F E B R U A R Y 1 4 , 2 0 1 8 V O L . 2 I S S . 7 B A L T I M O R E B E AT. C O M
Imagine Harder Arena Players and Baltimore Rock Opera Society team up on a double billâ€”and one small step toward creative desegregation By Bret McCabe
Merriweather Post Pavilion • Columbia, MD JUST ANNOUNCED!
LADY ANTEBELLUM & DARIUS RUCKER
w/ Russell Dickerson ........................................................................................ AUGUST 2
.....................................................FRI AUGUST 10
On Sale Friday, February 16 at 10am
THIS WEEK’S SHOWS
L METAT! FES
& Summer Salt ...........................Tu 27
HERN SOUTOCK R ! FEST
White F ....................................................................................................... F FEB 9 U STREET MUSIC HALL PRESENTS of Montreal .............................Su 25 Mú ................................................................................................................... Su 11 Ganja White Night Turnover w/ Mannequin Pussy w/ Dirt Monkey & Subtronics ....Su 18 U STREET MUSIC HALL PRESENTS
Lane 8 w/ Enamour .................Th 22
ALL GOOD PRESENTS
The Soul Rebels
ALL GOOD PRESENTS
feat. GZA & Talib Kweli.......Th 29
w/ Roosevelt Coliler .......F 23 & Sa 24
ALL GOOD PRESENTS
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Lights w/ Chase Atlantic & DCF .Tu 27
2-Night Passes Available .....F 30 & Sa 31
Kelela .........................................Th 1 Galactic
Cigarettes After Sex ..............M 2 Yo La Tengo ...............................W 4
(F 2 - w/ Butcher Brown • Sa 3 - w/ Aztec Sun) ........... F 2 & Sa 3
The Motet .................................Th 5 Anderson East
w/ Melvv & Olivia Noelle ..............Su 4
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark w/ GGOOLLDD ......Tu 6 Cornelius ....................................W 7 No Scrubs: ‘90s Dance Party
w/ Devon Gilfillian ..........................F 6
The Black Angels w/ Black Lips .................................M 9
Andy Grammer ......................Tu 10 Thirdstory ...............................Th 12
with DJs Will Eastman and Brian Billion .........................F 9
Beth Ditto w/ SSION ................Sa 10
Perpetual Groove w/ CBDB ..F 13
ALL GOOD PRESENTS
w/ Jesse Royal & Etana .............Su 11
Hurray For The Riff Raff & Waxahatchee
w/ Bedouine ..............................Su 15 D NIGHT ADDED!
FIRST NIGHT SOLD OUT! SECON
Mason Bates’s Mercury Soul ........................Th 15 AN EVENING WITH
Nils Frahm ...............................F 16 Jon Batiste (Solo in the Round)
Early Show! 6pm Doors ..................Sa 17
STEEZ PROMO PRESENTS
The Marshall Tucker Band • Blackberry Smoke • The Outlaws and more! .................................................................. MAY 6
Dierks Bentley w/ Brothers Osborne & LANCO ................................................. MAY 18 Jason Aldean w/ Luke Combs & Lauren Alaina .................................................. MAY 24 Florida Georgia Line .................................................................................... JUNE 7 Sugarland w/ Brandy Clark & Clare Bowen ......................................................... JULY 14 David Byrne ....................................................................................................... JULY 28 Phish ........................................................................................................ AUGUST 11 & 12 • For full lineups and more info, visit merriweathermusic.com • 930.com
Lincoln Theatre • 1215 U Street, NW Washington, D.C. JUST ANNOUNCED!
JAMES BAY .............................................................................. APRIL 2 LIVE NATION PRESENTS
RACHEL BLOOM: CRAZY EX GIRLFRIEND (LIVE) .. FRI APRIL 6
ALL GOOD PRESENTS
....................................................................................................... FRI APRIL 20
On Sale Friday, February 16 at 10am
Judah & The Lion
w/ Colony House & Tall Heights..Tu 17
Sofi Tukker ..............................W 18 Clean Bandit w/ Nina Nesbitt .Th 19 ALL GOOD PRESENTS
Lotus .............................F 20 & Sa 21 The Weepies
Pod Save the People (Live) . FEB 18
FIRST SHOW SOLD
OUT! SECOND SHOW ADDED!
Andy Borowitz ........................ FEB 24 Dixie Dregs (Complete Original Lineup with Steve Morse, Rod Morgenstein, Allen Sloan, Andy West, and Steve Davidowski) ..................MAR 7
PostSecret: The Show ...... MAR 24 Rob Bell
w/ Peter Rollins .......... MAR 27 • thelincolndc.com •
Stuff You Should Know About (Live).................APR 5 Max Raabe & Palast Orchester.............APR 11 Rick Astley ................................APR 18 Calexico w/ Ryley Walker ............APR 27 Robyn Hitchcock and His L.A. Squires w/ Tristen .......................................APR 28
U Street (Green/Yellow) stop across the street!
Hideaway 10 Year Anniv. Tour .....Su 22
The Floozies w/ Anomalie
Late Show! 10:30pm Doors .............Sa 17
Moose Blood w/ Lydia ............Su 18 Coast Modern..........................M 19 Wild Child w/ The Wild Reeds .Tu 20 !
D SHOW ADDED FIRST SHOW SOLD OUT! SECON
Betty Who w/ Pretty Sister & Spencer Ludwig........................W 21
Godspeed You! Black Emperor w/ KGD .......................................Sa 24
MANY MORE SHOWS ON SALE!
M3 SOUTHERN ROCK CLASSIC FEATURING
ALL GOOD PRESENTS
ALL GOOD PRESENTS
(Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan) ....................Tu 13
Queensryche • Kix • Tom Keifer • Ace Frehley and more! .............................................................. MAY 4 & 5
ALL GOOD PRESENTS
K.Flay w/ Yungblud ...................M 12 I’m With Her w/ Andrew Combs
M3 ROCK FESTIVAL 2018
Stars ...........................................M 23 Steven Wilson
w/ Paul Draper ...........................Tu 24
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
w/ Makeness ................................F 27
Brian Fallon & The Howling Weather w/ Caitlin Rose .........Sa 28 Echosmith w/ The Score & Jena Rose ..........Su 29
Kate Nash .................................M 30
The best thing you could possibly put in your mouth Cupcakes by BUZZ... your neighborhood bakery in Alexandria, VA. | www.buzzonslaters.com
9:30 CLUB PRESENTS AT U STREET MUSIC HALL Wylder w/ Virginia Man ................Sa FEB 17 The Strypes ......................................... F 23 MAGIC GIANT w/ The Brevet.............. Su 18 The Marmozets ................................ Sa 24 MAKO w/ Night Lights .......................... Sa 24 Vinyl Theatre & Vesperteen w/ The Stolen ........................................ Su 25 Gabrielle Aplin w/ John Splithoff & Hudson Taylor ......... Su 25 Hollie Cook w/ Jenna Camille.............. M 26 Sevdaliza ........................................... Tu 27 Albert Hammond Jr ........................ Tu 27 Ella Vos w/ Freya Ridings ............... M MAR 5 Digitalism ........................................... W 28 Amy Shark w/ MILCK .......................... M 12 Curtis Harding.................................. Sa 31 The Hunna & Coasts w/ Courtship ... Sa 17 Fujiya & Miyagi w/ Annie Hart ..... Su APR 1 • Buy advance tickets at the 9:30 Club box office • 930.com
TICKETS for 9:30 Club shows are available through TicketFly.com, by phone at 1-877-4FLY-TIX, and at the 9:30 Club box office. 9:30 CLUB BOX OFFICE HOURS are 12-7pm on weekdays & until 11pm on show nights, 6-11pm on Sat, and 6-10:30pm on Sun on show nights.
HAPPY HOUR DRINK PRICES impconcerts.com AFTER THE SHOW AT THE BACK BAR!
PARKING: THE OFFICIAL 9:30 parking lot entrance is on 9th Street, directly behind the 9:30 Club. Buy your advance parking tickets at the same time as your concert tickets!
The Real News Network produces independent, veriﬁable, fact-based journalism that engages ordinary people in solving critical problems in their communities. As legendary journalist Ida B. Wells said, “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”
The Future Depends On Knowing. Find us online at www.therealnews.com
We examine the underlying causes of the chronic problems facing Baltimore, and investigate and report on effective solutions and models for change. We don’t just cover people in high ofﬁce or limit news to the partisan horse race for power. People who ﬁght for human rights and work for solutions are newsmakers. We believe that real change will be driven by the people who need it most. While we report and investigate on all important issues of social and economic concern, we consider the climate change crisis an existential threat. In all of our programming and journalism the impact of environmental degradation and the climate crisis, especially on marginalized people, and the urgency of ﬁnding solutions will be front and center.
VOL.2 | ISS.7 ADDRESS PO Box 53352 Washington DC 20009 PHONE 410-844-0755 EMAIL email@example.com DIGITAL www.baltimorebeat.com PUBLISHED BY BROWN NAFF PITTS OMNIMEDIA, INC. Kevin Naff firstname.lastname@example.org PUBLISHER Ext. 8088 Jennifer Marsh email@example.com ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Ext. 9463
Dispatches from week three of the Gun Trace Task Force trial
Lisa Snowden-McCray firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Ext. 9461 Maura Callahan email@example.com DEPUTY EDITOR Brandon Soderberg firstname.lastname@example.org MANAGING EDITOR Ext. 9462 Jeff Stintz email@example.com ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Ext. 9464 CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING firstname.lastname@example.org 202-747-2077
Arena Players and Baltimore Rock Opera Society collaborate on a biomusical double bill—and one small step toward creative desegregation
Peggy vs. The World
JPEGMAFIA returns with “Veteran,” a kaleidoscopic look at life under Trump
WEEK IN REVIEW . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 COMMUNITY NOTES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 REALESTATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 DISPATCHES FROM WEEK THREE OF THE GUN TRACE TASK FORCE TRIAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 BLADE NEWS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 DEMOCRACY IN CRISIS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 IMAGINE HARDER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 PEGGY VS. THE WORLD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 ART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20 MUSIC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 CITY THAT HOOPS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 BOOKS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 STAGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 SCREENS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 FOOD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 WEED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 ON THE COVER: Valerie Lewis as Katherine Johnson in “The Determination of Azimuth.” Photo by Sean McCormick (sean-mccormick.com), courtesy Baltimore Rock Opera Society.
Azer Creative email@example.com DESIGN & PRODUCTION 202-540-8928 For distribution, contact Lynne Brown at 202-747-2077, Ext. 8075. Distributed by MediaPoint, LLC All material in the Baltimore Beat is protected by federal copyright law and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Baltimore Beat. Although the Baltimore Beat is supported by many fine advertisers, we cannot accept responsibility for claims made by advertisers. Unsolicited editorial material is accepted by the Baltimore Beat, but the paper cannot take responsibility for its return. The editors reserve the right to accept, reject or edit any submission. A single copy of the Baltimore Beat is available from authorized distribution points, to any individual within Baltimore. Multiple copies are available from the Baltimore Beat office only. Call for rates. If you are unable to get to a convenient free distribution point, you may receive a 52-week mailed subscription for $195 per year or $5.00 per single issue. Checks or credit card orders can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Postmaster: Send address changes to the Baltimore Beat, PO BOX 53352 Washington, DC 20009. The Baltimore Beat is published weekly, on Wednesday, by Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. Individual Subscriptions are $195 per year for 52 issues (only $3.75 per issue mailed to you USPS). Rates for businesses/institutions are $450 per year. Periodical postage paid at Washington, D.C., and additional mailing offices. Editorial positions of the Baltimore Beat are expressed in editorials and in editors’ notes as determined by the paper’s editors. Other opinions are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Baltimore Beat or its staff. To submit a letter or commentary: Letters should be fewer than 400 words; commentaries should be fewer than 750 words. Submissions may be edited for content and length, and must include a name, address and phone number for verification. Send submissions by e-mail to email@example.com. ©2018 BROWN NAFF PITTS OMNIMEDIA, INC.
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
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Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama” by Amy Sherald, oil on linen, 2018. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Week In Review Stories from last week in Baltimore not covered elsewhere in this issue
During Baltimore Magazine’s Visionaries Panel Discussion last Thursday evening, Mayor Catherine Pugh took the stage to critique media representations of Baltimore and claim she was misrepresented when she said she was not following the Gun Trace Task Force scandal. She blamed it on an “angry” reporter—the cool, calm, and collected Ian Duncan—and then claimed her absolutely ridiculous plan for a City Hall television studio was to help local media, not to create her own media. Pugh has generally come off as Trump-like in her critiques of the press. So while she does not have time to read articles about GTTF, she does have time to read media that critiques her and offer point and counterpoint? Got it. Despite the significant drop in homicides, the Baltimore Police Department, under new Commissioner Daryl DeSousa, remains embattled and messy. It all began with the rumored ousting of a number of BPD higher-ups on the day he was announced, which was then backtracked and blamed on both technical mishap and fear of leaking—and now looks like some kind of failed coup—and has continued through half-stepped commentary on the Gun Trace Task Force scandal, and then peaked last week when a number of promotions were announced, then declined, including that of new Dep. Commissioner Thomas Casella. Casella’s promotion was put into limbo by a leaked memo released by Fox45 which BPD has said is not entirely accurate though it’s explanation have been vague and full of backtracking. What a mess. Actor Reg E. Cathey, known as Norman Wilson on “The Wire,” Freddy Hayes on “House Of Cards,” Scalio on “The Corner,” and for appearing in a number of other Baltimore-based productions including “Homicide” and “Roc,” died on on Feb. 9 at the age of 59. On Feb. 12, Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald unveiled her gorgeous portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama alongside Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of former President Barack Obama at the National Portrait Gallery, which commissioned the paintings. This comes right after Sherald snagged another big honor, the $25,000 David C. Driskell Prize, which recognizes contributions to African-American art, and not long after Sherald was named a new board trustee at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Next up: Sherald’s first solo museum show at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Baltimore’s Metro system is closed through March 11, inconveniencing on A D Vnearly E R 20,000 T I S IBaltimoreans N G P R O Oride F it Monday through Friday each week. average who Emergency work to the tracks need to be done and hey, that’s a reason to close it— but the closure was done, like so many things in the city, haphazardly and with little concern for the lives of those in the city—with little community outreach and drips of information and updates. Gov. Larry Hogan has set up emergency buses to run the route to help people out, but it all funnels back to a lack of parity in transportation in the city: If the Metro was used by more people, if it was not limited in its scope and mostly used by black Baltimoreans, would it have been handled this way? And would the repairs been made a long time ago? As of press time, there have been no homicides in Baltimore in 10 days. This is ADVERTISER SIGNATURE By signing this proof you are agreeing to your contract obligations with the something of a This mini-miracle inlimited Baltimore, which was averaging almost a homicide washington blade newspaper. includes but is not to placement, payment insertion a and day last schedule. year and saw no suggestion of slowing down during the first few weeks of 2018. Why this is happening is unclear, but it might be best, for now at least, to consider a confluence of reasons: the community-based effort Baltimore Ceasefire from earlier this month; a shift in policing under embattled new Commissioner Daryl DeSousa, putting more police officers out in the streets; and perhaps fall-out from the massive Gun Trace Task Force scandal, which has very clearly demonstrated that the department must change its act. There have been 27 homicides in Baltimore in 2018.
ISSUE DATE: 180214
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FEBRUARY 14, 2018
REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, & LIVING NEWS
Rally and Press Conference: Water for People, Not for Profit. February 14.
As The Sun’s Luke Broadwater reported, Disability Rights Maryland has revealed a handful of cases where formerly public housing now owned by private developers has evicted tenants too quickly and without proper notice. A complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development confronts the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), which has violated the agreement that gave tenants the same rights under private ownership as they had under public ownership. In 2015, housing sold 22 public housing complexes to private developers. This is devastating though hardly a surprise: Who’d have thought that when you privatize public housing and therefore provide even less oversight, developers tend to act cruelly and improperly? Well just about anybody who has been critiquing the pivot toward privatization of nearly everything over the past few years. Last week, Jared Kushner’s companies, which are tied to a sprawling lawsuit that alleges piling on fees and wrongfully threatening immediate eviction of Baltimore residents, requested the lawsuit be moved back to Baltimore City rather than federal court. The reason? A judge had ruled that if it went to federal court, the Kushner companies would’ve had to reveal the identities of their investment partners. So it bounces back to Baltimore City, where the Kushners will surely have a harder time in court but can keep investors’ names secret. This all stems from a piece by Baltimore’s own Alec MacGillis at ProPublica from a 2017 article titled “Kushnerville.” As the Baltimore Business Journal reported last week that the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which has built 75 or so baseball fields for youth, is looking at adding fields in “at-risk” areas of the city—specifically Cherry Hill and Westport. There have been plenty of murmurs about outrageously high BG&E bills by many residents lately—and many say it’s not as simple as using more to heat their homes, something’s off—but last week, the Baltimore Department of Public Works did confirm that there’s something askew about our water bills: Nearly 600 residents received seriously inflated bills. Public Works blamed the screwup on recent software and is reaching out to everybody who got the high bills to fix them. With little warning, Baltimore’s Metro system has been closed for repairs through March 11. The reasons behind the closures seems legit—there is track work that’s pressing enough that it has to be done immediately—but the way this has been handled has frustrated many Metro riders and will no doubt inconvenience the nearly 20,000 Baltimoreans who use it to get to and from work during the week. In response, Gov. Larry Hogan provided $2.2 million in emergency funding for buses to run the Metro’s route. Many observed that amid Gov. Larry Hogan’s supposed offering of a “blank check” to Amazon to improve transit as a way to lure the company to Montgomery County, the swift closing of the Baltimore Metro seems especially cruel. Well, something got miscommunicated, Hogan claims, because there is no blank check. Still, there’s a serious push to court Amazon—which might as well mean “blank check” if you really think about it—while Baltimore transit remains a mess.
