best [night] ever // the lone bellow at 9:30 club

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For the second year in a row, my friends and I gathered to celebrate the birthday of one of our own with one of my favorite traditions: a live performance by the incredible powerhouses that make up The Lone Bellow.

The very first time we saw them perform, after I’d chanced upon them on Spotify and just had to share their breakout hit “You Never Need Nobody” with my nearest and dearest, was back in 2013 at the intimately small music venue DC9. We were close enough to touch them, close enough that we could feel every note belted out by Zach Williams, Kanene Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist vibrate deep within us. I was lucky enough to score a picture with Zach and Kanene, and we all left that show with wide, sappy smiles on our faces. Their first album was the soundtrack of that holiday season; we played our favorite songs on repeat when our college friends came to visit for New Years Eve.

Two years later, they were back at The Hamilton just in time for Sarah’s birthday. And what better way to celebrate your birthday than with what you know will be a spectacular show? Of course we went. Of course it was amazing.

When we found out that they’d be playing this week at the 9:30 Club, again for Sarah’s birthday, it was like they knew our story and came back just for us. We immediately made a plan to go.

The show started out strong, obviously, but things got really incredible when the backing bandmates left the stage and Zach, Kanene, and Brian gathered around one microphone with just their guitars. A technical issue with a guitar and a “fuck it, we’re doing this a capella” moment from Brian later, they got the entire crowd humming along to “Watch Over Us.” For the entire duration of the song. It was a perfect moment. People (myself included) were in tears.

The greatest part of the night, however, was when Zach pulled a couple onstage so the guy could propose to his girlfriend. The crowd screamed in delight — And the screams got even louder when the band then proceeded to cover Mariah Carey‘s “Always Be My Baby.” At this point, people all around were incredulous. How could the concert possibly get any better?

We all know the answer to that could only be MORE 90s R&B covers. Witness The Lone Bellow perform K-Ci & JoJo‘s “All My Life” and Boyz II Men‘s “I’ll Make Love to You” in my shaky-from-laugh/crying videos below.

They closed out the show with their openers, Escondido, covering “I Shall Be Released.” If you’ve seen Big Easy Express (and if you haven’t, you should), we left that performance with the same high you get from watching Edward Sharpe, Mumford & Sons, and Old Crow Medicine Show singing “This Train is Bound for Glory” at the end of the movie. It’s a nearly indescribable, completely enveloping feeling of joy and wonder at the transformational power of music. We made our way home on a cloud — I’m still feeling it, two days later.

It’s been an awesome experience to watch a band make it so far in their career so quickly. Kanene, who grew up in Virginia, intro-ed one song with the note that she saw her first show at the 9:30 Club when she was 16 years old. She explained how special it was to be performing on that very same stage years later. We all felt that excitement and, more importantly, that gratitude from them in every performance that night. There’s nothing sweeter than a band that’s so humble they freak out when the crowd hums along to their music.

As one of my friends noted, The Lone Bellow’s albums are incredible, but they are so much better live than they ever will be in recordings. Having created such spectacular memories from all the times we’ve seen them perform — and knowing that every performance to come will be equally memorable — I’m OK with only getting to experience that feeling once a year.

The 9:30 Club is celebrating their 35th anniversary this year, and will be featured in a new PBS music variety show called “Live at 9:30.” Stay tuned for more news on the show’s premiere date and which episode will feature the Lone Bellow’s concert, but in the mean time you can watch the preview, here.

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best day ever pt 2 // kinship + left door

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Hi, old friend.

Life’s been busy and so this little corner has been sitting here, collecting dust. But 2016 RESOLUTIONS are a thing and maybe I’ll stick with this finally. Maybe.

Anyway. A story:

When Gavin and I first started dating, he accidentally took me to CityZen for my birthday. The first months of our relationship involved lots of eating delicious food (Toki Underground, Bayou Bakery), getting drunk off too much whiskey and cocktails (Bar PilarLast Exit, Montserrat House), and me heading to work after four hours of sleep trying to act like a normal human. Get home, crash, wake up, rinse, repeat.

