From Crystal Casino Band to SongbyrdLocal musicians support abortion funds
The Crystal Casino Band; courtesy of the band

And we’re back. After a couple of weeks battling COVID and some monstrous deadlines, Monday’s art roundup is back in action. This week’s biggest takeaway: A lot of local musicians support abortion funds and the right to choose. Plus Independent Venue Week returns, Afro-Atlantic Histories ends, and DC Theater Arts gets a major grant.

This Is an Everyone Issue: Local singer-songwriter and 2022 Wammie winner for Best Pop Artist Emma G was on her way to perform in Milwaukee when news broke that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, taking away many pregnant people’s right to choose, on June 24. Ever since then, she’s been organizing a response in the form of local music. On Wednesday, July 13, G, along with Louisa Hall, one half of the D.C. duo Griefcat, will host the first of two Voices For Choice concerts at Songbyrd. The goal: to amplify the need for equality and women’s health care by connecting the local creative community. They’ve partnered with DC Abortion Fund, a nonprofit providing grants to pregnant people from or traveling to the DMV area for an abortion who can’t afford the cost. Since the SCOTUS decision, DCAF has seen an increase in needs. Wednesday’s show will feature performances by Erin Aminah, Jen Kovach, Keep Your Secrets, and Griefcat. G will MC the event and local life coach Angela Lauria will speak. Proceeds from the event will go to DCAF. The second event will take place on August 2, also at Songbyrd, with performances from G herself, Koshari, Krista O’Connell, the Judith Hour, and guest speaker Tony Porter of A Call to Men. In addition to the shows, Voices For Choice plans to release a compilation album of live performances in late August (which will feature local musicians addressing abortion rights, women’s health, and equality) and a follow-up studio album in September. 

“As an artist, it’s important for me to use my platform to not just be proactive toward justice and equality, but to facilitate conversation and understanding behind how the overturning of the [law] affects EVERYONE, and what we can do to ensure human and women’s rights moving forward,” G tells City Paper via email. “This isn’t an us versus them event series though. This entire project is built on leading with respect, love and community.”

Voices For Choice flyer; courtesy of Emma G

Put Your Streaming Where Your Mouth Is: Meanwhile, local indie rockers The Crystal Casino Band have pledged to donate—and match—the revenue received from streaming their single “Twenty-something Socialist” during June and July to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Lead singer Pete Stevens tells City Paper the decision is the band’s response to the SCOTUS decision and, according to the press release, the band anticipates donating approximately $1,000 to the cause.

All Good Things Must End: There’s only a week left to visit the National Gallery of Art’s groundbreaking exhibit Afro-Atlantic Histories. Spanning multiple rooms, the expansive show features more than 130 works of art that depict the histories and cultures of Black and African Diaspora since the 17th century. During the final weekend of the exhibit there will also be two film screenings as part of the Among Black Atlantic Cinemas series, including Black Lions, Roman Wolves, a work in progress by local award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of the Georgia Avenue NW Black-owned bookstore, Sankofa, Haile Gerima. Afro-Atlantic Histories closes July 17.

Paulo Nazareth, “Untitled” from the series For Sale, 2011; Photo print on cotton paper; Collection Galeria Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brazil

Back in Black: Independent Venue Week returns to D.C. today with programming scheduled through Sunday, July 17. Kicking off its fifth year, Independent Venue Week works to celebrate and promote locally owned live performance spaces throughout the country that serve as both cultural and economic hubs for major cities and small towns. This year’s IVW, will host roughly 1,100 shows at more than 400 independent venues in the U.S. Local participating venues include Pearl Street Warehouse, Pie Shop, 9:30 Club, the Anthem, the Birchmere, DC9, and Arlington’s the Renegade.

To find the full calendar of Independent Venue Week shows, check out this website that helps you track all performances scheduled in the D.C. area (and beyond, if you’re up to it). The aughts emo-punk kid in me is especially excited for The Dollyrots at Pie Shop on July 16. Country/Americana fans should note that noteworthy up-and-comer Olivia Ellen Lloyd will be at DC9 on July 14. (A West Virginia native, Lloyd’s 2021 self-funded, independently released debut album, Loose Cannon, landed on tons of best-of lists.) Philly’s neo-soul duo Kindred the Family Soul will also stop by for the week with a show at the Birchmere on July 16.

Courtesy of Independent Venue Week

Just Dance: A new dance and yoga studio for adults and kids has opened in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle neighborhood. Unity Dance & Movement is owned by longtime dance instructor Jen Dobbins, who became unemployed when the pandemic struck in 2020. After two years of leading virtual classes and slowly hiring former dance colleagues, Dobbins has finally taken her first-ever business offline and into the real world. Well, not offline entirely, though the new space features three studios spanning 4,000 square feet, “the site will continue to offer hybrid learning capabilities for students who still prefer virtual classes,” according to the press release. “Even when we all needed to socially distance and work from home, there remained a desire to connect and that extended to dance,” Dobbins says in the release. “It seems like a long time ago now, but during the pandemic’s onset we were all learning as we went, discovering ways to make dance work via laptops and tablets. When I reflect on how we got through that period together to now providing in-person classes, I’m humbled.”

Making D.C. Queerer One Business at a Time: Just under a month ago, Barracks Row became home to yet another LGBTQ-owned business. Currently taking up just 300 square feet, Little District Books is an independent bookstore that celebrates queer and trans authors and stories. Hallelujah! The store’s founder, Patrick Kern, says in the release that he “wanted to create the bookstore I needed when I was younger.” In 2022, most bookstores sell a bevy of queer books and LGBTQ+ authors, but Kern’s goal is to include whole catalogs rather than just a title or two. Though tiny in space, Kern plans to work with nearby queer businesses (such as As You Are Bar) to host events. The store, located at 737 8th St. SE, is open Wednesday through Sunday. Online shopping launches this month. 

Little District Books; courtesy of Patrick Kern

Art (Coverage) For the People: Local publication DC Theater Arts has received a major grant. Dubbed the Wendi Winters Memorial Series, the grant is funded by the Wendi Winters Memorial Foundation and administered by DCTA in efforts to support community journalism and provide local arts coverage while seeking to spotlight BIPOC, LGBTQ, and women’s voices. The series seeks to honor Wendi Winters, a local journalist and DC Theater Arts contributor who was one of five people murdered during the newsroom shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis in June 2018. “This collaboration with DCTA is an ideal way to honor my mother’s commitment to community journalism and to lift up the voices of marginalized communities,” says Wendi’s son Phoenix Geimer, vice president of WWMF, in the June 29 announcement. “Wendi didn’t come to journalism from a traditional route, but people really resonated with her tactile descriptions of local people and events. We hope to help create an environment where diverse voices can be uplifted like hers was.” DCTA editor and publisher Nicole Hertvik notes that the publication is “honored and humbled by this opportunity to create local journalism in Wendi Winters’ name. Wendi was a dear friend to DCTA so it is bittersweet that this grant stems from her senseless death. We will use these funds to honor Wendi and the other journalists lost in the Capital Gazette shooting through quality local journalism that puts a spotlight on the work done by the region’s artists.”