OAS Art After Dark

Art After Dark's First Night was a success

One week ago the Organization of American States tried their hand for the first time at an “after hours” event at the Art Museum of the Americas.  The result:  all 440 tickets sold, and a successful launch into the up-and-coming scene of hip museum parties.

Kudos to the event planners for figuring out just the right number to keep the place full but not too crowded.  Because this was the first “After Dark,” we asked everyone we met how they ended up getting there.  The most common answer, “a friend.”  Trace the connections and we’d invariably end up with a story that starts with a friend on the board here or at some other museum.  That probably helped explain the crowd a bit.  Compared to what we’ve seen at other events like this, this crowd was just a bit older (though still young).  That is to say, these were young professionals, not just recent grads.  A bit more reserved and put together — some of the outfits were pretty impressive and everyone was wearing nice shoes.

Still though, this was a crowd reflective of an event still seeking identity.  Consider this scene: Exactly, a band made up of local artist Adrian Parsons, Cole Sharp, and Jesse Bishop,  setting up headless mannequins, stringing rope lights, adjusting their instruments, and taking off, then putting back on, their v-neck shirts.  The lead singer, Parsons, looks absolutely crazy, shaggy, messy, sweaty.  There’s an uncomfortable distance, an 8-foot gulf between the band and the crowd of polite looking 20-somethings, many of them still in jackets and ties from their work day.  They shuffle and chat and drink and watch.  Then, one of the band members takes out his iPad, plugs it in, and starts playing Yeasayer.

We spoke with a few people responsible for putting on the event, and it seems that the identity issue (we don’t think we’d call it a problem, really — just growing pains) extends all the way up.  We were told that the event’s main goals were to 1) develop the interests of a younger crowd and 2) develop interest in Latin American art.  But here’s the problem: the walls were conspicuously empty.

Dorothy, a woman who was taking it upon herself to bring more, well, dancing, to the space on the first floor where DJ Smudge was spinning, was coming from the Decatur House. She asked the question that had been plaguing us as we traversed through the museum, “Where the hell is all the art?” Video installations were set up on each floor, but the rooms were devoid of any information on the pieces or their artists, so their origins were unknown (though some limited information was included in the projections themselves.) That didn’t stop people from crowding in to watch the exhibits, and we understand that the costs for hosting an event in a museum full of wall-hanging art are much higher than in a museum with art that no one can drunkenly disturb, but part of the appeal of these events is rooted in the ability to experience art in a less-than-formal museum setting.

Rocking out to Exactly

Ultimately, it was the performances and not the showcase of art that defined the evening: out in the courtyard, a skilled Latin American drummer played different percussion instruments to accompany a backing track as people mingled around, drinking beer and wine. The outdoor part felt the most cohesive and thematic — professionals spoke in different languages and enjoyed the breeze.

Inside, Exactly took the stage at 10 pm to do a soundcheck, and then disappeared for about 15 minutes, leaving a room full of buzzed young professionals to stand around feeling uncomfortable. The band re-emerged in skinny jeans, covered in fake blood, to do a set that started off with a bold proclamation: “We’re not a fucking electro-pop band!” Bold because Exactly is made up of two keyboards and a drumset, but they delivered to the crowds expectations with men in blazers and girls in expensive sundresses letting loose and dancing, eventually playing air guitar with mannequin legs shaking hair everywhere.

Downstairs and outside, the older members of the board and other guests continued to mingle as the sounds of drumming and throaty singing blasted through the museum’s windows.

We’re told that this is planned to be a recurring event — we’re already excited for next time.

Of Interest: Video of Exactly playing their last song [Vimeo]

Click here for the pictures!.

Absolutely Giddy: Hirshhorn After Hours

A man photographing another at Hirshhorn After Hours

If you can’t stand the heat then … dance in it instead! That seems to have been the unofficial theme for Hirshhorn’s After Hours event last Friday night.

There’s a special kind of energy at Hirshhorn After Hours.  You get a sense that you’re breaking the rules.  Like you’re someplace you shouldn’t be, doing something you shouldn’t be doing.  It feels like staying up all night playing Sega, getting hopped up on Doritos and Mountain Dew.  Except this is way, way cooler.  For this one night, the Hirshhorn is the swankest club in all of DC.

More, and photo gallery inside.

