Credit: Delphine Lee

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Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival

Branford Marsalis, who headlines this year’s Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, offers a tidy summary of its mission: “We’re really looking forward to playing there, because it’s an audience that’s suited for the way that we play,” he said in an interview last month. “I think that too many times as musicians, we constantly obsess about the what. People don’t really care about what it is; they care about how it feels when you play it, and how it sounds.” There it is. Paul Carr, the festival’s chief, wants to reach people where they are, and that means moving them first and foremost. It doesn’t mean dumbing down the product, though, and there’s plenty of brain candy as well as ear candy to be had from Marsalis and his co-headliners, including violinist Regina Carter (who also stars in a three-way “violin summit”), trumpeters Brian Lynch and Sean Jones, drummer Ralph Peterson’s tribute to Art Blakey, and the wonderful D.C. vocalist Lori Williams. Feb.15 to 17 at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Center. $5–$225. —Michael J. West

Clear Channel

Self-described as “dub punk from space,” D.C.’s newest trio Clear Channel—featuring MJ Regalado (of Downtown Boys and Gauche), Carson Cox (of Merchandise), and Awad Bilal (of Vasillus)—dropped their first single, “Sports,” in January. It’s an enigmatic and sparse track packing a danceable beat that briefly introduces us to what the group brings to the stage. Clear Channel’s music is an open invitation to turn any rock club into a late-night disco; their sets make audiences move their feet rather than start a mosh pit. Joining them are two other local acts, avant-garde duo Dove Lady and the new wave-inspired quartet Bottled Up. With D.C.’s present infatuation with pairing cocktails with swanky dinners, this lineup promises to be a more affordable, albeit stacked, bill of rock ’n’ roll and pie. Feb. 15 at Dangerously Delicious Pies. $10. —Nenet


Thursday were hard to avoid for anyone with even a peripheral interest in “alternative” music during the early ’00s. Equally at home on bills with cheesy Drive-Thru Records emo bands and hardcore luminaries Snapcase and Boysetsfire, the band traipsed up and down the East Coast for what seemed like two straight years supporting 2001’s Full Collapse. More than 15 years have passed since the album was released, and despite their many successes, the band would never again capture the youthful abandon the record channeled. After all this time, you can still smell the sweet and sticky aroma of a New Brunswick basement show wafting off each note. Thursday have decided to once again call it quits, but before doing so, they’re playing two nights celebrating their most popular releases. They’ll also play 2003’s major label debut War All the Time. Feb. 15 and 16 at Union Stage. $35–$49. —Matt Siblo

Rare Essence, Trouble Funk, and E.U. 

Back in the day, holiday go-go shows were as reliable as the half-smokes at Ben’s Chili Bowl, with thousands of fans filling venues like the Washington Coliseum and the DC Armory to party with go-go’s greatest. Rivalry over top billing was intense, and on the day of the show, new outfits and dance steps were on display both in the audience and on stage. These days, it’s unusual to find go-go legends Rare Essence, Experience Unlimited, and Trouble Funk all on the same bill, but that’s exactly what’s in store at the Presidents’ Day Throwback Throwdown. While Trouble Funk enjoys well deserved crossover success, both RE and E.U. also represent the best of classic go-go. Rare Essence lead talker James Funk and his E.U. counterpart Sugar Bear are the most charismatic lead talkers in old school go-go; expect booty-shaking percussion and plenty of real D.C. charm. Feb. 17 at The Fillmore Silver Spring. $27. —Alona Wartofsky

Daughters and Wolf Eyes  

D.C., a metropolis marked by marble monuments, energetic young professionals, Cherry Blossom festivals, and bottomless brunch, does not frequently offer an escape for those morose souls who wish to use live music to submerge in the dark and disorienting catharsis of experimental noise. Daughters, fresh off the release of their intense and finely produced album You Won’t Get What You Want (their first in 8 years) have taken their former hardcore sound and refined it into mathier, but no less violent, noise-rock. The show opens with experimental trailblazers Wolf Eyes, an act that rarely go out of their way to perform in D.C. Their sound is difficult to define and their live shows, often consisting of modular electronics, distorted guitar, and saxophone, can be both dissonant and meditative, depending on your headspace. In their 20-year run, Wolf Eyes have self-identified as “trip metal,” “psycho jazz,” and “U$A’s longest homemade primitive electronic poetry & vibes trio.” Surprisingly, they also have a sense of humor. Feb. 17 at Black Cat. $18–$20. —Lindsay Hogan

Empress Of

As Empress Of, Lorely Rodriguez’s album titles have been instructive. On Me, she was not just a singer-songwriter but a producer-engineer, providing her wobbly electro-pop birdsongs with an introspective energy. Last year’s Us was just as danceable, but also more inclusive, her lyrics and productions more straightforward and approachable. Her process was also more inclusive, with uber-producer Dev Hynes, electronica duo DJDS, and others lending hands. “Collaborating is something I do naturally,” Rodriguez told Vogue. “Right now is not the time to be alone—everything in the world is so chaotic and heavy, so I needed to bring people into my process and lift me up, even emotionally.” With Us, she’s still Empress Of—just an empress of more of us. Feb. 18 at Rock & Roll Hotel. $15–$17. —Chris Kelly

Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak is a skilled producer and a clever rapper and lyricist. But he’s a sophisticated and confident drummer, first. His beats shift slow, then fast, and they run through his music like footsteps to chase. Where is Andy leading us? To the bedroom, sometimes. His song “Suede” is smooth, groovy, and soft—a slow jam if there ever was one (just don’t pay attention to the lyrics). Other times, he’s leading us to the dance floor. He intertwines funk and hip-hop in his tracks, and his most recent 2018 album, Oxnard, is riddled with famous music names like Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar. On Feb. 20, he’ll be leading us to the MGM National Harbor. He’s sure to drop the 2018 single “Bubblin’,” which is up for a 2019 Grammy and layers a fearless, fast-paced flow over decidedly James Bond vibes. Feb. 20 at the Theater at MGM National Harbor. $65–$182. —Avery J.C. Kleinman


