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Photo: Courtesy of Mark G. Meadows

Changing Minds Through Jazz: A Q&A with Mark G. Meadows

If you’re tuned into the jazz music scene, then you’ve probably heard the name Mark G. Meadows. Best known for his social change album, 2016’s To The People, wherein he encourages his listeners to look toward their future how to best handle the successes and failures.

He meditates on how to best move forward as a nation, while also making sure we take care of each other. We were able to sit down with him and talk about his upcoming performance at AMP by Strathmore and the creative process for his new album, Be The Change.  

On Tap: What brought you into jazz music originally?
Mark Meadows: Honestly, my dad is my biggest influence in terms of jazz; my dad, Gabriel Meadows, [he] is a jazz vocalist in Dallas. I started with classical piano when I was five. He actually lied to my Russian piano teacher, saying I was six. She didn’t take anyone under the age of six. I would go to my dad’s gigs and would listen to him play jazz, I already had the ear, that’s when I began taking formal lessons with Nora Jones’ teacher Julie Bunk. 

OT: What do you love about the jazz world?
MM: I love the fact that it is never the same and always fresh, no matter what song or what field I am performing in, we are already listening to create and to create something new. Similar to having a conversation with old friends, no matter what, you always enter the conversation not knowing where it’s going to go.

OT: Where do you typically draw your inspiration when writing your songs?
MM: My personal experiences, without a doubt. My music is very telling of my personal life. It is generally my therapy. I use my music to grapple with different life choices I have to make and whether it be career choices or more philosophical thoughts or relationships. Everything I write stems from a sincere honest place and that phase of my life. 

OT: How did you feel post-2016? And how did that inspire your next works?
MM: Sure, well 2016 was a crazy year, the year I released To The People, my mantra for social change. It was also the year that I played the lead role in a musical called Jelly’s Last Jam. Where I took on a whole new world of possibility and connections, a fearless leap for me. After that, I was dazed and confused, between a whirlwind of dropping the album and having my first experience acting. I didn’t know which direction to go in, whether I was an actor, musician or music director. It shook me after I made this statement of change and how far we have to come, what’s the point all the time I spend and all the messages I want to convey. Is it being lost? from that came Be The Change, which is about what your change is, whether smiling to someone on the street, we all can and should do something to make that change. 

OT: What do you hope to achieve with Be The Change?
MM: After everything I had done, that we still as a country made the decision we made and I saw all the alt-right groups and things I never thought I would see again. I thought “man, maybe I’m not really making a difference.” After some meditation and conversation I realized I am, it sounds a lot like Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror,” this is my 2019 version of that. 

OT: Any pre-show rituals?
MM: I like to spend time with my band and talk and hang with them. Most importantly, I need 5-10 minutes by myself to meditate and convince myself of my mission to communicate joy, love and understanding to people. 

OT: What is it that you want listeners to be aware of when listening to this album?
MM: I want them to be aware of listening to music outside of their comfort zone. People who know my music know that the track is not my normal sound, it is my attempt to be the example of the change. In order to be the change you have to change the way you talk and interact with people, you have to change your circles. My attempt to reach outside the typically jazz, soul and R&B world. To be honest, most of the people who are my fans probably think and have the same political views as me, we as a world need to try and find a way to interact with those who are different than us.

OT: What are you most looking forward to with your next performance?
MM: I’m looking forward to performing a very special evening to what I hope will be an amazing audience. I don’t set expectations, I live in the moment and on July 11 I will give my all to the crowd, and hope they are with us.

Mark G. Meadows plays at AMP by Strathmore on July 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets $18-$32. For more information visit the website.

AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, MD; 301-581-5100; www.ampbystrathmore.com

Nas

Music Picks: Nas, Cecily, Blink-182 and More

SATURDAY, JULY 6

Gringo Starr
Indie group Gringo Starr will be celebrating their 10-year anniversary by releasing their very first live album this summer. The garage rock group hails from Atlanta, Georgia, which is better known for its hip-hop legends; but the indie rockers are far from that and no less legendary. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $10. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

Immigrant & Refugee Music Festival
As we celebrate Independence Day weekend, Echostage will celebrate musicians of immigrant descent. Artists varying from Africa, Greece, Colombia and much more will come out to promote their heritage and influences for the community through music. Musicians like DJ CYD, Martha Afework, Yannis and many more will perform and inspire people from all walks of life to learn, dance and sing to music from all around the world. Doors at 4 p.m. Tickets begin at $29.99. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

SUNDAY, JULY 7

Angie Stone
A career spanning more than 30 years, Angie Stone graces the stage one more time performing soulful classics. An R&B legend, her melodic voice captivated audiences for years. A soulful jazz artist within her own right, her long stable career is largely due to her lyrics, highlighting a number of adversities facing black women. Releasing her album Dream in in 2015 proved her groovy approach to music still leaves her audience wanting more. Doors at 5 p.m. Tickets begin at $55. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com

TUESDAY, JULY 9

Cecily
If you’re into soul artists like Alicia Keys and India.Arie, you will surely love DC-based vocalist Cecily. Her mellow and rich sound can be described as a combination of R&B, folk and jazz. Growing up, Cecily got her musical influence from her parents, who listened to artists like Smokey Robinson and Miles Davis. Her latest album Songs of Love and Freedom delves into Cecily’s experience with vulnerability in love while her bold lyrics perfectly encapsulate the beauty of new beginnings. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $22. Blues Alley: 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bluesalley.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 10

Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker)
Nick Murphy, previously known as Chet Faker, is an Australian singer and songwriter, most notably known for his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” His latest album is reminiscent of a poppier and more jazz-oriented Bon Iver. While there is some lack of cohesion, it still provides very easy listening and pushes him above and beyond where he started when he was only known for his iconic first cover. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $36. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

THURSDAY, JULY 11

Blink-182, Lil Wayne and Neck Deep
For all you 90s babies,  Blink-182 was probably prominent on your mix CDs, but there was likely some confusion when they announced they were touring with famed rapper Lil Wayne. Rock and rap are traditionally different sounds. Historically, both have contributed tremendously to music, so if one of your friends likes rap and the other prefers rock, this show has hits for both. Show at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $37.50. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.livenation.com

Stephen Marley
Stephen Marley is an eight-time Grammy-winning artist and producer, not to mention the second son of Bob Marley. Marley started his career at the tender age of six, singing and dancing with siblings in Ziggy Marley and the Melody Shakers. The group’s first single “Children Playing In The Streets,” was produced by their father in 1979. Since, Stephen has helped produce singles by his brother Damian, not to mention released numerous albums of his own. For the past two years, Stephen has helped developed and curate Kaya Fest, a music festival that educates the public on cannabis and honors the legacy of his father. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $29.50. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

FRIDAY, JULY 12

Backstreet Boys
Backstreet Boys made their debut in the late 90s when pop boy bands were peak culture, as the Boys competed with groups like NSYNC and 98 Degrees for supremacy. In the beginning, they had a larger fanbase in Europe than the United States due to mainstream pop being kept off the radio, but their stateside stardom was a when, not if. Their most iconic album Millennium went multi-platinum, with singles like “I Want It That Way.” The record lived high in the charts as their blend of hip-hop, R&B and pop was exceptional for its time. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $190. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

