We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

Maren Morris

For years, “I like everything except for rap and country” was a default answer for millions when asked about their music preferences. But while rap has become an indelible component of pop music, most people still see country music as “other:” a genre of pick-ups and cowboy hats composed and consumed by fly-over state residents. That narrative has started to fall apart, thanks to the rise of artists like Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, and Chris Stapleton. Of this new class of country artists, the biggest star might be Maren Morris, a 26-year-old singer-songwriter with Texas roots and Nashville bona fides. After releasing three albums by the age of 21 and spending a few years as a behind-the-scenes songwriter, Morris broke through with last year’s Hero. The album bounds from Hank and Cash tributes like “My Church” to synth-kissed pop like “80s Mercedes” and is difficult to dismiss as country, pop or otherwise. Feb. 16 at 9:30 Club. $20.Chris Kelly

Lee Fields & The Expressions

North Carolina soul singer Lee Fields both looks and sounds like James Brown—hence his nickname, “Little JB”—but he doesn’t let his similarity to the Godfather of Soul hold him back. Fields has been on the scene since 1969, touring for over 40 years with acts like Kool & The Gang and O.V. Wright. These days, he performs with The Expressions as his back-up band, and, with the recent trend in soul revival, Fields finds himself playing for new and younger audiences. Although his music often sounds familiar, it’s never nostalgic or unoriginal. Now in his ’60s, Fields’ newer songs sound just as fresh today as I imagine his 1970s hits did decades ago. Feb. 18 at Rock & Roll Hotel. $25.Elena Goukassian


The Distance Is So Big, the 2013 album by Lemuria, was all sweetness and grit and transcendence; the next one couldn’t come soon enough. In the meantime the trio—Buffalo-formed, now partially D.C.-based, thoroughly special—is touring its 2007 debut full-length Get Better in its entirety after re-releasing it this past fall. It’s an album that gets me in lots of nostalgic places—for Superchunk, Velocity Girl, The Weakerthans, and the like—but which also bakes more feeling and intelligence than you’d expect into its very ’90s mold. From opening track “Pants,” it’s clear that drummer and main lyricist Alex Kern has a talent for extending a metaphor over several lines (“You never missed a word I tried to fit/ inside a chorus, inside a verse, all my intros, and the bridge”) and that guitarist and vocalist Sheena Ozzella has a way (chatty, pleading) with his words. More importantly—and this is basically the difference between chintzy and not chintzy in pop-punk—she knows when to sing a small sentiment (“I spend more time missing you than kissing you”) like it’s a big one without overselling it. There are few bands with which I’d rather sweat the small stuff. Feb. 19 at Black Cat. $15.Jonathan L. Fischer

ALB’s Rock The Stacks

ALB represents Annie Lou Bayly Berman, a beloved Washingtonian and member of the board of directors of the D.C. Public Library Foundation Board of Directors who died of cancer last year. ALB: Rock the Stacks is both a benefit concert and album in tribute to Berman’s love of local music, the library, and her passion to see the two connected. The concert will feature a wealth of D.C. talent across the spectrum including Benjy Ferree, The Fort Knox Five, and a new duo collaboration between Sitali Siyolwe and Juju House. The highlight will be the ALB All-Stars D.C. supergroup including Ben Gilligan (French Toast), Betsy Wright (Ex Hex), Joe Herrrera (Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra), Matt Rippetoe (The Harry Bells), Artemis “Ardamus” Thompson, Renell “RNL” McEwan, Jerry Busher (Fugazi), and Amy Farina (The Evens, Warmers). In a time when it’s more important than ever for a community to stand together, D.C. will show everyone how it’s done. Feb. 24 at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. $75.Justin Weber

Dead Man Walking

It’s hard to be a modern day opera composer and harder still to write a new opera that sticks, much less more than one. Jake Heggie was behind 2010’s enthralling Moby-Dick, one of the Washington National Opera’s best productions in recent years. But his opera that’s become known as a modern classic is Dead Man Walking, a Louisiana nun’s account of being spiritual advisor to a convicted murderer on death row. Heggie’s opera, written with Terrence McNally, the Broadway veteran librettist, debuted less than two decades ago (and just seven years after Sister Helen Prejean’s book on which it and the Tim Robbins movie of the same name were based) and has since become part of the contemporary opera repertory. Heggie has been blessed with a refined ear, but also the marketing savviness of knowing what regular middlebrow audiences—not just regular opera audiences—will like. And adaptation of familiar American pop culture seems to do the trick—his newest project is an opera version of It’s a Wonderful Life. Feb. 25–March 11 at The Kennedy Center. $45–$300.Mike Paarlberg