WAMU presents: The Diane Rehm Show

Diane Rehm

Diane Rehm

Last Tuesday (I know, I know it’s late) WAMU 88.5, American University Radio, invited the Blo’ to see a live taping of the Diane Rehm Show with a special guest, Carl Kasell. If you’re an NPR aficionado, those two names are near and dear to your heart. Carl Kasell was the voice of NPR’s Morning Edition from 1979 until December 2009. Diane Rehm has been a fixture on WAMU forever, starting on their morning talk show (later renamed The Diane Rehm Show) the same year as Kasell’s introduction to NPR. Those of you who are less likely to tune in for hardnews and interviews might recognize Kasell from Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, where he has served as an official judge and score-keeper since 1998.

Kasell has a storied  history at NPR. But he cut his chops as a music DJ in Baltimore, where he worked for a contemporary country station. He landed a gig doing weekend news at WABA in Arlington friend’s request, having no personal interest in news radio, thinking it “boring.” However, his vocal delivery and newswriting skills caused him to be a part of the team that developed Morning Edition.

Listening to these colleagues talk was like hanging out with your two most interesting and hilarious older relatives — the ones who know magic tricks, have the best stories, and have seen it all (another question had them recount their experiences the day President Kennedy was assassinated). Rehm, of course, is a master interviewer, and Kasell was an amazing guest. Rehm allowed the audience to ask questions and weaved them in the overall narrative of Kasell’s life seamlessly.

When asked about his hobbies, Kasell pulled a red handkerchief out of thin air, saying he had an on the side show called The Magic Edition. “[A few]  months ago, I sawed Roxanne Roberts in half!” After his handkerchief trick, Rehm asked him “What kind of pleasure does that give you?” Kasell grinned and replied, “I like the oohs and aahs.”

The audience was filled with late 30s+ people, the core demographic for NPR listeners, but neither Kasell or Rehm seemed concerned about the future of radio as a relevant medium. “I think it’s going to be there just as strong as it’s ever been,” said Kasell, with Rehm adding, “[There are] so many more opportunities…being without radio is just an impossibility.” Kasell also pointed to the fact that WW…DTM garners three millions listeners on air, and one million subscribers to the podcast, which also features Mo Rocca and Paula Poundstone. “I think we’re okay,” he said.

There were two moments, however, when old met new with the audience. A high schooler came up to the microphone to tell the two on stage that he managed to get his friends listening to WW…DTM, and used it as a gateway drug to get them to listen to more serious programs. The touch-of-gray audience burst into applause. A young woman came to the mic near the end of the show, but she had a grievance to air. She informed Kasell of their status as friends on Facebook (“Ah! I thought you looked familiar!”). She told him that he had RSVP’d “Maybe” to her birthday party that year, but had crushed her hopes by never showing up. Kasell laughed and then promised, “Next year.”

If you’re interested in hearing more, the entire broadcast is available online at the WAMU site. [Stream it here!]

Photos: Kathy Griffin at Borders

Did you know Kathy Griffin did a book signing at Borders yesterday? I didn’t either, since she tweeted a lot about signing at Barnes & Nobles, and then I forgot about it. Sorry, dear readers. However, intrepid readers and sometimes contributors Amanda Notarangelo and Ryan sent us their snapshots. It took them three hours to meet her, but she was apparently very gracious and happy to meet with her fans. If you’re sad you missed out, you can still spend an evening with Kathy at the DAR Constitution Hall tonight or Saturday night. Tickets are still available for either show.

2 photos under here.

Jersey Shore at McFaddens – High Five!

OK, so after finding out about the $40 cover at McFadden’s, a couple of my law school friends and I went to 51st State for a few hours.  Left 51st around midnight and decided to give McFadden’s another shot.  We lucked out…by this time, there was no cover and no line (though we assumed that Pauly and JWoww were probably gone).

When I bought a round of beers downstairs, the girl selling them said that they were about to come downstairs…AND THEY DID.

They just stood behind the DJ in the DJ booth downstairs for a while as a fist pumping contest went on (I would have won, but no dudes allowed).  I’m quite good at positioning myself to shake hands with famous people, and as JWoww and Pauly walked past me upstairs on their way out, I held out my hand, and Pauly high-fived it.

I feel like I’ve climbed the highest mountain any of us can aspire to.