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Meshell’s magic

Neo-soul trendsetter to play Birchmere for first time in a decade



Meshell Ndegeocello
‘The Weather Tour’
The Birchmere
3701 Mount Vernon Ave.
Alexandria, VA
Tickets: SOLD OUT

Bi singer Meshell Ndegeocello is earning raves for her new album ‘Weather.’ (Photo by Charlie Gross)

It’s hard to say what the first thing that pops in someone’s head is when they hear Meshell Ndegeocello’s name — the John Mellencamp duet (“Wild Night”)? Her rap on Madonna’s “I’d Rather Be Your Lover”? Her endless soundtrack contributions? Or maybe her own memorable songs like “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” or “Leviticus: Faggot”?

Regardless, Ndegeocello has established an adventuresome, restless musical persona that gives one the impression she’s out at inner city music clubs into the wee hours every night in hot pursuit of something to sate her seemingly endless sonic wanderlust. But in reality the 43-year-old D.C.-area native is living happily in upstate New York with her wife of five years, Alison Riley, and their son who turned 2 this week.

Her new album “Weather” dropped this week and is earning raves. She left Thursday for a mini-tour that will bring her to the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday (it’s sold out) and also to Philadelphia and the Hiro Ballroom in New York. In January, she’ll resume with dates in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Minneapolis. This is first date at the Birchmere since Oct., 2001.

“She’s a very unique and gifted artist,” says Michael Jaworek, who booked her at the Birchmere. “Her jazz CD ‘Jamia’ always knocks me out.” (It’s a pretty gay month there — Kate Clinton, Chaka Khan and Four Bitchin’ Babes are slated for coming weeks.)

She exudes an easygoing and laid back vibe during a phone interview this week during which she discussed her new album, her philosophies of concert giving — don’t expect hits! — and her formative years in Washington.

“I’m enjoying my nice, settled married life,” Ndegeocello says with a soft chuckle. “It’s great up here. I can work here but if I need to go into New York (City), I can just hop on a train and be there two hours later.”

“Weather,” produced by Grammy winner Joe Henry (Aimee Mann, Solomon Burke, Ani DiFranco), was recorded in 10 days in Los Angeles, mostly because hotel accommodations are easier there. The quick pace — five days of music, five days of vocals — works well for her, she says.

“I think it enhances the immediacy of it,” Ndegeocello says. “I’m really comfortable with it. I still believe in live music and music that comes from your hands. I don’t want to sit around and edit myself in pro tools and make somebody’s idea of perfection. I’m really into the David Bowie productions in Germany, you know, really traditional instruments but played in a really modern way. That was my goal.”

The process has resulted in a low-key album a Washington Post review said incorporated “a palette of small, delicate sounds” used “to powerful effect.” It also noted, “the only constants in (her) 20-plus-year career … are brilliance and an output that dependably moves back and forth between experimental, critically acclaimed projects and more accessible, widely embraced work.”

That always forward-looking outlook has a huge impact on Ndegeocello’s live performances. She’s touring with a drummer, bass player and keyboardist. Ndegeocello, known for her bass playing, may do some bass work but is “trying to concentrate more on singing” this time out. She says she and her combo will likely play “Weather” in its entirety, but aren’t aiming to reproduce it live.

“See if you just want to hear that, then just go buy the record,” she says. “My goal is to get the best musicians and go out and have an open, live experience. I just have to have the audience opened to something new and us trying to bring something new to the music.”

But is that wise, when audiences are only just absorbing the new album, if they’ve had a chance to hear it yet at all? There’s no musical snottiness or self indulgence in her warm speaking voice when she explains, but the bottom line is, Ndegeocello doesn’t care nor does she apologize for her philosophies of concert giving.

“I hope some of these will be people’s favorite songs, but really it’s more about trying to bring them in and give them a good audible experience. … I’m hoping they’ll like these songs even if they don’t know the music. That’s my goal.”

Have more hits-oriented artists who often take audience requests and even encourage them, made it tough for more tradition-eschewing singers like Ndegeocello? And what does she do when fans yell out requests?

“It’s sad to say, but I usually just have to ignore it,” she says. “I try to just stay in a clear mindset and just move on and play the set. That’s the thing I think people sometimes don’t realize. We rehearsed. We have the songs we’ve learned and planned to play. I’m not a juke box. I just have to be extremely confident and move on.”

Ndegeocello says that’s not a dis to other artists who encourage fans to yell out requests.

“I’m just not that kind of artist,” she says. “If I was, and had connected with so many people in the zeitgeist, yeah, that’s incredible. I just never thought of myself as that way … I love David Bowie, but even he didn’t want to be Ziggy Stardust his whole life. I don’t think (requests) are rude, I really wish I could make everyone happy, but it just hasn’t worked out for me that way. I’m just always trying to find new things, to stay fresh and stay creative. Anyone who’s followed me will know that I’m more forward thinking and rarely like to revisit the past.”

