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Social Agenda of Feb. 12

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Friday, Feb. 12

Gay organist David Christopher plays a free recital today at 12:15 p.m. at National City Christian Church as part of its “Magical, Mystical, Musical Machine” organ recital series. Organists Stephen Harouff and NCCC’s Charles Miller, who are both gay, play on the 19th and 26th respectively. The recitals are a half hour each. The church is at 5 Thomas Circle, N.W.

Apex has a Mardi Gras party tonight with a costume contest, balloon drop, prizes and “King of Apex” contest. Beads and masks will be given out. DJ Yainnis spins. Doors open at 9. Cover is $6. The club is located at 1415 22nd St., N.W. Visit www.apex-dc.com for more information.

Women in their Twenties meets at the D.C. Center tonight at 8. The group is a social discussion group for lesbian, bi and trans D.C.-area women. Discussions are followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant. The Center is located at 1810 14th St., N.W.

Saturday, Feb. 13

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the District’s largest mostly gay church, has its annual Valentine’s dance tonight at 7 p.m. at the church. Refreshments will be served. A $7 donation is suggested. Call 202-638-7373 or e-mail [email protected] for more information. The church is located at 474 Ridge St., N.W.

“Love,” a concert by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, is today with shows at 5 and 8 p.m. at Church of the Epiphany located at 1317 G Street N.W. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at www.gmcw.org/tickets, by phone at 202-293-1548 or at the HRC shop at 1633 Connecticut Ave., N.W. The concert will feature a chorus transcription of Brahm’s “Liebeslieder Waltzes” by chorus member Robert T. Boaz and a performance by the Rock Creek Singers, a chamber ensemble of Chorus members.

The 38th annual Scarlet’s Bake Sale is today at the Eagle, which is co-sponsoring the event with Green Lantern, another D.C. gay bar. Cake donations will be accepted from 2 to 4 p.m. They’ll be auctioned off from 5 to 9 p.m. Awards will be given for various categories. Several gay non-profits will receive proceeds. The Eagle is at 639 New York Ave., N.W. For more information, call Stephen Decker at 202-210-7553 or Patrick Grady at 703-863-7295.

DJ Scotty Thompson is at Town tonight and a Universal Gear fashion show will be held. Doors open at 10. Drag show starts at 10:30. DJ Wess spins downstairs. Cover is $8 from 10 to 11 p.m. and $12 after 11. Town is at 2009 8th Street, N.W.

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer group, volunteers from 9:30 a.m. to noon today for Books Plus at MLK Library and later in the week at D.C. Central Kitchen, Human Rights Campaign, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and more. Visit www.burgundycrescent.org for a schedule of opportunities or to register to volunteer.

Sunday, Feb. 14

A gay alumni group of George Mason University, the Lambda Alumni Chapter, is participating in the school’s homecoming festivities today and throughout the week. Contact Rob Pilaud at [email protected] or 202-258-5476 for more information.

Local drag queen Shi-Queeta Lee hosts drag brunch every Sunday at Nellie’s Sports Bar, located at 900 U Street, N.W. Brunch buffet is $20. Miss Lee performs at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Visit www.nelliessportsbar.com for more information.

Monday, Feb. 15

A youth support group for gay, lesbian and bi teens meets today from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the GW Center Clinic located at 1922 F St., N.W., suite 103. It’s designed to be a safe space for young adults to discuss coming out, discrimination, identity and other issues. It meets every Monday and is facilitated by Sonia Khan, a psychology grad student. Fees for therapy and the group are on a sliding scale.

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the District’s largest mostly gay church, has an HIV-positive support group for people of faith every Monday at the church. For more information, contact Matt Senger at 202-546-2159 or e-mail him at [email protected] MCC-DC is located at 474 Ridge Street, N.W. Visit www.mccdc.com for more information about the church.

Freddie’s Beach Bar, located at 555 S. 23rd St. in Crystal City, Va., has disco trivia every Monday at 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 16

The United ENDA Coalition meets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force headquarters to encourage LGBT supporters to help pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Training and pizza are provided. The Task Force is at 1325 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., sixth floor. For more information, contact Aaditi Dubale at [email protected]

D.C.’s HIV Working Group assembles safer sex kits with its “packing parties” every Tuesday at EFN Lounge. Those who volunteer their time get drink discounts. The events are held from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at Motley Bar, located above EFN, which is at 1318 9th St., N.W. Visit www.fighthivindc.org for more information.

Cobalt has “Flashback,” a retro night, every Tuesday at 10 p.m. Rail vodka drinks are free from 10 to 11 p.m. Cobalt, a gay bar and dance club, is at the corner of 17th and R streets, N.W.

