1. Another State of Mind, 1984
American Hardcore, 2006
Dogtown and Z-Boys, 2001
Salad Days, 2014
Bad Brains: A Band in DC, 2012
We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, 2005
Barbershop Punk, 2010
Punk's Not Dead, 2007
We Who Wait: The Adverts & TV Smith, 2012
Breadcrumb Trail, 2014
The Damned: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead, 2015
It's Gonna Blow!!!: San Diego's Music Underground 1986-1996, 2014
Riot on the Dance Floor, 2014
D.I.Y. or Die: How to Survive as an Independent Artist, 2002
Positive Force: More Than a Witness, 2014
Foo Fighters Sonic Highways, 2014
Let Fury Have the Hour, 2012
21. I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store, 2008
Tommy Davidson was in his 20s when his boss gave him an ultimatum. The Washington-area native was working as an assistant chef at a hotel in Crystal City at the time. By night, he did stand-up comedy shows. "It became a conflict," he says. "So the chef told me I had to choose."
Davidson went with comedy, and it wasn't long before he decided to make the big move to Los Angeles. He saved enough cash to cover two months worth of rent, stuffed all his clothes in a Nissan Sentra, and drove across the country.
That drive marked the beginning of a successful, nearly three-decade career, which involved starring in In Living Color with Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey, and Damon Wayans, as well as working in films with the likes of Spike Lee. Now Davidson is returning to his roots. On May 10, he comes to Washington to celebrate Mother's Day with a comedy show at the Howard Theatre.
His life would have probably turned out differently if it wasn't for his own mom. Davidson grew up in Silver Spring, near the Rosemary Hills Drive area, where he says kids had an upbringing that was neither suburban or metropolitan. But when he was 14, he started hanging out with "bad boys."
"We were into selling drugs and hustling," he says. "My mom threw me out of the house, cause I was trying to be a little criminal, and she didn't agree with that."
Davidson had to grow up fast. He got a job busing tables at an IHOP in Wheaton then moved on to Roy Rogers. "I ran into a lot of people who believed in hard work," he says. "My thinking started to change."
He made his way into the kitchen and landed a job as a prep cook at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, followed by that job in Crystal City. While he was working there as a chef, a childhood friend convinced him to take a stab at comedy. So around 1986, Davidson began performing standup between topless shows at the Penthouse, a strip club now known as the House, located on Georgia Avenue, Northwest, near Howard University.
He became a household name and started opening shows for big names like Luther Vandross and Patti LaBelle. Soon enough, he caught the attention of a talent manager, who promised to support him if he moved to Hollywood. So Davidson did exactly that. He went on to star in In Living Color and made his film debut in 1991 in Strictly Business, starring opposite Halle Berry. He's had three Showtime specials--including one filmed in Washington--starred in multiple films and documentaries, and earned a reputation for his fantastic impersonations of Barack Obama, Sylvester Stallone, and Sammy Davis Jr.
Now Davidson is preparing to make another leap. He's developing a movie about Davis Jr., which is scheduled to go into production this summer. His transition into production hasn't been without setbacks, however.
"It's really hard to get a movie made," says Davidson, who is also starring in the film. "You gotta find the right deal, get the people who are going to get behind it, and help you do it how you want to do it." His aspiration? To become more than just a comedian and film star. He wants to do it all: produce, act, sing, stand up--a little bit of everything.
Which is exactly what audiences can expect when Davidson takes the stage on Sunday. "I don't really do one thing," he says. "I'm political like Chris Rock. I'm spontaneous like Robin Williams, and I'm a storyteller like Richard Pryor."
There'll be something for moms, too: "I've got a whole segment on moms and kids... I'm gonna talk about growing up in DC, the real DC.
Let everybody know I'm coming home."
Tommy Davidson performs at the Howard Theatre on May 10 at 7 PM and 9:30 PM.
Anyone strolling down Thomas Jefferson Street, Northwest, in Georgetown this past Sunday night, would have heard nothing unusual--humming street noise at most. And yet not far above the sidewalk, on the roof of the Graham Hotel, about 150 people were jamming out at a disco party.
Sandro Kereselidze, owner of Art Soiree and sister company Silent Dance Society, launched his Silent Disco Sundays this week. For $15 ($20 at the door), attendees had access to mixes by three different DJs, a bar, entertainment, and lounging area.
