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Tom Goss preps new album for Aug. release

‘Bears’ singer has edgy, experimental project ready

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Out singer/songwriter Tom Goss veers into unchartered creative waters with his new album, slated for an Aug. 2 release. (Photo courtesy Venfield 8)

Out singer/songwriter Tom Goss veers into unchartered creative waters with his new album, slated for an Aug. 2 release. (Photo courtesy Venfield 8)

Tom Goss new album 2016

Tom Goss should be a familiar name to D.C.-area music fans. The LGBT singer/songwriter/guitarist was a longtime mainstay of the local scene before relocating to Los Angeles last year.

We last heard from Goss earlier this year when his haunting reimagining of the Dusty Springfield classic “Son of a Preacher Man,” set to a stirring and provocative video in support of the Trevor Project suicide prevention initiative, went viral and received enormous acclaim. That success set the stage for “What Doesn’t Break,” Goss’ sixth full-length album and his first since 2014’s excellent “Wait.” He returns to the region for a show at Iota Club and Cafe in Arlington on Sunday, Aug. 7 (details here).

“What Doesn’t Break,” slated for an Aug. 2 release, is a departure for Goss, who is known for his often buoyant acoustic-guitar based power pop. The new album is a progression into deeper and more personal material with an edgy and experimental vibe. He collaborates with producer Marr Zimm, who helps create a complex and dense soundscape of electronic elements, brass and strings weaving through the layers of Goss’s excellent guitar-work. The ambition of the music is matched by the intensely personal songwriting and powerful vocal performances. “What Doesn’t Break” exhibits clear artistic progression for Goss while retaining the genuine heart, sincerity and strong melodic sensibility for which he’s always been known.

Goss expresses raw emotion and vulnerability on a level far beyond what he’s presented previously, and it wasn’t always an easy process.

The album opens with the jittery “Wake Alive,” with Goss singing the verses in his resonant lower register before breaking into an anthemic arena-rock chorus. “Thirteen” is a harrowing stare into the rearview at sometimes painful youthful turmoil and how those experiences shaped the man he is today. “Holes in the Wall” is a heartrending break-up song set to shimmery strings, keyboards and a lushly beautiful choral vocal arrangement.

The ominous “Someone Else” is a tense and piercingly direct rocker seething with rage and venom. In a bit of inspired sequencing, he follows the angriest piece on the album with perhaps the loveliest and most heartbreaking, “Mama.” Goss delivers arguably the album’s finest vocal with a song that begins as an exquisite acoustic ballad with soaring strings before exploding into a propulsive, wrenching catharsis that explores the painful reality of the vast distance that can engulf families over divergent beliefs and an inability to come to terms with love as it’s meant to be.

The synth-driven “All My Love” is a late highlight, an achingly devotional ballad layered with sublime vocal harmonies. The biggest sonic departure on an album loaded with them is the electro-pop finale “Long Way Back Home.” It ends the collection with a philosophical and nostalgic bent, appropriate for the poignant musical journey that has unfolded over the course of these 10 songs.

Some fans may be startled by the intensity and restlessness that Goss delivers here, but the emotion is so real and the songs are so expertly crafted that it’s hard to avoid getting caught up in the album’s dramatic sweep. It’s a triumph for Tom Goss, a leap forward that’s both intimate and exciting.

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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, you might think the appealing Jarboe is 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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