Brecreation
With an upbeat tempo, dope lyrics and a momentum to move, Brecreation brings a celebratory vibe to the music scene. His writing capabilities convey such a deep message within his music, you can’t help but fall in love with his energy. His grasp on combining rap and pop beats will leave you enticed and wanting more, allowing the listener to bob their heads and move their feet to singles like “Enough” and “Midnight.” With a deep connection to the DMV area, being from Gaithersburg, Maryland, he wanted his first show to be in the nation’s capital. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but a $5 donation suggested. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

The Weeklings
The Weeklings are set to bring back nostalgic hits from The Beatles for this performance, busting out hits like “I Am The Walrus” and “Paperback Writer.” Along with performing Beatles classics, The Weeklings have recorded two studio albums at Abbey Road studios in London, which include original work and songs inspired by The Beatles. The Weeklings can be heard on Sirius XM’s The Beatles Channel. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $20. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com

SATURDAY, JULY 13

Trap Karaoke
It’s not your typical karaoke, there’s no “Bennie And The Jets” or “Love Shack,” more Tupac and Kendrick Lamar. Trap music has been an influence within the black community; advocating for controversial issues, empowerment and more. Jason Mowatt started trap karaoke as merely a joke, but eventually him and his friends played on the idea of a trap version of karaoke. Starting with just 40 people, since then, thousands have come out to enjoy a night filled with fun and trap music. Gracing cities from Los Angeles, California to Atlanta, Georgia and building a platform where all walks of life can come out and enjoy singing their favorite music. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $22. Howard Theatre: 620 T St. NW, DC; www.thehowardtheatre.com

SUNDAY, JULY 14

Nas & The National Symphony Orchestra
Growing up in the projects of Queens in New York City, Nas used his exposure to his legendary album Illmatic, a reality piece within “the golden age” of rap. These adversities helped him one of the greatest records ever. Since, he has challenged the stereotypical view of rap, going in depth with his experiences of being a black man in America. Tracks like “The World is Yours” and “If I Ruled the World” gave listeners a sense of hope that even though discrimination was always lurking, there was hope. Poetic in verse and sincere in rhyme, the Wolf Trap experience provides a twist on his usual performance with the accompaniment of the National Symphony  Orchestra. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $50. The Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

TUESDAY, JULY 16

Yuna
Malaysian singer and songwriter Yuna steadily rose to fame in the mid-2000s after uploading her songs on Myspace. It wasn’t until releasing her debut hit “Deeper Conversation” that she started to gain an international audience, leading to recorded tracks with Pharrell and a coinciding  performance with him at Lollapalooza in 2012. Her upcoming album, Rogue, which features tracks with G-Eazy and Tyler, The Creator will make its debut on July 12. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 17

Harry Jay and NINA
Harry Jay is a man of many talents, ranging from 4-plus octave range to being a natural lyricist. His twist on funk, rock and soul has allowed music lovers alike to gravitate to his music. Specifically, amongst both Boston and DC, he has a wide range of supporters, alongside his band The Bling, who together have effortlessly sold out shows after the release of their first EP, Truth. The other artist on the bill is NINA, influenced by the depth of Joss Stone, the voice of Aretha and the powerhouse that is Beyoncé. Her newest single “I Can Do Better,” empowers the everyday women to become go-getters. Her pop-soul genre allows the listener to be active while listening, but at the same time captivate her unique sound. Doors at 6 p.m. Free. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

THURSDAY, JULY 18

Cayucas
Waiting on the next Two Door Cinema Club album? Well, Cayucas may be able to tide you over until then. Twin brothers Zach Yudin and Ben Yudin are an indie pop band, hailing from Santa Monica, California. Their most recent album Real Life provides a real summer soundtrack, the type you would see in a movie where they are driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in California. The duo will give you all the calm beachy vibes the warmer months have been missing so far. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

The Native Tongue Fest
Celebrating 30 years of hip-hop, The Native Tongue Fest will celebrate the Native Tongues collective, as well as other notable artists. The lineup includes Jungle Brothers, Monie Love, Black Sheep and Brand Nubian. Part of the proceeds will be donated to The American Diabetes Association in honor of the late Phife Dawg. Doors at 5:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $70. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

FRIDAY, JULY 19

PRETTYMUCH
Members of PRETTYMUCH originally auditioned on the X-Factor to pursue solo careers, but didn’t form until judge Simon Cowell believed they’d be better off as a group. The American-Canadian music group quickly rose to fame in 2017, releasing their single “Would You Mind,” which recieved tons of praise. Their teeny-bop sound is very similar to the U.K. group One Direction. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $31. DAR Constitution Hall: 1776 D St. NW, DC; www.dar.org/constitution-hall

Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World
Two bands come together for one mega-rock performance taking you back to the late 90s. Third Eye Blind pulls their influences from classic and pop-rock. Their debut single “Semi-Charmed Life” reached the top 10 on the Billboard in 1997. The band broke up in the early 2000s, but eventually came back together in 2009 and released their fourth studio album, Ursa Major. Jimmy Eat World started their music career in the emo-core genre, but as their audience broadened, the group morphed into an alternative rock and power pop band. Their latest album, Integrity Blues, blended electronic sounds and their rock roots, proving yet again their music isn’t confined to a singular genre. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $29.50. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

SATURDAY, JULY 20

Dave Matthews Band
Being the kings of improvisation, Dave Matthews Band quickly took the rock industry by storm. Formed in 1991, they continue to amaze fans with their unexpected performances while largely sticking to their classic material. With the soothing strum of a chord magnified by their musicianship, there’s no wonder how successful they’ve been over the past two decades, selling out arenas, being at the top of musical charts and still having thousands of loyal fans. The use of violins, saxophones and many more instruments electrify their music, making it almost impossible for fans not to enjoy a live show. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $49.50. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.bristowamphitheater.com

Stereo League
Emerging from Philadelphia in the summer of 2018, with their debut album A Light on Each Side, Stereo League quickly took reign over the city. Classified as a recording collective, they frequently collaborate with numerous artists across all genres of music. It didn’t take long for fans to catch wind of this group, which put them on a nationwide tour with sold out shows, leaving fans coming back for more. The collective is planning on releasing a second album this summer and will give DC9 a sneak peak. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets $12. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

TUESDAY, JULY 23

John Mayer
One of the savviest musical minds of our time, there is nothing he can’t do with a guitar in his hands. Hit after hit, John Mayer has charted all major music pop charts making it almost impossible to compare. Inspired by the great Jimi Hendrix, his guitar solos alone bring thousands to fill stadiums. Classics like “Waiting On the World to Change” and “Your Body is a Wonderland” will have you singing along to the nostalgia of what was the beginning of an era that continues to this day. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $49. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

The Marías
It’s hard to fit The Marías into a category because they touch on so many different genres of music: a little jazz, some indie and even psychedelic. The Marías are uniquely “strange.” Their soulful tunes paint a vivid picture fans easily grasp onto, and songs “Cariño” and “I Don’t Know You” helped the group gain national acclaim. Their gentle approach to each song resonates a calmness within each listener, proven in their soulful cover of Britney Spears’  “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” With an authentically eclectic style, their sound is more than enough to keep fans enticed and wanting more. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $18. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 24

Mark Redito
Make Redito, formerly known as Spazzkid, is a Filipino musician based out of Los Angeles, California. His fusion of pop, J-pop and beat music is characterized in a completely new sound of his own making. Taken from a multitude of cultures, his techno add-ons creates a new perspective on “trap techno.” Even though his music has taken on a role on its own, his ability to combine three different genres allows him to reach a much broader audience. It’s unique, fun and uplifting, and creates an ambiance of all around good vibes. Doors at 10:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