If there is one thing about D.C., it’s that there is a plethora of DJs that claim to have the “best dance night ever.” And most of those DJs claim this title while looking up Hot 100 songs, ultimately creating an unbearable vibe for anyone that wants something more authentic. There are few that cultivate an experience of not just dance but also community. The weekly TECHYES is your escape from typical laptop DJs and unwanted advances on the dance floor every Thursday. Hosted by Jamel (Jay) Zuñiga (FKA LeDroit) and Sir E.U, TECHYES is the dance night you didn’t know you needed. Housed in the modest Sandovan Restaurant & Lounge, Zuñiga provides electronic rhythms reminiscent of the days of people moving in the streets with their Nike Air Forces 1s and sweatpants, while Sir E.U serves the heat bouncing around the dance floor on the mic. They electrify the room in what is easily one the best urban dance parties in the area. You’ll also be on the inside scoop for new music; the duo routinely perform original tracks from their upcoming EP, African American Psycho 2. TECHYES isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, it’s a labor of love for everyone involved, including the guest musicians and DJs that feel lucky just to be a part of it. Don’t sleep on this night. Feb. 21 at Sandovan Restaurant & Lounge. Free. —Laura Irene

Jay Electronica

How is it that an aging MC with an infinitesimal official discography can be booking headliner gigs at mid-sized venues? If we’re talking about Jay Electronica, it’s a combination of still-tantalizing promise and an ever-bubbling knack for generating social-media heat. Of course, in the Book of Jay, “promise” means a decade of claiming a debut album is imminent while parsimoniously doling out evocative, metaphysically inclined guest raps on other people’s records. And on social media, it means taking shots at Eminem (it’s a long story) while giving respectful shoutouts to the likes of Soulja Boy (Jay credits him for providing an early-career blueprint). For those of us who don’t have time to follow every tweet or Instagram post, the only thing that matters is that long-elusive debut album. Last summer there were moments of expectation—”soon come” he tweeted at a fan—but months later, there’s no LP. At least D.C. is getting him on a brief weekend tour that includes dates in the Boston area and Philadelphia. Is there a chance the album might drop before then? Ha. Feb. 23 at the Howard Theatre. $35–$59.99. —Joe Warminsky

October ‘71

In today’s over-saturated and all-too-familiar musical landscape, it’s refreshing to see artists create a project that doesn’t necessarily fit into society’s drab expectations. October ‘71 operate in that ethos, an ensemble that features Sir E.U, Jesse Sattler, Sam Catherman, Andrew Pendergrast, Jamel Zuñiga, Rob Stokes, Sean Lesczynski, and Louis Puech. In May of last year on the rooftop of DC9, the band came up with a script that would become the anthesis for their upcoming self-titled album. The story is about friendship told through a drama-filled narrative based in Pittsburgh in 1971. Their sound is a mesmerizing, jazzy part-blues, part-experimental set steeped in a delightful exuberance—a feeling reciprocated by a lively audience. While October ‘71 is a new moniker for The Rob Stokes Band, Stokes himself is no stranger to the music community. He has garnered respect from many in his eight years living in D.C.; doing his part to cultivate and support a thriving scene and collaborating with other artists. His most recent collaboration was with the multi-talented Tony Cruise; the duo co-produced, Live At The Heartbreak Hotel—the last record under Stokes’ name and worth a listen. Feb. 23 at Rock & Roll Hotel. $13. —Laura Irene

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is a quarterly hip-hop team competition and concert. Radio/TV host Eddie Kayne and rapper/promoter 20Bello select squads of elite MCs to face off in a battle for local bragging rights. Each lyricist takes the stage and recites their most incendiary bars and irreverent punchlines. The winner is determined by audience response, so stage presence and showmanship are essential. Though the competition is serious, even the most caustic verbal jabs are taken and received with a spirit of good humor. Among the artists scheduled to perform are 808 Pryme, Yung Bout-Dat, and J-Sol. Crank Lucas, a nationally known rapper and producer, has participated in this event in the past. The last Game of Thrones show ended in controversy with both Eddie Kayne and 20Bello claiming victory for their respective teams, so expect the debate to be settled on Feb. 24th. Feb. 24 at Velvet Lounge. $10. —Sidney Thomas

William Basinski

The U Street corridor—the epicenter of D.C.’s nightlife—and heavy experimental music are not a typical pairing, but that doesn’t mean habitual rules can’t be broken. Classically trained musician and composer William Basinski, best known for his 2002 ambient epic The Disintegration Loops, is coming to U Street Music Hall. On The Disintegration Loops, he employed salvaged magnetic tapes into a four-volume series that was later inducted into the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. His newest work, Selva Oscura, is a collaboration with electronic composer Lawrence English, and the final product is rich, often times dense and haunting. Come early: Opening for Basinski will be a DJ set by local stalwart Luke Stewart and Brooklyn artist and composer Britton Powell. Powell, along with Leila Bordreuil and Max Eilbacher, will be premiering a piece written for amplified cello, quadraphonic electronics, and percussion. Feb. 26 at U Street Music Hall. $20–25. —Nenet

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat and BRNDA

This is D.C.’s first concert season without Black Cat’s Backstage. And it will be missed. But the city’s newest venue, the 150-ish capacity bar and stage at Dangerously Delicious Pies, is carrying the Black Cat’s torch on H Street NE by booking emerging, unconventional artists and pairing them with local talent (a practice that grows increasingly rare in D.C.). To kick off March, Baltimore duo Ed Schrader’s Music Beat will be breaking in the fledgling stage with their chaotic, electronically inflected garage rock and droll, gritty wit. Live, ESMB is a slender operation, working only with a mic (probably), backing tracks (likely), a floor tom (maybe), and Devlin Rice’s towering bass. Ed Schrader is both a born showman and an oddball; his wardrobe will vary from loose-fitting pastel suits to ripped shorts with no shirt. He embodies every note of his frantic songs and maintains a level of dizzying energy with equally frantic and wry stage banter. To match Ed Schrader’s idiosyncratic spirit, D.C.’s BRNDA will open the show. The jangly rock quartet turn trivial moments and comedic whims into DIY anthems. Discography highlights include “Everybody Hates Jim,” “How to Perform a Tombstone Piledriver (with Pictures),” and “Serious Band.” March 1 at Dangerously Delicious Pies. $10. —Lindsay Hogan

Kronos Quartet: Music for Change—The Banned Countries

The 2017 executive orders restricting travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim countries—better known as the Muslim ban—inspired airport demonstrations, Supreme Court challenges and … a new classical music concert program. San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet, among the best known string ensembles playing today, has never shied away from contemporary politics or culture; they have collaborated with Allen Ginsberg, Nine Inch Nails, and Café Tacvba, and written for everything from AIDS benefits to video game soundtracks. But Music for Change may be their most explicitly political endeavor, intended as a protest of the Muslim ban. In it, Kronos performs music by composers from the original seven banned countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, accompanied by Iranian-born Persian vocal artist Mahsa Vahdat. It is unlikely to have much of a policy impact, but an opportunity for musical exchange that’s becoming rarer as U.S. foreign policy grows colder. Presented by Washington Performing Arts. March 2 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. $45. —Mike Paarlberg