The Washington Chorus: New Music for a New Age

Larger-than-life choral director Julian Wachner has grown larger than Washington and is moving on, as Bad Brains and so many D.C. artists before him, to New York. His already successful conducting career has started to become overshadowed by a successful composing career, making him in demand beyond the confines of the institution he has long led, The Washington Chorus. He’s been splitting his directorship duties with Manhattan’s Trinity Wall Street since 2010, and even for someone as high energy as Wachner, he couldn’t hold down both; it was remarkable that he did for so long. So for his last season as its leader, TWC will send him off with a program of his own original works that demonstrate his infectious, over-the-top panache. Feb. 26 at National Presbyterian Church. $25–$35.Mike Paarlberg

Sounds of the City Festival

DC Music Download is celebrating five years of blogging about local music, which is a pretty impressive feat these days. To celebrate, they’re throwing a four-day festival that’s more than just celebration: It’s part appreciation and part getting down to work, too. To celebrate, check out Tropicalia on Friday, March 3, with MC Ace Cosgrove and up-and-coming hip-hop artist Ciscero; and Black Cat on Saturday, March 4, with Den-Mate, Nag Champa, Fellow Creatures, and Stronger Sex. Fans can show appreciation by buying straight from your favorite locals at Saturday’s local record label expo at Songbyrd Music House. Bookending the weekend are two networking events and panels, first at the Wonder Bread Factory on Thursday and then at the American Art Museum on Sunday. Stephanie Williams has built DC Music Download into a vital local music resource and it seems like this festival will be equally important. March 2-5 at various venues. $12 per event.Justin Weber


In support of his forthcoming full-length album, In the Comfort Of, Seattle-based DJ and Soulection producer Sango will stop by D.C. as part of a highly anticipated 2017 tour.  Aside from the funky Brazilian-inspired hip-hop and R&B sounds as heard on his Da Rocinha EP series, Sango hasn’t released a full-length album since 2013’s North, so excitement to hear fresh vibes from the young producer is palpable. He has an intuitive way of seamlessly fusing his favored influences, like the textured percussion of Brazilian carioca funk highlighted by rolling trap snares and sensual R&B vocals, to cultivate a mood that is totally unique to his style. Running the gamut between hip-hop bangers, Soulection groovers, and his own dance-worthy productions, Sango’s live performances are just as varied as his influences. March 3 at U Street Music Hall. $20.Casey Embert

Dobet Gnahoré

Singer Dobet Gnahoré grew up in an Ivory Coast artists’ village co-founded by her percussionist father. There she learned how to dance, act, paint, sew, and sing. She would later meet French guitarist Colin Laroche de Féline in that village and the two began to collaborate musically—and romantically; they eventually got married. Gnahoré has been based in France since 1999 and has released a handful of albums over the years that offer a mix of Afro-pop and Afro-folk, each sung in a number of different languages. Like one of her heroes Miriam Makeba, Gnahoré cleverly mixes socially conscious messages into her tuneful melodies. And her live show is just as visceral, replete with her frenetic dancing and her sweet, powerful vocals—all accompanied by her band’s bouncy polyrhythms. March 4 at The Barns at Wolf Trap. $25-$30.Steve Kiviat


Pop music comes in many forms. It’s constantly evolving, shape-shifting with whatever the current cultural milieu is. It exists in both the mainstream and the fringe, but the distance between the two is quite small. You’d be hard pressed to find a band that understands that better than Purchase, N. Y.’s Crying, who first rose to prominence with a pair chiptune-inspired emo-pop EPs. But on its first full-length album, Beyond the Fleeting Gales, the band evolves beyond its Nintendo-synth trappings into fully fledged stadium pop-rock territory, complete with huge choruses and infinite hooks all anchored by vocalist Elaiza Santos’ soothing and commanding voice. The album almost feels like a Ph.D. thesis on pop music in the ’80s, taking cues from oft-mocked bands like Foreigner, Kansas, and Journey as much as Madonna’s brilliant pop melodies. The band makes its 9:30 Club debut after spending years playing small clubs and DIY spaces, but it’s clear these are songs meant for a stadium stage. March 9 at 9:30 Club. $25.Matt Cohen


Underground club music label Classical Trax has played an essential role in exposing D.C.’s electronic music scene to lesser-known club niches from around the world—like London’s grime scene, Brazilian baile funk, and Chicago’s footwork. For the one-year anniversary of its monthly soiree, Guestlist, Classical Trax hosts LSDXOXO for an exploration into Jersey’s jubilant style of club music. Normally characterized by a hyperactive break-beat, tons of bed squeaks, and creatively chopped vocal samples, Jersey club goes down a darker path under LSDXOXO’s guidance. On his 2016 release, Fuck Marry Kill, LSDXOXO utilizes signature elements of industrial club deconstructions while simultaneously harnessing that feverish energy of Jersey club music to create the ideal soundtrack to a sweaty night at a basement dance party. March 10 at 9:30 Club Backbar. $10.Casey Embert


