Nicolay and Phonte of the Foreign Exchange. (publicity photo)
Now that the North Carolina hip-hop trio Little Brother has disbanded, fans of the group’s members--rappers Phonte and Big Pooh and producer 9th Wonder—must be content with their respective solo projects. Since 2004, Foreign Exchange has been Phonte’s side gig, with Dutch producer Nicolay. They’ve just released their third album, last year’s Authenticity, and what started as fun experiment in long-distance musical collaboration could soon be what both men are best known for.
It's not the sports metaphors in National Pastime's songs that will get to you — it's the schmaltz. In the Keegan Theatre's world-premiere musical about a radio station that invents a baseball team, each reference to keeping one's eye on the ball is surpassed by the gag reflex-triggering pap in its many identical-sounding songs about romance and this crazy game of life. Sample lyrics: "Hope has the sweetest sound and hope lifts you off the ground." "You are the only girl to get inside my lovely world." "Suddenly, somehow, love came in from nowhere." The best songs of the show are actually the old-timey radio jingles sung by commercial babes Carla (Paige Felix) and Darla (Carolyn Myers).
National Pastime would have been fun as a play. It's the story of a radio station that, facing their certain extinction, gins up some advertisers and business by inventing a fake baseball team for the tiny town of Baker City, Iowa (hey, maybe there's a lesson for other media outlets facing layoffs here!). It's the brilliant idea of Karen (Katie McManus) — a sharp-talking lady-lawyer, and the daughter of the station manager, J.P. (Timothy Lynch) — and she brings in some tough Chicago ballplayers to teach clueless announcers Marty (John Loughney) and Lawrence (Tim O'Kane) the rules of the game. You have to suspend your disbelief that there were 1) female lawyers bossing the boys around in the 1930s, and 2) grown men who do not know a single thing about the most popular sport in America. Also, the fact that Karen announces "I will guide them honestly," after she's just, y'know, laid out a plan to deceive an entire city and bilk them out of their advertising money. Lawyers! The book scenes, especially those in which Loughney and O'Kane have to scramble to produce all of the necessary sound effects for their broadcast, are entertaining, but they're bogged down by two tepid romances between the station employees, and the saccharine songwriting. Unfortunately, the creators of National Pastime have whiffed.
Wilson at the 2007 Grammys, in a gown she is donating to the Smithsonian. (Photo: AP)
Nancy Wilson is coming to D.C., and she'll be leaving behind some of her clothes. Not only is the legendary jazz/R&B singer giving a rare concert at the Strathmore Music Center (she officially retired from touring a while ago), she’s donating two of her gowns to the Smithsonian. The dresses—including one she wore to the 2007 Grammys, where her most recent work, Turned to Blue, won for Best Jazz Vocal Album—will be on display at Strathmore both before and after her performance. After the show they’ll become a part of the Smithsonian’s collection, where they’ll keep company with other notable frocks, including Michelle Obama’s inaugural ball gown, and dresses once worn onstage by the Supremes.
Nancy Wilson singing "Turned to Blue," on The View:
The third and final of the disturbing shows within a show that Enda Walsh characters enact for each other is softer and subtler than its counterparts within the New Ireland festival at The Studio Theatre, which comes to a whimpering close with The New Electric Ballroom. Considered the sister play to Walsh's The Walworth Farce, also currently playing at Studio, three shut-ins are similarly reenacting an event from their past for each other, but this one's based in the truth. As young girls, the two sisters Clara (Nancy Robinette) and Breda (Sybil Lines) endured a humiliation at the hands of a dreamy singer at their town's New Electric Ballroom, and ever since, they've been bitterly rehashing the course of that evening for each other, and for their much-younger sister, Ada (Jennifer Mendenhall). Ada longs for something more than a life of coaching her sisters through their years-old rejection, and she might find it in Patsy (Liam Craig) a fishmonger who has a similarly pathetic daily routine, coming to the sisters' house each day even though they verbally abuse him. Paddy and Ada long to break the cycle, with or without each other, but they're filled with fear and doubt.