Fleetwood Mac

Whether you’re a boomer or a latter-day hipster, there’s no denying the sullen and energetic melody of “The Chain,” side two, track one of Fleetwood Mac’s legendary 1977 album Rumours. Since the band’s 1966 debut album, Fleetwood Mac have meticulously toed the lines that separate blues and rock. And considering their many incarnations, Fleetwood Mac’s musical evolution has solidified their mark in both pop and rock history. While much of their earlier anthology meandered through the pains of loss and change, 50 Years—Don’t Stop, the band’s new compilation, shows the entire emotional spectrum of their tenure. On the band’s current tour, you’ll see some new faces as well: Joining longtime members Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie, and Stevie Nicks are Neil Finn and Mike Campbell, replacing longtime guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. While the faces have changed, their influence remains unhindered. March 5 at Capital One Arena. $69–$585. —Mikala Williams


“Never been shit, never had shit, never knew shit, never out never do shit, damn,” J.I.D spits with precise, manic energy. That’s the opening line of “NEVER,” a braggadocious track about hunger and hope that doesn’t have time for material luxuries like Rollies on the wrist—J.I.D is too busy striving. Signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, the exuberant, fast-rapping Atlanta MC was featured on the annual XXL “Freshman Class” cover in 2018, a well known spotlight for up-and-coming hip-hop artists. After years of releasing mixtapes, J.I.D debuted The Never Story in 2017 and, propelled by the momentum of his acclaimed sophomore album DiCaprio 2, kicked off his second headlining tour in two years in early January. By the artist’s own account, DiCaprio 2 showcases his sharpened lyricism, notable on tracks like “Westbrook” and “Tiiied,” both of which feature standout guest artists like A$AP Ferg, 6LACK, and Ella Mai. “I’m a god, I’m a king, I’m a giant,” J.I.D raps on “Off Deez,” a collaboration with J. Cole. With a talent this ascendent, he might just be right. March 10 at MilkBoy ArtHouse. $22–$99. —Amy Guay

Habib Koité and Bassekou Kouyate

Malian roots music stars Habib Koité and Bassekou Kouyate have both performed separately in this area a number of times, but this spring they will be collaborating together onstage. They’re a good fit: Guitarist/vocalist Koité has a warm, relaxed singing style and frequently metes out ethereal notes from his often open-tuned acoustic instrument. Ngoni player and singer Kouyate is best known for the high-pitched, delicate sounds he draws from his lute-like instrument. Koité has worked with musicians around the world and is also known for strumming flamenco- and blues-inspired lines. Kouyate, too, has partnered with non-Malian players and can make his ngoni rock with fast-fingered string work. Expect both to show their technical virtuosity, but in ways that enhance rather than distract from the tunefully warbled melodies, clever polyrhythms, and blissful arrangements. March 13 and 14 at the Barns at Wolf Trap. $45–$55. —Steve Kiviat

Eddie Palmieri

This fall marks the 45th anniversary of the release of The Sun of Latin Music, probably still the most ambitious and influential salsa recording ever made. It announces Nuyorican pianist Eddie Palmieri’s revelation—genuinely new in its day—that salsa could be progressive, adopting ideas from rock, funk, and jazz, without sacrificing the hip-shaking Afro-Caribbean grooves that were its raison d’etre. Palmieri was already a major innovator by the time of Sun (which won the first-ever Grammy for Best Latin Recording) and has continued as such in the 45 years since. In fact, his latest album, Full Circle, finds him revisiting classics from his back catalog and imbuing them with his latest sonic discoveries. It’s not an original idea, but it’s serendipitous in the case of the world’s greatest living Latin jazz musician: Palmieri, who could easily be resting on his 1974 laurels, is reimagining them instead. March 14 to 17 at Blues Alley. $55–$60. —Michael J. West

Nate Smith + KINFOLK with Van Hunt

The last two decades have seen the rise of many artists who blur the lines between jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and mainstream pop. Purveyors of the so-called nu jazz include keyboardist Robert Glasper, bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, and saxophonist Kamasi Washington. Drummer Nate Smith also belongs on this list. His band, KINFOLK, comes to the Kennedy Center, a venue with which Smith shares a long history. He was a student in Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program in the late ’90s and has since served on its faculty. Other notable credits include work with saxophonist Chris Potter, pop songwriting legend Joe Jackson, and veteran bassist Dave Holland. With KINFOLK, he has created a project based in very simple compositional ideas that allow for improvisational freedom by its members, all atop his rock-solid groove. This performance features neo-soul singer/songwriter Van Hunt as a special guest. March 16 at the Kennedy Center Atrium. $29. —Sriram Gopal

Massive Attack

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its landmark album, Mezzanine, legendary Bristol-based trip-hop trio Massive Attack will perform in North America for the first time in five years. Described by Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja as the band’s “own personalized nostalgia nightmare head trip,” the tour promises an impressive audiovisual production, performances with frequent collaborators, and a reconstruction of the entire album with the original songs and samples performed live. The original recording of Mezzanine was marked by creative friction between the trio—each artist recorded in separate studios and founding member Andy “Mushroom” Vowles left the group upon the album’s release. But from that tension and angst, Massive Attack created a timeless album of famously slowed breakbeats and syrupy melancholy that pioneered the prominence of trip-hop, or lover’s hip-hop, as they preferred, for contemporaries like Portishead and Tricky. March 20 at The Anthem. $55–$95. —Casey Embert

Anoushka Shankar

Ravi Shankar was a key figure in the introduction of Indian classical music to western audiences, first through his relationship with The Beatles’ George Harrison and then with memorable performances at the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock. He died in 2012, but his legacy lives on through his daughter, Anoushka Shankar, whom he schooled as a sitarist in the Hindustani musical tradition. The younger Shankar has not limited herself to the music of her roots; she’s made adventurous recordings that incorporate electronic, pop (she has cut several songs with her half-sister, Norah Jones), and even flamenco elements. As Shankar tours the U.S. this spring, her performances will draw from her entire catalog and will also include new, unrecorded pieces. Presented by Washington Performing Arts. March 23 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. $40. —Sriram Gopal

