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Trixie continues forging new musical vistas on third LP ‘Barbara’

‘Drag Race’ alum eschews formula most show vets embrace



Trixie Mattel, trixie barbara, gay news, Washington Blade
Trixie Mattel’s new album ‘Barbara’ continues her musical experimentation far beyond the scope of the usual ‘Drag Race’ album-cum-recording-artist trajectory. (Photo by Albert Sanchez)

For anyone worried that drag has gone too mainstream, RuPaul hosting “Saturday Night Live” last weekend may well be the nail in the coffin. But now that there is a minimum of one drag queen per public library — or so it seems — the queens are also much less constrained by old stereotypes. Trixie Mattel, whose new album “Barbara” is out this week, is at the forefront of pushing the bounds of what drag queens can do in the mainstream.

RuPaul’s pioneering shadow has long set the tone for the kind of songs drag queens produce. Certainly an artist in his own right, RuPaul’s 1992 hit “Supermodel (You Better Work)” paved the way for later drag queens, largely under the guises of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” who have released music, such as Alaska Thunderfuck, Sharon Needles, Shea Cole, Courtney Act and others. The show serves as testing ground through various musical competitions for new performers, as well as publicity for Ru’s own music. The club-ready, joke-heavy music produced by “Drag Race” contestants could almost be classified as its own genre. Trixie Mattel has opted instead to chart her own path.

As a contestant on season seven of “Drag Race” and winner of season three of “Drag Race All Stars,” she has done an excellent job of marketing herself after her apperances, co-hosting the raucous and consistently hilarious Youtube series “UNHhhh” with fellow “Drag Race” alum Katya. Mattel is currently on an international comedy tour. Most expected, however, was the release of her first album,“Two Birds” (2017), a genuine work of country/folk music that carried her appeal far beyond “Drag Race” devotees. The album is a delightful little folk wonder, which even included a clever Bluegrass song about inclusion: “And I knew that I got lucky/In the bluegrass of Kentucky/But bluegrass, you don’t love me after all.” The following year saw the release of her follow-up, “One Stone,” which only solidified the seriousness of Mattel’s musical endeavors. 

Just as “Two Birds” and “One Stone” were two parts of a single whole, she has divided the new album into an A-side and a B-side. And like the last two, the album length runs just under 25 minutes. With “Barbara,” Mattel turns over a new leaf, venturing into pop-rock with a laid-back ’90s feel for the first half of the short record. The delightfully crisp, catchy tunes buzz from beginning to end at lightning pace and before you know it, you’ve listened to the album three times through.

The lead single and opening track “Malibu” is bouncy, light rock anthem — it’s a beach song that glows with warm nostalgia. It’s something akin to the trick mastered by Ben Folds on his 2001 album “Rockin’ the Suburbs.” Not so far off from Folds’ “Zak and Sara,” Mattel conveys nostalgia, but makes it cheery, swirly, great fun. 

Still on the vibrant, up-tempo side-A, “Jesse Jesse” shows how Mattel’s wit as a drag queen and comedian comes into play in her music. It’s a light rock love anthem for handsome and underrated actor Jesse Eisenberg (“Zombieland,” “The Social Network”). But in the chorus, she turns it into a play on Rick Springfield’s 1981 hit (and straight karaoke favorite) “Jesse’s Girl.” It creates a funny, charming effect that doesn’t detract even slightly from the catchy tune: “Jesse, Jesse, take my hand/You can meet me in Zombieland/You know inside every clam’s a pearl/I could be Jesse’s girl.”

Side B presents us with a softer side of Mattel, something more akin to her previous two albums. But it flows seamlessly with the first half. And it is here that Mattel showcases her storytelling abilities. “Gold” is a beautiful, metaphorical country song about love, with a simple, lovely chorus: “Where do you go when the gold is gone, when the old front lawn’s turning gray?/Will you grow from those cold blood wrongs when those old love songs start to play?” Trixie Mattel is at the top of her game with this album and it’s a wonderful thing to hear.


Music & Concerts

The Atlantis to showcase musical legends of tomorrow

New venue, a near replica of original 9:30 Club, opens next month



A look at the interior of the original 9:30 club. (Photo public domain/Library of Congress)

A new nirvana for music fans opens next month adjacent to the 9:30 Club. Dubbed The Atlantis, this intimate venue embraces a 450-person capacity – and pays homage as a near-replica of the original 9:30 Club.

The $10 million venue comes courtesy of I.M.P., the independent promoter that owns and operates the 9:30 Club and The Anthem, and operates The Lincoln Theatre and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The Foo Fighters will inaugurate The Atlantis on May 30, which is also the 9:30 Club’s anniversary. Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl, during a concert in 2021, kicked off speculation that I.M.P was planning to open a new venue, noting that, “We’ll probably be the band that opens that place, too, right?”

Other big names on the inaugural 44-show run roster: Franz Ferdinand, Barenaked Ladies, Third Eye Blind, Spoon, and Billy Idol.

To thwart scalpers, The Atlantis utilized a request system for the first 44 shows when they went on sale two weeks ago. Within four days of the announcement, fans had requested more than 520,000 tickets, many times more than the total 19,800 available. All tickets have been allocated; fans who were unable to snag tickets can attempt to do so in May, when a fan-to-fan ticket exchange opens.

While I.M.P. oversees multiple larger venues, “We’ve been doing our smallest shows in other peoples’ venues for too many years now,” said Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. “We needed a place that’s ours. This can be the most exciting step in an artist’s career.”

The 9:30 Club holds 1,200 people, while The Anthem has space for up to 6,000.

