Macitajs on Acid

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It would be easy to dismiss the leading stateside torchbearers of Latvian rock, Macitajs on Acid, as a joke band. Though formed more than a decade ago, the group has performed in fits and starts. The band members often seem to have spent more time thinking about stage props and costumes than on songwriting. And their refusal to sing in anything but Latvian could be seen by cynics as a gimmick. However, to dismiss Macitajs as a Baltic novelty act would be folly. These boys take their Latvian heritage seriously, just as the Latvian people take their rock ’n’ roll seriously: When the Latvians were asserting their independence and attempting to get out from under Soviet occupation, rock music became a catalyst and a voice for the people. The Macitajs have added another member, local psych-scene vet Damien Taylor, whose presence is conspicuous only in that his last name doesn’t end in the typical Latvian “-ins.” Perhaps Gustavs Mergins and brothers Laris and Kristaps Kreslins made Taylor an honorary Latvian by feeding him fermented birch sap and herbed vodka, then having him sing the national anthem (“Dievs, sveti Latviju!”) while wearing nothing but an Andris Biedrins Golden State Warriors jersey. If that’s the case, one can rest assured that the ceremony was performed as earnestly as possible. Macitajs on Acid performs with Owls & Crows and Sweatheart at 9 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $10. (202) 667-7960. (David Dunlap Jr.)

Thursday, Dec. 21

Lady Day—the granddaughter of a slave, raped as a child, a prostitute in a brothel—was given a hell of a voice and little else. Despite a biography that’s part legend, one fact is that her voice, even as she destroyed it with drugs, became the defining vocal sound of jazz, one emulated by the likes of Nina Simone. A tribute to Billie Holiday’s life, with all its pain and glory, is now encapsulated in a modern dance routine. Ronald K. Brown of Evidence Dance Company, who is known for melding ballet, hip-hop, West African, and modern dance, presents Blueprint of a Lady: The Once and Future Life of Billie Holiday, with the weight of crooning falling on Nnenna Freelon. Pay your respects to the Lady and try to figure out what in the world “Once and Future Life” means at 8 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $14n$38. (202) 467-4600. (Kim Gooden)

Friday, Dec. 22

Entertainment options tend to wither away at the end of December, but the Landless Theatre Company is staging a series of Christmas miracles by producing an entire season-in-miniature over the holiday weekend. Late-night revivals of the company’s cult hits Cannibal! The Musical and Frozty the Abominable Snowman demand parental guidance, but a “straight” adaptation of the oddball classic A Christmas Story shifts the focus to family fun. Film buffs will likely notice a few minor alterations in Philip Grecian’s stage adaptation: Grecian goes the Our Town route by expanding the character palette and giving the narrator an onstage presence. Of course, Grover’s Corners never had a brusque department store Santa Claus to contend with; it’s worth checking out the company’s production just to see how they’ll stage the pivotal moment in Ralphie’s pursuit of his coveted Red Ryder BB gun. The performance begins at 8 p.m. at the Gala Theatre at Tivoli Square, 3333 14th St. NW; see City List for a complete schedule. $20. (301) 613-7133. (Nick Green)

Forget postal politics—what’s interesting about stamps isn’t who’s on them but how those people are depicted. “Trailblazers & Trendsetters: Art of the Stamp” transcends mere philatelophilia; by showcasing the imagery that ended up stuck to the upper right-hand corner of our mail, the exhibit traces the evolution of American art. First issued in 1847, stamps sported engraved portraits of the Founding Fathers, but 160 years have welcomed locket miniatures (an angelic Emily Dickinson), post-impressionism (an intense Carl Sandburg), and photorealism (University of Alabama college football coach Paul William “Bear” Bryant) into the medium. A more pluralistic art form may not exist—where else but the National Postal Museum could a mystical representation of literary giant Willa Cather with a rainbow sprouting from her head hang beside glamour shots of Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog? Though an exploration of a most tendentious stamp debate—“Fat vs. Skinny Elvis”—is absent, the oversight is more than made up for by some of the freakiest stamps ever, including an eerie image of Judy Garland that inadvertently memorializes her prescription-drug haze. But, for a sheer dose of Americana, all postal art pales beside a cell-phone-themed stamp that features, well, a thrift-store-caliber painting of a goateed gentleman on a cell phone. Long lines at your local post office prove that the USPS may not have mastered customer service, but this all-inclusive, ever-evolving, ad-hoc art history lesson is invaluable. The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily (museum closed Monday, Dec. 25) to Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2007, at the National Postal Museum, 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Free. (202) 633-1000. (Justin Moyer)

