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Photo: Jeremy Reper

Offseason of Change Brings Optimism for Washington Spirit

After losing 41 of the past 48 regular season games, one could hardly blame the Women’s National Soccer League’s (WNSL) Washington Spirit for hitting the reset button. Through various changes in the front office, ownership and on the field, this young team is looking to reverse its recent fortunes and begin building a foundation for lofty championship goals.

Starting at the top, longtime owner Bill Lynch sold his majority stake in late 2018 to Steve Baldwin. Shortly after, the team announced Richie Burke would take over as head coach and technical director. Burke has an extensive track record in youth soccer around the DC area, making him the logical fit to lead the team’s youth movement.

“Being involved in the professional game is an incredible buzz,” Burke says. “It’s an incredible reward. It’s like a drug you get drawn back to all the time. The project itself has a lot of really good people involved, and it was an opportunity that was hard to turn down.”

Burke and the Spirit agree that the team is a project. As the squad gears up for training camp and preseason matches this month, everyone is focused on the simple goal of improving habits and team culture rather than agonizing over results.

“Last year was kind of rough,” forward Ashley Hatch says. “We feel we could have had better results, but we got unlucky and things didn’t go our way. We’re a very talented team that works hard, so I want to help us get the results we deserve.”

During the 2018 campaign, the Spirit finished with a record of two wins, five draws and 17 defeats. Despite this, Burke insists he’s not simply bringing a new style and structure with him, as he’s crystal clear on his extremely high expectations for the team to work toward.

“I’m very organized and very structured, and I want to play an aesthetically pleasing game,” the coach says. “I do know that we’re going to work hard and play hard. Success for me is winning the WNSL championship. I set the goals high. I want to win and win with style.”

One aspect of this season that every WNSL team must overcome is this summer’s 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Already this year, the Spirit has had three players train with the U.S. women’s national team including Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh and Andi Sullivan. The league has implemented a 12-day break in the schedule to account for the international tournament in early June.

“You have mixed feelings,” Burke says. “I’m thrilled for the players and the franchise. I couldn’t be happier for the players themselves. I hope they score goals out the ying-yang.”

Instead of fretting about the World Cup, the Spirit is solely focused on things within the players’ control such as play on the field and the ways they plan to integrate all the changes. In addition to changes in the front office, the Spirit was featured heavily at the January WNSL draft, making four selections in the first round.

“I think that with all the changes going on, it’s going to be a very exciting team,” says Sullivan, the team’s midfielder. “I really just want to help the new team and culture take off. I want to make the transition easy for everyone and be someone that can connect the pieces.”

The DMV native, along with the aforementioned Pugh and Lavelle, are heavily featured in marketing for the coming season. The trio is often mentioned when the best young U.S. soccer players are brought up and are a huge reason Burke feels confident in his steadfast belief the team will achieve success in short order.

“It’s a fresh start,” Sullivan continues. “Capitalizing on that energy is going to really up the standard and level [for the team]. It’s a great opportunity, and it’s an optimistic look toward the future. It makes now seem like a great time to go for it, and that’s how we’re approaching [the season].”

The transition won’t be perfect. Rebuilds in professional sports are often rocky, rife with growing pains and career firsts, however the Spirit can only rise up the standings. For soccer enthusiasts in the DMV, catching a team right as they begin to figure it out is one of the most fascinating rides for any fan. With this much talent and potential on the roster, it’s only a matter of time for this core.

“The best part about having young players is we’re hungry,” Hatch says. “We want to prove ourselves as a team and individuals. I think it will definitely play in our favor.”

The Washington Spirit begins the preseason on Saturday, March 16 at the City Stadium in Richmond, Virginia. The team will begin the regular season versus the Sky Blue FC on the home field at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, April 13. For more information about the squad, visit www.washingtonspirit.com.