Community Events F E B . 1 4 - 2 1 Board of Estimates Meeting. Weekly meeting chaired by City Council President Jack Young. Feb. 14, 9 a.m., Baltimore City Hall, 100 N. Holliday St., baltimorecitycouncil. com/content/board-estimates-meeting-41. Rally and Press Conference: Water for People, Not for Profit. Part of the Millions of Jobs Coalition’s nationwide day of action against Trump’s infrastructure plan. Feb. 14, noon-1 p.m., War Memorial Plaza, 100 Holliday St., resistandprotest.com/event/rallypress-conference-water-people-not-profit. West Wednesday. Tawanda Jones, the sister of Tyrone West, a man killed in police custody in July 2013, has been gathering every Wednesday with other activists in the city to call attention to West’s death and police brutality in Baltimore. Feb. 14 and 21, usually held at the intersection of 33rd Street and Greenmount Avenue, check facebook.com/justicefortyronewest for details. #BaltimoreVotes Information Session. Register to vote with the Baltimore City Board of Elections, learn about resources being used around the country, and more. Happy hour to follow. Feb. 15, 5:30-7 p.m., The Motor House, 120 W. North Ave., citizenartist.vote. Public Health: From East Baltimore to the World and Back. Lecture from Karen Kruse Thomas, historian of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Feb. 15, 7:30-9 p.m., Village Learning Place, Inc., 2521 St. Paul St., (410) 235-2210, villagelearningplace.org/programs/baltimore-history-evenings. Civilian Review Board. Monthly meeting of the independent agency tasked with investigating complaints against police. Feb. 15, 6 p.m., Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, 7 E. Redwood St., (410) 396-3151, civilrights.baltimorecity.gov/ civilian-review-board. Survive Hunger - Second Annual Black History Month Tribute to Bea Gaddy. Tribute to the late Bea Gaddy, an advocate for the homeless and founder of Patterson Park Emergency Food Center, with free meals for 1,000 people experiencing homelessness. Feb. 17, noon-5:30 p.m., Baltimore War Memorial, 101 N. Gay St., facebook.com/ BDeeBaltimoreLove. Meeting of the Baltimore City Council’s Public Safety Committee. On the agenda: ordinance “prohibiting the purchase of prostitution in Baltimore City.” Feb. 20, 9 a.m., Baltimore City Hall, 100 N. Holliday St., baltimore.legistar.com. Small Business & Tax Preparedness Workshop. Greenworld Bookkeeping presents a seminar designed to help the creative entrepreneur get a handle on their taxes— learn about cash flow, tax deductions, keeping good records, and much more. Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m., City Arts 2, 1700 Greenmount Ave., (410) 528-9239, facebook.com/ events/150955558942797, free. Safer Consumption Spaces with Nurses For Justice. Nurses for Justice and Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition host a panel on safer consumption spaces and how this harm reduction approach to drug use could save lives in our community. Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m., Red Emma’s, 30 W. North Ave., (443) 602-7585, redemmas.org, free.
• • • •
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
HARDLY WORKING Dispatches from week three of the Gun Trace Task Force trial By Brandon Soderberg
Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor in court Illustration by Tom Chalkley
The trial of Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor wrapped up after its third week, bringing to light more shocking revelations about the elite Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) and the Baltimore Police Department along the way. Six other members of the operational unit, created to get guns off the street, have pleaded guilty. Hersl and Taylor, who are charged with robbery, extortion, using a firearm to commit a violent crime, and fraud charges relating to overtime theft pleaded not guilty. The jury began deliberations after closing arguments on Feb. 8. A verdict was not reached as of The Beat’s press time on Feb. 12. GTTF detective testifies that another detective “murdered” someone and Deputy Commissioner coached cover-up On March 6, 2009, Det. Jemell Rayam shot Shawn Cannady at point blank range as he sat in his Lexus in an alley in Park Heights. “Fuck him, I just don’t wanna chase him,” Rayam
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
explained later on, according to Momodu Gondo, Rayam’s long-time partner, in his testimony Monday in federal court at the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) corruption trial. Cannady died two days after the shooting. At the time, police said that Rayam, who had previously shot two people in 2007, shot Cannady in order to keep him from running over Officer Jason Giordano, but according to Gondo that story was concocted by Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere, who “coached everyone about what to say.” Palmere, the highest-ranking official to be directly implicated in the corruption of the officers indicted with GTTF, announced his retirement almost immediately after the testimony and denied the allegations. “It’s not true. I would not coach somebody,” Palmere told the Baltimore Sun. “I’ve always taken pride in my ethics and integrity.” Cannady’s family received a $100,000 settlement in 2013 for Cannady’s death. In court, even Gondo, one of the most notorious
members of the squad, who has pleaded guilty to helping a childhood-friend-turned-drug-dealer in another federal case and who Rayam had said once “laid someone out,” seemed disturbed by the case. “You knew Rayam had murdered somebody?” Christopher Nieto, the attorney for Marcus Taylor, one of the two members of the GTTF to maintain his innocence and stand trial for various racketeering charges, asked Gondo. Nieto referred to transcripts from proffer interviews between Gondo and federal agents, where he recounted a conversation. “You murdered that guy,” Gondo reportedly said to Rayam in conversations long after the event. “Yeah I did,” Rayam said according to the notes read by Nieto. Gondo seemed resigned to the corruption when he told Nieto why he didn’t say anything about the “murder” to Internal Affairs. “If you’re in my shoes, if that’s what has happened,” Gondo said. “What’s gonna happen to me?” The answer echoed a similar answer to the
Former Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere Marcus Taylor, Daniel Hersl, and Momodu Gondo
question that has haunted all of the officers at the trial: Why did they follow Sgt. Wayne Jenkins as he perpetrated a reign of terror on the citizens of the city they were all sworn to serve and protect? “Wayne brought a whole different dynamic to the gun unit,” Gondo said. Still, Gondo confessed earlier in the day that he had stolen money with other officers long before joining the GTTF. He named several detectives with whom he stole money, including Giordano (who was investigated in 2011 for theft that Rayam admitted to being involved in when he took the stand last week) and Det. Sean Suiter, who was murdered on Nov. 15. The day after he was killed, Suiter was set to testify about the case of Umar Burley, which began in 2010 and involved Suiter, Jenkins, and Det. Ryan Guinn—who was named for a second time Monday as the person who tipped off the GTTF members that they were being investigated. A member of the State’s Attorney’s Office and someone working in police Internal Affairs also tipped GTTF off. But, while he was on the streets, Gondo was not afraid of IAD, he testified. “It was part of the culture,” he said. “I wasn’t out there getting complaints—putting my hands on people.” That answer came about after Gondo was asked whether he was worried that Daniel Hersl was an informant when he first joined the GTTF. But Gondo said he trusted Hersl because of his reputation and the suspicion simply arose from Hersl being new to the unit. “Dan was banned from the whole Eastern District when he got to our squad from complaints,” Gondo said. “Dan had a history.” And in the twisted world of the GTTF, that meant Gondo and the others could trust him. (Bayard Woods and Brandon Soderberg) How the Gun Trace Task Force’s outrageous overtime hustle prevented policing Sgt. Wayne Jenkins was out drinking until about three in the morning on Aug. 8, 2016, so the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) wasn’t going to get to work until about two in the afternoon. They’d start late, most likely play fast and loose with the hours they worked, claim overtime, and continue their series of “rip and runs,” “sneak and peeks,” and “door pops,” with the occasional robbery of a high-profile drug dealer along the way. “We’d use law enforcement tactics to target bigtime dealers,” Det. Momodu Gondo said on the stand
on Feb. 5 during the GTTF corruption trial. On Aug. 8, 2016 in particular, the GTTF attempted to stop Dennis Armstrong, ended up chasing him through Baltimore in a car when he fled and on foot when he abandoned his van, hit him with some petty charges, stole his money, took his van, and then, without a warrant or Armstrong’s consent, raided his storage facility looking for cocaine. These kinds of over-the-top street tales have been the talk of the trial. But as the prosecution and the defense rested their cases, the less sensational overtime claims and lies about when they worked are important to explore as well. “A nigga’s check was over four grand,” Jemell Rayam boasted on a wiretapped phone call with Gondo, as the two laughed their asses off about how much money they were getting. “I’m gonna get at least $13,000 this month.” According to Open Baltimore data, which lists Baltimore City employee salaries and gross pay from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, the nine members of GTTF (this includes Officer John Clewell, the only one who has not been indicted) in total earned $436,909.41 in overtime during that period. After Gondo testified, FBI Special Agent Erika Jensen, who led the GTTF investigation, took the stand and discussed the investigation process, stressing that it is an ongoing investigation and that Jenkins—GTTF’s ringleader and a nearly untouchable, highly connected golden boy in the department—is not cooperating. With Gondo’s accusation from early in the day— that Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere (who has since announced his retirement) helped coach Rayam and others on how to cover up a shooting—still fresh in everybody’s minds, Jensen’s statement of fact seemed to suggest more indictments are coming. When Jensen’s testimony continued on Feb. 6, she made it clear that the extent of the BPD’s corruption made her “afraid” to provide information to officials or reach out to certain places for evidence of money spent, such as the Horseshoe Casino, for fear of officers being tipped off. But for most of her time on the stand, she went over officers on trial Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor’s reported working hours and overtime slips, crossreferencing them with bank records, phone records, and receipts, all adding up to an outrageous degree of fraud: Taylor was in the Dominican Republic from Aug. 5-9 in 2016 but filed hours (his time out of the country proven by plane ticket purchases and bank
withdrawals); Hersl hardly worked in October 2016 while he fixed up his new house in Joppa but filed hours (phone records placed him near the Joppa area most of the month and receipts from the Home Depot in Bel Air and Lowes in Abingdon corresponded to phone records). Testimony today from Det. James Kostoplis, who was briefly in the GTTF, claimed that the entire task force essentially did nothing between October 2016, when Jenkins went on leave after his child was born, and January 2017, when he returned to work. Shortly after that, Jenkins told Kostoplis, “We’re going to go for a ride real quick.” Hersl was standing beside Jenkins, Kostoplis testified, and all three went out to Jenkins’ van, which drove a short distance before stopping on a side street. Jenkins asked him to leave his phone and police radio in the car. The three men got out and walked to the back of the van. Jenkins asked Kostoplis what he thought about trailing big drug dealers and robbing them. “That is a terrible fucking idea,” Kostoplis said. “You can’t have a badge on your chest and do something like that. The fact that law enforcement doesn’t do that is what separates law enforcement from criminals.” On the stand, Kostoplis was dressed in his uniform. He detailed some of the ways he earned overtime— going over 911 calls for armed people and seeing if he could canvass neighborhoods for more information on guns—in contrast with GTTF’s ornate lies. GTTF’s overtime hustle shows how the task force came to view getting guns off the street (that’s to say when they weren’t planting guns themselves) as more of a way to get off work as soon as possible than a way to prevent crime. It’s the logical result of the kind of statistics-fueled policing long criticized for being essentially a numbers game that inverts policing priorities. “If we get a gun in maybe 10 minutes,” Gondo said, they would then fill out a report and end their day. “The whole process may take an hour.” Gondo also repeated some of the same claims made during other GTTF members’ testimony related to the regular practice of signing off on each other’s overtime slips (“If two guys came in and got a gun at four, some who just came in, we would all be [listed as part of the seizure] too”), the existence of “slash days” (“you get guns and you get off the next day”) which Gondo said was common in the department at least since the mid-2000s, and Lt. Christopher O’Ree’s approval to file all of that overtime.
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Gun Trace Task Force overtime from June 2015-July 2016
Even the expectation that a police officer is always on call was distorted by GTTF: It mostly meant being beholden to the whims of Jenkins. If, say, Jenkins called, all jacked up about a how he has got “a fuckin’ baller” at a Boston Street condominium on the water where a drug dealer kept a Mercedes G-Class SUV, a Mercedes CLK with a Twin Turbo engine, and a whole bunch heroin, among other things, then you have to be ready to get there—and fast. “I got to be on standby for this man,” Gondo said. (Brandon Soderberg and Baynard Woods) Closing arguments and the battle of the PowerPoints; jury deliberates During closing arguments in the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) trial, the government’s PowerPoint was the best. Even Daniel Hersl’s attorney, William Purpura, admitted that much. “That PowerPoint was a thing of beauty,” the acrid attorney quipped, commenting on the photo-filled, graphic design-y presentation from federal prosecutor Derek Hines. In contrast, there was Purpura’s own slideshow: simple white text on a blue background, mostly in all caps and oftentimes mixing up witnesses’ names. It reflected the shoot-from-the-hip approach of Purpura (who looks like a grizzled Michel Foucault and sounds like Donald Trump) versus the somber, cerebral approach of Hines and fellow prosecutor Leo Wise (who look like a minimal techno duo about to get a New York Times profile). This is how the GTTF trial of Hersl and Marcus Taylor wound down, with seedy details and potentially police department-destroying revelations giving way to dueling PowerPoint presentations, starkly different emotional appeals, and an arcane unpacking of conspiracy, robbery, and fraud charges. “No man is above the law and no man is beneath it,” Hines declared, countering the defense’s persistence in presenting the trial’s witnesses as criminal and therefore not to be trusted and not protected by the fourth amendment. During the trial, the defense’s approach veered into the kind of profiling and disregard for Baltimoreans the GTTF regularly displayed. At times, it seemed to backfire, especially when one victim, Ronald Hamilton, exploded in the courtroom: “THIS RIGHT HERE DESTROYED MY WHOLE FUCKING FAMILY MAN. . . . THEY CAME IN MY HOUSE AND DESTROYED MY FAMILY.” Hines briefly ran through the experiences of some of the alleged GTTF victims, characterizing them as targets take advantage of because the GTTF assumed they would not be believed.
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Shawn Whiting, who said he had 4.5 kilograms of cocaine and $23,970 on him, though police reported only 3 kilograms and $7,650. Jimmie Griffin, who said he had in total $12,000 on him, though police reported only $4,903 (Griffin is the only one of these victims who consented to being searched). Herbert Tate, who said he had $530 on him, though police reported only $216, and who claimed that blue and white caps of heroin found down the street were not his, though Hersl said they were (Tate’s case was dismissed). Antonio Santiful, who said he had $700 on him, though police reported $218. Oreese Stevenson, who said he had 10 kilograms of cocaine and $300,000 on him, though police reported only 8 kilograms and $100,000 (Sgt. Wayne Jenkins wanted to rob Stevenson a second time and discussed it over Twisted Tea with Hersl). Ronald Hamilton, who said he had $70,000 in his home and $3,000 on his person, though police reported $23,000 (Hamilton wasn’t charged with any crimes). Dennis Armstrong, who said he had 2 kilograms of cocaine and $8,000 on him, though police reported only about 2 grams and $2,833. Sergio Summerville, who said he had $4,800 on him, though police reported only $2800. He wasn’t charged with any crimes. As for the absurd amounts of false overtime from which Hersl made an additional $86,000 in 2015 and $37,000 in 2016, and Taylor an additional $43,000 in 2015 and $44,000 in 2016? “They were not working hard to rid the city of guns, they were hardly working,” Hines said. “This is all about the evidence,” Hersl’s lawyer Purpura told the jury, “DANNY HERSL” in all caps real big behind him on his PowerPoint. Purpura offered a fairly artful unspooling of the specifics of the government’s case against Hersl, claiming his client’s involvement was not that deep, while admitting fully to theft (but not robbery understood as theft by force) and overtime fraud. “Fraud is rampant among aggressive police squads” in Baltimore, Purpura said, adding that higherups “acknowledged [it] with a wink and a nod.” Purpura dismissed the testimony of the GTTF’s victims—all given immunity, some subpoenaed—as “classic cooperators’ testimony you just can’t believe,” and returned to his main argument: What Hersl did was theft rather than robbery—he wrongly kept money he was rightfully allowed to seize as a police officer from drug dealers. “After 17 years as a street cop, his conduct was wrong,” Purpura admitted.