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The trouble with every new Maxwell MacKenzie photography exhibition is that his past work has inevitably set a high bar. MacKenzie’s latest show reprises some of his signature mid-’90s work—ramshackle-but-proud old barns photographed using infrared black-and-white film—and a memorable 1975 image of the dark interior of a barn in Bennington, Vt., pierced by sunburst pinpricks of exterior light. But a majority of the nearly two dozen images on view at the Fraser Gallery were taken during the past few years; though some take new directions visually, and others find architectural resonance between the American West and such far-flung locales as Scotland, none of the images are as impressive as the aerial photographs of farmland in MacKenzie’s stunning 2004 exhibition, “Markings.” In the Fraser show, MacKenzie takes a Bernd and Hilla Becher turn with images of solo corrugated silos, and he cleverly photographs a cluster of Don Quixotenstyle windmills in Spain so that their bumpy white stucco finishes contrast with their perfectly gridded black blades. In two other images, MacKenzie pays homage to Minor White’s The Three Thirds by photographing a weathered wood façade in Otter Tail County, Minn. But the biggest departure is a series on piers in California. The photos are mostly a disappointment—their subject matter is familiar and their indistinct textures are a far cry from the mind-bogglingly detailed prints on the walls nearby, sized as large as 32 inches by 96 inches. The sole impressive pier image in the exhibition features blazing red lights in the gloomily encroaching night—a far more robust splash of color than MacKenzie normally offers and a possible approach for the artist’s next project. The exhibition is on view from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday to Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007, at the Fraser Gallery, 7700 Wisconsin Ave. Suite E, Bethesda. Free. (301) 718 9651. (Louis Jacobson)

Saturday, Dec. 23

Travis Morrison’s postnDismemberment Plan career has generated its fair share of press, but the two members of the now-defunct band’s rhythm section have also found a noteworthy musical outlet. Bassist Eric Axelson and drummer Joe Easley now hold down the back end of Statehood, a straight-up postpunk act founded by former Motorcycle Wars howler Clark Sabine. (Guitarist Leigh Thompson, formerly of the Vehicle Birth, fills out the lineup, and D-Plan guitarist Jason Caddell has been helping the quartet record an upcoming album.) Statehood’s sound features some familiar elements: The Dismemberment Plan’s dub-and-disco rhythms are present but more tightly wound; Sabine’s vocals—more refined than in his Motorcycle Wars days—recall the muscular melodicism of J. Robbins. Don’t do the standstill when Statehood performs with Soccer Team and the Bow Shock at 9 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $9. (202) 667-7960. (Joe Warminsky)

Sunday, Dec. 24

Most of Jacques Rivette’s films are about young women and the nexus between life and performance, so it’s only logical that he would eventually turn to the tale of Joan of Arc, the teenager who convinced her nation that she’d been cast in a lead role by God. Even less surprising, given that Rivette’s films luxuriate in length—his longest, Out 1, runs over 12 hours—is the fact that Joan the Maid is over five hours long. Though it won’t hurt to see the 1994 two-part epic’s first installment, The Battles (at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23), beforehand, The Prisons stands on its own as a film. Avoiding much of the courtroom drama that’s already been famously filmed by Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson, Rivette concentrates on the politics of Joan’s plight—including sexual politics: “If I had had women around me,” she says, “this would not have happened.” The film shows at 2 p.m. at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th St. & Constitution Ave. NW. Free. (202) 737-4215. (Mark Jenkins)

