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Music Picks: July 2018

FRIDAY, JULY 6

Pusha T
The first time I heard about Daytona, the new Pusha T record, was at work. Everyone was talking about the seven-song album – and even the guy who never tweets had to tweet about it. The record is entirely produced by Kanye West, which may rub you the wrong way; however, this side of the studio booth may be better place for him at this point, and he entirely leaves the verses to King Push. The record is a crisp 21 minutes long, but fire from start to finish. This is the album we’ve been waiting for since the 2015 teaser Darkest Before Dawn. Show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $30. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

Shy Glizzy
Southeast DC’s own Shy Glizzy is coming to the Fillmore to remind y’all that the Young Jefe still runs things. His summer single “Do You Understand?” featuring Gunna and Tory Lanez premiered last month, and it’s one of the smoother beats he’s taken to rapping over, similar to the track “Dope Boy Magic” from 2017 release Quiet Storm. He may be slowing down the tempo of his music, but he’s keeping high momentum with constant releases, and I’m anxiously waiting to see what’s next for him. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $30-$100. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

Steve Bug
Steve Bug has been on the scene since 1991. That’s before I was even born, and yet his grooves have yet to grow tiresome. Born Stefan Brugesch in Germany, he’s become known over his career as the “Gentleman of Techno” for his professionalism, dependability and consistent sets. His body of work continues to strengthen with 2018’s Paradise Sold, a collaboration with Langenberg, another guru of the German deep house scene. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $10. Flash: 645 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.flashdc.com

SATURDAY, JULY 7

Airøspace
Airøspace, the Southeast DC raised MC, is one we’ve been waiting for– at least those of us spending too much time listening to lo-fi beat tapes, as the instrumental tapes tend to grow stale quite quickly though, but he gives them the breath they need. Not all his tracks are lo-fi, though. On his latest release Hitagi, Vol. 3.1, you can find tracks that cull together a range of influences from trap to OSTs. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

Honey
DC rock trio Honey has a sound that’s much fuller than their lineup of guitar, drums and bass alone might lead you to think. I got to play with them once and what I realized is they are perfectly balanced; none of the voices are competing with one another. The chorus heavy guitar gives a real sense of depth, allowing the melodies in both the bass and vocals to stand out and the drums fill in the space between. From that show at Looking Glass Lounge to their EP release, they’ve come a long way in a short while. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $8. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

SUNDAY, JULY 8

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th Anniversary Tour
For fans of hip hop and neo-soul, Lauryn Hill is a household name, along with Erykah Badu and D’Angelo. Hill’s debut record The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill propelled her to international stardom in a way no one could have predicted. Twenty years later, Hill is touring the record most responsible for her enduring legacy once again. Her live shows have been said to lack the swagger you hear on the record, but hopefully the Hill from the studio will show up for this one. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Rd. Bristow, VA; www.livenation.com

Rodriguez Jr.
Rodriguez Jr. is the latest project from south of France native Olivier Mateu. Previously he’s made music with the Youngsters, but Rodriguez Jr. seems to be the best iteration of his production yet. He makes dance music informed by both vintage synthesizers and avant-garde western art music, from Satie to Stockhausen. The latter influences are not clear, given how danceable the music is. Maybe they’re related in an emotional sense, but I find Rodriguez Jr. as more of a cinema-informed electronic musician. Doors at 4 p.m. Tickets $8. Flash: 645 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.flashdc.com

MONDAY, JULY 9

The Octopus Project
The Octopus Project, if you couldn’t tell from the name, are an incredibly hipster group, as hipster as the Wes Anderson movies their music videos feel inspired by. That said, I’m excited for these psychedelic rockers to come through DC. From Austin, Texas, they describe themselves as indietronica for the number of synthesizers they use and their role in shaping the sound – though it’s a label which only becomes apparent after you hear it spoken. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $13. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC;
www.unionstage.com

WEDNESDAY JULY 11

Dent May
The “softest boy in Mississippi” is bringing “Across the Multiverse” to our neck of the woods this month on his tour supported by singer, guitarist Shannon Lay. This is his first release since making the move to Los Angeles, and for the label Carpark Records; he was previously signed to Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label for his debut album in 2009. Across the Multiverse provides some chill, beachy summer vibes and May knows it. He even added some beer cozies and SPF 15 ChapStick to his merch offerings to emphasize the feeling, or perhaps as a nod to his own habit of applying lip balm every five minutes. Upon first listen to his newest album, this multi-instrumentalist, producer and self-described hotel bar lounge singer, gives me Elton John vibes with leading track “Hello Cruel World,” though his haircut and specs may have solidified that comparison a little more than I’d like to admit. Nevertheless, it’ll be a great show. 8 p.m. Tickets $12. Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. Vienna, VA; www.jamminjava.com

SATURDAY JULY 14

Now, Now
After a few years of self-discovery and a battle with writer’s block, KC Dalager and Brad Hale (a.k.a. Now, Now) are back with their most heartfelt and personal album yet. Saved is the follow up to the almost five-year radio silence after Threads, a record that earned them a coveted slot performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in 2012. I’m going to be completely transparent here and say I assumed this band had broken up before hearing of this show, but I’m glad to hear the duo’s new music. “SGL” and “Yours” are the standout tracks from the album, but “Know Me” depicts the evolution of the band’s sound, while hearkening back to the hollow production and airy vocals that made their first impression on me on the Neighbors EP. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

SUNDAY, JULY 15

Halsey
You know her, you love her and you probably hear her singing whenever you enter a store geared to people under 30 or turn on the radio. Halsey is coming to Wolf Trap on the North American leg of her worldwide tour for her 2017 release “hopeless fountain kingdom,” which reached #1 on the Billboard 200 this time last year. Jessie Reyez is joining her on a majority of the U.S. dates, which makes a lot of sense because they both have a similar rawness to their lyrics, and feature a comparable vocal tone, despite being categorized as pop music artists. I’m looking forward to seeing what other surprises Halsey has in store for us, too. 8 p.m. Tickets $40-$80. Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1645 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

Outer Spaces
Balitmore-based Outer Spaces may be the headliner here, but this show includes a couple different acts, including DC’s Bacchae and Los Angeles-based Goon. Look for the post-punk band about as wild the revelry their name, ahem Bacchae, suggests. Goon’s provides a more downtempo way to follow up, but their songs are lush, even if not so Dionysian. Outer Spaces are more straight forward indie pop, but don’t let that be a deterrence; they’re the reason to be there. 9 p.m. Tickets $12. Comet Ping Pong: 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

Wild Moccasins
Could you start a band with the person you love? Could you be in a relationship with them for a decade all while keeping the band together? Could you end that relationship amicably and remain bandmates that still co-write songs that may or may not be about each other and/or your potential new flames, and then go on tour together? Zahira Gutierrez and Cody Swann could, in fact that’s exactly the basis of their new release Look Together that debuted on June 29. Just the backstory alone made me give them a listen, but their glamorous, catchy, synth-filled pop kept me around. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $15. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 18

Jake Clemons
Saxophone player Jake Clemons comes to DC not too long after finishing up a tour with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. That’s right, Jake Clemons is none other than the nephew of the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, and he’s been performing in his stead since 2012, even playing his “Jungleland” solo. But the younger Clemons has his own music as well and released a solo record in 2017 titled Fear & Love. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets $20. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

Slum Village
If you’re surprised about this show, don’t worry, I was too. I had no idea Slum Village was still slumming. The group, now comprised of Young RJ and T3 are touring their 2018 release The Lost Scrolls, which contains previously unreleased “relics” from the twenty-year-old classic Fantastic Vol. 2. Of course, Young RJ was not part of the crew back then; however, T3 was, and Young RJ was mentored by Slum Village original J Dilla. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $22. Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

TUESDAY, JULY 19

Mourn
Three things come across in Mourn’s music videos: they’re very young, they’re very punk and they’re unabashedly Spanish. The quartet comes from Barcelona. In fact, they recently released a song “Barcelona City Tour,” one of the three singles released in anticipation of their latest record, Sorpresa Familia. From the music videos to the singles, you can tell the quartet finally has a bit of cash flow, and with that you can feel they’ve really come into their own. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $12. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

SATURDAY JULY 21

Deafheaven
This California-based sometimes duo, other times full band, makes a beautiful marriage of metal and shoegaze. The band has been camped out in Oakland recording their highly anticipated fourth studio album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. Their live shows are known for being so intense, they’ve inspired fans to leap onstage and lick frontman George Clarke’s shoes, so if that’s something you might be into here’s your chance to make it happen. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $20. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