Oh, to be young.

Compared to our hipster food adventures, my experience at CityZen was a dreamy blur. Mostly I remember some dude telling Gavin he was improper for not standing when I got up to visit the ladies’ room. There were also beautiful plates we asked the server where we could get, delicious food I barely understood, and enough wine to give me ~feelings~ when the dessert plate arrived featuring a “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” message in some sort of chocolate sauce.

Don’t get me wrong — I love good food. I have always loved good food. It’s just that I was kind of a kid still, not ready to fully appreciate something so nice.

Fast forward to now, when just last week we had the chance to dine at Eric Ziebold’s beautiful new restaurant, Kinship. From the gorgeous, candlelit space to the warm, kind staff, there isn’t a single detail there that doesn’t scream “hygge” (albeit a very calm, cool, and collected scream). The front room/library/cozy-seating-plus-fireplace-mecca is the stuff of my nerdy teen girl dreams.

As for dinner itself, the bed of lentils beneath the Tumeric Braised Celtuce had me literally wiping the plate clean with fresh pieces of crusty bread, and the pillowy Parmigiano Reggiano Agnolotti was a creamy + salty dream. The Kinship Stroganoff was a happy accident — We’d originally ordered something else, but, as they say, NO RAGRETS — The crispy veal sweetbreads were, simply, on point.

Sommelier Kerstin Mikalbrown is another treasure in that magical place. We’d met her last year, when she served us at Rose’s Luxury on my birthday and was all smiles and sweet charm. At Kinship, she stopped by our table several times to recommend an amazing wine (the 2014 Folk Machine Valdiguie – a grape varietal she called a “California Gamay”), to chat, and to generally be awesome.

From there we Ubered on over to Mick Perrigo + Tom Brown’s new spot, Left Door, where we had some posh drinks and sparkles served in beautiful, antique glassware while we chatted with Mick about the DC drink scene. The space is decked out in swanky vintage goods (including an emerald and brass bathroom counter that is TO DIE for). Knowing such a cozy space now exists a block away from work is going to be terrible for my whole plan to be better about money in 2016. But New Year Resolutions are meant to be broken, right?

• • •

best day ever // pt 1

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You know how you have those days sometimes where everything goes right and nothing can get you down and by the end of the day you just feel like A++ Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 11.34.18 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 11.35.02 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 11.35.26 AM? Yeah. Those days.

I had one of those days recently completely without meaning to and am still basking in the glow of how perfect it was. The day started out innocently enough — I just signed up for ClassPass’s free two-week trial and decided to wake up early for a class at Elevate Interval Fitness. Needless to say, after two weeks without working out, Elevate totally kicked my ass. My coworker Matney invited me to the zoo and after a quick pit stop for doughnuts and coffee, we spent a couple of hours walking around the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, where I made friends with an orangutan and found a golden lion tamarin I will one day have to smuggle home in my purse.

zoo time!

I met up with the boyf and headed to Chinatown Coffee Co. for a R E F R E S H: Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 11.47.38 AMMoroccan Mint TeaScreen Shot 2015-07-04 at 11.47.38 AM, my new mingering mike's supersonic greatest hitssummer fave, then onto Shake Shack for a cheese fries R E F U E L. We headed into the American Art Museum to see Mingering Mike’s Supersonic Greatest Hits, an exhibit about a self-taught artist known only as Mingering Mike. Though he privately recorded some songs, Mingering Mike’s musical career was, for the most part, entirely made up. The exhibit comprises dozens of hand-painted cardboard records, album covers, song lyrics and liner notes made by Mingering Mike in the 60s and 70s, when black radio was still brand new and artists like Marvin Gaye and James Brown were just coming on the scene. Not only are the works super funky fresh, but the exhibit is also a powerful dialogue on the historical moment in which Mingering Mike lived.