Priests have always been an angry band. The propulsive rhythm section and kooky guitar licks are all in support of Katie Alice Greer’s vocals, which veer between pointed snarls and Siouxsie Sioux-esque croons. Their just-released debut full-length, Nothing Feels Natural, represents a sonic and thematic evolution from Bodies and Control and Money and Power, their 2014 EP. They rail against American status quo with the same punk fervor, except now there are varied instruments and the lyrics have a touch of poetry to them. The band has a lot to be angry about, and not just because of the Sexist Orange Cheeto who currently occupies The White House. If their set on Inauguration Day is any indication, Priests strive for angry, bitter catharsis. After months of staring at the news and feeling increasingly hopeless, their show now serves as a rallying cry, and they’re assuredly up for the responsibility. March 11 at Black Cat. $16.Alan Zilberman


In the beginning of time, there was the earth and the sun. In the beginning of the drone metal movement, there was Olympia, Washington’s Earth and Seattle’s SunnO))). Since the late ’90s, the ritualistic drone metal band SunnO)))—composed of Stephen O’Malley, Greg Anderson, and whatever collaborators they’ve partnered up with at any given time—have been pummeling audiences with their heavier-than-heavy sounds, which hit you like an air cannon of distortion. SunnO))) don’t write songs so much as they write tones, using a comical number of distortion pedals and amplifiers to create an otherworldly sound. Once the tone is right, they’ll stretch out and slow down riffs to an utter crawl, letting single chords ring out as long as they can sustain (often for minutes). Live, SunnO))) isn’t so much a spectacle as it is an experience: You don’t watch SunnO))) live, you feel them through every atom in your body. Bring industrial-strength earplugs (though it won’t necessarily do you much good). March 12 at 9:30 Club. $35.Matt Cohen

Brad Mehldau

The connection between baroque classical music and jazz may seem like a topic best saved for a grad school thesis, but Brad Mehldau aims to build a bridge between the two at Sixth & I. The master jazz pianist will play his new piece “Three Pieces After Bach” along with several selections from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. Mehldau has often built on fugue-like compositions in his own music and improvisation, presenting a subject in various registers and keys and played side by side with the work of the man who made the style famous. Even those not trained in music theory will be able to appreciate how music reaches back and forth across time. March 16 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, presented by Washington Performing Arts. $47.Justin Weber


During a late 2010 tour date with The Walkmen at 9:30 Club, Tennis singer Alaina Moore admitted that she always wanted to make music for middle school dances and urged her captivated audience to find a partner for a slow dance for the next song. But the breezy ethos and melodies that once guided the husband-and-wife duo have turned more brooding and weightier over the years as Tennis embarks on its fourth release, Conditionally Yours.  Moore and her husband, Patrick Riley, return to D.C. days after the release to serenade their fans once more with tales of seafaring life, remedies for wounded hearts, and fears of the modern woman.  March 19 at 9:30 Club. $20.Casey Embert

The Blind Boys of Alabama

First forming at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in 1939, the talent of the Blind Boys of Alabama have never been in question. They are a quintessential gospel group, an exemplar of the reassuring and filling power of music. Long held back by Jim Crow laws, their last two decades have been some of their most visible. They recorded the theme song for The Wire. They’ve won six Grammy awards since 2002. The Blind Boys’ 2013 record, I’ll Fly Away, was produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, introducing them to an entire new generation. They are, with no exaggeration, living legends. March 24 at The Howard Theatre. $35-$70.Justin Weber

SHIFT festival

It can be hard enough to get classical audiences to hear modern music by orchestras they already know. So a festival of out-of-town orchestras playing lesser known 20th century American composers is a risky endeavor. What is now being called the SHIFT festival was originally called the Spring for Music festival, debuted at Carnegie Hall, and didn’t make much of a splash. This time co-presenters Washington Performing Arts and The Kennedy Center have sexied it up with some multimedia projections and thematic programming. See the North Carolina Symphony’s set of all Tarheel composers, the Atlanta Symphony doing Christopher Theofanidis’ Genesis-themed oratorio “Creation/Creator,” Brooklyn’s The Knights with the San Francisco Girls Chorus, and the Boulder Philharmonic’s tribute to the National Park Service, appropriately topical for a moment when Smokey the Bear has gone rogue on Twitter. March 28–April 1 at various venues. $25.Mike Paarlberg

Princess Nokia

“Don’t you fuck with my energy,” Princess Nokia demands on her 1992 single “Brujas,” a magical exploration of the MC’s spiritual genealogy and a mission statement for the New York-based Afro-Latina rapper. Princess Nokia went all the fuck in on her 2016 release, 1992, which features powerful storytelling about her tomboy identity, pussy power, and unapologetic self-assuredness over beats reminiscent of classic New York hip-hop. After surviving a challenging childhood in foster care with an abusive mother, Princess Nokia leveled up into a completely self-made woman. Undeniable feminist energy, brute dominance, and perpetual boundary pushing are the names of her game and it all comes to an inspiring culmination during her live performances. March 31 at Songbyrd. $15-$18.Casey Embert


