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We’re past the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and the sun’s reaching a lower zenith each day. That means it’s getting too late to see the rainbow prism projections in the National Museum of the American Indian arranged in a straight line on the floor of the museum’s Potomac Atrium, like they do when the sun’s at its highest point. But you should see the rainbows anyway.
On the south wall of the NMAI’s Potomac Atrium, a window of eight tall, rectangular prisms catch sunlight and split it by wavelength, scattering the colors that make up white light into a band of rainbows on the floor. At the height of summer, the rainbows align dutifully. But as the seasons change and the angle of the sun dips, the rainbows don’t stop. They just show up in increasingly scattered alignments.
The prisms brilliantly track the movement of the sun through the year, reminding visitors of the connections many of North America’s indigenous peoples have with the earth, the sun, and the cycle of the seasons. They’re also a reminder of where you are—not just standing in the building or in the city, but on top of a spinning blue marble, flying through space around the orbit of a giant star. And they’re beautiful. That’s reason enough to go see them.
Madonna Birthday Dance PartyBitch, she’s Madonna—that should be the only reason you need to celebrate the pop icon’s 61st birthday at Black Cat. But here are a few more, if you need convincing: Music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebel come together, as she told us on “Music” in 2000. And most importantly, Friday’s Madonna Birthday Dance Party is the judgement-free dance zone you didn’t know you needed—precisely the kind of cathartic ’80s flashback where you can channel your inner pop queen. From “Into the Groove” and “Vogue” to 2015’s Rebel Heart, Black Cat will be spinning the hits (and misses) all night long. Read more >>> The event begins at 9 p.m. at Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $10–$12. (202) 667-4490. blackcatdc.com. (Christian Paz)
Join The Slambovian Circus of Dreams—an avant-garde Americana band formed in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and famous for their surreal alt-folk groove—for a night of mesmerizing music. 8 p.m. at Jammin Java, 227 Maple Ave E, Vienna. $25.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a 2019 Guggenheim fellow and subject of the 2017 People Issue, will discuss his new book, How to Be an Antiracist, with Atlantic staff writer Vann R. Newkirk. 7 p.m. at Sidwell Friends School, 3825 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $10–$35.
Don’t miss classic R&B group The O’Jays, still led by its original singers—lifelong friends Walter Williams and Eddie Levert. 8 p.m. at The Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. $66–$175.
The Smashing PumpkinsBack in 1996, The Simpsons met The Smashing Pumpkins when Homer went on tour as a carnival freak with “Hullabalooza.” That was the band at the peak of their creative powers; just a few years later, a decline would set in. While they still can surprise you, their glory days are firmly in the past, even as The Simpsons is still on Fox. For the Pumpkins, the band’s post-millennium experience has been Mr. Corgan’s Wild Ride, featuring lineup changes and plenty of weird diversions. Frontman Billy Corgan’s busied himself with synthesizer improvisations, pro wrestling promotion, and Infowars appearances. Read more >>> The Smashing Pumpkins perform at 7 p.m. at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. $35–$199.50. (410) 715-5550. merriweathermusic.com. (Chris Kelly)
See Jack White‘s other band, The Raconteurs, perform on tour for their new album Help Us Stranger. 8 p.m. at The Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW. $65–$95.
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Hear the best selections from the Great American Songbook at Veronica Swift‘s cabaret. 5 p.m. at AMP by Strathmore, 11810 Grand Park Ave., North Bethesda. $25–$45.
If you care about local music, don’t miss the DC Music Rocks Festival, which will highlight a group of exciting DMV acts. 7 p.m. at 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $15.
Ian UrbinaIn his gripping new book, The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier, reporter Ian Urbina profiles the lawless and vast boundaries of the high seas. Thanks to a famous lack of oversight, the rugged seas are today home to extreme criminal activity and exploitation. Traffickers, smugglers, pirates, poachers, and stowaways make up the population of this hidden world—one where seemingly anyone can do anything with nobody watching. Read more >>> Ian Urbina speaks at 1 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. politics-prose.com. (Lia Assimakopoulos)
Catch the 2019 Summer Arts Fest, a fundraiser for An Indivisible Art Collective, in Northeast. 12 p.m. at Dwell DC, 1200 Florida Ave. NE. $10–$15.
Portland group Summer Cannibals and Brooklyn band Field Mouse will play after local act Panini Girlfriend, a verbally delightful lineup. 9 p.m. at Comet Ping Pong, 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW. $12.
Watch out, Gen Z—Twenty20, a band of four talented and ambitious high school seniors, are hitting the stage. 6:30 p.m. at DC9, 1940 9th St. NW. $8.