La Paloma At The Wall 

In La verbena de la Paloma, “the Festival of the Dove,” Spanish composer Tomás Bretón and librettist Ricardo de la Vega tell a bawdy tale of working class life in fin de siècle Madrid. Jealous love, drinking, and fighting, it’s such good fun that the cops ultimately have to intervene and mend broken hearts. At least that’s how it was a century ago, I guess. In La Paloma At The Wall, composer Ulises Eliseo and librettist Anna Deeny Morales update the popular zarzuela, the traditional Spanish mashup genre of opera, theater, and dance for the present-day border “crisis.” In this version, set on the Mexico side of the Tijuana-San Ysidro border crossing where thousands of Central American refugees fleeing gang violence are currently stuck in asylum limbo, Mexican folk dancers and son jarocho musicians provide a backdrop to a less ribald, more desperate situation in which immigration law enforcement is less likely to play the role of cupid. March 23 to 31 at GALA Hispanic Theatre. $20–$45. —Mike Paarlberg

Direct Current

With its recent additions of composer-in-residence Mason Bates and artistic directors Jason Moran (for jazz) and Q-Tip (for hip-hop), the Kennedy Center has deliberately injected itself with young blood. It rightly refuses to be a stodgy, conservative arts institution. As such, its creation last year of a contemporary arts festival was inevitable, but also invaluable. The two weeks of programming for the Kennedy Center’s Direct Current festival include performances by standalone artists, including jazz saxophonist-composer Henry Threadgill, new-age polymath Laraaji, and dance duo Gato Preto. Its main focus, though, is on cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary works. To wit: Contemporary dance troupe TU Dance works with indie-folkies Bon Iver; the NSO premieres a new multimedia work co-created by composer Lera Auerbach and National Geographic marine ecologist Enric Sala; and an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography also features newly composed choral music, poetry, and video. For all of its establishment trappings, the Kennedy Center is becoming one of the most exciting artistic forums in the country. March 24 to April 7 at the Kennedy Center. Prices vary. —Michael J. West

Ariana Grande

Life has had nothing but proverbial lemons for Ariana Grande: a terrorist attack at her 2017 performance in Manchester, the untimely death of her ex-boyfriend and affable rapper Mac Miller, and the painfully public breakup with former fiancé and SNL comedian Pete Davidson. But armed with positive thinking and tenacious girl power, the pop star turned her emotional aftermath into a chart-topping album and a viral single that holds the world record for the most plays in a single day by a female artist on Spotify. Silky and unwavering, Ariana’s voice on her 2018 album, Sweetener, amplifies the voices of women around the world who also aspire to call the shots and look damn good doing it. Steadfast in her efforts to rewrite the rules, Grande redefined the breakup song with her late 2018 surprise single, “thank u, next,” in which she expressed genuine appreciation for her exes by name and set another example of how important it is for women to take control of their own narrative. March 25 at Capital One Arena. $96–$699. —Casey Embert

Alash Ensemble

Hailing from the tiny Russian republic of Tuva, Alash Ensemble are a trio that fuses the ancient art of throat singing with subtle western influences. Alash combine Tuva’s heardsmen tradition of outdoor singing—in which voices mimic and interact with the sounds of the natural world—with stringed instruments. Dedicated to preserving the integrity of their heritage, Alash Ensemble’s sound is a distinctive one, with multiple layers of sonic texture and simultaneous voice pitches. Their latest release, Achai, doubles as a magical tapestry where choral meets Eastern cowboys. The show is presented by Multiflora Productions and hosted by the nonprofit organization Hill Center, at the Old Naval Hospital in Capitol Hill, as part of their Global Sounds on the Hill series. March 26 at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital. $18–$20. —Nenet


Sometimes your favorite band reunites. More often, they do not. Jawbreaker, a bicoastal ’90s punk trio, were solidly in the latter category following their dissolution in 1996. The breakup, which was detailed in the 2017 documentary Don’t Break Down, was messy. When members Adam Pfahler, Blake Schwarzenbach, and Chris Bauermeister were interviewed for the picture, a reunion seemed unlikely as ever. As with many short-lived acts of yesteryear, the band developed a devoted following in the time they were inactive. Schwarzenbach’s lyrics are intensely personal, yet strike a chord with so many. The urgency in his raspy voice is haunting, and has enchanted a whole new generation of fans. Prominent indie musicians who were in diapers when Jawbreaker were active regularly credit the band as a source of great inspiration. For those who didn’t catch them in small clubs on the west coast, or when they opened for Nirvana in 1993, seeing Jawbreaker perform live seemed a lost cause. Then Jawbreaker was announced as a headliner for Riot Fest in 2017. Since then, the band has played a few sets here and there, with here mainly being Los Angeles, and there being the NYC area. This spring, Jawbreaker will embark on their first East Coast tour in more than two decades. Their performance in D.C. will be the first since 1996. March 28 at The Anthem. $45–$75. —Callie Tansill-Suddath

Mariah Carey

What do glamour, butterflies, and Christmas have in common? If you guessed Mariah Carey, you are correct! The woman is a certified diva. Case-in-point: She has literally hired men dressed as sailors to carry her off stage, for the simple fact that she can and because she’s Mariah Carey. Her 20-year discography has reached a God-level status, with a number of hit songs. The five-octave pop legend recently finished a residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, riffing off her greatest hits and fulfilling an oh so sweet, sweet fantasy. Her most recent album, Caution, basically forewarns us of her authority, signaling that bad dudes should just GTFO. But you should totally GTF in for this tour stop at the Theater at MGM National Harbor. March 31 at the Theater at MGM National Harbor. $128–$624. —Mikala Williams

Decibel Metal & Beer Fest Kick-Off Party

Metal and beer are a match made in Hades, and Atlas Brew Works has quickly become one of the best spots in D.C. to see heavy music, allowing patrons to crush some brews while listening to crushing riffs. This made it a natural stop for Decibel magazine’s inaugural Metal & Beer Fest. Though the main festival features a different lineup, Atlas plays host to a one-off kick-off party, welcoming New Jersey funeral doom legends Evoken for their first-ever show in D.C. Joined by the likes of Philadelphia’s Crypt Sermon and D.C.’s own Ilsa, this promises to be one of the loudest, heaviest shows you’ll attend this year. April 5 at Atlas Brew Works. $15–$20. —Keith Mathias

21st Century Consort: Black Angels

The 21st Century Consort takes its mandate seriously as the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s ensemble-in-residence. And for a period of history as ugly and polarizing as the subject of SAAM’s concurrent exhibition, Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965–1975, some music that isn’t conventionally pretty is appropriate. And there’s no better choice than George Crumb, an experimental American composer who was influenced by Stravinsky, Ravel, and the dark poetry of Federico García Lorca, and whose work contained violent emotions and bizarre metaphors. His dirge on the Vietnam War, Black Angels, imagines attack helicopters as stinging insects, and makes unusual demands on its string players, such as shouting, playing with thimbles on their fingers, and bowing on their fingerboards. It’s a deliriously weird piece, and will be accompanied by works of James Primosch, Susan Botti, and Eugene O’Brien, whose Elegy to the Spanish Republic recalls another great bummer of the last century. April 13 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Free. —Mike Paarlberg

