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Dancing Yourself Clean in D.C.

By Zach Schlein

What you get out of clubbing is directly proportional to what you put into it. For many, the popular conception of clubbing is that of finely tailored trust fund babies tossing hundreds of dollars in the air as streams of champagne whiz on by. All the while, some anonymous and dimly lit DJ cues up a playlist of the Billboard Hot 100, illuminated only by the collective flash of selfies being taken all around them.

Much like the mediocre alcohol that fuels such excursions, this routine of clubbing is brimming with empty calories and devoid of actual nutritional value. By and large, mainstream clubbing has fallen into a rut, due in large part to the influx of a general populace all too happy to lower their expectations for what qualifies as a transcendent night out. Unfortunately, many hubs of late night activity are all too eager to oblige, no doubt saving large sums of money in the name of meeting a barely-there-as-is standard.

Growing up in Boca Raton, FL and later attending college in Gainesville, I didn’t come of age in particularly musical cities (Okay, Gainesville gave the world Tom Petty, Against Me! And Hundred Waters, but it’s certainly no New York City or Washington.) When I was looking ahead and planning on moving to Washington, I was excited not only for the myriad career opportunities I’d be afforded, but to finally reside in a big city with appropriately big concert venues and music halls. The richness of Washington’s musical history could fill a whole book — or series –, but as it stands today, Washington offers several diverse and compelling options for those who like to work through their troubles of the week by sweating them out on the dance floor.

On U Street one can find, appropriately enough, U Street Music Hall. Owned and operated by longtime DC resident and famed DJ Will Eastman, Music Hall offers a much-needed and appreciated alternative to the deliberately safe, glitzy norm offered by the city’s more visible clubs. The club dispenses with superficial excess in favor of substance, forcing listeners to do just that- listen. Although an “underground” venue both literally and in conception, it primarily books acts that could successfully qualify as crossover acts, such as Drake associate Sampha and Dipset founder and NYC hip-hop mainstay Cam’ron/  With no dress code, affordable drinks and consistently compelling acts, Music Hall lowers the bar of entry for Washington residents looking to get their groove on, in turn raising the bar for the actual experience to be enjoyed once inside.

For those whose tastes may run a little deeper than pop, there is Flash, located on Florida Ave. Like Music Hall, Flash could be considered an “underground” venue, albeit one that rises three stories into the air. The main draw, its second floor lined with LED lights and faux flashbulb lights, consistently books acts who may be unknown in the larger cultural sphere but are titans within their respective genres. This includes, but is far from limited to the likes of The Black Madonna, Chicago house pioneer DJ Sneak and the D.C.-based Benoit & Sergio.

When done right, a night of dance music can be much more than something designed solely to occupy the wee hours: it can be relieving, revelatory and reinvigorating in equal measure. Fortunately, Music Hall and Flash exist to fill a hole in people’s lives that many didn’t realize they had.

Originally posted November 4, 2016

Storming of the Bastille

By Mona Mirmortazavi

This weekend, my roommates planned a great trip to Gettysburg to experience one of the most powerful moments in American history and appreciate the multitude of President Lincoln statues.  It’s a truly humbling experience, rich with history, and makes you think about how, after all we’ve been through, the US still remains divided today.

But I went to a concert instead because it’s much more fun and way less educational.

Over the summer, the London-based band Bastille announced their sophomore album, Wild World, after three years of waiting, and a mini-tour along with it.  Originally, the tour was supposed to go to three cities in the US, one of which was in Colorado.  Being a Colorado native, I was so excited – but that lasted for less than a second, as I realized that it would be in October, and I would be in DC doing the WMI program for the semester.  I seriously considered postponing my relocation to DC because of this.

I didn’t end up doing that because it’s a ridiculous reason to delay moving to a different city.  And then, as if to reward me for not making a colossal mistake, Bastille announced a few more dates, and one was in DC.  Thank you, concert gods.

While DC is usually a ghost town on the weekends everywhere but the National Mall, 1,200 people showed up to the 9:30 Club to witness one of my favorite performers. Thankfully, the venue is so small that it didn’t matter, and you could get a great view regardless of where you were.

The band was incredible, but that’s nothing new.  I have seen Bastille three times now, and they never disappoint.  The entire band wants you to be involved, not just standing and nodding along.  They want you to scream the words, clap and jump along all night.  They ended the concert with a rendition of Pompeii, their usual closing song, and I’ve never experienced so much pure joy before from a crowd.
The next day, Bastille announced their full tour for Wild World, starting in March.  None of them are in Colorado, but who knows, maybe I’ll avoid making a colossal mistake and get to see them again.

Originally posted October 20, 2016