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Forever Young

Cross-country moves, new projects and a ‘Real Housewives’ romance among DJ’s adventures

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Lesbian DJ Tracy Young spins at Cobalt Friday. (Photo courtesy of Grubman PR)

Editor’s note: ‘Tonight’ in this story refers to Friday, Feb. 4, the Blade’s street publication date.

Tracy Young at Cobalt
Tonight (Friday)
10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Cover: $8
1639 R St., N.W.

The last time we spoke to DJ Tracy Young, she was sitting in a cafe in Miami. Today, she’s in her apartment in Chelsea, N.Y., with a sore throat, dreading the upcoming storm that’s supposed to drop 20 more inches of snow.

Her dog Rocco fights for her attention during a phone interview.

“I want to go back to Miami,” she says, laughing.

She’s not moving to the Sunshine State just yet. Tonight she’s returning to D.C. and will spin at Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.), one of the first places she worked as a DJ.

Young is originally from the D.C. area. She graduated from T.C. Williams High School and then University of Maryland in 1998 with a degree in communications. Her first DJ gig was for a hip-hop radio station in D.C., WPGC.

It’s been at least 15 years since Young last played the club.

“And I cannot wait,” she says, adding that it’s crazy how long it’s been.

“I was visiting Fort Lauderdale along with my boyfriend Stephen and I picked up a gay rag and there was a huge spread on Tracy,” says Mark Rutstein, manager of Cobalt, on how the event came to be. “I somehow forgot about her since she hasn’t performed in D.C. in years.”

The last time Young was in the area was two years ago when she performed at Town, a larger venue than Cobalt. She says you reach a different audience at smaller venues than you do the large ones.

“Young is a legend in the dance community,” Rutstein says.  “Cobalt doesn’t get a chance to bring in talent like Tracy very often because of our size restrictions.”

Level One will be open so there will be three floors tonight, all with Young’s music being piped through the speakers. Cobalt will have its usual free vodka drinks from 11 p.m. to midnight and Rutstein suggests people get there before 11 to avoid the line.

It’s been a strange couple of years for Young.

She’s made two cross-country moves.

After living in Miami for a while, she and her then-partner moved to Los Angeles. That relationship ended and Young didn’t want to be there anymore, so she moved to New York. Luckily, Young likes to travel.

“I get tired of it, but I feel like a loser when I don’t,” she says. “It’s nice to go to places I haven’t been before.”

She’s also been the topic of tabloids and celebrity gossip.

“I don’t know why that became such a big deal,” Young says about her relationship with “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kim Zolciak.

The pair was rumored to be having a relationship after Young worked with the Housewife on her song, “Tardy for the Party.” Two years ago, Young did not want to talk about the relationship, but now she’s more than willing to talk about most aspects, except how it ended, only saying it didn’t end on a good note.

Young says Zolciak was the one who leaked their relationship to the papers and called her a liar.

“Being gay is hard enough,” she says, adding that Zolciak had the additional pressures of having children and being in the spotlight because of “Real Housewives.”

Young had just broken up with someone whom she had really cared for and, while she says they had something real at the time, she thinks Zolciak was a distraction.

“For lack of a better term, a rebound,” she says. “I don’t regret it. She did put a smile on my face.”

Young has since moved on, saying her life has calmed down quite a bit and she’s just focusing on music right now.

“I do wish her the best,” she says. “I don’t dislike her … I just want different things out of life.”

Young has several projects in the works, including an original album, which she hopes to have for release in the fall.

“When you have an original production, you can be a little more creative,” Young says, since with remixes — from which she gained fame — a lot of things are already set such as the vocals.

There are a lot of people she wants to work with on her album and they span different genres.

“I kind of go all over the board,” she says, after listing Sarah McLachlan, Macy Gray, Nicki Minaj and Eminem as performers she’d like to work with on this project. “Eminem is a genius.”

Young wants to combine dance and hip-hop. She’s still creating remixes, including one she just completed of Britney Spears’ new song, “Hold It Against Me.” One song Young thinks is great and would love to remix is Pink’s newest single, “Fuckin’ Perfect.”

“I love working with female artists,” she says. She gravitates toward them more because of how the vocals sound and work on the dance floor.

How does Young feel about being able to work with such big names like Spears and Madonna?

“It’s such a crazy honor,” she says. “I think I’m very lucky.”

