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Photo: Aja Neal
Photo: Aja Neal

Fresh Fountains

DC heat got you down? Feast your eyes on some of the District’s most iconic fountains and maybe even dip a toe in a few of the city’s kid-friendly water features, because we’re all kids at heart during the dog days of summer, right?

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

7th Street Park Fountain, District Wharf
700 Wharf St. SW, DC
While you can often find little ones dashing through District Wharf’s water feature, all are welcome to partake in the fun. And don’t be afraid to take a seat on one of the plastic rocking horses either.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Bartholdi Fountain, U.S. Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Ave. SW, DC
Designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, also the talent behind the Statue of Liberty, this massive water feature stands at 30 feet tall. Its original home was Philadelphia, and the gorgeous structure now rests on the grounds of the U.S. Botanic Garden. Stop by and admire this Gilded Age stunner on your next garden adventure.

Photo: www.landcollective.com

Photo: www.landcollective.com

Canal Park Fountain, Capitol Riverfront
200 M St. SE, DC
Canal Park is a sustainable community hub open year-round but is especially vibrant in the summer due to its built-in, ground-level illuminated water features. Take a dash through the water on your walk to Nats Park or people watch on one of the many benches or colorful chairs.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

The Court of Neptune Fountain, Library of Congress
68 1st St. SE, DC
Neptune and figures of the Tritons touting their conch shells keep watch over this Library of Congress fountain. It’s especially stunning at night, with lights adding to the majestic nature of the bronze Roman statues.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

District Square Fountain, District Wharf
100 District Sq. SW, DC
While not for sitting or splashing around in, this elegant fountain is a welcome sight for those perusing District Wharf’s shops and restaurants on a beautiful summer afternoon.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Dupont Circle Fountain
1 Dupont Cir. NW, DC
Flanked by benches, trees and plenty of shade, this marble memorial fountain is smack dab in the middle of Dupont Circle’s many bars and restaurants. On the weekends, you can often find events, live music and more taking place near the iconic structure.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Georgetown Waterfront Park
3303 Water St. NW, DC
Try walking through the space in this arching fountain without getting soaked or go all-in on a hot day. Located right on the water in Georgetown, it’s the perfect (free!) post-dinner and drinks pit stop.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Summerhouse Fountain, U.S. Capitol Building
West Front Lawn, Senate side of the U.S. Capitol Building in SE, DC
If you’re craving respite from the tourist-filled grounds of the National Mall, look no further than Summerhouse. This shady grotto has a water feature inside with seating for more than 20 people, tucked away on the outskirts of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Tivoli Fountain, Columbia Heights
1445 Ogden St. NW, DC
This colorful fountain is nestled among the shops and restaurants in Columbia Heights. You can sit on one of the surrounding benches to cool off after a shopping spree or sprint through it if you’re feeling adventurous.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Water Feature, Yards Park
355 Water St. SE, DC
This cascading water feature is a great spot to fully splash around in or just admire on your next visit to Capitol Riverfront. It’s surrounded by lots of grassy park space, so you can even settle in for a sunny picnic.

Photo: Rich Kessler
Photo: Rich Kessler

D.C. Gets United

When Wayne Rooney trotted onto Audi Field for the first time in D.C. United’s home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 14, a sold-out crowd of 20,504 erupted in raucous cheers.

Making his American Major League Soccer debut, the 32-year-old British soccer legend looked sharp, drilling crisp, efficient passes and notching an assist to Paul Arriola, who scored two goals in the home team’s 3-1 victory.

Afterward, a smiling Rooney sat before a throng of reporters in the club’s gleaming new interview room and declared himself proud of his new club and the new stadium. But he also laid down a challenge to his D.C. United teammates for the weeks and months ahead.

“It was a great atmosphere,” said Rooney, who knows a thing or two about atmosphere after representing England in three World Cups and claiming five Premier League championships with the fabled Manchester United club. “It’s a great stadium that’s built for atmosphere, but we have to create the atmosphere on the pitch. We can’t expect the fans to come in and make noise if we’re not exciting them. It’s our job to excite them.

“For the fans and the players, it was a big game,” Rooney added. “Now, we’ll enjoy tonight’s victory and get ready for the next game.”

The Audi Field home opener at Buzzard Point, just a stone’s throw from Nationals Park, represented a new chapter in D.C. United’s storied history, which includes 13 titles, four MLS cups and a long wait for a home of their own.

The soccer club contended with a grueling, four-month road schedule as it awaited the opening of the stadium in July. According to D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen, it was worth the wait. Olsen took a quiet walk around the stadium before the home opener to soak up the significance of the moment.

“This is one of the great nights in D.C. United history, and we’ve had some good ones,” Olsen said after the game. “After four months on the road, to play the way we played, score goals and be entertaining was just a great night for the organization.”

The new stadium, which cost nearly half a billion dollars, delighted enthusiastic D.C. United fans who have endured years of subpar soccer conditions at RFK Stadium, a crumbling relic built for American football – not soccer. Audi Field’s sleek and modern design, stellar sightlines, and upscale concessions put it among the very best venues for soccer in the United States and perhaps the world.

Arriola, a small but speedy 23-year-old forward for D.C. United, had a hint of awe in his eyes as he described what it was like to play in the new stadium.

“It was awesome,” he told On Tap. “To look up and see the fans right on top of you – you can look up and stare them right in the eyes. The fans obviously deserve this place, to come to a beautiful field and stadium, and it gives us confidence to go out there and perform.”

Aside from Audi Field’s opening, D.C. United’s biggest move this season was the acquisition of Rooney. The father of four and global soccer legend signed a reported $13 million contract for two-and-a-half years, with D.C. United holding an option for an additional year.

Rooney is the only player to score 200 goals and provide 100 assists in the British Premier League, and is now the highest paid player in MLS history. After the home opener, Olsen reinforced what a great decision the big contract was for his team.

“We saw what Wayne is: a high-quality, elite soccer player,” Olsen said. “He didn’t lose possession, made some key passes and got on the end of a few balls in the box. This is what he’s going to do for us. With his character, he’s here to help the team get better on and off the field.”

Olsen added that to put it simply, he just makes the right plays.

“There’s a lot of value in that, making the right play in the moment. We’re still a young team, so he can help with the soccer aspect and the mentality he brings with his experience. That’s the exciting part about this. We’re lucky to have him.”

