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Back for round seven

Kaki King, the Shondes headline at this weekend’s PhaseFest

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The Shondes, Allison Miller, Elijah Oberman, Louisa Rachel Solomon, Fureigh, music, gay news, Washington Blade, Phasefest

The Shondes are, from left, Allison Miller, Elijah Oberman, Louisa Rachel Solomon and Fureigh. (Photo by Frank Stefanko; courtesy the band).

PhaseFest Queer Music Festival

Phase 1 Lounge

525 8th Street, S.E.

Friday at 7 p.m.

$15 at the door

Saturday at 7 p.m.

$25 at the door

No presale

21 and up

phasefest.com

Phase 1 manager Angela Lombardi is her usual self-deprecating self when it comes to the bar she runs.

Despite its historic significance, the original Phase 1 — the oldest continually operating lesbian bar in the country — inspires Lombardi to call it “our little lesbian dive bar.” At the helm for nearly a decade now, she’s gearing up for this weekend’s seventh annual PhaseFest Queer Music Festival, which she says — despite the hard work — is “my favorite time of year.”

Friday night, starting at 7, The Shondes, Glitter Lust, The Coolots, D.C. Kings, Freeform Radio, Company Calls and Tiik W/ Guts will perform. On Saturday, Belladonna, Pushovers, Sexual Side Effects, Jette Kelly, Frankie & Betty, Michelle Raymond Band and Lacy Liszt will play. Guitar legend Kaki King, whom the Blade interviewed in April when she was here for a Howard show, headlines.

PhaseFest — mostly through Lombardi’s persistence — has made a name for itself among queer musicians despite its humble origins.

“We’re pretty fortunate,” Lombardi says. “We’ve worked with so many headliners over the years. Sometimes they come with these insane managers or insane contracts and riders that call for this and that, dressing rooms for everybody. I’m like, ‘Uhhh, yeah. We have a basement.’ But we’ve worked with some really cool artists and some of them have made some real sacrifices from what they’re used to come play for us. Hopefully what we lack in amenities, we make up for in experience. It shows in how many of them come back year after year. It’s really a great thing to be a part of, from the musicians’ standpoint as well.”

Lombardi says this year’s lineup is about half D.C.-based bands versus half from other places. She says “pretty much” every act has performed either at PhaseFest previously or at the Phase some other time. Most years, about 800 attendees see the shows over the course of the weekend. All the bands are either partially or totally LGBT.

Louisa Rachel Solomon, lead singer and bassist for the New York-based Shondes, can’t remember if they’ve played Phase twice or three times previously. The band just put out its new album “The Garden” last week and their set tonight will be their first since the album dropped. It will be for sale in CD, vinyl and digital format at the show. Solomon calls it a “mix of almost an ‘80s-type rock vibe combined with punkier energy.”

“It’s such a cool place for us,” Solomon says during a phone chat this week. “It’s small, homey and the crew is amazing and lovable. They’re some of my favorite bartenders in the country. We’ll keep coming back as long as they let us.”

Solomon says her band “is comprised of people of various genders and sexual orientations” and that queer sensibility is one of the band’s hallmarks.

“We’re heavily rooted in the queer community,” she says.

Nathalie Vega is the lead singer of D.C.-based band Company Calls and she also plays bass. Company Calls is an all-lesbian band that started playing last September. They made their live debut at last year’s PhaseFest.

“We had such a great experience there last year,” she says. “A lot of doors opened for us just from playing at PhaseFest.”

Vega calls Company Calls’ music a “mix of influences from pop to punk to folk to indie-alternative.”

She says PhaseFest is important because it “gives us a musical community.”

“There are lots of place you can go have a drink, but this gives us both a lesbian and musical community as well,” she says.

Lombardi agrees.

“We’re like lesbian ‘Cheers,’” she says.

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Theater

‘Rose: You Are Who You Eat’ an irreverent romp at Woolly Mammoth

Solo performance by John Jarboe offers much to consume

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John Jarboe in ‘Rose: You Are Who You Eat’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. (Photo by Teresa Castracane)

‘Rose: You Are Who You Eat’
Though June 23
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
641 D St., N.W.
$60-$82
Woollymammoth.net

With “Rose: You Are Who You Eat,” a solo performance by John Jarboe (she/her), now at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, there’s a lot to uncover and consume.  

For much of the show, the appealing Jarboe comes across as a cute cis gay guy playing dress up in a pair of tighty-whities and sparkly go-go boots, but it’s something else and she’s ready to go there. 

