DC’s Music Scene Gets Flashy

Dynamic female trio “Special Dish”, featuring Rachel Lord, Catherine Woodiwiss, and Jaclyn Zubrzycki, draws an eager crowd.

Two months ago, Neal Humphrey, avid fiddle player and project manager at an energy efficiency nonprofit, was itching to connect with other musicians. For over a year, Neal had been part of a bluegrass band (The Family Hammer), but when two band members moved out of the city, he was left band-less and anxious to start something new. He added, “After four years in DC, I knew about twenty-five decent musicians that I could call up to jam with, but most were of the folk or bluegrass genre. I wanted to experiment with some new styles, and find people that I really connected with musically.”

Dubstep Prayer (Caleb Astey, Adam Stern, William Cody, and Alex Mills)

Good ideas move quickly. Within a few weeks, a cohort of musicians, eager to experiment with new sounds and new people, had devised a plan. Brannon Walsh, EPA environmental scientist and guitar/harmonica player, offered to host the event. Another person offered to provide professional recordings of the performances. With a location set, the recruitment process began. Neal described his community-based outreach strategy – “I told all the musicians I knew to tell at least three other musicians. Pretty soon we had forty people signed up.”

At the end of February, a swath of DC musicians with an array of musical backgrounds came together for a meet-n-greet that strayed far from the normal business card schmoozing. After six hours of high-energy trial and error, nine bands had formed with one month to prepare, practice, and perform a fifteen-minute set of their choosing, including at least one original song written since the bands’ inception. This past Saturday, April 14, marked the culmination of Neal’s labor – over 30 musicians who were previously strangers churned out a one-time, four hour performance as “flash bands”. If you didn’t hear about this event, there’s a reason. No facebook invites, no emails. Strictly word –of-mouth hype for a night of genuine musical talent and genre exploration. Over one hundred people came out for a fusion-filled night of everything from dubstep hip hop to indie bluegrass to punk(ish) rock.

It’s easy to develop a superficial feeling of what music DC has to offer. The city receives a lot of criticism for its deficit of authentic music; most recently, Slate magazine aggressively asserted, “The fact of the matter is, however, that DC is not ultra-hip no matter how many young people have moved here.” The Atlantic responded with a seemingly medical rebuttal, looking at economic indicators of various artistic careers to conclude that DC is “a not-so-great place for visual artists, a slightly better than average place for musicians and a pretty good place for writers and editors.” While the District may not be seeping with the 24/7 isolated bo-ho types, it’s far from the visionary vacuum the media often projects. No, most of these “Flash Band” musicians aren’t part of the starving artist routine. They’re lawyers, teachers, analysts, consultants, policy wonks, researchers. Hill junkies. And the term musician usually isn’t synonymous with “job”. But it doesn’t make the city a void of creativity and musical talent.

Red Ted and the Smoking Loons (Nick DePrey, Ted Collins, and Kyle Deane Stewart)

In DC, we see the rise of the hobbyist. Many local jobs don’t have the cut-throat, 16 hour work days of faster moving cities like New York or Chicago, allowing time to cultivate and pursue interests. In many ways, DC has a uniquely creative environment where people aren’t necessarily interested in having their hobby become their career. Since people aren’t trying to “make it” in the music industry, it fosters an authentically collaborative atmosphere, especially evident in the “Flash Band” performance this past weekend. Admittedly, this crammed house concert, with backdrops of Diego Rivera-like murals and LED certified Christmas lights, at times felt like a college party revival (and will undoubtedly be snubbed by some as a byproduct of pervasive gentrification of Columbia Heights). But, the energy, attitude and talent are a reminder that DC can be both a straight-laced policy grate and a creative hub.

The next Flash Band event will start at 5 PM on Saturday, July 14 at the Half Street Fairgrounds beside Nationals StadiumCheck out the newly updated flashbandproject.org for up-to-date information about future events and recordings of Flash Band performances

If you’re interested in participating in the next Flash Band event, or are otherwise interested in creative ways to grow the local DC music scene, please contact Neal Humphrey at humphrey.neal@gmail.com.

Advertisements

Lumen8 Anacostia This Saturday

H Street Gallery and Courtyard creates Pop-Up Gallery with Video Projection

Gallery O on H activates historic Anacostia building during Lumen8

During Lumen8 Anacostia, using a combination of projection, art installation and live music performance, Gallery O on H will recreate their gallery and courtyard in a historic Anacostia building.  Located at 2021 Martin Luther King Blvd., the event will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. and will showcase outsider artist, Brian Dowdell and a live local music showcase by Listen Local First.

Gallery O on H, located at 1354 H Street NE is an indoor/outdoor community space where art, music and minds intersect for cultural experience.  The pop-up gallery, much like the H Street space, will combined art and music allowing sound to flow into the street using speakers to project out the windows of the second floor space.