While Purpura leveled with the jury about Hersl, Taylor’s attorney, Jennifer Wicks, declared Taylor entirely innocent. It was a lengthy closing argument with a PowerPoint presentation full of clip art and a messy defense of Taylor that reminded jurors of some of the former detective’s lowest moments. Namely, Taylor had a BB gun in his car—GTTF Sgt. Wayne Jenkins told task force members to keep a BB gun on them in case they shot someone and needed an excuse—though Wicks said that Taylor had taken it off a small child who he didn’t want to get hurt, and that he wasn’t even present at an oft-discussed Aug. 8, 2016 raid of a storage facility for which he filed overtime. Wicks took the scenic route toward insulting the GTTF victims who testified: a stock image of bags at the airport with the slide titled “Witnesses and their Baggage.” “They have suitcases of reasons why they are biased,” Wicks said of the witnesses. Then she indulged an extended scenario in which she asked the jury to imagine they were boarding a plane where many of the government’s witnesses were in charge of getting the jury on board—Rayam is your travel agent, Whiting handles your luggage, the pilot is Stevenson, GTTF’s Evodio Hendrix is the co-pilot, and so on. The point seemed to be that if you wouldn’t trust these people to get you into the air safely, you couldn’t trust their testimony. But it mostly offered up another way to consider conspiracy—of which Hersl and Taylor are charged—and made the claim that Taylor was around all of these people and entirely unaware seem outrageous. Briefly, a slide with the poster from the classic spoof “Airplane!” flashed by, as if Wicks realized it was too much and briskly double-clicked right past it. For most of the closing argument, Taylor’s other attorney, Christopher Nieto—who was the cruelest in grilling witnesses, resulting in Hamilton’s blow-up— had his head down and looked as though he was going to melt into his seat. In rebuttal, the government’s Leo Wise picked apart Wicks’ closing argument—this time without a spiffy PowerPoint, just a few documents and a Hollywood courtroom drama sort of sincerity. Wise characterized the defense as full of “flip flops” who said the witnesses “were all liars—except when they say something [the defense] liked,” and suggested the defense’s argument as, once more, borderline dogwhistle racism. “Those people don’t deserve to be believed,” Wise said, paraphrasing Purpura, Nieto, and Wicks. He argued that providing immunity is what made them reliable witnesses and that without it they
BPD Commissioner Daryl DeSousa discussing reorganization Screencap courtesy Periscope
would have no motivation to tell the truth. Oh, and by the way, if Taylor had a BB gun in his police vehicle because he confiscated it from a child, then why didn’t he turn it in? And Taylor wasn’t present at that Aug. 8 raid only because “he was in the Dominican Republic committing time and attendance fraud.” Wise dismissed Purpura’s differentiation between Gondo and Rayam’s home invasions and the GTTF raid on Hamilton’s house, reminding jurors that the GTTF entered ahead of the Maryland State Police to search and take money, that they had no warrant, and that Hamilton was not charged with a crime. Then he mentioned Mrs. Hamilton, who was shopping for blinds at Home Depot when the GTTF grabbed her and her husband, took them to “The Barn” (an off-site police facility), and then finally to their homes—never charging her, never telling her what was going on. “What crime did she commit?” Wise asked. The rebuttal ended with the audio of the car accident the GTTF caused and then observed from afar, never rendering aid. The jury again heard Taylor saying of the man in the crash “That dude is unconscious, he ain’t saying shit,” while Hersl, in his broad Bawl-damoore accent, chuckled about changing their overtime sheets so it didn’t look like they were there at all. The jury spent the rest of Thursday deliberating and returned on Monday to continue. (Brandon Soderberg and Baynard Woods) New Police Commissioner DeSousa struggles with massive police scandal
The Gun Trace Task Force trial has offered further proof that the Baltimore Police Department is profoundly broken: A dozen other current or former officers were also implicated during testimony (Sherrod Biggers, Ian Dombrowski, Tariq Edwards, Jason Giordano, Ryan Guinn, Kenneth Ivery, Dean Palmere, Sean Suiter—who was killed in November—Thomas Wilson, and Michael Woodlon), overtime fraud is rampant, and the FBI’s investigation of BPD is ongoing. “The jurors have a difficult job to do to weed through substantial evidence here,” said University of Maryland law professor Doug Colbert outside the courthouse. “The charges here are so serious. This is one of the most important and serious trials that we’ve had in Baltimore. My hope is this is the linchpin to undertaking an investigation, some type of commission that will be able to restore trust in the Baltimore Police Department and identify the extent of the corruption and criminality.” At a press conference on Friday—his first since he got the job—Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Darryl DeSousa, who along with the mayor has seemed to be snoozing through the whole thing, floated the possibility of some kind of outside commission looking into the GTTF and said that officers in special units such as the GTTF will now get random polygraph tests and that overtime fraud is going to be investigated. He also said that Thomas Casella, announced on Thursday, Feb. 8 as the new deputy commissioner, would be reconsidered for the moment.
This came after Fox45 released a leaked memo dated Jan. 26 that was sent to DeSousa and ran through Casella’s internal affairs files, including three incidents related to misconduct, neglect of duty, and racial discrimination, which have been “sustained” (found to be legitimate). Then on Saturday, Feb. 10, BPD’s media spokesperson T.J. Smith released a statement via email that said elements of the leaked memo were “incorrect,” and that “there are no sustained complaints against [Casella] involving race, religion, sex, or any other type of discrimination.” For those following the GTTF trial closely however, the appointment of Casella, who ran security at the Horseshoe Casino, raised eyebrows long before the specious memo. On Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the trial, Special Agent Erika Jensen testified that the FBI did not pull records for Hersl from Horseshoe because they were worried that doing so would lead to someone at the casino tipping BPD off about the investigation. (Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg) Coverage of the Gun Trace Task Force trial is a collaboration between the Baltimore Beat and the Real News Network. Visit therealnews.com for more independent local, national, and international journalism that examines the underlying causes of chronic problems and searches for effective solutions.
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
A roundup of LGBTQ news from the region and around the world courtesy the Washington Blade
Maryland state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) has introduced a bill in the Maryland Senate that would ban so-called conversion therapy for minors in the state.
researchers and practitioners to have a better understanding of the prevalence of these conditions which, in turn, hopefully improves outcomes.” “Changes to how we think about gender markers across the lifespan can also reduce the pressure families face in choosing an ‘optimal’ sex of rearing at birth, pressure which sometimes impairs their medical decision making and can result in inappropriate surgical intervention on infants,” added Malouf. “For those individuals diagnosed with one of these conditions, it also allows them to have identification that accurately reflects their physical body.” (Michael K. Lavers)
Washington Blade photo by Michael Key
Md. lawmakers seek to ban conversion therapy Two Maryland lawmakers have introduced bills that would ban so-called conversion therapy for minors in the state. State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced Senate Bill 1028 in the Maryland Senate. State Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County) introduced House Bill 902 in the Maryland House of Delegates. Madaleno, who is running for governor, on Friday wrote on his Twitter page that “denying young people their humanity with conversion therapy is inhumane.” “We need to ensure a better future for children free of this mental abuse,” he said. “[Maryland’s governor] needs to be at the forefront of this fight!” FreeState Justice Executive Director Mark Procopio in a press release said the bills send “a clear message to LGBTQ youth across our state that they are welcomed and respected in Maryland.” The Pride Foundation of Maryland stated it “unequivocally supports passage of this legislation.” “Conversion therapy attempts to erase LGBT people from the world, and it is unconscionable to allow it anywhere in this country,” it wrote on its Facebook page. “Maryland can be at the forefront of American society in codifying for LGBT people the right of self-expression.” Nine states and D.C. have banned “conversion therapy” for minors. Virginia lawmakers in recent weeks tabled two bills that would have banned the widely discredited practice in the commonwealth. The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would prohibit it in the state. (Michael K. Lavers)
Md. bill would allow ‘unspecified’ gender marker on driver’s license Maryland lawmakers last week held a hearing on a bill that would allow Marylanders to obtain state-issued identification cards and driver’s licenses with an “unspecified” gender marker. Members of the Maryland House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee heard testimony on House Bill 13, which state Del. Shane Robinson (D-Montgomery County) introduced. Matthew Malouf, a Baltimore psychologist who is on the board of the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome-Differences of Sex Development Support Group, which is one of the largest support groups for intersex people in the U.S., testified in support of the measure. “Having binary male/female sex markers on driver’s licenses and on other state and federal SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) identifiers impair our ability to record and collect information on this population and to guide individuals and families in aspects of their treatment,” said Malouf. “By changing the framework by which we categorize data, bills such as HB 13 allow
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Peter Boykin is helping to organize a pro-Trump rally next month. Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
‘Gays for Trump’ planning Lincoln Memorial rally For the second year in a row the head of the group Gays for Trump is playing a lead role in organizing a march and rally in the nation’s capital on March 4 in support of President Donald Trump. A rally associated with the upcoming event billed as “March4Trump” is scheduled to take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 4, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. At 4 p.m. participants attending the event will march from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House, according to an announcement by an organization called TheMagaNetwork. The organization, which stands for Make America Great Again Network, was founded by Gays for Trump founder and president Peter Boykin. Boykin told the Washington Blade a broad coalition of Trump supporters, both gay and straight, are helping to organize the event and are expected to attend. In an application for a permit to reserve the Lincoln Memorial grounds for the March 4 rally Boykin said organizers expect as many as 1,000 people to turn out. “I think Trump is doing very well,” said Boykin. “I give Donald Trump big praise,” he said referring to the Trump administration’s first year in office. Although he had reservations over Trump’s decision to reinstate a ban against transgender people serving in the U.S. military, Boykin said he sees no reversal of the rights of gays, lesbians, and bisexual people under the Trump administration despite “fake news” to the contrary being spread by what Boykin called the liberal media and liberal-left LGBT organizations. During last year’s March4Trump event, which was held on the grounds of the Washington Monument, at least four gay speakers, including Boykin, who declared their strong support for Trump, were cheered loudly by several hundred people attending the event. Similar to plans for this year’s event, participants in last year’s March4Trump marched from the Washington Monument grounds to Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, where they held a smaller rally before dispersing. (Lou Chibbaro Jr.)
THE FBI AND DIRTY COPS The memo hysteria and a Baltimore corruption trial highlight the state of law enforcement in 2018 By Baynard Woods Last week, I got a text from my mom flipping out about The Memo. She’s smart but not especially political, and her text made it clear that the #releasethememo movement that began as an alt-right rallying cry had now reached the mainstream. “As a teenager you ranted about the CIA (you were right,)” she wrote. “Now the FBI. Can we trust any politician or any government office?” It was a strange moment for me because, at the same time every mainstream news network in the country was on “Memo Watch,” I was covering a woefully un-covered trial in Baltimore, where the FBI uncovered a vast police corruption conspiracy after they traced some opioids that killed a young woman back to a drug gang and, upon tapping their phones, realized they were working with a Baltimore Police officer named Momodu Gondo. When they tapped his phone, they realized that he and other officers were regularly targeting citizens whom they thought had a lot of cash—to rob. Over the last three weeks of a federal trial—six of the officers pleaded guilty, while two maintained innocence and stood trial—we have learned that, according to testimony, one officer executed a man point blank in 2009 because he “didn’t feel like chasing him.” According to Gondo’s testimony, a deputy commissioner came out to the scene to coach everyone on what to say: The victim was about to run them over and he had to shoot. The deputy commissioner announced retirement immediately following the testimony. We also learned that during the uprising following Freddie Gray’s death, Wayne Jenkins, the ringleader of the
elite task force that was indicted, came to a bail bondsman with two big trash bags of pharmaceuticals stolen from pharmacies and told him to sell them. The bail bondsman testified that Jenkins came to him with stolen drugs almost every night. Jenkins, who did not testify, has come across as something like a demon. Even Jemell Rayam, who shot the man to keep from chasing him, thought Jenkins was excessive. Most of the officers said they were scared of him. He is, in Trump’s language, “highenergy,” and is in many ways the perfect image of Trumpian law-enforcement: If people are poor, or black, or immigrants—unprotected—then they are inherently criminal and nothing you can do to them is criminal. Jenkins had been involved in this kind of activity since at least 2010, when he and Det. Sean Suiter—who was murdered in November, the day before he was supposed to testify to the grand jury in the case—chased a “target,” causing a fatal car crash, and then planted drugs in the car. And Jenkins, as many people testified, was protected by the local power structure. But the plodding investigations by the FBI—and prosecutions of the U.S. Attorneys—brought down Jenkins’ long reign of terror. This is similar to the story told by David Grann in last year’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which is about how the newly formed FBI was able to break through the white-power structure of 1920s Oklahoma law enforcement and expose local authorities’ involvement in killing hundreds of Native Americans in order to steal their payments from oil on Osage-owned lands. And yet, the national media, which
covered every second of the burning CVS during the uprising, was largely silent about the vast police misconduct revealed in the trial, even though they dovetailed in some uncomfortable ways with the Memo Watch hysteria. The Memo, authored by Devin Nunes, who worked on Trump’s transition team and had a weird midnight Uber ride and secret White House lawn meeting a few months back, ultimately alleged that the Steele Dossier (source of the “pee tape”) was paid for by the DNC and used to get a FISC warrant on former Trump advisor Carter Page. The Trump team has long alleged that Page, who has done some bragging about his Russian connections, was nothing more than a “coffee boy”—but now this was an attempt by the FBI to take Trump down. Ultimately, The Memo was a dud— the Democrats are trying to get the president to allow the release of their counter memo—but it does highlight the weird moment where the right attacks law enforcement agencies and the left valorizes them. It’s not hard to find countless examples of FBI malfeasance—the agency’s CoIntelPro is one of the worst incidents of law enforcement over-stepping in American history, as Hoover and his team plotted illegal Jenkins-esque ways to destroy the Black militant movement. Likewise, the rather young and dashing dynamic duo of federal prosecutors in Baltimore—Leo Wise and Derek Hines—come across as champions of Baltimore’s most vulnerable citizens. But as they pulled out a big bag of black masks and clothes that Jenkins used for burglaries, I couldn’t help but think of
their colleague Jennifer Kerkhoff, who, an hour down the road in Washington D.C., is still trying to prosecute 59 people for wearing black clothes during Trump’s inauguration, following a protest where a few windows were broken. But the Trumpist attempt to undermine the FBI can still be seen as an attempt to protect people like Wayne Jenkins—local law enforcement officers like the super-racist former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned—and give “local control” or “states’ rights.” It is part of what Steve Bannon called the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” An attempt to have lawmen—lawmen in whom the president sees himself—as above the law. Just as testimony in the Baltimore trial wrapped up, it came out that the Trump team was trying to plan a big military parade on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. Surely, that will elicit massive protests—and may be the best gift to the lagging and fractured protest movement—but I couldn’t help but imagine Wayne Jenkins with his grappling hooks and stolen drugs riding with Arpaio at the front of the whole thing as a perfect picture of Trumpian law enforcement. But he better not wear his black burglary clothes—D.C. prosecutors might mistake him for an anarchist and charge him with another conspiracy.
Baynard Woods is a reporter at the Real News Network and the founder of Democracy in Crisis. Email firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @baynardwoods
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
IMAGINE HARDER Arena Players and Baltimore Rock Opera Society collaborate on a biomusical double bill—and one small step toward creative desegregation By Bret McCabe
The cast and crew of “Constellations & Crossroads” Photo by Sean McCormick (sean-mccormick.com), courtesy Baltimore Rock Opera Society.
Aran Keating is trying to get three humans to realize they’re immortals. The Baltimore Rock Opera Society artistic director is helming one of the two musical shorts in BROS’ “Constellations & Crossroads” double bill that opens Feb. 9. On this Tuesday night, 10 days prior to that opening, he wants to run entirely through “The Battle of Blue Apple Crossing,” an allegory of blues legend Robert Johnson’s Faustian pact to acquire his guitar virtuosity, written by veteran BROS member Nairobi Collins. “Blue Apple” castmates Charence Higgins, Valerie Lewis, and James Watson worked with the show’s fivepiece band and have the songs down. Now, Keating wants to get everybody in the right headspace for the show. He explains what the set is going to look like, with a giant tree over there and its roots and branches sneaking out over here, here, and here. Watson swings around the prop axe he’s going to be using onstage. They only have digital recordings for musical accompaniment, so Keating’s going to voice all the other sound effects so they can tighten up their blocking and cueing. The cast needs to become their characters onstage, and Keating tells them: “Embody the gods that you are.”