With the weather warming up, the sun setting later, and the kids winding down the school year, spring is a great time to take in a rock concert with your family at one of Washington's outdoor amphitheaters. But why slog through the EDM-heavy lineup of a Sweetlife Festival or a millennial siren like Lana Del Rey if there's nothing in it for you? If you've got to take your kids to a concert, make it someone everyone will like, or at least someone you like and can berate the little ingrates for not enjoying on the car ride home.
Tickets are running low for two upcoming shows at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow. On Saturday, May 23, Gen-Xers who were more laid-back in high school than their Corgan-worshipping contemporaries can see Dave Matthews Band. A week later, aging free-soilers can trek out for Rush, with the Canadian prog gods on what they claim is their retirement tour.
But which show should you go to? If you can only drag your kids to one of them, you'll want to choose wisely. Take our quiz and figure it out:
Last week, folk band If Birds Could Fly performed a two-hour show in the basement of Hill Country. Impressed by Brittany Carter's powerful voice and her ability to play multiple instruments with bandmate, Andrew Carter, I knew I had to find out more about the small-town, Virginian duo, which has opened for Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and LeAnn Rimes. After the show, I helped the husband-and-wife team load their gear into their car and sat down to chat about music, dream gigs, and their upcoming album.
What has it been like performing as husband and wife for the past four years?
Andrew: Sometimes we want to kill each other, and other times, it's like, "Wow. How did we get this lucky?"
How'd you meet?
Brittany: We actually met through Myspace six years ago. We've been playing ever since. I sent Andrew a message one night that was like, "Hey, I know you have a band, and I sing." And that was it, which is really out of character for me because I'm really shy. He was like, "Well, come over, and I'll listen to you sing." So I did it. I sang in a British accent, so it was really weird.
Andrew: It was Kate Nash.
Brittany: But he liked it.
Can you sing it for me?
Brittany: Okay. I have to do my hand piano though.
Andrew: I found out she could really sing and had a really bad British accent, so it worked out.
What kind of music inspires you?
Brittany: Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn. It's really hard. I like genres more than specific artists. Blues. Rock and roll. The Stones. Tom Petty.
Andrew: If it's good music, we'll listen to it. But we're just songwriters, and we don't try to write country. We don't try to write blues. We don't try to write folk. Just, whatever comes out.
How do you collaborate when you write songs?
Brittany: Usually Andrew will have a guitar lick, and then I'll write some words over it. Sometimes Andrew has the words; sometimes I have the guitar lick. It just really depends.
You both play instruments?
Brittany: I don't play them well.
Andrew: She does.
Brittany: I'm a lazy guitar player. It's mainly a songwriting tool for me. I'll play a little bit of guitar, a little bit of keys--that's about it. Andrew plays everything. He was our drummer for a while.
Andrew: You try to learn everything you can when you're from a small area, because you don't know what you're going to play. You don't know who's going to be available to play with you. Tonight was our first time playing the two-piece with the kick and the snare.
You played a cover of TLC's song, "No Scrubs." How'd you come up with that?
Andrew: We were probably just looking up stupid things, or it came on the radio. I don't know.
Brittany: We just learned it, so we were like "Oh, we'll pull it out." It's so catchy, so it sticks with you.
Andrew: I think musical inspiration too comes from movies. [Our song] “Alone in the Wild,” I would say, was Pulp Fiction. I picture a movie that I like, and then think if I was to rewrite the music for the movie.
What are you hoping to accomplish with your career?
Brittany: I would love to play on Saturday Night Live--not only as a band, but I want to act in SNL. So that's my dream, and the Grand Ole Opry.
Andrew: Sometimes you don't think that far in advance. As far as a long-term goal, to get this album out in an artistic way in which we want to get across, and playing in the Grand Ole Opry would be nice one day.
What's it like being on the road?
Andrew: When our van's not broken down, we have a mattress in the back of the van next to our equipment. It takes a little getting used to, but we have fun.
Brittany: You don't smell the best all the time. But we really love it. We get to see a lot and travel. It's wonderful.
Andrew: Better than working in the coal mines.
What do you mean in the coal mines?
Andrew: I worked in the coal mines for two years before we started playing music.