FRIDAY, JULY 26

Ibibio Sound Machine
Hailing from London, Ibibio Sound Machine has become known as a live music collective that produces hits perfect for Friday nights at the club. Their chanty melodies coupled with steady beats of drums and other instrumentals incorporates influences from West African funk, disco, modern electro and post-punk to produce a modern take on 70s funk and electronic music of the 80s. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $20. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

Johnny Gill
The man, the myth, the legend Johnny Gill is gracing The Birchmere’s grand stage. A career spanning more than three decades, including classics like “Can You Stand The Rain” and “Rub You The Right Way.” He serves as one of the few that have allowed his humanitarian acts and his love for teamwork to help carry his career, along with his voice. He is one of the few that have had a successful group and solo career. With his unforgettable contributions to New Edition and LSG, his voice still reigns supreme as he  further cements his legacy in the nation’s capital, the first stepping stone in his career. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $95. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave.Alexandria VA; www.birchmere.com

TUESDAY, JULY 30

Corinne Bailey Rae
Three-time Grammy-nominated artist Corinne Bailey Rae made headway in the U.K. and the United States with hits like “Put Your Records On” and “Like a Star” back in 2006. In 2011, Rae released The Love EP, where she did covers by artists like Bob Marley and Prince. Her cover of Marley’s “Is This Love” won her a Grammy for the Best Female Performance category. Rae’s sound can be described as soul, pop and R&B wrapped into one. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets $40. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

Queen and Adam Lambert
In their new tour, Queen and Adam Lambert are coming together to bring the Rhapsody Approaches tour. Mixing old classics with some new tunes, there will be something for everyone at this show. While the combination may seem a bit odd, Lambert is a perfect lead for this iteration of Queen and he credits Freddie Mercury as an icon of self-identity for him. The marriage between the two has brought Queen back and allowed Lambert to play with his childhood heroes. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $200. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 31

Cosmic Charlie
Cosmic Charlie plays to the tunes of The Grateful Dead. A cover band since 1999, Cosmic Charlie continues to pay tribute to this unique, charismatic band that left audiences dancing in their seats. An eclectic band mixed with rock, country, folk and blues, which helped them become  “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world.” Since the death of one of their band members, Jerry Garcia, their spirit has lived on through Cosmic Charlie. Filled with the style and energy of the Dead, their covers aren’t always perfect as no show is ever the same, and they use their own foundation to add to the legacy of The Grateful Dead. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $15. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Photo: Trent Johnson

DC’s Honey Delivers Diverse Rock

Four years ago, three volunteers with Girls Rock! DC considered joining musical forces and forming a band. Karen Foote, Saman Saffron and Ebony Smith went on with their busy lives but reunited a year later at the organization’s afterparty to discuss the band. A mutual friend offered up a basement practice space, and the musicians who had long admired each other’s abilities from afar officially created Honey.

“It was kind of amazing,” says Foote, who plays guitar. “I think we were all on the dance floor at one point and the three of us were dancing and we were like, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s do this band thing.’”

Foote and her bandmates have been playing music in some capacity for most of their lives, but Girls Rock! DC brought their talents together. The music education organization “aims to create a supportive, inclusive and creative space for girls and non-binary and trans youth of varying racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities, identities and experiences to develop their self-confidence, build community, rise up and rock out,” per their website. And for Honey, the experience led to the creation of new music.

The band draws from their varying backgrounds, experiences and personal tastes to create a brand of indie rock that’s powerful and relatable. Although the trio only has one EP, I’m Your Best Friend, Admit It, they cover everything from dealing with the eponymous “F–kboy” to romantic relationships. And the places from which they find inspiration are as wide-ranging as their lyrical subject matter.

“I feel like we all bring such different influences,” Foote says.

Vocalist and bassist Saffron echoes that sentiment, adding, “I think it’s funny sometimes, because we’re a pretty big span of ages and upbringings, but sometimes someone will start playing a song as a joke in band practice and we’re like, ‘Yeah. That’s awesome. Blink-182. When are we going to cover that?’”

Drummer Ebony Smith agrees.

“I think what really works well for us is that we just have different backgrounds and genres that we bring in and blend together. We can put them together and it just ends up being really cool. It’s something I really appreciate and enjoy.”

Outside of their time in Honey, the group’s daily work lives vary greatly. Foote is a videographer, Saffron works in nonprofit programming and Smith for an engineering firm. Busy schedules don’t keep them from their work in the band, though, and they emphasize the importance of taking time to nurture creative work outside of their professional lives.

“It can be challenging but rewarding to explore that creative outlet,” Smith says. “We all love music and we love what we do. But I think sometimes when people think about forming bands, they don’t think about the back end. It’s not just going out and playing music and partying and stuff like that. It takes a lot of work and a lot of communication. You have to think of everything that’s included in playing music with your friends.”

For Saffron, she’s found the right balance by treating band time as non-negotiable.

“Being like, ‘Well, [on] Tuesday night, this is what I’m doing,’” she says. “And also, voice memos are my best friend. With a couple of our songs, it’s been like, ‘Oh, I’m in the bathroom. I have a line idea. I’m just going to sing it right now into my phone. I’m going to put it away six months later. I need a bridge for this song that we’re working on. This will go well here.”’

Honey has had some memorable experiences throughout the time they’ve been together. Foote recalls playing the Black Cat’s anniversary show last year – a show she describes as one of the shortest they’ve played but one of the best, nonetheless. They also brushed elbows with the legendary Ted Leo while tuning in the back room as he was looking for a place to meditate.

“We were tuning [in the] dressing room and Ted Leo came in,” Saffron adds.

Foote continues, saying he was looking for a quiet space in the backstage area.

“He was like, ‘Hey, do you mind if I come in [and] sit here for a little bit?’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ But I think we were still too disruptive, so he left. And I had not yet been like, ‘Hi, I’m Karen.’”

Saffron laughs.

“We were like, ‘Wait, did we just strong-arm Ted Leo?’”

“But then we got to talk to him later and he was so nice,” Foote says. “That was my favorite.”

The band recalls the support they’ve received from their EP release show and the Girls Rock! DC community overall.

“Every experience that we’ve had has been someone who’s a few degrees of separation from Girls Rock! DC,” Saffron says. “Obviously, having been around for more than 10 years, it’s a big community.”

The band’s personal experiences speak to the necessity of the organization’s existence. The musicians lead by example, but hope the future looks different for up-and-coming musicians.

“It’s so rare that we play with a band that’s all girls, or trans folks or gender-expansive folks,” Saffron continues. “So often we’d show up and we’re like, ‘Hello, lineup of all dudes. Hello, lineup of predominantly white folks. Nice to see you.’ I don’t want young people to feel like they have to be perfect. I don’t want them to feel like they have to be experts in order to do something. People who see themselves reflected all the time are treated as individuals all the time.”

Foote concurs.

“I definitely feel that shows – especially because we are an all-female band. It’s like, ‘Oh, we have to super nail this’ or people are going to be like, ‘Look at this all-women band!’”

Saffron concludes with, “I would love for music programs like Girls Rock! DC to not even be necessary; for them to just be fun rather than being something that needs to happen, politically speaking.”