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Gods, axes, imaginative sets, rock ‘n’ roll—just another night in the maximum-everything world that BROS creates with such wanton enthusiasm. Except, with these restagings of “Blue Apple Crossing” and “Determination of Azimuth,” two shorts that first debuted in 2015 as part of the company’s “Six Pack,” BROS is intentionally trying to address one of its selfadmitted shortcomings. “Blue Apple” and “Azimuth,” which imaginatively recounts NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson’s calculations that brought the Apollo 11 mission home in 1969, are African-American stories. And BROS knows it is an overwhelmingly white organization. For “Constellations & Crossroads,” BROS, one of the few rock opera companies in the country, is collaborating with Baltimore’s Arena Players, the oldest, continually running African-American community theater in the country. This Tuesday night rehearsal takes place inside Arena’s intimately epic McCulloh Street theater, that wonderfully singular building off Martin Luther King Boulevard just above Seton Hill. Higgins, Keating, Lewis, and Watson, along with stage manager Liz Richardson and vocal coach Charles Armstrong, run through “Blue Apple” in the nearly 300-seat theater. In a second-floor rehearsal room, Lola B. Pierson is working with the cast
of “Azimuth,” which she is co-directing. In the lobby, Arena artistic director Donald Owens is rehearsing “Praise the Lord and Raise the Roof,” which opens after “Constellations.” And wandering around the building is Arena’s associate artistic director David Mitchell, who is working on “Hoodoo Love,” which opens in April. Arena and BROS see the production as a mutually beneficial partnership; a different kind of programming for Arena, a different talent pool of actors for BROS, and, ideally, exposing Arena audiences to BROS and vice-versa. A $5,000 Mayor’s Individual Artist Award from the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts is helping to cover artist stipends. Arena is providing its theater and rehearsal space. And both organizations are going to split ticket sales 50-50. The very fact that this collaboration is happening voices something theater artists of color know from experience: that the local theater community is as segregated as everything else in Baltimore. But 10 days before opening, such macro discussions of how to desegregate local theater take a backseat to the micro concerns of rehearsal. Tech runs are coming up, actors need to be microphoned and EQ’d, sets installed. Stage manager Richardson sits in a front row with a production binder, cell phone with digital recordings
Valerie Lewis as Jesus in “The Battle of Blue Apple Crossing” Photo by Sean McCormick (sean-mccormick.com), courtesy Baltimore Rock Opera Society.
of “Blue Apple” music, and a small speaker. Notes, scripts, and sheet music from both musicals spill out of her binder, and she jokes that she should carry a threehole punch around with her. Then she kinda hums something to herself for a second as she jots down a few notes, and laughs. “I see every show more than anybody who isn’t in it,” she says. “So lately I’ve been running around humming songs about rocket science.”
“I’m Jesus,” Valerie Lewis says, tilts her head slightly, and smiles. “You know, typical typecasting.” Lewis is one of the “Constellations & Crossroads” cast members who may never have been in a BROS production if not for this collaboration. Trained as an opera singer, she started getting into musicals and acting through Arena, auditioning for “Dreamgirls.” She was cast as Deena, the Beyoncé role for all y’all who only saw the movie. She’s been involved with regional stage performance ever since, with Arena, Fells Point Corner Theater, the interactive troupe Dance & Bmore, and others. When Arena put out the casting call for “Constellations & Crossroads,” the “rock opera” part had her intrigued. She’s a “Jesus Christ Superstar” fan. “It’s totally my favorite musical,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to be Judas because I think he’s got the best songs, but being a girl, you only get offered Mary. She’s only got a few songs. When this [opportunity] came up, I didn’t know what it would entail, but I saw ‘rock opera’ and immediately thought ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ and, yeah, I want to try that. Who doesn’t want to wail onstage?” She was less familiar with BROS. A friend of hers worked on one of BROS’ Artscape performances, which she saw. BROS “seemed like this wild, outside the norm group,” Lewis says. “That’s kind of cool, but I thought I could never do that.” Lewis, a born and raised Baltimorean who attended School for the Arts and the Peabody Institute, has a voice that can stop traffic. She’s starring in both “Blue Apple” as Jesus, and “Azimuth” as Katherine Johnson. “She’s fucking incredible,” says Lola B. Pierson
of Lewis. Pierson directed the original “Azimuth” in 2015 and returns for this remount, which has been updated and changed slightly. Co-creator Heather Graham added some more biographical details and is co-directing this version; the approach is more adventurous (there’s two Katherine Johnsons in two different timelines). The score is also completely new. Horse Lords’ Andrew Bernstein composed the original, but he didn’t have the time to update it for the new parts. Cellist/composer Zack Branch wrote the new score, which has a more minimal, Philip Glassian vibe that changes the production’s entire mood. At the first rehearsal for “Azimuth,” Pierson says Lewis arrived with an idea of her character in mind, and was able to deliver lines and sing in character, the same way, through multiple runs. “I was just, like, ‘Well, you’re done,’” Pierson says with a laugh, adding that, for her, directing means trying to do something impossible and getting a bunch of really talented people to figure out how to do it. “I never have the best ideas, I’m just good at saying, ‘That’s the best idea.’ So, for me, the actors are changing [this ‘Azimuth’] a lot.” Every BROS member I talked to for this piece remarked on the quality of the performers that Arena brought into their orbit. “We’ve always tried to get more people of color in [BROS] but it seems like what we offer is not something they generally come rushing to,” says Nairobi Collins, who wrote “Blue Apple.” “So we’d have like two or three and me. But the auditions for this, we had so much black talent coming in. There’s just like a cornucopia of people who can do everything. They’re so A-list.” The whiteness of what’s called Baltimore’s DIY/ community theater scene is part of an ongoing racial discussion local artists have been trying to have since even before the 2015 uprising. And BROS members recognize that they haven’t done enough work to address those shortcomings in their own organization. “We know that a lot of our audience, our volunteers, our actors, musicians, directors, and designers are primarily white and in a city like Baltimore we think that that’s not the right way to go about things,” says Debra Lenik, BROS’ production director, who first suggested
the Arena Players collaboration. She says she knows BROS historically hasn’t, say, put out enough casting calls or even advertising outside the neighborhoods where many BROS volunteers and audience members live, such as Station North, Charles Village, Hamilton/ Lauraville, and Hampden. And just the nature of being a volunteer company can be a barrier to participation. Meetings, rehearsals, and set or prop building often happens at night and on weekends, which can be difficult to manage if you work a job that isn’t 9-5 or have childcare needs. “I want to make sure that we can do more to reduce barriers to entry to BROS for everyone,” Lenik says, acknowledging that a collaboration like this one is but a small, first step toward that goal. The next steps will involve finding ways to sustain the working relationships made through this endeavor. “One of the advantages of this collaboration is that it’s been a very good working relationship,” says Donald Owens, Arena’s artistic director, who adds that when BROS approached him with the idea of doing these two productions, he felt they complimented Arena’s audience and talent network. “I’ve tried to collaborate a couple of times before, but it wasn’t a good working relationship. Theater is very segregated, so there was not that much collaboration done, black or white.” Owens is a veteran actor, director, and theater educator who has worked with Arena Players since the 1970s, after he first moved to Baltimore. He came to Arena classically trained, and working with the company gave him a richer appreciation of contemporary black theater. “Arena Players was formed because blacks had no place to perform unless you want to be a servant, butler, or something like that,” he says, noting that Arena is one of the few companies in Baltimore consistently producing works by black playwrights. And if the people who make theater aren’t being exposed to the wider range of plays, playwrights, and roles, the audiences they reach aren’t, either. So the very process of making art that speaks to an artists’ identity can end up segregating artists and audiences by race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so on.
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Charity Jones as Florence (left), Taylor J. Washington as Ama, Alo Seda as Dorothy, and Caelyn Sommerville as Past Katherine Johnson in “The Determination of Azimuth” Photo by Sean McCormick (sean-mccormick.com), courtesy Baltimore Rock Opera Society.
“I know artists don’t like to hear that said about them because they believe they can get together as artists and celebrate, [tell each other] ‘I love you guys,’ but we often have no association outside of that process,” Owens says. “How can you love me? You don’t know me yet.” Both “Blue Apple” and “Azimuth” debuted as part of the BROS “Six Pack” over the weekends of May 21-24 and 28-31, 2015, about a month following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody and the protests and uprising that followed. May 2015 also ended up being the deadliest and most violent month in the city’s history since the 1970s. BROS were working on those productions during that time, and Pierson recalls that, of course, the tensions of the city at large were seeping into the rehearsal space. “That was a very specific time in Baltimore’s history and now, two years later, we’re at another very specific time in our history,” Pierson says. As a Baltimore native, she attended city public schools, and she probably saw her first play ever during a class trip at Arena. “I have complicated feelings about working on this show,” she says. “I’m a white woman directing this show about a black woman, written by another white woman, and I feel unresolved about it. And yet I’m super grateful to be doing this, to be working at this theater that I admire and think is a really big deal.” Additionally, “there’s been this thing going on, which I’ve totally benefitted from over the last five to 10 years, where politicians and publications are embracing the white artist movement, saying, ‘There’s something really exciting going on in Baltimore,’” she continues. “I mean, I’ve done that. And yet Arena’s been here the whole fucking time. So this [production] really feels like a synthesis of two companies. It genuinely feels like people who don’t know each other are getting to know each other.” Pierson’s zeroing in on what, thus far, is making “Constellations & Crossroads” such a quietly radical process. While it is entirely possible that an Arena and
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BROS collaboration could have happened without the ongoing dialogue about race relations in Baltimore and the art community post-uprising, I don’t think the selfexamination of whiteness that the artists involved are pursuing takes place without the activism, advocacy work, and public and social media discussions of the past two years. So while BROS recognizing that as a majority white theater company it’s not equipped to produce two black stories in a black theater on its own can feel like a no brainer in 2018, remember: This year we also saw Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Chicago-based boutique advertising firm Highdive, and the Intellectual Properties Management company that licenses the estate of Martin Luther King Jr. sign off on using a King speech from 1968, one that includes warnings about the lies of capitalism, to sell Dodge trucks. “We want to be more diverse and inclusive,” BROS artistic director Aran Keating says. “It’s a good thing to have that desire but it’s a meaningless gesture just in its own right, you know? BROS is super ambitious as far as what we’re trying to accomplish onstage, and this process is about setting a different bar higher. It’s not just important that we push ourselves to do the bigger, crazier productions. Let’s also set a high bar for how we can improve our community.” Of course, calling anything “our” community makes assumptions about who is and isn’t included in the first-person plural. “That’s the tough part of integration, we have different missions with our theaters,” says Collins, BROS member and “Blue Apples” creator. “I’m a Navy kid, so it took me a while to come into my blackness and understand that my taste in music comes from all that stemmed from the theft of black rock’n’roll. But I also feel like I don’t see that many black rock operas. I see a lot of soul musicals. And I see a lot of gospel musicals. I don’t know what else happens in black theaters because it seems to be so insulated from me. I’m trying to find a way to grab them and say, ‘We do rock opera, too—and I would really like to see more of us doing it.’”
Collins’ desire to see more blackness in BROS is what initially inspired “Blue Apple.” He liked the idea of the Robert Johnson’s crossroads tale, but not the 1986 movie starring Ralph Macchio that was inspired by that legend. In the film the guitar “battle really bothered me because it’s two white guys playing guitar, and the winner plays a Bach fugue or something,” Collins says. “I thought that fundamentally wrong and that’s what originally sparked me to write it. Then I started asking, what happens to souls of black folks? Like, why would we subscribe to Christianity when clearly it’s been nothing but bad for us the whole time? So I started thinking about what is it like to be alive and worry about pandering to a hereafter, especially if you’re black.” “Azimuth” stemmed from a different effort to add more African-American stories to a space lacking them. Co-creator Heather Graham works in the the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory in the Astrochemistry Division at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt; one of the projects she works on is the Mars Science Laboratory on the Curiosity rover. When she was in grad school, she participated in the National Science Foundation’s GK-12 that placed STEM grad students in at-risk schools. Graham spent two years with a majority African-American middle school in Harrisburg, Pa., helping with curriculum and coming up with ways to teach science through handson experiments. And for Black History Month in 2010, she suggested focusing on black scientists. The teacher she was paired with told her that the school already had a teaching unit on George Washington Carver, who admittedly came up with farming advancements a century ago, but it wasn’t exactly current. “I just really felt like kids in that classroom had no connection to the fact that people with their backgrounds and skin color are doing great science right now,” Graham says. She put together a 28-day February calendar that included black scientists dating from the Revolutionary War era to the present, including Katherine Johnson, whose story resonated
James Watson (left) as Papa Legba and Charence Higgins as Devil in “The Battle of Blue Apple Crossing”
Valerie Lewis as Present Katherine Johnson in “The Determination of Azimuth.”
Photo by Sean McCormick (sean-mccormick.com), courtesy Baltimore Rock Opera Society.
Photo by Sean McCormick (sean-mccormick.com), courtesy Baltimore Rock Opera Society.
with her. When BROS put out a call for ideas for the “Six Pack,” Graham pitched the Johnson story. At the time, neither writer Margot Lee Shatterly’s 2016 book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race” nor its commercially and critically embraced film adaptation of the same year had come out, and Graham researched some of the same resources that Shatterly turned into such an informatively gripping book: Langley Research Center historians and NASA’s Apollo archives. Graham even reached out to Shatterly about her manuscript. For Johnson’s dialog in “Azimuth,” Graham used things the mathematician actually said in interviews with media over the years. And all the lyrics in the opera are taken from papers Johnson co-authored, including the one that gives the musical its name: “Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position.” In Johnson’s computations “there’s all these things that I think of as being deeply meaningful,” Graham says. “She talks about the idea of pushing against the environment, how the only way to enact change [in rocket trajectory] is to push hard enough against the environment. And that’s what she does in her life.” “From a female perspective and certainly from an African-American perspective, people always make you feel like women can’t do science, can’t do numbers, can’t do any of these things and that’s absolutely not true,” Valerie Lewis says of her character’s story. “If more people knew about [Johnson], don’t you think more women would be encouraged to go into that field? That’s an interest to me. Plus, this was written by a woman who is a scientist for NASA, and I thought that was cool.” Pierson admits that she typically finds overcoming obstacles narratives a little cheesy; it’s not the kind of story that she usually directs. “So much of my stuff deals with existentialism and the human condition,” Pierson says. “As a white artist, I don’t personally think it’s appropriate
for me to be delving into black existentialism or black questions of the human condition. But I do have a really strong emotional reaction to this [‘Azimuth’]. I’m mean, she’s a black woman scientist who says I want to be in the fucking briefings in the 1960s, and what she’s doing, she’s doing it backward and in heels. That to me is existentialism right there. That’s the human condition. How far can we push ourselves, because human beings are endlessly capable.” Pierson also appreciates something Graham’s told her: It’s not genius that put people into space. “It’s hundreds of people working together as a team that put people into space as part of the Apollo program,” Graham says. We may remember the astronauts by name, but that team included many “African-American women who sat with slide rules and really archaic calculators the size of a microwave making calculations. That’s how science works. Advances in science are about 95 percent incremental and 5 percent visionary. That’s actually a good ratio, because you have to have enough support for any crazy idea so that you can ensure that you can do it again.” A whole bunch of support and a little bit of crazy— that’s how theater works, too. “All BROS shows start with an idea that’s like a thrill,” Keating says. “I think that that thrill is the most important thing. It’s often the hardest thing to keep in mind because you get caught up in trying to tell the story and sometimes those things get in the way of you making somebody fucking feel something and walk out of that theater just amped up, blood rushing, feeling alive and inspired. That is why I’m part of this company, because I want to touch people in a way that gets them inspired to go out and make their own art, to go out and expect more from the art that they that they do and want to see. And you have to get to keep that vision in mind all the time. Why are we here? What are we trying to accomplish?” With “Constellations & Crossroads,” BROS and Arena Players are trying to stage two amazing pieces of theater and make a small step toward desegregating
two small corners of Baltimore theater. They’re trying to reach new audiences and figure out how to work together in different ways. They’re trying to stay true to who they are and become better versions of themselves. So they’re putting in the work. After Higgins, Lewis, and Watson run through “Blue Apple” once, Keating calls them to the front of the stage where he and vocal coach Armstrong go over some notes they made. Armstrong says they’re going to have a flourish session later in the week so they can practice some vocal variations they can use in the gospel song that closes the play. Keating compliments Lewis on how she’s finding her Jesus power. They all offer Watson different ways for not saying the lone “motherfucker” in the libretto. Keating reminds Watson that when he’s addressing the tree, he’s speaking to the souls of people. Keating tells Higgins that as the Devil, she commands respect, and when Jesus tries to push her around she should feel OK about embracing her rage. The cast asks about the sequence of a certain special effect, and Keating thinks for a second and rattles off: lighting bolt, big thunderclap, wind, more wind, big crack, wind, silence. Rehearsals aren’t mere practice, they’re feats of imagination to summon what reality is going to look and feel like when it’s time to perform in front of an audience. So cast and crew imagine what the theater is going to look like when the auditorium is full. They imagine what the stage is going to look like when it’s dressed. Imagine what Baltimore could look like when its theater companies break down barriers that might be keeping them from becoming more diverse and inclusive. Imagine what kind of effect art can have on the people it touches. Imagine harder. “OK,” Keating says, checking the clock. “Let’s run through this one more time.” “Constellations & Crossroads” continues Feb. 16-18 at Arena Players.