Maryland SoccerPlex: 18031 Central Park Cir. Boyds, MD; 301-591-0927; www.washingtonspirit.com

Photo: Courtesy of Chrystalle Ball

Leading Ladies of DC’s Beer Scene: Deep Roots Gain New Ground

The world of craft beer is dramatically different than it was even a few years ago. Quality beer is more readily available than ever and thanks to social media, it’s easy to keep up with new beers and breweries. Here in DC, women have a prominent place in the beer scene.

Chrystalle Ball is the founder of DC Metro Girls Pint Out, the local chapter of a national craft beer organization for women to enjoy happy hours, tastings and other events that build community around a love of beer. She joined the Arizona chapter originally, but after moving to the DMV, she found there were no chapters here. She got to work, and DMV Girls Pint Out had its first event in 2013.

“There is a stereotype that women don’t drink beer,” Ball says. “People come to our events for the first time and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there were so many women that drink beer in this area.’ There are, you just have to look.”

Ball says that over the past five-plus years of involvement in the DC beer community, a lot more women are beginning to actually work in beer. She notes Lake Anne Brew House in Reston, Virginia, which is women-owned and has many women brewers, and says that DC also has plenty of women industry veterans like Kristi Mathews Griner of Beltway Brewing Company in Sterling, Virginia.

“Women are popping up all over the area in brewing roles, and it needs to keep happening,” she says, noting that the Pink Boots Society, which helps women advance their careers in the beer industry, is an important resource. “Women are pigeonholed toward wine, but women love beer – and women were the first brewers of beer.”

Sara Bondioli, president of the DC Homebrewers Club, says that the long tradition of women brewers also helped inspire her to try it herself.

“I was reading a book that had a section on the history of brewing, and for most of history, women were the main brewers,” Bondioli says. “It’s only more recently that it’s been seen as a male profession. It hadn’t occurred to me that homebrewing was even an option until then, but I did a lot of baking from scratch and I thought I would try making beer from scratch.”

Fast forward to about seven years later, and she’s now running the club and helping other women get into homebrewing, too. Women club members started the Homebrewing Outreach and Participation Sisterhood (HOPS), which has women-focused brew days, happy hours and speaking events. Bondioli says that through homebrewing, women and men alike have freedom to create funky combinations while enhancing their appreciation of the brewing process.

“I’ve had some really creative beers through the homebrew. Someone made a pickleback beer, but they did it in a very restrained way that worked out really well. Especially with the club, you get to see what other people create and it gives you ides of things to try as well.”

Her signature beer? A strawberry rhubarb saison. This creative spirit is everywhere in the beer world, from the beers themselves to their labels. Chelsea Bailey, who runs the @21stamendmentgirl beer Instagram account and works in DC Brau’s tasting room, says she originally started the account to highlight the beauty of beer design.

“Honestly, I started drinking craft beer because I love the labels,” she says. “I challenged myself to drink a whole bottle of whatever I chose [to feature], I developed a palate and it grew into this whole other world.”

Bailey landed her job at DC Brau thanks in part to her social media presence, and it’s given her “a chance to meet other people who are like-minded and passionate.”

“There are people who have heard about my Instagram account, and I’m excited to go in and talk about beer with them.”

All three women say that there’s a number of things happening in the DC beer world to look forward to this spring. This month, ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar is exclusively pouring ciders, wines, beers and cocktails from female-owned and operated businesses. On the homebrewing front, the DC Homebrewers Club is now accepting entries for its annual homebrewing competition, the Cherry Blossom Challenge. And DMV Girls Pint Out will soon host its fifth annual Girl Scout Cookie and beer pairing event; check website for updates.

“If someone wants to get into beer and has experienced that whole beer snobbery thing, I would love for them to come to our events and just try things,” Ball says.

That’s the main theme that seems to unite area breweries and beer enthusiasts: condescension and pretentiousness are out, and inclusiveness and community are in.

“Overall, the DC beer scene is supportive of having women involved, active and part of the group,” Bondioli says. “Most of the places out here seem to understand that they don’t have to market beer to women differently. They can just make a good beer and women and men will drink it – and everyone out here can appreciate that.” Bailey echoes that sentiment.