After internet trolls caught wind of her tumultuous relationships with rapper PartyNextDoor and Cleveland Cavaliers player Kyrie Irving, Kehlani slipped into a dangerous depression that landed her in a hospital bed after an apparent suicide attempt. But rampant gossip and hostile Twitter fingers didn’t get the best of the Oakland-based R&B singer. Her latest full-length album, SweetSexySavage, is a 2000s-era R&B-inspired triumph and an optimistic effort in creating a sunlit space of happiness and positivity for the once-troubled singer. SweetSexySavage touches on classic R&B dilemmas, like infidelity, heartache, and unrequited love, but Kehlani’s undeniable growth and newfound self-love elevates her sound into a higher echelon of artistry. April 2 at The Fillmore. Sold out.Casey Embert

Ladies Sing The Blues 

Few things are more American than a blueswoman. Talented, inspiring black women like Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, and Ma Rainey are an essential foundation for American musical tradition. As part of the Shades of Blue series at Strathmore, Catherine Russell, Brianna Thomas, and Charenee Wade—three of today’s most talented jazz voices—along with pianist Mark Shane and a seven-piece band will pay tribute to the power and cleverness of these pioneers. Strathmore is also offering a pre-show lecture by Dr. Eileen M. Hayes, chair of Towson University’s Department of Music, to help fans deepen their knowledge about these remarkable and complex women. April 8 at The Music Center at Strathmore. $35-$75.Justin Weber

Xiu Xiu 

Since its inception in 2002, Xiu Xiu has been singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart’s laboratory for all things artsy, noisy, and experimental. The band is prolific, releasing almost an album a year for its entire run and often recontextualizes the music of others through his messy, melancholy prism. The latter approach has led to a stark version of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” an album of Nina Simone covers, and a reworking of the iconic Twin Peaks soundtrack (perfectly timed for the show’s forthcoming revival on Showtime). Fifteen years in, Xiu Xiu isn’t slowing down: along with releasing the Twin Peaks album, the band recently collaborated with Mitski, Merzbow, and Danh Vo and will release its 13th album, FORGET, in February. April 10 at Songbyrd. $13-$15.Chris Kelly

Halcyon Stage Cabaret: Joey Arias Channels Billie Holiday 

If you thought David Sedaris’ Billie Holiday imitation was good, wait until you hear (and see) Joey Arias. Dressed in a black sequined gown and with Lady Day’s iconic white flowers in his hair, the New York-based performance artist not only sounds just like Holiday, but he also mimics her mannerisms. Arias has been channeling the legendary singer since the 1990s to great acclaim. To celebrate Holiday’s birthday month, Arias will appear at Georgetown’s historic Halcyon House as part of former Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre’s newest project series, Halcyon Stages Cabaret, which Webre describes as “sometimes bawdy, sometimes naughty and always thoughtful, intimate and intriguing.” April 29 at Halcyon House. $60.Elena Goukassian 

Broccoli City Festival

The 2017 Broccoli City Festival returns to D.C. bigger and greener than ever. Once again, the eco-friendly concert will be held at Southeast’s Gateway DC and boasts the most prestigious line-up of musicians in its five year history. Taking the stage will be Rae Sremmurd, creators of the petrified viral smash “Black Beatles;” Solange, who released a number one album in September and finally made everyone forget about the elevator incident; and Lil Yachty, a splashy rapper hip-hop fans love to hate (or hate to love). Also performing at this year’s festival: 21 Savage, AlunaGeorge, Rapsody, Kevin Abstract, Nick Grant, and local star Chaz French.  This year Broccoli City features an entire week of healthy, creative, and socially conscious events. The festivities include a 5K fitness run, an art and music pop-up shop, and a two-day conference featuring some of the most environmentally innovative authors, entrepreneurs, and experts in the country. May 6 at Gateway DC. $55-$395.Sidney Thomas

Luminiferous Aether

A late 19th-century term for the medium by which light can be propagated is a clever title for a photographic exhibition. But Chandi Kelley and Marissa Long also use their photographs as an attempt to navigate the metaphysical spaces that contain unseeable experience. Those passages that “luminiferous aether” was coined to explain before the advancement of modern physics manifest in Kelley’s images of ethereal materializations of objects, which seem to defy placement in tangible spaces. Her photographs are like transformative and totemic documents of some invisible reality. Long’s work offers a counterpoint, with more tangential imitations of portals within recognizable environments, still lifes, and figurative compositions. Whether or not you are transformed—or transported—through viewing the artists’ complementary series, you can at least chew on your ideas of magic and science, reality and matter. Through March 11 at Transformer. Free.Erin Devine

