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Deborah Cox anxious to reconnect with local gay fans

Singer, actress to perform at Town next weekend

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R&B sensation Deborah Cox will perform at Town next weekend as part of Cherry Weekend. (Copyright 2010, Deco Entertainment. All rights reserved)

Many young, up-and-coming musical sensations get their start thanks to overzealous parents forcing them into the industry. Not so for chart-topping singer and actress Deborah Cox. Her interest in the business came from a genuine love of music.

Cox was born in Scarborough, Toronto, and she was singing in TV commercials at age 12 and performing in talent shows. In her teens, Cox began performing in nightclubs and was writing her own music. For a short period of time in the early 1990s, Cox continued her musical career as a backup vocalist for Celine Dion. In 1994, she realized that to advance her career, she would need to move to Los Angeles with her producer/songwriting partner, Lascelles Stephens.

The legendary Clive Davis signed her to Arista Records in 1995 and she released her self-titled debut album that year. It wasn’t until 1998 that the release of her album “One Wish” brought Cox huge pop success with the release of the album’s first single “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here.” The song spent 14 weeks at #1 on the Hot R&B charts in the U.S., as well as eight consecutive weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album went platinum, becoming Cox’s biggest-selling album to date.

Deborah Cox has enjoyed a career that has produced multiple chart-topping hits and a Broadway debut in the Elton John-Tim Rice musical “AIDA” in 2004. In addition, she has shown her commitment to her gay fans as part of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors Tour” in 2008 and she performed at last year’s Delaware Pride celebration in Rehoboth. Cox will be making a not-to-be missed appearance at Town Danceboutique, 2009 8th St., N.W., for the Cherry Fund sanctioned event “Town Presents Deborah Cox w/ DJ Ed Bailey” on April 10. The event starts at 9 p.m. with an entry fee of $25 and the event is for ages 21 and over.

The DC Agenda talked to Cox about her career and her musical influences.

DC Agenda: You started your career at age 12. What was the pressure like starting at such a young age?

Deborah Cox: I don’t remember there being much pressure. When I started, I was having a lot of fun, working with a lot of great people. I always found the business part to be the most challenging; like when it came time to find people to represent me, it was about finding people to trust, who had the same vision. Fortunately, I found those people at an early age and I was able to move forward.

DC Agenda: You began writing music as a teenager. What was your source of inspiration?

Cox: I have always listened to a lot of different artists. I have been greatly influenced by gospel music and artists like Yolanda Adams, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. Those were the ones who really stood out in my mind; they really provided inspiration.

DC Agenda: What was your impression of Los Angeles having moved from Canada to pursue your career?

Cox: My initial impression of Los Angeles was that everybody was really nice. It wasn’t a genuine nice though, it was the kind of nice that you could tell there was a motive behind it. Friendly with a motive you could say. Fortunately, I was able to sift through everyone and find the real genuine people. Now that I’m away from L.A., I have so many friends I miss back there, and some great memories of the city.

DC Agenda: What was your impression of the legendary Clive Davis and how were you treated by Arista Records?

Cox: To me it was like the law of attraction. Throughout my career, so many things have happened to me based on what I’ve focused on, what I believe in, so teaming up with Clive Davis on the first go around made perfect sense. My mentor growing up was Whitney Houston and I believed so much in her talent, her gift and her voice; Clive must have heard something similar in me as he did with Whitney. Clive is a consummate song man; he lives for the music, and is totally driven by the people and vocalists that he loves. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn a lot of this business from him.

DC Agenda: “Beautiful U R” peaked at #3 on the Canadian Hot AC Chart in January 2009 and hit #1 on the U.S. dance chart, becoming your 10th song to do so. It included lyrics such as, “It takes time/Don’t have all the answers/No matter how hard it gets/Hold on to what’s inside” and “Don’t never let nobody tear your world apart/Look in the mirror and see who you are/Beautiful U R.” Why do you think the song proved so popular?

Cox: I think “Beautiful U R” was one of those songs that really resonated with the core of women. It came from the perspective that I’ve felt for a long time that during hard times you sometimes need to lean on yourself, and try and find a way through any negativity going on and really love yourself no matter what. You can’t wait for validation from the world, and that is hard sometimes for women because we are expected to do and be so much for so many people that at times we forget about ourselves. I also believe “Beautiful U R” branched off beyond women and spoke to everybody. Anyone can find a song that they can totally relate to.

DC Agenda: What projects are you working on now?

Cox: I’m currently working on my new album and I’m also preparing to be on Broadway in the role of Josephine Baker in “JOSEPHINE.”

DC Agenda: You made your Broadway debut in the Elton John-Tim Rice musical “AIDA.” What was that experience like?

