found a guitar in his home, he taught himself how to play and started a band with friends. 

“As you start to feel good about something, it breathes your drive to do it,” he says. “I started writing songs and went out solo in college. Throughout my life, I had mini-successes that have kept me going, and I feel blessed that people are enjoying my albums and I get good reviews.”

Being heard wasn’t always easy. Although it was easy to get songs online, because so many others are doing that as well, attracting a following took some time. Gibson built that up by playing live shows mostly in the DMV at places like Jammin Java, the Birchmere and of course, Pearl Street. 

In 2020, Gibson hopes to release a live recording and will continue touring and playing throughout the area.

“Being on stage is one of the most enjoyable things I can do you just get that chill,” Gibson says. “I get it from feeding off of other guys in the band and hearing how they attack a solo. And I love communicating with an audience. I just enjoy sharing my music.”

Drew Gibson will perform at Pearl Street Warehouse at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 5. Admission is free. For more information about the artist, click here.

Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; 202-380-9620; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

Photo: courtesy of Dan Silverman

Prince Of Petworth Presents Different Look At DC

If you clicked the “crime” tab on the popular blog, the Prince of Petworth, and scroll down, here is what you would have seen over a one week period in December:

December 10: Update: Arrest Made. Security Guards reportedly stabbed and hit by car at the Basilica; Police in Standoff in Brightwood with Suspect

December 12: “Apparently someone was in the treeline shooting at police officers near the 7-11 not far from Catholic University”

December 16: What the Hell Went Down This Weekend? 10:20 a.m. Saturday Shooting Homicide in Brentwood; Shots Fired in Shaw; 10-11 year old sought in a robbery investigation in Columbia Heights

If you were to read the blog, perhaps better known around town as PoPville, on a regular basis, you would think we’re living in a war zone. The blog creator Dan Silverman has been blogging about DC since 2006 and notes, “Crime in DC has always been bumping up and down. It’s cyclical.”

Silverman would know. By creating a space where users can post crimes as they occur, his blog documented crime, arguably, much quicker than any mainstream news outlet in the District.

The first time I met Silverman was when I invited him to do a podcast with my then host and I in 2013. Upon greeting him in the lobby of the studio in Eckington, his curiosity for DC was palpable. Before even shaking my hand he excitedly went on about how the building across the street looked totally different years ago. He was intriguing to me for a variety of reasons. Many people I knew or heard of had talked about writing “The Blog of Washington,” as if it were the great American novel, but few actually did it. And if they did, far less found a way to make a living off of it.  There he stood: short, blonde and New York as hell, knowing more about the happenings of my city than I did.

“I started the blog because of development,” Silverman says. “You kept hearing, this is coming, that’s going to happen, and I’m like what? Where? Couldn’t find anything about it. And I’m a pretty obsessive person. If I want to know about it, I really want to know about it. I don’t want to read about it once a month or once a week. I said, yeah, what the hell, I’ll start it myself.”

He did and it became extremely popular. But one additional way it proved extremely effective is by allowing real time access to information about crimes in DC. Yes, The Washington Post covers violent crime thoroughly, but doesn’t operate with the speed of a site built to function like a social media platform.

“A lot of our crime posts are user generated,” he says. “Reports as they arrive. A shooting will occur and 60 seconds later someone is messaging me about hearing gun shots.”  

The nation’s capital is a fast growing city. Cranes decorate the sky as do homeless tents on our sidewalks.  And since this is DC, with perhaps the most opinionated demographic in the country, the response to this urban sprawl and some of its pitfalls are varied. This includes crime, which is something Silverman is acutely aware both from emails and the comment box on his blog. 

“What’s crazy is there will be a post about a beating or robbery and someone will comment or email, ‘I’m glad they got beat up.’ Now that’s f*cked up. That person just got seriously injured,” Silverman says.  

But this is the climate we live in: Anger, frustration and dissent have a home in DC.

“We’re seeing a lot more assaults, a lot more weapon use,” said Anwar Graves, former assistant U.S. attorney for the the city, now associate counsel at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

When asked about what age groups he was seeing commit these crimes he said, “When it comes to the age groups it truly does vary. The defendants are getting younger and younger, unfortunately. We are having a lot of juveniles that we are trying as adults.”

Which begs the question, what on earth is contributing to this?

“A defense attorney said that once you get to age 8, if they haven’t found a way to make sure you are in a safe environment by [then], you are becoming more at risk to commit a crime,” Graves says.  

Through the Prince of Petworth blog, Washingtonians gain a different lens into crime in DC, more specifically in their own neighborhoods but due to the frequency of these posts, it also raises the question: Is crime in DC actually getting worse?  

Silverman’s blog was intended to be upbeat and positive, and should absolutely be celebrated for being a go to for all of the curiosities of DC, but since its inception, the site also unfortunately provides an aperture into a city in pain.

For more information about Prince of Petworth, visit Popville.com.