SUNDAY JULY 22

DC101 Kerfuffle: Fall Out Boy, Rise Against, Awolnation, AJR, Robert DeLong, Mt. Joy, L.I.F.T.
DC101’s annual Kerfuffle returns with another stacked lineup. With legends like Fall Out Boy (who recently joined us here in DC to celebrate the Caps during the playoffs) and Rise Against, to the next great voices in alt-rock like AJR and Mt. Joy, there’s something for all music lovers at this all-day affair. Doors at 12:30 p.m., show begins 1:30 p.m. Tickets $55-$95. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

MONDAY, JULY 23

Del Florida
Del Florida, so far as I can tell, has almost little or nothing to do with Florida, and that’s ok. The half-neo soul, half-dream pop act was formed in Liverpool, and is now based in DC. The group is carried by the powerful pipes of lead vocalist Leela Dawson and the funky rhythm guitar. DC based Bottled Up will open for the group. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10. Velvet Lounge: 915 U St. NW, DC; www.velvetloungedc.com

TUESDAY JULY 24

Courtney Barnett
While one of her most biting lyrics may be “put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you,” we’re sure you won’t be disappointed by Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett live. She returns in support of her incredible sophomore album Tell Me How You Really Feel. While her collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice with fellow folk rocker Kurt Vile brought her to the District in 2017, we’re excited to see Barnett’s solo guitar slaying and acerbic lyrics when she headlines The Anthem solo. Joined by Julien Baker and Vagabon, don’t miss out on this night of incredible talent. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $40-$60. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

WEDNESDAY JULY 25

Echo & the Bunnymen and Violent Femmes
Two iconic 80s acts join forces on the same bill for one retro night. What better way to cure your mid-week blues than by trekking to The Anthem on a Wednesday to sing along to classics like “The Killing Moon” and “Blister in the Sun”? Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $55-$75. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

THURSDAY JULY 26

Shannon & the Clams
Cal Arts student turned bass guitarist Shannon Shaw and her band are bringing their 60s inspired psychedelic pop to DC for the release of their fifth album Onion, supported by Big Huge and Australian experimental pop band Gauche. Of the title track and album name, Shaw says, “I had this epiphany that was likening an onion to being human and how you’re nothing without layers of experience. Each time you have an experience it creates another layer in the onion […] Each song on this album is about problem-solving and having realizations about yourself.” 7 p.m. Tickets $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

FRIDAY, JULY 27

Frass Green
The bio for Frass Green on Spotify simply reads “joe tyler matt antonio,” which is about as opaque as their music or their artwork. But this lo-fi dream pop act is DC based and quite young. Joe Antoshak is the lead songwriter and began the project in his garage, the quality of which still seems to come through in the music. Be sure to check out their garage rockabilly tunes as they climb the ladder of DC venues. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $13. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

Glue Factory
What I like about the lead single off DC band Glue Factory’s debut record S/T is the contrast between what’s being said and what you’re hearing. First there’s the post-punk verse, which feels good, even if it feels familiar, but then it goes into a similarly familiar chorus. It’s more melodic and more pop, but still has the feel-it-in-your-bones punk element. At the same they’re singing about having “maggots in your eyes.” I never thought I would be lulled into singing those words. The show also features Positive No and Warm Sun. Doors at 10 p.m. Tickets $12. Comet Ping Pong: 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

SATURDAY JULY 28

David Byrne
If you missed the Talking Heads frontman at his sold-out show at The Anthem in May, fear not! The icon is back and not to be missed. I was wildly lucky to catch him on the first run, and it was nothing short of magical. Byrne achieved setlist nirvana, with a healthy combination of solo songs, Talking Heads classics and more from his ever-growing catalogue. If you’re still not convinced, every ticket purchased online for David Byrne includes a CD of the new album American Utopia. You’ll receive instructions via email on how to redeem your album shortly after ticket purchase. Plus, he’s supported by Benjamin Clementine, who just happens to have the voice of an angel. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets $60-$130. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

SUNDAY JULY 29

Lightmare
From their first show at Looking Glass Lounge (with the aforementioned Honey), Lightmare has had a quick ascendancy on the DC scene. The six-person, soul-punk arrangement will ask if you’ve ever been in love and if you wonder where the wild things are, and then prompt you to look for their debut record soon thereafter. The show also features the Prabir Trio and Wooden/Apple/Heart. The Richmond based trio writes psych-rock rooted in the Beatles “drenched in enough Tequila to make it slouch,” while Wooden/Apple/Heart is another DC band with an innovative take on folk. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $10. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

Warped Tour
I feel old as hell writing about the absolute last Warped Tour in history. I never got to experience the magic of Warped when I was a teenager and then it would’ve mattered more to me, but if this particular music scene was ever important to you, you should come out for this bittersweet last hurrah. Close the book on your teen angst the right way with bands like Simple Plan, 30H!3, The Maine, Mayday Parade, Four Year Strong and August Burns Red with many, many more. Doors at 11 a.m. Tickets $39-$55. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1

Rico Nasty
One of the most exciting new rappers to rise out of the DMV is none other than Rico Nasty. She’s a versatile artist with a killer fashion sense and several aliases who pioneered her own sound called Sugar Trap, which is sweet as pie and tough as nails at the same time. She takes inspiration for her music from many genres, citing Slipknot as one of her influences, and using piano samplings that eerily resemble Vanessa Carlton’s iconic “1000 miles” in one of her older tracks “Brandon.” Her show at the Fillmore is one of the first few on her “Nasty” tour, and this album marks her first release after signing with Atlantic last month. This is a can’t miss show, so come out and see her live because I already know it’s gonna be “Poppin.” Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $20-$50. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

THURSDAY AUGUST 2

Father John Misty
For those not familiar with his career, Josh Tillman went from unassuming Fleet Foxes drummer to sweet and understated solo artist before exiting whatever weird cocoon he had to live in to become his alter ego Father John Misty. Say what you will about his general attitude and reputation for making headlines throughout the blogosphere for his caustic comments – the man can write a damn good song. His most recent album God’s Favorite Customer sees him breaking character and getting a bit more personal. We’re still not entirely sure what to expect from this show, other than the excitement of knowing anything’s possible with this enigmatic and abrasive artist. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets $45-$55. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

Photo: Brandon Shields
Photo: Brandon Shields

What’s NUEX?

Let’s be honest, has anyone with even the slightest desire for rock star status not responded to a Craigslist ad at least once? I definitely ended up in someone’s basement once trying to do vocals over shoegaze while wondering if I’d make it home alive to feed my dog. Okay, that incident aside, I’ve heard many Craigslist musician meetup stories that were way more successful than mine.

Take hometown DC duo NUEX, for example. Something told singer-songwriter Camille Michelle Gray to respond to an ad seeking a vocalist posted by drummer-producer Teddy Aitkins. Fortunately for them both (and for us), neither was an axe murderer and it was pretty evident from day one that there was musical chemistry between them.

NUEX (pronounced “new”) is a play on the French word “nue”, which means naked. It’s a fitting name for the sonic duo that emerged from that fated Craigslist meetup more than four years ago. Working hard to pull tight, original tracks from their small in-house operation, NUEX’s sound is often both new and raw, emotion stripped bare and laid out for us to hear.

“Something that I want people listening to this music – or any music – to know is that when you’re listening to a song, especially the ones that are as emotional as ours, they’re like listening to someone’s soul or their diary,” Gray said. “So while you are jamming, don’t forget that each song has a little throbbing piece of our soul.”

And Gray does certainly have some soul vibes, but she also brings something fresh to the table. Her vocals are reminiscent of an old-school lounge singer with all the deep sadness, but she’s also got a hell of a lot more spunk. She isn’t going to lay on a piano and cry; she’s going to light up like a laser beam and tell you what’s up.

Aitkins, who is responsible for the otherworldly beats that drop below Gray’s smoky vocals, suggests the laser effect is intentional.

“We both have a big influence in space and stars and things being ethereal,” he said.

The two concur that the biggest influence on their work is recognizing and attempting to channel “the interconnectedness of everything.” The resulting sound is sultry (and sometimes sassy) robotica.

