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Twenty years ago this month, an indie pop group released a three-volume concept album that would define the rest of their career. The Magnetic Fields had already made five albums by the time 69 Love Songs, originally intended as a musical revue, hit the scene. The opening line of its 1999 Pitchfork review raved “There’s only one question that really needs to be asked of 69 Love Songs: is it a brilliant masterpiece or merely very, very good?” 69 Love Songs is a concept album about, well, love songs, that perfectly mimics (and often parodies) the many genres—rhapsodic, melancholy, dissonant, funny—of the popular songs that define the genre. And one of its triumphs is the song “Washington, D.C.,” which comes halfway through the second disk. Although it begins with the peppy lyric “Washington, D.C., it’s paradise to me,” it’s not a song about D.C. in the same way Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt famously said 69 Love Songs is not an album about love. (“It’s an album about love songs, which are very far away from anything to do with love.”) “Washington, D.C.” is a song about cheering patriotism, complete with upbeat chanting and drumming. In fact, it’s very specifically about pushing past the pageantry in favor of a more intimate relationship “It’s not because it is the grand old seat of precious freedom and democracy,” sings Claudia Gonson. “It’s not the greenery turning gold in fall, the scenery circling the Mall—it’s just that’s where my baby lives, that’s all.”
Also, if you’re interested in D.C.’s arts scene, be sure to pick up City Paper‘s Fall Arts Guide—it’s included with today’s print issue of the paper. We’ll help you decide what to do through the rest of 2019. —Emma Sarappo
Caitlin DoughtyAs a funeral director and “death positivity” advocate, Caitlin Doughty is no stranger to macabre questions. In her newest book, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals about Death, the “Ask a Mortician” host addresses 35 queries raised by a perhaps unexpected demographic: children. Featuring illustrations by Dianné Ruz, the text explores such topics as why corpses groan, what happens when someone dies on a plane, why people’s hair and nails appear longer after death, and whether the fearful feline scenario alluded to by the book’s title is actually a common occurrence. Read more >>> Caitlin Doughty speaks at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose at the Wharf, 70 District Sq. SW. Free. (202) 448-3867. politics-prose.com. (Meilan Solly)
Room for More, a local music festival supporting Immigrant Families Together, kicks off at Dwell DC. 8 p.m. at the 1200 block of Florida Ave. NE. $9–$35.
Jaunty indie rockers The Growlers roar on stage. 8 p.m. at Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $35.
And speaking of jaunty rock, catch Shakey Graves and Dr. Dog in a double feature. 8 p.m. at The Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW. $40–$75.
FuturesFutures—an exhibit of works by Virginia Museum of Fine Arts fellows Rebecca Silberman, David Franusich, Soomin Ham, and Sarah Phillips—revels in the dreamlike, the murky, and the mysterious. Franusich offers three interactive sculptures, but the other three artists contribute photographic and photography-adjacent works. Tintype expert Silberman portrays a ghostly, seated figure holding an empty birdcage, while Phillips exposes found objects with a cloudy blue overlay, using a cyanotype process that involves direct sunlight and creek water. Read more >>> The exhibition runs to Oct. 6 at the Workhouse Arts Center’s Vulcan Muse Gallery, 9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton. Free. (703) 584-2900. workhousearts.org. (Louis Jacobson)
Sleep in Saturday morning, because. Art All Night is back in eight different neighborhoods across the city and you’ll need energy to stay up. 7 p.m. at various venues. Free.
Why does Jackson R. Bryer like this story? Maybe because the anthology Why I Like This Story is full of writers wisely commenting on their favorites—but you can ask him in person. 6 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free.
Burna BoyOn his new album, African Giant, the last word comes not from Burna Boy, but from his mother, Bose Ogulu. It’s an excerpt of the “Best International Act” acceptance speech she gave on his behalf at the 2019 BET Awards show: “The message from Burna, I believe, would be that every black person should please remember you were Africans before you became anything else.” That sentiment illuminates his music, especially on African Giant. Read more >>> Burna Boy performs at 8 p.m. at The Fillmore Silver Spring, 8656 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $35–$77. (301) 960-9999. fillmoresilverspring.com. (Chris Kelly)
The Wagner Society of Washington, D.C. opens its season with a piano performance by Jeffrey Swann. 7:30 p.m. at the Katzen Arts Center. 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. $30–$40.
Canadian American folk-rock act Steve Poltz is “not normal,” according to the concert description, but he is playing for Hill Center’s American Roots concert series. 4:30 p.m. at the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Free.
The HBO series is over and The Winds of Winter isn’t out yet, but you can satisfy your Game of Thrones cravings with a live performance of the music from the series. 8 p.m. at Jiffy Lube Live, 7800 Cellar Door Drive, Bristow. $18–$346.
