By Alex Tebeleff
Hey everyone, my name is Alex and this column is called DC DIT. I find the DIT mantra of Do It Together exemplifies more of what I hope my participation in the DC music scene will contribute as opposed to Do it Yourself. My goal is to connect people with creative ideas and interests and help grow a scene that features a remarkable amount of intelligent and talented musicians.
I’m sitting on the back porch of The Paperhaus with a couple local musicians. Former hausmate Johnny Fantastic and current hausmate Adriana Cotes are great songwriters and particularly talented vocalists. Johnny’s powerful voice recalls the croon of Scott Walker, and Adrianna sings with more soul than a South Carolina BBQ restaurant. I spoke with them about what they think of music, creativity from a humanistic perspective, and defeating Jau.
Alex: Why do you think about music?
John: It’s loud, it’s annoying, it’s coming out of every piece of technology that’s glued to everyone’s hands at all times, it interrupts things, it turns neighbor against neighbor, it makes the cops show up, it makes you go on long trips for hours and smell and stink and stay at weird people’s houses. It’s so irresistible and it’s so addictive and lovely that none of this matters. You can’t stop being the way you are and being an animal and loving music. Music sucks because it’s great. It’s so great and genuine that it makes you do stupid shit and ruins you. I can’t get anything properly done because I’m so attached to music. Can we talk about Jau?
Alex: What’s Jau?
Adrianna: Jau is what you use to escape from reality.
John: Over time it can turn into negativity. It usually involves Netflix and Pizza, maybe a girlfriend or boyfriend. Jau is a complete numbing activity where you veg out and watch stuff or do nothing. The opposite of what you are where when you are doing something interesting with life, it’s when you aren’t living life with excitement; “Getting lost in that hopeless little screen” [that’s a Leonard Cohen lyric from the song “Democracy”]
Adrianna: It’s what you turn to when everything is “meh,” you just sit at home. It’s ok sometimes, but you need to balance it with activity, building interest, taking care of your life! Be a badass most of the time, and earn your time to Jau.
John: The effect of Jau is the same effect as chronic snacking. Don’t eat all those Oreos in one sitting!
Alex: So what do you think Jau has to do with music?
Adrianna: No one is perfect. At a certain point, I get a little overwhelmed, so I turn to Jau to chill for a weekend to slow down the wheels, with all the worries and thoughts and things I want to create taking over that I have no control of at the moment. I can gain that back with rest and solitude. But if you depend on only Jau to heal yourself, you’ll end up being at home all the time, not doing what you need to fulfill yourself. If you continue to indulge in Jau for too long, you won’t take care of your fundamental needs as a human being.
John: Jau is the enemy, but you can relax without numbing yourself. You can still be active while you relax. You can walk, you can do Yoga, you can play music just for fun, you can cook.
Alex: So, there are actually healthy ways to Jau?
John: Well, Jau is really the negative kind of relaxation.
Adrianna: It’s more self-indulgence than real mind-body relaxation.
Alex: So what do you recommend to those artists and musicians in DC looking to escape the murky bowels of Jau, and embrace their creative working spirit?
Adriana: Get a hobby outside of music, it’s useful. Spend your free time exploring that. Cleanse your mind, don’t pollute it with overly indulgent behavior!
John: For musicians as an example, the next time you get together for a band practice, go to Great Falls or go rock climbing or anywhere in nature and hike. Bandmates need to be friends! They need to be able to hang out without talking about music all the time. It’s also important that musicians don’t hear music all the time. Getting in nature and away from the sounds of the city. Enjoying silence is a good way to wash the musical palate and get to the heart and root of sound and music.
Alex: How do you recommend escaping Jau for those who don’t regularly have a creative pursuit in their lives?
Adriana: Isn’t it all the same? The treatment is the same for everyone. Music is my job too.
John: Everyone uses creativity. Some non-musicians actually use a lot more creativity in their daily lives than musicians do. Creativity is a tool that everyone possesses; some just use it more than others in their daily lives.
Adriana: Staying alive in this world takes a lot of creativity!
On another note, Record Store day is April 19th! It’s a great time to go explore all the great local businesses that sell records in the DC area, a couple of which are mentioned in this week’s column! Here are some shows worth checking out this week:
Tuesday, April 15
These two bands are really great. The wonderfully refreshing BRNDA put on one of the best shows I’ve seen from a local group in a very long time at Rock and Roll Hotel last Saturday night, and Mobius Strip has been one of the most consistently strong punk bands in DC for many years now. Crooked Beat Records is one of many great record stores that deserves your support!
Cigarette and Br’er are two of DC’s best, and certainly most creative, acts. You’ve read my thoughts about Cigarette in this column before; I love their patient and tastefully dynamic approach to music. Br’er is a band that relocated from Philly to DC over the past couple years, and is just getting a new steady line-up together. Needless to say, nobody else quite sounds like Br’er; I personally love the music, and the energy of the performance is as high as it gets. If you are a fan of Swans, Depeche Mode, and Throbbing Gristle, Br’er is your band! Netherfriends and Ryley Walker, both from Chicago, play very different music, but are both equally worth your time. Netherfriends makes a unique hybrid of Psychedelic Pop and Hip Hop, and Ryley Walker makes extremely well composed Folk-Rock that’s unafraid to get experimental as well. This show was put together in conjunction with Frontier Psychiatrist, a national online music, art, and culture website that is really interested in what’s happening here in DC, and is luckily getting involved directly! They definitely deserve the reciprocal support; it’s refreshing to see more media start to get involved with the local music scene here in the District.