Young won’t come right out and say it’s her talent that has gotten her as far as she has, but a combination of talent, luck, hard work and being in the right place at the right time. Visitors to her website, tracyyoung.com, can listen to weekly podcasts she puts together, which can also be found on iTunes.  Fans can also follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/djtracyyoung.

Young has even started a weekly radio show on Thursday on Sirius’s Electric Area. The show airs from midnight to 3 a.m. But that’s still not it for the DJ. She’s also working on a book and is gathering information for it now.

“I love reading autobiographies,” Young says, listing Ozzy Osbourne and Keith Richards as recent reads.

“One thing I regret is not journaling over my career,” she says.  “All these things happened and I just didn’t document it.”

Young does have all the press clippings from throughout her career.

“My life has been crazy,” she says. “Nothing is normal in my life.”

When anything exciting happens now, she journals it. She doesn’t know if she’ll release the book or if it’ll be something she does just for herself, but one thing is certain.

“I’ve grown a lot from gathering this information,” she says.  “It’s healing.”

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Music & Concerts

Washington Arts Ensemble to host immersive concert

Creating a dialogue with D.C.’s history and culture

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The Washington Arts Ensemble will host an immersive concert experience on Saturday, June 18 at 7 p.m. at Dupont Underground.

This concert will show how distinct genres influence pop culture and articulate the commonality between classical, jazz, and electronic music while creating a dialogue with D.C.’s history and culture.

Some of the works that will be performed include “Switched-On Bach selections” by Wendy Carlos, “The Swan” from The Carnival of the Animals by Camile Saint-Saens, among other works.

Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased on the Washington Arts Ensemble’s website

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Music & Concerts

John Levengood releases anthem “Say Gay!” to protest discrimination

Slated to perform new song at 2022 Capital Pride Festival in June

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Recording artist John Levengood’s latest song ‘Say Gay!’ is out Friday. (Photo courtesy Levengood)

“Say gay! Say gay! Say gay!
“Say what? Say what?
“One little law won’t shut us up!”

Slated for digital release this Friday, recording artist John Levengood’s latest song “Say Gay!” confronts anti-LGBTQ legislation such as the “Don’t Say Gay” law by encouraging others to “profess their queerness loudly, proudly, and never in the shadows,” Levengood said in a press release shared with the Blade on Tuesday.

On June 12, Levengood is set to perform the song’s live debut at the 2022 Capital Pride Festival in Washington, D.C., to streets teeming with community members, food trucks, and local vendors, according to the press release.

“The rise in oppressive legislation and proposals have many in the LGBTQ+ community alarmed,” the press release says. Levengood “hopes this song can be used as a metaphorical weapon to blast holes in the argument that teaching children about acceptance and diversity is more appropriate at home than school.”

The bill, enacted by the Florida Legislature earlier this year but not yet in force, would limit teachers’ ability to teach LGBTQ topics in some school settings and obligate school officials to disclose students’ sexual orientation and gender identity to their parents upon request.

A D.C. resident himself, Levengood currently works over the weekends as resident host and karaoke emcee at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, Va., an LGBTQ bar and restaurant.

Levengood is no stranger to the music scene, in 2013 moving through multiple rounds of auditions for the third season of “The X Factor” before coming up short of formally appearing on the show, according to the release.

Growing up in the Shenandoah Valley of rural Virginia, the press release added that music has been an outlet for Levengood to express himself from an early age. The new song marks his seventh musical release.

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Music & Concerts

Tori Amos spins magic at Sunday night D.C.-area concert

First show in the area since ’17 finds Gen X icon vocally subdued but musically energized

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As with many veteran rock stars, it’s sometimes hard to get a handle on how hot or cold Tori Amos’s 30-year-old solo career is at the moment. It sometimes seems like she’s moving past the take-her-for-granted-because-she’s-never-away-for-long phase, and there certainly was that sense in the air Sunday night for her D.C.-area stop of her current “Ocean to Ocean Tour,” her first show here since 2017, which, with COVID, feels like a lifetime ago.

But there are also signs that it’s never been chillier for Amos in the overall pop culture landscape. It’s been a decade since she charted a single on any chart and there were no videos or singles from her “Ocean to Ocean” album last fall. It landed just outside the top 100 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album sales chart altogether, a new low that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago when her “regular” (i.e. non-specialty/concept) albums were almost guaranteed a top 10 debut. 

