Arts Desk

Star Wars Fans: Don’t Bring Your Masks and Blasters to Smithsonian Screenings of The Force Awakens


Attention nerds: T-minus 17 days until Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres in theaters everywhere. Among them? The glorious IMAX theater at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, perhaps the most appropriate venue to see a new Star Wars movie. But the Smithsonian has a stern warning for all those Star Wars fanatics flocking en masse to catch The Force Awakens on the big, big screen: Leave your blasters and masks at home. Read more Star Wars Fans: Don’t Bring Your Masks and Blasters to Smithsonian Screenings of The Force Awakens

To Do Today: Delta Rae, EU Film Showcase, and BETTY

deltaWhile summers are made for lounging outside listening to overly amplified rock bands, the approach of winter inspires quieter, more intimate concerts. This is the aim of Delta Rae, the North Carolina-based folk rock sextet who’ve launched a short winter acoustic tour that aims to deliver holiday cheer to cities up and down the East Coast. This being a holiday show, attendees can expect an Americana take on Christmas music, including Joni Mitchell’s “River,” a risk that few other than Mitchell should take. Based on the preview video Delta Rae has released to promote this tour, there’s no cause for alarm. Read more >>> Delta Rae performs at 7:30 p.m. at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. $29.50. (703) 549-7500. (Caroline Jones)


Mockingbird Hill has been transformed into a holiday-themed bar dubbed Miracle on Seventh Street for the month of December. Derek Brown and his team have decked out the sherry and ham bar with over-the-top Christmas decorations in the front and Hanukkah decorations in the back. Today through Dec. 24, the bar will serve ten holiday-themed cocktails and one shot. Drinks include “I Don’t Mind You Shooting Me, Frank, But Take It Easy on the Rum” with rum, creme de menthe, lime, and candy cane as well as a shot of Baltimore egg nog. Miracle on Seventh Street, 1843 7th St. NW. (202) 316-9396. (Jessica Sidman)


Take in a variety of films from around the Continent at the AFI European Union Film Showcase, which begins tonight with a screening of A Perfect Day, a Spanish film about aid workers tackling a project in the Balkans. 7:15 p.m. at 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $18–$20. Read more To Do Today: Delta Rae, EU Film Showcase, and BETTY

At the Air & Space Museum, An Unexpectedly Soaring Look at Airport-Tower Architecture

Airport control towers aren’t the most obviousBirmingham tower subject for a compelling photographic project, but with 50 images at the National Air & Space Museum, Carolyn Russo produces an unexpectedly appealing and even poignant exhibit.

Russo ping-pongs between abstracted and straight-ahead approaches, with only her nearly monochromatic palette tying the series together.

For the novice, it’s easy enough to understand the functional importance of airport towers for air-traffic control. Less obvious is their architectural diversity, and the fact that they are surprisingly disposable. (Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, for instance, has had five towers over the years.)

Predictably, many mid-20th century examples were burdened with an ugly, brutalist aesthetic. But with a few exceptions, such as Newark Liberty’s bland 2003 structure, the past two decades have brought an under-noticed renaissance in new and replacement towers.

Oslo towerOne, in Edinburgh, Scotland, has smooth curves slathered in hand-installed, zinc tiles. Another, in Barcelona, takes the form of a torch (perhaps a nod to the dramatic 1992 Olympic flame lighting), while one in Bilbao was designed by Santiago Calatrava to suggest a dove. Perhaps most striking is the crescent-shaped structure in Abu Dhabi (bottom); in Russo’s portrayal, it looks too unbalanced to even stand. Read more At the Air & Space Museum, An Unexpectedly Soaring Look at Airport-Tower Architecture

Arts Roundup: The Sleigher Returns



Watch a short film on how go-go is staying alive as D.C. gentrifies. [The Atlantic]

D.C. ex-pats BETTY celebrates 30 years at The Hamilton. [DCist] Read more Arts Roundup: The Sleigher Returns

The Sleigher: Carly Rae Jepsen, ‘Last Christmas’


It's baaaaaaack! Arts Desk's annual evaluation of the newest holiday music has returned. Will we be naughty or nice this year? Only time will tell. 

HO HO WHO: Carly Rae Jepsen, the Canadian pop star responsible for 2012's flirty earworm "Call Me Maybe." If you thought Carly would quietly fade into the one-hit wonder ether, you thought wrong. In August, she released her follow-up to 2012's KISSE•MO•TION. It is the best album of the year, perhaps of all time. If you disagree, you are simply wrong.