Wednesday, Feb. 17

Tegan and Sara, a band comprised of lesbian twins, play Warner Theatre tonight. Tickets are $33. Visit www.ticketmaster.com for tickets.

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the District’s largest mostly gay church, has Ash Wednesday services today at noon and 7 p.m. at the church, which is located at 474 Ridge Street, N.W.

The D.C. Center has LGBT career development with Washington-specific information today from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Center’s new location at 1810 14th St., N.W.

Ladies First night is tonight and every Wednesday at Fab Lounge, located at 1805 Connecticut Ave., N.W. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/ladiesfirst.

Thursday, Feb. 18

D.C. Lambda Squares, a local gay square dancing group, meets every Thursday for square dancing. Those who’ve taken the group’s “Mainstream” and “Plus” classes dance on the first and third Thursdays. “Plus” and “Advanced” classes are on the second and fourth Thursdays. For more information about the group or to find out when beginner classes are available, visit www.dclambdasquares.org.

Friday, Feb. 19

Bet Mishpachah, a gay synagogue located at the D.C. JCC at 16th and Q streets, N.W., holds Ereve Shabbat services every Friday at 8:30 p.m. followed by an Oneg Shabbat social. Morning services are held on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month at 10 a.m. followed by Kiddush luncheon. Visit www.betmish.org for more information.

Gay District meets tonight. The group was formerly known as the Twenties Group but has expanded its age range for gay, bi, trans and questioning men from 18 to 35. The group meets for weekly discussion from 8:30 to 9:30 every Friday at St. Margaret’s Church located at 1830 Connecticut Ave. Members dine afterwards then go dancing. The group is changing its contact information but for now, those interested can visit the group on Facebook under the name “GD: Gay District.”

A new Friday night drag show at Ziegfeld’s has started with a new hostess. The Ladies of Illusion hosted by Kristina Kelly has performances every Friday at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Ziegfeld’s is celebrating its one-year anniversary this weekend.

Saturday, Feb. 20

A concert by members of D.C.’s Different Drummers, a gay ensemble, called “Intimate Winds” is today at 2 p.m. in the Adirondack Room at Hillwood Museum Estate. Fischer Tull’s “Liturgical Symphony,” Richard Strauss’ “Serenade,” and more will be performed. Tickets are $20 ($10 for seniors and students) and are available at the door. Visit www.dcdd.org for more information.

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Photos

PHOTOS: High Heel Race

Spectators cheered along drag queen contestants for the 24th annual event

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@dragqueenathena and Dan won the 24th annual High Heel Race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 34th annual High Heel Race was held along 17th Street on Oct. 26. The winners this year were @dragqueenathena and “Dan.” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee and members of the D.C. Council joined drag queen contestants and hundreds of spectators for the event.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Movies

New music documentary is ‘Velvet’ perfection

A piece of pure cinema that exemplifies its genre while transcending it

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The Velvet Underground (Photo courtesy of Apple TV)

When it comes to great music documentaries – the ones that stick with you after you watch and make you want to come back to them again and again – there is one ingredient that stands out as a common thread: immediacy.

From D.A. Pennebaker’s fly-on-the-wall chronicle of young Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK in “Don’t Look Back,” to Martin Scorcese’s joyful document of The Band’s final concert performance in “The Last Waltz,” to Jonathan Demme’s thrilling cinematic rendering of the Talking Heads in performance at the peak of their creative genius in “Stop Making Sense,” all of these now-revered films have endured – indeed, even grown – in popularity over the years because they captured the talent, the personality, and the power of their subjects on celluloid and preserved it for the ages, allowing generations of audiences, fans and soon-to-be-fans alike, to feel as if they were there.

But none, perhaps, have ever done it quite so viscerally as Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground.” This is a remarkable feat when you consider that the films listed above, as well as most of the other highly regarded “rockumentaries” of the past, were all concert films, showing the performers at their center in the full bloom of their musical gifts, and Haynes’ film is not that. It’s something else, something singular, a piece of pure cinema that exemplifies its genre while transcending it entirely.