Brittany: He actually quit his job so we could do this full-time.
Andrew: My dad was my boss. It was the first time he kind of said, "Do it, and we'll be supportive of you." I guess he realized that you get one life to live, and if you don't want to spend it in the coal mines, then try something else. And it was great. I got his approval, and that meant a lot. It's been good.
Brittany: We're finally starting to see the fruits of our labor here lately. We're getting good responses. We're playing a lot. We can't really ask for much more. We're just ready to get another album out, and then we're golden.
When do you expect that to be?
Brittany: Hopefully this fall.
Andrew: It's been almost three years since we released an album, so we have so many songs that we've wrote. It's really narrowing songs down.
Brittany: Our last album was more country--I think--more polished. I think this one will be more raw, and rock and roll, and just fun. We'll have some sad songs on there, too. We always do. This will be our sophomore album, and it will be hopefully good.
Mentioning Zusha usually leads to a lot of questions. Are they Jewish? Yes, the band--comprised of Shlomo Gaisin, Elisha Mlotek, and Zachariah Goldschmiedt--are Hasidic, an Orthodox branch of Judaism focused on spirituality and mysticism. Second: Are they hipsters? Sure, it can be difficult to discern between a Hasid and Hipster. In this case, they're both.
Is that gibberish I hear? Yep, these twenty-somethings croon wordless melodies, blending jazz, ska, and reggae into a folksy, soulish sound. Called niggun, these melodies are rooted in the Hasidic tradition of wordless prayer. Niggun isn't about words, but about the meaning attached to sounds. "It's a spiritual song," Mlotek says. "Whoever is singing it can attach whatever emotion is in their heart to the song."
The band is making this sort of music at an ideal time. They follow in the footsteps of Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu, who shattered the boundaries of Jewish music when he went mainstream in the mid-2000s. (Matisyahu has since disaffiliated with Hasidism and shaved his iconic beard.) Like Matisyahu did when he first started out, Zusha hopes to make their music as universal--and hip--as possible.
For lead singer Gaisin, that means writing music that's beautiful and relatable. His melodies, typically composed while riding the New York subway or walking around a park, are closely tied to his past. The Silver Spring native grew up in an observant Jewish home and spent about seven years studying jazz as a kid.
While he was in high school at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, he began studying Hasidism. He would wake up at 5 AM to meditate and study its teachings. "I had never tasted something like this before," he says. "It opened my mind and heart to everything I had been doing by rote for about a decade and a half."
After graduating from school, he hopped on a plane to Jerusalem, where he continued his religious studies. He later moved on to Yeshiva University in New York then ditched school to study raw nutrition with leading raw foodist David "Avocado" Wolfe. Gaisin eventually landed in Washington Heights and met Mlotek and Goldschmiedt around 2010 through mutual friends. They started jamming together, and about a year and a half ago, Zusha was born.
The questions started shortly thereafter. When they first got in the studio to record their EP, their producer was pretty confused. "The producer kept asking us what we were doing," Mlotek says. "'Nay, nay, nay? That's not a language!'"
It may not be a language, but somehow Zusha has made wordless music work. By creating a folksy sound--and recording a great single, "Brother," with Grammy Award-winning guitarist C. Lanzbom--the trio has achieved meaning without words. And that meaning has the potential to reach anyone--Hasidic or not. "In its most raw form," Goldschmiedt says, niggun "is used as a meditative experience."
Which might explain why they rather not be described as "Neo-Hasidic hipsters," as they've been labeled by everyone from Fox News to the Huffington Post. They argue their music isn't a new interpretation of Hasidism; instead, it's a return to its origins. Gaisin says he isn't Hasidic in the way people have come to expect. Hasids are typically thought as bearded men in Borough Park. Gaisin, however, identifies with Hasidic teachings and ideals--not necessarily the garbs and secluded communities.
As for the hipster part, Zusha's members just happen to be wearing text-emblazoned sweatshirts, singing wordless melodies, and selling out shows in Brooklyn. Seriously, though, they really don't want to be called hipsters. "People tend to cling to labels, so they can know how to measure you," Mlotek says. "We want to represent where we're coming from, but we also have this message underneath it."
