A packed crowd of bespeckeled yuppies clapped eagerly as Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, of the IFC hit show, Portlandia, took the stage this past Tuesday night at the 9:30 Club for two sold out performances.
Their “Portlandia Live” tour takes a variety show format, combining clips of not-yet-aired footage from Season Two, musical numbers from the show, other guest appearances (this varies by city — but this week’s DC shows featured Eleanor Friedberger, who ROCKED OUT (but more on that later), with stand up comedy vignettes, a Q&A period, and other general musings shared by Brownstein and Armisen.
It’s immediately clear that Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are close friends, witty comedians, and talented musicians. Brownstein is well known for her work with indie girl rock band Sleater-Kinney and Armisen is a regular on Saturday Night Live, also with a musical background. But despite all this — and the genius of their cult hit sketch comedy show, as evidenced by the two back-to-back sold out shows– much of the evening fell a bit flat. The variety hour and a half felt meandering, unrehearsed, and even awkward at times.
Sure, that slightly off-kilter and awkwardly self-aware appeal is what hooked many of us on Portlandia‘s particular brand of humor to begin with, but Brownstein and Armisen seemed either bored or nervous to be confronted by a live audience.
They began the night trying to chat up the crowd, asking questions like “What’s DC’s coolest coffee shop” (I CRINGED when someone yelled out a café in Virginia — NO.) and tried making ironic jokes about Georgetown being a hip, Portlandia-esque neighborhood, but the sincerity was missing. Maybe DC’s just not cool enough for them?
Or, more likely, I think, the 9:30 Club venue was just not conducive for the way the evening was designed; it would have been much better-suited to a smaller venue that allowed for more audience interaction, almost like a book tour, not a concert.
Certain bits of the show, like live vocals of “Dream of the 90s” and “She’s Making Jewelry Now,” as well as clips from future episodes (get excited for “Canoe Dance” — it’s Armisen’s physical comedy at its best) were great, and elicited serious applause and laughter from the crowd. Still, Brownstein and Armisen maneuvered clunkily through the different vignettes–video clips, monologues, banter, songs — onstantly marching on and off the stage without looking like they were having a lot of fun.
To this devoted fangirl, their nerdy awkwardness made them even more loveable and endearing. But critically, the whole evening felt haphazard and lacked much enthusiasm. This was strange, because the crowd was simply crazy about Fred and Carrie, applauding loudly, and yelling out already canonized cult lines like “Put a bird on it!;” “We can pickle that!;” and “A-O-RIVER!” Truth be told, I was impressed at how many other diehards were out there. Cacao.
After an uninspired Q&A, where Brownstein and Armisen fielded questions ranging from their favorite characters within the show to whether they are having sex (they decidedly sidestepped this one — lame), Eleanor Friedberger appeared out of nowhere–literally–materializing on stage to perform two of her own songs, including indie hit “Heaven.”
Friedberger’s size and sound dwarfed both Brownstein and Armisen, who slipped into the background to join the rest of the band and play supporting guitar as Friedberger sang. Unexpected, but not unpleasant altogether.
The evening ended abruptly as local artist, Mary Timony, joined the group on stage and strummed away during a cover of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night.” Friedberger clutched papers with the song lyrics, and Brownstein apologetically shared that this was their first time performing the song live. It was weird, but endearing.
After polite applause for the performance, Brownstein and Armisen thanked the audience and promptly fled offstage, ostensibly to go talk shit about the DC audience or slit their wrists at the idea of doing a second show that night. There was no encore.
All that said, I didn’t hate it. I laughed throughout. The performance was quirky and off, but it just made me want to be real life best friends with Fred and Carrie more than ever. They came across as real. They’re sketch comedians and writers, probably too awkward — l ike most of us — to pull off kitschy stand up.
They would have been more in their element with a coffee shop setting and format. So do I still love the TV show? Yes, of course. But was the live show worth my $40 dollars? Not really. Probably should have stayed home, re-watched Season One on Netflix, started an artisan knots collection and made some homemade pickles.
Look for Laura’s full Weekend Picks this evening… with great stuff to do in the Borderstan area Friday through Sunday.
Thursday, August 18
Head over to Touchdown for KICK IT, an evening celebrating local visual, graphic and musical artists, featuring Martin Figueroa-Ramirez of RŌM Sneakers, DJ Shade and Ardamus. Music will be spinning all night long, Martin’s sneaker works of art will be on display and Ardamus will perform live. Happy hour specials are extended throughout the night. All details here. Come KICK IT with us.
Moombahton Massive is also back in action at U Hall tonight, too. Doors open at 8 (though things tend to get crazy much later) and tickets are $8 in advance/ $10 at the door. To get in the mood, check out my fave moombah track of the week by DJ Basscamp.