NUEX has hit all of the stops for “up-and-comers” in DC. Since 2014, they have played with Sofar Sounds and Luce Unplugged at the National Portrait Gallery, and were selected by Brightest Young Things to represent the city at SXSW 2017’s DC soundstage.

In May, the duo released their long-anticipated, five-track EP Affectus. The record has given them the boost they said was needed to keep moving forward, but now they’ve got the bug and are impatient for more. Indeed, Gray and Aitkins are refreshingly honest about not just the magic, but also the frustrations that come along with trying to “make it” musically – and trying to touch people creatively.

Balancing careers, families and gigs, it was difficult, they said, to play shows for three years and not have a physical body of work to point people to. It also made taking themselves seriously a challenge. They describe the EP release as a “relief.”

“For me, I feel like there’s always more room to grow,” Aitkins said. “I always feel like I could do better. Our sound is always evolving. So yeah, I think we’ve grown, but overall there’s still a lot of stuff that people have not heard that we’ve created.”

Gray adds that the EP was “definitely a catapult,” making the pair more driven and ready to get some of their newer work out for the public to experience.

“And that’s just selfishly,” Gray said. “I really want people to see what else we’re made of. The five songs on the EP are great, and we chose them on purpose because of what they meant to us and they’re strong. But as Teddy has already said, we’re so excited to have the door open and you guys walk through our little [world].”

And we should soon get a chance to peek a bit further into that world. During our interview, Gray and Aitkins teased two new videos for the singles “Eyes” and “Billie”. Working with cinematographers and producers Abe Vilchez-Moran and Kunitaro Ohi, Gray and Aitkins have been “floored” by how two other artists’ visions could make their own work come alive in a way they hadn’t conceived.

For “Eyes” especially, they said, having “everything to do with [the song], but not being physically a part of the video” was an awakening experience.

“The video made it so much more emotional than it ever was,” Aitkins said. “Watching it gave me a whole new respect for the song.”

Learn more about NUEX at www.wearenuex.com and keep your eyes peeled for new video releases. And in the meantime, catch the duo doing that sultry thing they do at Jammin Java on Monday, July 16 when they open for Mobley. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$20.

Jammin Java: 227 Maple Ave. E, Vienna, VA; 703-255-1566; www.jamminjava.com

Photo: Amber Breitenberg
Photo: Amber Breitenberg

Farming in the City: DC’s Urban Agriculture Movement

Amidst the District’s hustle and bustle, green paradises breathe fresh air and deliciously colorful life into the otherwise grey and concrete landscape. For some, passion for urban farming comes from a deep love of an old hobby. For others, the desire to provide jobs and fresh produce to their community is the true driving force. Either way, DC’s urban farming scene is growing – its tendrils reaching into notable bars and restaurants all over the city.

Urban farming, otherwise known as urban agriculture, is exactly what it sounds like: the process of growing food in a city or heavily populated area. Despite difficulties such as finding enough space and the right equipment to grow and harvest plants, several urban farming organizations in DC have found unexpected spots to thrive in the city.

While on a run one day in 2014, former Peace Corps volunteer Mary Ackley was contemplating the best locations to host her new project, Little Wild Things Farm. She drew inspiration from bin-farming techniques, which use small plots of land as efficiently as possible. But after searching high and low in the heart of the District, she couldn’t find adequate green space anywhere. That’s when she jogged past the Carmelite Friars Monastery in Northeast DC and realized that institutions often had large plots of land, so she sent them an email.

“At first, they were hesitant but we worked out an agreement, and years later, we still have a wonderful partnership with them,” Ackley says. “We maintain the land, they get produce from us every week, and we donate to a local homeless shelter on their behalf. Everybody wins.”

Later, Ackley found another home for Little Wild Things in the basement of The Pub & The People, an award-winning neighborhood bar. Because The Pub already had plans to build a second bar in their basement in the future, they thought it would be great to have a farm downstairs in the meantime. Little did they know that this unexpected partnership would immensely help both businesses.

When she was getting started, Ackley grew traditional vegetables but decided to switch to edible flowers and microgreens because they mature faster, allowing her to experiment more with varieties and growing techniques. Microgreens are sprouts of vegetables, herbs and leafy greens that pack an even bigger punch of nutrients and vitamins compared to their full-grown selves.

Many gourmet dishes are incomplete without fresh microgreens, so some of the best chefs in the city flock to Little Wild Things to get their fix. To Nick Bernel, one of The Pub’s four co-owners, this was one of the coolest parts of having a “zen garden” in their basement.

“[Little Wild Things] sells to the best restaurants in the whole city, so there were constantly chefs and sous chefs in our bar,” says Bernel, who adds this was great exposure for their business, which opened in 2015.

Eric Milton, sous chef at popular Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya, is one of many high-profile customers who goes to Little Wild Things for all of their microgreen needs.

“They are passionate about their product and that translates into their excellent farmer-to-chef relationship,” says Milton, who has been working with Little Wild Things for a year and a half. “They have a great micro fennel that goes well with white fish dishes, and their micro parsley and celery give fresh vegetable dishes a nice pop. The quality of their product is superb, their product is consistent and they are just super easy to work with.”

While The Pub grew in popularity, Little Wild Things grew in size as its proximity to its clients led to higher demand. In October 2017, Little Wild Things grew too large for the space and Ackley decided her time at The Pub was over.

“It was a bittersweet move because we loved The Pub and our partnership, but we just needed more space,” Ackley says. “It was a great way for us to learn about urban farming and how to be space intensive because we really perfected how to be efficient with our time.”

Little Wild Things is moving to a custom-built space in Ivy City this fall, where it will have all the space it needs to grow over 40 varieties of microgreens and over 20 kinds of edible flowers.

“We are really excited to have more events and pop-ups, and give tours of our new space,” Ackley says. “It’s great to be able to set our roots down in a neighborhood and build our community even further.”

Ackley’s right-hand woman, “work wife” and director of operations Chelsea Barker says that she finds urban farming to be a fulfilling and challenging line of work and hopes others will follow suit.

“The challenge that we are most interested in solving is the idea that farming is an exciting and desirable profession for people who like problem-solving, hard work, relationship building and working with your hands,” says Barker, who joined Ackley in 2016. “It really can be a win-win when urban farming is a texture of urban life.”

A similar philosophy and approach to urban farming is found at Cultivate the City, another for-profit commercial farm working to promote urban agriculture by creating more jobs and keeping profit within the neighborhood. Cultivate the City founder and CEO Niraj Ray found his love of gardening while living in Florida, then brought his hobby back to DC at his job with the EPA where he created a rooftop garden. He eventually decided to quit his day job to pursue his true passion, and so far, it’s been working out great.

In 2016, Cultivate the City installed an expansive rooftop garden at Nationals Park, where they grow produce and leafy greens for food services and dining in the Delta Club. Along with produce the chefs specifically ask for like squash, tomatoes and herbs, Ray likes to mix it up and surprise them with unique produce every season.

Cultivate the City also has a rooftop garden location on H Street where they grow a variety of unique crops indigenous to other regions for both restaurants and members of the public. For Pansaari, an Indian restaurant in Dupont Circle, Ray grows curry leaf and bitter melon. For his CSA (community-supported agriculture program), he sends a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs every week for 30 weeks to subscribers. And for fun, Ray likes to push the limit of what he can grow in the northeastern United States. This season, he’s excited to announce a healthy crop of passion fruit, which is native to southern Brazil.

“I try to grow unique things that you can’t buy at the grocery store, so we’re able to provide a commodity through what we’re growing,” he says. “It’s unique produce that you can’t find anywhere else, and it has a good story behind it.”

Along with tending to their own rooftop gardens, Cultivate the City offers plant management and garden build contracts for restaurants. At Calabash Tea & Tonic in Shaw, Cultivate the City maintains a garden full of basil, lemon grass, lavender, rosemary and a variety of mints used in tea blends.

When Calabash opens its new storefront in Brookland this summer, it will have an exterior designed by Cultivate the City, featuring 20 planters built by students at IDEA Public Charter School, where Ray teaches a senior seminar and manages a garden club. He notes that one of Cultivate the City’s greatest missions is to work with students and other nonprofit organizations to foster a passion for urban agriculture in the next generation of farmers.

“We’re trying to promote urban agriculture and create more jobs and sustainability around it,” he says. “It’s great to teach people how to grow their own food, but we’re focusing on how they can create careers out of that by maintaining all of the green spaces that we’re creating.”