Arriola said Rooney immediately makes D.C. United a better team with his leadership on the field and in the locker room.

“He’s a very humble guy on and off the field,” Arriola said. “But on the field, you can see his quality. The way he plays really suits a lot of our players. We’re still trying to get the chemistry together and it will take time, but he just wants to get in here and work and win. That’s the type of player we need right now.”

For his part, Rooney said he’s ready to write the next chapter in his storied career.

“I have said this since I committed to the club: I want to win, and I am vocal on and off the pitch,” Rooney said. “I’m vocal with the coach, vocal with my teammates and we speak [about] which we think is the best way to win a football match. I think the most important thing is communication, not just for myself but for the players, and the players know that.”

Rooney acknowledged that some of his younger, less experienced teammates may be a bit intimidated by his success on the global soccer stage, but he stressed that he is now one of them.

“I am a D.C. United player,” he said. “I am exactly the same as these players and I want to win. What I can bring is my desire to win, and that’s every day on the training pitch and every game.”

Learn more about D.C. United’s 2018 season at www.dcunited.com.

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

Photo: Bill McNavage
Photo: Bill McNavage

A Day in the Life: Primrose Power Couple Lauren Winter and Sebastian Zutant

Lauren Winter and Sebastian Zutant are the real definition of a DC power couple, and they are far, far away from politics. Winter is the studio head for Edit Lab at Streetsense, and the creative mind behind a slew of the District’s most eye-catching restaurant layouts. Meanwhile Zutant has risen the ranks in area restaurants, leading the wine program at Proof and beverage resurgence at Rasika and opening popular spots Komi in Dupont and Red Hen in Bloomingdale. Now, the husband-wife team has joined forces to open French bistro and wine bar Primrose in Brookland, the up-and-coming neighborhood they call home. From the light and whimsical décor and disarming appeal to the unique natural wine selection and insanely talented French chef, Primrose is once again putting this couple at the top of their game. On Tap interviewed the duo on their inspiration for the charming neighborhood spot, upcoming projects and their must-haves (an obscenely priced espresso machine is on the list!)

On Tap: What brought about the concept for Primrose? Was it a specific influence or feeling of something missing in the area?
Sebastian Zutant: Originally, it was going to be a Mediterranean or Moroccan-influenced restaurant with a wine bar aspect, but I was having a hard time verbalizing my own concept, which seems odd. And then I was just thinking about it, and thought, “I’m a sommelier, and no one does wine better than France and no one does food or cheese better.”  The fashion is pretty dope, so I said to Lauren, “What about French?” and she was all about it too, so we changed the concept.
Lauren Winter: I’ve always thrived on discovering what is missing in neighborhoods and pairing restaurant/bar owners with areas that might suit them. Opening a restaurant among the already established neighborhood restaurants and bars of Brookland was a recommendation from a friend who owns a nearby restaurant, saying our concept would be a welcome addition.

OT: Why Brookland and what does Primrose bring to the neighborhood?
LW: Brookland has always been special to us because our kids go to school in that neighborhood and we recently moved there to be close to the school. We think the natural wine focus and French food fills a gap in Brookland. The corner lot was ideal and having operable windows on two sides was the main draw to the space. The size, location and space just seemed too perfect for what we wanted, so we couldn’t pass it up.
SZ: We love the neighborhood. We live there – it’s quirky and super artsy with funky houses and the people that live there are super neat. We just wanted to bring a cool neighborhood wine bar and bistro [to the area]. Ultimately, our goal was to open a little wine bar, but fortunately the space is larger than a wine bar. We are trying to keep it humble [with] a neighborhood vibe, so anyone feels they can walk in any time of day or night and grab a glass of wine and pâté and be on their way or stick around and relax.

OT: What is the daily grind like for you all?
LW: Sebastian does the day-to-day in the restaurant with our amazing management team. I still hold my day job in the design world and try to do some upkeep for the restaurant on the weekends relative to the furniture, lighting and plants. With two little boys, keeping our private lives busy, it’s important to balance out home and work life.

OT: What makes Primrose stand out from other wine bars? What is distinct about it?
SZ: I would argue right off the bat that the physical presence of the place is very different. Lauren really knocked this one out of the park. Everyone focuses on the feathers and chandeliers, but for me, it’s that turquoise back bar that sets it apart. You walk in and it’s a breath of fresh air in terms of overall design. And 90 percent of our wine list is natural  – the grapes are grown organically . [It is] minimalist winemaking to its cleanest core that doesn’t take anything out of the wine. And our chef definitely sets it apart. He was at The French Laundry [in California] a couple years ago and cooked at Daniel [in NYC] for a year and has some serious chops.
LW: Sebastian has always looked to push the envelope, offering wines that are reasonable priced and accessible. I think the most unique aspect is that we feature the Lightwell Survey Wines that Sebastian and his partners make locally.


Sebastian’s Must-Haves
A really good wine key
Fernet-Branca amaro
Properly temped wine refrigerators
A stereo system that only functions on one channel, so I can literally plug in my phone and press play
An espresso machine that I spent an ungodly amount of money on, and my partners and wife were like, “Wtf?” and I said, “This thing is amazing, and it will keep me running forever.”

Lauren’s Must-Haves
Respect for different types of people and personalities
A familial atmosphere with great lighting
Wine poured at the proper temperature
A maintenance program
Plenty of laughter, like the loud belly laugh or snort that you sort of get embarrassed about (but not really)


OT: Sebastian, how does Primrose play a role in the evolution of wine drinking in the area?
SZ: I think we are in the chat when it comes to best wine bars in the city. It’s a fun, small crowd of wine bars and we all vibe together and know each other. My style is very different than everyone else’s – totally left of center. I’m selling a sauvignon blanc that is nothing like a sauvignon blanc. It’s funky and really rich. I have a fun staff that gets really nerdy and excited about wine who thinks that is so cool, and I educated my staff to educate the consumer. Our approach is more about information and changing people’s minds.

OT: Lauren, tell us about the fantastic design of Primrose and how it came about?
LW: The space was naturally light and airy, so there was no way to fight that with anything dark or heavy. We pulled a lot from our visit to France – items like the entryway with the restaurant’s name and logo – and the zinc bar was a must-have statement piece that we fell in love with when in little Paris bistros. There are other items that aren’t specifically French, but a nod to French design: the ostrich feather chandeliers, the floor-to-ceiling graphic wall covering and tiles in the restroom, and the Haint blue bar, which was pulled from the French side of New Orleans porches.