Curators Spotlight

It would be impossible here to preview four unique curatorial efforts that feature two-dozen artists, but it’s safe to say that Arlington Arts Center’s biannual Curators Spotlight never falls short of provoking thought. It’s one of very few efforts among non-profits in the D.C. area to both fund and foster new curators who bring together regional and national artists in meticulously planned exhibitions of contemporary art. This year’s curators—Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell, Betsy Johnson, Katy Scarlett, and Ann Tarantino—have chosen themes that at first glance seem relatively unambiguous, if not common to contemporary curating: the body, the labor of art-making, the internet, and water. But the diversity of selected works and the shrewd dialogue these curators ravel around them will have viewers seeing their everyday world differently. Through March 26 at the Arlington Arts Center. Free.Erin Devine

Process and Participation in the Works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are one of the most romantic couples in the history of art. Born on the same day—Christo in Bulgaria, Jeanne-Claude in Morocco—they met in Paris in 1958.  After a complicated courtship that would rival any soap opera, their shared passion as collaborators solidified a bond that lasted five decades, during which they famously wrapped buildings, structures, and landscapes around the world. Documentation is essential to any form of temporary art, and the National Gallery of Art recently acquired the couple’s only archive of 2,300 photographs. They document their early public projects and are now on view for the first time. Rarely does a Museum Library exhibit get much notice from visitors, so taking the time in an intimate setting to view the art couple, in love and at work in their early days, will make an inspiring Valentine’s Day alternative. Through April 14 at the National Gallery of Art, East Building. Free.Erin Devine

orchids: A MOMENT

The corpse flower is so 2016: Now there’s a new blockbuster botanical exhibit in town. If you thought the Hirshhorn’s previous offering of Ragnar Kjartansson’s Woman in E was the epitome of living art, get ready for hundreds of varieties of live orchids (to be continually rotated throughout the exhibit for freshness). The United States Botanical Gardens has traditionally hosted their annual orchid exhibition at the Gardens or the Natural History Museum, but this time they’re housed in modular shelving around the curves of the Hirshhorn, like a gigantic living cabinet of curiosities. Time-lapse videos in the exhibit will demonstrate how orchids burst into bloom, providing a much needed glimpse of warmth and renewal in the doldrums of winter. Through May 14 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Free.Stephanie Rudig

Border Crossing 

With the promise of a wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border, Albuquerque-based artist Jami Porter Lara’s work is more potent and timely than ever. While exploring a part of the border, Porter Lara discovered ancient pieces of pottery as well as discarded two liter bottles that were presumably left by border crossers. Since this discovery, she’s fired clay found near her home into ceramic vessels using traditional pottery methods, adding a permanence to objects that are typically thought of as junk. Her forms wink at the ubiquity and mass production of plastic bottles, with some mutating into stubbornly unusable shapes. Switching up the materials demanding that the objects become vessels of storytelling. Feb. 17–May 14 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. $10.Stephanie Rudig

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors 

Legendary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has never been one to accept boundaries. That’s evident in the variety of her works, ranging from depictions of radical nude “Happenings” in the 1960s to paintings with a dizzying array of repeated brushstrokes to bedotted outdoor sculptures. She’s described literally being unable to keep a painting within a canvas, often extending beyond the edges to paint directly on the floor. Her bewildering patterns are easy to get absorbed into, hypnotizing the viewer like Magic Eye images and seemingly going on forever. So it’s fitting that while Kusama’s show at the Hirshhorn will feature a variety of art from her storied career, her six “Infinity Rooms” will be the main draw. In these enveloping rooms, lights, dots, and sculptural elements appear endlessly reflected in multiple mirrors, sometimes giving one the effect of floating in the middle of an eternal galaxy. The rooms are small and best viewed with fewer people cluttering the effect, so timed tickets will be made available Feb. 13. If you can’t get in, never fear—you’ll undoubtedly be able to live vicariously through the infinite scroll of your Instagram feed. Feb. 23–May 14 at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Free.Stephanie Rudig

East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography

For somewhat obvious reasons—including the inherent drama of America’s westward expansion and the striking nature of the landforms of the West—a disproportionate share of the attention given to American photography of the 19th century has historically focused on the chroniclers of the West, from Timothy O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner to Carleton Watkins and Edward Curtis. Now comes a counterpoint: the National Gallery of Art exhibit, East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography. It features 175 works—daguerreotypes, stereographs, albumen prints, cyanotypes—that collectively capture “a cultural landscape fundamentally altered by industrialization, the Civil War, and tourism.” The black-and-white and sepia-hued photographs on view, often rawer and humbler, will pose a challenge to the dominant 19th century visual portrayals of the eastern United States—the color-drenched luminist masterpieces of the Hudson River Valley. March 12–July 16 at the National Gallery of Art. Free.Louis Jacobson

