The new Martin Luther King memorial on the National Mall has not had a good opening run. Its star-studded dedication event was canceled because of Hurricane Irene. And long-simmering controversies were ignited as critics ripped the shoddy treatment of the memorial’s Chinese stonemasons, questioned a design that makes some people think the sculpture is half-done, and blasted a truncated quote that turns a thoughtful King sermon into a goofy boast about being “a drum major for justice.” Six weeks later, the inaugural event—originally slated to be a spectacle featuring scores of celebrity guests—will be somewhat smaller in scope. But it will still feature an African-American president formally opening a national memorial to a man prior presidents had used the FBI to spy upon—which is pretty amazing. The mangled quote, meanwhile, can still be changed. The memorial dedication begins at 9 a.m. Sunday at West Potomac Park, West Basin Drive SW and Independence Avenue SW. Free. (888) 484-3373. (Michael Schaffer)
City Slang Booking and Sasha Lord’s awesome garage rock festival Hail Hail Rock’n’Roll continues through Saturday. Tonight at 10 p.m. at Comet Ping Pong, you get twang-happy New Yorkers Sorceress plus Electronicat, Dino’s Boys, and TNV. On Saturday at 8 p.m. at Quarry House, you get The Spectacles, Les Sans Culottes, and a headlining set from Sorrows, of whom Steve Kiviat says:
Sorrows is back. No, not the forgotten 1960s English band—this Sorrows is the forgotten late 1970s/early ’80s New York power-pop combo with no “the” in its name. The skinny tie-wearing, shaggy-haired outfit was led by Warsaw-born guitarist Arthur Alexander, who likened Sorrows’ sound to “Abba meets the Sex Pistols.” Thirty-some years later, Alexander and guitarist Joey Cola have reunited—without ties—and added a new bassist and drummer. But the band’s roughed-up British Invasion tunes remain just as timelessly catchy. On Bad Times Good Times, released last winter, “Teenage Heartbreak” delivers sped-up Chuck Berry riffs and a memorable chorus; the wistful “I Can’t Go Back” recalls The Hollies; and “Lonely Girl” melds punk propulsion with exuberant call- and-response vocals.
GARAGE ROCK BONUS: D.C.’s The Cheniers open up for Throwing Muses Saturday at the Black Cat. At a house show last week, The Cheniers played a mean Vaselines cover.
Chronicling the plight of the proletariat makes for compelling politics, but not always compelling movies. Luckily, this year’s DC Labor FilmFest at the AFI Silver Theatre packs some entertainment into its pro-labor message, offering viewers a respite from the looming double-dip recession and the rapid decline of collective bargaining rights. The week-long festival mixes sober classics (All the President’s Men) with more topical fare (Up in the Air, Inside Job). Duncan Jones’ overlooked 2009 sci-fi thriller Moon is an unconventional choice, but could be a prescient foretelling of 22nd-century labor struggles. In the film, which shows Saturday and Sunday, space technician Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) embarks on a doomed lunar mission—an assignment that no self-respecting union representative would authorize. Moon’s chilling conclusion presents a bleak vision of the final frontier: In space, no one is guaranteed workers’ compensation. The DC Labor FilmFest runs through Tuesday at the AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. $11. Discounted admission with union card. (Matt Siblo)\
Among theatrical releases, our film critic Tricia Olszewski says Take Shelter, the tense, paranoiac drama starring Michael Shannon, is worth your time and cash. I say the same of Gainsbourg:
In the beginning, Lucien Ginsberg is a mischievous child, and in the end, Serge Gainsbourg is a debauched old man, but Joann Sfar’s riff on the notorious French pop provocateur is anything but a standard biopic. Fine, so it doesn’t explode the idiom as boisterously as the Bob Dylan-inspired I’m Not There—for starters, the plot of Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is linear, and it details events that, you know, actually happened—but it’s just as uninterested in the ascents, falls, and string-swelling redemptions that biopics usually peddle. Instead, Gainsbourg is a story of creativity and artifice, of how history, upbringing, insecurity, and inspiration combined to make possible one man’s music and persona. Selectively, of course: Some of Gainsbourg’s relationships seem to pass by in seconds while his affair with Brigitte Bardot climaxes with a delirious, lengthy, and sexy bedside rehearsal session. A Jew, Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino) came of age in Nazi-occupied France and later invoked anti-Semitic themes in his art, and Sfar approaches that tricky dichotomy by anthropomorphizing it: A beak-nosed, monkey-eared doppelgänger emerges from one of Gainsbourg’s drawings early in the film, prodding and taunting the songwriter through a string of affairs, benders, and musical epiphanies—which are soundtracked just as manically by Gainsbourg’s compositions, from innuendo-laden chanson to a scandalous reggae version of “La Marseillaise.” If in the end the takeaway is familiar—creating such great art required no small amount of self-loating—that’s OK. It’s the art part that lasts. The film shows all week at West End Cinema, 2301 M. St. NW. $11. (202) 419-3456.
Memoirists R. Dwayne Betts and (WCP alum) Ta-Nehisi Coates speak at the Folger Shakespeare Library tonight at 7:30 p.m. $15.
Chris Klimek recommends Rorschach Theatre’s trippy meditation on mortality, After the Quake.
Writes Arts Desk contributor Marcus K. Dowling:
Sun Ra-influenced jazz fusion meets South American percussive house music as New York City’s The Crystal Ark headline Hirshhorn After Hours Friday. The Smithsonian’s current “Warhol on the Mall” program series blends its namesake’s appreciation for progressive New York City nightlife with the museum’s current “Andy Warhol: Shadows” exhibition. The Crystal Ark features DFA Records production wizard and LCD Soundsystem member Gavin Russom alongside NYC dancer, singer-songwriter, and scene ingénue Viva Ruiz, with a nine-piece orchestra. Accompanying the band’s performance will be noted Brooklyn psychedelic projectionist Bec Stupak and Honeygun Labs. Rounding out the lineup, late-night music will be provided by former LCD Soundsystem keyboard player and current Juan Maclean vocalist Nancy Whang. For more information, visit the Hirshhorn’s website. Tickets are $25 and available by advance purchase only.