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Hey gurl, it’s Randy Rainbow!

Parody star on Trump, Barbra, Biden, and more as he preps concert tour

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Randy Rainbow performs in D.C. on Oct. 8 and 9. (Photo courtesy Rainbow)

For many like-minded people, gay and straight, there was a ray of light and joy during the four years of Trump’s reign of terror. Shining brightly through the seemingly impenetrable dark storm clouds, Randy Rainbow burst forth with colorful parody songs and videos that provided endless sources of laughs. His multitude of devoted fans and followers looked forward to Rainbow’s brilliantly executed audio/visual treats, as catchy as they were thought provoking. Hard at work on the follow-up to his 2019 debut album “Hey Gurl, It’s Christmas,” as well as working on the plans for his multi-city concert tour, Randy was gracious enough to answer a few questions. He performs at the Warner Theatre on Oct. 8 and 9. Tickets start at $52 and are still available at ticketsonsale.com.

BLADE: Randy, I’d like to begin by asking you to say a few words about the process of selecting a song for your parody lyrics, and if there’s ever been a song that you really wanted to use but had to abandon because it wasn’t a good fit?

RANDY RAINBOW: I’m a show queen! I naturally think in show tunes. I’ve just sort of been conditioned through the years, starting at home with my mom who’s always loved the genre, to naturally find the musical theater parallel to any situation, be it in my personal life or on the world stage. That’s the easy part. A few times I have written songs and didn’t release them because the news had shifted to focus on something else. It’s rare, but it has happened.

BLADE: Are you bombarded by suggestions of songs to parody from friends and fans, and if so, have you ever used any of them?

RAINBOW: Yes, and it’s led to a few repeats. I had already done a parody of the song “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” but then when the word “sedition” came into the zeitgeist, thanks to you-know-who, everyone was clamoring for a reprise. Same happened with my “Kamala” parody to the tune of “Camelot,” which I’d used a few years back for Kavanaugh.

BLADE: The last time we spoke was in 2019 around the time you released your debut album, “Hey Gurl, It’s Christmas.” Looking back on the experience of making that record, how would you rate it?

RAINBOW: I loved it so much I’m doing it again!

BLADE: I was told that you are now busy in the recording studio working on your new album. What can you tell the readers about it?

RAINBOW:  There are some amazing collaborations on this one. I’m dueting with guest stars like Bernadette Peters, Josh Gad, Sean Hayes, and Tituss Burgess. I’ve also written two new original songs with Marc Shaiman and Alan Menken. Can you believe?! It’s called “A Little Brains, A Little Talent” and will be released later this year through Broadway Records. Stand by!

BLADE: How much of your upcoming tour will revolve around the songs on the new album?

RAINBOW: I am actually working on that right now. I definitely want to include some of the new songs, but there will be plenty of my “greatest hits” in there, too.

BLADE: You are an incredibly prolific artist. Did being isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic cause you to be more productive or did your productivity remain the same?

RAINBOW: Believe it or not, 2020 was a very busy year for me artistically. In addition to the videos, I began writing my first memoir, recording the new album, launching a new podcast – it goes on. I am so grateful.

BLADE: Many folks baked sourdough bread during the shutdown. Are you one of them?

RAINBOW: Hell, no! I did what everyone else in New York City does, order take-out [laughs]!

BLADE: Because “45” was such an endless source of inspiration, do you find yourself missing him?

RAINBOW: [Long pause] Are you for real right now?

BLADE: Do you know if “45,” or anyone in his circle, was aware of your songs and videos?

RAINBOW: I’ve been told by some reliable sources that there were, and continue to be, a few fans of mine on Team Trump. I have to assume Melania.

BLADE: Is it difficult to parody Joe Biden because he’s such a likable and seemingly effective POTUS?

RAINBOW: I don’t set out to parody (the) POTUS, specifically. Trump was just an endless source of comedy. Believe me, there are still many in Washington that offer those OMG moments.

BLADE: You are doing two dates in Washington, D.C. Because of its deeply political roots, do you find the D.C. audiences to be different from other audiences?

RAINBOW: Well, they are in the thick of it, aren’t they? Let’s just say they seem to have an even deeper appreciation for me and my work.

BLADE: You also have an upcoming concert date in Fort Lauderdale. What does it mean to you when you perform for the hometown crowd in Broward County?

RAINBOW: It’s incredibly special, as you can imagine. And, of course, my mom will be in the audience.   

BLADE: What did it mean to you when Barbra Streisand tweeted about your “Marjorie Taylor Greene” video?

RAINBOW: Barbra has now tweeted me twice, I’ll have you know! I was even asked by her team to create a video celebrating the release of her new album. I mean. I can’t believe it!  It’s BARBRA! She’s my only religion.  

BLADE: Have you recently heard from any other celebrities, either those who have been the subject of your videos or just as fans?

RAINBOW: I get lots of support from my fancy, famous friends every time I release a video and I love them for it. I also always get a note from another of my idols, Carol Burnett. She and my mom have become pen pals!

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Music & Concerts

Washington Arts Ensemble to host immersive concert

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

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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

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Music & Concerts

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

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

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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.

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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

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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)
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