Tag Archives: dc

The idea of ‘safe spaces’ has become controversial, but in nightlife it’s increasingly important

When Kate Ross first came out, she would go to lesbian bars and parties by herself. She didn’t exactly get a warm welcome. At the lesbian dance party She Rex, which used to pop up at Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, she says a fellow partygoer took one look at her high heels and long hair and called her a “confused straight girl.”

“I shaved off all my hair and had a mohawk,” she says. “No one questioned me after that.”

Read more in the Washington Post.

Can't-miss events at DC's Forward Festival

Today marks the start of the Forward Festival, DC’s own five-day celebration of electronic music, art, and culture. Now in its fifth year, Forward’s lineup is arguably its best yet, with wide-ranging events staged in venues across the city. Not just a music festival, Forward also features educational panels, workshops, and film screenings. If you bought a festival pass and plan to devote the rest of the week to Forward, you’re in for a treat. But what about those dabbling in the festival? Here are my picks for Forward’s standout events.


Even though the existence of monthly Moombahton Massives has lessened their sense of urgency, the party is still an essential part of DC’s homegrown genre. The 14th (!) edition of MM brings, as usual, Nadastrom and Sabo alongside Toronto’s Slowed crew, Torro Torro and Lucie Tic.


While U Hall keeps the party going with techno pioneer Jeff Mills, my money is on something different, as Distal and DFRNT perform at Patty Boom Boom. Nothing says “forward” more than future bass DJs taking over a venue whose soundsystem usually pumps out reggae and dancehall.


Predictably, my pick for Forward’s best showcase isn’t house or techno, but bass. Head over to the Warehouse Loft for the type of lineup rarely seen in DC, including Freq Nasty, Silkie, B. Bravo, and the (underbilled) Jacques Greene. The $30 ticket is more than justified by the five rooms of music, live art, and dancers – both aerial and with fire, and the fun goes until 5am.


Finally, it’s block party season! Join the Forward family at a private lot for a free party that features a host of DC’s up-and-coming DJs.


If you’re still standing on Sunday night, keep an eye on Meltdown. It’s next to the Rock and Roll Hotel, the lineup is a closely guarded secret, and it’s free. As the Facebook event says, “Only the strong survive.”

The Verge: Phonic Riot

It’s been over thirty years since someone at Sounds magazine invented the term “post punk” to describe Siouxie and the Banshees. Maybe it’s time to come up with something new to describe the strain of introspective music, distorted and dissonant, that flows from Joy Division through My Bloody Valentine to the present. Because let’s face it, “shoegaze” and “noise rock” still sound derisive to me.

With that in mind, there’s something admirable about DC act Phonic Riot describing their music with the portmanteau “psychodramaticgaragerock.” It may be tongue-in-cheek, but it says something about the band’s approach to their craft. From the unrestrained wall of sound on “Run Nikki Run” to the psychedelic sprawl of “Libertina,” Phonic Riot seem content to draw from their collective consciousness, smash it together, and see what works.

I spoke with the woman behind Phonic Riot, vocalist-guitarist Angela Morrish, about the band’s various configurations, tape-only releases, and being one of Fan Death’s favorite DC acts.

Where did you grow up, and how did you end up in DC?

I grew up in Michigan and ended up in DC through a set of ridiculous circumstances completely unrelated to music. I’ve randomly moved around a lot, i.e relationships, boredom, family. I’ve been here on and off for five years now, mainly because there is a really supportive, albeit small, musical community here that I wanted to be a part of. It felt like a really good place to get my feet wet, and it has been.

Have you played in other bands or with other styles of music?

I messed around a little with a post-rock band and dabbled in bass when I was learning guitar a few years back. I’ve sang in various projects (even some pretty embarrassing metal stuff in high school), but I’ve only seriously pursued writing my own material and putting it out there over the course of the past couple years. It’s all pretty new to me and has come together super fast. I’ve always been a writer, and written songs in my head occasionally recording them, but live performance and the professional end to being a musician is very new thing for me.

