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Children gathered in a circle reading, National Book Lovers Day graphic by National Day Calendar

Book Lovers Day 2023: Musical Books as Impactful as Music

On this day, people are encouraged to unplug from technology and pick up a book, honoring this beloved skill that is an outlet of creativity for so many – both authors and their readers. Bibliophiles everywhere may take the day to visit their local library or catch up on their TBR (To Be Read) list. Although this holiday is technically unofficial and its origin is unknown, it is widely recognized, celebrating the joy literature can bring.
As an avid bookworm myself, books and music often go hand in hand, whether I am listening to a playlist while reading that matches the vibe, diving into an autobiography by one of my favorite artists or a biography about them, or reading fiction that is centered around music of some sort – and it’s also always fun when a musical reference pops up in a book that seems completely random. I thought about how Alchemical could celebrate Book Lovers Day together and I decided to ask some of our writers about books involving music of any genre that have influenced them in some way, and how its musical aspect enhances the reading experience.

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Calista Garcia wearing sunglasses and a flowery headdress.

The Art of Having Fun with Singer-Songwriter Calista Garcia

Finding an original, authentic, and exciting sound in today’s oversaturated culture can be a challenge, but 22-year-old Calista Garcia has managed to find hers. The folk-pop singer-songwriter illustrates her inspired music in her newest album, Confessions, released earlier this year on May 26. Between her experience on NBC’s The Voice and writing her own musical, Garcia possesses an intuitive understanding of music’s effect on us. Join contributing writer, Margaret Adams, as she delves into Calista’s background, Confessions, and why exciting, fun music is imperative to the health of our minds and bodies.
Calista Garcia started writing songs and playing live music around the age of 10, so she understood the significance of music in her life early on. Acquiring mastery of multiple domains, including songwriting, singing, guitar, piano, ukulele, bass, mandolin and harmonica, she first came on the music scene through her appearance on The Voice.

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Crystal Joilena press photo by Sharon Groenow

Crystal Joilena: ‘My Comeback Will Be Greater than My Setback’

New York-based artist Crystal Joilena discusses her latest single and how she plans to come back stronger than ever after a rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease diagnosis.
For New York-based genre-bending artist Crystal Joilena, music is life. Channeling a majestic, otherworldly sound that transcends genre, Joilena’s music captivates like a powerful spiritual encounter, shifting the atmosphere and illuminating everything that it touches.

Join contributing writer Cynthia Gross as she connects with Crystal Joilena to discuss how music helped her to process trauma while growing up, the most important lesson she’s learned as a rising independent artist, why she believes introverts have a secret power, and her favorite memory of the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area.
Crystal Joilena always knew that she was destined for a creative career. She got her starts singing in church choirs, attending Broadway productions, auditioning for school musicals, and performing karaoke at venues like Hard Rock Café in Universal Studios, Hollywood.

“I’ve had a few different stage names and been in a lot of rock and metal bands in high school as well,” she shared. “Nothing truly clicked for me until I decided to become a solo artist in 2014 and used my first and middle names to make it more personal; that’s where my stage name Crystal Joilena comes from.”

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Vault Studio logo, green light and plants around caption: Photo by Lean’s Vision

Vault Studio: Beyond the Artist

Vault Studio is a music studio in Hyattsville, MD, founded three years ago by performing artist Fairin Moon (Hightower) and producer Jake Vicious (Grotticelli).
Vault provides many services to all types of artists and creatives – It contains three different parts for all the unique uses you can think of: Studio A, Studio B, and its “Cyclorama” Wall. Its website describes it as “a safe, secure, and full service studio with a 3000-square-foot imagination emporium, halfway between NYC and ATL, our space touts state of the art recording facilities, video production spaces, and a staff with a track record of commercial success that can help take your media projects to the next level. Welcome to your new creative home.” It is a dream space for any creative, and it was Moon and Vicious’s mission to provide a space for creatives, by creatives themselves.

Fairin Moon, from Philadelphia, holds a B.B.A. in marketing from Howard University, and a M.M. in Contemporary Performance from Berklee College of Music. She has immersed herself for years in the music industry, and “prides herself in having a balanced understanding of art and commerce. She enjoys helping others find and develop their own creative skills, and takes special interest in creative projects that cater to youth.” The Co-Owner of Vault Creative LLC manages day-to-day operations and partnerships, while also working on her own success as a musician.

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Clay Melton performing live on guitar - Photo courtesy of Miguel Martinez

Feat of Clay

Texas bluesman Clay Melton performs at Stages Music Arts in Cockeysville, Maryland on July 23.
Clay Melton hails from a long line of Texas bluesmen. ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughan were both on his radar growing up, and he also grooved to the strains of Buddy Guy. But it was a sonic encounter with Jimi Hendrix’s take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” that inspired Melton to chase the rock dream.

“I remember hearing that when I was kid, and it just blew my mind,” Melton, who is originally from Louisiana but now resides in Houston, reflected on that formative experience. “I got a guitar when I was about 11 [and that] sent me [to] older styles [including] lots of New Orleans funk and jazz.”
But it’s that Texas blues that’s called his name as an aspirant. With Melton on lead guitar and vocals—backed by Zach Grindle on drums and Zack Cox on bass—he will be coming to our area for a gig at Stages Arts Music in Cockeysville, Maryland, on July 23.

“It will be a genuine rock show,” Melton said of performing with his three-piece ensemble. “We all come from cutting our teeth in the live clubs, so there’s a lot of roots and blues influence, but at our core we’re a rock n’ roll band.