Jarboe is a cannibal. Not in the usual sense. She learned from a well-meaning aunt that while still in the womb, she ate her twin, and that’s what made Jarboe the way she is (a reference to gender queerness).

Despite the aunt’s awkward delivery of family dish, the prenatal news struck a chord with Jarboe: the vanishing twin who would have been named Rose, became increasingly connected to her own identity. Along with the inevitable jokes about eating her sister’s spaghetti thin hair and tasty eyeballs, there’s meaty matter unfolding onstage. 

Not entirely unexpected, Jarboe also harbors mommy issues. Mom, here referred to as “Mother” for the sake of anonymity, is a buttoned-down tax accountant who the more perturbed she becomes the wider her forced smile grows. And while Jarboe needs to have that long overdue talk with Mother, something always seems to get in the way; invariably it’s tax season.

Assisted by some primary source props (a baby book, notes, a string of pearls filched from Mother’s jewelry box), Jarboe further digs into gender expression and identity. Her performance career began in her child bedroom closet with a flashlight and makeshift costume, an obsession to which her parents initially subscribed, later not as much. 

Among the 75-minute-long show’s highlights are five or so songs, rock numbers and redolent ballads composed by Jarboe, Emily Bate, Daniel de Jesús, Pax Ressler and Be Steadwell. 

It’s definitely a solo show conceived and delightfully performed by Jarboe; however, she’s supported by a terrific four-person band (costumed in what appeared from Row D to be rosebush inspired jumpsuits) including Mel Regn, Yifan Huang, Daniel de Jesús, and music director Emily Bate. Bate is a singer, composer and performer who runs a queer and trans community chorus in Philadelphia called Trust Your Moves, an experiment in collective singing designed around liberation and co-creation.

As Jarboe moves into her 30s, she celebrates and incorporates her lost twin as part of herself with a new intensity. She writes letters, yearning for even the most tepid reply. Her obsession with Mother remains a thing too.

Dressed in a sylphlike rosy red gown (by costume designer Rebecca Kanach) Jarboe uses call-and-response (with the audience standing in for Mother) in search of some resolution. It’s beautifully done. 

With various kinds of backing coming from CulturalDC, the Washington Blade, Capital Pride, the Bearded Ladies Cabaret and other New York-based groups, there’s nothing itinerant cabaret looking about “Rose.” Directed by MK Tuomanen, it’s an elevated, visually engaging production. 

For instance, set and video designer Christopher Ash’s projections shown on both a serviceable scrim and later a wondrously huge toile curtain, beautifully feature photos from an ostensibly idyllic Midwestern childhood. We see a young Jarboe not only enjoying hockey, fishing, and hunting, but also pulling off a strikingly girly, cheesecake pose.  

At the top of the show, there’s live video of Jarboe’s outsized mouth devouring wings fished from a bucket of fried chicken. Hints of cannibalism? 

“Rose: You Are Who You Eat” is an irreverent romp, deeply personal yet relatable. It’s an evening of poignantly performed moments, off the cuff laughs, and some awkward/sexy audience interaction. 

As a performer, Jarboe lays herself bare, exposing strengths (rich melodious voice, presence, ingenuity) and weaknesses (garrulity and more than a few un-landed jokes) in equal turns. 

Hers is a world that invites audiences to just let go and go with it. Jarboe’s intrepid journey melds the familiar and the startling. In short, it’s a trip worth taking. 

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Photos

PHOTOS: Capital Pride Festival and Concert

Keke Palmer, Billy Porter among entertainers

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Billy Porter performs at the 2024 Capital Pride Festival on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 2024 Capital Pride Festival and Concert was held along Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest D.C. on Sunday, June 9. Performers included Sapphira Cristál, Keke Palmer, Ava Max, Billy Porter and Exposé.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key and Emily Hanna)

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Out & About

Get ready for Baltimore Pride

Events scheduled throughout weekend

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Baltimore Pride Parade (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Baltimore Pride begins this weekend on Friday, June 14 in the heart of the city.

There will be a variety of events, the main ones being Mt. Vernon Pride on June 14 at 2 p.m. on the 200 Block of W. Read St., the Parade and Block Party on Saturday, June 15 at 3 p.m. on N. Charles St., and Pride in the Park on Sunday, June 15 at 3 p.m. at Druid Hill Park.

For more event details, visit Baltimore Pride’s website

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