SAX AND CANDY: It's no easy feat to cover Wham!'s classic "Last Christmas." Like Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You," it's one of the few contemporary Christmas songs that's actually decent. If you're going to cover a contemporary Christmas tune, you can't make it a straight-ahead cover, you've got to own it. Like the songs on E•MO•TION, Carly's take on the Wham! classic is sugary sweet, but the star of the show isn't Carly's soft voice, it's that saxophone, which hangs over the song like the star on the top of your tree. Read more The Sleigher: Carly Rae Jepsen, ‘Last Christmas’

Listen: Big Hush, Who’s Smoking Your Spirit?


It’s taken D.C. fuzz rockers Big Hush the better part of a year to shake the shoegaze from their system. On the band’s new record—which we’re premiering ahead of its official release tomorrow on local cassette label DZ Tapes—that year-long journey has led the four-piece to a far louder, and at times, poppier place.

The band recorded its new five-song EP, Who’s Smoking Your Spirit?, this summer at vocalist/guitarist Owen Wuerker’s home in Brookland. Since then, the members of Big Hush have been meticulously mixing Spirit to dovetail with the sound it's acquired over dozens of gigs since the release of its first EP, Wholes, last November.

Wholes was punctuated by light, sparse guitars and easy melodies, but the actual music on the record at times receded into the background, like some quiet buzz over an old radio. The album has its moments—fellow singer and guitarist Genevieve Ludwig’s vocals on “Honey” sparkle even as the instruments muddle together in the distance, and the sleepy western jangle of “Wrong House” reaches real sonic heights at the song’s crescendo. But elsewhere, the record was so gaze-y it became gauzy; far more hushed than big. Read more Listen: Big Hush, Who’s Smoking Your Spirit?

To Do Today: Big Hush, Kelela, and Judah Friedlander


Almost exactly one year ago, Big Hush celebrated the release of its Wholes EP with a house show at the Babe City Records venue. This year, the group has moved to Black Cat’s Backstage to welcome the arrival of another cassette EP, Who’s Smoking Your Spirit?, on DZ Tapes. Bigger stages aren’t reached without work, and the D.C.-based quartet has grown from a group reliant on a noisy aesthetic to one that uses it to flesh out strong songwriting. Now its mournful, sighing melodies sink deep as they play with surf and post-rock rhythms, while shoegaze feels more and more limited as a descriptor with every release. Read more >>> Big Hush performs with Wildhoney and Cigarette at 7:30 p.m. at the Black Cat Backstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $10–$12. (202) 667-4490. (Justin Weber)


It's Dumpling Monday at The Source. The recently renovated Wolfgang Puck restaurant has a number of new happy hour specials in its downstairs lounge. Today from 4 p.m. to close, all ten dumplings are available for $5, including the chili "dan dan" chicken dumplings with roasted peanuts and Sichuan pepper, scallop siu mai, and smoked beef wontons. Drink specials are available from 4 to 7 p.m. Stop by throughout the week for Tiki Tuesdays, Wok & Wine Wednesdays, BBQ Thursdays, and Fish Fridays. The Source, 575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. (202) 637-6100. (Jessica Sidman)


D.C.-raised R&B artist Kelela returns home for a performance at U Street Music Hall in support of her latest EP, Hallucinogen. 7 p.m. at 1115 U St. NW. $20. Read more To Do Today: Big Hush, Kelela, and Judah Friedlander

At the National Museum of Women in the Arts, A Small Retrospective of Esther Bubley’s Photography

Bubley topIt’s been a big (if posthumous) year for Esther Bubley.

An American documentary and magazine photographer, Bubley (1921-1998) was first honored by the inclusion of numerous images in the Philips Collection’s recently closed exhibit, “American Moments: Photographs from the Phillips Collection.” Now, the National Museum of Women in the Arts has mounted a solo—though small—retrospective of Bubley’s work.

Bubley got her break working for Roy Stryker, the legendary federal photography honcho, at the Office of War Information. Initially a darkroom assistant, Bubley was later promoted to photographer, using a 35 mm camera to document a wide variety of locales. After the war, she produced regular freelance work for magazines, including some 40 photo essays for Life. Read more At the National Museum of Women in the Arts, A Small Retrospective of Esther Bubley’s Photography

Arts Roundup: Artomatic Edition

Artomatic returns. [Post]

Listen to Sara Curtin's Thanksgiving song. [DC Music Download]

A new bookstore is coming to Park View. [Arts Desk] Read more Arts Roundup: Artomatic Edition

Here They Come, A-Dramatizing: Five Shows To Check Out For the Holiday Season

If you see any sort of performance between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, it will probably have a holiday bent to it. But while in years past, your options were limited to multiple reimaginings of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, this year’s offerings are more unique, ranging from a modern take on the nativity story to a Jewish musical revue to a staged version of a classic NPR essay. Better yet, you can bring the whole family to most of these shows, granting you a peaceful moment of entertainment outside the house. Read more Here They Come, A-Dramatizing: Five Shows To Check Out For the Holiday Season