The slide has been swift, too: 2014’s “Unrepentant Geraldines” hit No. 7, the next album (2017’s polarizing “Native Invader”) only made it to 39, then came “Ocean’s” thud at no. 104. There’s a lot you could point to to explain it — streaming, her aging Gen X fan base, the endless undulations of the music industry itself — but in some ways it has started to feel like she’s getting less and less return on her artistic dollar than one would expect. 

Yeah, that always happens with veteran female pop stars once they hit their 50s and beyond, but Amos and her small but mighty fan base, who for decades exhibited a devotion of Grateful Dead-like proportions, outran the trend for so long, to see it finally catching up is a bit bewildering.

But then you go hear her live at a decent-size venue like The Theater at MGM National Harbor (which seats 3,000 and was about 97 percent full), and it feels nearly like old times. Sure, some of the excitement was just that we’re all gagging at being at concerts at all and having mask restrictions and vaccine requirements paused, but there was an electricity that, while mellower than it was at Amos concerts in the ’90s, still felt magical. I’ve never in my life seen so long a line for the merch table.

The concert itself was, for the most part, sublime. It was the first time since 2009 she’s toured with a band and while her solo shows are great too, there was pent-up yearning to hear her unleash full-on with a solid rhythm section (Jon Evans on bass, Ash Soan on drums) again. Beat-heavy songs like “Raspberry Swirl” and “Cornflake Girl” sounded tepid with canned beats the last few times out, so to hear everything truly live (save a few BGVs and effects) last night was heavenly.

It was Gen X queer night out Sunday night at the Theater at MGM National Harbor for Tori Amos’s first concert here since 2017. (Photo by Desmond Murray; courtesy Girlie Action)

The show had special poignancy too, as Amos grew up in the region. She has written and commented heavily on the immense toll her mother’s 2019 death took on her personally and artistically, so that the date happened to be Mother’s Day gave the proceedings added gravitas. “Mother Revolution” and “Jackie’s Strength” spoke, of course, to the holiday, though (and this is quibbling) I would have vastly preferred “Mother” from “Little Earthquakes,” a deep cut we haven’t heard live in eons. 

Tori Amos (Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

Highlights included the slinky, rhythm-loopy opener “Juarez”; “Ocean to Ocean,” one of three cuts performed from the new record, which shimmered with Philip Glass-like piano arpeggios; the vampy, slinky interplay between the three musicians on “Mother Revolution”; and unexpected fan favorite “Spring Haze.” Amos, overall, is varying up the set list quite a bit less than is her norm, so it was one of the few surprises of the evening. 

The lengths of several of the songs were drawn out considerably. At times — “A Sorta Fairytale,” the aforementioned “Revolution” — that worked well and gave the band time to languidly jam. At other points, it felt a bit self-indulgent and even slightly boring — as on “Sweet Sangria” and “Liquid Diamonds.” 

“Russia,” a bonus cut from the last album, sounded just how it did when Amos performed it here in 2017, but took on added resonance because of current events. Closing line “Is Stalin on your shoulder” was chilling.

Overall, the show — lighting, pacing, everything — largely worked. The sound mix, which fans have said has been muddy at some venues recently on the tour, was pristine. Pacing only lagged a few times in some of the mid-tempo cuts from later albums, but just when you felt some were zoning — the flow of those entering and exiting is a good barometer — Amos whipped things back together with a fan favorite like “Past the Mission” or “Spring Haze.”

It all came to a satisfying, audience-friendly climax with “Cornflake Girl,” then the two encore cuts, “Precious Things” and “Tear in Your Hand,” both from the first album. 

Vocally, the range was there and sounded lovely, but the oomph was considerably held back. Vocal preservation for the many dates ahead? Probably. It’s understandable. Amos, at 58, may lack the stamina she had 20 years ago, but it did feel underwhelming in passages that in years past would have been full on, balls out like the “Bliss” bridge or the “nine-inch nails” passage from “Precious Things.” 

Not one acknowledgment or mention by Amos of the female folk duo openers Companion. I’d have invited them out for a few numbers to sing BGVs. I mean, heck, they’re in the house, why not? And other than the welcome, a brief soliloquy on Mother’s Day was the only Amos comment of the entire night. 

Still Amos never came off as aloof. She seemed genuinely excited to be playing live again and the queer-heavy crowd responded in kind. 

Tori Amos (Blade photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)
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