At Community Connections DC, the capital’s largest not-for-profit mental health agency, Cultivate the City provides horticulture therapy training to help youths with traumatic histories gain necessary career skills like team building and punctuality. Many of these students graduate from the program and find their first jobs with Cultivate the City at the urban farms located in the backyards of their group homes. Nearby restaurants buy produce from these group home farms, closing the loop and keeping money within the neighborhood.

“Not only is urban farming creating positive psychological and societal benefit and quantifiable economic return, but it’s had such unquantifiable environmental benefits as well,” he says. “You’re helping create wildlife quarters for the bees and monarch butterflies, you’re helping to promote more wildlife, and you’re mitigating storm water onsite.”

At Rooftop Roots, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming the way people engage with their urban surroundings, environmental awareness and sustainability is a top priority. Founder Thomas Schneider says that based on its three-pillar model of sustainability including economical, societal and environmental considerations, Rooftop Roots works to create jobs, build sustainable gardens and increase the availability to fresh produce to those who might not have access.

“We try to create these spaces as an experience where people feel like they’re not only having a great garden, but they’re also giving back to the community,” Schneider says. “People are certainly taking a greater interest in their health and nutrition. I think growing food is a really powerful experience in terms of how people understand the connection between the life that they’re living and how small actions can play a big part in helping not only the environment but also the society that we live in.”

As organizations like Little Wild Things Farm, Cultivate the City and Rooftop Roots work to spread awareness on how people can use their urban and suburban landscapes to help the environment and their local communities, the urban agriculture movement is becoming more than just a trend – it’s transforming into a sustainable lifestyle.

Find microgreens from Little Wild Things Farm at the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market once a month, and sign up for any of these organization’s CSA programs at their websites below.

Cultivate the City: www.cultivatethecity.com
Little Wild Things: www.littlewildthingsfarm.com
Rooftop Roots: www.rooftoproots.org

Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images via Washington Capitals
Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images via Washington Capitals

It’s Really Happening: The Capitals are Playing for the Cup

No one said it was going to be easy, but the Washington Capitals fought their way back from the brink of elimination, and sit just four wins away from hockey’s ultimate prize. They’ll just have to erase the Vegas Golden Knights’ 1-0 series lead to do so.

After pummeling Tampa Bay on their home ice in the series’ first two tilts, the Lightning returned the favor in front of the fans at Capitol One Arena. Sloppy play up and down the roster made scoring chances hard to come by, where Steven Stamkos and the Bolts’ white-hot powerplay made the home team pay for its defensive errors, going 3/7 in Games 3 and 4.

Last Saturday’s Game 5 loss was the Caps’ third in a row, putting them behind 3-2 in the series, and leaving fans who ventured out to watch drinking to forget. As was the case in Games 3 and 4, the Caps were sloppy with the puck, giving up far too many quality chances to the potent Lightning offense, and looking hesitant and unsure defensively

After vanquishing the hated Penguins and jumping out to a 2-0 lead, hope had evaporated like morning fog on the Potomac, and fans across the DMV were bracing themselves for that all too familiar playoff disappointment.

But a series’ momentum can shift like the winds, and a veritable hurricane roared through Capital One Arena last Monday night for Game 6. Aside from a few early chances for the Lightning, the Caps were absolutely dominant. Stout defense stymied the usually virtuosic Lightning attack, and any shots that reached netminder Braden Holtby were stopped with aplomb. T.J. Oshie opened the scoring on a powerplay with 4:48 remaining in the 2nd period, working to get himself free in the slot before ripping the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy after a perfect pass from Nicklas Bäckström.  Turns out that’s all they would need.

As I watched from my perch in Row Q of Section 422, my back against the cool concrete high above Chinatown, craning my neck to see around various divisional championship banners, it was hard to shake the feeling that I was witnessing something special. There’s probably no such thing as a perfect game, but it’s hard to imagine a better 60 minutes of hockey than what the Caps played Monday night. To my mind, the physical game was the difference. Alexander Ovechkin and Devante Smith Pelly (who added the Caps second goal, and been a major contributor throughout the playoffs) were absolute wrecking balls, and even from the nosebleeds, I could see Lightning skaters looking over their shoulder to see if a human freight train was bearing down on them. Oshie tallied an empty-netter in the game’s waning seconds to seal the victory, and the party was on. The electric crowd spilled out of Capital One Arena and from the steps of the Portrait Gallery to the Greene Turtle a sea of red chanted “We want the Cup!” and “Let’s go Caps!”

Even after such a convincing showing in Game 6, anything can happen in a Game 7, but the Caps were simply not to be denied. In a script fit for Hollywood, Alex Ovechkin drew first blood just over a minute in, blasting an absolute howitzer past Vasilevskiy, and set a tone that refused to abate for the remaining 59 minutes.

Watching the squad respond to their captain’s early example was nothing short of inspiring. Devante Smith-Pelly and T.J. Oshie each sacrificed their bodies to block shots that would put down a bull moose (both would briefly leave the game before returning).  Tom Wilson galvanized his teammates with a fight near the end of the first period, thrashing Braydon Coburn (who has an inch and 25lbs on Wilson, by the way) after the two had been jawing at one another over the glass in the penalty box. Andre Burakovsky scored his first two goals of the playoffs just under 8 minutes apart, and Nicklas Bäckström put the icing on the cake with an empty netter. In sum, it was a complete team effort that allowed Washington to throttle the Lightning in the final two games of the series.

After a dozen years of disappointment, it was once again Ovechkin’s turn to be magnanimous in victory, leading his team in congratulating the Lightning on a hard-fought series in one of the greatest traditions in sports. Ever the free spirit, the red captain gave commentator Pierre McGuire a wolfish smirk before collecting the “cursed” Prince of Wales Trophy, not only touching it, but picking it up and posing for pictures with it as well. After exorcising the demons of Pittsburgh, superstition doesn’t seem to mean much to this team.

As Memorial Day weekend wound down, the final chapter of the Caps season began to unfold. Just off the Las Vegas Strip, T-Mobile Arena, hockey’s unlikeliest (and possibly loudest) venue gave fans a show both on and off the ice. Prior to puck drop, Lil Jon, Michael Buffer, and Criss Angel hyped up the crowd, while a glossy (if overwrought) pregame show proved that Sin City is going to do hockey its own way. Considering that most of DC’s celebrities are politicians with AARP cards, I wouldn’t expect to see any on-ice sword fights when the series comes to Capital One Arena.

While the pregame festivities were certainly a spectacle, the game itself was nothing short of bonkers. In true Vegas fashion, Game 1 treated fans to the on-ice equivalent of a heavyweight title bout, with both fighters trading haymakers and fans waiting to see who was still standing when the dust settled. Like a heavyweight fight, it wasn’t always pretty to watch, emotion and nerves had both sides amped up and sloppy, but the fireworks made up for the lack of precision. The NHL’s two remaining teams battled back and forth, trading goals, with neither team able to pull away. The 6-4 final score belies the fact that the Caps were one well-timed stick check away from Lars Eller tying the game at 5 apiece with 40 seconds to play before Tomas Nosek potted an empty netter to seal the Golden Knights’ first ever Stanley Cups Finals victory.

There are no moral victories in the Stanley Cup Finals, but it’s important to remember the circumstances surrounding Game 1. The Golden Knights were hosting their first ever Stanley Cup final game, and the team entered the tilt with a 12-3 record throughout the playoffs with a just a single home loss. They’ll have to clean up their act defensively, but the Caps have proved they can handle the iciest conditions in the desert, and the series will soon be heading back to the friendly confines of Capital One Arena. Two more dissimilar cities may not exist, and plotlines will abound both on and off the ice. If you missed the memo last time, there’s time to jump on the bandwagon. Buckle up.

Photo: Lydia Daniller
Photo: Lydia Daniller

BOYS IN TROUBLE Tackles Toxic Masculinity Through Dance

BOYS IN TROUBLE is a dance performance, but it’s not only a dance performance. The show is radically different than what most modern dance is – abstract movements perpetually difficult to follow for the untrained eye. Instead, this piece is based on storytelling, and it’s deeply understandable and relatable.

“The first thing people need to know is it’s not boring modern dance,” choreographer Sean Dorsey says. “Most people feel like they don’t ‘get’ modern dance, and for good reason. It’s pretty inaccessible!”