It’s a Holiday Weekend, Borderstanis! And you know what that means… one extra day (more if you’re lucky) for fantastic weekend pursuits. If you’re planning to stick around town this weekend, here’s your guide to maximum three-day weekend fun:
Friday, July 1
Happy July…this weekend marks the beginning of JulyPA Days at Pizzeria Paradiso. The restaurant will have all IPAs on draft at all three locations, including 2003 P Street NW for the entire month.
At night, get into patriotic party mode at 9:30 Club’s (815 V Street NW) infamous ’90s Dance Party. DJs Will Eastman and Brian Billion will be spinning the decade’s most memorable hits. Tickets are $15 and available here. Doors at 9 pm.
Saturday, July 2
Looking for a pool party? Dubsplash will be making their regular weekly summer appearance at the Capitol Skyline (10 “I” Street SW). This week features “Big Freedia,” the queen of the New Orleans booty-bounce scene, DJ Rusry Laze and DJ Keenan Orr. Doors open at 11 am and the show(s) start at 4 pm. Admission is $20 at the door.
After Memorial Day and a short work week, it feels like the weekend really crept up on us. But that’s MORE than okay, because there’s a TON going on this weekend. Here are your best bets for weekend fun and beating the heat.
Music Festivals, Beer Week, Seersucker Bike Ride
Six U Street corridor spots (several on 9th Street NW) are hosting the Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie Festival this weekend, a two-day affair featuring live performances and music from more than 125 bands, including Echo Wall, Noble Air, We Were Pirates, and MORE. The festival is FREE, so get all your details here and go check it out.
The non-stop party over at BYT’s Vitaminwater Uncapped Live CONTINUES. There’s great music, art, and fun happening every night so check out the full schedule and plan your visit. There’s also free Vitaminwater…
Put on your finest bowties or pearls and hop on your bike for the annual Seersucker Social this Saturday, June 4. Get your $10 ticket here to participate in the bike ride (the starting point will be announced in advance of the ride) and lawn party at the Hillwood Estate from 2 to 7 pm. Guaranteed to have SUPERB clothing and people-watching. The Seersucker Social After-Party will continue at the Lamont Bishop Gallery (1314 9th Street NW) from 8 pm ’till midnight. Admission is FREE.
Zabb Restaurant is now soft-open at 1836 18th Street NW, in the space formerly occupied by Straights of Malaya.
Construction on the space started several months ago, and the modern Asian restaurant and bar will serve a range of pan-Asian cuisine including Chinese, Japanese and Thai-inspired dishes. They plan to open “officially” in the next one-to-two weeks. Stay tuned for details on their grand opening party.
The menu features a range of traditional and non-traditional sushi rolls, creative dishes like lobster mango salsa and salt chili shrimp, as well as old favorites like drunken noodles, curries, and pad thai.
In the interim, they are soft-open for dinner service only and are offering ten percent off of your total bill in exchange for your feedback on how they’re doing.
More photos below the fold!
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND!! Welcome back, barbecues, sparking wine, summer-y beers, white dresses, humidity, DC summer sweaty lower back…you get the picture. Here’s your guide to local eating, drinking, museum-ing, and partying all weekend long:
Friday, May 27
- Run breezily out of work — early if you can swing it–and celebrate the long weekend at the first Jazz in the Garden of summer 2011 at the National Gallery of Art sculpture garden. Pro tip: get there early and be prepared with a blanket, wine, and snacks. Sangria is also available for sale but a DIY picnic is part of the fun.
- Later in the evening, the Liberation Dance Party at DC9 will be in full swing. Doors open at 9 pm, rail open bar from 9 to 10:30, $7 cover.
- Or, party-hop and swing by BYT’s vitaminwater uncapped LIVE (it’s still going strong throughout the month of June after the kickoff blowout last weekend) where you can check out the art on display, enjoy a cocktail, and dance the night away listening to Project Jenny/Project Jan, Sugarplums, and Lipstick DJs.
Borderstan welcomes Laura Herman, who will be contributing local weekend picks and profiling different events, happy hours, and neighborhood spots each week. Laura is a healthcare consultant by day but a D.C. nightlife, food and drink enthusiast by night. Originally from New Jersey, she moved to town from Boston after graduation. Laura has lived in Borderstan (the Dupont part) since June 2009 and hangs out a lot in the Dupont, U Street and 14th Street areas. She enjoys sitting at the 17th Street dog park on weekends, wishing that she had a dog (which she admits creeps out the actual dog owners). Follow Laura on Twitter @Lmhhabs or send her an email.
The weekend at the end of a four-day workweek always feels like it can’t come soon enough. Even though this week was short, I found myself dreaming about Friday night while I was walking to work on Tuesday morning.
Well, good news — the weekend’s almost here! And even though we’re now in the middle of winter, there’s no shortage of fun things going on in the Borderstan ‘hood this weekend. Here are my picks for this weekend:
Weekends can start on Thursday if you’re lucky or just… motivated. Check out a new happy hour venue this Thursday night while hoping that the forecast of possible evening snow actually comes true. If you haven’t already been, I really like Veritas for a low key drink and conversation.