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Iza Flo // Photo: Nick Moreland, courtesy of DC Music Rocks

The Epitome of Music Inclusivity: DC Music Rocks Festival

Brian Palmer had a small yet inventive idea that sparked a festival authentically highlighting the DC music scene.

He performed all across the nation’s capital with his band Fellowcraft, meeting many talented artists along the way. He later realized the potential of DC’s music scene and wanted to shed light on what others were overlooking, so he created radio show and podcast DC Music Rocks to highlight the local music community. Alongside this year’s festival coordinator Daniel Roberts, he crafted the idea to produce an event that would incorporate everything he’d witnessed on the road.

“We look at the DC scene and see the amazing amounts of diversity and great artistry, and no one really knows it’s there except for the small groups of people in each scene,” Roberts says. “But it’s not well-known outside of DC.”

This year’s DC Music Rocks Festival will be held at the 9:30 Club on August 17. Participating artists range from reggae to indie pop, showcasing the stylistic variation that epitomizes the local music scene. Not bound by expectations or competition, this festival creates a supportive, inclusive atmosphere. In keeping with the festival’s mission, Palmer and Roberts searched for artists across the DC area that would fit their vision – but this proved challenging due to the fact that most of the participants seemed to be white male guitarists.

“They are a dime a dozen, and I happen to be one of them,” Roberts says. 

Nonetheless, diversity was a huge element of success for the festival, which meant more culture, more women and more music. The festival features six artists that have manifested their careers by developing original sounds, including Sub-Radio and Iza Flow.

Made up of childhood friends, Sub-Radio brings their own flair to indie music. Lead vocalist Adam Bradley describes their sound as “indie pop with a dance atmosphere.” They don’t fit in the usual boundaries of chill, elastic pop; instead, they craft upbeat tempos and psychedelic twists.

Iza Flo, a mesh of different women, ages, backgrounds and cultures, is one of the few bands on the scene that exemplifies an energy the DC community craves. Diora Brown, the group’s MC, describes their sound as “a lot of soul with hip-hop elements [and] a unique nostalgia that reminds you of the 80s.” 

Though they only formed this April, Iza Flow developed an approach to music that is naturally authentic. With such a positive and early beginning, performing at this festival provides them with an accepting outlet to dive into their craft and career as a group.

Even though the festival’s platform is built on diversity, the goal is also to expose artists to a higher platform. Roberts, who has his own record label, discovered that there aren’t enough musical outlets in DC for artists to reach a broader audience. Navigating the steps to reach national recognition can pose an enormous challenge to local artists, and Roberts and his collaborators want to use this festival to create more opportunities.

The DC Music Rocks Festival also pushes the local music scene forward with the support of nonprofit The MusicianShip, which helps at-risk youth through music education. Sub-Radio is a huge advocate for music education, considering it is one of the vital points that led to the creation of the band.

“We love to advocate for music education whenever possible,” says guitarist and vocalist Matt Prodanovich. “Four or five of us took classical guitar lessons in high school, which was one of the big factors on how we met and formed our band.”

This is a festival built on the diversity of its artists and their stylistic expression. Don’t miss the authenticity and vibrancy of DC’s local music scene at the DC Music Rocks Festival on Saturday, August 17 at the 9:30 Club. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.dcmusicrocks.com.

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

Correction: In a previous version of the story, the wrong photographer was credited. This mistake has been amended. 

Illustration: courtesy of "All Fantasy Everything"

Best Podcast Available All Fantasy Everything Selects DC For Live Tour

Podcasts are a dime a dozen these days. They’re easily created and just as quickly forgotten. Name a comedian, sports writer, author or filmmaker, and they’ve probably dabbled in coordinating a program discussing most anything. There’s plenty of reasons for these folks to give podcasting a shot: there’s money to be made and ears to grab, and it’s a great promotional tool for other types of programming, whether it be a standup special or an opinion column.

The brainpower behind “All Fantasy Everything” agreed with the sentiment. Founded by comedian and television writer Ian Karmel, the podcast is a show of three to four people sitting around fantasy drafting anything and everything: from Tom Hanks films to road trips.

“[Karmel] just wanted a way to interview people,” says cohost and comedian Sean Jordan. “He wanted a podcast where he could talk to his friends. He came up with the idea [and] shopped it around.Originally, people weren’t receptive. We did one together one day and it stuck.”

“All Fantasy Everything” debuted on the Internet in 2016 and is recorded weekly in Portland, Oregon with new episodes populating feeds every Friday. While episodes have featured a roulette of guests, including The Late Late Show host James Corden and NBA writer Zach Harper, the constant staples are Karmel, Jordan and standup comedian David Gborie. On July 13, locals will actually be able to sit in the same room as these folks as they live draft on Black Cat’s stage.

“It’s a very natural feel,” Jordan continues. “If you’re going to listen to people sit and talk, it has to have that real feel. We have running jokes, but I think one of the reasons it’s so good is because it sounds as if we’re just sitting in the living room watching basketball. It makes people feel at ease, as if they’re there.”