The band is busy recording its first full-length album slotted for a summer release. And for Gaisin, there's an added pressure: He's preparing for his first performance back home. On May 10, Zusha comes to the Washington Jewish Music Festival, where Gaisin's parents will hear him perform live for the very first time.
He hopes that Washington audiences will be captivated by the band's unique brand of music. "Everyone wants to take a fresh breath of air and be able to meditate," he says. "What we're trying to bring is the feeling that it's so good to be alive."
Zusha performs at the Washington Jewish Music Festival at the DCJCC on Sunday, May 10 at 7 PM. Tickets are available for $20.
MONDAY, MAY 4
FILM: Munch on fancy popcorn and enjoy wine flights at Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar, while watching Somm, the documentary about four wine nerds as they prepare for the famously difficult Master Sommelier exam. After the movie, several DC sommeliers will compete in a blind wine tasting. $30, 6 to 10 PM.
MUSIC: Grey's Anatomy fans might recognize Matthew Mayfield's songs "First in Line" and "Better"--both of which were featured on the show. Watch the Birmingham native perform tonight at Hill Country. $10 to $12, 9 PM.
TUESDAY, MAY 5
THEATER: Following their mother's death, four sisters come together to make a family quilt. But when they start reading their mom's will, things take a turn. Check out this new play--called the Blood Quilt--at Arena Stage. $45 to $80, noon.
MUSIC: Listen to Sufjan Stevens's whispery voice at DAR Constitution Hall, where the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter performs songs from his new album, Carrie & Lowell. $38, 7 PM.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 6
SEMINAR: Bread seminars are the best kind of seminars. Bread Furst's Mark Furstenberg leads a seminar and tasting hosted by Smithsonian Associates at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, where he'll chat about the history of bread, baking tips, and his passion for baking. $30, 6:45 to 8:45 PM.
BOOKS: Another event organized by Smithsonian Associates: Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond fame hosts a lecture at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. He'll also be signing copies of his book, When the Balls Drop. $20, 6:45 to 8:15 PM.
FILM: The Maryland Film Festival debuts on Wednesday and runs through May 10. Opening night at the MICA Brown Center is devoted entirely to short films, including ESPN's documentary on the "bad boy of bowling," Pete Weber. Bonus: Opening night tickets also get you access to the afterparty. $75, 8 to 11 PM.
May is a big month for music festivals in Maryland. On May 1 and 2, aging greasers can relive their hair-metal heyday at M3, featuring 1980s legends like Kix, Quiet Riot, and Europe. May 21 to 24, Maryland Deathfeast takes over venues across Baltimore for an ear-bleeding weekend of extreme metal. And May 30 and 31, the local salad chain Sweetgreen expands its Sweetlife festival to two days, with a diverse lineup that includes Kendrick Lamar, Calvin Harris, and Billy Idol. But which festival is the right fit for you? Take this quiz and find out.
1. Aretha Franklin
May 13, Strathmore
Aretha Franklin might not tell you what you want to know. She doesn’t talk about her health, the subject of much speculation in 2010 when she had surgery for a mysterious ailment. “I’ve left that behind,” Franklin says. Her granddaughter, Victorie, who sang that lovely tribute to her on BET? That’s off limits, too: “Victorie is mostly into her education at this point.” Oh, and as for recording this phone conversation for Washingtonian’s records? Forget it.
Here’s what Franklin— pictured above in 1970— will discuss: performing in the ’60s at Bohemian Caverns on U Street and downtown DC’s now-shuttered Casino Royal, where she recalls that disco girls danced in large water containers. She also has great memories of her Washington appearances, including President Obama’s inauguration in 2009: “Looking out on the plethora of people was just awesome.”
Then the greatest R&B singer of all time proceeds to complain about the weather. At Obama’s inauguration, you see, it was very cold. “It was in the 20s or 30s,” Franklin says. “It affected my voice terribly.” Later she asks, “Tell me something— what’s the weather like right now in DC?”