“Beer isn’t a man’s drink. It’s everybody’s drink.”

Follow Bailey on Instagram @21stamendmentgirl and learn more about DMV Girls Pint Out at www.girlspintout.org or on Twitter @dmvgirlspintout. Check out the DC Homebrewers Club at www.dchomebrewers.com, the club’s Cherry Blossom Challenge at www.dchbcompetition.com and the Pink Boots Society at www.pinkbootssociety.org. More on the breweries and cideries below.

ANXO Cidery & Pinxtos Bar: 300 Florida Ave. NW, DC; www.anxodc.com
Beltway Brewing Company: 22620 Davis Dr. Ste 110, Sterling, VA; www.beltwaybrewco.com
DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. Suite B, NE, DC;www.dcbrau.com
Lake Anne Brew House: 4310, 11424 Washington Plaza W.Reston, VA; www.lakeannbrewhouse.com

Photo: Michael Andrade

The Sundry Shades of RDGLDGRN

“We put a song on the Internet and it spiraled from there, but we thought it was justified because we had something unique that stood out.”

Marcus Parham, one-third of RDGLDGRN (pronounced Red Gold Green), tells me the backstory behind the success of the band’s 2011 hit “I Love Lamp” while on the road to Raleigh, North Carolina for a show later that evening. The guitarist (RD) and his bandmates, bassist Andrei Busuioceanu (GLD) and vocalist Pierre Desrosier (GRN), continued to gain popularity following the release of the track, even collaborating with Pharrell and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.

The Reston-based, multi-genre trio actually played together as another band before RDGLDGRN, with a fourth member identified only as Blue. Even though their partnership spans nearly a decade, Parham says the three are just scratching the surface.

“We’ve just created so many memories,” he says. “We went to Europe a bunch of times, and we’ve played cruises and stuff. It’s all these different things. It’s all growth.”

RDGLDGRN brought a unique blend of different genres to the music scene when they first hit airwaves, combining elements of hip-hop, rock and go-go music to concoct an original sound. Their backgrounds play a part in the diverse sounds of their musical style.All three artists hailed from other parts of the world before settling in the DC area.

“We have so many different influences, so it makes sense that our music is always changing,” Parham elaborates.

Going back to their initial self-titled LP, the focus was almost entirely on the band’s use of rock and hip-hop. On the releases that followed, including the band’s most recent drop Red Gold Green 3, they slowly set out to reveal their entire repertoire. For instance, the last record shifted away from their heavier guitar riffs and established a more electronic sound as the album’s foundation. Parham says he feels like the band is still just making an extended version of their first album.

“We’ve [always] shown more of our palette. [We’ve] shown all the things we can do from day one. It’s not that we’ve gotten bored of a sound and evolved per se; it’s just us giving our fans a taste of everything we do.”

Not much has changed for the group apart from their music, including their process. The guitarist says they still record songs in their parents’ basements when in the DMV. Of course, they make use of professional studios as well, but they want to maintain the same authenticity that put them on the map.

“We never lost that. We haven’t changed; that’s just who we are. We record whenever we have a thought or idea, and the beauty of technology is we can do it wherever.”

The name on their albums remains the same, too. The group decided to repeat the title a la Led Zeppelin 2 and 3 in an effort to get the name’s phonetic pronunciation stuck in people’s heads.

“Our band name looks like gibberish, so it’s not something that people remember instantly,” Parham says candidly. “To make it easier, we decided to stick to our brand.”

Even with Red Gold Green 3’s February release and their busy touring schedule, he says the band is set to drop more music throughout the year.

“Any time you get music from us, it’s more of who we are. We have two EPs and another album that are already far along in the process.”

The band is set to return to its de facto hometown for ShamrockFest at RFK Stadium on Saturday, March 23. While fans can expect popular hits, Parham assures there will be some DC flair added to their set.

“Different people from the area [will] come and play songs with us,” Parham says. “We’re definitely from different places, but we’re DC at heart.”