Though the suffering the women of The New Electric Ballroom endure is less horrific than that of the boys of The Walworth Farce, their situation has a sadder authenticity. In the absence of the physical harm that the boys faced, these romantic disappointments cut drastic and obvious wounds. But more subtle are the masterful touches of in Matt Torney's direction, Michael Giannitti's lighting design, and Helen Q. Huang's costumes, as well as Walsh's poetic characterizations of the women. Theirs is a lesser slight to keep reliving, but these sisters have been doing it for far longer. There's initially still hope for the men of Walworth to escape, but Breda, Clara and Ada won't ever be anything more than cold fish.
Benji and Joel Madden, Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, Chandra and Leigh Watson—the music industry is filled with identical and fraternal twins. And the key to their success has been to create music that is interesting enough to get people to stop thinking, Oooh! Twins! and actually listen. Getting people to pay attention to their music, rather than their twindom, hasn't been a problem for jazz musicians Nathan and Noble Jolley, Jr. The D.C. natives, (Nathan is a drummer, Noble is a pianist) are Strathmore Artists-in-residence for the 2010-11 season, and have performed at huge jazz festivals as well as small, intimate venues. They give a free show at the Kennedy Center tonight, and we can guarantee you'll be so engrossed in the music that you won't have time to think about how much the Jolleys do or don't resemble each other.
Lauren Greenfield/Institute Award of Excellence, Feature Picture Story — Freelance/Agency A model slips on the runway during the spring 2010 show of designer Jason Wu in New York City.
The life of a news photographer is one in which you are boned by the world as often as possible. Staff jobs are rare, and you're often the first to go in layoffs. Freelance rates have been static for longer than Lady Gaga has been alive. And speaking of Lady Gaga, she'd like the rights to your photographs after you've taken them.
But maybe the biggest insult to photojournalists is how short their work is around; a day, a week — this is as long as most lenspeople can usually hope to have their work in front of the public's eyes.
Sorry to break it to you, little monsters. Gaga's recent skirmish with Weird Al isn't the starting point for the official Lady Gaga Backlash — it's just another incident on a long list of ways that Gaga has let people down. The backlash has been happening for months now. Here are a few of Gaga's stops along the way to being known more as an annoyance than an innovator:
Sept. 7, 2010: THE PRESS PASSES
Aggrieved party: Bloggers, TBD arts reporter Sarah Godfrey
Gaga would be nothing without bloggers, right? She apparently doesn't agree: For her D.C. concert last September, Gaga's team did not issue press passes to any journalists who did not work for a print outlet. Godfrey rehashes Gaga's best internet moments (People Googling her to find out if she has male genitalia among them) and concludes: "While print reporters for a long time dismissed her as a flash in the pan, blogs fawned over her, and social networking sites helped her fanbase not only grow to astronomical numbers but form a tight-knit community of people all over the world, united in their love of Gaga." Blogs covered the concert anyway, but from outside the Verizon Center.
L'il Dutch, the organizer behind popular events including Yuri's Night and Capital Tassels and Tease, says it will be a different sort of show for the area's burlesque community. "A lot of times the burlesque is like Yuri's Night--very thematic, or more neo-burlesque," she says. "Very campy, ironic--sometimes it's really more performance art. It's not as straight-up as Bettie Page's era. But this will be more of a tribute to how we all started, so it means a lot."
Trove, the Washington Post Company's new aggregation site, launched yesterday, and it took some knocks, particularly from DCist. "Perfect If You Love Old News And Hate Hyperlinks" said the headline, which is a pretty good executive summary of the whole review:
The most offensive part of Trove? When a report opens inside Trove, it is for some reason stripped of all links. Take for example Mike DeBonis' morning local politics roundup, which normally contains dozens of links to both WaPo and non-WaPo sources. But in the Trove version of DeBonis' roundup, there isn't a single link to be clicked, which pretty much defeats the purpose of a news aggregation service.
(I would like to point out that TBD's content management system stripped the link in that quoted material out of the above blockquote, and I had to reinsert it manually, perhaps an advantage Trove doesn't have.)
I connected to Trove, which seems to know me in a very strange way: It knows I went to VCU, which is in my profile, but it gives me a lot of U.S. auto-industry news, which I have no idea how it knows that I own Ford stock or that my dad used to assemble Chryslers.
The weirdest thing about Trove, though, is the Taiwanese animation it commissioned to explain itself. I tried to get in touch with Trove yesterday to ask them about it, but no one replied. I guess you can just watch it yourself.