She wants to know because she’s performing songs from her latest album, Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics, as well as her other hits, at Strathmore on May 13. She’ll be joined by guest performers and a 20-piece orchestra. Pressed for details, however, the Queen of Soul clams up: “There will be other really nice surprises that I’m sure the audience will enjoy, and it will educate them— the education of Aretha.” $65 to $195. — Emily Codik
2. Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People
May 31, National Gallery of Art
This 90-minute film—part of the American Experiments in Narrative series—looks at the representation of African-Americans through photography. Director Thomas Allen Harris explains that it’s based on one idea: If America had a family album, “what would African-Americans look like” in it? The film contrasts images African-Americans have made of themselves with those popular culture has made on their behalf. True to the name of the series, the film is an experiment in narrative. Technically a documentary, it’s so influenced by poetry that it doesn’t fit neatly into categories. Q&A to follow screening. Free; 4 pm.
3. “Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology"
May 14-January 3, National Geographic Museum
Which Hindu goddess did the cult worship in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? If you answered Kali, you’ll love this exhibit. The collection features archaeological artifacts as well as original props (such as the fertility idol above), concept art, and costumes from Indiana Jones films. Perfect for the Indy fan in the family, the show takes you on a quest to uncover the true origins of archaeological mysteries. $15.
4. Scottish Ballet
May 28-30, Kennedy Center
This Glaswegian troupe has shorn A Streetcar Named Desire of most of Tennessee Williams’s language, which seems weird until you imagine how they’d likely pronounce lines like “Hold back the brutes.” Peter Salem’s score helps with the translation, but it’s Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s choreography that flings Stanley Kowalski’s animal habits around the stage. $30 to 108.
5. If Birds Could Fly
May 1, Hill Country
This southwestern Virginia quartet embraces its Appalachian sound through the warm, soulful tenor of lead singer Brittany Carter and the sweet acoustic melodies of guitarist Andrew Carter. If Birds Could Fly strips country music down to its folk roots, relying on raw power to bring its songs home. Free.
6. “Peacock Room Remix: Darren Waterston’s ‘Filthy Lucre’ ”
May 16-January 2, 2017, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Ever gazed at an artwork and had the urge to destroy it? Waterston’s installation “Filthy Lucre” deconstructs Whistler’s Peacock Room, leaving it with splintered shelves, surfaces dripping with paint, and debris on the floor. Sounds by the band Betty complete the eerie atmosphere.
7. “Reporting Vietnam”
May 22-September 12, 2016, Newseum
Though carnage now buzzes daily on CNN, America’s first televised war began just over half a century ago. The Newseum’s exhibit examines the conflict through the influential lens of media, with film footage, indelible images, newspapers, and music that became “the soundtrack for a generation.” $22.95.
8. Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover
May 8, National Mall
9. Feria de Sevilla
May 31, Strathmore
Picture this: Flamenco dancers stomping onstage. A couple of guys accompanying them on the guitar. There’s chorizo on the grill and paella bubbling. It wouldn’t be a Spanish party without wine, and at the Feria de Sevilla, you can wash down a mouthful of bocadillo with cold sangría. This is the biggest Spanish bash in Washington, an annual event that draws more than 7,000. “In the States, you live to work, but in Spain, you work to live,” says Maria Brattlof, a member of the event’s organizing committee and president of the Centro Español de Washington, DC. For this party, though, you don’t have to work too hard because, best of all, it’s free.
10. Zombie: The American
May 29-June 21, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Robert O’Hara’s play promises so much more than your average political drama. Directed by Howard Shalwitz, it features the first openly gay President, threats of civil war and invasion, and zombies in the White House basement. Think The Walking Dead meets Scandal. $35 to $75.
11. An Evening with Neil Gaiman
May 1, DAR Constitution Hall
When a bookstore is too cozy for a visiting author, it’s common for a more spacious venue to be pressed into service. Neil Gaiman has so many fans, though, that he’s speaking at Constitution Hall. And we’re betting it could sell out. Easy.
Gaiman’s fiction (American Gods, the Sandman series, Coraline) transcends traditional genres. Dabbling in mythology, fantasy, science fiction, and the bildungsroman, Gaiman may be the closest thing we have to a C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien— he’s highly inventive, unabashedly dreamy, and unafraid of the weird and macabre. Most important, his prose is both entertaining and elegant.
Notorious for his generosity to fans, Gaiman is also a true 21st-century artist, answering readers’ questions on his Tumblr and avidly engaging in conversation with his 2 million-plus Twitter followers (@neilhimself). So buy a ticket in advance. $34.50 to $57.
