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Photo credit: Erin Brethauer
Photo credit: Erin Brethauer

Behind the audio: NPR’s Yowei Shaw brings mystery to the Pop-Up stage

When Yowei Shaw attended her first Pop-Up Magazine show, she was so intrigued by the unique storytelling platform she knew immediately that she wanted in. The current NPR producer for Invisibilia was a freelancer at the time, so she was well versed in the act of pitching proper stories for the right outlets, but after proposing nonfiction after nonfiction stories, Pop-Up proved to be incredibly selective about its performers. Though Shaw is still figuring out the perfect pitching formula, a story based on her personal experience was approved for the fall 2018 issue and is on its way to Warner Theatre in DC on September 25 (she’s also performing in Portland and Toronto for Pop-Up’s international debut).

“I think it was a little bit of a fluke that I got through,” Shaw jokes, but as she describes her upcoming performance, it has all the traits to captivate a listener and keep them tuned in until the end.

The story is based on, “something strange [that] happened to me years ago when I used to run a tiny DIY youth radio project in Philadelphia,” Shaw says. During a workshop she taught to young people about creating radio stories for their communities, “something went totally haywire with one of my students and I haven’t ever been able to get it out of my head.”

Shaw was able to track down her former student who inspired the story, but that’s all she could share with me. Staying true to her background in long form audio content, the story involves an abridged investigation packaged for her live set. Through collaboration with Pop-Up’s team of the artistic and visually-minded, her story will feature animations and documentary photos.

At the time of our interview, Shaw hadn’t seen all the visual elements to her own story but is excited to see what the team comes up with. “Each story presents different opportunities and I feel like they’re always trying to maximize potential and try different things,” Shaw says.

Pop-Up ensures a diverse lineup, starting with shorter, comedic stories followed by heavier, longer stories toward the end. Shaw’s somewhere in the middle.

Shaw’s seen at least four or five Pop-Up shows now, explaining, “it’s really a magical experience. Every time it comes to town I have to go.” She adds that the Pop-Up team are masters of this new medium of storytelling and she’s very excited to meet her fellow performers and watch their own stories come to life.

“I’m a huge fangirl of [Ann] Friedman (Call Your Girlfriend podcast). I subscribe to her weekly newsletter, so that will be personally gratifying to meet her and see her story. I’m really excited to see what Albert Samaha (BuzzFeed) comes up with, Ed Yong (The Atlantic), really all of them. Almost all the rest of the lineup, these are people I admire and respect very much. It’s very strange to see my name [alongside their’s]!”

The storytelling performances are made up of avid note takers by profession – journalists from all media platforms. But what happens at Pop-Up Magazine’s live shows stays at Pop-Up: with its no-recording policy, audiences are left to sit through these performances and leave with just the memory of a night that draws from all bases of the human experience.

Working mostly in the radio world, Shaw was eager to collaborate with other types of journalists, making her both thrilled and nervous to perform a story live instead of producing it in a studio.

“Listening to the audio is a pretty solitary experience so I don’t know what people think really or how they experience it. I don’t know where people laugh, I don’t know where people sigh… I have performed before just a few times, and there’s a high you get from that kind of audience participation and reaction that you don’t get from putting out a podcast or radio show.”

As for what Shaw has planned next, she will produce a longer version of her performance for NPR’s Invisibilia, returning for its next season in spring 2019. “Imagining the audience and how they react in a much more intentional way, that is something I will be bringing back to my work with Invisibilia. Just the thrill of taking people by the hand and in the story and just giving them a ride and an experience.”

Pop-Up Magazine is coming to DC’s Warner Theatre on September 25. Find ticket information and see who’s performing here.

Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, DC; 202-783-4000; www.popupmagazine.com

Photo: Chris McKay
Photo: Chris McKay

MC50 Kicks Out Jams For Freedom

For 50 years, “Kick out the jams, motherf–kers” has been one of rock ’n’ roll’s most ecstatic, transcendent rallying cries. When it was first heard blasting out of the streets of Detroit, it went beyond music. MC5, or Motor City 5, the Detroit rock band that helped paved the way for punk, employed it as a cry to their fellow youth – for energy, for justice, for racial equality and yes, for some righteous, roaring jams.