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JPEGMAFIA Photo by Audrey Gatewood
PEGGY VS. THE WORLD JPEGMAFIA returns with “Veteran,” a kaleidoscopic look at life under Trump By Dominic Griffin Back when his breakout mixtape “Black Ben Carson” dropped, JPEGMAFIA was still one of Baltimore’s best kept secrets. Two years later, he’s back with a new album, “Veteran,” that’s making noise in new circles outside the city. In the past, he’s brushed up against the outer reaches of the scene, but this new body of work is getting love on Pitchfork, breaking nerd brains on Reddit, and even received a favorable look from inexplicable internet tastemaker Anthony Fantano. Peggy’s moving up in the world, but he’s not pandering to any new fans he may have inherited in between dunking on Donald Trump and dissing MC Ride. On the new album, he raps “4chan on my dick cuz I’m edgy” with such palpable derision it’s clear he’s not chasing plaudits from pale teenagers in Death Grips merch. JPEGMAFIA—born Barrington Hendricks, as seen in his blurred out Driver’s License on the new
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album’s cover—has moved out west, reinventing his sound and stretching the boundaries of what people have come to expect from his music. We caught up with him to talk about dad rock, Kanye West, professional wrestling, and more.
the Floyd Mayweather fight later?” I said, “What?” And he just drove off. Just weird, dumb shit be happening like that. I’d say the biggest difference is L.A. as a city is just funnier than Baltimore. I’ve seen more funny shit on the street than I do in Baltimore.
Baltimore Beat: I know you’re not originally from Baltimore, but you consider yourself a Baltimore artist. What’s it been like living out in Los Angeles?
BB: Your last few releases all engaged with the burgeoning possibility of a Trump presidency—the idea that this fucking guy could really get elected. But it happened. Now we’re a year deep into one. Was living in Trump’s America a heavy influence on the recording of “Veteran”?
JPEGMAFIA: There’s more Drake. Drake is here. L.A. is just really weird. It’s like the complete opposite of Baltimore. Baltimore is grimy and fucked up. I’m sure there are parts of L.A. that are grimy and fucked up, too, but there’s also these parts that are like comically flashy. I was on Melrose and this dude pulled up to me, like a random dude in a nice black car. He pulled up and said, “Hey, man! You going to
JPEG: I mean, honestly? I’ve probably talked about him less on here than I ever have. I only mention him like twice and one of the songs is old, so that’s the only reason he’s on there. I don’t know, man. I knew he was gonna win as soon as he started
running because he was rich and he was saying a bunch of dumb, racist shit and people love that. That’s a big audience. I was in Alabama yo, and the dumb, racist shit audience is huge. They live for that shit. They like it so much, and Republicans like it so much, that they’re willing to overlook everything else he’s fucking up, so long as he says his racist shit and passes those bills and makes people at the top money, they don’t give a fuck. It influenced me because I didn’t really talk about it because I’ve been trying to pretend he’s not there. I knew he was gonna win, but like, shit. It’s worse. It’s like 10 times worse than I thought it would be. He’s just horrible, man. What does that say about America? I honestly didn’t think it would be this bad. This motherfucker needs to go. I’ve been trying to ignore this motherfucker so I didn’t talk about him too much, but you can hear it. You can hear my reaction to it on every song. It’s there. BB: That’s the vibe I got, too. It wasn’t a blatantly vocalized thing you could quote, but the album is full of that overwhelming sense of dread. JPEG: That’s exactly it! I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who is alive during this era, because I think this is a special time. Like, in 50 years people are gonna be like, “What was it like back when Trump was president?” It’s live documentation. BB: “Veteran” is still a brash and irreverent record. It’s still very distinctly you. But it feels more melodic and I don’t want to say modern, but it feels more of the moment. Was that a conscious decision, to trojan horse your work into a sound potentially more palatable to what’s currently popping? JPEG: Well, both! I subconsciously wanted to, but it also just kind of came out that way. Even before I released “Black Ben Carson” or anything as JPEGMAFIA, I always did weird shit. I did a whole lofi Toro-y-Moi-sounding-ass album out in Japan with a cover of ‘Call Me Maybe’ on it. [“The Ghost~Pop Tape” released under the name Devon Hendryx]. I’ve always done weird shit, but back then, no one was paying attention, so when I became JPEGMAFIA people only knew me as this one thing. So, I was like, maybe I should do something different. Those albums were how I felt at the time and I stand by them, but this is more showcasing a different side to me. I kind of made a subconscious decision to do that, but the music just kinda came out how it is. If I made a trap beat that sounded like a regular trap beat, it wasn’t intentional necessarily. I just made a beat and it was the best way to get my point across at the time. I want to show people you can take modern shit and just put a spin on it. It doesn’t have to be boring. You can stay within the confines of something and still make it interesting. People stereotype and make hip-hop just one thing, but nah. I can put a country song on here if I want. I don’t have to listen to you. You know what I mean? BB: That’s true. People will malign a whole genre and say that genre sucks, but if one person working within that genre doesn’t do anything new with it, then yeah. That’s stagnation. That’s boring. But you can’t just say the entire genre is broken. That’s
where you’re like, what the fuck is about to happen now? That’s how “The Life of Pablo” felt for me. Those two influenced me the most, outside of like, Ice Cube and like, niggas I listen to on Soundcloud or whatever.
JPEGMAFIA, “Veteran” album cover
not how that works. JPEG: It’s people generalizing, but it’s a lot of different things. I feel like hip-hop gets this specifically, but it’s not just hip-hop. It’s any genre with a bunch of niggas doing something. Honestly, because back in the day, that’s how they looked at rock. They were like, “Oh, rock is terrible. Stay away from it.” Then Elvis came along and put white people onto rock. Then when rock became a white thing it became OK. Now, rock is what dads are standing by. “I miss my rock and roll.” But back when it was a black thing, it was evil. It’s the same thing here. Regardless of what was going on in hip-hop, it was going to happen because it’s mostly young black people making it. I’m aware of that and I don’t give a shit. I want to experiment as much as possible and do all kinds of weird shit. This sound, “Veteran,” is like a snapshot of where I was in this last year. I’m already onto new things, and I hope when those things drop, I hope people like that, too. BB: We all sort of know that about hip-hop, but the way you just phrased it made me picture a scary 50 years from now where rap is only made by and for old white dudes and dads. JPEG: It’s so possible! Anything can happen. If Ma$e can come back and spit fucking bars. Anything can happen. Ma$e and N.E.R.D. are back like it’s 2002 or some shit and Trump is president. BB: In the past you’ve talked about Ice Cube, Willie D, and Dipset as influences in your arc as an artist. Were there any albums or artists in particular you felt informed your approach on “Veteran?” JPEG: The two albums that influenced me the most is one by Keiji Urata, this Japanese composer who did an album called “Music Only Music But Music,” and it’s the soundtrack to this anime [“Texhnolyze”] and it’s so varied and just wild and crazy. That and [Kanye West’s] “The Life of Pablo.” BB: “The Life of Pablo.” Really? JPEG: Yeah, well, “Life of Pablo” is really interesting. It’s kind of scattered. It’s all these things that don’t really make any sense, but they come together into this kind of palette. I didn’t model the album after “The Life of Pablo” but after I made the album I was just listening to it and I was like, I might have subconsciously done it. It’s in the same vein, those crazy short transitions and just, like, it’s like a movie. When a movie has you in suspense. I want to do that
BB: That’s one of the things I loved about “Veteran.” On any given track, you never knew if there were gonna be three or four drastic departures along the way. Like, this seems weird at first, but after you hear it, you can’t imagine it going any other way. JPEG: Exactly! A lot of it is just editing. Like, some of those songs are way longer. ‘I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies?’ That’s a much longer song. I just whittled it down. It has an intro and a whole other part. I might release the full beat one day. But I was like, you know what? Is this necessary for the album? Do people need to hear this? Or can I just put this out at some other time? It’s all about looking at what you have and seeing how it all fits together. BB: I think it’s an interesting approach to curating an album, because most people get a couple of good singles and some extra fluff and there’s something pedestrian about it. I felt like there easily could have been a 50-track version of “Veteran” with all these different tangents. But instead, the finished product is a snapshot. Like this collage of sounds and ideas. JPEG: Oh, yeah! I’m so glad you—yo, kudos. Playstation trophy unlock for you for this shit. I had 120 different fucking songs for this album. So many songs, so many different beats. It’s a snapshot. There’s just a point where I had to stop and mix it. Thank you for that. I already knew that, but I needed someone else to tell me that and not be me. BB: There’s a lot of pro wrestling references throughout the album. Like, a lot. To you, does the theatricality of sports entertainment play into your musical persona at all? JPEG: Kinda, yeah. The way you put it is much more intelligent than how I would put it. What you said is correct, but like, I like wrestling. Like a lot of kids my age, I really enjoyed it and it was a big part of growing up. I stopped watching when I was a teenager and then started watching again in like 2010. I watch above average casually. It’s entertaining to me. It’s kind of the dumbest shit ever but also the most interesting shit ever. I wonder, who are these people? Who decides to do this? Also, look, I’m not gonna front, and no offense to you or anyone who might hear this but having dealt with so much racism in life, there’s just a part of me that gets genuine enjoyment from seeing underpaid white people beat the shit out of each other for my entertainment. It’s just like, I don’t even think they get benefits, yo! They just jump off of shit and smack each other, all so I can just be like “ooh” and then move on. I love it. JPEGMAFIA plays Metro Gallery on Feb. 15 with Elucid and Milo. “Veteran” is on sale at JPEGMAFIA. bandcamp.com and is streaming on all major platforms.
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
“Icons of the Flesh” opens at Baltimore Jewelry Center on Feb. 16. Courtesy Baltimore Jewelry Center
ART American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway. (410) 244-1900, avam.org. “The Great Mystery Show,” A group exhibition of self-taught artists exploring the unknown and human imagination. Through Sept. 2. “Reverend Albert Lee Wagner: Miracle At Midnight,” Art by the late visionary artist who experienced a spiritual epiphany at age 50. Ongoing. Atlas Fine Art, 823 Park Ave., (443) 845-5939, facebook.com/AtlasFineArts. “William Wright,” A solo exhibition of paintings by self-taught English artist William Wright. Opening reception Feb. 17, 7-10 p.m. Baltimore Jewelry Center, Impact Hub, 10 E. North Ave., baltimorejewelrycenter.org. “Icons of the Flesh,” Through badges, collars, and buttons, Lauren Kalman visualizes the body in ways that promote positive identification with anatomy and sexuality. Opening reception Feb. 16, 6-9 p.m.; artist talk March 16, 6-8 p.m.; on view through March 31. Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive, (443) 573-1700, artbma.org. “Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Counterparts,” A suite of new paintings by 2017 MacArthur fellow Njideka Akunyili Crosby drawing from her experience as a Nigerian immigrant. Through March 18. “Phaan Howng: The Succession of Nature,” in collaboration with Blue Water Baltimore, local artist Phaan Howng highlights local environmental issues through a toxic-toned immersive installation. Through Aug. 31. “Spiral Play: Loving in the ‘80s,” Three dimensional collages in intense colors and spiral shapes by the late African-American abstract expressionist Al Loving. Through April 15. “Annet Couwenberg: From Digital to Damask,” Maryland-based artist Annet Couwenberg investigates the intersections of science, art, history, and technology through 11 textile works. Through Feb. 18. “Tomás Saraceno: Entangled Orbits,” Web-like clusters of iridescent-paneled modules are suspended in the museum’s East Lobby. Through June 10. “Black Box: Kara Walker & Hank Willis Thomas,” ‘Salvation’ by Kara Walker and ‘And I Can’t Run’ by Hank Willis Thomas are paired as explorations of the legacy of slavery. Through March 18. “Crossing Borders: Mexican Modernist Prints,” 30 prints and drawings by artists including Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Elizabeth Catlett. Through March 11. “Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art,” Approximately 20 works demonstrate the symbolic roles birds serve within African cultures. Through June 10. “Head Back & High: Senga Nengudi, Performance Objects (1976–2015),” Performance photography and a video documenting more than 40 years of work from American artist Senga Negudi. Through May 27. Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, 21 S. Eutaw St., (443) 874-3596, bromoseltzertower.com. “Art of Lace,” From Baltimore native fashion designer Stacy Stube, a collection of pieces inspired by the Kebaya dress originating in Indonesia. Through July 28. “Adventures Close to Home,” Paintings of intimate domestic spaces and objects by Ryan Syrell. Through July 25. C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St., (410)539-1080, cgrimaldisgallery.com. “Collages: An Exhibition,” Collages by Romare Bearden, Vivian Fliegel, José Manuel Fors, Lee Hall, Grace Hartigan, Keith Martin, and Esteban Vicente. Through March 10. Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave., (410) 276-1651, creativealliance.org. “Unveiled,” Mequitta Ahuja, Milana Braslavsky, and Sebastian Martorana reexamine traditional artistic languages. Through March 3. “Personal Locale: The Annual Resident Artist Group Exhibition,” Coinciding with the Annual Resident Artist Open House, the Creative Alliance hosts an exhibition of work exploring sense of place by its resident artists. 10 Minutes TOPS! Resident Artists’ Open House Feb. 17, 6-10 p.m.; on view through Feb. 17. Current Space, 421 N. Howard St., (410) 343-9295, currentspace.com. “Tight Craft,” A solo exhibition of fiber works by Baltimore-based labor artist, percussion enthusiast, and ventriloquist April Camlin. Through March 4. Goya Contemporary, 3000 Chestnut Ave., Mill Centre #214, (410) 366-2001, goyacontemporary.com. “Lilian Hoover,” A solo exhibition by the local painter. Through March 1. Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga St., (410) 962-8565, mdartplace.org. “Scott Pennington: Two Minute Joys,” Solo exhibition by Maryland native artist specializing in large-scale participatory installation and sculptural assemblage works. Through
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March 10. Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St., (410) 685-3750, mdhs.org. “Unscripted Moments: The Life & Photography of Joseph Kohl,” Photographs from c.1980 through 2002 by the late Baltimore photojournalist Joseph Kohl. Ongoing. Maryland Institute College of Art, 1300 W. Mount Royal Ave., events.mica.edu. “Germinal,” Site-specific installation by painting faculty member Lauren Frances Adams exploring themes converging around feminist activists from American history, domestic ornament in service of political messages, such as Quaker abolitionist quilts and pro-Confederacy secessionist cockades, and the recent removal of Baltimore’s Confederate monuments. Through March 13; reception Feb. 15, 5-7 p.m., at MICA’s Pinkard Gallery, Bunting Center, 1401 W. Mount Royal Ave. “Land/Trust,” Works exploring contemporary relationships to land by Margaret Boozer, Demian DinéYazhi´, Maren Hassinger, Mary Mattingly, Nadia Myre, and Glenn Ross. Through Feb. 22 in MICA’s Decker and Meyerhoff Galleries, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave. “Counternarratives: Performance and Actions in Public Space,” A collaborative exhibition of significant performative actions from 1955 to the present through a global timeline installation and the commissioning of new performances in local public spaces. Through March 11, reception Feb. 15, 5-7 p.m. in MICA’s Decker Gallery, 1303 W. Mount Royal Ave. Metro Gallery, 1700 N. Charles St., (410) 244-0899, themetrogallery.net. “Field Notes,” Work by Gina Denton, Jean Nagai, Tyler Keeton Robbins, Katey Truhn, and Jessie Unterhalter. Ongoing. Motor House, 120 W. North Ave., (410) 637-8300, motorhousebaltimore.com. “10x10” Arts Every Day presents their second annual exhibition of over a hundred student and teacher artworks from Baltimore City Public Schools that respond to a culturally relevant body of work. This year’s artwork was inspired by painter Jacob Lawrence and Maryland story quilter Joan Gaither. Through Feb. 23. Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, 830 E. Pratt St., (443) 263-1800, lewismuseum.org. “Freedom: Emancipation Quilted & Stitched,” Documentary-style story quilts by artist Joan M.E. Gaither, PhD that celebrate the contributions, lives, and legacies of people of color in Maryland. Through Feb. 28. “Reflections: Intimate Portraits of Iconic African Americans,” A documentarystyle series of black and white photographs by photographer Terrence A. Reese. Through Aug. 12. Resort, 235 Park Ave., (443) 415-2139, resortbaltimore.com. “Ginevra Shay and Roxana Azar: A Big Toe Touches A Green Tomato,” In Resort’s inaugural exhibition, photography, sculpture, and ceramics from Baltimore-based artist Ginevra Shay and Philadelphia-based artist Roxana Azar. Through March 5. School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St., (410) 396-4641, school33.org. “Test Pattern,” Works by Tom Boram, April Camlin, Roxana Alger Geffen, Luke Ikard, LoVid, and Rives Wiley. Through Feb. 24. “Bodies in Sounded Space,” An exhibition of sculpture and musical performance by Fionn Duffy and Katie Shlon. Through Feb. 24. “(un)familiar territory,” An installation by Bobby Coleman that echoes an abstracted urban environment. Through Feb. 24. St. Charles Projects, 2701 N. Charles St., stcharlesprojects.com. “Butterfly Pictures,” New video performance and paintings by Aiden Dillard. Through March 1. Steven Scott Gallery, 808 S. Ann St., (410) 902-9300, stevenscottgallery.com. “Painterly,” Recent works by Robert Andriulli, Gary Bukovnik, Ellen Hill, Sheep Jones, Kathryn O’Grady, and Frank Trefny. Through March 31. Terrault, 218 W. Saratoga St., 3rd floor, (336) 707-5511, terraultcontemporary.com. “Cut, Copy, Paste. It’s Not What You Think,” New mixed media works by local artist Alex Ebstein and New York-based artist Leah Guadagnoli. Through Feb. 17. The Walters Art Museum, 600 N. Charles St., (410)547-9000, thewalters.org. “Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy,” 70 works including the Walters’ two famed Fabergé Easter eggs alongside gold and silver vessels, enamels, jewelry, carved stones, and icons from Russia. Through June 24. “After Fabergé,” Five digital prints of surreal, digitally-rendered Fabergé eggs by artist Jonathan Monaghan complement the exhibition “Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition.” Through June 24.
