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Capital Food Fight 2018 at The Anthem ft

The Anthem’s Capital Food Fight Features Food and Charity

For the fifteenth year in a row, local chefs will compete in a roaring culinary battle that offers bragging rights and charitable support to non-profit D.C. Central Kitchen. On November 8, The Capital Food Fight offers a taste of over 70 of the D.C. area’s top restaurants with tasty delights like poke tuna, mini brat sliders and even vegan ramen.

Facing off against each other on a live stage battle will be Kyle Bailey of The Salt Line, Autumn Cline of Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Alex McCoy of Lucky Buns and Kevin Tien of Himitsu. Judging the competition will be chefs and restaurateurs José Andrés, Spike Mendelsohn, Jennifer Carroll, Tom Colicchio, Food Network and Cooking Channel host Tregaye Fraser, TV personality and chef David Guas, TV personality Andrew Zimmern, Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and O.A.R. guitarist and songwriter Richard On. On the mic at the event will be the Master of Ceremonies Tommy McFly, former host of The Tommy Show on 94.7 Fresh FM, alongside field reporters Kelly Collis and Jen Richer.

Mendelsohn has been a part of Capital Food Fight since 2008 when he first participated as a chef competitor. “I’m looking forward to hosting again with José [Andrés],” he says. “For some of us in the industry, we’re pretty used to seeing Anthony Bourdain in the pen. It’s going to be a little sad … We’re just looking forward to a fun event.”

Along with a venue change—moving from the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to The Anthem at The Wharf—this year’s event will also offer a cocktail competition. The six battling mixologists will battle for the public’s vote on who is the master of the creative cocktail. This year’s featured mixologists include Adam Bernbach of Estadio, Trevor Frye of Wash Line LLC, Sarah Rosner of Bourbon Steak, Carlie Steiner of Himitsu, Owen Thompson of Archipelago and Jessica Weinstein of JL Restaurant Group.

For 10 years, mixologist and owner of Union Market’s Buffalo & Bergen Gina Chersevani has been involved in Capital Food Fight. She says that this will be the first time that the public will be able to vote on a winner at the event, adding, “[It’s] really giving mixology its rightful due and how creative it is to come up with these cocktails. It’s like creating a dish.”

On any last-minute tips worth knowing before attending, Chersevani says, “You should not eat before you come to the event.”

Capital Food Fight does more than highlight some of the best culinary and mixology talent in the region. All proceeds will go to D.C. Central Kitchen, a 1989-founded community kitchen with the mission to prepare unemployed adults for culinary careers as well as feed those in local schools, homeless shelters, rehabilitation clinics and after-school programs.

“People see exactly the efforts, where the money goes, and it’s very focused on food deserts,” said Mendelsohn. “There’s a real program, and while these students are growing through this, they are feeding the homeless … It’s effective. So, I think that alone is a great takeaway for people and why they keep donating and staying involved.”

To attend this year’s event, general admission tickets start at $275. The event is also partnering with Lyft, so use promo code FOODFIGHT18 for 20 percent off one ride on November 8 between 4 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. With each ride, Lyft will donate $1 to D.C. Central Kitchen.

Photo: McNair Evans
Photo: McNair Evans

St. Paul & The Broken Bones’ Familial Feelings

Laced throughout St. Paul & The Broken Bones’ third album, Young Sick Camellia, are recordings of an older man speaking. They are seamlessly integrated into the band’s signature, soulful sound to the point that the thought of the recording’s absence would render the whole effort no less beautiful, but much less vulnerable. The man speaking throughout is the grandfather of frontman Paul Janeway — affectionately called papaw — who passed shortly after the conversation was recorded.

“We just talked,” Janeway says of their conversation. “I was in Texas somewhere, opening up for Hall & Oates. Two months later he was diagnosed with lung cancer. It’s weird, because now the album has taken on a different complexion than I thought it was going to. He was older, in his 80s. I knew he wasn’t going to be here forever but I didn’t know it was going to be that quick. It was kind of like the universe was telling me something. I’m so glad it made it on the record.”

The idea to record his grandfather came to Janeway through the work of author Kathryn Tucker Windham, a fellow Alabama native who documented ghost stories through their shared home state and other southern locales. He felt inspired to do the same but instead of examining ghosts, he would use the conversations as a jumping-off point to explore the “complicated” relationships amongst the men in his family.

Originally intended to be the first in a series of three EPs around three generations of Janeway men, the burgeoning subject matter eventually took on the body of a full LP. This record represents Paul himself. He hopes to continue the project with two more albums, focusing in a more direct way on his father and grandfather.

