Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Ought @ DC9 –10/16/14

Ought (Photo courtesy Constellation Records)

Ought (Photo courtesy Constellation Records)

Tim Beeler is on your stage, and he has something he wants to say to you.

Guitar in hand, sometimes he sings it to you, but just as often it seems, he speaks over the snappy art punk beats of his band, Ought.

And Beeler wants to talk about being in the moment, being in love, putting things together — but all in a perspective from “every man.” In that way perhaps, the lanky vocalist is extremely reminiscent of David Byrne or Lou Reed in his delivery.

Thursday night at DC9, Ought opened with “Today More Than Any Other Day,” an amazing tribute really to living one’s life. It’s a bit like lyrics by Byrne superimposed over melodies that could have come from Television. Musically, Ought could have sprung straight from 1977 via New York City.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Yelle @ 9:30 Club — 10/11/14

About two-thirds of the way through her set, French pop siren Yelle strides up to a platform to situate herself between the two drummers comprising her band.

Performing the bright electropop song “Tohu” from her new album, Complètement fou, she picks up a disco ball and holds it in her hands before her. Laser-like lightbeams crisscrossing the stage until this point changed direction to target the ball.

The lights scatter from the disco ball. The resulting light shower rained out over the room and the audience, and everyone was dazzled.

Yelle followed up the theatrics by bouncing right into the popular “Safari Disco Club,” the title track to her second album.

Indeed, light tricks or no, the sold-out audience was consistently dazzled by Yelle when she stopped by the 9:30 Club on Saturday, Oct. 11 in a tour supporting the latest album, released last month.

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Essential DC, History, Interviews, Life in the Capital, Opinion, Special Events, Sports Fix, The Features, They Make DC, We Love Arts

Local Indigenous Artist Showcases the Racism of Redskin

(c) Gregg Deal

(c) Gregg Deal

Those who think the continuing movement to change the name of the local pro football team is a waste of time and trivial were clearly not at the recent Art All Night event here in the District. Secreted in one corner of the venue was local Indigenous artist Gregg Deal. His project, “Redskin,” took on the racial overtones of the team moniker and projected it at his audience.

What he, nor spectators or his helpers predicted was just how pointed it ended up being.

Deal first let me know of the project in early September. What initially struck me about his proposed performance piece was the fact he was willingly subjecting himself to some serious abuse. Natives in the area–as well as those protesting football games elsewhere in the country–have always been subjected to abuses by team fans, especially if they’re open about their opposition to the name. (Witness the reactions by fans, as recalled by several Natives, during a recent taping for The Daily Show.)

So why do it, especially in an art venue? “As people of color, or more specifically, Indigenous people, we deal with something called microaggression. It’s the needle pricks in our general American society and culture that says or does things that are offensive to Natives. They’re called ‘microaggression’ because they are passive aggressive enough to get by your average person, but still aggressive,” said Deal. “For example, when I worked at the National Museum of American Indian in 2004-2005, someone asked me if I still lived in a Tipi. This would be microaggression because it’s an insane questions that is based on stereotypes, but it’s also a statement about what this person believes quantifies me as an Indigenous person.”

The term ‘redskin,’ painted faces and faux headdresses, drunken war chants – these are all examples of microaggression. Deal’s performance piece was meant to use all of these abuses, commonly found in tailgate parties at FedEx Field and used by team fans around the world, over an eight-hour period. “I ended up calling it after just over four hours,” said Deal. “All of us–my friends who were helping me and myself–were just mentally and psychologically drained from the experience.”

Bryce Huebner, an Associate Professor at Georgetown University, was one of Deal’s assistants who played a part of one of the abusive fans. “I said things that I would never say in real life, in hopes of making it clear how ugly and harmful the casual racism against indigenous people in the United States is,” he said. “I was struck by how difficult it was to start playing that role, when I arrived my heart was pounding and I could hardly speak; but more troubling by far was the fact that it became easy to continue as I started to play off of the other actors. There’s an important lesson there: if you surround yourself with people who espouse hostile attitudes, it’s much easier to adopt those attitudes yourself.”

Deal said a lot of the audience mentioned to him how truly real it felt, watching it unfold, and he agreed. “After it got rolling, the invective felt truly real, like a few situations I’ve found myself in around the District.” When I mentioned that a Huffington Post review said it was unauthentic because he had used his friends as the antagonists, Deal laughed. “They should’ve been in my place, then. It certainly felt real to me.”

Deal (seated) in the middle of his "Redskin" performance. (c) Darby

Deal (seated) in the middle of his “Redskin” performance. (c) Darby

Tara Houska, a board member of Not Your Mascots and a big proponent of the name change movement in the District, was one of the audience members. “The experience of watching Indigenous-based racism being hurled at a Native was difficult, to say the least,” she said. “Some of those phrases hit too close to home, and brought me back to moments in which I’ve experienced racism. At times, it was hard to keep in mind that it was a performance. I wanted to yell at the antagonizers to back off, and felt the hurt Gregg must have been feeling.”

Both Houska and Deal were also participants in the recent Daily Show segment that showed a panel of team fans and a panel of Indigenous people who, after separate discussions, confronted each other through the show’s direction. The segment has had mixed reaction in the press, with a lot of sympathy generated for the four white fans (who all self-identified as some fraction of various tribes, but with no real knowledge of their heritage – or, in one case, how generational fractions work). The incidents taped at FedEx field later between some of the Native panelists (specifically, the 1491s) and fans weren’t shown, which is unfortunate.