Wednesday, April 16
Pleasure Curses is becoming unavoidable in the local scene, and I’m happy to see it! People seem to be catching on to the fact that these guys are developing a particularly strong version of electro-pop that comes across as more organic live than most in genre. Fellow band-in-spirit Furniteur, which had a very strong debut last week at The Dunes, makes a form of pop that is remarkably well crafted sonically. These guys already have their aesthetic down, and it fits perfectly with Pleasure Curses. With great art exhibits courtesy of the Corcoran, and local DJ mainstay Chris Burns on tap as well, it’s definitely a great event.
Thursday, April 17
Yes, this is a DIY philosophy event at house in Columbia Heights. Just want to show you all how much is going on in this city! If you are looking for an opportunity to challenge your mind and keep it sharp, check this out Wednesday night at The Peace House.
Jowe Head (no connection to the concept of Jau that I know of) is a quirky post-punk band with great musicians. There’s also an interesting jazz sensibility to go along with its driving rhythm section, and not just because there is saxophone in the line-up. Listen close, and you can hear a little of The Fall and Eric Dolphy. It’s the kind of band that makes you think just as much as it makes you want to dance. Foul Swoops has been a local favorite for a while now for good reason, nobody does Garage Rock in DC better than these guys. Luke Redding is a one-man band with guitar, vocals, and percussion. His wild Rock & Roll twisted throwback vocals work really well on this bill.
Friday, April 18
It’s nice to keep seeing great local all-ages shows at clubs like Rock and Roll Hotel. Lots to love for Ska and Punk fans on this bill. Kill Lincoln is a band full of great musicians, hard to find a better straight up Ska in the city. They are an institution in the genre in DC at this point. Still Alive adds a heavy dose of Thrash to the bill, and if you are a big fan of The Replacements (I certainly am!), Collapser is the punk band for you. They make earnest, honest straight up awesome Rock & Roll with a Punk attitude. No bullshit, just raw energy and spirit.
Big Hush is easily one of my favorite bands in DC right now; they make beautiful and patient shoegazey folk, with extremely strong melodies and harmonies. A perfect fit for a show at Comet. Vancouver’s Weed bring a louder and noisier sound to the bill; it’s music certainly made under the influence of their name, with another strong influence from some particularly well known Pacific Northwest bands from the past. New band The Grey A is a great fit for Big Hush, they make 90’s influenced alternative pop with jangly guitars and thoughtful lyrics right up front.
Saturday, April 19
The Fold is one of the most exciting developments ever to happen to the suburbs of DC. Based in Rockville, MD, it’s a mixed arts work and events space that is really starting to put together some great events. They also give artists a lot more opportunity to have space to create and present their work! This particular event is a silent auction. Artists, check out times on the event page for you to come by and bring your art to be auctioned on Saturday! There’s a small submission fee, but 100% of the proceeds go to the artist. I only wish there was a place like The Fold when I was growing up as a kid in the Rockville area!
An all-acoustic show at The Lab, great to keep seeing DIY shows in Alexandria going strong thanks to these guys! I’d be curious to see how these more rocking Alternative and Folk-Punk bands sound in a stripped down context.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better heavy rock show than this one this week, particularly because 70’s doom legends Pentagram are making their first appearance in their hometown of DC in many years. Coke Bust is yet another killer hardcore band with Chris Moore on the drums. Virginia Metal Punk band Satan’s Satyrs and Hardcore band Unholy thoughts round out the bill.
Yet another great local all-ages show at Rock and Roll Hotel this weekend. Loud Boyz is a new DC punk supergroup, and they are just as loud and heavy as you would expect. I know how good the musicians in this band are, but I must say watching live video of these guys in action exceeded my high expectations. Hopefully it translates just as well in real life! Self described “slimegaze” band Total Slacker has been getting a ton of buzz in the Indie Rock world, and a lot of support in their native Brooklyn. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the last time you see them as an opening band on a bill in DC. The melodies are really strong and it’s really simple music in all the right ways. Garage punk, mainstays Sunwolf open the show, and fit perfectly on this very well put together Rock bill.
I’m seriously craving pizza every time I feature a bill at Comet, which seems to be at least twice a week in this column. No joke, my favorite pizza in the city (maybe I should write a food blog? It’s my other life obsession besides music). DATES’ Deena Odell Hyatt does the smartest thing any songwriter can do, pull in as many talented musicians from the scene as possible to help her flesh out and perform the songs! Really digging the arrangements she’s coming up with. Avant pop singer Mary Orcher from Berlin does a fantastic job of creating a sense of otherworldliness with psychedelic music featuring the autoharp. Mundy is quite the cosmic dance band, rounding out a very nicely eclectic bill.
Sunday, April 20
Luckily I’ll be back in time from a short Paperhaus tour to check out this great holiday bill. There’s no one quite like Chain and The Gang’s Ian Svenonius, he’s one of my all time favorite performers from DC. The songs in this particular band are very original, displaying his unique sense of wit and intelligence. Atlanta’s The Coathangers and California punk band Audacity both are high-energy loud rock & roll bands.
Monday, April 21
Yet another great show at a great local record store this week. Both Hardcore and Garage Punk are well represented here.