VENUES An Die Musik, 409 N. Charles St., (410) 385-2638, andiemusiklive.com Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW, Washington, D.C., (202) 888-0020, theanthemdc.com Baltimore Soundstage, 124 Market Place, (410) 244-0057, baltimoresoundstage.com Bertha’s, 734 S. Broadway, (410) 3275795, berthas.com The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA, (703) 549-7500, birchmere.com The Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C., (202) 667-4490, blackcatdc.com Cat’s Eye Pub, 1730 Thames St., (410) 276-9866, catseyepub.com Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave., (410) 276-1651, creativealliance.org The Crown, 1910 N. Charles St., (410) 625-4848, facebook.com/TheCrownBaltimore Echostage, 2135 Queens Chapel Road NE, Washington, D.C., (202) 503-2330, echostage.com The 8x10, 10 E. Cross St., (410) 625-2000, the8x10.com E.M.P. Collective, 307 W. Baltimore St., (410) 244-0785, empcollective.org The Fillmore Silver Spring, 8656 Colesville Road, (301) 960-9999, fillmoresilverspring.com Germano’s Piattini, 300 S. High St., (410) 752-4515, germanospiattini.com Joe Squared, 33 W. North Ave., (410) 5450444, joesquared.com Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St., (410) 783-8000, bsomusic.org Lithuanian Hall, 851 Hollins St., (410) 685-5787, lithuanianhall.com Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave., (410) 685-5086, modell-lyric.com Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia, (410) 7155550, merriweathermusic.com. Metro Gallery, 1700 N. Charles St., (410) 244-0899, themetrogallery.net Motor House, 120 W. North Ave., (410) 637-8300, motorhousebaltimore.com 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW, Washington, D.C., (202) 265-0930, 930.com The Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St., (410) 662-0069, theottobar.com Pier Six Pavillion, 731 Eastern Ave., (410) 547-7200, livenation.com/venues/14732/ pier-six-pavilion Rams Head Live, 20 Market Place, (410) 244-1131, ramsheadlive.com Rams Head On Stage, 33 West St., Annapolis, (410) 268-4545, ramsheadonstage.com Red Room, 425 E. 31st St., redroom.org Reverb, 2112 N. Charles St., (443) 4474325, reverbcollective.com Royal Farms Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St., (410) 347-2020, royalfarmsarena.com The Sidebar, 218 E. Lexington St., (410) 659-4130, sidebarbaltimore.com Tin Roof, 32 Market Place, (443) 8738137, tinroofbaltimore.com U Street Music Hall, 1115A U St. NW, Washington, D.C., (202) 588-1889, ustreetmusichall.com The Windup Space, 12 W. North Ave., (410) 244-8855, thewindupspace.com-
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An Die Musik. Valentine’s Day Special: Tessa Souter & Eric Byrd. Baltimore Soundstage. August Burns Red, Born of Osiris, Erra, Ocean Grove. Bertha’s. Whale Show. The Birchmere. Drew & Ellie Holcomb. The Black Cat. Valentine’s Day Rock & Roll Dance Party. Cat’s Eye Pub. Muleman Band. The 8x10. ELM, Vibe & Direct. Germano’s Piattini. Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano. Lyric Opera House. Baltimore Soul Food Concert featuring The Whispers and Dennis Edwards’ Temptations Review. 9:30 Club. Sleigh Bells, Sunflower Bean. The Ottobar. Karaoke Night; Sputniks Cabaret. Rams Head On Stage. Melanie Fiona. Red Room. Mariel Roberts, Ian Power. The Windup Space. Windup Wednesday.
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An Die Musik. Laila Biali. Anthem. Umphrey’s McGee, The Marcus King Band. Baltimore Soundstage. Architects, Stick To Your Guns, Counterparts. Bertha’s. Jeff Reed Trio. The Birchmere. Phil Vassar, Lexie Hayden. The Black Cat. Black Dog Prowl, Pressive, Technicians. Cat’s Eye Pub. The Racket. The Crown. Sentient Planet 5 with Nikilad, Eunb1, Ixto, Alienood420, Sean Thompson + Sabrina Yin. The 8x10. Town Mountain, Porch Setters Union, Busted Boots. Metro Gallery. Milo, Elucid, JPEGMAFIA. Motor House. Mood2Soul. 9:30 Club. Matoma, Elephante, Youngr. The Ottobar. Superchunk, Bat Fangs; Heresy Goth/Industrial Night. Rams Head On Stage. Marcus Johnson, Phillip “Doc” Marten. The Sidebar. Artist Pop Up Series. Tin Roof. As If - A ‘90s Tribute. U Street Music Hall. Mr. Carmack, Tsuruda. The Windup Space. The Compositions, Dave Heumann, Craig Bowen.
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An Die Musik. Michael McNeill. Baltimore Soundstage. Frozen Harbor Music Festival: Drag-On, Saigon, Tate Kobang, Deetranada, Comp, Ace Cannons, Why Lie Band. Bertha’s. Juke Drivers. The Birchmere. Eric Roberson. The Black Cat. Weavings by Janel Leppin; Cigarette, Bong Wish, Slow Love. Cat’s Eye Pub. Brian Kendig; Nothin’ But Trouble. Creative Alliance. Alsarah and the Nubatones, J Pope and the Hearnow. The Crown. The Future in the West with Kotic Couture, DJ Garland, Sybling, Vontov, Greg Hatem; REACHES, pulsewidthmod, Tarik Evolve, Sean King.
The 8x10. Litz, Funk You. The Fillmore Silver Spring. Tyler Farr, Sam Grow. Germano’s Piattini. Steve Ross. Joe Squared. Shellshag, Bigmouth, The Guests, Faunas, Pearl. Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Pictures at an Exhibition. Lyric Opera House. Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest of Your Life with Steep Canyon Rangers and Jeff Babko. Metro Gallery. A benefit for Jeremy Crawford: It’s UNVALENTINE’S DAY! Dance Party. 9:30 Club. ZZ Ward, Black Pistol Fire, Billy Raffoul. The Ottobar. Karaoke Happy Hour/Extra Medium Dance Party; Beyonce vs. Rihanna Dance Party. Rams Head Live. George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Bumpin Uglies, The Grilled Lincolns, Never Ending Fall, Joint Operation. Rams Head On Stage. Rubix Kube ‘80s Tribute. The Sidebar. Caz Gardiner, The Flying Faders, Suburban Hi Fi. Tin Roof. Frozen Harbor Music Festival. U Street Music Hall. Wax Motif, Rawle Night Long, Colin Jeske. The Windup Space. 4 Hours of Funk.
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An Die Musik. Jazz One presents Songs of Love and Angst. Baltimore Soundstage. Frozen Harbor Music Festival: Keller Williams, Joey Harkum, Bond & Bentley, Loose Ties, Fake Flowers Real Dirt, Ebb & Nova. Bertha’s. June Star. The Birchmere. Arlo, Abe, and Sarah Lee Guthrie. The Black Cat. Precious Things: A Burlesque Tribute to Tori Amos and Virtuoso Babes of the Nineties Benefiting RAINN; Right Round ‘80s Alt-Pop Dance Night with DJ lil’e. Cat’s Eye Pub. Nothin’ But Trouble; Dirty Deal Band. The Crown. Skin Tight Soul Party. Echostage. Don Diablo, Lost Frequencies. The 8x10. Litz, Box Era. The Fillmore Silver Spring. Phillip Phillips, Striking Matches. Germano’s Piattini. Swipe Left: Valentine’s Day for the Rest of Us. Metro Gallery. Joseph & The Beasts, Manners Manners, Santa Librada, DJ Pancakes. 9:30 Club. STRFKR, Reptaliens. The Ottobar. Stacked Like Pancakes, The Stolen, Mark Mikina; Ottobar’s Shrunken Head with Killers From Space, The Tsunami Experiment. Rams Head Live. Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Laughing Colors, Rhett Repko, Kit & The Chardonnay Boys, Paradise Creek, Rusty Blue, Plevyak. Rams Head On Stage. The Association. Reverb. Haus of Dethglam Drag Night.
The Sidebar. Rats In The Wall, All Torn Up, Pearl, Syringe. Tin Roof. Frozen Harbor Music Festival. U Street Music Hall. Wylder, Virginia Man; Our DC with Jacq Jill, Outputmessage, Sam “The Man” Burns, Vanniety Kills. The Windup Space. Bmore Into Comics Issue #17.
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An Die Musik. Landman/Stadler Saxophone Duo; Roots Cafe: Blues Night with Phil Wiggins & George Kilby Jr. Baltimore Soundstage. Intervals, Jason Richardson, Nick Johnston, Night Verses, Modern Fuzz. Bertha’s. June Star, Hootenanny. The Birchmere. Arlo, Abe, and Sarah Lee Guthrie. Cat’s Eye Pub. Steve Kraemer & The Bluesicians; Pete Kanaras & The Hi-Fliers. Echostage. UTOPIA - Indulgence In Yoga, Outburst Of Dance. The Fillmore Silver Spring. Snarky Puppy, Alina Engibaryan. Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Pictures at an Exhibition. Metro Gallery. Honey Radar, Margins, Homosuperior, Birth (Defects), Henry Owings. 9:30 Club. Ganja White Night, Dirt Monkey, Subtronics. The Ottobar. Service Industry Night; Road to SXSW. Rams Head On Stage. John Oates. U Street Music Hall. Magic Giant, The Brevet.
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An Die Musik. Monday Jazz Jam hosted by Alex Meadow and Joshua Espinoza. The Birchmere. The SOS Band. Cat’s Eye Pub. Phil Cunneff New Trio. Creative Alliance. Dan Meyer Choir Presents: Love Songs of the First Ladies. 9:30 Club. X Ambassadors, Now, Now. The Ottobar. Metal Monday. Rams Head On Stage. David Cook. U Street Music Hall. Higher Brothers, NIKI, Bohan Phoenix, Matthew Law. The Windup Space. Horatio Dark.
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Baltimore Soundstage. Silverstein, Tonight Alive, Broadside, Picturesque. The Black Cat. Beverly, Simon Doom, Lavender. The Birchmere. The Association. Cat’s Eye Pub. Ursula Ricks’ Blues Jam. The Crown. Karaoke Forever. The Ottobar. Two For Tuesday with DJ Vodkatrina. Rams Head Live. STRFKR, Reptaliens. Rams Head On Stage. Jefferson Starship. The Sidebar. Black Mass, Led To The Grave, Narrow Grave. Find more music events at baltimorebeat.com.
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
BE MORE WITH ASYA BUSSIE A selection from the upcoming magazine “The City That Hoops” By Reginald Thomas II
Asya Bussie Photo by Reginald Thomas II, courtesy City That Hoops
A group of young boys play some half court pick-up ball outside of Bernard Harris Elementary in east Baltimore on a brisk October Saturday afternoon. Trees begin to shed for the winter and in preparing themselves for the spring, scatter their leaves across basketball courts all throughout the city making it easier for savvy ball-handlers to try and make their defenders slip and fall. After a game marked by shots bouncing off the backboard and rough, unregulated jump ball scenarios, a boy’s mother yells from the marble steps for him to come home, making the teams uneven. One of the boys comes over and asks Asya Bussie—a 2014 second round draft pick of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx and former standout at south Baltimore’s Seton Keough High School and West Virginia University—if she wants to play. Bussie declines, but the moment is reminiscent of childhood memories with the game that has helped her travel the world. Bussie began playing basketball out in the Liberty Road Rec Center and in the Randallstown area. She took a liking to the sport as she watched her older brothers play for teams like Baltimore Stars and Chick Webb. As she learned the game, her brothers would help her hone her skills and mental toughness. “My brothers are a lot bigger and stronger than me. Going against them prepared me to go against girls who are actually my size or bigger,” she says as the boys roughhouse each other and an older woman sits on the bleachers cheering both teams on. “I just think guys play with a different mentality. Having them as roles models and being
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
Photo by Reginald Thomas II, courtesy City That Hoops
there at my games to give me feedback definitely helped.” Bussie went on to play for Boo Williams, the Maryland Magic, and the storied Seton Keough High School. Her time spent playing with her brothers paid off as she led the Gators to the IAAM A Conference championship, the Bishop Walsh championship, and the ESPN Rise championship in her senior season (200809) before heading to Morgantown to play her college ball at West Virginia University for head coach Mike Carey. “At that time they were playing in the Big East conference so we were playing teams like Connecticut and a lot of teams close to home like Georgetown and Rutgers where my family could come visit me and watch the games,” she says of the decision to attend WVU despite being courted by the University of Maryland, a team two years removed from a national championship and a couple of elite eight appearances. Her success in high school didn’t make her complacent, and her decision to go to West Virginia is indicative of her desire to take on new challenges. By the end of her college career, Bussie became the the 11th all-time leading scorer in school history with an upwards of 1,500 points and is sixth in school history with almost 900 rebounds. She was named a three-time, all-conference selection, was named to the Big 12 All-defensive team and was an All-American Honorable Mention twice. Bussie was a key figure in the Mountaineers 30-5 season in 2014. After a loss to LSU in the NCAA tournament in 2014, Bussie was selected by the Minnesota Lynx who looked
to reload after winning the WNBA championship early in the second round. “I was really proud that I got drafted especially after tearing my ACL and MCL the year before,” she says about the injuries that impacted her draft stock. Bussie fulfilled a lifelong dream and made it to the best professional league and was on her way to carve out a space for herself in the WNBA playing alongside Maya Moore who, along with Candace Parker and Baltimore’s own Angel McCoughtry, are among the players she admired growing up. During training camp, her WNBA career would change in an instant. In just the third practice, Bussie suffered a strained quadricep. The WNBA season lasts about four months, and her chances of making the team hung in the balance. “I don’t even know the moment I did it. After practice I just remember being really sore,” she says. “At the end of training camp they sat me down and said ‘we have to release you. We haven’t gotten a chance to see you really play. We don’t know how long this injury is going to last. You may miss the whole season.’” With a promising WNBA career on hold, she returned to Morgantown to rehab. Her agent gave her a list of overseas teams that were interested in her and she decided to play in Poland for AZS-UMCS Lublin. The transition was tough for Bussie as she had to adjust to an entirely new culture: “I had two other American teammates. We all shared one car. I had an apartment by myself. I couldn’t watch tv since they weren’t speaking English. I’m in a different time zone with a six hour time difference.”
Being 4,500 miles away from Baltimore allowed for a great deal of introspection and personal development. It was in the moments of solitude where Bussie reinvented herself and adopted a new purpose in imagining a better Baltimore. While in Lublin she started Be More, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to improving Baltimore city through community service initiatives pivoting around the institutions of sports and education. “The opportunities that basketball and education have given me like free schooling, going to college for free... being able to travel the world keeping me focused on something and involved in an extracurricular activity outside of school are things I think would help a lot of kids,” Bussie says of her goals for the city. She wants her infant daughter Jayla—who she gave birth to after leaving Poland and whose name adorns a ring on the index finger of her shooting hand—to one day carry on the tradition of serving her community. “With this initiative, I want children go in the right direction,” she says. “Whatever I do I hope it’s just as beneficial to someone else’s child as much as it would be to Jayla.” “The City That Hoops” Volume 1 is available for pre-order now at reginaldthomasii.com/ thecitythathoops and will be released on Feb. 19. It was funded by the Baltimore Institute For Non-Profit Journalism (BINJ) and runs in the Beat with the permission of Reginald Thomas II and BINJ.