Silo CityEric Johnson’s work reflects an age in which industrial decay has become a hot subject. His photographic exhibition at Multiple Exposures Gallery, Silo City, documents a tumbledown series of grain elevators in Buffalo, New York, located near the juncture of the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes. A Buffalo businessman acquired the “Silo City” elevators to preserve them a few years back, and he periodically lets in photographers such as Johnson to capture its decline. Read more >>> The exhibition runs to Oct. 13 at Multiple Exposures Gallery at the Torpedo Factory, 105 North Union St., Studio 312, Alexandria. Free. (703) 683-2205. multipleexposuresgallery.com. (Louis Jacobson)
Ezra Furman is riding into D.C. on a breaking queer pop wave with the release of his new album, Twelve Nudes. 7:30 p.m. at Union Stage, 740 Water St. SW. $16–$18.
Psych-rock collective Bat House would like you to Stop Dying. 9 p.m. at Songbyrd Music House, 2477 18th St. NW. Free.
Los Stellarians bring their unmistakably Southern California Chicano sound to Northeast. 8 p.m. at Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE. $25–$30.
The SmugglerMost large D.C. theaters plan their seasons more than a year in advance, so D.C. audiences have to wait to see new hot new plays that debut elsewhere. But smaller theaters are more like Seamless and UberEats: They deliver, quickly. The Smuggler, a one-man show by Irish playwright Ronán Noone, just debuted in January at New York’s 1st Irish Festival and now here it is, popping up at Allegory, the swanky cocktail bar within Eaton DC. Read more >>> The Smuggler runs to Oct. 6 at Eaton DC, 1201 K St. NW. $40. 765-276-8201. solasnua.org. (Rebecca J. Ritzel)
Attend a D.C. Public Library Washingtoniana panel celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Sapphire Sapphos, a D.C. political and social group for black lesbians—some of its past presidents and founding members will be there. 6:30 at Shaw Watha T. Daniel Library, 1630 7th St. NW. Free.
Mannequin Pussy, touring in support of their third album, are full of frenetic energy and buzz from critics. 8 p.m. at DC9, 1940 9th St. NW. $12.
It’s sure to be a legendary night in Bristow as Megan Thee Stallion opens for Meek Mill and Future. 7 p.m. at Jiffy Lube Live, 7800 Cellar Door Drive, Bristow. $35–$510.
Tope FolarinIn the opening passage of Tope Folarin’s A Particular Kind of Black Man, five-year-old Tunde Akinola, a first-generation Nigerian American, encounters an older white woman who informs him that, if he is a good boy, he might have the privilege of serving her in heaven. Neither his Midwestern accent nor his father’s unwavering commitment to American capitalism can save him from the casual racism that corrodes his hometown in Mormon country—an isolation that worsens his mother’s schizophrenia. Read more >>> Tope Folarin will speak at 7 p.m. at Solid State Books, 600 H St. NE. Free. (202) 897-4201. solidstatebooks.com. (Amy Guay)
Classically trained pianist Holly Bowling performs eclectic interpretations of Phish and The Grateful Dead. 7:30 p.m. at The Hamilton, 600 14th St. NW. $10–$25.
TESLA won’t put you on a three-year waiting list—they’ll put on a rocking “blues metal” show. 8 p.m. at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. $33–$248.
Reggae group Black Uhuru—with a lineup that includes its founder, Derrick “Duckie” Simpson—plays a D.C. show. 9 p.m. at the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. $22.50–$55.
ButterflyCan Madama Butterfly be salvaged? Probably not, though opera companies keep trying to do it anyway. This is the opera that, even for a genre famous for antiquated notions of race and gender, sets the high bar for misogyny and orientalism. Puccini’s leering melodrama about sex tourism and statutory rape revolves around a Japanese teenage girl knocked up by an American naval officer, who later comes to take her baby away and drives her to suicide. Compounding the libretto’s underlying grossness is the opera world’s “colorblind casting,” in which white singers are routinely cast in Asian roles, sometimes in yellowface. The In Series, a chamber opera company which prides itself on its wokeness, tries to put a more sensitive spin on Butterfly in this abridged version. Read more >>> Butterfly runs to Sept. 22 at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. $21–$46. (202) 204-7763. inseries.org. (Mike Paarlberg)
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra strikes back for the fall season with a live performance of the score from The Empire Strikes Back. 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. $45–$85.
Billy Bragg plays his first of three shows in Alexandria, this one a career-spanning set. 7:30 p.m. at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria. $55.
The sounds on Band of Skulls‘ fifth album are wholly original. 7 p.m. at 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $25.
NEWS AND REVIEWS YOU CAN USE
News: The Middle East Institute hopes to use its new gallery to teach Americans about the Middle East.
OFFICE OF FUTURE PLANNING
Tickets are on sale now for Lucy Dacus at 9:30 Club on Dec. 7. 10 p.m. at 815 V St. NW. $25.
Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday for The Lantern Tour II featuring Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, and Thao Nguyen & The Mastersons at the Warner Theatre on Nov. 5. 8 p.m. at 513 13th St. NW. Ticket prices to be announced at time of sale.
Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday for The New Pornographers at the Lincoln Theatre on Nov. 6. 8 p.m. at 1215 U St. NW. $40.
Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday for Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening at the Fillmore Silver Spring on Nov. 25. 8 p.m. at 8656 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. Ticket prices to be announced at time of sale.