The format is predictable, which you’ll know if you’ve ever tinkered with any kind of fantasy draft. The hosts and guests each take turns picking something involving the theme, followed up by an explanation. The true magic of the show is in these unscripted moments where the listener is thrown into a full-fledged discussion either celebrating or dissecting the preceding selection. The ribbing is delightful and sincere and rarely, if ever, nasty or offensive.

“Sometimes there’s that feeling if someone is making a joke and it goes down the wrong road, it’s tricky because we’re three straight dudes,” Jordan says candidly. “We’re quick to wrangle it in. We just like to talk about how cool stuff is and how cool people are, and how often we cry.”

The transition from a studio or couch to a live crowd seems like a surreal thing for a podcast built upon the idea of shooting the shit among friends while debating which villain is more interesting or what fast-food items reign supreme among lit drive-thru menus. And while they do present differences in the flow of a normal show, the comedians aren’t afraid to ratchet it up for the crowd.

“[The live shows] are a lot trickier to rein in because the crowds are very hyped,” Jordan says. “When it’s a live show, I’m so excited and thrilled that anyone cares about anything I’m part of. I’m not sure anyone knows for certain that people will care about what they do, so when a thousand people are there to see them, you try to give them a show.”

Undoubtedly, the most intriguing aspect of the pod is the themes chosen. Jordan says they try to align it with whatever guest they’ll have, but often they opt for a general topic anyone could dive into without a huge amount of research.

“Even if you don’t know anything about it, it’s fun,” Jordan says. “Like vegetables – I hate vegetables. Sometimes, we’ll just decide randomly. It’s pretty easy. You don’t have to prep – just wing it. It’s just an excuse to sit around and bullshit, so it usually works.”

Themes for upcoming live shows – including the one in the District – have yet to be decided, but Jordan says they’ll be figured out beforehand. And though I tried to get the comedian to spill the beans on what it could be, he holds firm and doesn’t budge, only divulging the most generic of information.

“We try to keep it local but broad enough,” Jordan says. “It’s hush-hush for now.”

As of right now, there’s more than 100 episodes available to get listeners hyped for their DC show. So plug in your headphones while you prep for your own upcoming fantasy drafts, and pray we get a theme as wacky as celebrity sex tapes or stuff to do when you’re drunk.

“All Fantasy Everything” comes to Black Cat on July 13. Tickets $20. Stream the podcast at www.headgum.com/all-fantasy-everything.

Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4490; www.blackcatdc.com

Stage and Screen: The White Snake, John Cusack, God of Carnage and More

THROUGH SUNDAY, MAY 19

The Great Commedia Hotel Murder Mystery
The Great Commedia Hotel Murder Mystery promises to give you “Zanni bellhops, femme fatales, hidden clues, mustachioed detectives and more!” In the tradition of classic mysteries from Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and Clue, this entertaining whodunnit ends Faction of Fools Theatre Company’s monumental 10th anniversary season. Various dates and times. Tickets $22. Faction of Fools Theatre Company: 800 Florida Ave. NE, DC; www.factionoffools.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, MAY 26

The White Snake
Inspired by an ancient Chinese fable, The White Snake tells the story of animal spirit White Snake, who transforms into a beautiful woman to experience the human world. When White Snake falls in love with a pharmacist’s assistant, their illicit romance draws the ire of a villainous monk who sets out to destroy their relationship. Various dates and times. Tickets $19-$45. Constellation Theatre Company: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; www.constellationtheatre.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, JUNE 2

The Oresteia
Adapted from the Greek tragedy trilogy, Ellen McLaughlin’s The Oresteia is coming to the Shakespeare Theatre Company. On the surface, it’s an epic story about love, betrayal, murder and revenge. But at its core, The Oresteia is a critique of human civilization. McLaughlin condenses the trilogy into one dynamic show with expert finesse. Various dates and times. Tickets $44-$118. Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; www.shakespearetheatre.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, JUNE 9

Love’s Labor’s Lost
In this early Shakespeare comedy, a young king and his three companions swear off women in order to focus on their studies and fasting. However, when a princess and her female companions arrive, the young men find it increasingly difficult to deny their lustful desires. Directed by Vivienne Benesch, Love’s Labor’s Lost is a delightfully witty, amusing and timeless tale. Various dates and times. Tickets $42-$79. Folger Theatre: 201 E. Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu

WEDNESDAY, MAY 1 – SUNDAY, JUNE 2

The Children
The protagonists of The Children, a couple of retired physicists, live in a remote cottage on the British coast. They live a simple, modest life in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, carefully conserving their resources to get by. But a surprise visit from a former colleague upends the couple’s lives, revealing old secrets with catastrophic consequences. The Children is loosely based on the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. Various dates and times. Tickets $52-$65. Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; www.studiotheatre.org

SATURDAY, MAY 4 – SATURDAY, MAY 25

God of Carnage
The 2009 Tony Award-winning play God of Carnage was originally a French tale but has been translated due to popular demand. The play centers around a feuding set of parents who meet after their children clash in a playground altercation. What begins as a civil conversation devolves into a jarring confrontation between the parents and ultimately their own partners. Various dates and times. Tickets $50. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; www.keegantheatre.com

