Connect with us

Music & Concerts

Let there be light

Inaugural Baltimore extravaganza features art, music and more



Baltimore Light Festival, gay news, Washington Blade, Light City Baltimore

‘Digital Skin’ by Atelier Mateo M, one of the installations at Light City Baltimore. (Photo by the artist, courtesy Finn Partners)

Light City Baltimore


A Festival of Light, Music and Innovation


March 28-April 3


Locations vary at the Inner Harbor and beyond


Full details at


Baltimore may not look like it now, but in a few days it will be transformed into a wonderland of light, creativity and innovation that could put Alice’s Wonderland to shame. Light City is Baltimore’s first multi-genre spectacular that incorporates art, music and education. It runs from Monday, March 28-Sunday, April 3.

Light City was the brain child of couple Justin Allen and Brooke Hall from What Works Studio, a Baltimore creative agency. Hall is CEO and founder and Allen is CMO and creative strategist. The two were inspired by Vivid Sydney, a similar light extravaganza that has been running since 2009 in Sydney, Australia. Wanting to bring the concept to Maryland, the couple reached out to the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts whose members agreed to get on board.

The new team then set out to prod creative minds to figure out how to recreate the idea while making it distinctly Baltimore.

Bill Gilmore, executive director at the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, says the project began from scratch with meetings involving neighbor associations, arts communities and technology communities.

“We did about 17 of these just sort of bringing people into the fold because we thought it was a good idea but we didn’t really know how it was going to manifest itself here,” Gilmore says. “Because we wanted the festival to be about Baltimore, for Baltimore.”

After engaging with numerous groups, these organizations sent in proposals for ideas; 240 proposals wound up coming in from all over the world for the event, which runs from 7-11 p.m. each night except, April 1-2 when it runs from 7 p.m.-midnight.

Now in its completed phase, the festival has become a three-layered artistic haven.

The light installation component will be a one-and-a-half mile BGE Light Art Walk, from the south shore of the Inner Harbor to Harbor East, featuring 50 attractions including lit up visual artworks, street theater and musical performances. A few pieces on display will be “Digital Skin” by Atelier Mateo M, which lets guests paint on their friends to digitally map their faces and bodies and watch them come to life; “Blur Hour” by New American Public Art, which uses light towers and seating that responds to people’s movement in the space; and “Dear Baltimore” by Thick Air Studios, a collection of letters floating seven feet about the ground propelled by bicycles placed throughout the Light City location.

Out magician David London will add to the street theater element. London is curating Circus of Wonders at Waterfront Garden at Pier 5 (711 Eastern Ave., Baltimore). There will be juggling, escapes, fire spinning and comedy performances throughout the week.

Music is another highlight of the festival. Bands, dancers and major DJs will be performing on stage throughout Light City’s run. Baltimore-based lesbian rapper TT The Artist performs on Tuesday, March 29 from 10-11 p.m. DJ Jazzy Jeff, best known for his work with Will Smith, will perform on Thursday, March 31 from 10-11 p.m. Electronic musician Dan Deacon performs on Saturday, April 2 from 10-11 p.m.

Festival-goers can take time to reflect on important issues with the Social Innovation Conference on March 28-29, the Health Innovation Conference and Sustainability Innovation Conference on March 30-31 and the Creative Innovation Conference on April 1-2. Topics at the conferences all focus on social change. Conference tickets are $99.

Gilmore expects 10,000 or more attendees at the various events.

“It’s not a new idea worldwide, but its the first really large international light festival in the United States,” Gilmore says. “I think that people are just really excited to see light art installations and the fact that it’s free has a lot to do with it. I think we’ve built something that is unique to the genre of festivals just in general.”

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

Washington Arts Ensemble to host immersive concert

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



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

Continue Reading

Music & Concerts

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

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



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.

Continue Reading

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



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)
Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts