CapitalBop’s Jazz Loft MegaFest @DC Jazz Festival

Today begins a ten-day, multi-venue celebration of jazz in Duke Ellington’s hometown. Consisting of over 100 performances, from elegant presentations at the Kennedy Center to outdoor family festivals to late-night club parties, the DC Jazz Festival offers enough choices to make a music lover’s head spin. But there’s one offering that stands apart from the rest: CapitalBop’s Jazz Loft Series, culminating in the Jazz Loft MegaFest. A unique, multimedia experience of the creative community of jazz, the Jazz Loft MegaFest, June 9 from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., also presents an exciting opportunity to listen local.

CapitalBop, founded in 2010 by Giovanni Russonello, aims to unite and highlight the vibrant jazz scene that calls DC its home. “I’ve always been a huge fan of jazz,” says Russonello. “But when I was going out to jazz shows as a kid, what I noticed was, no one was at them! There’d be these amazing shows with just very small audiences… CapitalBop was founded on the premise that the DC jazz scene itself has never lacked for impressive experiences, high-quality art, and exciting personalities. What people don’t understand, especially in this town, is they think it’s this historical art form that loses relevance as time passes. But for all the tropes, it’s not dying, and it never will die. It’s improvisatory, and it changes with the times. Because it’s made in the moment, you experience its creation, and that’s why live jazz shows are so thrilling…I thought of magazines like Time Out New York and the Village Voice, or the City Paper here in Washington. They serve an important purpose just by letting people know what’s going on around here. So I wanted to create something like that: an online home for the DC jazz scene.”

Soon after the CapitalBop site launched in 2010, Russonello’s friend and collaborator Luke Stewart joined him as an editor. Stewart’s band, Laughing Man, rented space at Gold Leaf Studios (a.k.a. Red Door), which became the home for the DC Jazz Loft Series starting that December. Russonello calls the Loft Series “unmediated spaces for unmediated music.”

“DC jazz performers and audiences needed not just an online resource, but to experience different presentations of the scene, get it out of the club circuit and give young people—and everyone else who may not have known about what’s happening here—a chance to participate in the jazz scene.”

The site launched in September 2010. The first project was a calendar of jazz events all over the city, which exists today as a complete, monthly catalog of every single upcoming show in DC. Beyond basic event info, the calendar contains previews, descriptions, and editor recommendations regarding each event, “so that you’ll know what you’re going to get out of every show,” as Russonello said. But there’s more to building a music scene’s online home. “The site itself is built around being most utilitarian to those who don’t know the scene,” said Russonello. As such, it also hosts a guide to DC’s jazz-friendly neighborhoods and the bars and clubs where jazz cats play. Its front page and blog are home to a wealth of articles, videos and photos. Posts may be video previews for shows, profiles of dynamic local artists, or info on the city’s weekend lineup.

The concert series known as the DC Jazz Loft Series, on the other hand, gained prominence at last year’s Jazz Fest. Russonello considers working with an organization as large and respected as the DC Jazz Fest to have been a major taking-off point for CapitalBop, which presented four Loft Series shows for Jazz Fest last year. “For every show, we paired really renowned bands from out of town—last year they were all from New York—with local bands. It both gave the most innovative musicians in the country a home right here in DC, and gave the local bands a lot of really good exposure as the openers for nationally renowned groups.” Among CapitalBop’s local collaborators are two of Listen Local First’s featured artists for the month of June, Donvonte McCoy and Kris Funn, who headlined CapitalBop’s section of Lumen8Anacostia earlier this year. Russonello said that the success of last year’s Loft Series also greatly increased traffic to the CapitalBop site. “It’s interesting, because we started the site as a tool to get people out to the live shows, but it turns out to work the other way around as well.”

This year, CapitalBop is presenting some similar Loft Series shows to last year’s: nationally renowned groups paired with local jazz bands. The Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra, unique in that it is led by a bass clarinet, headlines with Christie Dashiell Quartet tonight (6/1/12) at The Dunes, and Kris Funn & Corner Store—one of LLF’s June featured artists—open for “absolute star” group Tarbaby on Saturday 6/2 at The Fridge.

But the big event, the Jazz Loft MegaFest, is in a whole other league. From 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., visitors to the three-floor “loft” at 629 New York Avenue will experience music, film, food and fun as only DC could do it. MegaFest will feature:

-Concerts all day, leading up to a two-set headline show by Marc Cary’s Cosmic Indigenous
“Danceable, futurist, roots-exploring but also totally experimental jazz”

-Spotlight of up-and-coming high-school all-stars of the Jazz Academy, under Paul Carr

-Screening of “Icons Among Us: jazz in the present tense,” a film about the living jazz scene

-Panel on the cross-pollination of jazz and hip-hop by Shaolin Jazz

-Pop-up shop of vintage clothes and records, plus “floating art gallery,” by SHAM

-Catering and drinks by Taste of DC‘s network of local chefs

Russonello says that the diverse multimedia format of MegaFest “stresses the idea that jazz is a way of integrating thoughts, feelings, and experience into a real-time form of expression. It’s music that really knows no bounds, because you can create what you want, and create with your heart, and have the musical vocabulary to do that…It’s really about creating a community around an art form, or around the shared experience of art being created in front of you. The most exciting thing is how much of an experience it will be.”

Saturday, June 9 / 3 p.m.-2 a.m. / 629 NY Ave. NW / $10-12 online, $15 at the door. Tickets & Schedule

Live Showcase & Panel on Web Streaming

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UPDATE: Listen to the Audio from the panel discussion HERE

PANEL DISCUSSION – Web Streaming and Tech Development for a Local Music Community

In order to develop a thriving cultural community, artists musicians and fans must explore and adopt new technologies and platforms that enhance promotion and distribution of the arts. Join us on Thursday May 17th to hear from DC developing media and technology platforms who are striving to better the local cultural community.

Suggested Donation $5-$10 is encouraged though Tixelated:

https://d.tixelated.com/#/00118

(check it out – the ticketing platform of the future, space and beyond)

Presentations and Discussion Panel 7:00pm – 8:00pm :

Jennifer Vinson – DC Setlist – Moderator

Philippe Chetrit – Tixelated
Rob Connelly – ESL Radio
Paul Vodra – Hometown Sounds
Alex Sleighter – DC Decibel
(More Speakers TBA)

LIVE MUSIC SHOWCASE: 8:30pm – 11:00pm

Adrian Krygowski – http://adriankrygowski.bandcamp.com/
Teen Mom – http://teenmomdc.com/
The Grey Area – http://onesheet.com/thegreyareadc/
Redline Graffiti – http://redlinegraffiti.bandcamp.com/

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.

Taking a LEAP into The Dunes

Howard Liebers (MarbleRoad Founder), Jonny Grave (Bluesman), Patrick Hawkins (of Benny), and Linsay Deming (Singer/Songwriter)

Performing for a cause is different than the average concert; there’s a certain appeal philanthropy brings to a musical experience. Musicians can’t be stereotyped as self-promotional or egoistical; instead, they’re lending their voices as a catalyst for change, creating new pools of potential fans and interested attendees. The LEAP Sessions event this Wednesday, Feb. 29th, presented in partnership with Listen Local First (LLF), sheds light on the relationship between philanthropy and music. No, it doesn’t have the publicity of Bono and the ONE Campaign, but it’s a microcosm for the power of 21st century art and advocacy.

Howard Liebers, founder of MarbleRoad, followed the typical path of many DC transplants: college, then an entry level position at a non-profit, and ultimately a director level position working in health policy with the DC Primary Care Association. As a young professional in DC, Howard was a driven 9-5er, using his free time to map his love for indie pop culture around the city. But, unlike most DC dwellers in their early 20’s, who are slowly making their way out of the Adam’s Morgan bar crawl, Howard was unexpectedly faced with the death of one of his closest friends, Craig Nolan. Prior to Craig’s death, Howard didn’t know anything about “rare diseases”, but after Craig’s tragic experience with a rare cancer, a type of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Howard became passionate about learning more about this issue – what qualified, who’s affected, and how society addresses these health issues. What he discovered was extremely disheartening.

Firstly, it’s difficult to be diagnosed correctly if you have a rare disease because of the disconnect between primary healthcare physicians and rare disease specialists. Rare disease researchers are often siloed within their own specialties with limited patient interaction. The general knowledge base of primary care physicians often cause rare diseases to go undiagnosed and subsequently untreated. Additionally, since rare diseases in the US are defined as diseases affecting less than 200,000 people, there is little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research. Treatments are often extremely expensive and unaffordable.

In 2010, Howard Liebers incorporated the organization MarbleRoad here in DC, and saw an opportunity to integrate his love for indie culture with his newfound passion for rare diseases. MarbleRoad utilizes a campaign called IndieMatch to raise funds to support its mission. The IndieMatch strategy seeks to develop strategic partnerships between independent artists and musicians to support philanthropic opportunities. Using this model, MarbleRoad launched a kickoff event on Make a Difference Day in 2010, held in Alexandria, VA, featuring donated artwork by David Foox, Meredith Towsand, Elizabeth Jameson, Regina Hooliday, and Vesna Jovanoic, and Julie Gideon-Smith. In 2011, MarbleRoad hosted the Flammable Heart Exhibition  during National Health Center Week, displaying collections of artwork at the Lyons Wier Gallery in New York City, in partnership with Lutheran Family Health Centers, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Brooklyn. Money raised for the organization goes towards subsidizing rare disease treatments and bridging the communication gap between rare disease specialists and primary care physicians.