TUESDAY, MAY 7 – THURSDAY, MAY 9

The Chibok Girls: Our Story
Few girls have captured the world’s attention like the Chibok Girls. In 2014, 273 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from a school in the town of Chibok, stirring international outrage and widespread protests in Nigeria. In a predictable fashion, the world seemed to forget about the kidnapped girls just as quickly as they’d learned about their disappearance. Renegade Theatre’s The Chibok Girls: Our Story is a reminder in the form of testimonial theatre. The event also features Nobel Prize-winning playwright and author Wole Soyinka and is part of CrossCurrents, a “citywide biennial festival that highlights innovative artists from around the world who are harnessing the power of performance to humanize global politics.” Begins at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are $20. Davis Performing Arts Center: 37th and O Streets NW, DC; www.georgetown.edu

THURSDAY, MAY 16

John Cusack, Plus a Screening of High Infidelity
John Cusack is recognizable from a ton of movie roles, but perhaps none are as iconic and memorable as Rob Gordon, a music connoisseur and record shop owner searching for love in the classic rom-com High Fidelity. Throughout the film, Gordon muses on his past relationships and the sobering realities of love and companionship. Cusack himself will discuss the film in person and take questions from the audience following the screening at the Warner Theatre. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Show at 7:30. Tickets $49-$150. Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC;www.warnertheatredc.com

Photo: Andrew Mishko

Nick Waterhouse Squares Up and Makes It

Who exactly is Nick Waterhouse?

His music is imbued with the landscape of the San Francisco nightclubs where he began as a DJ, playing 45s of old-school rhythm and blues. His live shows have the energy of bootleg punk show recordings you’d find in a YouTube hole, but with the smoothness and instrumentation of seasoned big band conductor.

Essentially, Waterhouse makes party music. His tracks wouldn’t be out of place at a vinyl-only night at neighborhood dives like U Street’s Velvet Lounge or Showtime in Bloomingdale on the weekends. Fans and casual listeners know this already. But behind the jazzy horn breaks, the female-sung catchy hooks, the driving percussion, the guitar licks and the sweaty dance party vibes is a sardonic wit, which I witnessed firsthand on a recent call with the artist from his L.A. home.

Waterhouse was fresh off the heels of the European leg of his tour and gearing up for his U.S. dates when we chatted, which includes a stop at Rock & Roll Hotel on May 17 with his seven-piece band. But before international tours were the norm, the musician was recording his first single with a ragtag group of players and some of his own savings.

The limited-run 45s of 2010’s “Some Place” sold for $7 a pop and were passed around among DJs, eventually becoming a dance party success. One 45 turned into a bunch of 45s, which turned into his debut album Time’s All Gone. His current tour is in promotion of his self-titled fourth album, released in March.

“The first three records sound more like a trilogy,” he tells me on the call. “I know they seem spread out to listeners, but they were all like one long thread of a period of time that started in December 2010 and just didn’t really stop. I didn’t get a chance to get my footing, I guess.”

He says Nick Waterhouse felt like a reintroduction to listeners.

“I’d be fine if somebody had never heard of me and picked up this record and this was their introduction. This is the first record where I felt like I could really square up and make it.”

Waterhouse’s latest album doesn’t stray far from the vintage R&B sound he’s known for. But, more on display this time around is his perspective as an individual. He says he doesn’t like being a public person or talking about himself, but this new album highlights the concepts and ideas that he grapples with as a musician working in an industry that he doesn’t feel entirely comfortable navigating.

Behind the glasses and his iconic midcentury aesthetic is a guy that’s perhaps finally comfortable making music the way he wants. It helps that Waterhouse has either worked with – or become friends with – many of the musicians and artists he grew up listening to and admiring.

His song “Wreck the Rod” off the new album was inspired by a personal conversation with Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans. He also covered his friend Jo Armstead’s 1967 single “I Feel an Urge Coming On,” and toured with and produced music for the soul legend (a former Ikette and background singer for icons James Brown and B.B. King).

“I got really emotional recently because we were on tour and in a big jam-packed bar in Athens, the DJ put on my song ‘Katchi.’ Ralph Carney plays the tenor sax solo on that. He died last year in an accident. And Ralph was somebody that came to the session blind. He was like, ‘Man, I really dig your sh-t. You got a f–king cool thing going on.’”

Carney was a prolific multi-instrumentalist that worked with Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, The B-52s and The Black Keys.

“He was giving me a vote of confidence. It’s like he came through time and dropped in like he belonged in my band for two days. It was like when I was young and fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll and jazz and playing music. That’s what the magic thing is.”

Catch Waterhouse and his band on Friday, May 17 at Rock & Roll Hotel. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17.50 in advance, $20 day of. Learn more about him at www.nickwaterhouse.com.

Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; 202-388-7625; www.rockandrollhoteldc.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: Courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company

Modern Shakespeare: Richard the Third at STC

“Now is the winter of our discontent.”

The opening line of Richard the Third would have you believe that all hardships are over and only good days are to come. But as theatergoers attending Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) upcoming production of Richard the Third will soon realize, anything but peace lies ahead.