The actual product isn’t the only aspect that sets BOYS IN TROUBLE apart from what you might normally see at Brookland’s Dance Place, the show’s DC host on May 19 and 20. Much like Dorsey’s other works, the project focuses on masculinity from a transgender and queer viewpoint.

“We do this through full-throttle dance, highly-physical theatre and vulnerable storytelling,” Dorsey says. “One minute we’re flying through the air doing super technical and rigorous dancing, the next minute we’re delivering dialogue and irreverent humor, and the next minute we’re doing movement with storytelling.”

This kind of subject matter is a reflection of previous works by Dorsey, who is seemingly unanimously titled the first acclaimed transgender modern dance choreographer. His company Sean Dorsey Dance is located in San Francisco.

“As a trans person, I grew up without ever seeing a single other transgender modern dancer, let alone a choreographer. I’ve been so alone on this journey in many ways, all the while facing harsh barriers, judgement and questions from the world. This project pushed me to unleash some defiant energy and righteous, proud anger – and sass.”

With the titles and recognition, Dorsey feels a deep sense of responsibility, creating a huge amount of pressure each time he begins to craft a new work.

“I had to dance myself into being. I had to insert trans bodies and stories into dance. I care so deeply for my people – for my trans and gender-nonconforming communities – that I often take on too much, and work too hard.”

A piece with this kind of emotional weight doesn’t form overnight; Dorsey began initial research on the project three years ago. A year later, he began hosting free community forums on masculinity, led transgender-supportive dance classes and taught self-expression workshops for anyone willing to partake.

“The themes that arose in these communities guided me as I built the show, which is also built around the dancers’ own experiences and life histories,” he says. “After working for two years creating a show, you wait for a moment when you know that the piece is complete. There were several deep themes related to masculinity that I really, really wanted and needed to get into – sections that explore shame, body shame and questions of self-worth. These lie under everything that is toxic about masculinity.”

While the process of developing what would eventually become BOYS IN TROUBLE began years ago, Dorsey is not surprised that the topics he chooses to tackle are still wholly relevant to society. In his view, these issues have perpetually existed within society’s collective subconsciousness.

“When I started this project, I could not have imagined how timely and even more urgent it would become. Here’s the thing. Toxic masculinity, racism and white supremacy, transphobia, body shame and gender norms – none of these things are new. These things have plagued us ever since this country was founded on invasion, genocide, slavery, segregation, internment, and the criminalization of trans and queer bodies and love.”

All of Dorsey’s dance is uniquely educational about the transgender experience and has been performed all around the country on several tours, but he still feels a lack of acceptance from his own community on a wider scale. Though his work is routinely critically acclaimed and celebrated, he still sees barriers within the medium – walls he hopes to eradicate, one piece at a time.

“In ways, the dance field has not changed,” he says. “The field still actively excludes trans and gender-nonconforming people. I am now asking the field to call this a crisis. The barriers are massive and numerous. My national education program, TRANSform Dance, addresses these, and through trainings, workshops and performances, we are working with the field to change.”

One of those performances is BOYS IN TROUBLE, and Dorsey is excited for the District to see his work.

“If you love the theatre, I guarantee you will be moved deeply and laugh out loud. You will leave with your heart cracked open and transformed. It’s a very, very powerful show.”

BOYS IN TROUBLE will be performed at Dance Place on Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 20 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15-$30. Learn more at www.danceplace.org.

Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; 202-269-1600; www.danceplace.org

Photo: Soleil Konkel
Photo: Soleil Konkel

One Half DC, One Half NC, Full-On Hair Metal: Meet Bat Fangs

You never know who you’ll run into when you travel. You might think it strange to schedule an interview with a band that’s at least partly from the District during the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. But during our visit down south last month, we were able to secure an interview with fast-rising duo Bat Fangs.

Betsy Wright, one-third of DC-based rock band Ex Hex, and North Carolinian drummer Laura King released their self-titled album – a nod to the raucous hair metal of the 1980s – in February. Wright, who plays bass in Ex Hex, has put down the four-stringed instrument for its six-stringed cousin to produce speedy riffs, and King has found a serious niche rocking her drum set to the legendary genre of yesteryear.

Before their Luce Unplugged show on April 26 – part of a monthly concert series hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM)’s Luce Foundation Center for American Arts – we wanted to give locals a chance to learn a little bit more about these retro-inspired rockers.

On Tap: How long have you two known each other, and did you share a musical connection before forming Bat Fangs?
Laura King: We met because our bands were playing together.
Betsy Wright: Our bands played shows together in 2015, and we met a few times. I was trying to start playing music with a drummer, and I just thought of her because she’s really good. We hit it off as friends and when I contacted her, she was super enthusiastic, so I just went down to North Carolina and we jammed. We just kept going
back and forth.
LK: I said “Yes” because I love Ex Hex and my previous band had just broken up, so I was in a bit of a rut as far as not knowing what I was going to do. I didn’t know she played guitar at first, but as soon as I heard her demos, I was like, “Wow, she shreds.”

OT: How long had you been “cranking acid-soaked, 80s hard rock for the living and the dead,” and when did you decide that you wanted to make a record in that genre?
BW: I wrote a bunch of the songs before we started playing, and that was what was coming out of my brain.
LK: Then we got together and both realized our love for 80s hair metal and glam. We rode that wave for awhile, and that’s how it ended up.
BW: That’s the music that I grew up on, and that’s the place I was at. Plus, I never stopped liking that music. Going back and listening, I started learning all kinds of guitar solos with that 80s metal sound. I just went through a phase.

OT: How different are your roles in Bat Fangs in comparison to previous projects?
BW: I never played bass before I was in Ex Hex, so that was actually the big learning curve. I always played guitar, so I was like, “I guess I can play bass.” But then I was like, “Oh sh-t,” because bass is a lot different. It took me awhile to figure out the feel. I ended up playing really evenly and very simply to be in line with the kick drum. However, when I’m at home and when I write songs, I play guitar.
LK: I think that this band has brought out the drumming I’m supposed to do. I played drums in lots of other bands, and some of them have been more hardcore or more punk. Some were really quiet, but I think this kind of sound has brought out the best of my ability. It worked out really well, and that’s what makes it so seamless.

OT: There’s a not-so-subtle use of zombie imagery in your album art that’s reminiscent of iconography used by bands like Black Sabbath and Metallica. Why did you decide to use that influence?
BW: We were talking about album covers, and we were trying to get people to do it, and no one would. So, I decided to draw it myself, and my favorite record cover from all the ones I kept looking at was Masters of Reality by Black Sabbath, which is just black with purple letters – it looks awesome. I just decided I was going to do something like that, so I drew it out and enlarged it. Laura put in Photoshop and added the colors; we made it together.

OT: What slasher flicks and other media in the genre did you draw from to create that atmosphere in your music?
LK: We watched some slasher movies.
BW: I read Dracula last year again, and I love Frankenstein – it’s like my favorite book ever. I always listen to the audio books of it around October. It’s weird because a few of our songs are like that, but there are some that are not like that at all.
LK: It was right around Halloween when we got together, and we put out a song around then, but [that was] way before our album.  

OT: How does living in different states impact how you both hear and write music? Is it seamless to combine those views when writing songs?
BW: It’s been really natural. Things came together really fast because we don’t have to explain stuff to each other, and we just kind of play. We mess around with different beats and arrangements, but it’s kind of easy. I’ll have riffs or lyrics to a song, and then we get together and work on it.
LK: We work together for days straight when we’re together, and jam for like six hours with lots of breaks. It’s fun.
BW: Sometimes, we’ll do freestyle jams and some cool riffs will come out of that, too.

OT: How many songs did you two throw out while putting together your album?
BW: We didn’t play together for that long, so we kind of recorded and boom, boom, boom. Plus, we don’t have that many songs on the record, so there aren’t too many, but we did throw out a few. They just didn’t fit.
LK: They didn’t feel right. We might revisit them.
BW: Plus, we’re always working on new stuff.

OT: When starting something new after a long stint in other acts, is there an inevitable sense of relearning a process of working with another person? Is that a refreshing experience?
BW: Yes, we’re still in the honeymoon phase. We get along really well, and it’s been fun because it’s new.
LK: Bands can be tough to be in; in my last band, my guitar player wouldn’t look at me for three months and I was like, “I can’t do this.” We’re really tight now, and we’re in another band together. But yeah, Bat Fangs is fun.