The Coathangers

The Coathangers are a three-piece punk band from Atlanta. They play with seemingly boundless energy—they tour constantly—but what makes them a band to see is that their drummer and guitarist share lead vocals in two distinct, complementary styles. The drummer Stephanie Luke has a throaty snarl to her voice, as if she could chew up and spit out any dudebro who would dare heckle her. The guitarist Julia Kugel has a higher voice, sounding like a ’60s bubblegum pop singer who went to the dark side. Their dueling style, coupled with some unusual instrumentation like squeaky toys and Theremins, adds way more texture and dimension than you might expect from a punk band whose name signals bitter defiance. It is 2019, and Roe v. Wade is on the cusp of being overturned, so you can expect The Coathangers to play with even more anger and urgency than usual. This band will want to recruit you. April 19 at DC9. $12–$15. —Alan Zilberman

Acid Mothers Temple

With their soaring, trance-inducing drones, the Japanese psychedelic “soul collective” formed in 1996 as Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO (for “Underground Freak Out”) and was a staple of the legendary experimental label P.S.F. Founder Makoto Kawabata started the group out of frustration with the psychedelic rock canon, none of which met his high quality control standards. Don’t expect an ordinary guitar-heavy trip. The group devours Indian classical music and the avant-garde electronics of Karlheinz Stockhausen, which Kawabata once dreamed of combining with Deep Purple. But as he told Pitchfork, the group’s most profound influence is “the heavenly orchestra I once heard in a dream.” April 24 at Black Cat. $15. —Pat Padua

Broccoli City Festival

After being staged at the Half Street Fairgrounds, Gateway Pavilion, and RFK Stadium, the socially and environmentally conscious Broccoli City Festival is set to take over FedEx Field. But this year, it’s not just a music festival—it also includes a two-day convention, a preview event, and even a 5K run. Thankfully, the main event still promises to deliver the kind of hip-hop and R&B stars that it has in years past. Along with headliners Lil Wayne and Childish Gambino, Broccolites can catch Atlanta rap upstarts Lil Baby and Gunna; R&B queens Ella Mai and Teyana Taylor; Miami rap sensation City Girls; and more. Now in its seventh year, Broccoli City has officially grown up. April 26 at FedEx Field. $55.50–$495.50. —Chris Kelly

HEALTH and Youth Code

It’s hard to find a pairing more well suited for one another than Los Angeles’ HEALTH and Youth Code. While the former sugarcoats its digital bombast with singer Jake Duzsik’s ethereal vocals and danceable beats, Youth Code are primed for maximum impact, invoking the confrontational EBM heyday of Skinny Puppy and Wax Trax! Records. To see HEALTH live is an immersive experience—such pretty syncopated lights!—but one that can bring both risk and reward. The band puts a great deal of effort into its presentation but I’ve seen technical difficulties lead to some fussiness. I caught—and ultimately abandoned—their malfunctioning 10-minute set at Riot Fest in Chicago this past summer, so let’s hope those behind the boards at Rock & Roll Hotel know what they are doing. April 28 at Rock & Roll Hotel. $20. —Matt Siblo

Steve Gunn

New York-based guitarist Steve Gunn got his start during a fertile moment in American underground music—a time when folk revivalists mingled easily with experimental musicians and bonafide weirdos. It wasn’t the ’60s, though, so back off baby boomers. It was the mid-’00s. At the time, Gunn was one of a number of musicians who were trying to reconcile punk-rock roots with an affinity for the raga-informed fingerstyle playing of John Fahey. In the years since, he’s evolved into a talented singer-songwriter type whose work still finds the common ground between the traditional and the out-there. Gunn’s latest, The Unseen In Between, is among his best, ably dialing in the hypnotic drift of latter-day Sonic Youth and the cosmic charm of Takoma Records. It’s music that’s at once timeless and totally of the moment. May 4 at Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe. $15–$17. —Aaron Leitko

Voice Array

Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer creates experiences in which humans heighten technology in a world where it is usually the opposite. Behind the majestic door at the Mexican Cultural Institute is a room with a simple concept created by Lozano-Hemmer. Speak into an intercom and your voice is then projected throughout the room through an installation of light flashes and lines. A voice pattern is created and stored as a loop in the first light of the array. Each new recording pushes all previous recordings one position down and gradually one can hear the cumulative sound of 288 previous recordings. The voice pushed out of the array can then be heard by itself. That is the technical part; the fun part is what you choose to say, and words are not your only tool. You can play a song from your phone, recite your favorite poem, tell a secret, or simply say “Hello.” The possibilities are endless as you watch the sound you make turn into a visual light display that makes you wonder: How far do our voices truly carry? Voice Array is an accompaniment to Pulse, Lozano-Hemmer’s current exhibition of three major interactive installations at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. To April 28 at the Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington, D.C. Free. —Laura Irene

Section 14: The Other Palm Springs, California

In the popular imagination, Palm Springs is associated with resorts, golf courses, and sandswept desert. But one square-mile tract, the blandly named Section 14, has a more tortured history. Section 14 is part of the Agua Caliente Indian reservation and includes a revered boiling mineral water spring, but the plot has been home to low-income families who worked service jobs in Palm Springs, and it’s been fought over for decades by corporations, developers, and non-tribal governments who knew its value and who sometimes used strong-arm tactics to control its poorer residents. Changes in land-leasing laws enabled the development of hotels and a convention center starting in the 1970s. To tell the story, the National Museum of the American Indian is presenting an exhibit organized locally by the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum. March 1 to Jan. 2020 at the National Museum of the American Indian. Free. —Louis Jacobson

Perfume & Seduction

As the self-care movement goes increasingly mainstream, the associated rituals and products have grown increasingly ridiculous. Mineral-infused body butters and jade facial muscle massagers most likely wouldn’t have phased the French bourgeois of the 18th century, considering that they turned bathing and dressing into a combination of performance and social outing. Toilette, as it was known, involved hours of primping, scenting, applying makeup, and dressing in elaborate outfits while entertaining visitors and discussing the gossip of the day. These rituals required all sorts of tools and storage containers, and Perfume & Seduction presents some of the most fascinating objects from toilette sets. Even the most Sephora-obsessed among us likely don’t have a porcelain rouge holder decorated with an image of our lover, a gold-gilded comb, or a perfume bottle topped with a pug figurine. Feb. 16 to June 9 at the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens. $5–$18. —Stephanie Rudig