Ndegeocello doesn’t mind a little looking back though, during our conversation. She remembers Washington fondly. She grew up more in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs — she still has family here — and cut her musical teeth on the local go-go scene and also by dancing in gay nightclubs.

“D.C. is really the reason I connect music to movement and dance,” she says. “I love seeing people experience music through their body. I love to see people dance and give them that momentary transcendance.”

Ndegeocello left Washington in 1989 and moved to Harlem, which she says was a much different vibe than the D.C. she was used to, mostly living just across the line of Southeast Washington. She says the city has changed drastically since her years living here.

“I think it’s changed in a lot of ways but some of it is me seeing it in a different way too,” she says. “It can be a harsh place, kind of a dark hole … sometimes it feel like the whole town is high. My experience in D.C. is like everybody is on something, whether it’s money, power or drugs.”

During her years with Maverick, Madonna’s now-defunct Warner Bros. subsidiary, Ndegeocello enjoyed being courted by various labels in something of a bidding war. She remembers a dinner meeting when she met Madonna and says they enjoyed a “really business-like affair.”

And there’s no great backstory on their collaboration.

“I just literally went into the office one day and they were like, ‘Could you put some bass lines on this and can you do it this week?’ It was no romantic thing, really.”

And yes, Madonna was there when Ndegeocello recorded her part.

“She’s very involved,” Ndegeocello says. “She’s always watching to see what happens in the studio, but there was also a very relaxed rapport.”

Ndegeocello, who’s bi, acknowledges her musical genre morphing and her gender and sexual fluidity are not mere coincidence.

“I’ve just never been like that,” she says. “I don’t even have favorite foods and stuff. I just try to take everything in as an experience, whether it’s gender or music. Sometimes I feel super femmed up and very mother earthy and sometimes I could just set everything on fire and be some war lord or prince. Sometimes I feel like a fabulous gay boy in San Francisco and some days I’m like some African queen. I’m able to cycle through them. Being any one thing, either in music or otherwise, has just never worked in my brain chemistry.”

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The evolution of the open house

The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished



From car giveaways in the 1950s to today’s QR codes and virtual events, agents have used diverse strategies to draw buyers to open houses.

In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.

The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.

Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool. 

Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day. 

Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.

The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well. 

Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.

Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.  

The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.

Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements. 

One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves. 

Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.

Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.

But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties. 

I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned. 

On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.

After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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D.C. homebuyers face hyper competitive market

Sellers in driver’s seat as region faces record low inventory



housing market, gay news, Washington Blade

With job growth rising during a period of aggressive government spending and historically low mortgage rates, the spring 2021 market sits at the lowest level of inventory since 1983.

Homebuyers in the D.C. area continue to face an incredibly competitive market. This is truly a seller’s market.

Lack of Inventory: Washington, D.C. has been in a gradually worsening housing shortage since the Great Recession. The area hasn’t had a six-month supply of homes for sale for almost 12 years. Now, we add a global pandemic that seriously altered what homeowners want out of their home, Wall Street on fire, and insanely low interest rates and we get a surge in motivated homebuyers.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the number of homes nationwide reached a record low in December 2020, with just 1.07 million properties on the market. The DC metro area is even worse off than the national average with only one month’s supply of homes. That means if new listings were completely dried up, there would be no homes available in four weeks. On average, D.C. homes have been selling within 11 days, which is 15 days faster than this time in 2020.

Seller’s Market: The time is now for Washington, D.C. homeowners to seriously consider selling their homes if they have played with the idea. Experts predict 2021 will be another strong housing market with an increase in demand from existing homebuyers in search of larger homes and buyers who delayed purchasing a home due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Zillow forecasts a nearly 30 percent annual growth in homes for sale in 2021. This would be the largest home sales growth since 1983. Zillow’s annual report stated, “Home price appreciation will reach its fastest pace since the Great Recession, as the inventory crunch continues to pit buyers against each other, competing for a scarce number of homes for sale.”

D.C.’s Current Market: According to the NAR, in March of 2021, D.C. home prices had increased 4.1% compared to March 2020, for a median price of $635,000. There were 1,004 homes sold in March 2021, an increase from 842 at this time last year.

We are seeing many homes receive multiple offers within just a few days in the D.C. area. The average home is selling a little above 1% of the listing price and many hot homes are seeing large bidding wars and selling for 3% or more above the listing price; 42.7% of D.C. homes sold above list price in March of 2021. That is a 13.4% increase from last year at this time. Active inventory for March of 2021 was 1,457 homes, down 9% from March 2020. March 2021 also saw 991 homes sell in the D.C. area, an increase of 31% from February of 2021. March 2021’s total homes sold had a 19% increase from March 2020.

