April showers bring May flowers, but what does the May DC music scene bring to all of you? Good question. Here’s the answer: Freedom. Complete freedom … as far as prices are concerned. There’s a whole bunch of free concert series and performances to keep your ears occupied and dancing shoes satisfied. Here are a few of my picks as we begin this transition month into the dog days of summer. The way I see it, May is a good practice-run for the overwhelming amount of free events throughout the city come June, July and August. So train well, my young musical padawans, train well.
Fort Lesley J. McNair | 7 p.m., May 5- 26 and June 2, 9, 23, 30 | Free
Nothing screams “America” more than the U.S. Army Band tooting their own horns in a free concert series on a Fort during the summer. Twilight Tattoo is a prime example. How so? Well, it’s the U.S. Army’s “most popular outdoor ceremonial pageant” complete with musician/soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and The U.S. Army Band (Pershing’s Own). It’s a great way to demonstrate your love for American music, your patriotism, and all things “America” as we start making some headway into the Summer and (eventually) the 4th.
The U.S. Army Blues band, vocalists from The U.S. Army Band Downrange, The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and The U.S. Army Drill Team will all be participating in this year’s Twilight Tattoo performances.
All performances are free and open to the public with bleacher seating available on a first-come, first-seated basis.
Bullpen | 9:30 p.m. | Free
If you missed these guys in April at the Rock & Roll Hotel, I urge you … no … plead you to go or forever hold your peace.These high-intensity rockers are coming back for a stint at the Bullpen after Friday night’s Nationals game at home against the Marlins.
Midnight Spin is headed straight for alternative rock stardom pending the collection of a stellar fan base, which they appear to be compiling quite quickly.
Tonic Lounge | 8 p.m.| $5 (Yes, I realize this isn’t free. Read on though!)
Shelita Vaughns hosts this unique blend of art and music three times a month (twice in NYC and once here in DC). The Tonic Lounge Jam Sessions was created by Vaughns with the hope of providing yet another outlet for local artists (musicians and visual artists) to demonstrate their crafts. There’s always a DJ in between live acts, so if you’ve been bitten by the jitter bug you have have an option to cut a rug.
This might be the only show on this month’s list with a cover charge, but it just so happens that it is also my personal T.L. Jam Session debut this coming Saturday. If you’re interested in sing-a-longs, there will definitely be one. So if that’s not an incentive to check it out, I don’t know what is!
The Greensides – “Around the World? There’s a Greensides for that.”
Ragtime | 9:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. | Free
I’d be a fool to stray away from author Dave Levy’s description of this night featuring free acoustic rock at a local watering hole. He writes:
“What in the world could “Around the World” mean? Only one way to find out. And that’s by taking a lap to Ragtime on a Wednesday night. Promises to be more fun than you can imagine.
Oh, and we’ll play Journey again. In case you’re unfamiliar with them, they’re like the American Rush.”
Free live music at a bar on a Wednesday with a We Love DC author? Sounds like a perfect mid-week escape from the mundane 9 to 5 approach to life. Humor me? Take the trip to Court House.
National Gallery of Art, Sculpture Garden | 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. every Friday until September 10 | Free
This is a staple of Summer in Washington. Pop the cork on a bottle of wine, bask in the glory that is a Friday night after a week spent staring at a computer screen from behind a desk, and proceed to shower yourself with the glorious backdrop (the National Mall) as you soak up the assortment of modern Jazz greats filtering through this summer series stage. All concerts are held inside the Pavilion Café amid 17 works of 20th-century sculptures, flowering trees, and the like.
Millenium Stage | 6 p.m. | Free
These guys are great because they have a familiar sound to them. I’m not talking about Top 40, way too catchy, caught in your head kind of familiar but rather a homey quality to their sound. The Strange Loops recently completed their residency at the Strathmore Music Center. These 19-year-old twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst sing honest-to-god (or not to god, which ever you choose), down-home tunes that if Zach Braff made another movie equivalent to the likes of Garden State, they would be included in the soundtrack. It’s early Ryan Adams meets The Shins (if they went acoustic) combined with Nick Drake‘s vocal subtlety and Frank Smith‘s charisma.
It’s real easy to get to the Millenium Stage. Take Metro to the Foggy Bottom/GWU station and ride the free KENNEDY CENTER SHOW SHUTTLE departing every 15 minutes until midnight. Note: There is no free parking for free performances. For further information call 202-467-4600 or www.kennedy-center.org