It hurt when Bravo pulled the plug on the Real Housewives of D.C., but BET thinks the nation's capitol is interesting enough to serve as the setting for one of its shows.
The cable network announced its 2011 programming line-up this morning (in advance of an Upfront presentation this evening) and it includesThe Come Up, a web series built around a group of ambitious D.C. area teenagers.
The Come Up "follows the lives of seven teens in Washington, D.C. as they actively pursue their dreams to make it as future music executives, doctors, lawyers, and superstar athletes," according to the release. It's unclear whether these are fictional or actual D.C. teens.
The statement also named the students' schools as the Duke Ellington School of Performing Arts, and "Silver Spring High School," which isn't the name of an actual high school—not in Silver Spring, Md., in the last few decades, at least, so it's either a typo or a clear indication that the web series is scripted.
Neither Duke Ellington nor Montgomery County Public Schools were able to comment immediately (due to spring break), so no word yet on whether the program, be it a reality show or not, will involve filming at area schools.
Seeing Taffety Punk's The Car Plays, a collection of three short plays set in cars, the eternal backseat question comes to mind: Are we there yet? Asked of the playwrights, it seems that all three have not quite reached their destinations — but there are no obvious wrong turns in their three plays about the intimacy that comes with sharing a car ride with others. Like the journeys depicted, some of the plays have a little further to go.
The seats of the cars in each of the plays are represented simply by chairs, and they're occupied by everyone from a pair of college dudes driving back from Burning Man, to a pair of coworkers harboring secret feelings for each other. "Buggy & Tyler," by Gwydion Suilebhan and directed by Joel David Santner, matches up odd-couple college bros of the same names. Buggy (Eric Messner) is your typical fraternity douchebag, and Tyler (Jason Lott) is an uptight nerd trying to get back to campus in time to sign up for a selective art history course. Their trip hits some bumps in the road, both literal and figurative. As for "dREAMtRIPPIN'" (erratic capitalization can be blamed on playwright Thomas Michael Campbell) coworkers Karen (Taffety regular Esther Williamson) and Stephen (Mark Krawczyk) may or may not have a crush on each other — or is it all in their Inception-like dreams within dreams?
The most sobering of the three plays is "Nebraska by Noon," in which a wearied mother must transport her abusive son (Alex Vaughn) to a treatment center. The issue that playwright Briandaniel Oglesby examines — what leads a mother to give up her disturbed child to become a ward of the state? — is meaty, but halfway through the car trip, the whole thing devolves into a screaming, fighting mess, just as it likely would in real life. Still, there are tender moments, like when the mom (Sheila Hennessey) wipes the drool from her son's mouth as he sleeps, sedated by medication she's force-fed him. If it were NPR instead of Taffety Punk, we'd call it a driveway moment.
On Friday, actor/rapper Tray Chaney, who played low-rise hustler Malik "Poot" Carr on The Wire, sat in with go-go outfit Ms. Yendy and the Affiliated at Stonefish Grill in Largo, Md.
Seeing Poot rock with Yendy was a dream come true for D.C. music fans who long held out hope that some character on The Wire—perhaps during a trip down I-95 to stock up on burners or visit a juvenile detention center—would find themselves inside of a go-go.
And while Chaney is still a relative new-comer on the rap scene, the performance was also reminiscent of some of the great guest appearances rappers have put in at go-go shows over the years.
• The forum is open to the public, and the auditorium seats about 300. Smithsonian spokesperson Linda St. Thomas says that she's not sure how many people they're expecting, but if you want to be sure you get a seat, get there a little earlier than the beginning of each session. For the evening session on Tuesday, make sure you use the Independence Avenue entrance for the Freer.
Living in D.C. means being bombarded with information about one of the city's most famous residents, Duke Ellington. There are always lectures being given about his life and landmarks being named in his honor--even relatively new Washington residents can feel that they have nothing left to learn about the legendary composer/bandleader. But they're wrong: There are still unexplored (or at least under-explored) corners of Ellington's life to examine. Leave it to the D.C. Music Salon, (a discussion series that has taken in-depth looks at the history of go-go, the 9:30 Club, and other topics you probably thought you knew everything about) to unearth them.