ShamrockFest is from 12-8 p.m. on Saturday, March 23. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at www.shamrockfest.com. For more information about RDGLDGRN, visit www.rgldgrn.com.

RFK Stadium: 2400 E. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.shamrockfest.com

Photo: www.facebook.com/porchfestdc/

East of the River for the First Time: Porchfest Music Festival Comes to Southeast

Porchfest Music Festival is coming to Southeast DC for the very first time.

Penn Branch resident and SE Porchfest volunteer organizer Ayanna Smith announced earlier this month that May 20 will mark the first Porchfest to be held east of the Anacostia river.

Porchfest consists of mini concerts held on front porches. This structure allows attendees to walk freely from house to house, listen to local talent and meet people from the neighborhood. In the past, local business improvement districts hosted Porchfest, including an event this April on Rhode Island Avenue. This time around, the event is entirely organized by volunteers.

“I chose to focus in the community where I have relationships,” Smith says. “Penn Branch and Hillcrest have beautiful stately homes with front yards and large porches, mixed with a rich history and tons of hidden talent. We have all of the elements of a perfect Porchfest.”

The very first Porchfest was organized by founder Lesley Greene and took place in Ithaca, NY. Greene came up with the idea while sitting out on her front porch playing music and chatting with a neighbor. The event has spread far beyond Ithaca and even DC, with yearly fests taking place in over 100 locations.

“It was one of the first warm days of the year, and my husband and I sat on our front steps, soaked up the sunshine, and played some ukulele tunes,” she says. “We realized that there were so many musicians living right in our neighborhood that we could practically have a music festival with just the people who live nearby. We gave it the name Porchfest that day.”

They’ve been gaining popularity ever since: past Porchfests have drawn crowds ranging from 3,500 to 5,000 people. Greene says the community setting opens the door for the wide variety of bands that play these festivals.

“It would be very difficult to have anything like the number of bands that perform at Porchfest if it were held at a concert venue,” she says. “We would not only need a lot of time, but a huge staff. Every band sets up for themselves, and because they are spread out over a relatively large area, many bands can play at the same time.”

Musician Rasha Jay will play the festival, and plans to perform songs from her first EP, Cicada, and possibly some new material.

“I grew up with a porch, and there is nothing more intimate than that setting,” she says. “I look forward to being close up with people and sharing my sound.”

Emily Woodhull and Jeff Blake, two members of EBW Music, cover songs that speak to them on a personal level.

“We play covers of songs that reflect who we are,” Blake says. This includes a repertoire of alternative rock and well-known hits like “Say it Ain’t So” by Weezer and “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. Though they don’t have original songs ready just yet, they’re on the way.

“We are in the process of perfecting a few and they may very well be show ready in time for Porchfest,” he assures.

Smith says planning a Porchfest without the aid of a business improvement district is a real challenge, but still necessary and worth it.

“There’s a negative stigma associated with living east of the river in DC that is based partially on stereotypes,” she says. “In hosting the first SE Porchfest, I’m hoping to showcase the beauty of our community.”

She envisions taking Porchfest beyond single neighborhoods, and she’s taken steps to establish Porchfest DC as a tax-exempt organization with the goal of creating a citywide festival.

SE Porchfest currently boasts over 30 volunteers, who are working hard to secure sponsorship and additional performers at the SE edition of the fest. Organizers anticipate six to eight participating host homes, with two bands playing at each porch.

“I would love to see some go-go bands join the list,” Smith says. “I love drums, I appreciate that the city has its own genre of music. It’s the sound of DC.”

As Rasha Jay puts it, “DC is and has always been innovative and unapologetic, and the city is full of talent.”

Individuals interested in volunteering can complete the volunteer sign-up form. Musicians and bands who want to participate can email [email protected].

For updates, visit Porchfest DC’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Porchfest DC – Southeast Edition: Penn Branch, SE, DC; www.facebook.com/PorchFestDC