Cox: I’ve been a fan of Elton John’s music for a long time; I love his songs, the lyrics and music. Elton has had a very colorful career, and I think his music is very diverse. I’ve always clung to artists who have an amazing time being very diverse, and Elton definitely is. Playing the role of Aida was definitely the opportunity of a lifetime because the songs are just so moving and I felt a lot of passion singing them.

DC Agenda: You will be appearing in D.C. at Town Danceboutique. What should your fans expect?

Cox: It’s definitely going to be high energy. I haven’t been to D.C. in a while so it’s going to be really exciting to see all my fans and reconnect with all of them. I really do love my fans so it is so exciting to get to connect one on one. I get such an adrenaline rush from performing in front of an audience, so I can’t wait to be back in D.C.

Deborah Cox lives in Miami. She is married to her manager, Lascelles Stephens. They have three children, Isaiah, Sumayah and Kaila Michelle.

Cherry Weekend event schedule

Cherry Weekend, the annual charitable lineup of gay parties and other events, arrives next week and runs from April 8-11. For full details and to purchase tickets, visit cherryfund.org. Events benefit HIV/AIDS youth service organizations. Full coverage in next week’s DC Agenda.

A partial schedule of events:

April 8: Opening party with DJ Jason Royce at Mova, 1435 P St., N.W., 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Admission is free, 21+

April 9: Dark Cherry emceed by Tim Woody at EFN Lounge, 1318 9th St., N.W., 5:30-9:30 p.m. 21+

April 9: Friday Night Party w/ DJ Alyson Calagna and opening DJ Jason Horswill at Apex, 1415 22nd St., N.W., 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Cover is $11; 18+
April 10: Moody Mia (Moody’s Birthday Party) with Joe Gauthreaux at Town, 2009 8th St., N.W., 2-7 p.m. 21+

April 10: Town Presents Deborah Cox with DJ Ed Bailey at Town, 2009 8th St., N.W., 9 p.m.-4 a.m. Cover is $25, 21+

April 11: Sunday Morning Party with DJ Susan Morabito at Cobalt, 1639 R St., N.W., 4:30-9:30 a.m. Cover is $15, 21+
April 11: Sunday Closing Party with DJ Abel and opening DJ tim e at Town, 2009 8th St., N.W., 8:30-1:30 a.m. Cover is $20, 21+

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Music & Concerts

The Atlantis to showcase musical legends of tomorrow

New venue, a near replica of original 9:30 Club, opens next month

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A look at the interior of the original 9:30 club. (Photo public domain/Library of Congress)

A new nirvana for music fans opens next month adjacent to the 9:30 Club. Dubbed The Atlantis, this intimate venue embraces a 450-person capacity – and pays homage as a near-replica of the original 9:30 Club.

The $10 million venue comes courtesy of I.M.P., the independent promoter that owns and operates the 9:30 Club and The Anthem, and operates The Lincoln Theatre and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The Foo Fighters will inaugurate The Atlantis on May 30, which is also the 9:30 Club’s anniversary. Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl, during a concert in 2021, kicked off speculation that I.M.P was planning to open a new venue, noting that, “We’ll probably be the band that opens that place, too, right?”

Other big names on the inaugural 44-show run roster: Franz Ferdinand, Barenaked Ladies, Third Eye Blind, Spoon, and Billy Idol.

To thwart scalpers, The Atlantis utilized a request system for the first 44 shows when they went on sale two weeks ago. Within four days of the announcement, fans had requested more than 520,000 tickets, many times more than the total 19,800 available. All tickets have been allocated; fans who were unable to snag tickets can attempt to do so in May, when a fan-to-fan ticket exchange opens.

While I.M.P. oversees multiple larger venues, “We’ve been doing our smallest shows in other peoples’ venues for too many years now,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. “We needed a place that’s ours. This can be the most exciting step in an artist’s career.”

The 9:30 Club holds 1,200 people, while The Anthem has space for up to 6,000.

“This will be where we help introduce new artists to the world… our smallest venue will be treated as important, if not more, than our bigger venues. If the stories are told right, both the artists and the fans begin their hopefully longterm relationship. Its stage will support bourgeoning artists and the legends of tomorrow,” Hurwitz said. Hurwitz and the team developed a tagline for the new venue: The Atlantis, Where Music Begins.

Hurwitz got his start at the original 9:30 Club, originally located at 930 F St., N.W. He was an independent booker of the club for the first six years and then he bought it, and managed the move from its original location to its current location in 1996. The venue first opened in 1980.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, I.M.P. communications director, provides further insight. “We were missing small venues in our umbrella. Big acts don’t start in stadiums. We need a place for emerging artists and for the community to discover new acts. The Atlantis can help new artists grow.”

While design elements are still coming into focus, Schaefer says that the space will be intimate, with almost no separation between the artist and the crowd. “There will be energy on both sides of the stage,” she says.