Does MC5’s music still embody that call to action and exuberance? Can a band that aspired to spark revolutions both political and musical light those same fires today? Those questions lingered in the air as the crowd awaited the group to take the 9:30 Club stage on September 13.

For the latter question, the answer is, “Probably not.” People’s politics and goals change with time. In fact, the most political the group got was when lead guitarist and founding member “Brother” Wayne Kramer sermonized about the participatory nature of democracy, imploring the crowd to go vote before launching into the swinging, proto-punk “The American Ruse” from MC5’s second album Back in the USA. The band has little reason to try and instigate the same musical battles it waged across Midwestern concert halls at the onset of the 1970s because generally speaking, they won.

Kramer and the original MC5’s victory is seen most prominently in the very musicians who currently make up the band. Joining Brother Wayne for the MC50th, the all-star rock supergroup celebrating the Motor City 5’s fiftieth, included Soundgarden’s lead guitarist and human tidal wave of sound Kim Thayil, Faith No More’s Billy Gould on bass, Fugazi’s Brendan Canty on drums and, relative newcomer, Marcus Durant of Zen Guerillas out front as an eerily ideal stand-in for original vocalist Rob Tyner. All of these bands had longer, more successful and prominent careers than MC5’s originals, yet they all joined collectively to revive the music – that’s how deeply ingrained this band is to rock’s DNA.

At the 9:30 Club, these all-star musicians did not gather to fight yesterday’s political battles but to remind everyone in the room – from the graying hippies to the Washingtonians in their finest punk rock threads – how potent this music is. The supergroup ripped through MC5’s breakthrough album Kick Out The Jams, bringing everything from backyard boogie garage rock of “Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa” to the metallic boom of “Come Together.”

Kramer himself best tried to channel the spirit of 1968, leaping and dancing across the stage while unleashing his signature high octane, high register steam whistle solos. Gould and Canty conjured the crushing force of Detroit’s factory days in the rhythm section while Thayil, who usually summons sound waves like tsunamis in Soundgarden, stepped back into rollicking, prototypical rock guitar shedding.

The surprise of the night came as MC50 closed their run through of the famed album with “Starship,” the nine-minute-plus, space-meets-early-noise-rock closer that features a verse of poetry by the Afrofuturist jazz leader Sun Ra. As the song’s familiar verse-chorus-verse structure gave way to amorphous, borderline atonal, pulsating free fusion, the MC5’s spark shone through brightest.

You can hear echoes of “Starship” and “Kick Out the Jams” across the frontiers of rock today. In fact, it was appropriately reminiscent of the avant jazz stylings in some of the work of DC’s own Priests.

As Durant wailed on a miniature saxophone and Kramer wandered cosmically along thefretboard, the MC50th embodied the original message the MC5 pushed, one that punk embraced and spread to a whole generation: freedom. MC50 served a reminder for everyone in the crowd, anyone who would listen, that the central promise of American music – of the United States of America – is to create what you want.

It was a joyful, noisy reminder that American music, from avant-garde jazz and death metal to Lady Gaga and Usher, celebrates at its very core the idea of liberty we all cherish.

For more information about the MC5 and the MC50, check them out here

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

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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: Shervin Lainez
Photo: Shervin Lainez

Lindsey Stirling Shows She’s More Than A Violin Player

It’s not often someone known primarily for her masterful violin skills crosses over to the mainstream pop charts, but Lindsey Stirling is no ordinary star.

Highly skilled in dance, art and of course, her string instrument of choice, the 31-year-old innovative musician bolted to fame thanks to a series of choreographed violin performances on her personal YouTube channel a few years ago.

“The classical arts aren’t appreciated as they once were, so I think it’s exciting that I’m able to put my own twist on it,” Stirling says. “It’s a huge part of the arts that shouldn’t be forgotten and I bring to light classical elements with what I do, and brings to light the violin to people who maybe never thought they would love it.”

She found success with the release of her 2012 self-titled debut album and two other critically acclaimed works followed, including a popular holiday collection was released last year. She’s also won two Billboard Music Awards and finished second on last year’s Dancing With the Stars.