“This will be where we help introduce new artists to the world… our smallest venue will be treated as important, if not more, than our bigger venues. If the stories are told right, both the artists and the fans begin their hopefully longterm relationship. Its stage will support bourgeoning artists and the legends of tomorrow,” Hurwitz said. Hurwitz and the team developed a tagline for the new venue: The Atlantis, Where Music Begins.

Hurwitz got his start at the original 9:30 Club, originally located at 930 F St., N.W. He was an independent booker of the club for the first six years and then he bought it, and managed the move from its original location to its current location in 1996. The venue first opened in 1980.

Audrey Fix Schaefer, I.M.P. communications director, provides further insight. “We were missing small venues in our umbrella. Big acts don’t start in stadiums. We need a place for emerging artists and for the community to discover new acts. The Atlantis can help new artists grow.”

While design elements are still coming into focus, Schaefer says that the space will be intimate, with almost no separation between the artist and the crowd. “There will be energy on both sides of the stage,” she says.

Although The Atlantis is set to be a replica of the original 9:30, I.M.P. has spared no expense. Schaefer notes that the sound and light systems use the latest available technologies, similar to next door at the current 9:30 Club.

The Atlantis takes over the footprint of now-closed Satellite Room. The venue will have at least two bars flanking the stage; cocktails but no food will be available.

Schaefer notes that since its early days, 9:30 Club and I.M.P. “has always been a place where people are welcome. People come and feel safe with us.” 9:30 Club has hosted several LGBTQ Pride parties, the BENT dance party series, and other events for LGBTQ patrons. Particular acts of note during the kickoff run include Tegan & Sarah and Tove Lo.

The Washington Blade was a neighbor to the 9:30 Club at its original F Street location back in the 1980s. Despite their proximity, noise wasn’t an issue for on deadline nights, when Blade staff worked late hours.

“We would of course work later hours back then,” said Phil Rockstroh, a longtime Blade staffer, in a 2016 Blade interview. “Everything was typeset and done by hand without computers and fax machines so getting through deadlines was much more time consuming.”

Rockstroh said the noise wasn’t a distraction.

“It wasn’t too bad as older buildings were constructed more solidly,” Rockstroh said. “There was only one entrance to the building and you entered so far to the elevator that went up to the other floors and then continued down the hall to the entrance to the 9:30 Club. Frequently at night if I was coming or going, there were people spilling out the doors.”

“The Blade has always had a friendly relationship with the 9:30 Club,” he added.

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Music & Concerts

National Philharmonic to perform classical, contemporary works

Violinist Melissa White returns



The National Philharmonic will host “Beethoven’s 7th” on Saturday, April 15 at 8 p.m. at Strathmore.

Past and present will collide in this performance of contemporary works and classical masterpieces. Maestro Piotr Gajewski will direct Valerie Coleman’s “Umoja, Anthem for Unity for Orchestra” Violinist Melissa White will also return to the Philharmonic to perform Florence Price’s sweeping, melodic “Violin Concerto No. 2.”

Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased on the Philharmonic’s website.

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Music & Concerts

Bruce & Janet & John Legend, oh my!

Slew of iconic acts hitting the road after pandemic cancellations



Janet Jackson is among the iconic acts touring this spring.

Pop and rock icons are releasing their pent-up pandemic frustrations by mounting huge tours this spring and summer. After three years of canceled and postponed shows, everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Janet Jackson is hitting the road at long last. But save your coins because the TicketMaster algorithms are driving ticket prices to astronomical highs. Here are a few highlights from D.C.-area venues this spring. Although some of the iconic acts aren’t coming until summer — Beyonce, Madonna, Pink — several others are hitting the road this spring.

Betty Who plays March 10; Keyshia Cole headlines the All Black Extravaganza 20 Year Anniversary tour on March 18; the Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to town on May 3; Seal brings his world tour to town on May 10; and the beloved Pixies are back on the road with a new North American tour stopping here on June 10.

9:30 CLUB
Don’t miss Gimme Gimme Disco, an Abba dance party on March 18; Inzo arrives on March 31, followed by Bent on April 1; Ruston Kelly brings his The Weakness tour on April 17 along with Purr; The New Pornographers show on May 19 is sold out but there are tickets available for the May 20 show; The Walkmen have added a fourth show on May 23 because the other three shows are sold our;

Living legend Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are back with a vengeance, playing one of four area shows on March 27. (They’re in Baltimore the night before.) If you missed out this time, don’t worry, Bruce is playing Nats Park in September as well as at Baltimore’s Camden Yards. April 1 brings the R&B Music Experience, including Xscape, Monica, Tamar Braxton, and 112. Blink-182 comes to town on May 23. And this summer watch for Sam Smith to continue his hot streak, bringing his “Gloria” tour to town on Aug.4.

Janet Jackson makes her highly anticipated return to the stage this spring, arriving in our area on May 6 along with guest Ludacris. The LGBTQ ally and icon has promised new music on her upcoming “Together Again Tour,” which follows the pandemic-related cancellation of her “Black Diamond Tour.” Jackson also plays Baltimore’s newly renovated CFG Bank Arena on May 13.

John Legend plays two nights at Wolf Trap on June 2 and 3; Charlie Puth follows on June 4. Wolf Trap also hosts the Indigo Girls on June 7 just in time for Pride month. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the Smithereens at the Birchmere on March 17. Fans of ‘80s alternative will be lined up for the Church also at the Birchmere at April 4, followed by Suzanne Vega on April 26. Amy Grant returns to the stage this spring and plays the Birchmere on May 2. Echostage plays host to a slew of buzz worthy shows this spring, including Ella Mai on April 8 and Fisher on May 12.

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