OT: Any projects coming up that you can tell us about?
SZ: Lightwell Survey will be doing a collaboration with Right Proper Brewing, where we will take the yeast from the wine and age one of the beers on it and then do a riesling/beer mash-up. Expect that to come out some time in September. And we’ve got some other projects in the works but can’t talk about that just yet.

Learn more about Primrose at www.primrosedc.com.

Primrose: 3000 12th St. NE, DC; 202-248-4558; www.primrosedc.com

Photo: Greg Powers
Photo: Greg Powers

New and Notable: August 2018

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

NEW

Gravitas
Open: July 3
Location: Ivy City
Lowdown: Matt Baker’s sophisticated tasting menu restaurant has literally been years in the making. The chef has taken the former Pappas Tomato Factory and transformed it into an urban oasis where minimalist fixtures, mossy accents and hanging terrariums are juxtaposed with original 1940s brick, windows and steel beams. This antique character is what drew him to Ivy City in the first place, along with the opportunity to help weave the fabric of a burgeoning community. Gravitas is the first tasting menu restaurant to hit the neighborhood, with a selection of 15 dishes – half of which are vegetarian – that can be mixed and matched to create a custom tasting of four, five, six or seven courses. Baker says he wanted a restaurant that allowed him to dream up and serve manicured, experimental dishes. That’s evident in courses like a gruyère agnolotti decorated with a fried ash chip reminiscent of webbed sea coral. Baker focuses as much on sourcing as he does on experimenting, pulling ingredients almost exclusively from the Mid-Atlantic region. In the coming weeks, he will debut a rooftop bar and garden supplying produce like tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini and more. The bar program features spirits and brews from the restaurant’s Ivy City neighbors, used in drinks that incorporate seasonal vegetables. The wine list is comprised of mostly food-friendly options to facilitate pairings with a wide spectrum of flavors. 1401 Okie St. NE, DC; www.gravitasdc.com

La Vie
Open: July 12
Location: District Wharf
Lowdown: Social Restaurant Group is expanding their portfolio, which already includes Provision No. 14 and Pamplona, among others, to include a posh waterfront restaurant, bar and event space. The vast fifth floor venue boasts panoramic views of the river through floor-to-ceiling windows in the main dining room, and has three more spaces, each with a distinct vibe. The Conservatory bar and lounge is covered in climbing greenery and matching plush upholstery. The Chandelier Room is, expectedly, adorned with a display of 15 of the hanging fixtures. Finally, the Ledge is a sprawling waterfront terrace. The menu nods to the riverfront location with coastal fare like seafood towers, spreads, house-made pastas, mussel pots, whole branzino, and mainland fare like steak frites and a decadent burger. Drinks follow suit with spritzes, shareable cocktails and plenty of bubbly. 88 District Sq. SW, DC; www.laviedc.com

Poca Madre
Open: June 19
Location: Chinatown
Lowdown: To say Poca Madre is Victor Albisu’s passion project would be an understatement. After closing his South American grill, Del Campo, Albisu and his team poured their hearts and souls into its replacement. Poca Madre is a sincere homage to Mexico, celebrating the country’s history, culture, agriculture and cuisine. The menu is, simply put, an exploration of contemporary Mexican dining. But every aspect, from the sourcing to the recipes, tells a deeper story. Dishes include flashes of influence from the various periods of colonization by Europeans and the far-reaching trade routes that brought Southeast Asian spices and herbs to the country. Many ingredients are imported from Mexico to support local farmers including sea salt, grasshoppers, cocoa nibs and dry maíz that is cooked, soaked, scrubbed and ground to form tortillas, which are cooked to order. The resulting product is unlike any tortilla I’ve had before: deeply flavored, crispy yet soft and enticingly aromatic. The small plates and entrées put creative twists on traditions, like a corn risotto that conjures the flavors of elote and a shrimp and cuttlefish ceviche with flat noodles made from the two types of seafood. Drinks rely heavily on the spirit made from the plant featured in Poca Madre’s logo and décor, with a liquid nitrogen-frozen margarita and a take on a Mai Tai that uses mezcal and cantaloupe seed orgeat. The space is accented by suspended greenery, a mirror carried over from Del Campo’s bar and a striking piece of artwork that clearly communicates the team’s view on immigration: a depiction of a freestanding open door on the U.S.-Mexico border modeled after a real-life installation from 1988. 777 I St. NW, DC; www.pocamadredc.com

San Lorenzo
Open: June 25
Location: Shaw
Lowdown: Chef Massimo Fabbri, known and loved for his cooking at Tosca and Posto, opened his own restaurant in Shaw in honor of his family and the cuisine of his home in Tuscany. The spot is named for Fabbri’s favorite neighborhood in Florence, and his son, who is named after the patron saint of cooks. The menu is succinct and simple, with classic Tuscan recipes and a few salutes to his time at Tosca. Start with antipasti like tuna carpaccio, panzanella or fried squash blossoms, and be sure to sample the fresh pastas. My favorite was the tortelli stuffed with robiola and black truffle complemented by a porcini mushroom sauce. Entrées range from sautéed scallops to a grilled T-bone steak for two. To finish, there’s a selection of traditional desserts like panna cotta and fruit crostata. The bar serves both signature cocktails and unaltered Italian favorites, as well as beer and wine. Though the space is narrow, the surrounds are cozy and inviting, with Art Deco Murano glass pendants, brick peeking through distressed plaster and Florentine-inspired patterned tiles. 1316 9th St. NW, DC; www.sanlorenzodc.com

NOTABLE

Test Kitchen Tuesdays
Date: Tuesdays during the summer
Location: The Oval Room
Lowdown: For Chef Bryan Moscatello at The Oval Room, the new Test Kitchen Tuesday series is the perfect outlet for culinary creativity. Each Tuesday, he creates a three-course menu that showcases unusual ingredients, cutting-edge techniques and out-of-the box dishes, all within a chosen theme. Previous Test Kitchen menus have covered ideas like “Memories of a Jersey Shore Clam Bake,” “The Parents Are Away So It’s Breakfast for Dinner,” and “Who Cooked Roger Rabbit,” with dishes ranging from a lobster burger to a take on steak and eggs with beef tongue and a quail egg. The menu is available at the bar or on the patio every Tuesday for $45 per person. There is also an optional $25 drink pairing. 800 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.ovalroom.com

Wandering Oasis
Date: Now through fall
Location: Various locations around DC
Lowdown: DC’s Mixtress, Gina Chersevani, has taken her show on the road. She recently debuted Wandering Oasis, a 27-foot traveling cocktail truck, at various locations around the District. The truck is covered with giant banana leaves and tropical birds and supplies drinkers with frozen and draft cocktails like a hibiscus lemon daiquiri, citrus sour margarita, grapefruit crush and bourbon mint tea. Every drink on the menu is 16 ounces and costs about $9. The menu of drinks will rotate each weekend. The truck’s planned stops are TBD, but it will definitely make a few cameos at Nats Park over the next few months. Follow Chersevani and her cocktail truck’s DC stops on Twitter at @MIXTRESSdc.

Photo: Courtesy of EatBar
Photo: Courtesy of EatBar

Roll Out the Rum

Rum is one of the most nuanced spirits, both in its craft and taste. Regional differences mean there’s a bottle of rum for just about every palate. Too often, rum’s potential is restrained behind the bar, as it’s used for little more than boozing up tropical coolers best suited for cutting through triple-digit heat indexes. Those tiki-style drinks can be fun and refreshing, but they also leave the rum itself as afterthought, masked among layers of syrupy juices and sodas.

“I think a lot of spirits professionals will second me on this,” says Matt Strickland, head distiller at District Distilling on U Street. “I think the biggest problem is that rum is viewed as sweet, cheap and not very serious.”

Refusing to let rum live with this basic reputation, a growing chorus of bartenders are ditching blenders and pineapple wedges in favor of sophisticated cocktails that showcase rum’s natural flavors. Here are five cocktails in DC designed to highlight rum’s true colors.

Crown of Love at EatBar

2 oz. Plantation O.F.T.D. Rum
0.25 oz. rhum sirop
2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl
Mole Bitters
lemon peel rim

This rum cocktail is based on Arcade Fire’s song “Crown of Love,” according to EatBar Spirits Manager Brian McGahey.

“‘[The song] captures the essence of crazy mad love,” he says. “It is a fitting name for this cocktail, which combines the intensity of a molasses-based dark rum that is a blend of Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados rums bottled at 69 percent alcohol, blended with a bit of rhum sirop from Martinique.”

EatBar: 415 8th St. SE, DC; www.eat-bar.com

The Migration at Kith/Kin

0.75 oz. cynar
0.75 oz. Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum
0.75 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
0.75 oz. Cocchi Storico Vermouth di Torino

The Kith/Kin bar team draws on two types of dark rum for its Manhattan-style riff, a recipe it originally credits to Ben Long of Reliable Tavern in DC’s Petworth neighborhood. The drink gets extra treatment here, spending two months aging in used Mount Gay Rum barrels before being served.

The result is a smooth, sippable cocktail with notes of charcoal and oak that bartender Dimitre Darrocan says imparts a whiskey-like flavor – one that’s miles away from tiki.

Kith/Kin at InterContinental Washington DC: 801 Wharf St. SW, DC ; www.kithandkindc.com

Full Moon Party (Photo - Courtesy of Quill - The Jefferson)

Full Moon Party at Quill

1.5 oz. Mount Gay Rum
2 oz. Thai tea apricot mix
0.25 oz. fresh lemon juice

“One of the biggest misconceptions about rum is that it’s not as versatile as other spirits, and that all rum tastes the same,” says Quill bartender Sophie Szych.

The upscale hotel bar, which also serves a Hamilton-inspired rum cocktail, takes advantage of that flexibility by using Thai tea in its Full Moon Party.

“The addition of condensed milk adds creamy roundness to the sharpness of the apricot,” Szych says.

Quill at The Jefferson: 1200 16th St. NW, DC; www.jeffersondc.com

La Fin du Monde (Photo - Courtesty of District Distilling)

La Fin Du Monde at District Distilling

1.5 oz. aged Buzzard Point Rum
0.75 oz. lemon juice
.075 oz. grenadine
0.25 oz. curacao

“When I approach a rum cocktail and it isn’t going to be tiki, I tend to look at classic serious cocktails in the canon, things like a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned,” Strickland says. “Subbing rum in for whiskey is the easiest thing to do, but you can get much more adventurous than that.”

Strickland is reviving this long forgotten rum cocktail (it originally appeared in the 1908 cocktail book World Drinks and How to Mix Them by William Boothby) in his distillery tasting room and using his distillery’s new barrel-aged rum as the base.

District Distilling: 1414 U St. NW, DC; www.district-distilling.com

Columbia Room cocktail (Photo - Karlin Villondo Photography)

A Spot in the Shade at Columbia Room

3 oz. clarified watermelon juice
1.5 oz. Bly Rum
0.325 oz. fresh lime
0.25 oz. Keepwell Carolina gold rice vinegar
0.5 oz. rich simple syrup

“This is a refreshing summer cocktail inspired by a picnic,” says Columbia Room Head Bartender Suzy Critchlow. “We are using Bly, a new white rum from the folks that make Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka in Pennsylvania.”

The cocktail is part of the award-winning bar’s four-course summer tasting menu. If a seat at the intimate bar is too much of a task, Critchlow says the drink can be easily made at home and even batched up into a punch for sharing.

Columbia Room: 124 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; www.columbiaroomdc.com

These cocktails represent just a small number of bartenders in and around DC that are challenging how we drink rum and use it in cocktails. Notes of vanilla, caramel, oak, molasses and spices are being highlighted in drinks that range from from revised takes on stirred classics to light and fruity sippers that balance sour and sweet. So next time a rum craving hits, put down the umbrella drink and consider something more suitable for a dimly lit cocktail bar than a sunny beach.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cake Keeps Touring to Make Cake

Cake hasn’t released an album since 2011’s Showroom of Compassion, but the five-man group hasn’t exactly been sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Instead of spending time in the studio, they’ve made their way around the world touring – a lot.

“I think we like playing music,” lead vocalist John McCrea tells On Tap. “I’m definitely a better live performer than I was when I first started – not anything theatrical, not doing tricks, but actually playing my instrument and singing. What I don’t enjoy is traveling through space endlessly in buses and cars and airplanes. I think most people romanticize touring if they haven’t actually been traveling for two years straight.”