Monday, Dec. 25

Who’s to say what would have become of Judy Garland had the film execs at MGM gone with their collective gut and cut her now-classic “Over the Rainbow” musical number from the final version of The Wizard of Oz? Perhaps it would have spared Garland the drug addictions, failed marriages, and suicidal tendencies that plagued the oft-depressed actress throughout her tumultuous career before her 1969 death by accidental overdose of barbiturates. But it would have cost us a killer film accompaniment to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Included among the five films joining The Wizard of Oz as part of the American Film Institute’s “Judy Garland Sings” retrospective are Meet Me in St. Louis—one of the few films Garland claimed to have been happy with in regard to her on-screen appearance—and A Star Is Born, which marked her triumphant return to film following a four-year-long absence but led to yet another crippling depression when she lost the Academy Award to Grace Kelly. The series runs to Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007, at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $9.25. (301) 495-6700. (Matthew Borlik)

Tuesday, Dec. 26

There are several theories as to how the day after Christmas came to be known as Boxing Day, but they all hinge on a charitable gift placed in a box of some sort. Yeah, you’ve got your own Saturday Night Liveninspired plans, but pull your dick out of there, because the Great Perhaps is in need of your good will. The trio grew up in suburban D.C.—guitarist-vocalist Blake Sloane and drummer Will Duncan once played together in a middle-school band called Moo Drinks Milk—and reunited in Chicago a few years ago to form TGP. The goofy-man Proclaimers vibe and sunny sexuality of songs such as “Angels” and “So Long,” respectively, would probably be too syrupy for any other time of year. But the boys are in town for the holidays, playing their hearts out for old friends, family, and somewhat misguided young fans who need their fix of glossy angst to get through the post-Christmas crash. Give the Great Perhaps the gift of a great show when the band performs at 9:30 p.m. at DC9, 1940 9th St. NW. $7. (202) 483-5000. (Anne Marson)

Wednesday, Dec. 27

Despite several efforts, the marriage of Rock Band and Video Game has yet to successfully conceive a decent product. The console versions of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and Aerosmith’s Revolution X were both stillborn dollar-bin duds doomed to linger on the “all-time worst” lists of gaming enthusiasts. But it doesn’t have to be this way: If prog-metal behemoths Tool were to team up with Swedish video artist Magnus Wallin, they would surely find some common ground worthy of your quarters. Wallin could simply show the band his film Anatomical Flop—in which several computer-animated Vesalius Men run down a racetrack only to be repeatedly blown back to the starting line by a huge set of floating hawk wings—and the deal would be sealed. It will probably be a while before Wallin commits to developing Tool 3D: Virtual Stinkfist for the Xbox 360, but you can catch a glimpse of his work when Anatomical Flop and Exercise Parade show from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily (museum closed Monday, Dec. 25) to Sunday, May 20, 2007, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 7th St. & Independence Ave. SW. Free. (202) 633-1000. (Aaron Leitko)

Thursday, Dec. 28

Lenny Bruce is often quoted as having said “satire is tragedy plus time.” It’s a good bit of advice, and one that stand-up comedian Ted Alexandro followed before looking for laughs from Hurricane Katrina. Only now can Alexandro comfortably relate his sorrow for the “Girls Gone Wild” program—with such devastation, he asks, “Where will all the girls go wild now?” Also suffering at the hands of Mother Nature: Jerry Lewis. The telethon’s airing after the worst natural disaster in U.S. history means that Jerry’s Kids “will probably have to wait another year for the cure,” according to Alexandro. But lest one get the idea that the former NYC music teacher is utterly callous, consider the rather thoughtful debate on the Michael Richards incident taking place on the comic’s MySpace page. Alexandro compares the outrage over his fellow comedian’s n-word-laden rant to the relative lack of outrage over the widespread disenfranchisement of blacks during the last two elections. But, seriously, don’t expect the man to get all C-Span on you when he takes the stage—just expect to laugh unexpectedly when Alexandro performs at 8:30 p.m. at the D.C. Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW. $15. (202) 296-7008. (Dave Nuttycombe)