I’ve seen various configurations of the band, including you playing just with Nathan Jurgenson, or with a full band. What’s the current line-up, and how did everyone get together?

A lot of the line-up switches were circumstantial. Everything here is pretty tight knit, and people are constantly jamming with other people. Sometimes that sticks, sometimes it doesn’t. My entire approach to music right now is to do what I do, and fill in parts where they’re needed.

I’ve currently been working with Sam Chintha (Antiques/Alcian Blue), John Wood (A Cricket In Times Square) and Alex Rizzo (Dark Sea Dream) for a set of live shows. They’re all super talented and it’s been a privilege to work with them. As for the future, I guess we’ll see what’s in store. The project is definitely still in it’s infant stage.

The bands you name as influences (My Bloody Valentine, A Place To Bury Strangers, Echo And The Bunnymen, etc.) cover the usual post-punk territory, but one thing that sets you apart is your voice. As you developed your talent, who are other singers you’ve looked to for inspiration?

I grew up with a lot of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, which is where I get my roots in being a lyricist. But that aside, I listen to everything. People who’ve inspired me throughout the years range from Jonsi (Sigor Ros) to Nick Cave; I guess that comes off in my music and my voice. Artistically, I like to experiment with everything.

Recently, there’s been a glut of female-fronted indie bands that make darker music. Who do you feel your contemporaries are, locally and globally?

Zola Jesus is the first name that comes to mind, if we’re speaking in terms of females. Admittedly, I can’t say there are many other “dark” female artists in the mainstream I’ve come across and particularly taken to.

As for peers, one band that everyone needs to look out for is We Are Hex (Indianapolis). Their front woman Jilly Weiss has a killer set of pipes. You don’t get any better than that live. Period. Talk Normal (Brooklyn) is also an insanely good female duo. I’m sure I’m missing others…

With your release on 2,632 Tapes, you’re officially one of the few DC bands Fan Death’s Sean Gray likes. What was the thought process behind a tape-only release?

There’s just something really aesthetically-pleasing to me about tapes and records. Not to mention, CDs just seemed like a waste of money. Everyone just ends up putting them on their iPods anyway. We included mp3 downloads for people without tape decks, but there’s just this rich low-fi sound you get from tapes. When a Phonic Riot album finally drops there is no question the main focus will be on records for that very reason. The quality is just so much better. But, I am also a person who prefers bookstores to Kindle. Hands down.

Speaking of Sean Gray, Fan Death and musical shoutouts: Clockcleaner and Puerto Rico Flowers. Anyone who hasn’t checked them out DO IT. Talk about music that has inspired me recently. Props to him (and that label) for putting that music out there.

What’s next for the band, as far as new music and releases?

New music is always in the works, but I have plans to record all of the songs currently worked into the live sets this fall. I’m still looking into where all of that is going to happen, but it absolutely is.

What can audiences expect from a Phonic Riot live show?

It’s pretty incredible to me to see how much my music has evolved in little over year, through the contribution of other people and performing. On that note the performance is constantly growing and changing, and hopefully keeping the audience intrigued. The songs at the core however remain the same, and people can count on seeing them – and the overly emotional girl who wrote them – every time.

Phonic Riot plays the Velvet Lounge on Monday, August 22, and in Silver Spring on Thursday, August 25 as part of the Sonic Circuits festival. In the meantime, preview the tracks off their 2,632 Tapes release, or better yet, dust off your tape deck and buy a copy.

Join Jackie O and Denman for the newest Monday night destination

Slowly but surely, DCs Velvet Lounge has become an incubator for local DJ talent. The U Street dive bar hosts everything from Tropixxx, the moombahton mecca hosted by Cam Jus and Billy the Gent, to Lost & Sound, with house heads Chris Nitti and Mr. Bonkerz. Starting tonight, Velvet Lounge plays host to something more sinister.