Although The Atlantis is set to be a replica of the original 9:30, I.M.P. has spared no expense. Schaefer notes that the sound and light systems use the latest available technologies, similar to next door at the current 9:30 Club.

The Atlantis takes over the footprint of now-closed Satellite Room. The venue will have at least two bars flanking the stage; cocktails but no food will be available.

Schaefer notes that since its early days, 9:30 Club and I.M.P. “has always been a place where people are welcome. People come and feel safe with us.” 9:30 Club has hosted several LGBTQ Pride parties, the BENT dance party series, and other events for LGBTQ patrons. Particular acts of note during the kickoff run include Tegan & Sarah and Tove Lo.

The Washington Blade was a neighbor to the 9:30 Club at its original F Street location back in the 1980s. Despite their proximity, noise wasn’t an issue for on deadline nights, when Blade staff worked late hours.

“We would of course work later hours back then,” said Phil Rockstroh, a longtime Blade staffer, in a 2016 Blade interview. “Everything was typeset and done by hand without computers and fax machines so getting through deadlines was much more time consuming.”

Rockstroh said the noise wasn’t a distraction.

“It wasn’t too bad as older buildings were constructed more solidly,” Rockstroh said. “There was only one entrance to the building and you entered so far to the elevator that went up to the other floors and then continued down the hall to the entrance to the 9:30 Club. Frequently at night if I was coming or going, there were people spilling out the doors.”

“The Blade has always had a friendly relationship with the 9:30 Club,” he added.

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Music & Concerts

National Philharmonic to perform classical, contemporary works

Violinist Melissa White returns

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The National Philharmonic will host “Beethoven’s 7th” on Saturday, April 15 at 8 p.m. at Strathmore.

Past and present will collide in this performance of contemporary works and classical masterpieces. Maestro Piotr Gajewski will direct Valerie Coleman’s “Umoja, Anthem for Unity for Orchestra” Violinist Melissa White will also return to the Philharmonic to perform Florence Price’s sweeping, melodic “Violin Concerto No. 2.”

Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased on the Philharmonic’s website.

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Music & Concerts

Bruce & Janet & John Legend, oh my!

Slew of iconic acts hitting the road after pandemic cancellations

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Janet Jackson is among the iconic acts touring this spring.

Pop and rock icons are releasing their pent-up pandemic frustrations by mounting huge tours this spring and summer. After three years of canceled and postponed shows, everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Janet Jackson is hitting the road at long last. But save your coins because the TicketMaster algorithms are driving ticket prices to astronomical highs. Here are a few highlights from D.C.-area venues this spring. Although some of the iconic acts aren’t coming until summer — Beyonce, Madonna, Pink — several others are hitting the road this spring.

ANTHEM
Betty Who plays March 10; Keyshia Cole headlines the All Black Extravaganza 20 Year Anniversary tour on March 18; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to town on May 3; Seal brings his world tour to town on May 10; and the beloved Pixies are back on the road with a new North American tour stopping here on June 10.

9:30 CLUB
Don’t miss Gimme Gimme Disco, an Abba dance party on March 18; Inzo arrives on March 31, followed by Bent on April 1; Ruston Kelly brings his The Weakness tour on April 17 along with Purr; The New Pornographers show on May 19 is sold out but there are tickets available for the May 20 show; The Walkmen have added a fourth show on May 23 because the other three shows are sold our;

CAPITAL ONE ARENA
Living legend Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back with a vengeance, playing one of four area shows on March 27. (They’re in Baltimore the night before.) If you missed out this time, don’t worry, Bruce is playing Nats Park in September as well as at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. April 1 brings the R&B Music Experience, including Xscape, Monica, Tamar Braxton, and 112. Blink-182 comes to town on May 23. And this summer watch for Sam Smith to continue his hot streak, bringing his “Gloria” tour to town on Aug.4.

JIFFY LUBE LIVE
Janet Jackson makes her highly anticipated return to the stage this spring, arriving in our area on May 6 along with guest Ludacris. The LGBTQ ally and icon has promised new music on her upcoming “Together Again Tour,” which follows the pandemic-related cancellation of her “Black Diamond Tour.” Jackson also plays Baltimore’s newly renovated CFG Bank Arena on May 13.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
John Legend plays two nights at Wolf Trap on June 2 and 3; Charlie Puth follows on June 4. Wolf Trap also hosts the Indigo Girls on June 7 just in time for Pride month. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Smithereens at the Birchmere on March 17. Fans of ‘80s alternative will be lined up for the Church also at the Birchmere at April 4, followed by Suzanne Vega on April 26. Amy Grant returns to the stage this spring and plays the Birchmere on May 2. Echostage plays host to a slew of buzz worthy shows this spring, including Ella Mai on April 8 and Fisher on May 12.

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