Directed by David Muse for STC and running from February 5 through March 10, Shakespeare’s Richard the Third follows the titular role of Richard on his ambitious quest for the crown. A spiteful megalomaniac, Richard (Matthew Rauch) will stop at nothing until he sits on the throne, and thus invites the audience into a world of murder, villainy and even dark fun.

“Yes, Richard does horrific things in this play,” Rauch says, “but my hope and David’s [Muse] hope, I think, is that at least for the first part of the play, the audience reaction will not be ‘Oh, what a terrible person,’ but ‘Oh, isn’t he just deliciously evil’ and it’s terrible, but it’s fun to watch.”

Rauch emphasizes that just because the title of the play is Richard the Third, it doesn’t mean the story is only about him.

“It’s very easy with a face on the poster and the title of the play, for people to think there’s only one person involved,” Rauch says. “The truth is there’s about a hundred people involved and all of them are crucial.”

Some of those crucial people are the women around Richard, including his mother the Duchess of York, Margaret of Anjou and Queen Elizabeth. Rauch points out that while Richard can brilliantly manipulate people and events, these particular women don’t bend easily to his will and disprove the outdated notion that Shakespearean women are damsels in distress.

But a fourth woman equally as important to the play’s development, Lady Anne of Neville (Cara Ricketts), is the person who perhaps best understands Richard.

“Richard sees himself in [Anne] and she sees herself in him, in a way that she probably feels like she may break through to him,” Ricketts says. “He pretends it’s a possibility and she falls for it.”

Bust because Anne is ultimately manipulated by Richard, this doesn’t make her simple.

“My Anne is not a pushover,” Ricketts says. “There’s nothing soft about these women. The foundation for these characters has never been soft women.”

Ricketts adds she is ready to play Anne the way an audience 70 years ago may not have let her.

“During the 50s, you had preconceived notions about what a woman was in terms of society so that’s what you got,” Ricketts says. “Now I’ve got a chance to let loose the girdle and make it rip, so that’s what I’m doing while respecting what that character is.”

These preconceived notions of Shakespearean women are not the only ideas cast and crew hope prove outdated. Perhaps one of the most famous scenes in the play is the “wooing scene” where Richard interrupts Anne’s mourning of her father-in-law.

Rauch stresses that while many feel the scene is “creepy” and Richard comes off as “sexually predatory,” this is not the way they plan to portray Richard.

“The only event that needs to happen in the scene is that Anne consents to come to Richard’s house. Nothing else is implied in that scene or on the page and my hope is that it will not come off as sexually creepy,” Rauch says. “David [Muse] and I were never interested in a Richard who was sexually predatory, not because it’s not politically correct, but because we didn’t believe there was anything in the text that supported that.”

Changes in the character’s tones will not be the only noticeable differences in STC’s Richard the Third production. About 40 percent of the original text – mostly obscure English history – has been cut for a streamlined production.

“The Shakespeare Theatre is, I would argue, literally the best classical theater in the United States,” Rauch says. “They know how to do this here and they have created such a web of support.”

Rauch adds that despite the play’s age, audience members will find a lot of similarities between the 500-year-old story and modern society.

“[This is] a story about a deeply complicated, manipulative, brilliant person who rises to power and the people who are complicit in his doing so,” Rauch says. “All you need to do is read the front page of the New York Times to find parallels to that story.”

See Richard the Third at Shakespeare Theatre Company from February 5 through March 10. Runtime is 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Tickets start at $44. For more information, click here.

Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; 202-547-1122; www.shakespearetheatre.org

Stage and Screen: Winter 2019

THROUGH SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9

The Baltimore Waltz
It’s hard to blame someone diagnosed with the fictional “Acquired Toilet Disease” from going all out in the pleasures of the skin. With the fatal illness starting the timer leading to her impending doom, unmarried school teacher Anna heads to Europe with her brother Carl so she can live a little – complete with lots of food and sex. Meanwhile, Carl becomes entrenched in a bizarre espionage scheme meant to discover a cure for his not-long-for-this-world sister. You might be wondering, “Why did you mention a trip to Europe when Baltimore is mentioned in the title?” Well, about that… Various dates and times. Tickets $50. Keegan Theatre: 1742 Church St. NW, DC; www.keegantheatre.com

TUESDAY, JANUARY 29 – FRIDAY, MARCH 10

Nell Gwynn
Coming from humble beginnings, an orange seller eventually finds her way to the stage where she immediately becomes a household name. Upon Nell Gwynn’s successes, she manages to make a fan out of King Charles II. Eventually, the royal leader of England brings Gwynn to court as a favorite mistress. From there, the story about this amazing woman takes off. Various dates and times. Tickets $42-$79. Folger Theatre: 201 E Capitol St. SE, DC; www.folger.edu

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17

Shame
An adaptation of a documentary may not seem all that enthralling at first. However, the subject matter of Mosaic Theater Company’s Shame is more than enough to draw you in as it tackles the challenges facing Israelis and Palestinians who choose to work with one another despite significant hurdles. The story focuses on several examples of this predicament and integrates several mediums, including Facebook messages, tweets and telephoned threats. Various dates and times. Tickets $15-$35. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4 – SUNDAY, MARCH 3