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of the Ebony Fashion Fair 

Eunice Johnson (along with her husband John) founded Ebony magazine and became a pioneering force in fashion. With Ebony, they convinced designers like Valentino to use black models and market their clothing to black women. Johnson started the Ebony Fashion Fair as a one-off runway show to raise money for a New Orleans hospital in 1958, and it quickly morphed into an annual cross-country tour that garnered more than $55 million for charitable causes over its 50-year run. Johnson also created Fashion Fair cosmetics, a line of prestige products that black consumers could purchase at top department stores. The show features hundreds of items from Johnson’s collection, including photos and videos from the fairs and many breathtaking garments from the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Missoni, and Vivienne Westwood. But most prominent are the pieces from designers of color—Patrick Kelly and Stephen Burrows, among others—that Johnson worked hard to promote. March 18–July 24 at George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum. $8.   —Stephanie Rudig

Architecture of an Asylum: St. Elizabeths 1852-2017 

St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast D.C. was built in 1852 as a federally funded psychiatric facility tasked with taking care of mentally ill veterans and local residents. Before the Department of Homeland Security completely transforms the now largely abandoned campus into its new headquarters, the National Building Museum invites us to learn about the history of the infamous asylum where the poet Ezra Pound was a patient for 12 years, and where Carl Jung did research on race and the subconscious. The exhibition will include architectural drawings and blueprints of what was supposed to be one of the most humane mental hospitals in the country, a project that quickly turned into a tragic dystopia. March 25–Jan. 10, 2018 at the National Building Museum. $10.Elena Goukassian 

The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now

The United States has been at war essentially without pause for the past decade and a half, but since a relatively small force of men and women are assigned to combat zones—in contrast to all-out conflicts like World War II and draft-driven wars like Vietnam—the post-9/11 combat landscape has not been an overwhelming shaper of the broader art and culture. The National Portrait Gallery’s The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now seeks to bring contemporary war art to the fore, focusing on the “psychological impact and consequences of modern warfare on those who serve.” The exhibit includes more than 50 works by six featured artists—Ashley Gilbertson, Louie Palu, Stacy Pearsall, Emily Prince, Vincent Valdez, and probably the best-known, the late photographer Tim Hetherington, killed in 2011 while on assignment in war-torn Libya. April 7–May 7, 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery. Free.Louis Jacobson

Down These Mean Streets

The D.C. area has been treated to several smart street photography exhibits in recent years, but the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s upcoming Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography is the first to focus specifically on the Latino “street” in the United States, including neighborhoods in New York City, Los Angeles, and other locales. The photographs, taken over a period of decades, include works by Frank Espada, Camilo José Vergara, Anthony Hernandez, Ruben Ochoa, and Manuel Acevedo. Of these, Vergara’s work may be the most familiar from several successful, sprawling shows at the National Building Museum that captured his portrayals of run-down neighborhoods in urban areas, often through time-lapse series that show the inexorable advance of physical deterioration. May 12–Aug. 6 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Free.Louis Jacobson

.d0t:: a rotoplastic ballet 

Pointless Theatre presents an original play about the distant future using the aesthetics of the past. The play tells the story of the last human alive in a world full of robots through toy theater. A 200-year-old style of puppetry, toy theater tells stories via paperboard figures moving through a miniature opera-stage-like set, which in this case will draw on the paintings of Italian futurist Fortunato Depero. Featuring original electronic music and drawing from a century’s worth of theories about AI, .d0t:: a rotoplastic ballet promises to both delight audiences and make them see their smartphones in a completely different light. April 6 – May 6 at Flashpoint. $15–$30.Elena Goukassian 

Walking with ’Trane 

The spirited music of jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, a defining figure in jazz’s 20th century cultural and artistic dominance, often serves as inspiration to a wide range of artists. The North Carolina native is even receiving the big screen treatment later this year, with the wide release of John Scheinfeld’s acclaimed film Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary. With the D.C. premiere of Walking with ’Trane, choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, the founder and artistic director of the all-female contemporary dance company Urban Bush Women, culls inspiration from the life of Coltrane—his highly chronicled spiritual journey and the seminal work that it led to: 1965’s epic A Love Supreme. The program features accompaniment by jazz pianist George Caldwell, whose fluid playing partners well with the highly interpretive movements of the UBW dancers. The multidisciplinary work is an ideal marriage of jazz and contemporary dance and honors the impact of one of the genre’s most beloved leaders. April 7-8 at The Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. $25-$79.Jerome Langston