12. Chuck Palahniuk
May 28, Sixth & I
The first rule of Chuck Palahniuk: You’ll never be bored. Even the Fight Club creator’s book signings take on a bizarre, otherworldly sheen. This event promises to be no different, with a reading to promote the unofficial shock jock of the literary set’s new collection, Make Something Up; games and prizes; and another foray into Tyler Durden’s alterna-universe with the Fight Club 2 graphic-novel installment. Pack bandages. $35. —Hillary Kelly
13. Dior and I
May 1-7, Landmark E Street Cinema
When’s the last time Anna Wintour attended your first big presentation at a new job? That’s the situation Raf Simons (above) faced when he took over for the disgraced John Galliano at Christian Dior. This documentary’s director, Frédéric Tcheng, provides a window into the whirlwind that is turning ideas into garments, lingering on Simons’s otherwise stoic face in moments of triumph and breakdown. It’s a terrifically intimate look at a terrifically intimate process.
14. Shortcut to Europe: European Union Embassies’ Open House
May 9, euopenhouse.org
Greece’s fight with Germany may yet tear the European Union apart, but on this day, 28 member countries’ embassies are united—presenting activities such as Romanian folk dancing and a quiz about Estonia. A shuttle moves you across borders.
15. Georgetown Garden Tour
May 9, georgetowngardentour.com
The soil is fertilized, the fig trees are espaliered, and the Georgetown Garden Club is hosting its 87th annual tour of the neighborhood’s best-manicured plots and beds. For those who’d rather stay indoors, afternoon tea is served inside Christ Church from 2 to 4. $30 to $35.
16. “Vanessa Bell’s Hogarth Press Designs”
May 11-November 13, National Museum of Women in the Arts
Bell’s art hung at the revolutionary Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition of 1912. Her weekly salons allowed the Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists to continue meeting after its early years. And the care she lavished on her sister, Virginia Woolf, helped Woolf remain stable enough to write. But Bell is too often a footnote in her sister’s biography. That changes with this small but lovely exhibit, which includes a rare first edition of Woolf’s Monday or Tuesday. $10.
17. Lila Downs
May 1, Lisner auditorium
Lila Downs grew up in Minnesota and Oaxaca, and she croons about oil drilling, kidnapping, and violence in an exploration of social justice that mashes Mexican ranchera music with American hip-hop and jazz. Her new album, an explosion of politically charged lyrics and Mesoamerican sounds, is called Balas y Chocolate (or Bullets and Chocolate). As its title suggests, her music is lively enough to dance to but serious enough to contemplate over mezcal. $40 to $60.
18. Lee Fields & the Expressions
May 2, Howard Theatre
Fields’s voice recalls James Brown’s, and he’s part of the same soul-revival scene that spawned Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, but he’s no nostalgia act: Fields began recording in the ’60s, and the handkerchief that could keep his brow dry hasn’t yet been made. This show marks the birthday of Big Tony, bassist/singer of the DC go-go act Trouble Funk. $30; ticketmaster.com.
19. Yoga on the Mall
May 9, Sylvan Theater
A thousand bodies with arms reaching to the sky in vrksasana (tree pose) and the Washington Monument in the background. Metro DC Yoga Week features free or discounted classes at many studios, ending with this massive all-levels class. Come for the workout, stay for the corpse pose. Free.
20. “Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze”
May 22-July 10, 2016, National Portrait Gallery
America practically invented fame, so it’s only right that the Portrait Gallery should present these images of pop-culture figures. An airbrushed Katy Perry and Annie Leibovitz’s famous shot of Renée Fleming onstage join R. Luke DuBois’s portraits of Google’s founders—stars of a slightly different sort than Brad Pitt, whose image is also here.
21. Queer Queens of Qomedy
May 17, Jammin’ Java
What comedian Poppy Champlin (above) brings to every Queer Queens of Qomedy gig: an excruciating misspelling, some OMG-did-she-just-say-that jokes, and a guest comic or two. Here she shares the stage with Karen Williams, who has said she likes to play for lesbians because they’re smart: “The gay guys wound up with the money, and we got the books.” $20 to $30.
22. “Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection”
Beginning May 8, National Museum of American History
While the National Museum of African American History and Culture is under construction, you can see part of its permanent collection next door, telling the stories of trailblazers, innovators, and history-makers from Harriet Tubman to Althea Gibson. Artifacts on display include James Brown’s electric organ and his red jumpsuit. And who doesn’t want to see James Brown’s red jumpsuit?.
23. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
May 12-June 21, Folger Theatre
Tom Stoppard’s 1966 comic riff on Hamlet places two minor characters from the Shakespeare tragedy as his protatgonists. Hamlet’s childhood companions want to reveal what’s got the Prince of Denmark so bothered, eliciting laughs along the way through their encounters with an array of equally absurd characters. If you like surprise endings, this might not be the play for you: The title gives it all away. $30 to $75.
24. Virginia Gold Cup
May 2, The Plains
Break out your straw hats and Nantucket Reds for the 90th running of the venerable steeplechase races. Not into horses? This event is a great excuse to graze on a picnic, try your luck with small wagers on the horses, and soak up the country views. $85 (per car) and up.
May 9-May 21, Washington National Opera
Rossini’s opera strays from classic rags-to-riches fairy tales: Bracelets stand in for glass slippers, and a philosophy tutor makes for a wiser fairy godmother. This whimsical production also includes six dancing rats, dudes in white wigs, and ladies caught in their unmentionables—which, in the case of an opera from 1817, means corsets and some seriously colossal bum pads. Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard takes the lead in a show that WNO artistic director Francesca Zambello describes as something “you’ve never seen before.” $25 to $300.
Where & When was written by Andrew Beaujon, Emily Codik, Caroline Cunningham, Sherri Dalphonse, Kristen Doerer, Benjamin Freed, Hillary Kelly, Emma Foehringer Merchant, John Scarpinato, Harrison Smith, Noah Weiland, Ryan Weisser, and Sarah Zlotnick.
THURSDAY, APRIL 30
PARTY: Check out Washingtonian's party at Mission in Dupont Circle, where guests can cast their votes for the best spots in town for the magazine's Best of Washington July issue. With a $15 donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, you get two drinks plus light appetizers. 6 to 8 PM.
ART: Travel the US through the work of photojournalist Janire Nájera, who captured the existence of Spanish heritage across the Old Spanish Trail--a 1,200-mile trade route stretching from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. Meet Nájera at a free reception (which will include Spanish wine!) at the Former Residence of the Ambassador of Spain. RSVP required. 7 PM to 8:30 PM.
FRIDAY, MAY 1
BOOKS: Neil Gaiman--author of the famed comic series Sandman and novels such as Stardust and Coraline--comes to DAR Constitution Hall for an evening of fantasy, science fiction, and mythology. $34.50 to $57, 8 PM.
MUSIC: Grammy Award-winning singer Lila Downs performs at the GW Lisner Auditorium. The Oaxaca native, who grew up between Mexico and Minnesota, combines the sounds of ranchera music with American hip-hop and jazz. $40 to $60, 8 PM.
FILM: Fly By Light traces the story of four DC teenagers as they embark on an eight-day journey in West Virginia. The documentary, coming back to town after showing at 12 international film festivals, premieres tonight at National Geographic's Grosvenor Auditorium. $20, 7 PM.
SATURDAY, MAY 2
HORSES: Score a seat on the Virginia Gold Cup's official bus trip for breakfast and bar specials starting at 8:30 AM, followed by a BYOB trek to the Plains for the race ($65). Want to stick around and sip mint juleps in DC? The Brixton, Round Robin Bar, and Jack Rose Dining Saloon are just a few of the places in town celebrating the Kentucky Derby.
CULTURE: More than forty embassies in Washington--including Brazil, Korea, Morocco, and others--celebrate this year's "Around the World Embassy Tour." This free fest includes fashion, food, music, and art. 10 AM to 4 PM.
SUNDAY, MAY 3
DRINK: If you've always wanted to try the best Bloody Marys in Washington in one place, this event at Blind Whino is for you. Ten bars and restaurants participate in this vodka-soaked party, including Hank's Oyster Bar, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, the Source, Del Campo, among others. $50 bucks gets you unlimited Bloody Marys, plus barbecue and live music. 1 PM to 4 PM.
THEATER: Local storytellers takeover National Geographic's Grosvenor Auditorium for "Listen to Your Mother"--an afternoon about motherhood and, well, listening to your mother. $18, 2 PM.