From there, we hit up Showtime Lounge for a quick Tecate + PBR break before an early dinner at Red Hen where we indulged in bubbly + squid ink pasta which is basically Screen Shot 2015-07-04 at 12.10.52 PMMAGICScreen Shot 2015-07-04 at 12.10.52 PM. Then an Uber ride to the Angelika theater pop-up at Union Market for a showing of Ex Machina, a movie about robots that act like humans and humans that act like idiots. It was fairly mind-bending/blowing and we both left there feeling like maybe we need to stop trusting machines so much.

We weren’t quite ready to stop yet so we made a trip over to Crane & Turtle to check out Bar Otsukare, a Japanese whisky pop-up led by Eddie Kim and Jesse Selvagn. Eddie & Jesse became interested in Japanese tipples while working together behind the bar at Daikaya and have amassed a collection of rare and funky whiskies, shochus, and sakes. Their kickoff event was an all-around good time, and we had a blast sampling new (to us) drinks among some of our Room 11 friends (where Eddie used to work and Gavin, my boyfriend, currently tends bar). Stay tuned for Bar Otsukare — They’ll have more events coming up and, trust me, you won’t want to miss them.

squid ink pasta + japanese whisky

We finally made it back home and I passed out in front of the TV (no surprise, given I’d been awake for close to 24 HOURS by that point). I’m constantly amazed by how vibrant, creative, and fun the DC food/art community is, and how much there is to D O and S E E and E X P E R I E N C E. I can’t stand hearing transient folks bemoan the erroneous belief that this city is all lobbyists and lawyers and politicos hanging out on the Hill and downtown when there’s so much beauty and culture and LIFE going on in the rest of the city. It’s absolutely magical to get to be a part of it all. Also, let’s be real — It’s insane the amount of shit you can get done in one day when you put your mind to it.

R E L A T E D : Want to find out about the fun things going on around town? Check out A Creative DC and BYT for plenty of ideas to entertain those idle hands & feet & bodies.

be clean

I am mystified by body care/beauty products. The experience of buying makeup is, for me, a high-stress event in which I generally wind up closing my eyes and grabbing whatever is in front of me && praying it’ll all work out. Buying shampoo and conditioner and body wash and lotion means spending literally hours in the aisles, reading every label and trying to figure what isn’t absolutely terrible for my body/won’t dry out my annoyingly sensitive skin/isn’t harming the environment in some obscure way/won’t give me a migraine from too much SCENT.

You can see why I avoid buying new beauty products until I’m literally squeezing the life out of whatever bottle I’m low on, begging a couple of drops to come out.

All of this is to say that it’s SO CLUTCH having someone who knows about these things to kind of hold my hand and guide me through the process. Enter the lovely (and totes adorable) Be Clean Shop, owned by my friend and former co-worker Becky Waddell. Be Clean’s mission is to take the stress out of shopping for body care products by providing handcrafted, small-batch beauty products that contain NO artificial ingredients, synthetic fragrances, preservatives, or animal products (Becky is a vegan and big-time animal lover IRL). Plus everything is beautifully packaged and labeled and I pretty much want to purchase all of the products just for decorative purposes.

Becky recently held my hand through the process of selecting a hair oil (I went with Herbivore Botanicals’ Therapy Hair Oil) to help get me through the terrible dry hair season known as winter, and, let me tell you, that thing is PURE MAGIC. I sprinkle a few drops into my conditioner and blend it with my hair cream and the whole experience is basically an A++ moment. Becky officially opens the doors to her absolutely gorgeous studio this weekend, and I can’t wait to go check it out && buy ALL of the things. I’m already making a wishlist. Check it out (below) and definitely take a peek at Be Clean, here. If you’re in town with no plans between 4-8pm tonight, stop by her studio for the grand opening at 52 O Street NW — Hope to see y’all there!

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.01 BALANCE Facial Toning Elixir

.02 RADIANCE Gentle Exfoliant

.03 NECTAR Skin Serum

.04 CALM Dead Sea Bath Salts

.05 MULTI-TASK Oil

.06 COCONUT Bath Soak