- Carolyn Malachi or the Manhattans? Arrrgh--Sophie's Choice!
Between the annual Carter Barron summer concert series and the Fort Dupont summer concert series, D.C.'s fans of old school funk and R&B (and amphitheater shows) are well-served during the warmer months.
But, unfortunately, some of best shows at Carter Barron and Fort Dupont are on conflicting dates. Aside from issues of cost (Fort Dupont's shows are always free; Carter Barron's only sometimes) and proximity to one's home (the Carter Barron is part of Rock Creek Park, in upper Northwest; Fort Dupont's stage is part of Southeast's Fort Dupont Park), how do you decide which one to attend?
SHOWDOWN #1: July 16, Regina Belle v. Cameo (Belle is at Fort Dupont, Cameo at Carter Barron)
Crystalline-voiced singer Belle has been cranking out sultry hits since the '80s; "Baby Come to Me" and "Make it Like it Was" are some of the best slow jams of the era. And, Disney fans will remember her for handling the female vocals on "A Whole New World," the theme to the 1992 animated film Aladdin.
The men of Cameo are responsible for many of the best twitchy, tweaked out funk tracks of the '70s and '80s, from "She's Strange" to the still-popular strip club anthem, "Candy." Sadly, the current line-up bears little resemblance to the original one, but founder Larry Blackmon is still going strong.
Sorry, Regina, but even a diminished version of "Word Up!" beats you belting out "If I Could"
SHOWDOWN #2: August 13, Mandrill v. Culture Shock East Coast Dance Concert 2011(Mandrill is at Fort Dupont, the dance troupe is at the Carter Barron)
Culture Shock D.C. is amazing--seriously. The non-profit uses hip-hop dance as a tool for "providing constructive alternatives" for urban youth. Mandrill is also amazing, though. "Fencewalk" is just a stunning, iconic example of grinding '70s funk. So, what to do?
If you're a funk die-hard, you have to see Mandrill--you just have to! But before you put on some crazy outfit and head over to Fort Dupont, you should donate to Culture Shock DC.
SHOWDOWN #3: July 22 and 23, The Manhattans v. Carolyn Malachi
OK, this isn't technically a showdown--one is on Carolyn Malachi and friends are on July 22 at Carter Barron, the Manhattans are July 23 at Fort Dupont. But sometimes you just can't do back-to-back concerts, ya know? So if you only have ONE free weekend night for outdoor R&B/soul, do you go with the lovely, ethereal new-school sounds of D.C. native Malachi or sweet throwback harmonies of the Manhattans?
Malachi is an incredible artist, but she gigs around town frequently; The Manhattans are a rare treat, but would appeal most to the "30 and Over Club Card" set. You're on your own with this one.