BLKS
Spurred by a scare, Octavia decides it’s time to forget about any troubles or trepidations and have a raucous night on the town with friends. Joined by companions June and Imani, the three depart into the city for an epic night. But the evening becomes more than a hardcore party session, as the trio encounter strange characters, outrageous events and endure a true test of their friendship. Poet and playwright Aziza Barnes wrote this play, which celebrates queerness and sisterhood as the friends wrestle with universal factors such as truth, love and the struggle of adulthood. Various dates and times. Tickets $20-$51. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5 – SUNDAY, MARCH 10

Richard the Third
Power as an addiction is not only a trope in real life, but a common theme for villains in a number of stories – and perhaps the most famous is the power-hungry king from Shakespeare’s Richard III. Fueled by a bottomless well of ambition, the ruthless and cunning man continues to reach for more, more and more in his quest for power. By the play’s end, no one in the audience will be rooting for his lust. This is the study of what makes a villain, and few put on better performances than Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC). Various dates and times. Tickets $44-$102. STC’s Sidney Harman Hall: 610 F St. NW, DC; www.shakespearetheatre.org

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7 – SUNDAY, MARCH 3

El Viejo, El Joven y El Mar (The Old Man, The Youth, and The Sea)
A new play by Irma Correa, El Viejo, El Joven y El Mar tells the story of a renowned Spanish philosopher who runs into a fisherman, general and journalist. He speaks with each of them about their different beliefs regarding freedom, reason and faith; all the while, the old man is planning his escape from the Spanish island of Fuerteventura. Though the play is based on historical events, the subtext is heavily rooted in today’s society. The play is in Spanish with English subtitles. Various dates and times. Tickets $48. GALA Hispanic Theatre: 3333 14th St. NW, DC; http://en.galatheatre.org

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14

Story District’s Sucker for Love: A Valentine’s Day Special
No need to get mushy on Valentine’s Day when you can laugh at the misery of others, right? Okay, admittedly that sentence was a little Seinfeld-ish, but on the day dedicated to love, heart drawings and chocolates, Story District’s Sucker for Love provides an alternate mode of entertainment. Instead of a candlelit dinner with expensive wine, head to Lincoln Theatre to hear true stories involving sex, love, breakups, makeups, dating and anything else you can fit into the genre of Valentine’s Day. Show starts at 7 p.m., tickets $35-$45. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.storydistrict.org

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17

Urban Bush Women’s Hair & Other Stories
Through personal narratives crafted in living rooms, communities and kitchens, Hair & Other Stories is dance theatre that blends conversations with movement to challenge existing – and sometime archaic – American values. The Urban Bush Women company is always on the cutting edge of delivering pieces that fit within the contemporary dance genre while also highlighting the cultural history and spiritual traditions of the African-American and African diaspora. Saturday night opening party starts at 8 p.m. Sunday afternoon performance starts at 4 p.m. Tickets $15-$100. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; www.danceplace.org

Photo: Ryan Pfluger

Sharon Van Etten Talks TV, Her New Record and Focusing on the Positive

Singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten is many things. The recording artist has scored movies, acted in Netflix hit The OA, returned to school to pursue a psychology degree and navigated motherhood. Her accomplishments are dizzying and her talent is seemingly unending, but the musician is incredibly grounded and open about her creative process and personal life. On her fifth studio album, Van Etten put down the guitar and took to a Jupiter-4 synthesizer to compose 10 stunning songs about falling in love and forgiving yourself. The cover of her record Remind Me Tomorrow – yes, like the software notification update that’s universally postponed on computers and phones across the world – features two children in a sea of toys and play clothes.

The children belong to Van Etten’s friend and collaborator, director Katherine Dieckmann, who showed her the image after she expressed her worries around raising a child and being an artist. Dieckmann presented the photo with a laugh and the sincere encouragement of “You’ll figure it out.”

It’s clear that she not only figured it out but also entered a new era in her personal and professional life that’s responsible for the creation of her best work yet. Van Etten describes the photo as beautiful and liberating – an apt description for the feeling that anchors Remind Me Tomorrow.

On Tap: Your music is making a mark on current TV shows. “Serpents” is featured on The Walking Dead, your The OA character Rachel shares her pipes with viewers and you perform at the famous Roadhouse in Twin Peaks: The Return. How did these opportunities present themselves?
Sharon Van Etten:
“Serpents” connected with the zombie crew. It wasn’t something that I had planned or asked for. Someone made the connection and it was an honor, because that show is pretty epic. As far as The OA, I found out the casting director was in the audience when I was touring for Nick Cave in 2013 and I got asked to audition in 2016. They were looking for a singer because that’s a big part of the role of Rachel. In so many ways, that’s her superpower. In the few acting roles I’ve had, they were looking for a version of myself, which is comforting. For Twin Peaks, it was a similar thing. I think [director] David Lynch’s son [Riley Lynch] is a fan, and he turns his dad on to a lot of music and is also a musician himself. I also have a friend whose role is music and film crossover work who also said a kind word to David. There’s also a stroke of luck somewhere in there.