Photo by Reginald Thomas II, courtesy City That Hoops
Daniel Elder PROOF #1
ISSUE DATE: 171206
REVISIONS REDESIGN TEXT REVISIONS IMAGE/LOGO REVISIONS NO REVISIONS
SALES REPRESENTATIVE: JEN MARSH J Katie Elder
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#WeAreSoulLove FEBRUARY 14, 2018
John Darnielle at Bird In Hand Baltimore Beat Photo by Brandon Soderberg
EVERYTHING I GOT F E B . 1 0 J O H N D A R N I E L L E A T B I R D I N H A N D , R A L O A T V . I . P . R O O M
Two of America’s finest writers were in Baltimore on Saturday night: Pain-packing, high concept fiction writer and musician John Darnielle at a late evening reading at Bird In Hand in Charles Village and grandiose, gestural trapper Ralo yelping and turning-up into the early morning at the V.I.P. Room in East Baltimore. Darnielle, best known for his work as the Mountain Goats, made the reading a friendly free-for-all. He began by celebrating oblique horror writer Robert Aickman (whose short stories are being reissued by prestigious New York Review of Books and who, according to Darnielle, you should absolutely check out) and that gave way to a haunting reading of selections from “Universal Harvester” (Darnielle on the title: “If there is a universal harvester what is that? What is the thing that comes and mows everybody down?”), his novel from last year about late ‘90s video tape culture, grief, and ennui, stitching together a number of profoundly regular-ass people up against the wall. Then he answered questions—lots of them, like he was your friend shooting the shit and not an adored cult figure and excavator of pain like no other. One “Universal Harvester” selection Darnielle read resulted in plenty of tears and fervid nods of recognition: “I’ve met children who’ve been through things that would drive most adults to the brink. They look and act, most of the time, like any other children. In this sense—that they don’t succumb to despair, that they don’t demand a space for their pain—it’s very true that children are resilient. But resiliency only means that a thing retains its shape. That it doesn’t break, or lose its ability to function.” Ralo, meanwhile, is an outrageously sincere rapper from Atlanta known for confessional raps (a real good one: ‘Ralo Escobar,’ a slow-grind song about success sliced in half by memories of seeing his brother commit suicide) and stunts such as making it rain on the homeless and recording his confrontations with the police. His show at V.I.P. Room was one of those alltoo-typical baffling rap shows where the headliner is nearly an afterthought or one of many things going on—a “happening” but with bottle service, you know? The moment from the show, though, was Ralo performing ‘My Brothers,’ his loping collaboration with Future from last year’s “Famerican Gangster 2,” with the beat dropping out and Ralo just rapping, unadorned: “Every nigga in my car strapped, fuck a seatbelt/ All these pussy niggas join a gang because they need help/ You fuckin’ my shit in the club/ Ain’t hard for a bitch to sleep when she sleep with a thug/ See me ball or see me with nothin’ at all/ Give me the love, got people they want me to fall/ I never turn my back on my brother and I never will/ He know I never steal and I would never tell on him/ Anything I got or ever had he can get half of/ Even when I’m mad, it’s all love, we call it mad love.” It’s hard to explain what these sorts of declarations from Darnielle and Ralo meant to a whole bunch of people unless you were in the room full of people listening intently, mouthing along, nodding in recognition, freaking out inside or for all to see, be it in a big club with blown-out sound over east or a delightful little book cafe not far from Johns Hopkins University. (Brandon Soderberg)
Photo: Lars Plougmann
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
Atomic Books, 3260 Falls Road, (410) 662-4444, atomicbooks.com. The POW Feminist Comic Book Club discusses the first volume of Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrator Cliff Chiang; Feb. 14, 7 p.m. Atomic Drawing Night: Round two of the monthly drawing meetup. Bring your sketchbook and a friend and join us for a fun night of drawing, drinks, and good company. This session’s theme: Growing; Feb. 15, 7 p.m. The Children’s Bookstore, 737 Deepdene Road, (410) 532-2000, thecbstore.com. Weekly storytime for children ages 4 and under; Feb. 16, 9:30 a.m. Enoch Pratt Central Library African American Department, 400 Cathedral St., (410) 361-9287, calendar. prattlibrary.org. Spend your Valentine’s Day with the author of the latest Oprah Book Club pick: Tayari Jones. Ms. Jones will read from her brilliant new book, “An American Marriage,” followed by a book signing and heart-themed refreshments; Feb. 14, 6:30 p.m. Enoch Pratt Free Library- Light Street Branch, 1251 Light St., (410) 396-1096, calendar.prattlibrary.org. Writers LIVE features Andrew Morton, author of “Wallis In Love: The Untold Life Of The Duchess Of Windsor, The Woman Who Changed The Monarchy”; Feb. 17, 2 p.m. Johns Hopkins University – Mudd Hall, Homewood Campus, 3400 N. Charles St., (410) 377-2966, ivybookshop.com. The President’s Reading Series presents Literature of Social Import with awardwinning novelist Yiyun Li, who will speak about her first memoir, “Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life”; Feb. 20, 6 p.m. Normal’s, 425 E. 31st St., (410) 2436888, normals.com. Normal’s hosts New Works, a rolling event at the Red Room showcasing new video work and showcasing local artists. $5-10 (sliding scale); Feb. 16, 8:30 p.m. The Red Canoe, 4337 Harford Road, (410) 444-4440, redcanoecafe.virb. com. Meet Shreya Hessler, Psy.D, the Amazon best-selling children’s author of “Bianca Finds Her Bounce.” Dr. Hessler will be on hand to sign books, read aloud, and discuss anxiety in young children; Feb. 17, 1 p.m.
6080 Falls Road @ W. Lake Avenue Mt. Washington WWW. THEIVYBOOKSHOP. COM
11 East 33rd Street, 1 block from Johns Hopkins Charles Village WWW. BIRDINHANDCHARLESVILLAGE. COM
The Happiest Place on Earth Single Carrot Theatre thaws out Walt Disney By Brandon Block
Mohammad R. Suaidi (left), Meghan Stanton, and Paul Diem in “The Death of Walt Disney” Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker, courtesy Single Carrot Theatre
I don’t know if Disney Jail is a real thing or not, but I am convinced there’s a hidden sadism gurgling below “the happiest place on earth”—both because I’m a degenerate who feeds off disparaging things that normal people enjoy, like family fun, but also because America is full of lies and violence and greed, and it’s often those pushing wholesomeness and positivity that are doing most of the bullshitting and violence and greed. Both of those guttural impulses animate Lucas Hnath’s new play “A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About The Death of Walt Disney,” being staged at Single Carrot Theatre, which takes us behind the scenes of Walt’s life as a businessman, a (mostly shitty) father, and (at best serviceable) film producer in the process of expanding his successful film studio into a media empire. Hnath’s play dirties the Walt Disney story in exactly the opposite way that Disney sanitized the gory folk tales that inspired films like “Cinderella” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” It also takes some poetic liberties with his life story. “The Death of Walt Disney” is presented to us as a table read of Walt’s (played by Paul Diem) own autobiography-screenplay, a rich guy memoir written with the most masturbatory of intentions (think George W. Bush’s “Decision Points”) and formulaic plotting (“scene two: unions!”). Walt is not a great writer. Walt’s brother Roy (Mohammad R. Suaidi), his unnamed daughter (Meghan Stanton), and her husband Ron (Eric Poch)—the only other characters— are handcuffed to the table, perhaps metaphorically. There’s a requisite bottle of vodka on the table too, a playwright’s requirement if one wishes to write about troubled genius. Walt aspires to greatness in the abstract, the kind where you put your name on things and take credit for other people’s work, as Walt frequently does to brother Roy, his closest business associate and chief lackey. As Walt puts it, “What’s the point if you’re not one of the most important people who ever lived? Most people— not important!” And important people watch his movies, he’s quick to point out. “FDR saw my movies,” Walt humble
brags to whoever will listen (usually brother Roy). “Jerry Lewis, Groucho Marx—fans. Senator McCarthy—friend. . . . Mussolini took his kids to see my movies. All of them— big fans!” Films or plays about powerful men are often epics themselves. From “Citizen Kane” to “There Will Be Blood,” directors fashion elaborate productions to the oppressive scale of the their characters’ own egos. Hnath’s script instead opts for the smaller moments that betray Walt’s essential qualities, which are almost all bad here: insecurity, megalomania, lack of empathy—the usual tycoon tendencies. Walt is quickly becoming a sick old man, however, a fact we’re clued into by his spontaneous bouts of coughing up blood. The fact that he has cancer is about the only thing that provokes us to feel sympathy for him. Perhaps Walt’s most damning routine is his constant beating down of brother Roy, who takes the fall for Walt’s mistakes and abdicates the credit for his own successes. Women especially are made invisible in Walt’s autobiography script. His (again, tellingly unnamed) daughter is given little time to speak, and Walt, in a pathetically misconstrued attempt to leave a romantic phone message for his wife (who is never on stage, and never heard offstage) says this: “I liked how you were working for me when we met. I liked how you’d draw the things that I thought up.” All the film language (Walt says “cut to” when we move to a new scene) makes me wish “The Death of Walt Disney” was a film—I flip through the cinematic possibilities in my head: Walt, in a limousine, busting through his employees’ picket line; armies of underpaid sweatshop illustrators, scribbling furiously to create millions of Mickey and Goofy frames in a smoky, sundrenched Los Angeles warehouse; cranes clawing mud out from backwater Florida marshes; dusty old reels of crude, retro Mickey Mouse cartoons. By the nature of how Walt’s screenplay is framed, we’re given unencumbered access to his psyche. We are so inundated by Walt’s perspective that it’s almost like a one-man play where Walt’s id is our narrator (“close up on Walt” is a common phrase). The result is that the
play focuses almost exclusively on pathologizing Walt, excavating his vanity, cruelty, and neuroses rather than telling a story about what he actually did in his life. Co-directors Genevieve De Mahy and Matthew Shea’s minimal staging, consisting of a table and some scripts, keeps the focus on the dialogue and performances, of which Diem’s excitable, misanthropic showman Walt is particularly convincing. “How come you never name any of your sons after me?” Walt abruptly asks his daughter. “What’s up with that?” Her reply is the emotional peak of the show, the only moment where truth is ever spoken to the irascible Walt, who is accustomed to the absolute subordination of his employees and family. She says that she could never name her son Walt, because the resentment she feels toward him would reproduce itself, and the son would know he was loved less for bearing relation to his cursed grandfather. “I’ve seen how you fire people,” she tells him. “The Death of Walt Disney” is about death only in the sense that all of life is leading toward death. Walt, like so many egomaniacs, is singularly driven (perhaps by the very fact of death) to amass power so great that physical obliteration cannot erase his footprint. And it’s about death because, well—and this is only a spoiler because Hnath’s version of Walt earnestly pursues cryogenically freezing his body (Disney didn’t freeze himself in real life, we know because he was cremated, nor is there any evidence that he pursued it, but hell, maybe he still wanted to)—he dies at the end. In his last moments, a sputtering and half-frozen Walt Disney imagines his family’s grief at his own death. “Close up on daughter,” he announces. “She cries. Ron Cries. Everyone cries.” The company will collapse too, he gleefully predicts (proof of his own inimitable leadership). “The whole world has stopped and is waiting for me to return,” he says, “to defrost and show them all the way.” “The Death of Walt Disney” continues through Feb. 25 at Single Carrot Theatre.
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
Steve Martin and Martin Short perform at the Lyric Opera House on Feb. 16. Courtesy Facebook
STAGE American Soil: A Tribute to Blackness. Spoken word, dance, and live music celebrating Black History. Featuring Mari Andrea Travis, Christine Jenkins, The Concord Jazz Project, and more. Feb. 18, 3 p.m., Terra Cafe, 101 E. 25th St., (410) 777-5277, eventbrite.com/e/american-soil-a-tribute-to-black-history-tickets42701890504?aff=efbeventtix, $8. Badass Comedy. Adam Long hosts a night of improv, stand-up, and sketch from Bear Trap, Silversmith, and Becca Lundberg, followed by a bonus open improv jam. Feb. 17, 8 p.m., Charm City Comedy Project at Zissimos Bar, 1023 W. 36th St., charmcitycomedyproject.com, $5. “Count Down.” As part of the 2018 Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, The Stand present Dominique Cieri’s interdisciplinary piece about girls growing up in the child welfare system. Feb. 15-March 4, Strand Theatre, 5426 Harford Road, (443) 874-4917, strand-theater.org, $10-$25. Centurion - 100 Minutes Of Stand-Up Comedy. Josh Kuderna, Umar Khan, Ivan Martin, and Violet Grey perform. Ian Salyers hosts. Feb. 17, 9 p.m., Atomic Books, 3620 Falls Road, (410) 662-4444, atomicbooks.com, $5. Champions of Magic. Five world-class magicians perform mind-reading and illusions in a large-scale, family-friendly production. Feb. 15-18, 7:30 p.m., Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, 12 N. Eutaw St., (410) 837-7400, baltimorehippodrome.com, $51-$124. Club 1727: An Open Musical-Improv Jam. Learn musical improv games and song formats. No experience necessary. Feb. 14, 7 p.m., The BIG Theater, 1727 N. Charles St., (888) 745-8393, bigimprov.org, free. Commit to the Bit. Chicago’s Dylan Scott, Heather McLaren, and Tyler Ross stop in Baltimore on their Commit to the Bit comedy tour. Feb. 20, 8 p.m., Charm City Comedy Project at Zissimos Bar, 1023 W. 36th St., charmcitycomedyproject.com. BROS & Arena Players Present: Constellations & Crossroads. The Baltimore Rock Opera Society and Arena Players team up for a double feature: “Determination of Azimuth” about NASA pioneer Katherine Johnson and “The Battle of Blue Apple Crossing” about bluesman Robert Johnson. Feb. 9–11 and 16–18, Arena Players, 801 McCulloh St., baltimorerockopera.org, arenaplayersinc.com, $20. “The Death of Walt Disney.” The regional premiere of Lucas Hnath’s biographical play about the megalomaniacal mind of Walt Disney. Through Feb. 25, Single Carrot Theatre, 2600 N. Howard St., (443) 844-9253, singlecarrot.com, $25-$29. Elegant Filth. Burlesque featuring MC Mindi Mimosa, Jacqueline Boxx, Tempete La Coeur, Lottie Ellington, Scarlet Starlet, Glam Gamz, Hell O’Kitty, Fiera Foxx, and Cherie Nuit. Feb. 17, 9 p.m., The Crown, 1910 N. Charles St., (410) 625-4848, eventbrite. com/e/elegant-filth-a-baltimore-burlesque-delicacy-tickets-42609327646, $12-$15. Exploring the Artistry of the Male Dancer. All-male repertory dance company
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
10 Hairy Legs makes its Baltimore debut. Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; Feb. 18, 3 p.m.; Baltimore Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St., (410) 752-8558, theatreproject.org, $15-$25. F*CK Your Work Week. After School Grandman and two other improv troupes perform a workplace-themed show. Feb. 18, 7 p.m., The BIG Theater, 1727 N. Charles St., (888) 745-8393, bigimprov.org, $5. Godfrey. The actor and comedian has appeared in the films “Zoolander,” “Soul Plane,” “Original Gangstas,” and more. Feb. 14, 16, and 17, Baltimore Comedy Factory, 5625 O’Donnell St., (410) 547-7798, baltimorecomedy.com, $22-$50. “I Hate Hamlet.” An actor who hates “Hamlet” takes on the title role and encounters the ghost of John Barrymore. Through March 4, Spotlighters Theatre, 817 St. Paul St., (410) 752-1225, spotlighters.org, $10-$22. Kyle Dunnigan. Dunnigan is best known as a writer, producer, and performer on “Inside Amy Schumer.” Feb. 15-17, Magooby’s Joke House, 9603 Deereco Road, (410) 252-2727, magoobys.com, $10. “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical drama spans one day in the life of a family troubled by addiction and the inability to let go of the past. Through March 4, Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette St., (410) 752-2208, everymantheatre.org, $43-$65. Mucking About. Ivana Greene hosts a night of improv and stand-up featuring Bandicoot, BEST PARTY EVER, Mulletproof, Cosmo, Elizabeth Fulton, and Seth Payne. Feb. 16, 8 p.m., Charm City Comedy Project at Zissimos Bar, 1023 W. 36th St., charmcitycomedyproject.com, $5. “Red Velvet.” The biographical play from Lolita Chakrabarti tells the story of the 19th century African-American Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge. Through Feb. 25, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, 7 S. Calvert St., (410) 244-8570, chesapeakeshakespeare.com, $16-$43. “Skeleton Crew.” In the third play in Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit trilogy, four workers at the city’s last exporting auto plant face down an uncertain future. Through March 4, Baltimore Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St., (410) 332-0033, centerstage.org, $20-$79. Sputniks Cabaret. Baltimore and D.C. artists participate in a night of slam poetry, comedy, music, sideshow, and burlesque. Feb. 14, 8:30 p.m., The Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St., (410) 662-0069, theottobar.com, $8. Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest of Your Life. Two comedy legends hit the stage together for a night of stand-up, film clips, musical numbers, and conversations about their lives in show business along with performances from pianist Jeff Babko and bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers, with whom Steve Martin frequently performs. Feb. 16, 8 p.m., Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave., (410) 685-5086, modell-lyric.com. Umar Khan. The Baltimore comedian who has opened for the likes of Todd Barry, Hari Kondabolu, Hasan Minhaj, and Judah Friedlander makes his live recording debut. Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m., Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave., (410) 276-1651, creativealliance. org, sold out.