Patton Oswalt 

As the old saying goes, “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.” It’s a formula Patton Oswalt understands—he named his 2014 special Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time—especially after a particularly tragic 2016. In April, his wife, crime writer Michelle McNamara, died unexpectedly in her sleep. Since then, he has spoken candidly about his grief on late night shows and on stage. “It’s just going to be a long, long time before I can be the kind of person that she made me again,” he said when he accepted the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special for Talking for Clapping (coincidentally released the day after McNamara passed). As he returns to the stage in 2017, here’s hoping enough time has passed for tragedy to turn into comedy—for his sake, not ours. March 3 at Warner Theatre. $37.50 – $57.50.Chris Kelly

Marc Maron

For a guy whose success grew out of a life filled with anger, paranoia, narcissism, and jealousy, Marc Maron has plenty to be happy about these days. His game-changing podcast WTF with Marc Maron is nearing the 800-episode mark, he ended his eponymous sitcom after four seasons on IFC, and he performed at the legendary Carnegie Hall last November. For three tumultuous decades, Maron has mined his comedic art from an internal pit of negativity … so what happens when the pit is full of plaudits? It’s a question he seems to be asking himself, increasingly wondering “what’s next” in his WTF monologues and interviews. He’s even suggested that he might be done with stand-up (for a while at least), so take this chance to see Maron while you still can. May 13 at Warner Theatre. $28.Chris Kelly

Noah Isenberg

On the one hand, Casablanca never goes out of style. Romance and self-sacrifice are universal themes, while the film’s purely filmic pleasures show no signs of losing their luster. Three quarters of a century later, we are still talking about it. Then again, this film, made by and about political refugees, has particular resonance today. That’s the argument made by Noah Isenberg, whose new book We’ll Always Have Casablanca details the origins, production, and aftermath of what many consider to be the greatest film of all time through a politically modern lens. In Rick (Humphrey Bogart), Isenberg sees a metaphor for America itself at the onset of World War II. He’s jaded and wary of getting embroiled in a foreign conflict. Over the course of the film, he re-joins the fight. With the eye of an historian, Isenberg demonstrates the parallels to offscreen events (the actual town of Casablanca hosted a battle just a month before the film was released). But he also nerds out on the many attempted spin-offs, sequels, and adaptations the film inspires, most of which were never made. It’s a compulsively readable account of a film that finds new ways to engage, enthrall, and impress, even after 75 years. March 17 at Politics and Prose. Free.Noah Gittell

John Waters 

Septime Webre’s new Halcyon Stage series at the historic Georgetown mansion welcomes everyone’s favorite Baltimore resident John Waters, who will read from his latest book Make Trouble, a tongue-in-cheek advice manual for artists, recent graduates, and “anyone seeking happiness and success on their own terms.” The book is based on Waters’ viral graduation speech at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015—the one where he offered up advice like: “Today may be the end of your juvenile delinquency, but it should also be the first day of your new adult disobedience,” “Not being around assholes should be the goal of every graduate here today,” and “Go out in the world and fuck it up beautifully.” April 28 at The Halcyon House. $30.Elena Goukassian 

Anacostia Delta: Home of the World’s Great “Unknown” Guitarists

The late Danny Gatton is one of those musicians who isn’t well known among many music fans, but ask blues guitarists who inspires them and his name is bound to come up. Gatton grew up in Anacostia and would become known as “The Humbler” for his ability to outplay just about anybody. He played every style, and his proficiency at each allowed him to combine elements of country, jazz, rockabilly, and blues into his own unique style. AMP by Strathmore will screen a preview of a new documentary, Anacostia Delta: Home of the World’s Great “Unknown” Guitarists, and give fans a chance to meet the filmmakers and hear some Anacostia Delta blues live. Feb. 25 at AMP by Strathmore. $25-$35. Justin Weber

Certified Copy

The plot of Abbas Kiarostami’s 2011 French-Iranian masterpiece, which recently came in at No. 46 on the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century, hinges on what appears to be a first-time meeting between an erudite English author (opera singer William Shimell, in his first film role) and a beautiful, emotionally fragile antiques dealer (Juliette Binoche). Over the course of an afternoon, as they meander through the Italian countryside engaging in a series of discussions about love, connection, and authenticity, the nature of their relationship—perhaps of love itself— shifts dramatically before our eyes. A poem and a puzzle, Certified Copy—playing as part of AFI’s program, “Reseeing Iran: 21st Annual Iranian Film Festival”—is a mystery that reveals itself to the audience and then folds back inward. Binoche and Shimell give powerhouse performances as a couple fighting middle-aged malaise and the ravages of human relationships, and Kiarostami, ever faithful to the viewer’s patience, allows the characters to come to life slowly, hiding and revealing themselves to us all at once. Feb. 25 and Feb. 27 at the AFI Silver Theatre. $13. Noah Gittell