The space will be recreated through a mix of live art, live music and projected video scenes of the original space, featuring hyper-local H Street celebrities.  The experience is open to the public.

“Recreating the outside in is an exercise in fusing sensory realities, and I find that fascinating. This piece of video projection art captures the burgeoning and exciting Gallery O on H space – and its lively community on H street – within the walls of Anacostia,” explains Isabelle Carbonell, videographer.

Live musical performances include local artists Rene Moffatt, Justin Trawick, The Sweater Set and Jess Dye of Lightfoot.

Gallery owners and community advocates, Steve Hessler and Mary Ellen Vehlow are using this experience to launch a series of events that they hope will build community on H Street.  After holding onto this property and surrounding structures for years, the couple has begun execution for a mix-use plan including temporary and permanent concepts that foster creative entrepreneurs.  The full concept, set to roll out in stages over the next two years, will begin with a more active use of the current gallery and outdoor venue space for ticketed events including art, music and community featuring a pop-up markets for food and retail.

“We see this as an opportunity to infuse local community with an energy beyond the bars and the night life of H Street,” explains Vehlow.

The space will host their first event, Blossom Bake+Brew, on April 21 in collaboration with ScoutMob, Chocolate City Beer and Think Local First to benefit H Street Main Street.  Jazz in the Hood, a component of the DC Jazz Festival, is set for June 2 and 9th.   A summer music series, Music in the Courtyard, hosted twice a month begins in July.  A full listing of events can be found online at www.galleryoonh.com.

For more information about the pop-up space in Anacostia, Gallery O on H or their events please contact Stacey Price atstaceydeniseprice@gmail.com.

About Isabelle Carbonell

Isabelle Carbonell is a documentary photographer and documentary filmmaker who documents political, social, whimsical, ethnographic, and environmental stories around the world. When filming, she becomes her environment — sleeping, eating, and breathing with those she is focusing on, absorbing their culture, transcending the divide between observer and subject.

Isabelle also taught documentary filmmaking to a class of software designers and engineers at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, and more recently did a two-week photography workshop for National Geographic.

Unique in her perspectives and methods, she also comes from a wide cultural background as half-Belgian and half-Uruguayan. Based out of Washington D.C. and Brussels, Belgium, she graduated from the Residential College at the University of Michigan with degrees in Environmental and Social Science, Photography and Filmmaking. Her documentary skills have taken her to countries such as India, Qatar, Cuba, Mexico, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Nepal, Kazakhstan, and Nicaragua.

About the Music

Rene Moffatt – http://www.renemoffatt.com/
Justin Trawick – http://www.justintrawick.com/
The Sweater Set – http://www.thesweaterset.com/
Jess Dye of Lightfoot – http://www.hellolightfoot.com/

Listen Local First, an program of Think Local First DC is a local music initiative devoted to building awareness and creating opportunities for local musicians and venues in order to raise the profile of DC’s local music scene. This campaign includes a monthly Local Music Day and Local Music Showcases highlighting a variety of venues and genres of local music. www.listenlocalfirstdc.com

About Brian Dowall

Like many of the self-taught artists, Brian is prolific & compulsive, he intuitively taps into a space that spontaneously spills out onto that which is his favorite canvas “cardboard” or scripts sand spirits deftly.

Brian Dowdall is an original self taught creative force; prolific in paint, colors drawn from nature’s elements: fire, water, wind & earth …he calls up the spirits of animals & goddesses from his inner being. The work is joyful, unconscious & sometimes strange. Brian is a 35 year VISIONARY & “outsider” internationally exhibited.

 


April Featured Artists and Showcases!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


April Featured Artists: Visit their site, download their album
Latristic –  http://latristic.com/
Victoria Vox – http://www.victoriavox.com/
Les Rhinoceros – http://lesrhino.bandcamp.com/
Kindlewood – http://kindlewood.co/

 

APRIL SHOWCASES

During Lumen8 Anacostia (http://www.lumen8anacostia.com/), using a combination of projection, art installation and live music performance, Gallery O onH Streetwill recreate their gallery and courtyard in a historic Anacostia building.  Located at2021 Martin Luther King Blvd.the event will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. and will showcase outsider artist, Brian Dowdell and live music by Listen Local First.  The pop-up gallery, much like the space at 1347 H Street, will combined art and music allowing music to flow into the street using using speakers to project the music out the windows of the second floor space.

Performing Artists: Rene Moffatt, Justin Trawick, The Sweater Set, Jess Dye of Lightfoot

Listen Local First presents Birdlips at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium – April 20th  

Friday 20th Listen Local First kicks off its newest monthly Kennedy Center local showcase withe Birdlips at the Millennium Stage 6:00pm – 7:00pm.