“There was this really cool moment when I was offered to play a show in Italy and my parents came with me and when we arrived, there were all these posters with my face on it, and it was the weirdest thing to realize these people in this small Italian town were looking forward to seeing me,” she says. “People were asking for autographs and giving me fan art and I just knew my life had changed.”

On July 24, Stirling will co-headline a show with Evanescence at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, both sets backed by a full orchestra.

“It’s something different from anything I have ever done on tour before, and that makes it really fun,” she says. “It’s been fun to reinvent the music and have it all orchestrated and it will be this cool fusion between live orchestra, rock elements and electronic elements all mixed together. That’s going to make it pretty magical.”

Stirling is excited to be coming back to the area, associating it with the first time she ever had Sweetgreen, her favorite restaurant, and is even more eager to be sharing this tour with Evanescence, as she considers herself a huge fan of Amy Lee and the band behind “Bring Me to Life.”

“I’m going to guest on Amy’s set and she will be on my set for a song as well,” Stirling says. “I have been a fan of hers for years and I wrote a song years ago with her in mind to sing it, but she wasn’t able to because she was on maternity leave, but I think it put me in the back of her mind that we should work together someday. She reached out a year ago and I played on their new album with the song ‘Hi-Lo’ and the reaction of the fans was just unbelievable.”

Touring throughout the summer at amphitheaters like Jiffy Lube Live has been a blast, she says, and she enjoys the “summer vibe” of people coming together as families and enjoying picnics and creating a more personal concert experience.

Although Stirling has been dancing and playing violin since she was little, her aspirations in college was towards a career in film.

“By the time I hit college, I was a little burnt out with music and didn’t know how I felt about the classical violin thing anymore, so I ended up studying film, which was another passion of mine,” she says. “I used to have editing software and was a real nerd about creating my own videos.”

She found the music and film worlds combined really seamlessly, which helped her become one of YouTube’s first breakout artists.

“One art really led the other and it allowed me to not only use my violin skills but also showcase it in a way that was really unique,” Stirling says.

Since then, she had a song on the soundtrack of Pete’s Dragon and also scored a song for a video game and hopes to get more involved with more scores in the years ahead.

Once her tour ends, Stirling will start writing some new music but is also going to pick up where she left off on a theatrical musical she started writing last year.

“I want to focus on that and maybe go to New York and really work on that for a while,” she says. “Until then, I am going to just enjoy this tour. I love putting on a show and anyone who comes out will have a fun time.”

Lindsey Stirling and Evanescence are set to play at Jiffy Lube Live on July 24. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $18.

Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; 703-754-6400; www.livenation.com/venues/14407/jiffy-lube-live

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Music Picks: July 2018

FRIDAY, JULY 6

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

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

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

SATURDAY, JULY 7

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

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

SUNDAY, JULY 8

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

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

MONDAY, JULY 9

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

WEDNESDAY JULY 11

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

SATURDAY JULY 14

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

SUNDAY, JULY 15

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY, JULY 18

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

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

TUESDAY, JULY 19

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

SATURDAY JULY 21

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

SUNDAY JULY 22

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

MONDAY, JULY 23

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

TUESDAY JULY 24

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

WEDNESDAY JULY 25

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

THURSDAY JULY 26

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

FRIDAY, JULY 27

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

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

SATURDAY JULY 28

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

SUNDAY JULY 29

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

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

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1

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

THURSDAY AUGUST 2

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

Photo: Brandon Shields
Photo: Brandon Shields

What’s NUEX?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Danny North via www.u2.com
Photo: Danny North via www.u2.com

U2 Larger than Life Second Time Around

I remember seeing U2 live for the first time back in the original The Joshua Tree days circa 1987, and the concert was all about the music—the artistry of Bono, the brilliance of Edge on guitar, the percussion mastery of Larry Mullen Jr. and the superb resounding bass of Adam Clayton. It was a simple stage setup,  and as a fan, you could easily concentrate from one song to the next.

Entering the Capital One Arena on Monday, June 18—more than three decades since my first show—I immediately knew seeing the legendary band from Dublin, Ireland was going to be a whole new ballgame. For starters, a large augmented reality screen occupied the center of the arena and people were using their cell phones to see a cascading waterfall through the power of a special concert app you could download.