Bill Bamberger has taken tens of thousands of photographs of basketball courts in 38 states and a dozen countries, from West Virginia to Harlem, and from Guatemala to Rwanda. His long-simmering desire to undertake the project crystallized in a 2004 trip to Nags Head, North Carolina, when he saw a beachfront rental house with a hand-made backboard and stanchion that were painted the same bright yellow as the house’s shutters. In his retrospective at the National Building Museum, he only offers photographs of the courts empty, even if he’d met the players. “In the stillness of the court, photographed in early morning or late afternoon light, I came to know a great deal about a community, its character and values,” Bamberger says. “A photograph of someone making a great shot or a great move takes place in a fraction of a second, but a photograph of that same court without people is about the layered history of a place.” March 9 to Jan. 5, 2020, at the National Building Museum. $10. —Louis Jacobson

Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965–1975

Artists Respond brings together nearly 100 works by 58 Vietnam War-era artists, in an effort to understand how artists grappled with an unfolding crisis in real time. In contrast to the leading genres in the early 1960s—formalistic, even bloodless color-field painting and lighthearted pop art—artists of the Vietnam era delved headlong into politics. Some harnessed the war’s visceral visuals, sometimes in performance pieces that referenced the iconography of burned flesh. Others, like Hans Haacke, transformed real-world facts and information into art by putting them on gallery walls. “The moral urgency of the war pushed artists of all kinds to rethink how to engage the ‘real’ world in their work, rather than thinking of art as something that is separate and elevated,” says Melissa Ho, the exhibit’s curator. March 15 to Aug. 18 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Free. —Louis Jacobson

Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling

Ursula von Rydingsvard’s survey draws its title from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke: “We don’t know the contour of feeling; we only know what molds it from without.” The line could double as a catechism for any sculpture, but it specifically serves von Rydingsvard’s moody, elemental abstractions. The Contour of Feeling, organized by guest curator Mark Rosenthal for the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, comprises more than 40 artworks, most of them large-scale sculptures made in cedar. It will mark a rare sculpture-focused show for the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and one that promises to stretch the building to the seams, as von Rydingsvard tends toward the monumental. This survey of her recent art also includes works in pulp, leather, linen, and other fibers—natural materials that she uses to explore the sometimes-contradictory, sometimes-ambivalent sentiments of post-war Germany. March 22 to July 28 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. $8–$10. —Kriston Capps

Oliver Lee Jackson: Recent Paintings

In a video interview from last year, artist Oliver Lee Jackson refers to his paintings as “machines,” explaining “Just like a car, it better run well. This process is to make a machine that activates you. It must do that work.” Jackson has been doing the work for over half a century, and his drive to make compositions that suck the viewer in and make them contemplate is as strong as ever. In his hometown of St. Louis, he spent significant time with the Black Artist Group, a collective of jazz musicians, dancers, and other artists, and there is an undeniable musical current that has remained a defining feature of his work. Recent Paintings displays some of Jackson’s works from the last 15 years, and the frenetic energy that imbues his abstract figures and pulsating forms hasn’t diminished one bit. March 24 to Sept. 2 at the National Gallery of Art. Free. —Stephanie Rudig

Charles Hinman: Structures, 1965–2014

Back in the 1960s, artists coming up in the monumental shadow cast by the Abstract Expressionist movement sometimes turned to solemn, rule-bound, process-oriented artworks. Not Charles Hinman. He and the cast of characters who made work in the no-man’s-land of the Bowery at the time—Ellsworth Kelly, James Rosenquist, and Robert Indiana among them—came to Pop and Minimalism with bright industrial colors and an irreverent attitude about the rules of painting. Hinman was among the first to violate the sanctity of the rectangular boundaries in which Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko sought to depict universal truths. While not as well known as his confrères, Hinman pioneered geometric, shaped-canvas paintings that were both indicative of a moment and forward thinking in form. Guest curator Danielle O’Steen brings together the first full survey of this lesser light of hard-edged abstraction to grace D.C., with works spanning nearly half a century of production. April 18 to July 31 at the Kreeger Museum. $8–$10. —Kriston Capps

Enrico David: Gradations of Slow Release

At a glance, it’s easy to trace the influences in Enrico David’s work. Spindly bodies in his paintings and sculpture point to Alberto Giacometti. The restricted palette and sense of unease in his artwork are cousin to Louise Bourgeois. The silent screaming is Surrealist. Yet any sustained effort to place David’s work is a frustrating exercise. His primitive figures echo primal moments in art history, yet the agita that they channel feels familiar, something that belongs to the here and now. There is a telescoping effect in seeing the artist’s work that matches the repetition that often marks his figures—which sometimes appear as if they’re collapsing in on themselves. Co-organized with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and curated by the MCA’s Michael Darling, this survey promises a grotesque that is both timely and out of time. April 16 to Sept. 2 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Free. —Kriston Capps

New York City Ballet

An out-of-control party that allegedly caused $150,000 in damage to a Foggy Bottom hotel marred the New York City Ballet’s last visit to the Kennedy Center. This year, the company aspires to keep the party onstage with two programs highlighting City Ballet’s storied history and optimism for the future. Program A shows all feature “Symphony in C,” founder George Balanchine’s bold celebration of diagonal patterns and Igor Stravinsky’s music. Program B includes Jerome Robbins’ romantic ballroom classic “In the Night,” as well as three new ballets from divergent choreographers. Justin Peck pays homage to Leonard Bernstein in “Easy.” Tony-winner Warren Carlyle celebrates Broadway in “SOMETHING TO DANCE ABOUT,” and Kyle Abraham aims to mildly shock balletomanes. His landmark work “The Runaway” is set to a hip-hop medley, so get ready for a little Kanye. April 2 to 7 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. $29–$99. —Rebecca J. Ritzel

Lucky Plush: Rooming House

Contemporary dance and podcasts aren’t mutually exclusive. That’s the paradoxical premise of Rooming House by Lucky Plush Productions, a Chicago troupe making its D.C. debut in May. Meg Booth, the Kennedy Center’s former director of dance programming who left town to run Houston’s Society for the Performing Arts Center last fall, had tried to book these Windy City dance/theater specialists for several years. And most likely, she’ll be sorely missed. Rooming House begins with six performers speaking into headset microphones, each telling stories like roommates in a group house chatting on their cell phones. As the 75-minute work by Julia Rhoads and Leslie Buxbaum Danzig progresses, six stories spiral out and intertwine. “The focus is on the making of big decisions that change your life,” wrote Chris Jones in his mostly positive Chicago Tribune review of the 2017 premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre. “You actually get to see the dancers’ own preoccupations, however esoteric … It’s a window into the choreographic process, to some extent, but also a meditation on how story begets form. It’s very cool to watch.” May 2 to 4 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. $39. —Rebecca J. Ritzel