Presented by nrdgsm, DJ Jackie O and Denman begin a new bi-weekly party: DESTINATION. These two have found a home at the equally grimey 9:30 Back Bar, but bringing the festivities to Velvet improves both the sound quality and the drink prices.

As for the sonics, Jackie O and Denman promise tons of bass: from hip-hop and club to grime and dubstep; think Trouble and Bass in DC’s own little laboratory. Not specific enough? Then listen to Denman’s brand new mix, Hell is From Here to Eternity, which moves from future bass to trap music to unforgiving grime. At exactly an hour in length, it’s a microcosm of DC’s latest destination event.

9-Close // 21+ // FREE
The Velvet Lounge
915 U Street NW, Washington, DC

The future of comic book movies

While I haven’t seen it, the consensus is that Green Lantern is hot garbage, the type of overproduced and poorly written adaptation that has long plagued the comic book film genre. Is the problem an essential one, as raised by the Washington Post?

No matter how many times he’s been reimagined, Green Lantern retains a crucial flaw: He’s a DC Comics character, without the weaknesses and neuroses that make Marvel Comics heroes interesting (sometimes even on screen).

I tend to agree with this sentiment. For the most part, the only DC comics I’ve enjoyed (outside of those on the Vertigo imprint) are Batman and specific Superman ones, like All-Star Superman: comics that are grounded in true human experience, no matter how super-powered.*

A recent post over at Nerve proposed five superheroes who should’ve gotten movies before the Green Lantern. I don’t think they make a compelling case for any entries on their list, with Wonder Woman and the Flash sharing the same DC weaknesses as Green Lantern.

The suggestion of Grant Morrison’s transgressive The Invisibles is a nod to the rich world of independent comics, even if the author of the Nerve piece admits there’s no chance of it ever being a film. Its inclusion raises another issue: the viability of less mainstream comics or graphic novels as films. Along those lines, there are a whole host of properties that beg for adaptations. Each of the following has been kicked around in development, and practically beg for cinematic versions: Garth Ennis’ Preacher and The Boys; Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, and Runaways; Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan.

The question remains: just because something can be adapted, should it be? The works of Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) have been adapted – without Moore’s involvement – with varying degrees of faithfulness and quality. The same could be expected to the works of Ennis, Vaughn, and Ellis. Too much would be left out of the script, due to length or graphic content. The success of Game of Thrones could portend more small screen adaptations of nerd lore, but for now, premium TV adaptations are pie-in-the-sky.

Over the next year and a half, the landscape is littered with big budget comic book films: Captain America: The First Avenger will lead into the mega-crossover The Avengers, both Superman (The Man of Steel) and Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man) will be rebooted, and Christopher Nolan will end his Batman trilogy, arguably the raison d’être for this glut of superhero films. While X-Men: First Class was an imperfect success, will the next batch fare as well?

After these A-listers, what’s next? Are there five superheroes who would’ve been better on film than Green Lantern? With few exceptions, I think Hollywood would be scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point. One exception, coincidentally, is another Ryan Reynolds vehicle: Deadpool, which has a writer and director attached but has been in development hell for nearly a decade. The “Merc with a Mouth” is no Jesse Custer or Spider Jerusalem, but at least he’s not in the Justice League.

* Watchmen, while published by DC, doesn’t fit in the same universe as the majority of DC books. In fact, it’s a response to that type of superhero mythology.

Laughing in bars with "You, Me, Them, Everybody"

I will admit: I haven’t watched a late night talk show in quite a while. Sure, I enjoy Conan O’Brien and Craig Ferguson when I watch them, but I’ve been without cable for two years and a talk show is too ephemeral to follow without it. Like most members of Team Coco, I didn’t even watch Conan’s stint on “The Tonight Show.” But as a fan of comedy, music, and conversation (can you be a fan of conversation?), talk shows are a natural fit for my tastes.