“I always thought there were some things that were off limits. But those are usually the things you should really explore. These kinds of relationships, and growing up the way I did, why are things the way they are: exploring those ideas is terrifying,” he explains. “Why can’t I write little pop love songs or something of that nature? Why is my inclination to always push things forward and really explore and expose vulnerability? At some point, as an artist you just kind of go ‘alright, I don’t have anything else to give.’ This has been a well of creativity, though.”

Though the record has a literal end — the expansive “Cave Flora” — Janeway explains that the closing track is merely a bridge to what will be a further exploration of his family. Much like future generations carry on the family name, these albums will serve as a living document to the strength and the complexity of parental relationships.

The title of the album itself connects back to Janeway’s honest introspection displayed throughout, and pays homage to another one of his greatest influences — Italian painter Caravaggio.

“Bizarrely, I am a closet art fiend,” he says. “I love Caravaggio. The whole theme of the record, Young Sick Camellia, is based of a painting of his called ‘Young Sick Bacchus.’ It’s supposed to be a self-reflective painting of Bacchus, but it’s really after Caravaggio when he was sick. And with camellia being the Alabama state flower, [it all] represents this self reflective record.”

Although Young Sick Camellia is incredibly intimate, St. Paul & The Broken Bones still has all the dynamics of a band. While recording the songs he wrote, Janeway says the familial ties were the glue that held everyone together. The marked difference in this case was how the whole band was able to play up each other’s strengths even more so than on previous efforts.

“Here’s the situation: I am not the smartest guy in the world. I’m just not,” Janeway says with a laugh on handling a group dynamic and the personal subject matter he wrote. “But what I want to do is surround myself with people who are smarter than me, or better than me. I want to be able to develop the ability to edit them and to cherry pick what they do and try to let their strengths play out. It’s like a group project. You just have to figure out the process that best fits you and your group. I don’t desire the spotlight, but it just kind of happens when you are the voice and the face of the group. We finally got comfortable with who we are as a group.”

The result is what ultimately makes Young Sick Camellia so fascinating: it is deeply personal but allows you to bring your own familial ties and reflect on them through the experiences of someone else.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones play The Anthem on Sunday, September 30. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $41. For more on the band, visit here.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0020; www.theanthemdc.com 

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

Photo: Shervin Lainez
Photo: Shervin Lainez

Sylvan Esso brings Emotional Electronic Pop to The Anthem

Have you ever heard of Sword & Sorcery?

No, probably not. At least I hadn’t until (squints at calendar) May 15. Even still, I somehow already knew the name of Sword & Sorcery characters integral to what Wikipedia describes as an “indie adventure video game.” The name of said characters are Sylvan Sprites, and the reason the name is familiar is because of the band Sylvan Esso.

“I just restarted [playing the game],” Nick Sanborn says, finally on the phone with me after multiple sliding doors caused a slight delay.

“I’m actually learning how to be a dungeon master for Dungeons & Dragons,” Amelia Meath chimes in. “It’s great to think about on tour. It helps you think about a bunch of scenarios.”

Sylvan Esso is the formation of this very power couple – Meath and Sanborn – based in Durham, North Carolina. After one listen through their music catalog, the reason they bestowed a reference to a fantasy video game upon their band name becomes immediately apparent.

The sound is electronic at its base because of Sanborn’s background. His studio tinkering pulsates and radiates waves of energy, sometimes in the form of distorted beeps and boops, and also in ambient noises like a collage of what you’ll hear on a busy street. All of this builds to when Meath whispers, then bellows, and then whispers again, at once reminding you of the flesh and bones behind these intimate collections.

“I think the best part about it is [fantasy] can be anything you want it to be,” Sanborn says. “Really, it’s about storytelling and improvisation with a group of people. It’s really a specific skillset that is deeply creative.”

This approach is also an accurate description of how Sylvan Esso tackles music, as the creatives have enjoyed a lifetime of molding sounds. Meath grew up in a “singing family” in New England who did a ton of driving around, vocalizing whatever was on the radio. She also enjoyed singing in a sea shanty group titled The Rebels, who would perform music based on “whatever culture the director picked that year.”

For Sanborn, his love of all things electronic didn’t get kicking until he was just exiting high school. The Midwesterner was introduced to a range of works from England to Detroit, and simply put, they all resonated with the teenager.

“I didn’t want to go to college for performance, I wanted to go for composition,” Sanborn says. “This is a way that I could express my interest in composition, and it started slowly but never stopped growing.