Alyssa Mastromonaco

Alyssa Mastromonaco is likely no longer welcome at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. It may be her habit of retweeting President Donald Trump with biting, and often terse, commentary. It may be her habit of dissing the President on the Crooked Media podcasts she’s a frequent guest on, including Pod Save America. Or it may be her former job title: White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for President Barack Obama. That means she was in Obama’s inner circle, by his side for important decisions. But don’t let the fancy job title fool you—Mastromonaco is approachable, self-deprecating, and incredibly open. In her first memoir about her time working in the White House, Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?, she revealed details you might not expect from a political insider, like a menstrual emergency that caused her to bleed through her “blue-and-white houndstooth capris from J. Crew” and the details of an IBS attack … while at the Vatican. Her new book, So Here’s the Thing…: Notes on Growing Up, Getting Older, and Trusting Your Gut, promises to be just as revealing and shifts her life experiences into lessons. Mastromonaco will be in conversation with Symone Sanders, CNN political commentator and democratic strategist. March 7 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. $18–$45. —Avery J.C. Kleinman

Mark Synnott

Accomplished big wall climber, author, photographer, mountain guide, and National Geographic contributing writer Mark Synnott is visiting D.C. in March to discuss his new book, The Impossible Climb: Alex Honnold, El Capitan, and the Climbing Life. The book documents Alex Honnold’s rope-free ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite—the same climb featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary Free Solo. Synnott’s climbing and outdoor adventure career has taken him from Yosemite Valley to Pakistan, Borneo, Greenland, Baffin Island, Tibet, Chad, Cameroon, and elsewhere. At Nat Geo, he will share the stage with senior editor Peter Gwin for a conversation about his own experiences, the past, present, and future of rock climbing, and the significance of Honnold’s achievement. March 12 at the National Geographic Museum. $25. —Graham Roth

Hanif Abdurraqib

To strike the balance between criticism and reflection is a great feat, and what Hanif Abdurraqib attempts in Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest. The hip-hop group takes center stage in the book, but the work is not a biography, or a profile, or anything of the sort. He links the group’s work to the wider music traditions that traveled with the African diaspora, and over 200 or so pages, focuses his lens on his world as a midwestern teenager in the mid-’90s whose innermost solace could be found in a Walkman housing his copy of Beats, Rhymes & Life, the group’s fourth album. Abdurraqib is a poet and cultural critic by trade, which becomes abundantly clear through his diction, and approach to detailing the band’s tenure and catalog of work. Go Ahead in the Rain is not just for fans of A Tribe Called Quest, but for anyone who has ever felt deeply understood by a band, or found comfort in the solitude of putting on a pair of headphones. You can hear part of the story in the author’s own words in March at Politics and Prose’s Union Market outpost. March 19 at Politics and Prose at Union Market. Free. —Callie Tansill-Suddath

Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney’s prose is electric. In her critically acclaimed debut novel, Conversations With Friends, she wrote about college students and young adults in their 20s and 30s, navigating romantic relationships and friendships with an emotional rawness conveyed in sharp dialogue and precise observations. Her characters are unsure of themselves and skeptical of the post-financial crisis future that lies ahead. Her follow-up, Normal People, published in the United Kingdom and Ireland last August and due out in the United States on April 16, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In an interview last fall with the Irish Independent, Rooney expressed ambivalence about writing “aesthetic objects at a time of historical crisis.” The psychological specificity of her characters makes deeply personal stories feel tightly placed in our political moment. Rooney’s fiction is required reading, and her visit to D.C. is not likely to disappoint. April 18 at Politics and Prose at Union Market. Free. —Graham Roth

Schitt’s Creek: Up Close & Personal

With nearly 500 scripted shows scattered across the cable box and a growing list of streaming services, Peak TV is becoming unmanageable. Generally, no one has seen your new favorite show, and will likely never have time to watch it. An exception to this rule is Schitt’s Creek, a CBC sitcom that airs on the little-known Pop network in the U.S but has quietly grown a cult following. Schitt’s Creek tells the tale of the Rose family, a once-wealthy clan forced to start over in the titular small town; think Arrested Development meets Green Acres. With fans hungering for more than the show’s 50-something episodes, the cast—including father-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and Annie Murphy—is taking the show on the road. Past Up Close & Personal events have included panel discussions, slide shows, trivia games, songs, and Q&As. Whatever form it takes, it’s sure to be a hilarious evening—Netflix not required. Feb. 22 at DAR Constitution Hall. $65. —Chris Kelly 

New African Film Festival

Now in its 15th year, this year’s showcase for African film is bigger than ever, with more than 30 films on tap and nearly 40 percent of those films directed by women. Highlights include Life is Fare, the feature debut from actress-filmmaker Sephora Woldu, who will be in attendance to talk about her film’s perspectives on Eritrean-American immigrants; Nigerian Price, directed by D.C.-born Howard University graduate Faraday Okoro; Fig Tree, about a Jewish family caught in the Ethiopian Civil War but determined to flee for Israel; and aKasha, a so-called stoner comedy from Sudan that’s the latest from Beats of the Antonov director Hajooj Kuka. March 7 to 17 at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. $13 per film. —Pat Padua

Trace of Stones

The Goethe-Institut’s terrific 7th Street NW screening room may be gone, but its celebration of German culture continues with occasional film programs at area Landmark theaters. Frank Beyer, one of the most important directors working on the east side of the Berlin Wall, made this rarely screened drama of labor conflict, which plays like an Eastern Bloc Western. Singer-actor Manfred Krug, who began his career working in a steel plant, stars as a plant foreman in charge of a rebellious crew that pilfers materials from rival crew and likes to go skinny dipping in a local duck pond. Upon its release in 1966, the German Democratic Republic’s communist party banned the movie, and it wasn’t screened again in Germany for 23 years. March 11 at Landmark West End Cinema. $5. —Pat Padua

Hugo Boss’ Secret Nazi History, Fashion at War

They say that all fashion trends are cyclical, and unfortunately, that currently includes the resurgence of Nazi getups. The grossly iconic uniforms of the SS emerged from a surprising place—Hugo Boss’ clothing company. The Hugo Boss clothing line may now be better known as the brand of choice for a Hemsworth brother to don on the red carpet, but the eponymous man behind the house launched his empire with those uniforms, and was himself a card-carrying member of the Nazi party. After the end of World War II and Boss’ death, the house pivoted to men’s suits, but the resulting designs share a meticulous tailoring and silhouettes that project authority with their originators. A quick perusal of fashion blogs discussing the evolution of Hugo Boss shows that this history has been perpetually glossed over—they frequently cite that Boss created uniforms for “various parties,” and ignore his Nazi affiliation. This documentary offers a corrective that explores the insidious roots of the fashion house, and explores how that history works in the context of a modern resurgence of Nazi iconography and ideology. Feb. 12 and March 21 at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. Free. —Stephanie Rudig


