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In Jill Nelson’s account of her stint as a journalist in D.C., Volunteer Slavery, she describes her first Washington party: It started around 8 p.m. By 10:30, everyone had gone home.
Nearly 10 years later, the over-30 after-dark scene consists primarily of throbbing Europop, chichi Italian-restaurant-cum-nightclubs, and suited hiplomats with their arms in the air. Even the live music clubs time their concerts so that patrons can catch the last Metro train home.
“I consider myself to be a representative of the regular guy,” says Cheles Rhynes, one-half of Mason/Rhynes Productions. “I would like to enjoy late-night music without having it be way overpriced or a smoky scene.”
Rhynes, who has worked as a sound and lighting technician at almost every theater in the city, thought that somebody should create a late-night performance series. “I didn’t see anybody else pushing it, so I said, ‘Why not me?’” he explains.
Rhynes and his partner, Gesel Mason, approached Carla Perlo, the director of Dance Place on 8th Street NE, about using her venue. The duo had already staged several successful productions of Mason’s choreography at Dance Place—as well as at the Kennedy Center, Joy of Motion, and the District of Columbia Arts Center—so Perlo happily lent them her support.
“Part of our mission is to get diverse audiences to see quality performance,” says Mason. “And ‘diverse’ doesn’t mean just black or just poor. It means the average Joe who might not go see a dance concert. Or a modern dancer who might not see a comedy group.”
The first cabaret featured Bottomland, a local world-music band. “It looked great, sounded great. The lead singer was fabulous,” says Mason. “But our turnout was very, very small. The only thing missing was an audience.”
The duo hopes for a better turnout for the remaining performances in the series, local musical trio 3hree of Wands and Dallas-based comedy duo Lugo and Long. 3hree of Wands features the poetry and vocals of Psalmayene 24, an area artist who crosses easily between the city’s hiphop, spoken-word, and theater communities. Acoustic guitarist Ralph Waldo and djembe drummer Jali-D complete the group.
Mason and Rhynes hope 3hree of Wands will lure its fan base of boho hiphop heads, used to seeing shows in U Street cafes and bars, to Brookland instead.
“Dance Place is a really dope venue that a lot of people don’t even know exists,” says Psalmayene 24, who likes the idea of playing at a place that’s not a club. “I think D.C. needs more events and opportunities for artists. Late-night series, 3 a.m. series, crack-of-dawn series, you know. Let’s bring it on.” —Holly Bass