Meath and Sanborn met in Milwaukee in 2013, and their musical chemistry was palpable and essentially immediate. This like-mindedness was something each wanted to capitalize on. The two are also married, which lends itself to an extremely seamless dynamic.

“I think with anybody, there’s no way to extricate the two things,” Sanborn says. “I think the way you make music with each other is honest, because that’s the way you connect with those people. Bands are a reflection of the dynamic of those people. We’re always shooting for something that feels accurate.”

Because of the constant communication between the two, every moment has the opportunity to be a songwriting moment – whether on the road in a bus roaming from state to state or in their home in Durham.

“There’s not really a formula,” Meath says. “Sometimes it’s me coming up with an idea, and sometimes I write a whole song. Our jobs are slowly becoming one job, because we’re always communicating. It’s not like I have a stack of lyrics.”

The duo is currently on tour for their 2017 release, What Now, which according to Pitchfork “offers a biting, withering take on pop music, full of crisp humor while still finding real moments of tenderness.”

The two also released a recent post-apocalyptic summer single, “PARA(w/m)E,” which is accompanied by an oxymoronic upbeat video, featuring Meath and other dancers wandering the scorched earth in an offputtingly cheery manner.

“We wanted it to feel really happy, but for the lyrics to be really devastating at the same time,” Sanborn says. “It’s the hit song for the willfully ignorant. There’s already that sort of conflict and tone. These people are having a super joyous dance party through this torn up world.”

As for what now after What Now, the band is in a creative space, even bringing a studio rig with them on the road. Despite the yearning both have to create music, Meath says there’s no pressure to hurry another project out the door.

“We’re just starting to think about the next record, and it’s really fun to be in a creative space again,” Meath says.

Sanborn adds, “We don’t have prerecorded notions. The process itself is rewarding and cathartic, even if it’s nothing.”

Check out Sylvan Esso when they headline The Anthem on July 27. Tickets start at $40. For more information about the band, visit their website at www.sylvanesso.com and follow them on Twitter @SylvanEsso.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0020; www.theanthemdc.com

Photo: Shantel Mitchell Breen
Photo: Shantel Mitchell Breen

Fleet Foxes Float Through The Anthem

Fleet Foxes’ stage presence can be summed up in two words: beautiful and clinical. While these aren’t words you would necessarily pair together, the band’s show at The Anthem was initially a reserved display of their obvious talent that transformed into more as the night continued.

As a unit, the band is excellent at recreating their expansive sound in large venues such as The Anthem. They also chose a diverse mix of songs, spanning all three of their albums. This came as a surprise to me as their most recent release, Crack-Up, was widely lauded by critics as their best album yet. I expected the night to be heavy on the latest release, but was thrilled to hear the deep cuts.

The band found more passion when they dove into these songs, too. A trifecta of songs from their self titled debut – the crowd pleasing “White Winter Hymnal,” jangly “Ragged Wood” and my personal favorite track, “Your Protector” – saw an energy that wasn’t evident from the get go. Luckily for the audience, Pecknold and company sustained this passion through the rest of the 22 song set.

Not to detract from the band’s skills, as they are a very talented bunch, but frontman Robin Pecknold’s solo performances of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” and “Oliver James” encapsulated the magic of the band’s ethereal, nature inspired sounds.

Like all good things, the lead up to the band’s eventual triumphant close was worth it. For the encore, Pecknold was reunited with his bandmates for the anthemic “Helplessness Blues,” a song whose chorus begs, “I’ll get back to you someday, soon you will see.” One thing is clear to see, Fleet Foxes slow burn of a live show is well worth seeing.

Learn more about Fleet Foxes here.

davidbyrneanthem

Same As He Ever Was: David Byrne at The Anthem

About three songs into his performance at The Anthem on Saturday, David Byrne started to cough. I thought it was intentional; he coughed two more times.

“Oh man,” he began to quip.

The former Talking Heads frontman said something else I didn’t catch over the roaring applause emerging from the audience. In that moment, I knew I would have paid hundreds of dollars to listen to David Byrne cough for two hours. I don’t think I was the only person who felt that way.

Though he’s filled his days with projects ranging from a collaborative record with Annie Clark of St. Vincent to a musical about the life of Imelda Marcos to multiple books, American Utopia marked his first solo album in 14 years. It’s evident he used this solo venture to deep dive into the world of his creation on the accompanying tour while also accommodating a massively different group of listeners. Byrne is nothing if not a man of the people.

Saturday saw the sprawling Anthem transformed into a peaceful concert hall, the floor lined with seats and filled with the sound of chirping birds and soft rain. When Byrne finally took the stage, he sat alone at a table and held a model brain in his hand while contemplatively launching into “Here” and “Lazy” from the new album.