Once it was time for the concert to begin, the images of the U2 quartet were flashed on a giant, rectangular screen floating in the middle of the arena, and then it turned transparent, allowing the audience to see the band suspended in mid-air over the crowd. Through thunderous applause, they started with “It’s a Beautiful World” and “Rain.”

The same screen would serve as an important part of the show, projecting different images, graphic-art-like cartoons and even special augmented live shots of Bono distorting his face into a sort of demon during a song introduction. This was only a taste of the theatrics involved. Throughout the almost-three-hour concert, there was a sensory overload of sights and sounds coming at you—some more effective than others.

In an effort to ensure everyone in the sold-out arena got their money’s worth, the stage mapping for the concert positioned brilliantly. There was a large traditional stage on one side of the arena, and a smaller circle stage on the other. In between, an elevated walkway acted as a third area, with Bono particularly spending a lot of time in the middle ground. This walkway also allowed the band members to be stationed behind the giant screen at times and have their images integrated with the video display, which made it appear as if they were inside the images during some songs.

The four U2 members stood there on “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” utilizing the entire platform, which was easily a highlight of the night. It was raw U2 and it was much more enjoyable than some of the out there things going on during some others.

Early on, the band relied more their latest two releases, Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, which was fitting given the eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE tour title. After jamming through “Love is All We Have Left,” “The Blackout” and “Lights of Home,” Bono made it appear as if another newbie was following the trio, proclaiming “We are out of Dublin and here is our new song,” but it was actually a nod to their beginnings in 1980, with the song “I Will Follow” off their debut album Boy; the fans ate it up.

U2 continued with some old-school hits, playing “All Because of You,” “Beautiful Day” and “The Ocean” on the main stage, letting the music overtake the sometimes circus-like atmosphere. This is where the foursome is at their best, and prove why they are among the top bands of all-time.

For “Iris,” Bono again traveled mid-stage and began telling a story of his mom and then the powerful lyrics of the song were expressed through images on the screen, further influencing the scene.

After a few other tunes—including “Cedarwood Road” and “Until the End of the World,” and a short break with a somewhat surreal graphic novel-like story set to “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” displayed on the projection screen, the band headed for the smaller stage on the opposite side of the arena, with Bono asking if people were “ready to elevate?”

That naturally led to “Elevation” and more up-tempo songs such as “Vertigo,” fan-favorite “Desire” and “Acrobat.”

In another highlight, Bono and The Edge did an acoustic version of “Staring at the Sun,” which hearkened memories of U2 at its early-’90s peak. The full band was back in swing for “Pride (In the Name of Love” and the song still hit home with the crowd as if it was 1984.

An encore consisted of “Women of the World,” “One,” “Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way” and “13 (There Is a Light),” though surprisingly left out faves such as “Where the Streets Have No Name,” With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

Not that anyone was complaining. With close to three hours of music and a great mix of old and new material, the show was one to remember. Obviously, I’m more from an old-school frame of mind and didn’t need so much happening around me, but it didn’t ruin the enjoyment of the overall experience and it’s one I’m glad to have been a part of.

For more information about U2, click here.

Woolly Mammoth Botticelli in the Fire

Stage and Screen: The Remains, The Tempest and More

THROUGH SATURDAY, JUNE 9

An Iliad
The Iliad is one of Homer’s great tales, culminating in a heartbreaking battle between Prince Hector of Troy and Brad Pi…I mean Achilles, one of the greatest warriors in fictional history (any time your name becomes nomenclature for a pesky body part, you know you’re a legend). Conor Bagley’s version at Atlas Arts is a modern retelling, settling on a more personal story between the two powerful mortals. While the description throws a ton of adjectives to focus on, the one highlighted heavily is that of rage and why the intoxicating feeling is so hard to control but easy to unleash. Tickets are $15-$25. Atlas Performing Arts Center’s Lab 1: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