Over the course of one alcohol-addled, 24-hour period, three 20-somethings dance, drink, and stumble along the streets of New York in poet-playwright Aziza Barnes’ BLKS, a radical centering of black sisterhood and queerness. Galvanized by a health scare and in search of something that will make their worlds feel a little less messy, the trio of friends navigate encounters with well meaning white folks and mediocre men, trading barbs and finding joy in fleeting moments of intimacy. Barnes’ witty, specific dialogue and director Nataki Garrett’s fast-paced depiction of complex black lives responds to everything from Lena Dunham’s lily-white Girls to the canon of August Wilson. Funny, sexy, and raw, BLKS blends the farcical and poignant to dig into the power of belonging. To March 3 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. $20–$75. —Amy Guay


The world premiere of playwright and director Aaron Posner’s new work tackles the legacy of the sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, by dividing him up between four different actors (two men and two women) and placing him in imagined encounters with contemporaries including George Washington, Frederick Douglass, Andrew Jackson, Abigail Adams, and John Adams, among others. JQA was the son of President John Adams and grandfather of memoirist Henry Adams. Though he is remembered as a one-term president who Andrew Jackson soundly defeated in 1828, his career spanned our nation’s formative and fractious pre-Civil War years, and took him from a diplomatic mission to the court of Tsar Alexander I during the Napoleonic Wars to the Supreme Court, where he argued for the freedom of the slaves who revolted aboard the Amistad. As Posner says about his protagonist, JQA’s “life and times have a lot to tell us about where we are today—and how we got here.” Aaron Posner is an award-winning playwright and director who has found success adapting works by Chekhov, Potok, and Shakespeare, but JQA is an entirely original play, rooted in history but aiming at the present. March 1 to April 14 at Arena Stage. $40–$115. —Graham Roth

Into the Woods 

It’s an odd shopping list: the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold. So read the four ingredients the Baker and his Wife must collect and deliver to a bitter witch in order to lift the curse of their infertility in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s classic Tony-winning musical. Joined by other Grimm and Perrault favorites tweaked for drama—including a precocious Red Riding Hood, an ambivalent Cinderella, an entitled prince, and an anthem-singing Jack (of Beanstalk fame)—the Baker and his Wife must journey into the dark, thorny woods to realize their greatest wish, uncovering uncomfortable truths about themselves in the pursuit. Featuring Sondheim’s rapid, award-winning lyricism and very adult meditations on morality and responsibility, Into the Woods is a twisted take on fairy tales and the very human need to chase our dreams, no matter the cost. March 8 to May 22 at Ford’s Theatre. $27–$81. —Amy Guay

Hands on a Hardbody

For a play to be believable, the characters must have a logical reason to spend extended time in the same place. A car-touching contest, then, is a perfect setting for a musical, since it brings together an ensemble of strangers and forces them to interact with one another as they fight to remain the last person holding on to the vehicle. Hands on a Hardbody, adapted from the 1997 documentary of the same name, follows 10 Texans competing to win a new pickup truck. As the hours pass, they reveal pieces of their lives through songs composed by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and New York-based songwriter Amanda Green. Rare is the musical that can appeal to cult film buffs, jam band lovers, and musical theater obsessives, which means that the show’s regional premiere at Keegan Theatre will be really weird… or really great. There’s only one way to find out. March 9 to April 6 at Keegan Theatre. $20–$62. —Caroline Jones

Grand Hotel

It certainly feels like the end of days is approaching, so if you’re looking for a distraction, why not consider a toe-tapping musical set in Berlin in the last cheery moments before the Weimar Republic collapsed? Sure, it sounds depressing, but the period song and dance make Grand Hotel the kind of show that can make you temporarily forget about the imminent rise of Hitler and bombing of world capitals. The show follows a series of strangers who work or are staying at a fancy Berlin hotel and their adventures within it. Signature Theatre will up the cheer factor by packing its cast with local heavyweights like Bobby Smith, Kevin McAllister, and Natascia Diaz. April 2 to May 12 at Signature Theatre. $40–$109. —Caroline Jones


The late writer Lee Israel made an art—and a lot of cash—out of imitating others’ voices. Her memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which was recently turned into a Academy Award-nominated biopic with Melissa McCarthy playing the writer, documents how, in a moment of professional and financial desperation, she forged letters by Hollywood starlets of yesteryear to sell, perfectly imitating their voice so collectors wouldn’t know it’s fake. That idea of imitating another’s artistic voice is at the center of Quotidian Theatre Company’s newest production, Michael Hollinger’s 2011 play Ghost-Writer, in which a famed novelist’s typist continues his latest work after he dies mid-sentence, insisting that he’s still dictating to her from beyond the grave. Set in New York in 1919, Myra, the typist, faces attacks from a bitter widow, the press, and other skeptics, but forges on with the work, driven by the love she has for her late boss. It’s a dark and timeless love story that’s certain to soar in Quotidian’s intimate staging. April 5 to 28 at Quotidian Theatre at The Writer’s Center. $15–$35. —Matt Cohen

The Children

Given the state of society these days, the idea of humanity enduring some sort of apocalyptic event in the near future isn’t so far-fetched. OK, that’s a dark assessment, but c’mon: Climate change is accelerating at an alarming pace and with President Cheeto in possession of the nuclear codes, it’s hard to pretend that everyone is going to be OK. But what would society look like after a cataclysmic event? It’s a notion that has inspired countless media—books, movies, TV shows, etc. That idea serves as the jumping off point for The Children, the latest play from British playwright and screenwriter Lucy Kirkwood, which just finished highly acclaimed runs in London and New York. Hazel and Robin, a long-married couple living off the British coast in a remote cottage, are retired physicists, living out their lives in calculated exile in the aftermath of some sort of natural disaster. All they have built together is compromised when Rose, a former colleague, appears at their doorstep after 38 years. It’s a slow-burning thriller that, as The Guardian wrote in their rave review from 2016, “raises profound questions about whether having children sharpens, or diminishes, one’s sense of social responsibility.” It might not make you feel better about the state of the world, but you’ll revel in the comfort that you’re not the only one worrying about it all. May 1 to June 2 at Studio Theatre. $20–$90. —Matt Cohen