As D.C. nightclubs reopen, DJs start to return to the rotation

“Slithering through a crush of people on the dance floor to meet a friend or make a new one. Orders shouted, arms extended and drinks spilled at the bar. Sweat descending, its origins not always clear.”

Washington Post

Professional wrestling and ballroom culture have more in common than you might think

Photo by Marvin Joseph

Outlandish, skin-tight costumes. Cut-to-the-bone insults. Hair extensions flying through the air. Death-defying body slams. This is “Paris Is Bumping.”

The event, the brainchild of a 25-year-old wrestler named Billy Dixon, takes its name from the iconic 1990 drag-ball documentary “Paris Is Burning” and professional-wrestling lingo for a fall to the mat. It brings together two forms of performance art that are more similar than you’d think: wrestling, with its over-the-top characters and narratives, and ballroom, the underground culture made mainstream by Madonna’s “Vogue” and FX’s “Pose.”

Filmed in September andreleased on the Internet in October, “Paris Is Bumping” featured a handful of wrestlers who had convened for matches at a tiny bar in Valley Lee, in Southern Maryland. It’s a low-ceilinged dive with harsh halogen lights and wood-paneled walls. Staged with no audience because of the pandemic — except for a bartender and a few barflys — it seemed as if fights broke out spontaneously between wrestlers.

Like everything since the outset of the pandemic, Dixon’s exposition had to change plans. Not only is it impossible to have a wrestling match while the opponents are socially distanced, but the form itself — where the audience’s cheers and boos helps determine the action — is particularly unsuited to empty venues.

For independent performers and promoters like Dixon who often barely break even, these pressures are even more acute. Without a governing body, independent organizations and performers have had to determine what is safe and appropriate for themselves. Events have faced the pandemic with different strategies, whether filming shows without fans or socially distancing attendees in large spaces, such as a high school football stadium.

As a performer, Dixon — who is billed as weighing in at 300 pounds and typically comes to the ring in a pink T-shirt and grafitti-covered overalls — spaces his bookings two weeks apart to allow for self-quarantining between matches, and wrestles only with performers he trusts to take covid precautions seriously. But it is a balancing act: Because he lacks attachment to any pro organizations, he must treat his wrestling character like a small business.

“I don’t want to work, but I have to remain relevant,” he told me, adding that he has been in the business for five years.

After the pandemic scuttled Dixon’s plans for a live, ticketed event in the D.C. area, he regrouped: “I may not be able to keep the promise of a live event, but I could do something cool and different and still kinda exciting.”

Meanwhile, amid planning for events during the pandemic, the pro wrestling world — from the independents in the United States and the United Kingdom to major organizations such as World Wrestling Entertainment or All Elite Wrestling— has faced its own #MeToo moment, dubbed #SpeakingOut, as people have publicized allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse perpetrated by members of the industry.

Dixon counts himself among the survivors. He tweeted in June that he had been sexually assaulted by the owner of a wrestling school he went to during his first month of training, saying that he had been “agonizing” over this incident for five years.

(The alleged abuser issued a denial via his now-deleted social media accounts, and shortly thereafter closed his company and his wrestling school.)

As in the #MeToo movement, much of the conversation in the #SpeakingOut movement centered on white women as the survivors of abuse, excluding Black women and members of the LGBT community. In many ways, “Paris Is Bumping” is Dixon’s way of addressing that deficiency.

“I really have always have been out and public and vocal about my experience as a Black, gay wrestler,” he told me. “When it came to Pride shows, it was really frustrating to see how it was white-centered. … We’re not celebrating everyone, [and] that made me uncomfortable.”

“Paris Is Bumping” continues the work Dixon did previously booking a March event hosted by the defunct D.C. organization Prime Time Wrestling, which he says included more than 20 Black and/or queer talents in pro wrestling.

By embedding ballroom culture into a pro wrestling event, “Paris Is Bumping” goes even further.

“Professional wrestling is so stuck in the same circle; it doesn’t have any room to grow and be different, and I’m tired of waiting for it to be cool again,” Dixon says. Ballroom and pro wrestling have so much in common — the physicality, the heightened emotions, the fan interaction, the outrageousnous — that the fusion makes perfect sense, to Dixon and his cast of performers from both worlds.

He describes the experience as intoxicating:“Let’s get drunk on the queer imagination.”

Justin Trawick is taking his music outdoors — to socially distant backyard concerts

“In late June, Justin Trawick was preparing to perform for his first in-person audience in months. The show was set to take place behind a three-story house on a quiet, suburban street in Arlington.”

Washington Post

D.C. punks Bad Moves expand their sound but keep their focus on ‘Untenable’

“Two years ago, Washington was in the throes of the debate about Initiative 77, which would have phased out the minimum-wage exemption for tipped employees. David Combs, guitarist in the D.C. band Bad Moves, felt the controversy acutely, having worked in restaurants for over a decade, but was shocked at how hostility over the bill had been internalized by the people it was intended to help. He even spoke about it on “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU — but felt he had to do so anonymously. The experience stayed with him.”

Washington Post

Time Is Fire turns day-to-day reality into music

“If you were to analyze Time Is Fire’s new album “In Pieces,” well, in pieces, you’d find bits reminiscent of music past and present, with punk, dance, dub and psychedelia, and a heavy dose of sounds from across the globe. But looking for signposts of musical forebears would be a fool’s errand.”

Washington Post

For this D.C. band, there’s no such thing as being ‘too’ free

“When D.C. trio Too Free is in the studio, the jam sessions yield an abundance of ideas, from curious chunks of music to fully formed songs. But no one knows how or when inspiration will strike.”

Washington Post

Fresh off a Grammy win and still No. 1 on the charts, Roddy Ricch rides high at 9:30 Club

“On Tuesday night, as a sold-out crowd at the 9:30 Club sang and rapped every word back at him, one thing was clear: Roddy Ricch’s present is so bright that he has to wear shades. And after such a meteoric rise, maybe wearing sunglasses at night, as he did during his D.C. tour stop, makes sense.”

Washington Post

Fresh off SNL performance, DaBaby brought his hits — and sketches — to D.C.

“DaBaby had a good reason for moving his concert at Echostage from Saturday to Sunday: on the first of those nights he was on “Saturday Night Live,” performing two of his biggest hits and acting in a sketch with host Jennifer Lopez. For his TV performances, the 27-year-old brought a touch of musical theater to Studio 8H, supplementing the usual twerkers and breakdancers with choreographed playacting and even some slapstick alongside the Jabbawockeez dance crew.”

Washington Post

Rapper Freddie Gibbs heats up the Fillmore Silver Spring with virtuosic craft

“The Fillmore Silver Spring was packed Friday night, the air conditioned to “frigid” and sweet with smoke. But the capacity crowd warmed right up just before 10, when Freddie Gibbs took the stage, head-to-toe in an equally cold Adidas tracksuit.”

Washington Post

At U Street Music Hall, Maxo Kream’s gritty street raps don’t quite click

“Maxo Kream is Houston, born and bred, and you can hear it in his music. From his syrup-slow, trunk rattling beats to his claustrophobic tales about the real consequences of making money with guns and drugs, the spirit of the Geto Boys and DJ Screw lives on in his paranoid street raps.”

Washington Post