Despite the constant Mad Max, road warrior lifestyle, the band has found times for breaks. It’s during these moments that McCrea is able to break away and pen music. He’s not sure what will and won’t be on the band’s future releases. In the past seven years, he’s accumulated an enormous amount of songs on the shelf, waiting to be recorded when the band finds time.

“It takes a lot longer to record material because you’re doing it sort of in between the paying job,” McCrea says. “It’s like a weird hobby. I don’t know many people who can really record on the road, because you play until late at night and then you pass out, get up early and drive all day. It’s what we have now.”

McCrea has hundreds of incomplete songs, and potentially “hundreds and hundreds of fragments.” The ratio he uses in this interview is 1:9, as in for every song he takes to his fellow band member, one makes it to the next stage.

“I pretty much bring finished songs to the band. What they help me with is figuring out arrangements, baselines and guitar riffs. Sometimes I’ll add on stuff later.”

As a writer, he doesn’t fixate on the fragments, and instead chooses to leave them where they lie as newer, fresher ideas come to mind. In some cases, years pass before he regains the inspiration to revisit a particular “fragment.”

“It’s a feeling,” he says. “It’s intuitive when to revisit [a song]. I think it ends up sounding better if I just move on to another song. If I hit a wall, I think it sounds forced to pretend that the wall is not there. I know a short fiction writer who just couldn’t finish a story and left it there for five years. Then he came back to it and it was easy.”

Cake has a history of turning songs written by other musicians into hits as well. With the band’s unique style involving the fusion of spoken-word singing, rock and folk guitar riffs, and a generally laid-back attitude, the band’s covers of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” sound like independent works rather than rehashes.

“I think it’s more likely we do a country album [instead of a cover album], which would itself contain covers on it,” McCrea says. “I think that would be a lot of fun for us and the cool thing about playing other people’s material is that it’s a chance to inhabit someone’s thought process. I think that’s probably true of writing fiction. Like learning a song, it allows you to intuit someone else’s thinking, which is wild.”

With another tour on the horizon, there’s no telling when McCrea and his bandmates will huddle into a studio to record another album. Luckily, they’re still out there endlessly touring, and Cake is soon to inhabit the same space as Ben Folds.

“I think it’s probably the worst thing if you go to a concert or a festival and everyone is playing the same drum beat at the same time,” he says. “The human brain just sort of turns off when things sound too similar.”

Learn more about Cake at www.cakemusic.com.

See Ben Folds and Cake at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, August 18. Tall Heights will open. Tickets start at $45. Doors at 5:30 p.m., show at 7 p.m.

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

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

A Day in the Life: Master Mixologist Paul Gonzalez

The concept of a passionate person is often talked about at parties and in cover letters, but it’s rare to meet someone in the flesh who truly embodies the phrase. For me, the sense of confidence and wonder that local mixologist Paul Gonzalez holds for the drink industry is uniquely infectious and authentic, and one of a litany of reasons we decided to pick his brain about his role in the local mixology scene.

On Tap: How did you get into the drink industry, and mixology specifically?
Paul Gonzalez: I’ve always been in the food and beverage industry. I’m the oldest of the four kids in my family so when I was younger, that made me my grandmother’s sous chef and that’s kind of where my flavor sensibilities started growing.  I worked in the industry through college, from server to bartender, and it was one of those things where you need the experience to get hired but can’t get experience unless you work. I would work for free until you gave me a job.

OT: Was there an “a-ha” moment when you knew this is what you are meant to do?
PG: When I got out of college, I was doing tons of stuff. I was cutting down trees, doing construction and working some office jobs because I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I landed on this because I always loved what I was doing in this industry, and I always kept it in my back pocket. Even after long weeks, I wanted to get behind the bar and see my friends. If everyone is there, why be anywhere else?


Mixology Must-Haves
A strong team
A positive outlook
Good liquor
Jiggers


OT: At what point did you know moving from Norfolk to a bigger market like DC was the right move for you?
PG: I knew I needed to move and continue growing. One of my good friends moved to DC and I would go back and forth to help with his catering company. By luck, one of his roommates happened to be running the bar program at Zaytinya. I started talking to him at one of the events we used to do, and when he found out I was driving up from Norfolk, he told me if I wanted to come up to DC full-time, he’d hire me there. So I literally came up on a Thursday, interviewed, got hired and then moved my stuff up that weekend.

OT: What was your first experience in a bigger market like?
PG: I worked for ThinkFoodGroup for about three years, and I learned a ton from them. A lot of it was their philosophy on hospitality. On the drink side, they focused heavily on flavors, so it wasn’t just, “Make me an Old Fashioned or a sazerac,” but they’d give us this flavor and that flavor, and challenge us to make something with it. That process makes you hone in on what each spirit tastes like and why.

OT: After that, you landed a gig with the wildly popular Drink Company’s pop-ups. How did that move come about?
PG: I bounced around for awhile and basically interned at a few places in the area I really wanted to work for. Columbia Room was one of those places, as I had friends there. I was pretty annoying about wanting a job with them, so I worked there for free, and it kind of burnt me out. [Laughs] But as soon as they had an opening at Southern Efficiency, they let me know I was in the running. At the time, whiskey was my weakest subject, but I leaned into it and told them directly, “I came to DC to get better, this is my weakest area and that’s why I want to work here,” and the rest is history.

OT: You recently worked at The Gibson, which was described as a “dream team” of mixologists by the Washington City Paper. Was this as fun as it sounds?
PG: It was really, really cool. I’ve had a blast working with The Gibson crew. It was one of those things that just kind of snowballed. My good friend Ed Lainez took over the bar program and after running into him, he told me who he was bringing on and I immediately was like, “Can I join?” Everyone there was super talented – we just checked our egos at the door and had in-depth conversations about drinks. We just wanted to get them right.


Can’t Live Without
My girlfriend
My puppy, Puppy the Vampire Slayer
Passion for anything you do
Good food
Good drinks


OT: Your next project is back with Drink Company at Eaton Hotel’s new bar. How far along is that?
PG: The whole hotel concept is super guest interactive. The bar will be a speakeasy-esque cocktail bar. We like the boozy drinks, but there will also be light, easy sipping beverages. I believe in the three-drink philosophy, where there’s three varietals of every type of cocktail. We want people to have a good time, but the goal is to make a memory and make it last. We’re shooting for a mid-August or September opening.

