If you’re a Howardite—or just an aficionado—you know the university’s homecoming week is truly a beacon, and the admission-free International Yardfest is the most economical way to celebrate. (Though acquiring a fresh outfit still costs money.) As usual, this year’s lineup is semi-secret, perhaps because organizers tend to book acts down to the wire—though Young Jeezy, Big Daddy Kane, Wale, Raheem DeVaughn, and throwback group Whodini are among the confirmed performers. But even with a no-show or two, there’s still plenty to do: The Yard, Howard’s main grassy quadrangle, is usually encircled by vendors hawking tchotchkes, food, and clothing; in the middle of it all, the main stage dispenses mic-dropping of the highest order. While the event has the haphazardness of any outdoor music festival, bumping beats, contests, and lots of fried fish should pacify the several thousand attendees between sets. And believe it or not, it’s family-friendly, as T-shirted and baseball-capped Bison-to-be toddle around with their parents and grandparents in a multi-generational celebration of Howard University. International Yardfest begins at noon at Howard University’s Main Quad, 6th Street and Howard Place NW. Free. (202) 806-6100. (Shani Hilton)
Dark-pop artiste Zola Jesus is back in D.C., this time touring on her new, intriguing album Conatus. She hits the Black Cat Mainstage sometime after 9 p.m. tonight. Here’s what arts ed Jonathan L. Fischer wrote about her last time she came ’round:
If the spacey aphorisms Nika Roza Danilova sometimes spouts in interviews (“Earth is a natural dichotomy, and that’s what makes it so interesting”) come off a bit undergraduate-philosophy-major, it’s probably because Danilova is an undergraduate philosophy major. A student at the University of Wisconsin and a full-time purveyor of terminally bleak art pop, the 22-year-old Zola Jesus mastermind trades in harsh synthscapes, siren-voiced theatrics, and frequently unintelligible lyrics. What started out as a lo-fi update of the 1980s New York art-damage milieu (read: Swans) is now an increasingly polished version of the same, but Zola Jesus’ tortured goth operettas rarely grate. That’s because beneath the gloom and cobwebs, Danilova knows how to write a pop hook, or at least slip in a hint of one. Meanwhile, she pumps out straight-up Auto-Tune jams in her side project Nika + Rory. There’s a Depeche Mode-sized future somewhere between the two bands’ sounds, but Zola Jesus hasn’t managed to make its own “Personal Jesus” yet.
This weekend also brings the second annual Dancing By the Bayou Cajun and zydeco fest at Glen Echo Park. Check out the sked on the event’s website. Tickets begin at $35.
And of course, more Howard University Homecoming events left and right! Stop by the Bison Homecoming homepage for an official schedule. Besides Yardfest, tomorrow’s parade through LeDroit Park might be the best (and cheapest) way to join in the festivities.
* A late add: How could I forget the D.C. Record Fair? That’s going down at Artisphere on Sunday with a pretty beard-strokey DJ lineup: Jim Byers from City Paper neighbor WPFW-FM, post-punk/coldwave spinner Denman Anderson, John Kelly from WashPo (in a very snazzy outfit, I predict), Marc Eisenberg of the D.C. Music Salon, and John Thornley from U.S. Royalty. Yeah, it’s all dudes, but I’ll save my social critique for later. Five bucks gets you into the fair an hour early at 11 a.m.; come noon, it’s a five-hour free-for-all for only $2.
Dwight Macdonald would not approve of your Forever 21-bought Diane von Furstenberg knockoff, your unlicensed reproduction Eames shell chair, or your artisanal ketchup. His most popular essay, “Masscult and Midcult,” was published in 1960 and appears in an eponymous collection of criticisms; it argues that mass culture rips off both high and lowbrow tastes in order to satiate markets with the goods they covet. Thus, the masscult renders us complacent, materialistic, consumerist drones—and Macdonald’s writing battled it on ideological, aesthetic, and political grounds. Tonight, John Summers, editor of the most recent edition of Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, and Weekly Standard editor Andrew Ferguson will moderate a discussion of Macdonald’s ideas, exploring in particular whether they’ve held up since his death in 1982. I’ll bet you my stretched-canvas Gustav Klimt—I picked it up at Ikea—that they’ve only been galvanized since then. The discussion begins at 6 p.m. Sunday at Politics & Prose. Free. (Alex Baca)
Sunday, the Jewish Literary Festival begins at the Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center. They start things off on a provocative note with Jay Michaelson’s discussion of the “gay vs. God” divide. In his book God. vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality, Michaelson asks, shouldn’t religious people be in favor of gay rights? 11 a.m. $8-10.
If you’re the kind of person who’s already jonesin’ to celebrate Halloween, we’ve got some ideas for you. Check out our Halloween listings.
Mud. Beer. Sculpted thighs. Does it get more virile than DCCX, D.C.’s one-and-only cyclocross race? A clutch of City Paper bicycle geeks will be there on Sunday, perched in the grass with overflowing cups of Dogfish Head. You’d be a fool not to join.
Unsatisfied? Allow me to direct you to our A&E calendar.