Buying a Home: In the current seller’s market, buying a home can be like playing a chess match. You need to know the rules and be strategic. It can seem more like winning than purchasing a home right now. If you find a home you want to buy, chances are you won’t be the only one making an offer. It is a seller’s market everywhere in the country right now and D.C. is no different. Be sure you know what you qualify for and what you can afford.

Conclusion: The NAR and the Mortgage Bankers Association both project prices of existing homes to increase 5.9% in 2021. This may mean buyers will have to be more flexible than in the past. For example, making an offer contingent upon the sale of a current home may be harder than before. It’s also possible you will pay more than the list price. The D.C. real estate market is on fire and many homes are off the market within 24 hours of listing. For sellers, if you have been thinking of selling your home there is no better time than the present.


Khalil El-Ghoul is Principal Broker for Glass House Real Estate. Reach him at [email protected] or 571-235-4821. Glass House Real Estate is a modern, more affordable way to buy and sell a home in the D.C. Metro area. Learn more about what makes us different at

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Kick-ass crossovers

Still the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms



crossovers, gay news, Washington Blade

Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat

Crossovers keep wending their way into our driveways—and our hearts. After overtaking sedans, station wagons and minivans as the hottest vehicles in dealer showrooms, crossovers are now taking aim at the most quintessential of American rides: the muscle car. With naughty looks and hepped-up engines, the two dynamite crossovers below are sure to blow your mind—and just maybe your budget.

Mpg: 12 city/17 highway
0 to 60 mph: 3.5 seconds

For more than 20 years, the Dodge Durango has been a solid if nondescript family hauler. But this year the automaker jazzed up its midsize crossover with brawnier styling and the latest tech toys. And for the first time, Dodge is offering a limited-edition Durango SRT Hellcat—a high-test model with the same hellacious Hemi V8 engine in the Challenger super coupe and Charger sport sedan. With 710 horsepower, this blazingly fast crossover can kick some serious ass, outrunning many a Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The upgraded suspension provides more dynamic handling and cornering, as well as selectable steering for better grip. For straight-line acceleration and to prevent nasty fish-tailing, I simply flipped the “launch control” toggle switch. The massive Brembo brakes also were stellar, with stop-on-a-dime performance and flaming red calipers on each wheel. Another plus: the iconic Hellcat exhaust rumble could be heard blocks away—music to the ears of any auto aficionado. As with all Durangos, this bruiser has best-in-class towing capacity of 8,700 pounds.

Inside, there’s plenty of space, including more room than expected for third-row passengers. The steering wheel, dash, and trim accents now have trendy Euro styling, though it’s more VW than upscale Audi. And you can opt for flashy seatbelts and premium seats in a color Dodge calls Demonic Red, along with black velour floor mats and a soft-touch headliner. Other features include heated/ventilated seats, a large 10.1-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone integration and the ability to pair two Bluetooth devices at once. Options include a 19-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and rear-seat entertainment with Blue-Ray player. Alas, this is a limited-edition model and all 2,000 of these speed demons quickly sold out months ago. But there’s still hope: Dodge allocated some of the racy Durangos to select dealerships, so you can call around to see if any are still available. And you can always try social media to find a lucky Durango Hellcat owner who just might be willing to sell this rollicking ride, if the price is right.

Mpg: 17 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds

For decades, both the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover have been ubiquitous in the United States. Not so the smaller and less ostentatious Defender, often seen as a work-horse vehicle in BritBox reruns or action flicks like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. But last year the Defender returned to these shores after nearly a quarter-century hiatus.

Available in two- or four-door models, both Defenders start around $50,000. My test vehicle was the new top-of-the-line Defender X, which added—yikes!—another $35,000 to the sticker price. The look on these crossovers is boxy chic, which allows for a ginormous amount of headroom, legroom and cargo space. Land Rover also added extra stowage areas and cubby holes, as well as transom windows and a sliding panoramic sunroof to keep things airy. While the cabin may be sparse and full of solid plastics, the walnut trim on the center console and door panels is quite elegant.

Land Rovers have a somewhat infamous reputation for less-than-stellar electronics, but the 10-inch touchscreen was crystal clear and synced up seamlessly with the infotainment system. Tricked out with a jet-black roof, hood, and side cladding, the press vehicle I test drove was painted a haughty Eiger Gray Metallic. It also came with thick all-terrain tires, adding to a slightly menacing vibe. A full-size spare is conveniently mounted on the vertical tailgate, which swings completely open like a refrigerator door for easy access. The Defender X may not be as lightning quick as a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, but it’s still plenty fast. And this brute can tackle the toughest of terrains, thanks to locking differentials, hill-descent control and a standard air suspension that can raise the chassis 11.5 inches above the ground. Overall, the Defender X can’t quite hide its refined roots as a tony Land Rover. But as with the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, this burly crossover flexes some serious muscle.

Land Rover Defender X

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