OT: In the meantime, you’ve been bouncing around and freelancing at different places. Is this just to learn and pick up new skills?
PG: I took this time to work with people who inspire me and who I want to learn from. I see all these awesome people running awesome programs, and I want to go work with them and pick their brains. There aren’t many industries where you can do this. One example is Hank’s Cocktail Bar up in Petworth. Jessica Weinstein is the beverage director for all of the Hank’s [locations], and she’s someone I’ve known for a long time now. You can see that she has her own style and [has made her own] footprint on elevated cocktails, but she’s taken all of the pretension out of it.

OT: What is your process for working on drinks? Do you have a concept and then work on it alone, or do you take ideas to others?
PG: It’s a little bit of both. The team works on ideas at least once a season. For instance, I’ll tell Jackson Crowder, co-manager at the Eaton Hotel’s bar, and then on the next day we both have off, we’ll hammer out variations of whatever concept. Then we’ll take those to the big meeting, and maybe one or two – or none – make it. Drink Company’s system is one of the best I’ve seen because they’re very open to ideas and collaboration

OT: Now that you’re moving into a managerial role and you’re the one giving tips and advice to younger people in the industry, what’s your long-term plan?
PG: It’s the same thing it’s been since I did my first interview in DC: I want to have my own bar in five years. I think I said that three years ago, so I have to start making moves. [Laughs] This is such a great city for it, and I would love to do something like that here.

For updates on Eaton Hotel, visit www.eatonworkshop.com/hotel.

Follow Gonzalez on Instagram at @paullyygee.

Eaton Hotel: 1201 K St. NW, DC; 202-289-7600; www.eatonworkshop.com/hotel

Photo: Shawn Brackbill
Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Inside the Ever-Evolving Dream Pop World of Beach House

On the day we’re scheduled to chat, Victoria Legrand of Beach House is called to jury duty. Even masters of their craft with incredible work ethic are not immune to the tedious call of bureaucratic obligation.

When I interview Legrand a week later, the vocalist-keyboardist for the Baltimore-based dream pop duo speaks with enthusiasm and insight into everything we cover in our conversation. It was supposed to be a brief 15-minute call, but when I tell her that Beach House is my favorite band, she’s quick to continue our conversation and tells me to ask her anything I really want to know. For someone at the helm of one of the dreamiest bands in the world, she is refreshingly kind and down to earth.

With bandmate and guitarist Alex Scally at her side, the pair crafts ethereal, enigmatic songs with incredible consistency. Beach House is responsible for a colossal catalog, with seven albums and nearly 80 songs to date. Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars were released a mere two months apart in 2015, and the band’s B-Sides and Rarities compilation was announced barely two years later. Their seventh album, unpretentiously titled 7, arrived this May.

Legrand and Scally embarked on a world tour for 7 in July – with an upcoming stop at The Anthem planned for August 25 – and they’re allowing fans to select the top three songs they want to hear most at the show they’re attending. Much like the rest of the creative endeavors the pair’s pursued over the course of their 14-year career, it’s an ambitious concept. And with 77 songs to their name, the fan requests are no small feat – but it’s something they’ve been waiting to enact for some time.

“Alex came up with that idea three or four years ago – time flies,” Legrand says. “It’s something that he’d been toying with as a way to get to know our audiences more in every city. You’ll see the list of what songs are being requested over others, and it’s very fascinating. It’s a way for fans to interact with us, so it’s not just this one-sided relationship where it’s like, ‘Band plays onstage in front of audience! Take it!’ It was based off some very innocent ideas on how to make things a little bit more fun and interesting.”

The band’s meticulous approach to everything they do as musicians becomes more evident as Legrand and I discuss the imagery surrounding 7. For previous records like 2010’s Teen Dream, the band crafted a music video for each song. But with 7, they drew heavily from the black and white visuals in the style of op art – the use of black and white geometric shapes to create striking optical illusions – and the iconography of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Each song has its own op art video that marries audio to visual.

“The black and white really connected with the music and was an inspiration for the record,” she says. “I think that we wanted the op art to be something that people would identify with for 7, and it seems to be working.”

Musically and aesthetically, it definitely is. Their label, Seattle stalwart Sub Pop Records, released colored vinyl editions of 7 that sold out the same day the record came out. The album itself received rave reviews and has already clocked in high on many early album of the year lists. Legrand breaks down the cover of 7 for me – a dizzying array of op art, black and white clips, holographic elements, and a woman’s obscured face – all of which she provided creative direction for alongside Post Typography, a design house based in Baltimore.

“You have some psychedelia in there – this hallucinogenic aspect,” she says of the album cover. “There’s bits of chaos in there. Those are some of the themes off the record, especially on a song like ‘Dark Spring,’ which is embodying nature, change, chaos [and] darkness. And then you have glamour and destructiveness. There’s a lot of very cinematic themes throughout the record.”

Cinematic is a word that’s often ascribed to Beach House’s music and unsurprisingly, the band is a go-to for soundtracking movies and TV shows. Their work has appeared in movies such as The Future and the documentary Ivory Tower. You can hear their songs on shows like The OA, Skins, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Atlanta and New Girl, to name a few.

“I usually make the decision just purely based on the show – the storywriting and who I think the audience will be,” Legrand tells me. “I tend to love and gravitate toward shows for younger people because I really care about young people emotionally and psychologically. I have a great deal of empathy for people who are just trying to survive in the world. Any shows that are about that, I am always happy to let them use our music.”

Beyond their highly stylized album art and impressive soundtracking credits, Legrand says her band has their sights set on breaking into the world of composing.

“We’re literally just waiting for a person to hire us. I think we just really want someone to just say, ‘Hey Beach House, would you soundtrack my film?’ and we would do it.”

Don’t expect the band’s first foray into composing to be another record though. Legrand views entering that universe as a way to incubate ideas outside of the work she and Scally are used to producing and tap into currently uncharted  territory.

“Scoring and soundtracking use totally different parts of our writing process. There’s stuff we would make that probably wouldn’t sound at all like what any of our previous work sounded like. It would be using totally different aspects of our creative writing, which is something that we’re dying to do because we’d be able to develop more of our other unknown creative sides.”