Catch Bat Fangs’ Luce Unplugged show on April 26 at 5:30 p.m.; show is free to attend. If you can’t make their SAAM show, catch them at 9:30 Club on June 5. Learn more about the band at www.batfangs.bandcamp.com.

SAAM’s Luce Foundation Center for American Art: 8th and F Streets in NW, DC; 202-633-5435; www.americanart.si.edu/visit/saam/luce

Photo: Courtesy of MOM's
Photo: Courtesy of MOM's

In DC, It Is Easy Being Green

Though it may not be obvious at first glance, the District is filled with green and sustainable organizations, businesses, events and initiatives. Like many cities around the country, we’re taking the lead on reducing our ecological impact, combating climate change, protecting our air, lands and water, and conserving wildlife. Residents are making a commitment to living sustainably, and city officials are taking steps to reduce waste and protect natural places in the city. From the buildings we live in to the food we eat, DC is slowly but surely becoming a more environmentally friendly place to live – one innovation at a time. Check out our roundup of the great work that people are doing to make the city a little greener – sometimes literally!

Casey Trees

The District has long been known as the City of Trees, and our leafy green streets and parks are part of what makes the city special. The team behind Casey Trees, an organization dedicated to restoring, enhancing and protecting DC’s tree canopy, says that trees in urban spaces have many more benefits than most of us realize.

“Our trees do more than just look beautiful,” says Casey Trees Communications Specialist Jona Elwell. “Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen, [and] DC’s trees annually store 649,000 tons of carbon, which is the equivalent of removing 506,772 vehicles from the road. Green spaces in cities have been shown to help residents combat stress, anxiety [and] depression, and tree-lined streets have a traffic-calming effect, which keeps drivers and pedestrians safe.”

Casey Trees was founded in 2002, and their work has changed a lot over the past 16 years.

“When we first set out, we didn’t know what our urban forest was made of,” Elwell says. “Now, we’re working to measure and identify every tree in the city, and our volunteers and tree planting department annually plant over 3,200 trees throughout the District. Not to mention, we now have fully fledged pruning, advocacy and children’s education programs, too.”

Casey Trees’ work has expanded, but the mission of keeping DC true to its nickname hasn’t changed.

Learn more at www.caseytrees.org.

City Wildlife

Founded in 2013, City Wildlife rescues and rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife in DC and the surrounding metro area. That includes everything from squirrels, raccoons and possums to birds of prey, snakes, turtles and even bald eagles.

“Life in the city is hard for all forms of wildlife,” says executive director Paula Goldberg. “Most of the problems people have with wildlife are created by people. A lot of the calls we’re getting right now are nuisance calls, because animals such as raccoons and squirrels are finding openings in peoples’ homes to nest for spring babies.”

Along with the rehabilitation center, City Wildlife has launched several important wildlife conservation programs in the city. Lights Out DC works to encourage businesses and residential buildings to reduce or turn off their lights at night to avoid attracting migratory birds, and the Duck Watch program helps keep DC’s many mallard duck moms and their babies safe during the nesting season. When it comes to wildlife conservation in the city, “many things have changed for the better,” Goldberg says.

“The DC Department of Energy and the Environment has numerous biologists on staff, and then there’s the latest decree by [DC Mayor] Muriel Bowser that made Kingman and Heritage Islands protected conservation areas. We’ve made some incredible environmental strides that make life better, not only for people but wildlife as well.”

Learn more at www.citywildlife.org.

EcoWomen DC

Who runs the world? EcoWomen! With DC as host to the headquarters of hundreds of environmentally-focused organizations, it should come as no surprise that our city is home to a strong and substantial contingency of women working to make the world a greener, healthier place for all. Coming together in a community of shared goals and passions, EcoWomen was founded in 2003 in order to create a “space to build relationships among professional women in environmental fields.” This community now includes more than 40 events per year, and features a speaker and lecture series, monthly book club, skill-building workshops, “EcoHours,” a scholarship fund, joint volunteer days and an active listserv.

Today, EcoWomen is an incorporated nonprofit with local chapters throughout the nation (in Seattle, Colorado and Boston). Members work on issues ranging from wildlife conservation to energy policy to sustainable urbanization, and everything in between. DC chapter co-chair Tamara Toles O’Laughlin says she is constantly excited to find herself in the company of smart, ambitious and generous women, and looking ahead, the chapter’s focus will be on “redefining [its] relationship to power and aligning [its] programs to reflect true diversity as expressed by equity in [members’] expertise and inclusion of every voice working in the space.”

Read more about EcoWomen and how to get involved at www.dc.ecowomen.org.

Green Group Houses

Let’s face it: the cost of living in DC is pretty high, especially when it comes to paying rent. To afford housing, many of the District’s inhabitants get creative; this often involves “group houses,” aka grown-ass adults shacking up with four, five, six or eight other grown-ass adults in one house. But outside of saving dough, another draw of many of DC’s group houses is sharing a life with likeminded individuals. These spaces are often centered around themes like music, religion and acceptance. Co-opt-style green living is also popular here. Residents in green group houses commit as a household to composting, shared meals, recycling, reusing, volunteering for environmental causes and other eco-friendly practices.

For example, JoLeah Gorman chose to join a community formed in 2012 that consists of six people living in two houses in DC’s Northeast neighborhood of Deanwood because she “believe[s] strongly that the earth is precious, good food is a right for all people and being connected to nature is a key part of being human.” Members of Gorman’s community compost, garden, dumpster-dive and make a continuous effort to lower their carbon footprint. Food sustainability and security is especially important to this group. Living in a food desert in Ward 7, Gorman, her husband and four friends worked together to build a space for a year-round garden (with plans for rain barrels and solar panels), which they hope to open to neighbors in coming years.

MOM’s Organic Market

Founder and CEO Scott Nash started My Organic Market (better known as MOM’s) out of his mother’s garage in 1987 as a home delivery service for fresh groceries in the DC area. From those humble beginnings, MOM’s has grown into a local business leader that puts the environment first. Their grocery stores can be found at several locations in DC, Maryland and Virginia, and are full of fair trade, organic, sustainable (and of course, delicious) foods, as well as clothing, beauty products and other green goods. And it doesn’t stop there.

“MOM’s purpose is to protect and restore the environment,” Nash says. “We recently invested in a community solar company called Neighborhood Sun, and [we] are placing a pollinator garden and beehives at MOM’s Solar Farm in Kingsville, Maryland.”

That’s right. MOM’s runs its own solar energy farm and purchases wind energy credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions. The beloved local chain also frequently partners with groups that support human rights, environmental justice, clean water and other causes.

“As MOM’s grows, we’re continually seeking opportunities to further our purpose inside our stores and in the community,” Nash says.

MOM’s dedication to improving our world makes it special; its roots in the area make it ours.

Learn more at www.momsorganicmarket.com.

The Year of the Anacostia

We may all be looking forward to summer, and with it the opening of the city’s public pools, but what about the rivers in our midst? Are we getting any closer to the goal of a swimmable Anacostia? For decades, the river and its surrounding parkland have been abused – and used as literal toxic dumping ground.

“The Anacostia River holds a place at the heart of DC’s economic, cultural and ecological history,” says Krista Schlyer, DC area conservation photographer and writer (her forthcoming book, River of Redemption: Almanac of Life on the Anacostia, chronicles the life of the river in connection to our city). “[It] is also a symbol of our beleaguered urban rivers nationwide.”

But, she adds, “If you look carefully at the Anacostia story, it has the makings of one of the most hopeful stories of ecological redemption.”

And perhaps 2018 will be the year that redemption comes. In January, Mayor Muriel Bowser declared 2018 the “Year of the Anacostia,” pledging $4.7 million toward restoration efforts. According to the mayor’s office, “the Year of the Anacostia is a yearlong invitation to honor history, celebrate progress and enjoy the Anacostia River and its surroundings while envisioning an inspiring future.”

What can you do to get involved? Start by educating yourself (and having some fun) at the Anacostia River Festival on April 15. Learn about wildlife on Kingman and Heritage Islands, recreate in Anacostia Park, bike the Anacostia River and Riverwalk Trails, visit Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, take a free boat ride or paddle, join a cleanup effort…the list goes on.

And even if you prefer wine to water, you can help the river: $2 from every bottle of wine sold at District Winery’s Rose Release Party on Earth Day (April 22) will go to Anacostia Riverkeeper, one of the great organizations working to protect and restore the Anacostia.