Like a sudden miracle, a full band – matching Byrne in gray, almost deconstructivist suits – made their way onstage. Barefoot and carrying their instruments like a marching band, they launched into Talking Heads’ “I Zimbra.”

No longer a miracle but an apparition, an audience who was thrilled to hear Byrne’s solo ventures was now catapulted into full elation. The band was equally elated. I would never have imagined that a pack of adults carrying 50-plus-pound instruments on their backs while wearing suits would look so happy.

Throughout the night, Byrne and company vacillated between old and new – Talking Heads favorites, deep cuts from American Utopia, even the titular track from the aforementioned St. Vincent venture Love This Giant. Byrne knows his far reach, and thus is able to connect with his diverse audience with such a setlist.

That is where Byrne’s appeal lies – making beautiful sounds reflective of the minutiae and uncertainty of our daily lives. His solo work is a collection of worldly observations through the lens of a cautious optimist with enough creative energy to fuel a whole city – dare I say, the world.

As someone who grew up on Talking Heads – my dad’s CD copy of Sand in the Vaseline was a staple in the family car – and who found respite in Love This Giant during a chaotic freshman year of college, I appreciated his approach to tackling such an illustrious and far reaching career in one live show. There was as much passion from the band – and reciprocated by the audience – in American Utopia’s “Every Day is a Miracle” as sentimental classic “This Must Be The Place.”

During the latter, my seatmate incorrectly screamed the lyrics and got very very close to me with her phone, edging on in-my-face territory while trying to film the whole thing. There are few songs in the world that mean as much to me as “This Must Be The Place.” Of course someone would exhibit hallmark concert annoyances during that song. But somehow, it wasn’t annoying this time.

There are probably millions of people in the world who love that song as much as I do, my boisterous neighbor included. So I screamed the words with her – a minute of connection in a sold-out show, although she probably had no idea I noticed her, or even heard me screaming along.

I don’t know what that song means to her and she doesn’t know what it means to me, and it doesn’t matter at all. The ethereal, electric positivity generated in such a small moment was a testament to everything Byrne does as a songwriter and performer, unintentional coughing fits and all. It was, again, joy.

For more information on David Byrne and his extensive catalog, visit his website.

Photo: www.womadelaide.com.au
Photo: www.womadelaide.com.au

Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton on The Anthem

Down to earth is the quality that comes to mind when speaking with Eric Hilton, who, along with Rob Garza, co-founded Thievery Corporation, the DC-based electronic music group known for their blend of dub, acid jazz, reggae and hip-hop. On Tap recently chatted with Hilton about the group’s upcoming New Year’s Eve show at The Anthem, and the impact the new venue at The Wharf is having on our city.

Thievery Corporation has become one of the most well-known bands to come out of DC since the group’s start in 1995, but Hilton is also known for having his finger on the next “it” spot in DC. Venues like American Ice Company, El Rey and Satellite Room are just a few that he’s been involved with. And Thievery Corporation actually got its start out of the Eighteenth Street Lounge, which Hilton founded along with a few DJs. When we asked his thoughts on The Anthem, he described the venue as a game changer for DC.

“You have arena size, like Capital One, and then you have 9:30 Club, and then of course the small clubs,” Hilton said. “But you know, some bands are caught in-between. Some shows are not going to sell out [at] Capital One, but people don’t want to do multiple nights at 9:30 Club.”

Thievery Corporation has been known to play five nights in a row at 9:30 Club, but Hilton added that the difference is that they’re from the area. Hilton shared an anecdote about The Anthem as well.

“[This] is a kind of ‘ra ra for DC’ comment, but I was talking to the manager for Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, and he was saying that he felt that after New York, DC might be the best live music market in the country because of the addition of The Anthem.”

Hilton said people in DC spend a lot of money per capita on live music, and he thinks it’s because “they work their ass[es] off. They work hard, they make their money and they want to get something good for it.”

He said his upcoming Anthem show might be Thievery Corporation’s last in DC for the next year or two. The group plans to travel to record music and take a break from their touring pace.

“I don’t know if we’ll be back anytime soon, but this is a big show for us and we’re excited about it.”

Thievery Corporation will share the stage with gypsy punk rockers Gogol Bordello and Trouble Funk, a fellow DC band who have been making funk and go-go records since the 80s, at The Anthem on New Year’s Eve. Doors are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $75. Learn more about the band here, and keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming album Treasures from the Temple, out next March.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0020; www.theanthemdc.com