Twilight Tour: Humor and WhimsyThis summer, the Washington National Cathedral is hosting a series of after-hours twilight tours centered on Neo-Gothic subjects like gargoyles, angels, monsters, and Game of Thrones. Some of these experiences offer behind-the-scenes access to typically inaccessible features including the high altar and great organ, while others have a more artistic bent, exploring the cruciform church through tours themed around its African American trailblazers or its intricate wrought ironwork. Read more >>> The tour begins at 6 p.m. at the Washington National Cathedral, 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW. $18–$22. (202) 537-6200. cathedral.org. (Meilan Solly)
Alain Guiraudie‘s 2013 queer cinema triumph, Stranger by the Lake, is screening in Mount Pleasant. 8 p.m. at Suns Cinema, 3107 Mt. Pleasant St. NW. $10.
Brooklyn-based and Puerto Rican-infused band Balún are blowing up the indie scene. 8 p.m. at Songbyrd Music House, 2477 18th St. NW. $10–$12.
Rick Moody discusses his memoir The Long Accomplishment: A Memoir of Hope and Struggle in Matrimony with Jacki Lyden. 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free.
Jia TolentinoIf you’re a regular New Yorker reader or a person who’s even remotely online, you probably know who Jia Tolentino is. The former Jezebel scribe and chronicler of internet culture is currently touring bookstores nationwide in support of her first essay collection, Trick Mirror, and while reviewers have plentifully praised the book, they’ve also pestered Tolentino with a nagging question: Is she the voice of her generation? Here’s an answer for that one: Who cares? Read more >>> Jia Tolentino speaks at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. politics-prose.com. (Caroline Jones)
Love Phish? Love jazz? The perfect mashup is Jazz is Phish. 7:30 at Jammin Java, 227 Maple Ave. E, Vienna. $15–$30.
Busboys and Poets’ monthly Bread and Roses series—focused around labor issues—will feature a screening of Detachment, a film about burnout in public education starring Adrien Brody. 6 p.m. at Busboys and Poets Takoma, 235 Carroll St. NW. Free.
Check out Washington Improv Theater’s Harold Night, a weekly long-form, suggestion-based improv show where four teams take an idea and run with it as creatively as they can. 9 p.m. at SOURCE, 1835 14th St. NW. Free.
Summer SelectionsAddison/Ripley Fine Art’s summer exhibit is expansive—some three dozen works by two dozen artists—but commonalities are evident. It includes a wide selection of abstract and figurative prints, from silkscreens to woodcuts to lithographs to etchings, by such artists as Sam Gilliam, Wolf Kahn, and Lou Stovall. There are so many prints, in fact, that it’s the other types of works that tend to stand out. Read more >>> The show runs to Aug. 23 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art, 1670 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Free. (202) 338-5180. addisonripleyfineart.com. (Louis Jacobson)
Love Schitt’s Creek? See comedic duo Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy at their comedic peak—singing about how “God Loves a Terrier”—in Christopher Guest‘s mockumentary Best in Show at the last NoMa Summer Screen of the season. 8 p.m. at The Lot at First and Pierce, 1150 1st St. NE. Free.
Show up early at Louis Prima Jr. & The Witnesses‘s big-band jazz show for swing dancing lessons. 6 p.m. at City Winery, 1350 Okie St. NE. $15–$22.
Beck and Cage the ElephantBeck and Cage the Elephant make odd (yet fitting) tour-mates. While Cage’s bread and butter are FM radio-ready pop songs, their deep catalogue is admirably warped and weird. (Social Cues, their latest album, introduces a new mutation of the Kentucky band’s latex-clad, psychedelic sleaze.) Similarly, Beck spent over a decade as the “Loser” guy before winning a Grammy for album of the year. More importantly, he has his name on a library of some of the most successful experiments ever conducted in rock and roll, including Mellow Gold (1994), Guero (2005), and Modern Guilt (2008). Read more >>> The show begins at 6 p.m. at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. $29.50–$200.50. (410) 715-5550. merriweathermusic.com. (Will Lennon)
Australian rocker Alex Lahey projects a lovable slacker vibe—an attitude not too dissimilar from her compatriot Courtney Barnett—but her songs and voice pack a serious punch. 7 p.m. at 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $15.
Quirkily named group Food Will Win The War makes alternative folk music with glockenspiels and french horns. 7 p.m. at Songbyrd Music House, 2477 18th St. NW. $10–$12.
Nashville-bred band The Cadillac Three bring a little bit of Tennessee to Washington. 7 p.m. at Union Stage, 740 Water St. SW. $22–$40.
NEWS & REVIEWS YOU CAN USE
News: The National Archives is planning for its future (and ours).
Galleries: The Touchstone Gallery’s new exhibition attempts to figure out what, exactly,America Is…
Books: The changes in the town where White Elephant takes place will be familiar to any city dweller facing gentrification.
OFFICE OF FUTURE PLANNING
First-come, first-served tickets for The Kennedy Center’s REACH festival are available now. Sept. 7 to 22 at 2700 F St. NW. Free.
Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday for another night with Jane Goodall at The Anthem on Sept. 22. 8 p.m. at 901 Wharf St. SW. $55–$85.
Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Friday for Bentzen Ball performers including Maria Bamford, Jaboukie Young-White,and Tig Notaro at The Lincoln Theatre.Oct. 24 to 26 at 1215 U St. NW. $30–$40.