OT: How did you land on “Tarifa” for the Twin Peaks scene?
SVE:
It was a request! It was like, “Well, David wants ‘Tarifa’ so David gets ‘Tarifa!’” [laughs] It was kind of a no-brainer.

OT: It seems like so many people really connected with The OA and are really excited for the new season. Why do you think that is?
SVE:
I think real people in a sci-fi context is just something people connect with. The cinematography is so visceral, and all the characters have such a different emotive feel that it’s hard to just connect to one character. There’s a lot of care put into that show at every level. I’ve never been part of a production that large and everybody cares so much about all the fine details. It’s fun to watch them unfold.

OT: When did you start working on Remind Me Tomorrow?
SVE:
During the writing of this record, which spanned from 2015 to 2017, I was asked to score a film for Katherine Dieckmann called Strange Weather. A reference she gave me for the film was Ry Cooder’s score for Paris, Texas. It’s really beautiful and ambient – very Southwestern, dreamy guitar, introspective playing. It’s a style that I had to try very hard to give an homage to, but I don’t know how to play that naturally. In moments where I was feeling writers’ block, I put down the guitar and gravitated toward the keys [and] synthesizer that my space mate Michael Cera had called a Jupiter-4. I ended up writing a handful of songs on it.

OT: So in the midst of that, how did the record itself take shape?
SVE:
I did it without realizing I was writing for a record, which is really liberating – just to play and sing and not care about what it was for. It was more of a vibe that I was creating. The goal of that was just to cleanse my palate so I could return to the guitar and finish Catherine’s score. So by the time my son was about six months old, I got the itch to be more creative and write again. I opened this folder of demos and realized I had like 40. My partner encouraged me to make another record, but it was not my intention.

OT: How did you narrow it down from 40 demos to the 10 songs that make up Remind Me Tomorrow?
SVE:
When I started whittling down the songs after hearing everyone’s favorites, I wanted to pick the ones that also felt positive. I also wanted to pick the ones that were left of center. When I met with [producer] John Congleton, I had three folders: Folder A was all the songs I felt like needed to be on the record, Folder B was backups, and Folder C was wild cards that were either going to be great or terrible. He picked some from each.

OT: Which of the Folder C wild cards made the cut?
SVE:
That would be “Hands.” I wasn’t sure if it made sense. You don’t know until you go into the studio and let the sonic palette unfold. It ended up really standing out on the record to me.

OT: You said you wanted to pick songs that sounded positive. Why is that?
SVE:
When I was touring my last record, I was really proud of my songs and the production. But playing those songs over the years was also heartbreaking in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I was going in a dark place to perform those songs. I feel this responsibility to be a positive influence and a role model. I want to share a positive message and my positive experiences. I want to feel good, to sing love songs not about mourning something that didn’t survive but about something that is just born. I think that will help me endure the next couple years of touring as I perform these songs every night, just infused with a bit more love than regret.

Sharon Van Etten performs at the 9:30 Club with Nilüfer Yanya on Wednesday, February 6. Doors are at 7 p.m. and tickets are $30. For more on Van Etten, visit www.sharonvanetten.com.

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

Music Picks: December 2018

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4

The Helio Sequence
This Portland, Oregon duo hits the road to celebrate the ten year anniversary of their album Keep Your Eyes Ahead, which is (in my humble opinion) the best breakup album of all time. And while I can find no solid evidence it’s actually a breakup album (that’s the beauty of music, it’s whatever you need it to be!) it’s definitely worth the critical reevaluations it’s been receiving, whether or not listeners are brokenhearted. In fact, I had no idea the band was only a duo until today; their sounds are so lush and large I’d have insisted it was the work of a six piece band. If that’s not a testament to lasting talent I’m not sure what is. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5

Justus Proffit & Jay Som
Musicians and friends Justus Proffit and Jay Som make music inspired by the likes of Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes and other purveyors of sensitive and sensible guitar-driven music. Both accomplished artists in their own right, they’ve joined forces to bestow the gift of their EP Nothing’s Changed upon the world. And in the spirit of holiday giving and fierce friendship, they’ll take the stage at DC9 together. Doors 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $13. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6

JD McPherson
JD McPherson is ready to get you in the rock and roll holiday spirit that will have you dancing through the Christmas season and, let’s be honest, probably beyond. McPherson released Socks, his first Christmas album, this year and it’s full of eleven original holiday tunes. As someone who’s officially sick of traditional carols already, Christmas came early for me (and everyone else who’s ready for some originality in their seasonal playlist. Doors at 7:30. Tickets $25. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

Kimbra
Electro-pop artist Kimbra’s live shows are usually colorful and electric, but she’s adding a new dimension to her artistry with this “intimate, reimagined evening” at Sixth & I. This comes on the heels of her EP Songs from Primal Heart: Reimagined released earlier this year, and will hopefully also include reworked or stripped down versions of her experimental but honest to goodness pop. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Sixth & I Historic Synagogue: 600 I St. NW, DC; www.sixthandi.org

Roosevelt
French singer, songwriter, DJ and producer Roosevelt (real name Marius Lauber) has been making waves with his danceable indie pop since 2013. Now back on the scene with the recently released album Young Romance – to which prolific producer Chris Coady lent his chops – Lauber will bring warmth to event the chilliest December night with what’s sure to be a high energy dance party. 18-plus. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8