Courtesy of YouTube
Protest My Pain Away
“Black Panther” opens at the Senator Theatre on Feb. 16. Screencap courtesy YouTube
“BPM” details ACT UP organizers’ joy and pain out in the streets and on the dancefloor
The Charles Theatre
By Adam Katzman Drenched in callously optimistic naivete, some insisted after Trump was elected that if “we lived through Reagan, we’ll live through this.” Those with a sharper memory of Reagan’s genocidal policies on everything from AIDS to crack-cocaine helpfully noted that many didn’t live through Reagan. Robin Campillo’s “BPM,” about a French chapter of the New York-based ACT UP, or AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, is about those activists who took to the streets so others could live. How did they “survive a plague?” By organizing, dancing, and practicing extremely hot and extremely safe sex. For writer-director Campillo, a selfdescribed “ACT UP militant in the ‘90s,” and co-writer/fellow activist veteran Phillipe Mangeot, the bedroom, the dancefloor, and the protest are all part of the same political conversation. The film plays like worker’s strike doc “Harlan County USA” and cruising farce “Taxi Zum Klo” both coming together to occupy the gentrified spaces of “Eden”’s history of hetero French House fandom. And the film devotes a nearly unprecedented amount of screen time to the ins-and-outs of logistics for direct action and the discourse surrounding it, nearly simulating a Frederick Wiseman documentary’s worth of meetings. Closer to the tete-a-tetes of “Battle of Algiers” or “Pom Poko,” “BPM” spends time with multiple campaigns and strategies, from disrupting power in private spaces or public forums, to communal care like doing house calls for bedridden members. Early on, the crew storms a pharmaceutical company’s offices wielding balloons filled with fake blood, demanding they release info
from trial tests on newer, better AIDS medications than those on the market. They also storm schools with condoms and pamphlets on STDs and safe sex practices, get involved in council debates, and make time to leave notes saying “warning: this book contains homophobic ideas that stigmatize AIDS Victims or HIV-Positive people” in a particularly homophobic new Baudrillard book, warning others to be skeptical of supposed left allies. Campillo turns the chapter into an organic character with moving parts as opposed to filtering it through one member of the community a la “Norma Rae” or “Harvey Milk.” When Campillo does allow space for a love story— between a more veteran activist with HIV and a newer one without—it plays as a variant on group dynamics as opposed to a distraction from it, allowing nothing to happen in a vacuum. Arnaud Rebotini’s score does the same. Organized like one long house set, Rebotini will nimbly separate a lilting piano, or a throbbing bass for a more intimate moment before reforming like an individual coming back to the larger movement. While the current political landscape, a less sanitized variant on our traditional white christian theocracy this country has always run on, looks particularly apocalyptic at the moment, “BPM” illustrates with an unprecedented amount of detail how the best way to work through despair is by organizing—but not without dancing or fucking. “BPM,” directed by Robin Campillo, is currently available on Amazon, iTunes, and other streaming sites. It arrives on Blu-Ray on March 6.
1711 N. Charles St., (410) 727-3464, thecharles.com. “I, Tonya” (Craig Gillespie, U.S., 2017), now playing. “Lady Bird” (Greta Gerwig, U.S., 2017), now playing. “Phantom Thread” (Paul Thomas Anderson, U.S., 2017), now playing. “The Shape Of Water” (Guillermo del Toro, U.S., 2017), now playing. “The Sacrifice” (Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia, 1986), Feb. 15. “A Fantastic Woman” (Sebastián Lelio, Spain, 2017), opens Feb. 16. “The Insult” (Ziad Doueiri, Lebanon/France, 2017), opens Feb. 16. “Night And The City” (Jules Dassin, U.S., 1950), Feb. 17, Feb. 19.
The Parkway Theatre
5 W. North Ave., (410) 752-8083, mdfilmfest.com. “Desolation” (Sam Patton, U.S., 2017), through Feb. 15. “Ichi The Killer” (Takashi Miike, Japan, 2001), through Feb. 15. “Porto” (Gabe Klinger,Portugal/U.S./France/Poland, 2017), through Feb. 15. “Double Lover” (François Ozon, France, 2017), opens Feb. 14. Double Feature: “Poetic Justice” (John Singleton, U.S., 1993) and “Love And Basketball” (Gina Prince-Bythewood, U.S., 2000), Feb. 14. Free Screening: “Manufactured Landscapes” (Jennifer Baichwal, U.S., 2006), Feb. 14. Masters Of Long-Form Cinema: “The Woman Who Left” (Lav Diaz, Philippines, 2017), Feb. 14. “Along With The Gods: Two Worlds”, (Kim Yong-hwa, South Korea, 2017), opens Feb. 16. “Maigret Sets A Trap” (Jean Delannoy, France, 1958), opens Feb. 16. “Chisholm 72” (Shola Lynch, U.S., 2004), Feb. 19. “God’s Country” (Louis Malle, U.S., 1985), with a pre-screening talk with writer Colette Shade, Feb. 20.
Reginald F. Lewis Museum
830 E. Pratt St., (443) 263-1800, lewismuseum.org. “Tell Them We Are Rising - The Story of Black Colleges and Universities” (Stanley Nelson Jr., U.S., 2017), Feb. 18.
The Senator Theatre
5904 York Road, (410) 323-4424, senatortheatre.com. “Call Me By Your Name” (Luca Guadagnino, U.S/Italy/Brazil/France, 2017), now playing. “Darkest Hour” (Joe Wright, U.K., 2017), now playing. “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool” (Paul McGuigan, U.S. 2017), now playing. “The Post” (Steven Spielberg, U.S., 2017), now playing. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” (Martin McDonagh, U.S., 2017), now playing. “Black Panther” (Ryan Coogler, U.S., 2018), opens Feb. 16. “The Princess Bride” (Rob Reiner, U.S., 1987), Feb. 18.
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
THERE’S A CEILING Chef David Thomas of Ida B’s Table talks immigrant contributions to the restaurant industry, homage versus cultural appropriation, and more By Leandro Lagera for his Filipino culture that I admire, so I’m happy to train him to get him where I want him to be. . . . I’m excited to work with this new-to-me cuisine. LL: Where do you draw the line about when food is appropriated or when it is a homage to a certain culture?
Chef David Thomas Photo by Daniel Ahn
On his blog, Food Nomad (foodnomad.net), Leandro Lagera covers the food scene in Baltimore and beyond, and he doesn’t shy from controversy, either, often addressing the complicated ways race mixes with food. He talked with Chef David Thomas of Ida B’s Table about the intersections of cuisine and race, the barriers chefs of color face in the restaurant industry, and more. Thomas didn’t hold back with his answers. [Editor’s note: The Baltimore Beat has partnered with The Real News Network, which houses Ida B’s Table.] Leandro Lagera: Why is it important to have a soul food restaurant in Baltimore? David Thomas: A better question is why do we need to have an Ida B’s Table here in Baltimore. Ida B’s Table is about reclaiming history and continuing a culinary journey since we landed on these shores from Africa. Through food, we’re refreshing the narrative about the African-American experience and bringing that to the Baltimore community. As everyone who lives here knows, we’re more than “The Wire.” For a blue collar city like Baltimore, one that’s majority minority, we get very little representation in the national food scene. To get the attention we deserve, we have to tell a very compelling story. Ida B. Wells is that story. Her biography and her life’s work couldn’t be more relevant to this day and time. We try to create a place that does justice to her legacy. LL: I saw you posted something on Facebook about celebrity chef John Besh and sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. How rampant do you think the problem is? What can be done to fix it? DT: I think like in any other industry, when you have men that wield power they’re going to find a way to abuse it. The restaurant industry is not an exception to
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
that. Now that being a celebrity chef is a thing, they think they’re bigger than they are and create these whole eco-systems that center around them. We all work so many hours in close quarters, you can easily end up crossing a line. This isn’t a surprise to anyone in the industry. It is more widespread than we know, because most people don’t say anything and these men in power aren’t about to give that power up willingly. How do we change it? We need to elevate more women to management or ownership. Chain restaurants or corporate environments have HR departments, but private entities don’t have those checks and balances. That’s part of the reason why this culture is so pervasive. The way to change that culture is to keep talking about it. And for men to talk about it to each other. I should not be the only one talking about John Besh in Baltimore. You’ve got to be willing to stand up and say what’s uncomfortable. LL: We hear a lot about how significant the immigrant contribution is to restaurants. What is your viewpoint on that and how has the current political climate affected this? DT: The immigrant contribution can’t be overstated. There’s not a restaurant in the country that doesn’t benefit from immigrant work, from the hot dog stand on the corner to the best restaurants in the country. If we didn’t have immigrant labor, I doubt we’d have a world class food scene. I know it definitely wouldn’t be run as efficiently as it is. It’s a stereotype, but from my experience: They work hard. They care about what they do. My sous chef is from Oaxaca, Mexico. Francisco [De Los Santos, who has since left and ben succeeded by Bruce Fisher] has been working with me for seven years. I brought him to Ida B’s Table because he knows me, he knows how to run my kitchen, and he’s a smart, intelligent cook. Dylan [Ubaldo] . . . brings a reverence
DT: I think that question goes back to the very founding of this country. When you have an entire economy built on the backs of Africans [who are] shut out from the benefits of that wealth (still to this day having trouble accessing that wealth), it’s very hard to “pay homage.” It’s hard when you see your fingerprints all over something and you don’t get the associated benefit or acknowledgment. What was taken was intellectual property, and it’s a daily struggle to take that back. It’s great for folks to heap praise on this cuisine. Southern food, Creole, Cajun, soul food—the same hands were involved in all those cuisines and it’s the only true American cuisine. And yet, the only thing African-Americans get credit for is the chicken box. Whole hog or whole animal cooking? The next greatest thing in food? Not wasting any part of the animal is no revelation to African Americans. There’s a very prominent restaurant chain in Baltimore that I think is an excellent example of crossing the line from homage to appropriation. I’m not knocking the food—in fact, I’m friendly with the chef and respect her work. It’s named after an African-American woman, and they’re using her recipes, but she never had an ownership stake. Her children come into the restaurant named for her, and they pay for their meals. It’s been so ingrained in the American psyche that that’s OK. Not to go too off-topic, but I think the current administration is proof that this way of thinking isn’t going away. You can pay homage by cooking at home, trying to recapture what you’ve come to love about other cultures. We all do that and should do that. I do that with German, Italian, Asian foods. I love learning about what different continents do to the same ingredients. LL: For a city that’s 70 percent black, Baltimore’s food scene seems to be primarily recognized nationally (though this is changing slightly) for restaurants like The Charleston and Woodberry Kitchen. Is there a cultural ceiling for recognition in Baltimore for more culturally diverse restaurants? DT: Absolutely, there’s a ceiling. We can hope for the best and keep working, but there are two things that have to be recognized. One: There are some amazing African-American chefs working in Baltimore. We just need to talk about them more (in columns like these, for instance!) Two: There are many restaurants that focus on cooking what they know, for their community. Is their plating and presentation as thoughtful as the work that goes into cooking the food? Maybe not. We have to decide as a culture, or as part of the national food scene, what’s actually important to us. Are we going to make space for places that don’t have white tablecloths? I see Ekiben out there getting notice. Land of Kush has gotten some wonderful write-ups recently. I’d also like to give a shout-out to Chef Rey [Eugenio] at Points South Latin, my friend Audiel [Vera] who is now running Avenue Kitchen & Bar. And, of course, you can’t leave out Chef Damian [Mosley] at Blacksauce Kitchen.
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WEED Jones Falls Hot Sauce Company’s Classic Green and Southern Style Courtesy Etsy
Food News • Openings and closings: Readers, have you seen Park & Perk, the
three-wheeled truck selling coffee around town (at the Charmery earlier in the month) or in Baltimore Magazine yet? Look out for this project from Matt Fouse, driving around town and selling Zeke’s coffee. Recently, Fells Point’s Waterfront Kitchen closed but quickly returned on Feb. 9, now as Ampersea Restaurant (1417 Thames St.). Meanwhile, BistroRX in Patterson Park (2901 E. Baltimore St.) will close in the spring, the 7-year-old bar and restaurant recently announced. Oh boy, the ongoing battle between the state and brewers continues with the introduction of House Bill 1052 by Delegates Talmadge Branch of Baltimore and Dereck Davis of Prince George’s County—both Democrats—which would limit how long tap rooms could be opened (from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.) and limit how much beer breweries can sell (just 500 barrels) and not allow contract brewing altogether. Of course, you can get permission to sell another 1,000. There are some other maddening details: If a brewery produces a million barrels a year they are exempt—so Guiness is exempt, that’s it. This is a major blow to craft brewing, a moneymaker and an increasingly compelling industry and— dare we say it—art. This bill is a terrible idea all around. Support local craft breweries, plain and simple. Much-loved Baltimore DJ James Nasty low-key began the Jones Falls Hot Sauce Company a little while back and has been slowly building it up and now it even has an online store at etsy.com/shop/ JonesFallsSauceCo. There you can buy 5 oz. of Classic Green ($7), 5 oz. of both Classic Green and Southern Style ($17), or 5 oz. of Classic Green with 8 oz. of a chili-infused maple syrup ($11). From the website: “Our flagship hot sauce blend delivers an earthy yet tangy and complex flavor that one could only get from a carefully fermented mash of green chiles, garlic and love. Goes great on seafood, eggs and poultry. Pairs best with raw oysters and fried chicken, two of our personal favs. Made with no added preservatives.” Other artist/musicians getting into the food game: Abdu Ali has started a foodie Instagram account, @bmorebelly (from his recent review of Fells’ Ampersea: “I really found the deserts to be lit. For instance the bread pudding was gorgeous and they had these donut balls that were as sweet as any Grandma’s smile.”); and Paul Rucker, who last year introduced the idea of Harmony Food Sauce, a socially-engaged salad-dressing-like sauce with say, incarceration rates listed on the label—surprise, surprise, the United States blows all other countries out of the way on imprisonment—that we’ve seen out in the real world, finally. Congratulations to Land Of Kush, which took first place in the 2018 World Vegan Mac ‘N Cheese Championship held during Vegan Restaurant Week and well, we’re not going to argue with that designation. Although, one thing that may make you want to add an asterisk to that win: As quite a few somewhat frustrated vegan friends pointed out, The GruB Factory did not compete and surely would’ve given Land Of Kush a run for its money. This all makes next year’s competition even more interesting.
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
FEBRUARY 14, 2018
By Baynard Woods It’s always seemed amazing that Darwin figured out his theory of natural selection on a boat called the Beagle. It’s impossible to imagine humans as varied as dogs are. There are so many, so vastly different varieties of dog. Breeding the “modern dog” was really taking off in Darwin’s day as rich dudes wanted an advantage in hunting and a hobby to occupy their time. Any time we care for a plant or animal, its varieties proliferate. The Incas had 500 kinds of potato; we have thousands of strains of weed. But as with natural selection, certain varieties get lost and disappear from an area altogether. Back before it was legal, strains of sketchy lineage would come through and disappear. But there were some big ones. A friend who runs a farm outside of Denver said that many of his grower buddies are obsessed with Skunk #1. It was everywhere, the dominant strain for years, but then, like a song played on the radio too often for too long, everyone was sick of it, eager for novelty. As legalization rolled in, it was nowhere to be found. Now if it exists, it exists outside of the ecology and economy of the legit weed market. That, and memory, make these horticulturists passionately curious, nostalgic even, about finding the big bud of their youth—like when you rediscover songs that moved you as a child. It’s Proustian, sometimes—a bong hit of a certain strain brings memories of other times and places viscerally flooding in.
That happened to me recently when I smoked some Northern Lights. It’s one of the most famous strains in the world. It’s our generation’s Maui Wowie or Acapulco Gold, the kind of weed that gets referenced on sitcoms and square movies. The buds of this indica knock-out punch look a bit dingy at first. On closer inspection, they are like a fall landscape, all tawny and dead. They smell like ammonia, pine, and deadhead pheromones. It tastes brilliant, possessing a brightness that’s rare in indicas, like a lemon without the sour, if you can imagine that. Northern Lights has a highly reflective high, putting me almost on the nod as I think about Darwin and a dog smoking a bowl on a boat looking up as the Northern Lights flash across the sky and I remember my youth without being crushed by the weight of age or hatred of my younger, stupider self. Evolution. Strength: 6 Nose: Ammonia, pine, and deadhead pheromones Euphoria: 7 Existential dread: 3 Freaking out when a crazy person approaches you: 3 Drink pairing: The funkiest, most floral IPA you can find Music pairing: ‘Slow Movin’ Outlaw,’ Lacy J. Dalton and Willie Nelson Rating: 7
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FEBRUARY 14. 2018
Baltimorebeat.com, Volume 2, Issue 7, February 14, 2018