The basic outline of the band’s story is well known, now. Coalesced in the early ‘60s New York art scene around a pair of charismatic geniuses (John Cale and Lou Reed), the Velvet Underground was swept into the orbit and under the wing of Andy Warhol, who turned them into the house band at his famous “Factory,” added to their mix an exotic European chanteuse named Nico, and launched their record career by producing their first album – and designing an instantly iconic cover for it featuring a banana, to boot. They were, for a while, the darlings of the New York underground set, birthing a handful of additional albums across the latter years of the decade; but their sound, which was experimental, rough, and a far cry from the flower-power sound being embraced within the status quo of Middle American music fans, did not catch on. That, combined with the volatility of the relationships at its core, ensured an ignoble and unsung dissolution for the band; though its two front men went on to forge expansive solo careers on their own, the Velvets themselves remained a kind of blip, an ephemeral presence in the history of rock – and the history of New York – remembered by anyone who wasn’t actually on the scene as nothing more than a buzzy band they never actually heard with a catchy name and a familiar album cover.

As one of the voice-over interviewees in Haynes’ movie points out, however, the counterculture wasn’t actually the counterculture – it was the culture. The rest of the world just didn’t know it yet. Decades later the Velvet Underground is credited with, among other things, providing early inspiration for what would become the punk rock movement, to say nothing of influencing the aesthetic palate of (surely without exaggeration) thousands of musicians who would go on to make great music themselves – often sounding nothing like the Velvets, but somehow cut from the same raw, edgy, white-hot honest cloth, nonetheless. Yet in their moment, they were doomed before they had even begun to become a sideshow attraction, hurling performative realness in the face of a curious-but-disinterested glitterati crowd that was already embodying the superficial fakeness that would be so aptly monikered, both as an ethos and a watchword, as “Plastics” by Buck Henry and Mike Nichols in “The Graduate” barely a year after their first album was pressed.

Frankly, it’s the kind of story that makes for a perfect rock ‘n roll legend, and the kind of legend that deserves to be explored in a film that befits its almost mythic, archetypal underpinnings. There’s nobody more qualified to deliver that film than Todd Haynes.

Haynes, of course, is a pioneer of the ‘90s “New Queer Cinema,” whose body of work has maintained a consistent yet multi-faceted focus on key themes that include outsider-ism, dysfunctional socialization, and the fluid nature of sexuality and gender. Each and any of these interests would be enough to make him a perfect fit as the person to tell the story of the Velvet Underground, but what gives him the ability to make it a masterpiece is his ongoing fascination with music and nostalgia. Beginning with his controversial debut short “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story,” the musical landscape of his formative years has been inseparable from his milieu, and films such as his glam-rock fantasia “Velvet Goldmine” or his post-modernist Dylan biopic “I’m Not There” have dotted his career like cornerstones. Likewise, his painstaking recreation of the past in period pieces like “Far From Heaven,” “Carol,” or “Wonderstruck” has proven his ability not just to capture the look and feel of a bygone era, but to transport audiences right back into it.

In “The Velvet Underground,” it’s more like he transports the era to the audience. His comprehensive chronicle is not just the story of the band or its members, but the story of the time and place that allowed them to exist, in which a generation waking up from the toxic artificiality of their parents’ “American Dream” took creative control of the future through an unprecedented explosion of art and culture. Art was a by-any-means-necessary endeavor that now demanded a fluency across various forms of media, and a blending together of any and every thing that worked to get the message across. And yes, sometimes the media itself was the message, but even within that depressingly superficial reality was room for an infinite layering of style and substance that could take your breath away.

That description of the era in which the Velvet Underground thrived, in which Andy Warhol turned the shallow into the profound (whether he knew it or not), in which music and film and photography and poetry and painting and every other form of expression blended together in a heady and world-changing whirlwind, is also the perfect description of Haynes’ film. Yes, there are famous veterans of the age sharing their memories and their insights, yes there is copious archival footage (including the godsend of Warhol’s filmed portraits of the legendary faces in his orbit), yes we get to hear about Lou Reed’s struggle with his sexual identity – and it’s refreshing that Haynes makes no effort to categorize or finalize that aspect of the rock legend’s persona, but merely lets it be a fact. But even though “The Velvet Underground” checks off all the boxes to be a documentary, it’s something much more. Thanks to Haynes’ seamless blend of visuals, words, history, and – always and above all – music, it’s a total sensory experience, which deserves to be seen in a theater whether you subscribe to Apple TV or not. It puts you right in the middle of a world that still casts a huge shadow on our culture today.

And it’s unforgettable.

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Photos

PHOTOS: Best Of LGBTQ DC party

Blade’s 20th annual awards celebrated at Hook Hall

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Cake performs at the Best of LGBTQ D.C. Awards Party on Oct. 21. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade presented the 20th annual Best of LGBTQ D.C. Awards at a party at Hook Hall on Thursday, Oct. 21. To view this year’s winners, click here.

Event sponsored by Absolut, DC Brau and Washington Regional Transplant Community.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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