Learn more about Anacostia Riverkeeper at www.anacostiariverkeeper.org.


Anacostia River Festival on April 15: Anacostia Park at Anacostia Drive & Good Hope Road in SE, DC; www.bridgepark.org/anacostia-riverfestival

District Winery’s Rose Release Party on April 22: 385 Water St. SE, DC; www.districtwinery.com

Photo: Courtesy of Urbana
Photo: Courtesy of Urbana

DC’s Sustainable Dining Scene

Order up a drink at Hank’s Cocktail Bar and you may notice something’s missing when you take that first sip. The reason? This Petworth hangout, along with its five sister restaurants, only provide straws when requested. This shift is just one way the bar and its parent company, JL Restaurant Group, have been moving to improve sustainability.

“We work really, really hard to use things multiple ways and be as zero waste as possible there,” says beverage director Jess Weinstein, who oversees the bar program at all Hank’s properties.

For example, orange trimmings from the bar’s old-fashioned garnishes are saved and reduced down with sugar into a syrup that’s then used to make a Trash Gimlet cocktail. They dehydrate partially used limes from a night of service for use in future drinks rather than using fresh ones. Weinstein even uses liquid runoff from roasted red peppers in her negroni riff, the Bittersweet Surrender.

These steps toward sustainability might seem small, but they can noticeably improve a business’ carbon footprint and bottom line. And Hank’s is not alone in its quest to become greener. Last year, DC was named the first LEED “Platinum City,” a nod to its leadership in this area.

Urbana in Dupont Circle is the first DC restaurant to use a machine called a Bio-Digester, which converts food scraps into grey wastewater that is then transported for treatment through existing drain systems. Five to One, a craft cocktail bar on U Street, has opted to ditch garnishes entirely. The Dabney recycles all of its oyster shells through Oyster Recovery Partnership.

At Kyirisan in Shaw, chef and owner Tim Ma uses scraps and peelings from vegetables to create stocks for upcoming dishes. He is also one of three national chefs participating in the BlueCart Zero Waste Kitchen initiative, which uses technology to track food waste and map out improvement over time. Ma says thinking about sustainability and efficiency has always been a part of his day-to-day operations – both from an environmental and practical point of view.

“All my restaurants were very small, and it was only just me as the owner, so every percentage point counted to me,” he says.

Being nimble with menu development wherever possible can also pad profit margins as well as help the environment. Kyirisan gets regular emails from producers selling unwanted “ugly” vegetables, often at value prices. Urbana makes use of its rooftop garden for seasonal produce – it sourced 1,500 pounds from onsite growing in 2016.

Weinstein and the rest of the Hank’s Cocktail Bar team also look to the kitchen for ways to use surplus ingredients that would otherwise get thrown out. It’s all part of the push to make each dollar go further in a small profit margin world, while also being a good environmental steward.

There’s still work to be done, of course. Not all restaurants buy exclusively local produce or second-rate vegetables. And when it comes to balancing hospitality with sustainability, some guests still prefer a plastic straw or fresh citrus in cocktails – and may still be new to understanding the sustainability movement.

“That’s something that we are starting to see change in the food and beverage world,” Weinstein says. “But it’s not changed yet.”

Learn more about these eco-friendly spots below.


Dabney: 122 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; www.thedabney.com
Five to One: 903 U St. NW, DC; www.fivetoonedc.com
Hank’s Cocktail Bar: 819 Upshur St. NW, DC ; www.hankscocktailbar.com
Kyirisan: 1924 8th St. NW, DC; www.kyirisandc.com
Urbana: 2121 P St. NW, DC; www.urbanadc.com

Photo: Courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club
Photo: Courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

Breakout Batter: Meet Michael A. Taylor

The “A” has always stood for Anthony. Now, it stands for his performance.

Michael A. Taylor, center fielder for the Washington Nationals, established himself last season as one of the young players to watch in Major League Baseball. He finished among the top three Gold Glove candidates at his position in the National League despite playing in a mere 118 contests. In his injury-abbreviated season – Taylor spent most of July and part of August on the disabled list with a strained right oblique – he swatted 19 home runs and stole 17 bases. Only five other National League players can say the same about their 2017 campaigns.

“I think [one] of the major changes I made [was] my view going into the game, and what I consider successful for me a lot of the time,” Taylor says. “I would get caught up in the result, and baseball is a game of failures day in and out – whether that’s just swinging at good pitches or moving a runner [and] making hard contact.”

Hard contact was something that drew Taylor into the spotlight late in 2017. In September and October of the regular season, he had one of the best stretches of his career in terms of power, notching seven home runs that included an inside-the-park grand slam against the Phillies. Taylor’s power took the national stage in the playoffs, when he hit yet another grand slam, this time to seal a win over the Cubs and force game five of the National League Division Series.

Then, in game five, he hit a three-run bomb into the Cubs bullpen in left, giving the Nationals the lead in what ended as a heartbreaking 9-8 loss. That’s nine home runs in 33 games among September, October and the postseason, for whoever is counting. Taylor isn’t one of them.

“I try not to make too much of statistics,” he says. “I go out there and try to do my best.”

Regarding his unexpected, late-season mash fest, Taylor says he thinks it’s a byproduct of a good approach in his game.

“Home runs will come. When I try to force home runs, I end up putting myself in a bad spot, swinging too hard or swinging at pitches out of the zone.”

Taylor’s approach will be much-scrutinized at the start of 2018. For the first time since 2015, he’s the favorite to start in center field at the beginning of the season. In 2016 and 2017, respectively, trade acquisitions Ben Revere and Adam Eaton filled that role. Thanks to Taylor’s breakout 2017 and his superb defense, Eaton is now moving to left field while Taylor hunkers down as the “field general” in center.

The potential scrutiny doesn’t seem to faze Taylor, who maintains a calm, composed demeanor in on-camera interviews. Part of his confidence stems from a positive relationship with Nationals fans. Even during his first two-plus seasons in the majors, during which Taylor hit a combined .228 and struck out more than once a game, he says fans had his back. In 2017, Taylor returned the favor, lifting his average to .271 with an OPS of .806.

“One thing I can say about fans in DC [is] they’ve been very supportive through my whole career. I’m very grateful for that. Even the years I felt like I didn’t perform as well as I’d like, they still were behind me and very supportive.”

Taylor is also lucky in some respects. In June, then-Nationals Manager Dusty Baker called him “one of the most fortunate dudes” he had ever managed, according to Patrick Reddington of SB Nation’s Federal Baseball blog. For example, although he didn’t start opening day in 2016 and 2017, he did see significant playing time both seasons because of injuries to Revere and Eaton. This year, he also has the benefit of two experienced, talented outfielders – Eaton and Bryce Harper – flanking him in left and right.

“They make it really easy on me,” Taylor says of Eaton and Harper. “Those guys have a lot of experience and are great outfielders. I think we work very well together. We’re all on the same page. They make it easy and encourage me to go out there and take the lead.”

Adding to the rocky beginnings of Taylor’s career is the fact that he’s had three different managers since the beginning of 2015. This season, Dave Martinez takes over, and based on Taylor’s attitude, it’s just another fortuitous turn.

“Davey has been great. [He] communicates with the guys every day. It’s been very laid-back and energetic. I’ve really enjoyed spring training with him, and I’m looking forward to a full season.”

A full season is actually one concern lingering around Taylor, even now that he has established himself as a serious player. In spring training, what the Nationals called “tightness” in his right side – the same side as his oblique strain last season – forced him out of the lineup on March 5. Luckily, he returned to the Nationals’ Grapefruit League lineup on March 17, going one for three with a pair of strikeouts.

So what’s Taylor’s goal for 2018? Play in 162 games? Reach the 20-home-run, 20-stolen-base plateau? Make up for that near miss at a Gold Glove?

“To win a World Series,” he says.

If Taylor, with all of his good fortune, helps the Nationals bring home the World Series trophy, he can go ahead and add “plus” to that “A” in the middle of his name.

The Washington Nationals’ home opener is on Thursday, April 5 at 1:05 p.m., when they will host the New York Mets at Nats Park. For more information on Taylor and the Nats’ 2018 season, visit www.mlb.com/nationals.

Nationals Park: 1500 South Capitol St. SE, DC; 202-675-6287; www.mlb.com/nationals

Photo: Farrah Skeiky
Photo: Farrah Skeiky

New Notable No Longer: August 2017

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town, the top culinary news of the month and recent closings. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new, notable and no longer in the DC area.