You, Me, Them, Everybody Live is a live talk show and podcast hosted by Brandon Wetherbee at Petworth’s Looking Glass. A recent transplant from Chicago, Wetherbee has hosted YMTE since 2008 and brought the show with him to DC late last year. As he admitted during a recent show, YMTE is basically extended practice (and an audition) for a show after Craig Ferguson, and his free-rolling style is similar.

I caught the most recent show at the Looking Glass. After Wetherbee’s monologue, guests included the Washington Post’s Chris Richards, comedian Chris Barylick and folk band Big Chimney. While I’m a fan of Richards’ writing (and his music with ex-band Q and Not U), Barylick’s set didn’t do it for me and Big Chimney isn’t my cup of tea. But like good talk shows, there’s usually something for everyone, and if not, there’s always next week.

Catch You, Me, Them, Everybody Live! at the Looking Glass on Monday nights, and subscribe to the podcast. This Monday, guests include Sean Peoples of Sockets Records, comedian Jessica Brodkin (featured below), and local experimental rockers Laughing Man.

DC's indie rock weekend

Spring concert season is upon us, and DC hosts four fantastic shows this weekend, full of up-and-coming talent.

  • Thursday: Nightmare pop specialists Esben and the Witch take the stage at the recently-renovated Red Palace, along with noise-pop collagist Wise Blood and DC’s own Last Tides. The Red Palace stage is an upgrade over that of the old Black and Red; let’s see if the sound system can handle the shoegaze explosion.
  • Friday: Smith Westerns bring some Pitchfork-approved garage-rock to the Rock and Roll Hotel, supported by Unknown Mortal Orchestra and The Tennis System (who are playing their last show in DC before heading to LA). This one is sold-out.
  • Saturday: This Positive Force DC show harks back to DC’s hardcore days with a loaded line-up that features Paint It Black, Screaming Females, Punch, Coke Bust, Slingshot Dakota, and Give. The Verge featurees Screaming Females are the highlight; Marisa Paternoster and friends always bring it.
  • Sunday: The Dum Dum Girls keep improving their lo-fi, surf rock wall of sound, which they bring to the Black Cat with Minks and Dirty Beaches. The latest Dum Dum EP, He Gets Me High, is their strongest effort yet, including a powerful cover of a Smiths’ classic.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/dum_dum_girls_light.mp3″ text=”Dum Dum Girls – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” dl=0]

Image via Juxtaexposed

Introducing Mercies

Mercies is a DC-based power trio that benefits greatly from the work its members have done with other local bands. Guitarist-vocalist John Russell also plays in the jammier ThunderTyts (and was a member of Little Bigheart), bassist-vocalist Justin Scott writes electro-tinged indie pop as Stout Cortez, and drummer Ezra Finney also plays with City Folk. As Mercies, the band makes indie rock that is confrontational yet catchy, in the tradition of Wire and the Pixies.

The band’s self-titled EP gives a taste of what they’re about, pulling from a range of influences. The rollicking “Precipice” bounces along with the occasional shrieked lyric, while “This is Not About Control” is more brooding. The vocal interaction between Russell and Scott is interesting and always different: sometimes harmonizing, other times juxtaposing through counterpoint.

The EP piqued my interest, but their live show sealed the deal. Playing to a full backstage room at the Black Cat last Thursday, Mercies rocked on a visceral level only hinted at on their EP. The soundboard recordings do a good job of capturing that energy. “Decade” is the strongest of the bunch, with sharp guitar and bass riffs, Russell with his grungiest growl, Scott’s soaring “ohs” and “ahs” and rumbling beats from Finney.

Local music scenes often take on an incestuous quality, with musicians collaborating and growing together in various configurations. The fruits of that labor is evident with Mercies. Catch them at Sidebar Tavern in Baltimore on March 30 and Asylum in DC on April 7.