Brimming with creative energy, I can’t help but wonder if Legrand is ever uninspired by the world around her or feels overwhelmed by the pressure to constantly create.

“I personally do burn out and go through great periods of what I call ‘nothingness’ where I am almost forgetting what I do,” she tells me. “I don’t say, ‘I’m a singer, I’m a musician.’ It’s almost like I don’t even identify as that. It’s more like, ‘I’m Victoria, I’m a human being.’ I do whatever, I’m fascinated by many things. Boredom – or whatever that is, the nothingness – is an extremely important part of the process of then being able to have new things start to creep in.”

It’s clear that Legrand has arrived at a place where she can embrace the nothingness. She tells me about the intense writing and recording and touring for their record Bloom about seven years ago, where she experienced her first bout of burnout brought on by “our own insanity, propelling us forward.” Since then, she’s learned to accept these feelings as part of the ebb and flow of existing in the world as a creative person.

“It’s very normal to feel all of the sudden that you’re not a creative person at all. I might not hear a melody or come up with lyrics or have a story in my mind. But I might be going down a rabbit hole of things that lead me, for example, to develop the ideas for the visual of 7. I was into art and just seeing things. I wasn’t into hearing or listening. I was more into looking. It’s important to accept oneself if you feel like you’re all of the sudden flattened. You’ll come up again – you just have to let that moment be.”

Beach House bring their electrifying new album 7 to The Anthem on Saturday, August 25. Papercuts open. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $38. For more on Beach House, visit www.beachhousebaltimore.com.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0200; www.theanthemdc.com

passion-1600x900

Stage and Screen: August 2018

THROUGH SUNDAY, AUGUST 5

The Story of the Gun
Politics aside, what is the history with America and guns? Mike Daisey offers a comedy-tinged performance about the controversial conversation. The New York Times-designated “master storyteller” won’t be lecturing you on a specific partisan point. While we’re used to hearing repetitive rhetoric on the gun debate, Daisey’s performative aspect to this topic should offer a fresh conversation to help us all get to the root of America’s polarizing relationship to guns. The show is only available for a week, but this conversation will forever be a hot topic. Tickets are $20-$66. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net

THROUGH SUNDAY, AUGUST 26

The Color Purple
Based on the 1982 book by Alice Walker, this story has won awards as a novel, film and musical. Witness the heart-wrenching story of Celie, who is separated from her sister and children for most of her life but finds a way to stay hopeful and in the end, triumphant. Set in early 1900s Georgia, The Color Purple is told through jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues, and explores different family and relationship dynamics. Don’t miss out on the production awarded with a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. Tickets are $69-$149. The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

FRIDAY, AUGUST 3

Hey Frase! A Live Podcast Taping
Ever listen to a great podcast and wish you were in on the fun? Hosts Sarah Fraser and Paul Wharton are joined by guests Danni Starr and comedian Rob Maher for this special live taping of Hey Frase! They’ll be trying their hand at standup while recording a hilarious conversation you can relive later on, including their thoughts on pop culture in DC and beyond. Starr is a radio host on 93.9 WKYS and TLC, and Maher has performed with Kevin Hart and is a regular favorite at DC Improv. Tickets are $25-$30. AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. Bethesda, MD; www.ampbystrathmore.com

FRIDAY, AUGUST 10 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 2

Melancholy Play: A Contemporary Farce
This refreshing comedy about love isn’t about your typical, gorgeous lead. Yes, everyone is in love with her. But no, it’s not because she’s a bubbly, model-like star. Tilly’s sadness is what makes her so irresistible – no wonder even her therapist can’t get enough. Unfortunately for her admirers, Tilly’s emotions turn topsy-turvy as she discovers true joy. Moving beyond physical affections, Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play will show you a surreal kind of love. Tickets are $19-$45. Constellation Theatre Company at Source Theatre: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; www.constellationtheatrecompany.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 14

Happy Birthday, LIT!
Recover from your Monday blues with lots of laughs from Laugh Index Theatre (LIT) as they celebrate eight seasons of bringing comedy variety shows and improv to DC audiences. Catch a preview of their new cast as well as performances from their original, seven-year-old comedy team, Hot & Sweaty. Performances will range in comedic style from stand-up to sketches, and even musical improv. LIT boasts eight original teams, and more than 60 overall members dedicated to keeping it funny in the nation’s capital. Show your support for local comedy, and if you like what you see, sign up for a workshop. Tickets are $8-$10. Source Theatre: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; www.laughindextheatre.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 14 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

Passion
After their (yes, passionate) love is deterred by military duty, Giorgio and Clara’s relationship must survive through solely letters during the mid-1800s in Italy. Of course, the handsome soldier can’t avoid admiration even away at camp – his colonel’s cousin, Fosca, stays there too. While longing for Clara, Giorgio befriends Fosca, who suffers from seizures and spends her time solitary, living through the characters in novels. You’ll quickly learn that this isn’t a story about two young people destined to be together. The feeling of passion is a shifting force that can border obsession. This musical explores love and sickness – sometimes to the point that there is no difference. Tickets are $40-$89. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; www.sigtheatre.org

THURSDAY, AUGUST 16 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

In The Closet
Presented by Rainbow Theatre Project, this world-premiere production crosses time but not necessarily space as we witness the lives of four gay men from various years. This metaphysical comedy delves into the unique stories of an old man, a middle-aged man, and younger men who are “where all gay men begin, in the closet,” according to the DC Arts Center’s description. By playwright Sigmund Fuchs, this production of In The Closet will start up the center’s August season. Tickets are $30-$35. DC Arts Center: 2438 18th St. NW, DC; www.dcartscenter.org

SUNDAY, AUGUST 26

Bollywood Boulevard
Bollywood films are known for their grand song scenes. In one moment, the stubborn heroine will catch herself eyeing the hero in some mundane – but sweet – action (teaching a child, for example). The next scene finds them both atop a snow-capped mountain as they sing about their mutual, unrequited love. These made-for-movie songs quickly become top hits for weddings and sing-along car rides, and now they’re live onstage with Bollywood Boulevard. The upbeat dance styles against vibrant lights and stage sets will have the whole audience clapping and swaying along. This “journey through Hindi cinema” is based on music and dance from different eras of Bollywood, from 20th-century classics to modern day. Tickets are $25-$55. Wolf Trap’s Filene Center: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

Photo: Elijah Jamal Balbed
Photo: Elijah Jamal Balbed

A Day in the Life: DC Drummer Isabelle De Leon

Encouraged by family, Isabelle De Leon has been playing music since she was four and the drums since she was seven. But hers is not a story of a child prodigy forced into a life of performance at any cost. De Leon has talent in spades, and she marches to the beat of her own drums. As an early teen, De Leon found a deep connection in writing music. She has since made it her mission to use the power of music to inspire and heal, and she does it in hundreds of different ways. On any given day, you can find her jetting from one gig to another, running jam sessions, teaching music lessons, serving as an ambassador to the DC music community and being the kickass lady drummer in a rock band.