Honey plays Slash Run on Monday, July 22. For more information on Honey and to listen to their EP I‘m Your Best Friend, Admit It, visit www.honeymusicdc.bandcamp.com. Visit www.slashrun.com for more on the show.

Slash Run: 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; 202-838-9929; www.slashrun.com

Photo: Eleanor Petry

Julia Shapiro Presents Imperfect Perfect Version

Julia Shapiro didn’t want to talk about it. In April 2018, amid health concerns, a fresh breakup and an existential crisis, she couldn’t tour anymore. Her indie rock outfit Chastity Belt cancelled what was left of their tour, sparking a long overdue period of self-discovery for Shapiro.

Her solo sound doesn’t differ much from the pathos of her beloved band. The music is still constructed upon a lyrical foundation that ranges from witty banter to existential thought experiment. The low-key instrumentation and soft melodic choruses are where the subtle differences become noticeable.

With questions of self and very real trepidations concerning the literal grind of touring, the artist had already planned to explore music solo. Upon returning to a newly empty Seattle apartment, she transformed the space into a makeshift studio and dove headfirst into writing, performing and producing songs that would become her latest release: Perfect Version.

“This is like its own thing,” Shapiro says of her solo project. “I think it’s helpful because if I was in a nice studio, there would be too many options. Having limitations and having to do it myself, I had to go with what sounded best.”

Shapiro has learned from last year’s record cycle. She’s checking in with herself and her bandmates more, and generally feels “way better.” Chastity Belt has a number of dates confirmed for the winter and she’s currently touring for Perfect Version, with a stop at Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe in Adams Morgan later this month. She’s ready.

On Tap: You recently said you were questioning whether you were interested in music anymore and pondering why you fell in love with it. At what point did you decide to start even thinking about music again?
Julia Shapiro:
I’m always questioning what I’m doing. At the time, I felt exhausted from how much we’d been touring and disillusioned from the whole album process. I never thought I’d stop making music, but at that point, I didn’t want to tour anymore. Coming back, I started writing songs right away. I got really attached to the demos and thought they were good. I figured, “Why record another version?” because I’m lazy and they had a kind of magic.

OT: You basically self-produced Perfect Version. Were you learning on the fly or did you have the demos at the ready?
JS:
There’s no one right way to mix something. I just used my ears. Doing it with someone else could have sounded more pro, but this is more personal. I don’t love records that are only high fidelity. I like demos because they feel more personal and there’s a uniqueness to them. I don’t think your average listener will be able to tell it’s not the best quality. It sounds like music.

OT: Are you officially renting out your apartment as a studio?
JS:
A couple of my friends have asked me to produce things but I haven’t started on them yet. I don’t know what it would be like to produce someone else.

OT: Did you feel any pressure for your solo album to sound different than Chastity Belt or [your punk band] Childbirth? It seems slower and more melodic than your previous work.
JS:
I didn’t really think about it. I hoped and assumed it would sound different. It’s going to be in the same vein because I’m writing the songs. Writing parts of my own songs seems so easy, because I know exactly when the transitions are.

OT: From your time in other bands, how different was it for you to answer to yourself? Was it difficult?
JS:
I had feedback because I needed to make sure I wasn’t completely in my own head and doing something weird. I still had people to bounce things off of, but ultimately, all the creative decisions were mine. It felt really good to be totally in control. That’s kind of f–ked up, but it felt good. I made the music video [and] did the album cover myself, and it made it easier. It was a very different experience.

OT: How did you settle on the title Perfect Version? When I first saw it, all I could think of was how one of my favorite aspects of your songwriting is this unabashed imperfection.
JS:
The whole experience of writing the record was about embracing my flaws and embracing imperfection, and it’s represented by this record that isn’t perfect. The song [“Perfect Version”] is inspired by that scene in Lady Bird when Lady Bird goes dress shopping with her mom and they’re getting in a fight and she says, “I want you to be the best version of yourself.” And she replies, “What if this is the best version of myself?” I related to the mom [because] I tell myself I should always be improving. I’m going to always strive to be better and [sometimes], it’s not going to happen. It’s embracing that.

OT: Even when you and your bands are having fun with lyrics and being whimsical and silly, you seem to always be dealing with a sense of existentialism – from the perils of Tinder to coming to the conclusion that you’re bored all the time. Would you agree that going further in this direction was completely natural for you?
JS:
It’s not something I consciously thought about, but yeah, I guess it is the next level. It’s even more vulnerable – it’s less funny and more earnest.

OT: How did you go from leaving the Chastity Belt tour to where you are now? How big of a role did Perfect Version play in helping you heal and grow?
JS:
I’m still transitioning a little bit, but I feel way better than I did a year ago. [Chastity Belt has] a ton of tour dates we’ve been setting up and it feels kind of daunting. It feels like I’m in a really good place. We got really lost in the last album cycle. We felt forced to do a lot of things we didn’t want to do, and I didn’t like it. Labels feel that you need to fit in these little boxes and stay within these lines, and we wanted to feel more in control and be intentional. I was kind of having an existential crisis, like, “Who am I outside of this band?” It was fun to have a few months to not be in the band.

OT: When you talk about your label asking you to do things you didn’t want to, was that actually happening or was it a more subconscious sense of duty?
JS:
Kind of a bit of both. Subconsciously, we felt this pressure we hadn’t realized. Now, we’re just kind of questioning everything and making sure that everything is in our control. Even with music videos – we don’t need to do something crazy. We can record something on an iPhone. Stuff like that, where the label goes, “Are you sure about that?” Our album covers, they let us get away with that, and our new one is really f–ked up looking. They’re like, “Are you sure?” and we’re like, “Yeah, absolutely.” They’ll challenge us, but you have to stand your ground. Maybe we weren’t confident enough in our ideas [before], but now we’re like 100 percent. Them challenging us on it makes us think it’s good and interesting.

Shapiro headlines Songbyrd on Monday, July 22. Doors open at 7 p.m., tickets are $12-$15. Follow her on Twitter @cool_slut.

Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; 202-450-2917; www.songbyrddc.com

Dwell // Photo: courtesy of Sofar Sounds

Sounds of the City: Outside the Music Box

Whether it’s go-go blasting from a street corner shop or jazz drifting up from a suburban basement, the energy of the creative spaces where music is produced sets the rhythm and determines the pulse that a city can become known for.

DC’s sound has shifted in waves over the decades, largely because the spaces where music is being made are continuously evolving. While the doors of most of the great jazz clubs that once lined U Street have closed and the back rooms and basements of punkdom are harder to come by, in 2019 there are more opportunities to hear live music than there have been in years. But it’s not necessarily the newly opened, traditional-style concert venues that are leaving their mark.

The emergence of brick-and-mortar spaces cared for by artist collectives – more intentional than DIY houses and more accessible than corporate clubs – are the places where the sounds of DC are generated today. And that sound is inextricable from an ethos of community participation in shared experience.

Rhizome DC takes physical shape in an early 20th-century house sitting just on the DC side of Takoma Park. Its founders established what is now a thriving 501(c)(3) after Pyramid Atlantic Art Center moved to Hyattsville and left a hole in the local arts community. The house draws its namesake from French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s concept: “Unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature.” That is, the space is built for multitudes of connections.

“Our main goal is to have lots of different things happening at the same time and nourish each other,” says Michael Smith-Welch, a member of the collective that keeps Rhizome running. “That’s what makes it exciting.”