THROUGH SATURDAY, JUNE 16

Laugh Index Theatre’s Annual Comedy Festival
This festival is a smorgasbord of comedy, featuring a variety of acts from all over the country. Over the course of a few weeks, and at several venues, there will be improv teams, sketch teams, musical comedy, stand-up (duh) and podcasts all dedicated to making you laugh. So no matter what tickles your fancy, your funny bone will be scratched (no not the area on your arm, don’t be weird). Performances at various locations. Ticket prices vary. LIT Annual Comedy Festival: Various locations around Washington, DC; www.laughindextheatre.com

THROUGH SUNDAY, JUNE 24

Botticelli in the Fire
What do artists do when faced with a populist takeover of the societies their work reflects? There’s no right or wrong answer, as those kinds of regimes often are accompanied by attempts to censor or deride anything seen as contentious. Does this sound relevant? Yeah, that’s what Woolly Mammoth’s Botticelli in the Fire wants you to take away, as it draws comparisons to the current political climate and that of the famed artist during the populist revolution in Lorenzo de’ Medici’s Florence. Faced with numerous choices throughout, Botticelli must make decisions with no easy answers. Tickets are $20-$51. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: 641 D St. NW, DC; www.woollymammoth.net 

The Remains
Yes, The Remains does sound like the title of a straight-to-video knockoff of HBO’s The Leftovers (fun fact: Nick Cage actually stars in this very thing, a little remake titled Left Behind), but Studio Theatre’s play is anything but. Instead of a story centered around people vanishing into thin air (*snap*), this story focuses on the 10-year marriage of Kevin and Theo, who host a dinner party to celebrate their newly renovated condo. As families tend to upon gathering together for an occasion, philosophy and truth come to the forefront, pulling the curtain on their thought-to-be perfect union. Learn more about the production in Keith Loria’s story on page 6. Tickets start at $20. Studio Theatre: 1501 14th St. NW, DC; www.studiotheatre.org

THROUGH SUNDAY, JULY 1

The Tempest
A classic comedy by the classic hitmaker William Shakespeare, The Tempest is a veteran of the theatre scene and one which commands a certain respect. I have little doubt the folks at Avant Bard will deliver the show with their own offbeat twist. The story is filled with love and magic and of course, riddled with conflict. It wouldn’t be a Shakespeare special if it didn’t also contain a smidge of tragedy as well. Tickets are $30-$35. The Gunston Arts Center: 2700 S. Lang St. Arlington, VA; www.wscavantbard.org

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6 – SATURDAY, JUNE 23

Switch
If you thought the most intriguing body-switching tales involved those of kids and their parents (as seen too many times in pop culture, so excuse me for not listing), you’re wrong. Switch takes the premise and flips it on its head, as the story involves a couple who wake up in one another’s bodies following sex. What follows is the two deciding to explore their boundaries with their gender-fluid friend Lark. Written by Brett Abelman and directed by Megan Behm, this play depicts a world “where sex, gender and sexuality intertwine.” Tickets are $25. Trinidad Theatre at Logan Fringe Arts Space: 1358 Florida Ave. NE, DC; www.capitalfringe.org

TUESDAY, JUNE 19 – SUNDAY, JULY 22

Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations
The Temptations are arguably one of the greatest musical acts of all time, so it’s nice to see their story get the recognition it deserves as Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations comes to the Kennedy Center this month. The performance is biographical in nature, following the five young men who would eventually emerge from Detroit, Michigan as The Temptations. The play was penned by Dominique Morisseau and features hits like “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Tickets start at $59. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

SATURDAY, JUNE 23 – SUNDAY, JUNE 24

RebollarDance
Erica Rebollar returns to DC to celebrate the tenth anniversary of her works with a new piece titled Variations. According to Dance Place, this piece is a meditation on the choreographic method, or theme and variation. All that being said, this seems like a very meta dance piece, as the focus is about the construction of an actual dance choreography. Though art about art can sometimes be confusing for neophytes, this performance is likely to avoid the possible pitfalls and be enjoyable for all. Tickets are $15-$30. Dance Place: 3225 8th St. NE, DC; www.danceplace.org

Photo: Mark Raker
Photo: Mark Raker

Celebrating the Past, Preserving the Future at the Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival

The Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival is returning to DC on June 9. In its 9th year, the festival has grown in popularity annually, and features a wide variety of bluegrass, folk and Americana artist spread across several stages. However, this isn’t your usual for-profit celebration. The Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival helps fund outdoor educational programs that enrich the lives of thousands of kids in the DC area, and puts a premium on environmental sustainability and protecting the island’s rich habitat.

The Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival represents both a celebration of American music and a commitment to protecting our natural lands and wildlife.

Kingman Island (and its counterpart, Heritage Island) were created in 1916 from material dredged out of the Anacostia River. Now just over a century old, you’d never guess they were man-made; the islands are covered in lush green native plants and is home to various wildlife, including foxes, possum and even wild turkey.

Since their creation, the islands have had a long and complex history, and today they remain protected.

While they are owned by the city, Kingman and Heritage Islands are managed by Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, an organization dedicated to helping kids connect with the natural world.

“We do lessons geared toward orienteering, teambuilding and habitat restoration, including in the Anacostia river,” says Lee Cain, Director of Kingman Island with Living Classrooms. “Between 2,000 to 3,000 kids come to Kingman ever year. We’re trying to make an effort to get kids to make a connection to their local park.”

Cain says another major focus for Living Classrooms is workforce development and helping young people in the neighborhood advance their careers by working on the island. Those enrolled in their summer youth employment program learn native plant identification, habitat restoration and trail work. It’s not just kids who get involved at Kingman.

“Fifteen-hundred volunteers, a year, do trail maintenance, habitat restoration and other things to improve the park,” Cain says.

The bluegrass festival helps Living Classrooms continue its work in Southeast DC and beyond. But it went through some growing pains: “there used to be a ton of trash left after the festival,” Cain says. Organizers put a zero-waste initiative in place, which resonates with many of the festival’s performers.

“They’re trying to be very sustainable,” says musician Crys Matthews, who lives in Herndon, Virginia. “A lot of that stuff is really important to me – I use zero-carbon footprint packaging with all my cd’s, so it’s great to be sharing and creating with like-minded folks.”

Silver Spring musician Dom Flemons agrees.

“It’s something that, on top of being an excellent experience for a musician, is also a very worthwhile cause that they are trying to accomplish with the festival,” he says. “It’s twofold: You have lovely nature, and a reteaching of people in the DC area of how to reconnect with nature and how to really learn sustainability.”

Both Flemons and Matthews are performing at the festival for the second time and taking new steps with their shows.

Matthews is an accomplished musician and songwriter from North Carolina who infuses folk, bluegrass, jazz and other genres into her work. She played last year’s festival solo. This year, she’s bringing her band.

“I’m looking forward to getting to play with them on that stage,” she says. “The space itself is a neat area, nestled and hidden away in the craziness of DC.”

Having been in the area for eight years, “the music scene is pretty incredible,” she says. “It’s very different from back where I lived in the mountains of North Carolina.”

Flemons is a co-founder of the Grammy award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, and has traveled around the nation and the world presenting traditional folk and roots music to diverse audiences. He’ll be presenting a new performance at this year’s festival.

“I had this idea for quite a while to present the American Songster review  a multi-act program that would feature several different songsters from different parts of the world and the country to be able to present their music,” he says. “It will feature songs they have in their repertoire, as well as one song I will curate and ask them to perform.”

The festival features more than 30 bands playing on five stages this year, as well as an artist market and food trucks. While festivals by their very nature bring high foot traffic and disturbance to the island, Cain says the sustainability measures in place help protect its habitat. Festivalgoers get their own reusable cups, and “80 percent of the waste from the festival is either composted or recycled, and we’d like to get to 90 percent,” he says.

Location is also important: the festival will take place in the island’s most resilient meadows, protecting species like the Virginia mallow, a Maryland endangered plant that can be found on the southern portion the island. Holding the festival at this time of year also gives the plant life the benefit of a full growing season, and thus faster recovery and regrowth afterwards.

The festival, Living Classrooms’ educational programs and the volunteer programs on the island all help raise awareness about this unique oasis in the Anacostia River.

“If we don’t expose people to these resources, they quietly disappear,” Cain says.

The Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival beings June 9. For more information on the festival, islands or tickets, visit here.

Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival: 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE, DC; 202-799-9189; www.kingmanislandbluegrass.info