At 27, De Leon has already played major venues including the Kennedy Center and DAR Constitution Hall, is the recipient of countless music scholarships and recognitions – including a stint as a Strathmore Artist in Residence – and still finds time to rock out with local synth-pop bands Prinze George and Paperwhite, and funk/soul band Lionize. Even with her many accomplishments, the local musician remains humble. On Tap caught up with De Leon to learn more about her  “constant learning journey” and how the musician incorporates her life experiences into the music she plays.

On Tap: You’ve played all over the country. What keeps you in DC?
Isabelle De Leon: I’m from Montgomery County, so not far. I’ve always loved the city, and it was always a dream of mine to move here and be more immersed in the scene. It’s great because the music scene is very active so there are a lot of opportunities to perform and meet other musicians. What’s cool about being here is that DC is a much smaller city but there’s still a lot happening, and I feel like I can be part of creating something here versus where it’s already oversaturated.

OT: You started out playing music at a young age with your family. How did your relationship with music develop as a child?  
IDL: It was always a family thing. My whole family played music. My dad was the one who taught us music when we were really young. He was teaching us all piano, guitar and bass. When I was seven, he brought home a drum set and taught me some basic things. At that point, he started asking each of us which instrument we wanted to take lessons for. I think he had a vision for what to steer us each toward. Our whole family played at church every weekend, and that was where we really learned about music theory, chord structures, arrangements and how to play in an ensemble – the nuances of improvising, taking cues and listening to each other. Those things are really valuable and hard to teach in a classroom.

OT: What drew you to the drums?
IDL: One of our favorite movies [growing up] was Selena, and it’s even more precious now because their story was very similar to ours. Their dad loved music and started them young, playing in this family band. I just remember that scene where he’s trying to get Suzette to play the drums and she’s adamantly protesting and she’s like, “Girls don’t play the drums.” And for some reason, I took that as, “Oh, I’m going to play the drums now and prove everybody wrong and show people that girls can play the drums.” So that was one of the reasons why I wanted to pursue it.

OT: It can be hard to make a career out of your passion. How did you make music both for you?
IDL: When I was really young, I didn’t know any other female drummers except [Santana’s] Cindy Blackman, who I idolized and still do. I realized that I was in a very unique position being a woman on a male-dominated instrument, and also being a woman minority in the music industry. I realized there was a power in that, in being able to inspire young girls to go out for things that people were telling them they couldn’t do. In a way, that’s really what my mission is. It’s one of the reasons why I feel like I can’t ever quit, necessarily. I yearn for that kind of figure I can look up to myself, and if I can be that for someone else who needs a role model, I would love to be that person for them.

OT: How does being a Filipino woman in this space affect what you do within the creative industry in DC?
IDL: Being a female drummer already sets me as a minority, and that’s something I’ve experienced my whole life. But one thing that I didn’t realize until I was much older was what my identity was and who I was. We grew up primarily around white people and because of that, I felt in a way more connected to American culture even though I know I don’t look “American.” But in Filipino circles, I didn’t feel like I fit in, in a way. That same kind of conflict came out when I started studying jazz music and participating in the DC music scene.

OT: What challenges have you faced breaking into the local jazz scene? 
IDL: Right now, I’m trying to get better at and play jazz, funk and soul music that’s oriented around really groovy drumming. There was an instance recently where it came to my attention that some people either roll their eyes at me when I come and play or they kind of judge me because according to them, I didn’t grow up in the “church” so I don’t really have a gospel background. That was hurtful because first of all, it’s not true. Also, music is supposed to be about camaraderie, sharing and connection. People who get hateful like that, or just bitter, defeat the purpose of what we do.

OT: You recently started a regular jam session at Pearl Street Warehouse. Is that a jazz series?
IDL: It’s called Southwest Soul Sessions. It’s not specifically jazz per se. I actually started the jam session with Elijah Jamal Balbed, who’s also an accomplished musician here, and our goal with the session was to bridge all of our music communities in DC. I’ve done a lot of work in the rock and pop scenes, and he’s very heavy in the jazz, R&B and go-go scenes. We realized that together, we would have a vast network of people and we really wanted to bring all of them together. The great thing about jam sessions is that you’re playing with people you may have never played with before and may never again. But in that moment, you’re just trying to create something that’s different and bring all of your influences to the table. We really wanted it to be like a dance party too, and Pearl Street Warehouse is perfect for that.

OT: You are very accomplished and constantly working on different projects. What keeps you focused and awake?
IDL: I’ve always known what my goals are. They’re pretty big, but I also have some that are more tangible like to be Beyoncé’s drummer. [Laughs] One thing that my mom taught me early on was to write down your priorities and goals and make lists of steps that you can take to get there. I make sure I check in with myself pretty regularly. My overall goals have been the same since I started to really pursue music, and I always keep that in the back of my mind. It’s really important to always remember your “Why?” It’s also important to take a break every once in awhile. There are days where I don’t do anything music-related.

OT: What do you enjoy doing on those days away from the music scene?
IDL: I really enjoy movies. I love being adventurous and trying new things, whether it’s an activity I’ve never done or something like bowling or just going on a walk in a park. I love cooking and catching up with friends. Relationships are really important to me, so I try to make sure I stay in touch with the people who are important and make time for them. I also really love shopping. I don’t mind spending money to beautify my room, because I’m creating music there and it needs to be a place of inspiration and a beautiful place that I can relax in and enjoy. My room is pretty decked out and full of plants.

Follow De Leon on Instagram at @isabelledeleon_ and on Facebook at @IsabelleDeLeonMusic. Learn more about her Southwest Soul Sessions with Balbed at www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com and sign up for drum lessons with her at www.7drumcity.com.