The whiteboard schedule hanging in the kitchen marks events and shows every day and night of the month. As far as music goes, that means everything from jazz to experimental rock. In its first year, 600 acts came through the doors. Rhizome recently hosted the third annual installation of the Seventh Stanine Festival, a compilation of local musicians and accomplices like funk rockers Beauty Pill and instrumental ensemble Tone.

“A lot of those acts can’t play at the bigger places and it’s what we like: experimental,” Smith-Welch continues.

Rhizome is like a breathing machine – even the bathroom is converted into one big musical instrument. Strum any surface and the room emits an electronic feedback buzz in varying tones. It is also malleable to the needs of its community.

Beyond music, Rhizome offers workshops on fermentation, film and electronics, yoga classes, and an art lab for teens. While no one lives in the house, it does occasionally play host to resident artists, like the group of women who applied for a grant to have space to create while navigating new motherhood. An exhibition currently on display throughout the house is an installation of works from the Justice Arts Coalition, an organization that supports and sponsors incarcerated artists.

Across the city in the Trinidad neighborhood of Northeast DC, a back-alley carriage house is home to Dwell, an “off-grid creative space.” Like Rhizome, Dwell started as an alternative venue for local music when many others were shuttering doors or moving locations. And while it still caters largely to musicians, Dwell too has expanded with the energy of its community.

With no official address and printed maps given to event hosts for distributing to attendees, organizer Hannah Bernhardt says people are already jazzed when they arrive for the first time because they’ve had to interact with the neighborhood in a way they’re not used to just to find the space. Once they do, there is more whimsy in navigating the space itself.

“You get to journey through all of the levels of what happens here,” Bernhardt says. “On the first floor, there is a garage and a boat and evidence of woodworking projects [not to mention a pool table from Black Cat’s renovation days], and you go to the second floor and there’s music happening and the lights are flickering, and then you go up to the roof where there is a garden and a fishpond.”

The fishpond is a cistern of collected water used for the rooftop garden, a gathering spot for people to socialize between musical sets. It was all built out by hand by volunteer members in the community.

Dwell’s programming is managed by Bernhardt and Holly Herzfeld, childhood friends who grew up in the area. They strive to create a space that is welcoming for both the musicians who frequent and anyone who happens to find their way into Dwell.

“There’s a sensitivity and an openness that happens that’s really amazing,” Bernhardt says. “I often hear people say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this, but it feels like home.’”

Her father David Bernhardt, who owns the physical building, adds, “People who return over a number of visits have a deeper, richer understanding of what’s going on.”

Someone who comes for a show with friends might return alone for a yoga class. This past May’s Dyke Fest drew hundreds of first-timers and familiars alike.

“We are trying to guide the way that space interacts with people,” Bernhardt’s father continues, “to value all the individual groups, tribes and circles that is the Venn diagram of our city and then bring them together. And this becomes Dwell. It’s especially important while Washington is changing again, and so dramatically, that we can set the tone for what is the culture [and] the music in the city and the vibe.”

Hole in the Sky (HITS) DC is another artist collective that congregates in an off-the-beaten-path performance and studio space. Unlike Rhizome and Dwell, however, HITS’ mission is a little more geared toward the needs of artists rather than visitors.

Though iterations of HITS have existed for about a decade, the collective’s current form really began to take shape about five years ago when a few artists set up studio space in the lofted building on the edge of Brookland that actually feels like a literal hole – not in the wall, but in the sky.

Annmarie Dinan Hansen is one of the lead organizers at HITS, which she describes as a “very fluid space,” one given to the “wants of those who are invested most in it” – a.k.a., those paying for the lease on the building. For Hansen, who has a punk background, that means a focus on punk music and “facilitating art forms that are underrepresented performance-wise.”

“We’re constantly navigating what it can and should be,” Hansen says.

That navigation hasn’t come without its challenges.

“There was a time when it had a reputation as not a particularly safe space for women,” notes Hansen, a vibe she hopes is changing. “We’ve been having a lot of events.”

HITS hosts a variety of collaborative gatherings, exhibitions for juried art shows, and other collectives and individuals in need of space to make, display and be inspired by art.

Conner Casey, a woodworker, folk musician and current HITS member, says that in addition to performance, the space is crucial for working artists.

“[This] can’t even exist as anything other than DIY,” he says. “It needs to be used as an arts space.”

Despite the enthusiasm of the communities that they build and serve, the “out-of-the-box” and “under-the-radar” nature of spaces like Rhizome, Dwell and HITS does not make them immune to developers’ dreams. Rhizome’s landlords, for example, own the Starbucks down the street and have visions of condos replacing the rickety white house on the hill.

But one thing is certain: DC needs these spaces. In them, music is binding force and a natural backdrop to the multitudes of expression that they foster. The subtle undertone of the sound they release seems to be: our city’s arms are open…come create with us.

Dwell: alley behind the 1200 block of Florida  Avenue in NE, DC (between Montello and  Trinidad Streets); www.dwelldc.info
Hole in the Sky DC: 2110 5th St. Unit 2, NE, DC; www.holeintheskydc.com
Rhizome DC: 6950 Maple St. NW, DC; www.rhizomedc.org


Support the Scene

A slew of small “official” venues around town also give lots of love to local bands. You can stumble into one of the following spots on pretty much any night of the week and likely catch an up-and-coming musical act.

Comet Ping Pong
Comet has been serving pizza and wicked backhands since 2006. It has also hosted thousands of live shows. Don’t miss local faves Park Snakes on July 15. 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

Dew Drop Inn
Dew Drop is the hippest little train track hideaway in town. They just celebrated their fourth anniversary with a whiskey fountain and free hot dog bar. Don’t miss the triple threat of Lightmare, Dot.s (ATL) and Erotic Thrillers on July 11. 2801 8th St. NE, DC; www.dewdropinndc.com

Marx Café
If you dig jazz, blues, DJs and the Revolution, get your Commie ass to Mt. P’s Marx Cafe. 3203 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, DC; www.marxcafemtp.com

Pie Shop
The folks running Pie Shop are local musicians themselves, so they know what’s up. Plus, you can order sweet and savory pies from Dangerously Delicious downstairs and enjoy the rooftop patio between sets. 1339 H St. NE, DC; www.pieshopdc.com

The Pinch
14th Street feeling a little too posh these days? Head to the Pinch, go down to the basement lounge and revel in a good, old-fashioned punk show. 3548 14th St. NW, DC; www.thepinchdc.com

Slash Run
Named “best neighborhood joint” in 2018, their slogan kind of says it all: beer, burgers, rock ‘n’ roll. 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; www.slashrun.com

Photo: Eat Humans

Folksy Faye Webster Plays DC9

Faye Webster is more than a folk artist, though that’s how most websites and music critics classify her. The 21-year old singer-songwriter from Atlanta does indeed strum acoustic guitars and her soft voice comes with a faint Southern accent, but her sound has undoubtedly evolved since her first release, 2013’s Run & Tell. Though traces of that traditional twang is still evident in 2017’s Faye Webster and this year’s Atlanta Millionaire’s Club, it’s clear the young musician is growing exponentially with each release.

There’s little doubt the use of her name on the second record was intentional, acting as a fresh introduction to a new direction she wanted to take her music – trading some of the bluegrass for pop and some of the country for R&B. If Faye Webster was a taste of Webster’s versatility than  Atlanta Millionaire’s Club is a buffet.

While Webster is on the road, we had a chance to chat with her pen pal style, where we asked her about her photography, her Braves, her yo-yos and, of course, her music.