Tonight, the Salon, the brainchild of Washington Bach Consort executive director Marc Eisenberg, takes a very D.C.-focused look at Ellington's life in the District. Ellington scholar/Smithsonian curator John Edward Hasse, author of the Ellington biography Beyond Category will lead the discussion, and Hedrick Smith the filmmaker behind the PBS documentary Duke Ellington's Washington will be on hand to take about the project, which will be shown. The program begins at 7 p.m. at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library.
IT'S 4/20! And for certain readers, the obvious nightlife picks are Coheed and Cambria at 9:30 or Pantha Du Prince at U Hall. But for local-music boosters, whether they're still nursing a grudge that Georgie James broke up or are being the bigger person about all this, there's no choice but Title Tracks at Black Cat, where John Davis will unleash TT's fantastic new album In Blank. (Listen here.)
CHARLIE SHEEN AT CONSTITUTION HALL NEWS AFTER THE JUMP!
A musical about rape, potential incest, adultery and domestic violence is not an altogether joyless affair, but The Color Purple is made dismal by an uneven pace and the unrelenting tugging of heartstrings. In rural Georgia, the women are angels and the men are all dogs — especially those surrounding the downtrodden Celie (Dayna Jarae Dantzler), who, in her teenage years, is twice impregnated by the man she believes is her father (who may or may not have murdered their children together) and is sold to be the wife of the violent Mister (Phillip Brandon), who makes sure she will never see her sister Nettie (Traci Allen) again. All of this happens within the first few minutes of the show, but Celie's path to freedom takes much longer (And director Gary Griffin could have been more helpful in letting us know how many years have passed between scenes, as this is often unclear). She's guided by her husband's lover, Shug Avery (Taprena Augustine), all sex and silk and cigarettes, and the confident Sofia (Pam Trotter), a woman who responds to anything other than the highest respect with a sassy "Hell, no!" That number is one of the liveliest in the show with an otherwise forgettable score, though all of the cast can seriously belt it out. That even goes for the local-interest stunt cast member, radio host Lil Mo', making two brief cameos but still garnering more applause than Dantzler, Augustine and Trotter, whose performances are more deserving. Poor Miss Celie — put-upon even at curtain call!
Tomorrow at 10 a.m., Tracy Cooper and a group of concerned citizens will show up at the office of P.G. County Executive Rushern Baker and attempt to convince him to shut down Forestville's CFE events center . Cooper's son, George Cooper, 25, was fatally stabbed inside of the club in the early hours of August 22. In February, Cooper filed a 10 million dollar wrongful death lawsuit against both P.G. County and the club's owners. She wants the place closed for good.
"The goal on Wednesday is to shut down the CFE," Cooper says. "It has been an ongoing goal for us, and I'm just happy that folks are starting to come on board in support of our actions. There is strength in numbers, and I hope that Rushern Baker and the people in his office take note, and see that something needs to be done."
Cooper believes the security at the venue isn't sufficient, noting that, just last month, a 13-year-old girl was shot in the leg in the venue's parking lot, following an all-ages show. The venue was closed temporarily in 2007 as part of a crackdown, led by then County Executive Jack Johnson on nine nightclubs with a history of violent incidents. The move was opposed by the Go-Go Coalition, Peaceaholics, and other groups that felt the county was scapegoating the venues.
"There are no checks and balances," Cooper says. "When the club reopened, after Jack Johnson’s whole overhaul, they were supposed to reopen with better security systems, lighting, etc., and that is totally nonexistent. It's just wrong." All of the public phone numbers for CFE are disconnected and people listed as the club's owners could not be reached for comment.
Interest in Charlie Sheen's schtick is waning. The tiger blood is drying up, the godesses have fallen back to earth, and so on and so forth. But that wasn't the case back in March, when you bought tickets to the D.C. stop of his "My Violent Torpedo of Truth" tour! Bummed that you shelled out good money just to hear this guy stomp around a stage and yell "winning?" Here are some links to help you get excited about tonight's show:
Lisa De Moraes of the Washington Post says Sheen's show could be even more disjointed than usual tonight, in part because today he will find out whether his $100 million lawsuit against Two and a Half Men producer Chuck Lorre and Warner Bros will be hashed out in public or arbitrated privately. Guess which option Sheen prefers!