NEW

Chicken + Whiskey
Open: June 20
Location: 14th Street
Lowdown: The name of this hybrid concept from Star Restaurant Group says it all: a fast-casual Peruvian chicken joint meets a craft whiskey bar. Upon entering the restaurant, there’s a counter where you can order pollo a la brasa and a host of sides, sandwiches, salads and desserts. Chef Enrique Limardo, recruited from critically acclaimed Alma Cocina Latina in Baltimore, brines and then slow roasts the locally sourced whole chickens in Peruvian charcoal ovens. I devoured a platter of juicy dark meat, crispy yucca fries, seasoned black beans and bright guasacaca. Walk past the kitchen and you’ll see a silver refrigerator door that leads to the bar, which boasts more than 60 whiskies, including bottles from lesser-known American distilleries and underrepresented international destinations like India and Australia. Opt for a dram or a classic cocktail made with the spirit of your choice. Partners Kris Carr, Charles Koch, Desmond Reilly and Stuart Damon wanted the bar to feel like a true neighborhood spot with affordable prices and quality alcohol. Koch, an international DJ, has lent his personal vinyl collection to the bar and frequently invites DJ friends to man the booth. 1738 14th St. NW, DC; www.chickenandwhiskey.com

ChiKo
Open: July 7
Location: Barracks Row
Lowdown: Chefs Scott Drewno (formerly of The Source) and Danny Lee (of Mandu) have combined their areas of culinary expertise – Chinese and Korean cuisines, respectively – to create a fast-casual concept that’s serving some of the most innovative and delicious food in the city right now, but at a surprisingly affordable price tag. The pair, along with their third partner, Drew Kim (of Matchbox Food Group), wanted ChiKo to be a place where they could let their creative fantasies run free, and the result is dishes like chilled acorn noodles with kimchi, gochujang and egg, as well as Wagshal’s chopped brisket with a soy-brined egg, furikake butter and rice. They’ve also taken the idea of orange chicken into their own hands and created “orange-ish chicken,” crispy fried meat accompanied by a sauce that’s actually made with the namesake fruit. No reservations are needed to order a la carte, but I opted to sit at the chef’s counter, where Drewno and Lee serve nearly the entire menu for just $50. Drink choices are beer, soju, wines, build-your-own cocktails, and non-alcoholic sodas, teas and juices. 423 8th St. SE, DC; www.chikodc.com

Maxwell Park
Open: June 26
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: One of DC’s favorite sommeliers has struck out on his own with a wine bar unlike any other in the city. Brent Kroll recruited two young somm friends, Daniel Runnerstrom and Niki Lang, to be his partners in Maxwell, which is named after a park in Detroit that Kroll frequented during his childhood. The 1,050-square-foot spot has a playful vibe, with a chalkboard bar so guests can doodle or write notes about their wine. The wine list, however, is taken very seriously. The three somms all have equal say in making the 50 by-the-glass selections, which are divided into two categories: a monthly theme and a rotating list of the partners’ favorites. The intent of each theme is to help guests explore a certain category of wine. August’s is “How Big Is My Bubble?” and it’s all about non-champagne sparkling wines – perfect for the oppressive summer heat. On the menu itself, there’s one unexpected number alongside the prices. The bar’s refrigeration system has five distinct temperature zones to chill the wines, and the proper serving temperature is listed next to each glass. Kroll and his team are eager to please, so guests can always ask for a custom flight based on their preferences. In the future, winos can look forward to guided tasting classes by the Maxwell team. As for food, Maxwell will host different local chefs, like Lonnie Zoeller and Tony Conte, to create small plates for the menu. 1336 9th St. NW, DC; www.maxwelldcwine.com

Sushi Gakyu
Open: June 27
Location: Downtown
Lowdown: The crown jewel of Chef Yoshihisa Ota’s latest sushi spot is the omakase tasting menu, where diners let the chef steer the ship for the evening. The experience incorporates the familiar nigiri as well as more unusual styles of sushi. For a la carte dining, Ota encourages guests to order off the menu. During the grand opening celebration, I was in heaven as I made my way through Ota’s custom platters laden with dozens and dozens of rolls. Ota’s primary focus is sushi, since he has been practicing the art for over 30 years, but he is also a kikisake-shi, which translates to master of sake. This means there’s a top-notch selection of sake available. Guests may already be familiar with Ota’s sushi skills from his Bethesda restaurant, Yuzu Japanese Dining. 1420 New York Ave. NW, DC; www.gakyudc.com

NOTABLE

Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue
Hours: Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m.
Location: National Building Museum
Lowdown: Hill Country has brought back their popular Backyard Barbecue pop-up, serving up Central Texas-style barbecue, beer, frozen drinks and live music. New menu offerings include a Texas cheesesteak, which is loaded with shredded brisket, serrano peppers and caramelized onions. There’s also pulled pork sandwiches, hot links and classic sides like coleslaw and baked beans. The lawn is adorned with lounge chairs, tents and yard games, and it’s all dog and family-friendly. 401 F St. NW, DC; www.hillcountry.com/dc

Porrón by ANXO
Hours: Thursday 7-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 p.m. – 1 a.m., and Friday through Sunday breakfast 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Location: Barracks Row
Lowdown: DC’s only cidery is continuing to expand their empire with a summer pop-up featuring the most entertaining way to drink cider: out of a porrón hoisted high above your head. The glass vessels are filled with shandy-style drinks, and there will also be house ciders available, including the newest ANXO collaboration made with Snowdrift Cider Co. The food menu is all about the grill, with wood-fired meats and vegetables from Executive Chef Alex Vallcorba, plus rotating pop-ups from local chefs. The menu from the Kennedy Street Cidery is also available, along with breakfast from Timber Pizza Co. and Lost Sock Roasters. The space emulates the outdoors, with turf flooring and blue skies covering the ceiling and walls. 525 8th St. SE, DC; www.anxodc.com/porron

NOW OPEN

Across the Pond: 1732 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.acrosstheponddc.com
BBQ Bus: 5830 Georgia Ave. NW, DC; www.bbqbusdc.com
Bibibop Asian Grill: 710 7th St. NW, DC; www.bibibop.com
BGR in Mosaic: 3129 Lee Hwy. Arlington, VA; www.bgrtheburgerjoint.com
Blue Bottle: 1046 Potomac St. NW, DC; www.bluebottlecoffee.com
Continental Beer Garden: 1911 North Fort Myer Dr. Arlington, VA; www.continentalpoollounge.com/continental-beer-garden
Crimson Diner: 627 H St. NW, DC; www.thepodhotel.com/pod-dc
Dolcezza pop-up at Hirshhorn: 7th and Independence Ave. SW, DC; www.dolcezzagelato.com/locations/hirshhorn
Falls Church Distillers: 442 S Washington St. Falls Church, VA; www.fcdistillers.com
Imm Thai: 1414 Ninth St. NW, DC; www.immthai.com
Jenkins Capital BBQ: 3365 14th St. NW, DC
Library Tavern: 5420 3rd St. NW, DC; www.librarytaverndc.com
Lilise Pizzeria: 1824 Columbia Rd. NW, DC; www.lilisepizzeria.com
Pizzeria Paradiso: 4800 Rhode Island Ave. Hyattsville, MD; www.eatyourpizza.com
Qualia Coffee: 151 Q St. NE, DC; www.qualiacoffee.com
Roti: 1251 First St. SE, DC; www.roti.com
Santa Rosa Taqueria: 313 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC; www.santarosataqueria.com
Tortas y Tacos La Chiquita: 2911 Columbia Pike Arlington, VA
Thaiverse: 101 S Madison St. Middleburg, VA; www.thaiverse.com
ThinkFoodLab: 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.thinkfoodlab.com
Vitality Bowls: 1515 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.vitalitybowls.com

NO LONGER

Bar Civita at Woodley Park
Boundary Stone on H Street
Conbini Café at Florida Avenue
Grapeseed in Bethesda
GTown Bites in Georgetown
Halal Guys on H Street
L’Enfant Café in Adams Morgan
L’Hommage Bistro on K Street
One Block West in Winchester
RFD on 7th Street
Rumba Café in Adams Morgan
Straw Stick & Brick Delicatessen in Petworth
The Tomato Palace in Columbia
zpizza in Silver Spring