On Tap: The first thing I noticed listening to Atlanta Millionaires Club is how different it is than your self-titled LP and especially Run & Tell. It seems like you’ve sort of reached this point where you’re truly free flowing from R&B to folk to country to wherever else you feel like going, but it all still sounds uniquely you.
Faye Webster: I don’t think about that stuff when I make music, I just write and record and let the song call for whatever it wants or “meant” to sound like.

OT: This album has a seamless flow to it, even as it goes from a song with a tropical sound like “Room Temperature” to a pop-sensible “Right Side of My Neck.” How much work did you put into getting the order right to better tell your story?
FW: It was a lot of back and forth, I probably made five drafts of the track list. When I finally made this order and listened to it front to back, it was just an instant feeling that this was the one.

OT: Before this record, you sang a few hooks on hip hop songs, was there anything learned from the experience of doing features that you brought to Millionaires Club?
FW: Definitely, I learned to let things happen in the moment because when you are there doing a feature and collating with another artist you don’t nit pick lyrics or make revisions, you just let your heart out. With this record, I tried not to go back and touch on songs; I just left them raw and imperfect. Also having Father on this record is really special to me and is kind go a homage to him and Awful Records. They hold a very special place in my heart always.

OT: Speaking of hooks. Being from Atlanta, what hip-hop legend would you most want to do a song with? I know you did a photo shoot with Killer Mike, does this mean we can expect you on RTJ4? (Please say yes!)
FW: He’s not from Atlanta but JPEGMAFIA and I have been talking about doing a song together, and I really want that to happen.

OT: I know you’ve said in other interviews that everything you write is personal, but was this one more difficult because of the subject matter? I think you mention crying approximately 57 times, it’s extremely open and intimate.
FW: Approximately, yes. Singing about my family is always hard, especially when they are there in person listening. I used to have conversations with my brothers about whether or not I should take out something I said about my mom or grandmothers, but it’s how I wrote it and that’s how it should stay.

OT: As a photographer, do your album covers sort of mean more to you than they would other artists, because so far they’ve all been some take on an a portrait of yourself. What was the process of doing the coin photo? Also, how many of the coins did you actually eat? 
FW: Yeah, I try to not just make it an album but a art piece as a whole. It took two days to get that picture and I didn’t eat chocolate for three months after that.

OT: Does your music and photography intersect at all, do you find yourself inspired by the music you for a shoot and vice versa? 

FW: I think it’s just something that I enjoying doing. It definitely shows off in my music videos though.

OT: What was the toughest environmental portrait you’ve done as a photographer? Why was it difficult?
FW: I think the portrait of Killer Mike because we met at his barber shop and that’s all I had to work with. It was just hard transforming the photograph to look like we aren’t in a barber shop.

OT: Switching gears, what is the most expensive yo-yo you own? Is there a difference in quality or is it simply the design/aesthetic that makes it expensive, because I’ve looked some up and prices are WILD.
FW: An $80 Cadence (Kieran Cooper’s signature yo-yo made by SF Yoyos). When yo-yos are metal they start to get fancy and expensive. But that’s what people compete with.


OT: Do you ever sing and yo-yo at the same time? Is it like brain gymnastics, like does it help spark ideas when you’re stagnant?
FW: No, but I have a whole playlist to yo-yo to.

OT: Lastly, what happens first: 1.) You sing the National Anthem at an Atlanta Braves Game? or 2.) You throw out the first pitch at an Atlanta Braves Game?
FW: First pitch. I would forget every word to the National Anthem, it would be terrifying.

Faye Webster will play in front of a sold-out DC9 tonight. For more information on her, her music and her yo-yo exploits, follow her on Twitter @fayewebsters.

DC9 Nightclub: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; 202-483-5000; www.dc9.club
Photo: Firefly Music Festival

Stars Shine Bright at Eighth Firefly Music Festival

The eighth edition of the Firefly Music Festival, from June 21-23, proved to be its best ever, with the three-day event in The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway Dover seeing great headlining acts from the likes of Panic! At The Disco, Travis Scott and Post Malone

Brendon Urie and his Panic! At The Disco bandmates truly lit up the night on Friday. Coming off his successful Broadway run in Kinky Boots, Urie revamped old classics with amazing belting, wowing the crowd in the process. They brought out real instruments to replicate the synth sounds on various songs, and the energy they put forth and received from the crowd was incredible. 

Urie recounted how “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” was released 15 years ago and talked about how the song launched the band into the “amazing ride that been developing” since. 

An earlier act on the day was Max Frost, who even though was performing to a smaller crowd, definitely made a new collection of fans hearing his music for the first time. Alison Wonderland was another who earned cred from the Firefly crowd with killer female energy coming from her DJ spectacle. 

The Party Pupils were another highlight of the first night, playing the smaller Treehouse Stage. Great fan interaction made for a positive experience for everyone and they vibed well with the audience. The group mixed old classics like “Ms. Jackson” and “Pony” with original songs by one of their creators, Max.

On Saturday, Brockhampton, the American rap collective formed in San Marcos, California had their spotlight members take the stage. They utilized an airplane set, which they used theatrically throughout their songs. The group’s high energy and big movements amped up the crowd.

Longtime favorites Death Cab For Cutie proved they are still a force to be reckoned with on the festival circuit and played some of their biggest hits, including “Northern Lights,” “Transatlanticism” and “Black Sun.”

Travis Scott finished off a long, yet incredible Saturday with a collection of his top songs and plenty of covers, including songs by the likes of 2 Chainz, SZA and Kodak Black. He began his set with “Stargazing” and “Carousel” back to back, and finished with “Goosebumps” and “Sicko Mode.” His set was something to behold, as it was a complete carnival atmosphere, complete with a neon merry-go-round, pyrotechnics and fun everywhere you looked.

Passion Pit served as the post-headliner, closing the night with a mix of indie and dance favorites including “Carried Away,” “Take a Walk” and “Make Light.” The set provided a great end to a busy day of concert-going.

On Sunday, AJR, comprised of multi-instrumentalist brothers Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met, were another highlight for Firefly attendees. The trio made a strong effort to connect with the crowd and their enthusiasm and goofy nature made them very relatable. 

Vampire Weekend started its set with “Bambina” and delivered almost 90-minutes of great music, mixing in old and new favorites including “A-Punk,” “Ya Hey” and an SBTRKT cover of “New Dorp, New York.”

Post Malone, the headliner on Sunday night, had the audience acting as background singers, with a full chorus of vocals singing along to every show. Post’s songs range from sad ballads to party anthems and he had everyone joining him for every single word, playing tunes from both his albums. His energy and soul stayed high all night and his voice and guitar skills absolutely shined. The 23-year-old Malone also told fun backstories behind his songs and gave some sweet inspiration anecdotes. 

The festival also saw some noteworthy performances by a diverse collection of artists, including Kygo, Tyler, the Creator, DJ Snake, ZEDD, Courtney Barnett, TLC, Lykke Li, Bishop Briggs, Lauren Daigle, Alison Wonderland, King Princess, Jessie Reyez and Tank and the Bangas.

And it just wasn’t the music that made this trip to the Woodlands so wonderful. With more than $4 million in upgrades in 2019, attendees were treated to upgraded facilities, top tier entertainment (in addition to festival performances) and creative programming all designed to foster a sense of camaraderie and community during the long weekend of music. 

