Jazz in the Garden
Visitors enjoy a past Jazz in the Garden program among modern and contemporary sculptures in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. National Gallery of Art, Washington

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To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much about 2019. My Instagram tells me that I, and many of us, thought it was a rough year—little did our pre-pandemic selves know. Now, after two years of staying home, mask wearing, social distancing, and outside-only hangs, 2019 is the before-times, when going to the grocery store or a concert didn’t mean assessing whether you might get incredibly ill or accidentally infect someone else with the ‘rona. Finally, and with fingers crossed, it seems the worst of the pandemic has passed and we’re optimistically hoping for a summer that looks a lot like 2019. See what I mean with some recent arts-related headlines and news stories you shouldn’t miss.

Jazzed About It: Speaking of the “before times,” the National Gallery of Art’s Jazz in the Garden series returns this month after two years of interruptions. The beloved event, a longtime staple of summer in D.C., was canceled in 2020 and last year’s attempt at four Jazz in the Garden concerts with limited capacity was plagued with bad weather (three of the four shows were canceled due to rain). NGA announced the event’s return on April 29. Shows are scheduled for every Friday from May 20 through July 22. Performers include acclaimed Afro-Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez, Grammy nominatee Daniel Ho, and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Delfeayo Marsalis. Jazz violinist Nataly Merezhuk kicks off the series on May 20. As always, the event is free, but registration is now required.

68 Percent Chance of Beat Drops: Sunday night, Northeast D.C. got an unexpected—and for many, unwelcome—concert. EDM festival Project Glow Fest wrapped up last night at RFK Stadium on East Capitol Street NE, but due to weather conditions, the beats and thumps of DJs were heard miles away. As Fox 5 DC’s meteorologist Matthew Cappucci explains, D.C.’s skies were experiencing an inversion, or an increase in temperature with height. When that happens, the sky’s upper warm layer bounces sound back down to the lower cool layer. Last night, that meant rave music could be heard more than four miles from RFK. —Ella Feldman

On the Fringe: Capital Fringe Festival also returns this summer after a two-year hiatus. Fringe, which began in 2006 with the hopes of giving performing artists a space to connect with “adventurous audiences” and celebrate “democracy and art for everyone,” has found a new home in an unlikely neighborhood. Taking place within Georgetown Park’s empty storefronts and former Washington Sports Club space, this year’s festival continues to “challenge perceptions, shake up the hierarchy, be brave and unafraid, and serve as a launching pad for unseasoned and established artists,” and runs for two weekends in July (14-17 and 21-24), according to Fringe’s press release and Facebook page. 2022’s lineup brings together 250 comics, cabaret performers, and theater—musical and not—artists who will reflect on the current happenings from climate crisis to cloning, Covid, and more. 

“There has been so much change over the past two years, so the Fringe Festival returning is nothing short of a miracle,” Julianne Brienza, founding director of Capital Fringe, said in the press release. “This year’s artists are bringing stories to Georgetown that reflect what we are experiencing on the planet right now, and just silly stuff that will hopefully make the audiences feel good.”

Mallapalooza: Pharrell Williams is making the National Mall cool again. After a two-year hiatus, his music festival Something in the Water makes its comeback this summer. Instead of taking place in Virginia Beach, the three-day event is coming to our backyard. Williams moved the festival from his hometown after a Virginia Beach police officer shot and killed his cousin last year. In a letter to city manager Patrick Duhaney, Williams described a “toxic energy that changed the narrative several times around the homicide of my cousin, Donovan Lynch.” Taking place between June 17 and 19—yes, that’s Juneteenth weekend—Something in the Water boasts a lineup that bursts at the seams with kingpins of culture. Chloe x Halle, Pusha T, and Tyler, the Creator are among the festival’s biggest names. Per the event’s promotional poster, ticket-holders can also look forward to “some people we can’t announce.” If we say Beyoncé’s name three times in the mirror, maybe she’ll appear? —Ella Feldman

On the Cheap: From Wednesday, May 4, through Tuesday, May 10, Live Nation is running its Concert Week, where participating venues and bands across the U.S. will offer $25 tickets—taxes and fees included—to upcoming shows. For DMV residents, that means Capital One Arena and Fairfax’s EagleBank Arena with artists The Who, (May 23), Maverick City Music (June 16), Cheer Live (July 16), Diljit Dosanjh (July 19), New Kids on the Block (July 23), Swedish House Mafia (Aug. 11), Roxy Music (Sept. 9), and Los Angeles Azules (Nov. 27). Hurry though—while the deal runs all week, it’s really a “while supplies last” situation. After all, you can’t get any tickets to a sold out show. 

A Grant of Mammoth Proportions: For the first time ever, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company will offer a dedicated commissioning program, dubbed the Weissberg Commissions. Named and honoring late philanthropist and theater lover Marvin Weissberg, who frequently attended Woolly productions, the program will run for three years with the intention of providing working artists with the funds to complete new full-length plays, test out ideas, or finish incomplete works. The Weissberg Foundation worked with Woolly in 2018 via its Fund for Diversity in Theater, which helped prepare the local playhouse’s hunt for a new artistic director and managing director through an  equity and inclusion lens. The work commissioned will either come from D.C.-born or -based artists, and/or non-local artists if their works feature a connection to the D.C. area. All works will share the theater’s vision for a socially just world. 

“I am thrilled to launch Woolly’s first formal commissioning program,” Sonia Fernandez, Woolly’s director of new work, said in the press release. “That this program aligns with our values of creating work that centers racial justice and addresses themes that directly impact this community makes it that much more meaningful.”