by Tate Henna
William Shakespeare, regarded as one of the greatest English writers and poets of all time, famously coined the phrase, “Eyes are the window to the soul.” Eyes reveal, reflect, and communicate. They convey happiness, fear, contentment, attraction, and insecurity.
If I can ride on the coattails of Shakespeare’s revelation, I would argue that music is the new window to the soul. Music is a language. It is an animate entity with a voice, a beating heart, and a spirit. Songwriters are the vessels that bring music to life. Through sharing personal triumphs, challenges, and heartbreak, songwriters have the ability to connect with audiences, enabling music to transcend beyond the words on the page or the complexity behind the composition. Music is about connecting to each other through shared experiences. In a world that can sometimes be divisive, music is a leveler, a creator of common ground that unites rather than divides.
On October 18, Alchemical Records, a D.C.-based music publication, will add its pulse to the uplifting power of music to inspire change by hosting its signature 5×5 Songwriters Showcase at Public Bar Live in the heart of the nation’s capitol. The event, which is completely free to attend, features dynamic performances by established local artists Dave Phenicie, Ya Minko, Deau Eyes, Chevre, and Pleasure Train.
“The Washington, D.C. area has an incredible music scene and creative culture, but it isn’t always recognized because of the strong political and military component that comes with being in the region,” said Daniel W. Hill, founder and owner of Alchemical Records. “The content we are creating from events like this is helping to build more awareness about DMV music and the impact it has on our local and global culture,” he added.
As its title implies, the 5×5 Songwriters Showcase, the fourth of five songwriting events sponsored by the organization this year, features five artists playing five songs each. The event’s lineup offers an eclectic mix of Americana, hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelic roots rock, and jazz, sure to please broad audiences.
“The most interesting aspect of the 5×5 Showcase is the diversity in performing acts. It gives me a chance to share the stage with artists who make music vastly different from my own,” said Ya Minko. “I think we need to unify the region musically – regardless of genre, origin, and sound. When I perform, I hope the audience gets a piece of me that is authentic enough in its vulnerability for them to feel understood and connected. Something to empower them emotionally and socially in their willingness to explore and express their feelings,” he added.
Like is true for any good concert, the energy will be high, the amps cranked and rocking, and the crowd prepared to sing until they lose their voices. However, the 5×5 Songwriters Showcase is not your average production. It is more than spotlights, competitions, and designated winners. It is about musical expression in all of its forms and, equally as important, providing a platform for artists to network.
“Pleasure Train, along with many other DC musicians, understands the importance of cultivating a recognized music community here. When you think of ‘music city,’ the top three answers that come to mind are New York, LA, and Nashville. We want to show the average listener that there is a vibrant underground music scene happening right here, and it’s not hard to find,” said Andrew Gabor, drummer for Pleasure Train. “Politics and government will always define DC on the surface. Our hope is that we get our message to musicians from out of town and music lovers right here and let them know that they can network here and start gigging within a month, easy,” he added.
The 5×5 Songwriters Showcase enables attendees to go beyond the music, journeying through the window into the soul of the songwriters. What inspires the artist? What is the story behind the song? How did the artist know that music was the right career path – no ifs, ands, or buts? What were some challenges the artist faced when establishing a following? Attendees can find out the answers to these questions and more from each of the artists at the Showcase.
“Events like this one are important because they are a very clear example of the ties between communities and their artists,” said John Lawton, vocalist and guitarist for Chevre. “The songs being performed on stage were born on the same streets that the audience members walk every day,” he added.
Talk about common ground – both figuratively and literally.
The 5×5 Songwriters Showcase starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 18, at Public Bar Live, 1214 18th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Admission is free (yes, this is one of those rare times when you get much more than you pay for!) The event will be filmed professionally with plans to debut a spring airing on Amazon Prime. Register here and get ready for your big screen appearance. For more information, visit eventbrite.com.
Learn more about the featured artists below.