For information about 2020’s Firefly Festival, visit here.

Photo: Shervin Lainez

Fifteen Years Later, Lake Street Dive Is Still Evolving

Boston-based Lake Street Dive has been a band for an impressive 15 years as of this May, and their unique conglomeration of pop, soul, bluegrass and more has made them a fast favorite for listeners of many genres.

While at first glance, their crossover appeal would seemingly make them an instant hit, the band has slowly and steadily climbed to the top 10 of the Billboard 200, received critical acclaim from a whole host of outlets and toured internationally in support of 2018’s Free Yourself Up.

Rachael Price (vocals), Mike Olson (trumpet, guitar), Bridget Kearney (upright bass), Mike Calabrese (drums) and Akie Bermiss (keyboards) decided to forego any outside help and self-produce their most recent record, making it a true reflection of the band’s dynamic and skill.

Kearney explains that after being a band for that long, they looked at self-production as a way to challenge each other in a way they hadn’t before in their career.

“It was intimidating in some ways because you always rely on a producer as someone outside the band to make little decisions about the technical aspects of the record,” she elaborates. “But also, big picture elements of the record like what songs are going to be on it and what the general thrust of the album [is]. Those are often times the producer’s role. Not having a person to be the definitive decision maker was scary.”

The group surprised themselves, though, embracing the change in dynamic and each other when the going got tough.

“In the end, it was a really great flow for us. We found that working in that way, especially as a collaborative unit, was really fun. [There were] several of us on board to make democratic decisions, or at times to pass the producer hat around to another person in the band and say, ‘Look, I’m exhausted and I can’t tell which guitar part I should use. It’s your day to decide!’”

The resulting album deals with interpersonal relationships, gender dynamics and ever-so-subtly, but still effectively, politics. The songs are so catchy it’s easy to skim over the convictions present, but Kearney confirms their inclusion and lyrical subject matter were a conscious choice as they set out to create an album in the world post-2016 election.

“We were just shocked and devastated by the results of the 2016 election and the ensuing chaos,” Kearney says of the political lilt present in songs like “Shame, Shame, Shame,” for one. “At the same time, I always want to take some genuine feeling and inspiration and make it into a song that can be not just for people right here, right now, but for people that might hear it 20 years from now and are in a completely different situation – be it political or interpersonal. You want to leave some elements up to the listener to interpret the song as they would like.”

In keeping with the band’s ethos of diverse influences both lyrically and systematically, Lake Street Dive drew on an impressive list of influences on Free Yourself Up. Kearney recalls how they were able to use the collective sorrow surrounding the deaths of iconic musicians as a way to explore genres they may have otherwise not considered.

“[We said], ‘David Bowie just passed away – let’s check out his music and what he was doing.’  Tom Petty also passed away while we were in the studio, so we were listening to [his] records in the studio and going ‘Whoa, this thing is super cool that he was doing.’ It was little things, like the way the rhythm guitar was being played on a track or an improvised ambient foundation we hadn’t tried before.”

The small improvisational energies that make Free Yourself Up such a compelling record will be evident as the band embarks on a summer tour in support of the record, including the band’s stop at Wolf Trap on June 8. Kearney notes that she’s anticipating getting back on the road with The Wood Brothers, and even plans to showcase some special collaborations with the band onstage.

“They’re a really amazing band and they have an incredible bass player, Chris Wood, who I am excited –  as a bass player – to get to listen to every night. I think we have six or eight shows with them, so we were like, ‘We should take some time to get some extra special things together for those shows.’”

Whether in the studio or on the road, the band’s willingness to evolve and create together is evident in all they do. Catch them at Wolf Trap on Saturday, June 8. Tickets begin at $40 and gates open at 6 p.m. For more on Lake Street Dive, visit www.lakestreetdive.com.

The Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; 703-255-1900; www.wolftrap.org

Ocean Alley

Music Picks: Ocean Alley, Pink Sweat$, Nots and More

MONDAY, JUNE 3

Local Natives
This indie band hasn’t really changed much since I was in college, when I first heard them at the recommendation of several friends. While that may seem like an insult, I think there’s something refreshing about a band who doesn’t feel the need to constantly change it up, and why would you if you unlocked a near perfect formula for making emotional, enjoyable pop music? You wouldn’t, at least not for awhile. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $36. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5

The English Beat
The racially diverse group The English Beat got its start in the late 70s and early 80s as an alternative-pop band. Fronted by vocalist Dave Wakeling, the group perfects a balance of pop and rhythmic melodies, which led to mainstream popularity in the U.K. and a cult status in the United States. Their latest album Here We Go Love was released in May of last year, making it their first release in 36 years. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $35. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.birchmere.com

THURSDAY, JUNE 6

Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers
One of the most recognized and prolific saxophonists, Grammy nominee Mindi Abair is back with her collaborators The Boneshakers. The sound vacillates between country and blues, providing twangy lyrics in between the big wind sounds. The band’s new record No Good Deed hits stores on June 28, but you’ll likely hear tunes off their latest at the Birchmere. Doors at 7:30 p.m. $35. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.birchmere.com


FRIDAY, JUNE 7

Davina and The Vagabonds
How often have you heard 30s music? I’d wager that the answer is somewhere between “barely” to “never.” That being said, the musical stylings of old-fashioned era specific New Orleans jazz is part of the appeal of Davina and The Vagabonds. With pianos, bass, trumpet, drums and trombone all accompanying the soothing vocals of Davina Sowers, who draws influence from legends like Billie Holiday, this band is a throwback revelation. See this quintet harness the powers of music from nearly 90 years previous. Show at 8 p.m. $17.50-$37.50. AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. NW, DC; www.ampbystrathmore.com

SATURDAY, JUNE 8

Pink Sweat$
Everything about Pink Sweat$’s music is scaled back. His production is minimal, his vocals are subdued and his lyrics are as subtle, sweet and seductive as his favorite beverage: Coke & Henny. The Philadelphia takes the moniker to new levels in all his appearances, often clad in various shades of pink whether he’s rocking track suits, sweaters or an astronaut suit. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets $20. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

MONDAY, JUNE 10

Lazy Bones
Far from Lazy, this DIY indie pop band is still new to the scene, only forming in 2017, but that doesn’t mean their music sounds inexperienced. In such a short time, this group has opened for genre standouts such as Charly Bliss, Wolf Parade and Diet Cig, putting them on equal footing with some of the best indie rock groups going. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Show is free, but a $7 donation is recommended. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475-2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

TUESDAY, JUNE 11

Nots
This four-piece punk band from Memphis, Tennessee makes sporadic sound good. The music is breakneck, all fueled by an unflappably pulsating bassline and a chant-like vocal method. While the music is fun to listen to (or headbang to) in a car, there’s no doubt that this kind of sonic wave is more enjoyable in person, preferably front row. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $10-$12. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2475-2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com


THURSDAY, JUNE 13

Will Varley
Will Varley began is career in London performing at open-mic nights blending personal storytelling and ancient folk traditions. Varley signed with Xtra Mile recordings after self-releasing two studio albums in 2015. Varley’s latest album “Spirit of Minnie” was released in February of last year and touched on a lot of political undertones. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $32. DC9 Nightclub: 1940 St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