Blossom Bake & Brew at Gallery O on H St – April 21st 4:00pm – 7:00pm

– Exclusive Beer Tasting from Chocolate City

– Pocket Pies from Dangerously Delicious Pies

– Listen Local First Music Showcase featuring Lightfoot and Victoria Vox

More event details HERE

The Water St. Project and Listen Local First – April 20th – 21st

Friday April 20th 8PM – 2AM Water Street Project Grand Opening

The Water Street Project opening, sponsored by Honest Tea, showcases the core collaborators of this project “the Artists.” The Water Street Project includes Murals and Installations by artists Kelly Towles, Brandon Hill, James Kerns, Dafna Steinberg, Kate Campagna, Maggie O’Neil, James Meade, Paul Mericle, Billy Mode, Gaia, Gregg Deal, Jacqueline Levine, Drew Storm Graham, Tariq Tucker, and Hamilton Riley . Evening Programming and Listen Local First Showcase will include special music performance by Lightfoot, Ugly Purple SweaterTypefighter, and Cold Fronts (Philly).

This event is Free ($8 Suggested Donation – proceeds go to musicians) Open to Public http://www.waterstproject.com/

Saturday April 21st 8PM – 2AM Listen Local First presents Record Store Day Showcase

Listen Local First DC is a local music initiative devoted to building awareness and creating opportunities for LOCAL MUSICIANS and venues in order to raise the profile of DC’s local music scene. LLF partners with local musicians, local arts organizations, local venues and locally owned businesses to create performance opportunities and new avenues for local music exploration. In honor of Record Store Day, LLF presents The Silver Liners, Les Rhinoceros, Shark Week, and The Young Rapids at the Water Street Project space.

This event is Free ($8 suggested donations proceeds go to musicians) Open to Public http://www.waterstproject.com/


Arts Advocacy Receives Research Gift

Two major Arts Education studies were released this past week, the FRSS 10-year comparison and the Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth a 12-year longitudinal study.  When these studies are married, their effectiveness as a tool for advocacy becomes undeniably clear.  While the FRSS will get much of the press because Secretary Duncan presented it, the study is of little consequence to the progression of arts education other then outright stating of significant declines in the amount of offerings across the board.  On the other hand, move over Charlie Bucket, the longitudinal study is the golden ticket arts education advocators have been praying for.

The longitudinal study gives the data for students of Low Socioeconomic Status (low SES) with both high and low arts exposure and their counterparts in the High Socioeconomic Status (high SES).  The matrixes measured for each of the four categories include high school graduation rates, civic involvement, recorded GPA, college graduation rates, average test scores, volunteer rates, other extracurricular activities, and labor market outcomes.  The results are startling, not because they affirm what advocates have said for years, but because of the achievement gap between low SES/low arts and low SES/high arts.

Looking at graduation rates alone, low SES/low arts had a dropout rate of 22%, compare that to low SES/high arts with a dropout rate of 4%.  The low SES/high arts students are even below the overall sample average of 7%.  For the mindset of these low SES/high arts students, we need only to look at the percentage of 8th graders planning to earn a bachelor’s degree 74% compared to 43%.  These are motivated students and compared to their low arts counterparts they are 14% more likely to vote in a national election or local election, 21% more like to volunteer, and 29% more likely to read the newspaper.  Looking at grades and curriculum, the high arts students have an average GPA of .39 points above low arts and were 10% more likely to enroll in calculus while in high school.

It should be noted that the high arts students are inherently involved individuals, as they are participants in athletics and service organizations.  However, students who are involved in other activities but are low arts do not have as high of GPA or curriculum gains as high arts students.

This is all fine and dandy, but why am I saying that this is hugely important when combined with the FRSS data?  Because in secondary school music alone there was a drop of 19% of offered programs for students in the low SES, but the high SES saw an increase of 6% between 2000-2010.  In affect, the advantage is going to the advantaged, while the disadvantaged are becoming disenfranchised.  But there’s more: of the high SES, 62% of schools offered 5 or more courses in the music, while low SES only measured 32%.

One area the low SES has dominated though is in collaboration and integration.  Music teachers in low SES are 14% more likely to consult with other teaches to incorporate units of study from other subject areas into the music curriculum and 17% more likely to utilize an integrated music instructional program with other academic subjects and 18% with other arts subjects.

Like music, visual arts have rather similar data (in secondary schools): a drop in offering for the low SES of 13% and only 22% of the remaining programs offering 5 or more courses.  Compare that to the 95% of high SES schools of which 56% offer 5 or more visual arts classes.  The unexpected number in all this comes from the consulting with other teachers to incorporate units of study from other subject areas into the visual arts curriculum indicator for low SES, which stands a staggering 17% above high SES.

So what’s the conclusion?  The students who benefit most from high exposure to the arts are receiving less of it then they did 10 years prior.  Granted we had the Great Recession and states have to balance their budgets, as a native Californian (and boy, did we get hit hard in 2008) I understand.  That does not mean we are off the hook.  As Secretary Duncan has said time and again, “we’re either going to invest in education or not, it comes down to the values.  Everyone has to step up or we’re going to struggle.” (March 2, 2012)