Cloud Nothings
The last time I saw Ohio post-punk outfit Cloud Nothings, their rainy festival set concluded with security guards attempting to rush the band offstage in the midst of lighting strike while frontman Dylan Baldi attempted to hang from an amp. Oh, and there was a mud-filled mosh pit. While I can’t guarantee the same things will transpire at Union Stage this month, I can guarantee Cloud Nothings will show you a good time. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $20. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9

DRAMA
DRAMA return to DC after a recent stop at the 9:30 Club supporting French pop singer Jain for their very own headlining show. The purveyors of a perfect blend of soul, R&B and good old-fashioned pop self released their impressive Gallows EP in 2016, followed by a handful of singles this year, and have been busy touring behind their self-described “happy-sad music” ever since. They’re definitely ones to keep on your radar, so don’t miss seeing the duo at the intimate DC9 space. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $13. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

MONDAY, DECEMBER 10

Jingle Ball
The most stacked lineup in pop returns to DC this year with Top 40’s biggest hitmakers new and old. This year sees Shawn Mendes, The Chainsmokers, G-Eazy, Meghan Trainor, Bebe Rexha and more bringing both their hits and holiday cheer to Capital One arena. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $40-plus. Capital One Arena: 601 F St NW, DC; www.hot995.iheart.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14

Curls
I mourn the breakup of the band Girls, helmed by California based singer-songwriter Christopher Owens, on a more or less daily basis. Lucky for me (and for anyone who’s a fan of 60s influenced psych pop) Owens has been hard at work with solo albums and now a full band, Curls. Here, Owens has enlisted the wildly talented lineup of Cody Rhodes and Luke Baće to complete this trio. While a fully formed and very different band on their own, Curls has the same surf rock sensibilities and introspective songwriting that’s been a hallmark of Owen’s career so far. DC’s own Baby Bry Bry & Friends open, marking their first live performance in nearly two years. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $13. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

The Japanese House
Amber Bain has yet to release a full length album under her musical moniker The Japanese House, but she’s still garnered legions of fans and songs with over 20 million plays on Spotify since the release of her first EP in 2015. As Bain gears up to release her first full length album, she’ll visit DC with the music of her spectacular EPs and hopefully some new tracks this winter. If you’re a fan of the dreamy vibes of bands like Cocteau Twins, Imogen Heap and Mazzy Star, this is a can’t-miss show. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $18. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15

Darlingside
If you’re looking for a show that screams winter vibes, this is it. The indie folk quartet Darlingside bring their warm and wonderful harmonies to the halls of Sixth & I just in time for the holidays. Fresh off the release of their critically acclaimed album Extralife, which is described as “an experimental ode to the apocalypse,” they’ll bring songs new and old out for what’s sure to be a toe tapping, guitar picking good time. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $22. Sixth & I Historic Synagogue: 600 I St. NW, DC; www.sixthandi.org

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16

Cat Power
There is a fantastic profile on Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power, written by the eloquent and iconic music journalist Jessica Hopper, that ran in The Cut earlier this year. It deals with Marshall’s prolific 25-year career, motherhood, rejection from her longtime label and finding camaraderie in other – namely female – musicians. It’s an enlightening deep dive into the enigmatic world of the artist that has me counting down the days til Marshall graces the 9:30 Club’s hallowed halls with her phenomenal new record Wanderer in tow. Read up and grab your tickets to see this living legend as soon as you can. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $40. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Ryley Walker
Ryley Walker makes impressive, intricate psych rock that draws from a pantheon of differing genres but somehow ends up incredibly cohesive. In an ever interesting turn, he covered Dave Matthews Band’s late 90s bootleg album The Lillywhite Sessions from front to back. Part reimaging and part paying his dues to one of his most well loved bands, Walker is nothing if not a breath of fresh air in the music world. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $12. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19

Hammered Hulls
This band features some of DC’s best musicians all in one place: Alec MacKaye, Mary Timony, Mark Cisernos and Chris Wilson. With so much unfettered talent in one place, it’s hard to think of a better way to spend your Wednesday night than watching the five piece band tear up the Black Cat’s backstage. If you missed their amazing set at the Black Cat’s 25th Anniversary show, the universe is granting you a Christmas miracle in the form of a do-over. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10. Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20

Hiss Golden Messenger
I saw Hiss Golden Messenger open for Bon Iver back in 2017, and when Justin Vernon thanked the band for opening he quipped, “I feel like I was listening to his music when I was in the womb or something.” An odd but apt description, the work of Michael Taylor is warm, comforting and does have the feel of something you may have heard in a past life. Sure to remedy the cold winter nights we’ll have late December, he’ll stop at the 9:30 Club in support of last month’s release Virgo Fool. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $20. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21

Snail Mail
Maryland’s Lindsey Jordan (a.k.a. Snail Mail) has been making waves since her 2016 EP released on DC’s Sister Polygon Records, and many (myself included) eagerly awaited the debut of her full length album, Lush, which arrived this past summer. Hands down one of the best releases of the year, Jordan will be rounding out a year of touring and critical acclaim just a hop, skip and jump away from her hometown at the 9:30 Club. Celebrate with her and end your 2018 right at this show, where she’ll be joined by Empath and Instupendo. Doors at 8 p.m. Tickets $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28