“Honestly, both the Daily Show and my art performance felt very similar,” said Deal. “The racism against Indigenous people in this country is so ingrained it it’s culture that the only way a team could exist as a mascot (which is defined as a clown, a court jester, by the way…nice ‘honor’) in the first place. The Washington Redskins–and other Indian mascots–are a really good illustration of not only how disconnected America is from it’s own history, but how disconnected it is from the issue of equality towards Indigenous people is. We are literally sitting on an issue where a significant amount of this country’s Indigenous are saying ‘it’s offensive’ and the answer is ‘no, it’s not offensive at all!’”

Gregg Deal with "Colonialism"

Gregg Deal with “A Nice Can of Colonialism”

Deal went on to say the whole movement to change the name isn’t really about offense, but about equality. “What you’re looking at is the tip of a very big iceberg of issues that are simply illustrated by this specific issue. The fact that we don’t seem to own our identity enough for someone to allow us to assert that identity appropriately, but that a corporate sports team is making billions from our image and likeness and has the audacity to fly it under the flag of honor is insanity,” he said. “Let’s be honest here, it’s not about honor, tradition, or any other lame excuse Dan or his constituents are saying. It’s about money, and the fans have all bought into supporting one of this country’s financial top one percent.”

Houska felt that Deal’s passion really came through in his performance piece, and she applauded him for taking a stand in such a public way. “I think it was a very in-your-face method to get locals aware that Natives experience racism, including the racist imagery and name of the Washington team,” she said. “We have all experienced being belittled and told to ‘get over it.’ I hope that people walked away with a sense of understanding that microaggression is a very real and damaging thing. And how it feels to be deluged by caricatured Natives via the Washington football team and having no say in it, despite being the subject of that caricature.”

Deal agreed. “I believe the term REDSKIN, if it belongs anywhere…it belongs to Indigenous people. In the same way the Black community essentially own the N-word,” he said. “While there are different schools of thought on that word and it’s usage in the Black community, it’s understood that if you use that word outside the Black community, you’re a certain type of person. The word ‘redskin’ belongs to us, and it’s not up to [non-Indigenous people] how it’s used.”

For more information on the name change social media movement, visit Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, Not Your Mascots, or follow the #changethename hashtag on Twitter.

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Alex McCoy of Duke’s Grocery

Alex McCoy at the bar in Duke's Grocery

Alex McCoy at the bar in Duke’s Grocery

We’re revisiting our Capital Chefs feature with a series by music reporter Mickey McCarter. A lot has been happening recently in kitchens in D.C. restaurants, and Mickey takes a look into them from his usual seat at the bar in this series, which runs occasionally on Thursdays.

Alex McCoy, the chef and co-owner of Duke’s Grocery, really doesn’t like to make a dish unless he’s traveled to its country of origin.

“You can go online right now, and if you want to learn how to make Indian food, you could spend hours and hours and hours watching videos and tutorials and reading up about it,” McCoy said.

“Twenty years ago, in order to do the same, you would either have to live in India or work with an Indian chef,” he told me one recent sunny afternoon while sitting on the patio of his East London-inspired bar and restaurant.

McCoy believes there is an element of authenticity to the latter approach, which he takes very seriously. For example, the young chef very much enjoys papaya salad, and perfected his own after travels to Thailand. While anyone may look up how to make a papaya salad, it’s a totally different experience to experience the food directly from a street vendor who has lived with the dish her entire life and who has made it in front of you, he said.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

Hot Ticket: Yelle @ 9:30 Club, 10/11/14

Yelle (Photo by Maciek Pozoga)

Yelle (Photo by Maciek Pozoga)

At the end of last month, Yelle released her third studio album, Complètement fou — French for “completely crazy” or “stark raving mad.” Yet interestingly, it’s perhaps her smoothest album to date.

The breakout songs from the first two Yelle albums had much more in common with spiky synth beats found in some of her contemporaries in the nu disco scene. By contrast, the songs of Complètement fou are largely more mellow, sparkling with an upbeat 80′s synth sound that you may associate with Goldfrapp or other trailblazing acts that revitalized synth-driven electropop in the past decade.

In support of the new album, Yelle comes to the 9:30 Club on Saturday, Oct. 11. I’ve seen her at the 9:30 Club twice before (on tours supporting Pop Up and Safari Disco Club), and I can report that she’s charming, cute, engaging and entertaining. (I also was extremely impressed with how quickly her English improved!)

Truly, how rare is it that U.S. audiences embrace a foreign pop act that sings in their native tongue? Personally, it takes me back to the days when Falco or Nena could score a hit song in the U.S. top 10 with their own new wave stylings.

Tickets are available online! A bientôt!

Yelle
w/Lemonade
9:30 Club
Saturday, Oct. 11
Doors @ 8pm
$25
All ages

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Lykke Li @ 9:30 Club — 10/6/14

Lykke Li (Photo courtesy Press Here)

Lykke Li (Photo courtesy Press Here)

The lights and fog on stage created the illusion of a misty sky behind a circular enclosure. Thin, sheer black curtains hanging between the lights created the illusion of a temple.

But the priestess of that temple was no illusion. Indeed, the sold-out crowd gathered at the 9:30 Club Monday night to drink from the altar of their chosen indie singer-songwriter heroine Lykke Li. Clad in flowing black garb, the beguiling Swede struck a moody, artistic note as she paraded and swayed through a solid 75 minutes of sadly atmospheric songs.

Li opened the show with the title track of I Never Learn, her third and latest album released earlier this year. The song, like many of her others, deals with unfulfilling or lost love — and the implication is that “never learning” equates to “never getting over someone.”

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