FRIDAY, JUNE 14

An Evening with Star Kitchen
Star Kitchen features bassist Marc Brownstein from The Disco Biscuits, drummer Marlon Lewis (Lauryn Hill and John Legend), guitarist Danny Mayer of the Erik Krasno Band and keyboardist Rob Marscher of the Addison Groove Project. Star Kitchen will take you beyond the universe giving you an improvisational performance of funky, R&B music. Doors open at 7 p.m.Tickets $15. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

SATURDAY, JUNE 15

Ghost-Note
Percussion-based group Ghost-Note draws their influences from artists such as James Brown, J Dilla and Herbie Hancock as well as West-African and Afro-Cuban sounds. Their sound can be described as a mix of hip-hop, jazz, EDM and rock. Their latest studio album, “Swagism” featured heavy-hitting beats rich in instrumental sounds. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets $15-$20. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

MONDAY, JUNE 17

San Cisco
“Heartbreak never sounded so good,” is the way San Cisco describes their brand of indie pop quartet describes their more moody tunes. The band generally keeps the sound light and bouncy, but that doesn’t mean the subject matter can’t deal in the serious. With synths, dynamic thumps and appealing vocals, this Australian outfit is one not to miss. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $18. Black Cat DC: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; www.blackcatdc.com

TUESDAY, JUNE 18

Kikagaku Moyo
This Japanese outfit is all about their honoring their psychedelic forefathers. Harnessing all the powers of trippy guitar riffs that can leave your mind wandering and pondering and thinking and blinking. Listening to Kikagaku Moyo (Japanese for geometric patterns) is not dissimilar to taking in a piece of art in a gallery, you need to take time past the initial glance and truly take in the work in totality. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $18. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19

Flasher
Listening to DC’s own Flasher is like hearing music in a time machine. No matter how new the release, their music contains a timeless classic appeal. From shoegaze to punk, the band has carved out a niche in the local scene, and are often mentioned as some of the city’s best. 2018’s Constant Image provided a look into their inner anxieties and how they overcome them via music and art. Doors at 9 p.m. Tickets $12. Comet Ping Pong: 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.cometpingpong.com

FRIDAY, JUNE 21

Ariana Grande
Grande’s “Thank U, Next” single provoked a nostalgic feeling for millennials with inspiration from romantic comedies such as “Mean Girls” and “Legally Blonde.” The video highlights the importance of self-care during heartbreaking situations. “Thank U, Next” delves into the theme of heartbreak with the death of rapper ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and the ending of her engagement to actor Pete Davidson. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $175. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW,DC; www.capitalonearena.com

Sizzy Rocket
Las Vegas native, Sizzy Rocket pulls influences from the punk-rock genre with a mix of catchy pop lyrics. Rocket released a cover of Beastie Boys’ “Girls” in 2014 which became a viral hit and then later released her debut single “I Wanna Rob.” Her latest EP “Mulholland” features catchy lyrics of pop love songs with instrumental beats. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

SATURDAY, JUNE 22

Ocean Alley
Ocean Alley hails from the Northern beaches of Sydney, Australia and have been described as having a sound perfect for cruising down the coast or hanging out at the beach.There sound is considered a mix of modern reggae and alternative rock with influences from artists like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets $15. Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H. St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com

THURSDAY, JUNE 27

Faye Webster
Atlanta native and Indie artist Faye Webster comes from a family of musicians with her grandfather being a bluegrass guitarist and her mother being a former guitarist and fiddle player. Webster’s sound is a mix of country and pop melodies. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $10-$12. DC9: 1940 9th St. NE, DC; www.dc9.club

FRIDAY, JUNE 28

Rich the Kid: The World is Yours 2 Tour
Atlanta native, Rich the Kid has appeared on tracks from The Migos and Kendrick Lamar blowing away the trap music scene. Head of Rich Forever music, Kid’s sophomore album The World is Yours 2 debuted in March and features some of the biggest artists in hip-hop such as Big Sean, Nav and Takeoff. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets $27. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

Photo: courtesy of Sony Music

Zara Larsson Is Proud To Speak Her Truth

Swedish pop sensation Zara Larsson has been making waves since the tender age of 15. Now 21, the outspoken singer of hits like “Ruin My Life” and “Never Forget You” prioritizes using her massive platform to advocate for herself and what she believes in. She’s headlining this year’s Capital Pride concert on June 9, and spoke to us about why Pride is important to her, being a role model to her fans and sticking up for herself.

On Tap: Why do you want to perform at the Capital Pride concert?
Zara Larsson:
I always try to go to Pride in Stockholm. It’s something I really support. I’m lucky enough to have parents who raised me to believe that everyone has the right to love whoever they want. It’s really an honor to be performing at Pride, because it’s still needed. It’s an important cause for people to come out and be able to celebrate being themselves.

OT: What can your audience expect from your performance? Do you have anything different planned?
ZL:
I know we’ll have a great time because I know when I perform with my band, we always have so much fun. Most of my set is up-tempo and fun and dancey, so I hope to bring a little party. I’m very spontaneous, but I have something rehearsed that I’ve been doing for awhile.

OT: In addition to your participation in Pride, you’re known for being outspoken about your beliefs in general. Is this something you always wanted to use your platform for?
ZL:
I think that some people might be worried because they have a career in singing and acting, and might be scared of voicing their opinions because of what other people might think. I think that human rights will always be more important than my career. I just believe it’s a part of me. I stand up for what I believe in. I have no problem with voicing that.

OT: Why is that something that’s very important to you in both your personal and professional life?
ZL:
I think it’s important for me to do that because I know I have a lot of followers who are young people looking up to me. I’d like to be a good role model in that kind of scenario. A good role model to me isn’t to not drink or party or curse. It’s more how you treat people. That’s what defines a good person to me. I’d like to influence as many people as possible. I’m very loud. If I don’t agree with something, I’ll let you know. In school, I was always arguing with teachers and my parents. They raised me in a way where they allowed me to have discussions with them, question things and ask, “Well, why is that?”

I think that kind of shaped me into the person I am.

OT: That’s a very admirable way to be, especially as someone in the public eye. Do you ever feel pressure when acting as a role model or voicing your opinions?
ZL:
It’s hard because of course you want to make people open their eyes and be more empathetic and understanding. But it is hard to argue and be sensitive when someone is saying, “Oh, but if you are gay…” Some parents will say, “You don’t deserve to live under my roof anymore. I don’t want to have any contact with you.” And when things are to that point, it’s very hard to realize how to talk sense into someone like that. It’s a f–king art form. It has to be. But it’s hard. I don’t think it’s impossible. I think that’s why we need to have this debate and talk about it all the time.

OT: You’re a huge advocate for yourself, too, especially in having creative control over your work. What’s it like for you as an international pop star to exercise that kind of agency?
ZL:
I think that everyone can kind of relate, whether you’re in music or not, just as a woman in regular life. I feel like women in general don’t get a lot of credit. People don’t really want to believe immediately that you did all this by yourself or you’re capable of doing it. The songs that I love that have been doing well are songs that I had to fight for. Growing up, I had to learn that I don’t need to listen to every single person who has an opinion on what I do. I know what’s good and what’s not, and should have control over that.

Catch Zara Larsson at the Capital Pride concert on Sunday, June 9 from 6-7 p.m. at the Capitol concert stage. The concert begins at 1 p.m. and is free and open to the public, with VIP and pit passes available for purchase. For more Capital Pride programming, visit www.capitalpride.org. For more on Larsson, visit www.zaralarssonofficial.com.

Capital Pride concert: Pennsylvania Avenue and 3rd Street in NW, DC