The Roots
The legendary Philadelphia outfit will pick you right out of your post holiday slump, guaranteed. They’ve been named one of Rolling Stone’s Greatest Live Bands, so that’s not an understatement. And although they haven’t released new music in four years, they’re sure to pull the classics from their massive catalogue of hits. Bring your family in town to the party or use this as an excuse to take a break and dance away. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $69.50. The Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

MONDAY, DECEMBER 31

White Ford Bronco
90s babies and 90s music enthusiasts rejoice. The District’s all 90s band returns to the 9:30 Club for New Year’s Eve. While December 31 is typically all about toasting to new beginnings, there’s no harm in looking a little further back and dancing into the new year to the best 90s hits spanning all genres. Round out your throwback with a champagne toast at midnight. Doors at 9 p.m. Tickets $55. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

Photo: Ray Polanco

The Many Lives of Toro y Moi

Chaz Bear has written, recorded and released music under a host of names over the years, but is perhaps best known for his work as Toro y Moi. One of the most successful names to come out of the chillwave movement in the early 2010s, the Berkeley, California-based musician has done much more than simply be part of the larger scene. The release of his most recent effort as Toro y Moi, Boo Boo, saw a more introspective and stripped-down era for Bear. He’s lent his production talents to some of this year’s most exciting up-and-coming artists like Tanukichan (who’s signed to Bear’s label Company Records, an imprint of DC’s own Carpark Records) and Astronauts, etc. We caught up with the artist ahead of his 9:30 Club show on November 12 to chat chillwave, community and what’s next for one of the hardest working names in music.

On Tap: Your album Boo Boo sounded like a slight departure from the more electronic-influenced sounds of your previous efforts. What were some of the themes surrounding this record?
Chaz Bear:
This record was written in 2016, a time when I was going through a change, and that’s what the record is about. It’s not really about a relationship with another person. It sounds like that, but it’s more of a relationship with society and about how to navigate the world in hectic times.

OT: You came onto the scene during the chillwave zeitgeist in the early 2010s. Were you ever worried about being associated with one of the first trendy blog rock genres? Do you care how people classify your music?
CB: It was never intimidating to be part of the genre. I always felt like it was helpful and useful to be connected to a scene. I’ve always used it to my advantage. It’s definitely easy to want to play into it and satisfy the listeners you have, but my goal with Toro y Moi is to explore as much as possible. I want to grow and explore different types, styles and sonic palettes, whether they be lo-fi sounding or shiny and hi-fi. I think that’s the whole challenge for most, if not all, listeners: to take down those sonic barriers and enjoy music from everywhere – all genres, all qualities.

OT: Your background is in graphic design. Has your work in that field influenced your music at all?
CB:
Graphic design initiated the conversation in my head about taste and style – what I think I want to present and how I want to present myself. That carried on to music as well. Before I got into graphic design, my music was more of the times: emo and post-punk stuff. I never really referenced music from the past until I got into graphic design. It taught me how to achieve and maintain a sense of timelessness.

OT: In addition to your own work as Toro y Moi, you’ve been producing work for artists like Astronauts, etc. and Tanukichan. How does approaching these projects differ from your own solo work?
CB:
When working with new artists, the first thing that I’m drawn to is a person and their actual character. If their music is good on top of that, they become a friend who makes dope music and it’s like, “Oh man, we should make more music together,” and we just go from there. The motivation behind making music with friends comes from the idea of building something together within our community. Everyone on Company Records is based in the Bay Area. It’s a label that’s sort of eclectic in the sense of [having] a lot of different genres. It’s also still very honed in with a community vibe.

OT: Speaking of community, Berkeley recently honored you by declaring June 27 “Chaz Bear Day.” What was it like to be recognized by the city in such a public way?
CB:
That was a really big turning point for me because I hadn’t realized that my presence was so impactful. I needed to truly think about how the city was looking at me and where I wanted to go with this. It was truly flattering, and it still is an amazing thing. It was kind of like more of the city recognizing you for your good work. That’s really all I can do: keep working.

OT: You’re also overseeing the aforementioned Company Records. What are your goals for the label, and how are you choosing who to sign and work with?
CB:
There’s two ways to approach it: working with new and younger acts and working with your peers. Everyone I’m working with, I’ve known them first not as musicians. I like that approach more. I do feel like we’re all around the same age – 20 and 30-somethings – and we all started playing music around the same time. But some of us didn’t get the exposure, so I think bringing up the community is what I’m focusing on and making sure there is a solid, level platform for everyone I’m rising with. It will make the city better, it should make the Bay Area better and inevitably it should make (laughs) everything a little bit nicer.

Toro y Moi will play 9:30 Club on Monday, November 12. Tickets are $25 and doors open at 7 p.m. Follow Bear on Instagram and Twitter @toroymoi. His next album Outer Peace will be released on January 18 via Carpark Records. Learn more at www.toroymoi.com.

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