Jacqueline E. Lawton’s Intelligence, a world premiere garnering a lot of buzz, arrives amid the turmoil of a new fascist Republican administration, one that is already creating waves with its alternative view of facts. The political thriller, which is a fictionalized account of a covert operative who has her cover blown during the post-9/11 race to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is the third production in Arena Stage’s Power Plays initiative. “Writing this play has forced me to process the betrayal I felt when the Bush administration told a series of lies that led to the war in Iraq,” Lawton said in an interview. Directed by D.C. native Daniella Topol, the play stars Tony Award nominee Hannah Yelland as Valerie Plame and Lawrence Redmond as her husband, Joseph Wilson. And though the infamous CIA leak of 2003 is clearly the inspiration for the story, the play was not created with any involvement from Plame or Redmond. Intelligence is not so much their story, as it is engaging drama perfectly suited for these truth-denying times. Feb. 24–April 9 at Arena Stage. $40-$110.Jerome Langston

Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing

Playwrights seem to be obsessed with terrible singers. The story of notoriously terrible 1940s opera vocalist Florence Foster Jenkins has inspired five stage plays, two feature films, and a documentary. Even A Chorus Line includes a song about a performer who can’t carry a tune. The latest entry in this canon is Mrs. Miller Does Her Thing, a new comedy from acclaimed author James Lapine based on the life of another real-life terrible singer, Elva Miller. Set in 1960s New York, where Miller became a downtown sensation, the production stars Debra Monk, who’ll do her best to sound bad while covering “Downtown,” “Monday, Monday,” and “A Hard Day’s Night.” Tempted as you may be to steer clear of the unpleasant sound, make like Mrs. Miller and revel in your love of the arts without worrying about the execution. Feb. 28–March 26 at Signature Theatre. $40–$85.—Caroline Jones


Despite taking place more than a century ago, Ragtime—Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s musical adaptation of the E.L. Doctorow novel—feels eerily relevant these days. In part because it incisively examines the interactions between white, African-American, and immigrant communities outside New York City and, in many ways, we’re still figuring out how to live together harmoniously. Its songs also wouldn’t be out of place at any progressive march. In the show’s final song, Coalhouse Walker Jr., a jazz musician, implores his audience to raise their voices in protest. “Say to those who blame us for the way we chose to fight/ that sometimes there are battles that are more than black or white/ And I could not put down my sword when justice was my right/ Make them hear you,” he sings in a powerful baritone. It’s essential listening for our times, and Ford’s has assembled an impressive cast, including Kevin McAllister, Tracy Lynn Olivera, and Nova Y. Payton, to deliver its message. March 10–May 20 at Ford’s Theatre. $18–$71.Caroline Jones

A Raisin in the Sun 

There are certain works for the American stage that require no special time or societal context to justify a new production. Such is the case for Lorraine Hansberry’s classic, A Raisin in the Sun. Along with the varied works of August Wilson, Hansberry’s iconic tale of the Younger family’s pursuit of the American dream in the face of stark racism is one of the few plays by an African-American playwright to have a solid place in the American canon. Arena Stage’s new production stars popular D.C. actress Dawn Ursula, who was previously seen in Arena’s Love in Afghanistan. The two-time Helen Hayes Award winner plays Ruth Younger, one of the stand-out roles in the Tony-winning play, which had a second Broadway revival starring Denzel Washington in 2014. Tazewell Thompson, the longtime Arena stage associate director and playwright, directs this D.C. production of Raisin. Regardless of Thompson’s artistic choices, Lorraine Hansberry’s masterpiece is always a safe bet. March 31–May 7 at Arena Stage. $40-$110.Jerome Langston

Three Sisters

It’s not often that U.S. audiences get a chance to see a classic Russian drama performed in its original language by Russian actors. St. Petersburg’s famed Maly Drama Theatre will provide us with just this opportunity when they stop by the Kennedy Center to perform Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. (Don’t worry; it’ll also have English supertitles.) If you’re planning on attending Studio Theatre’s own English-language production of Three Sisters earlier in the spring, this will be a perfect opportunity to compare the nuances of the tragic family drama—and perhaps even learn something new about the Russian psyche along the way. April 26–30 at The Kennedy Center. $19–$49.—Elena Goukassian 

The Man Who

Spooky Action Theater’s spring production is a play inspired by Oliver Sacks’ 1985 The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a book chronicling various neurological oddities and disorders, most famously face-blindness. Peter Brook’s 1993 The Man Who is more of a performance piece than an actual play, staging vignettes of some of Sacks’ case studies sans the medical jargon so that they become emotional experiences rather than scientific ones. There’s a man who believes he’s living inside of a dream, another suffering from Tourette syndrome, and a third that doesn’t recognize he has a left side to his face. Spooky Action is known for its bizarre, borderline absurdist, always-profound productions; this one certainly fits the bill. May 11–June 4 at Spooky Action Theater. $20–$40.Elena Goukassian