“Dave and his band are awesome performers and people! Their music is effortless and that is why their audience is always at ease listening and humming along. Love it!” – Fan, 2018
Dave Phenicie has been in bands since the early 80s as either the bassist or lead vocalist. In 2006, he made a solo album called “Long Lonely Time,” but joined the band Stonehoney several months later and put his solo career on hold – until now. Phenicie is currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on his latest full-length album. To learn more about Dave Phenicie, visit Facebook.com/DavePhenicieMusic.
“Honesty in the lyricism of hip-hop should have always been a cornerstone of the genre, but sadly, we’ve lost the way a little bit since the N.W.A. days. Thankfully, up-and-coming hip-hop artist Ya Minko made no bones about laying his soul bare with their latest single “Tired.” – A&R Factory, 2019
Ya Minko was born in the French-speaking former French colony Gabon. Though predominantly focused on Hip-Hop/Rap, his genre bending music is influenced by his cultural background and the many genres he was exposed to during his musical journey. Ya Minko was introduced to songwriting and record production in 2011. He immediately fell in love with the process and dedicated his energy to it full-time. After he moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 2012 for his studies, Ya Minko focused his entire attention on his music career, specifically, the art of making records while sacrificing his academic career in the process. To learn more about Ya Minko, visit Yaminko.com.
“You may recognize Deau Eyes from WhateverHoney and local cover band Trunk Show, but if she hasn’t been on your radar, she should be, because the girl has some serious pipes.” – RVA Mag, 2018
Deau Eyes (Ali Thibodeau) is an indie rock ‘n’ roll artist based in Richmond, VA. With soulful siren-like melodies and cleverly crafted lyrics, Thibodeau takes you on a sonic romp laced with courage, confidence, and general bad ass-ery through loss and leaving. The Deau Eyes debut album, Paper Stickers, was released in 2018. To learn more about Deau Eyes, visit DeauEyes.com
“Solid rock that’s soulful within its soft moments – jazzy drumming mixes with laid back bass, light rhythmic guitar, and gentle singing from John Lawton to create a soothing atmosphere.” – What Is Frederick?, 2019
The members of Chevre simply describe themselves as “Psychedelic Roots Rock for your Funkhole.” This mysterious band hails from the Frederick, MD area and contains the musical talents of two Luke’s, John and Jimmy. To learn more about Chevre, visit Facebook.com/ChevreBand.
“Just a few seconds into Pleasure Train’s new album, you know something wonderful is going to happen. Their lead singer has a beautiful, soulful voice that is highlighted by the funky guitar, keys, and drums.” – The Jamwich, 2017
Pleasure Train is a Washington, D.C. area band that incorporates a fusion of styles rooted in groove, alternative, jam, jazz, pop, and house. Pleasure Train has been a staple in the local music scene since 2014, and the band has enjoyed making its own unique contribution to the soundscape of the greater Washington, D.C. area. Pleasure Train’s number one goal is to turn each show they play into a once-in-a-lifetime event, taking the audience along on an emotional ride and spreading the energetic rush that only live music can provide. To learn more about Pleasure Train, visit PleasureTrainMusic.net.
Southern Maryland native Tate Henna is a freelance writer with nearly a decade of experience in higher education communications and marketing. With a passion for language in all of its forms, Henna seeks to capture each artist’s unique voice and inspire positive, meaningful change.
Queer duo Witch Weather discuss new album and the influence of the DMV on their sound.
Philadelphia-based queer punks Witch Weather have a message for anyone who feels hopeless and worthless: you are not alone. With an irresistible sound that draws from 80’s goth and lo-fi grunge, the indie duo wears their heart on their sleeve, giving voice to complex emotions that many would opt to suppress in the recesses of their minds.
Join Alchemical Records as they connect with Witch Weather to discuss the band’s new self-titled album, their search for a sense of belonging as members of the queer community, the important element that keeps the duo’s creative bond strong, and the influence of the DMV on their sound.