Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter

We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.

It’s a Friday night at State of the Union and sultry, dread-headed Regi Ransdell is getting his groove on, performing cuts from his demo tape. He’s glad to be on stage, even though the unsigned go-getter didn’t find out until the day before that he’d even be performing. (Ransdell is not yet on the A-list here and doesn’t always get the star treatment from seemingly indifferent local club owners.) But the reserved (and at least externally) unruffled Ransdell is pretty much accustomed to occasionally dingy treatment and tries as best he can to brush it off. “You realize sometimes that things are going to be like that,” he offers.

Although he’s the Artist Who Won’t Be Categorized, Ransdell is pretty comfortable with the label a friend stuck on his flow: “hip-ternative,” designating a musical gumbo flavored with a hearty dose of soul, a pinch of folk, and a potpourri of other appetizing musical styles. An admirer of the Brother With the Symbol for a Name, the introspective performer respects artists with a strong sense of individuality and intuitively believes, despite all adversity, that he is destined to triumph. Even in college, at N.C. State, when kids would talk all through his set—”like it was the Apollo or something,” he chuckles—he would deal with the ungraciousness and keep coming back, because he “just knew” all the strife would be temporary.

On this particular night, though, the demure 26-year-old performs only two songs, cutting short an allotted 30-minute performance, leaving those who came to see him feeling a bit slighted. It turns out equipment wasn’t working properly, and the admitted perfectionist refuses to continue if things aren’t right. Folks in the audience are oblivious to any problems, except the fact that the lighting is so dim that all one can really glimpse on stage is a silhouette. When informed of the situation, the club manager chides, “I can see him fine…” (i.e., the lighting is going to stay just the way it is).

Experience with the industry crowd has left Ransdell wary, and episodes with D.C. club honchos have tested his tenacity. He was outright disrespected by one of the heads at Republic Gardens for pulling in a less than packed house, and he once lost half his audience at the now-defunct Bar Nun because he’d unknowingly been scheduled to perform with a hiphop group—his aficionados assumed from the look of the crowd they’d come to the wrong place. Seems in order to make it on D.C.’s unyielding music circuit, you’ve got to have talent—and patience.—Deborah Rouse