Fast forward to 2012 – MarbleRoad’s third event, but the first ever “LEAP Session”.  By now, it’s not difficult to see why MarbleRoad and Listen Local First have partnered for this debut. In contrast with previous MarbleRoad events, LEAP Sessions brings together indie musicians (not artists). Yet, the IndieMatch concept still holds strong. As an advocate of the local music scene, LLF is bringing together some of DC’s best artists and bands, and introducing some new acts to the excitement of the DC music marketplace: Nelly Kate (Richmond), Linsay Deming (DC), SoftSpot (Brooklyn), Caged Animals (Brooklyn), Benny (DC), and Jonny Grave & The Tombstones (DC). Together, IndieMatch and Listen Local First will be able to connect individuals through music and philanthropy by showcasing local talent and raising awareness for rare diseases.

The first of many to come, these LEAP sessions will be held annually on the last day of February. (Rare Disease Day is always held on the last day of February – the fact that Feb. 29th only happens once every four years reflects the low incidence rate of rare diseases, hence the name – LEAP Sessions: a rare day for rare disease.) Deidree Bennett, Managing Director at the Dunes, shares her excitment:

“As managing director of the Dunes, and I’m looking forward to the LEAP
SESSIONS event on a very personal level; I suffer from a rare
hereditary form of Primary Lymphedema. Therefore it is my pleasure to
welcome MarbleRoad to help spread awareness about the more that 6,000 rare diseases in the U.S., and the people with them who need your
support. Here is my story.
I look forward to hearing your stories, and rocking out to Benny, Jonny Grave, and everyone else Wednesday night from 7:30 – 11:30 PM at The Dunes. Be a Rockstar!” http://leapsessions.eventbrite.com/

Defining Local in the Name of Music

by Listen Local First contributor, Ann Margaret Millspaugh

Listen Local First DC — The premise is a noble one: pick six to eight DC bands (not genre-specific), partner with any establishment that draws a decent crowd and has a sound system, then stream local music during designated time periods for four weeks. Next month, new bands. The only prerequisite? Being local.

Since our beginning in October 2011, we’ve endorsed musicians, we’ve subsidized coffee shops and bars, we’ve worn flannel shirts, Toms, and a second-hand leather backpack, all while sipping DC Brau, because we’re local. It’s a city-wide stopwatch for listening, eating, drinking, consuming, outside of our normal defaults. Hundreds of people have come to attend various LLF events around the city – an opening event at the Dunes, Local Music Day, a Holidayfest at Wonderland. And then there are those hoards of unknowing bystanders weaving in and out of the city – bumping, grinding, or muffling in unison to mainstream frequencies with local bands.

So, we love local. We listen local. But, what does it mean to be a local musician? How do we define local music and how is a local music community cultivated?

As someone who shies away from religion, I was skeptical when a friend of mine sent along an email with the subject line “parable”, but as time passes, and the impression it left grows, I can’t help but draw a parallel to the ever-changing face of what is local, and the reasons why localism can never be authentically defined outside of its unique community.

There was a boy wandering around the woods near his new home. His father asked what he was doing, and when he said, “I’m looking for God,” his father replied that God is the same everywhere. To that, the boy responded, “I know. But I’m not.”

For me, this story serves as a reminder that we are always moving through versions of ourselves, layering and morphing as individuals, and subsequently as communities. When we try to concretely define ourselves, we seep into the myth of closure – where our lives span across a linear trajectory of milestones and accomplishments, events are measured through attendance, and relationships are gauged by timespans. (No, Facebook doesn’t help here.) These markers and rites of passage inevitably overshadow the gaps – those pervasive, yet anticlimactic in-between periods that come and go, unmarked and unnoted.

Music is a way to chronicle this journey. It’s our belief that music, like other mediums, cultivates a community that empowers the rich contradictions of time and place. Over the next few months, we’ll be highlighting and interviewing the community around DC music – bands, fans, places – in hopes of discovery and reflection, and most of all, personalization. Bringing faces to a movement, but also looking at the community as a boundless entity, a fluid action and reaction, a microcosm of age-old questions both in and around the music.

For all those who can be buried in the frosts of winter, we hope this quest to unearth what comprises local music will bring warmth in the words of the individual and the song of the people.