“We’re loud, we’re energetic. It’s a party.”

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A black and white photo of Poppy Patica's Peter Hartmann sitting in front of a car criss-cross on the road.

Poppy Patica Releases D.C.-Inspired Album “Black Cat Back Stage”

Poppy Patica is the passion project of Peter Hartmann, a D.C. native who is now based in Oakland, CA. Black Cat Back Stage is the band’s new album, released on May 5 and named after the iconic D.C. venue, that is made of the perfect indie rock sound for your summer.
Hartmann describes Poppy Patica’s music as “poppyseed-themed odd rock.” He strives to create something that sounds familiar, yet still surprising, following the footsteps of rock music he grew up with. For Poppy Patica, experimentality plays a role in creating, as heard in Black Cat Back Stage, which utilizes many unique sound and production techniques.

“I like to imply a certain experimental quality without it being too overt or obvious in the production and the arrangement, as well as in the songwriting,” Hartmann says. “If you’re just listening without paying too much attention, it could just sound like a normal rock song. But then if you’re really focusing in, there’s stuff happening that’s like treats for people who want something a little bit more unusual.”

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"What a Nasty Woman" cover art, Burns pushing a vacuum in a field of flowers

Rachel Burns: Silly + Serious in New EP “What a Nasty Woman”

DMV-based vocalist Rachel Burns approaches her music by balancing the silly with the serious. Her new EP “What a Nasty Woman” was released on July 7, in which Burns’s vulnerability is met by her clever satirical songwriting as she yet again combines genres such as jazz, blues, pop, and country.
Burns is a mother of two daughters and a breast cancer survivor who has many stories to tell, which is evident in this EP. “What a Nasty Woman” comes after her 2022 debut EP release “Living My Breast Life”, a five-track project that tells her breast cancer story in a unique way that mixes hope with humor.

Regarding her new EP, “These songs I wrote during the Trump era and definitely during the Me Too Movement,” she says. “I was protesting a lot … And these little ditties would come into my head and would allow me to laugh out loud; I would spin them around until the lyrics really flowed the best and gave me the best laugh. There’s a lot of hidden messages in the music and there’s a lot of hidden messages in the lyrics.”

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Selwyn Birchwood performs live on stage

This Florida Man Has Turned the Punchline into Blues Gold

Oh, those wacky headlines that invariably begin: “Florida Man…” And fill in the rest.

Selwyn Birchwood, a native of the Sunshine State, has set this unfortunate, longtime punchline to the blues in “Florida Man.” Indeed, his recent song features such lyrics as “Florida Man is drunk and shoots guns at hurricanes. Florida Man is high on bath salts and eats your face.”

There are headlines—and footage—to back up all of these anecdotes, which Birchwood includes in his music video for the song.

“I thought it was an interesting idea for a song. And I saw it as kind of a challenge to see if I could actually make the lyrics reflect those actual stories,” Birchwood said from the road in between tour stops. “The whole idea was [there was this] mythical creature, that could be down there, that has many forms in many headlines.”

Indeed, Birchwood combed the internet for the outlandish news stories, which he also shares in the video. Choose your favorite: “Florida couple ‘trapped’ in unlocked closet for two days”; “Bath salts blamed for face-eating attack”; “Florida man tells deputies he drank at stop signs, signals only.”

All tragically—hilariously—real.

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A black background with white text the says "Find the sweet? Find the sour? Fringe is on! July 12-23, and a logo for both Georgetown and the Eldavitch DCJCC beneath the slogan. On the right side is the painted image top half of an unpeeled lemon.

Capital Fringe: Embracing the Outskirts

Capital Fringe gets ready to put on its 16th theatre festival in Georgetown.
Fringe theatre has always been about inserting the outliers into the performance world. What started in 1947 Edinburgh as these smaller theatre troupes putting on shows on the literal fringes of larger festivals has evolved into the platforming of smaller and less traditional shows. The concept has evolved and traveled the world in the almost eighty years since its inception. Fringe theatre, now, not only creates a space for artists on the fringe of the theatre industry, but also platforms the ideas and stories that lie on the fringes of society. D.C.’s very own Capital Fringe seeks to continue this tradition and update it for the modern era. The festival, running from July 12th through July 23rd over the course of the weekends, is full of shows from both experienced and novice theatre makers.

This year marks the 16th ever Capital Fringe. Since 2005, Capital Fringe, headed by Julianne Brienza, has sought out to give upcoming theatre-makers the chance to put on their shows. The festival embraces the idea that theatre has always been for the people, by the people. The festival has had to adapt to the shrinking availability of community theatre in the city, and is now being held in exclusively in Georgetown, with two theatre spaces right next to each other and a rented bar space a brisk seven minute walk away. 

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Young Wolf composes music

Young Wolf: ‘Constantly Searching for Truth and Beauty’

Easton, Maryland native Caleb Lovell aka Young Wolf is spreading his unique sound around the DMV. Learn more about Lovell’s journey with contributing writer Jaci Jedrych, including why he believes nothing is wasted in creativity.
Raised on the eastern shore of Maryland, Lovell performs under the moniker Young Wolf. His music roots are inspired by his father, who filled his home with music as a child. When he was 10, he picked up his uncle’s old Gibson acoustic guitar. He took six years of lessons, during which he started creating his own music around 12. Lovell didn’t take his music seriously until college. He got involved in school open mics and other events during his freshman year, and released his debut album in 2020 alongside four other singles.

Lovell is very inspired by his Maryland roots. His song “Chesapeake Winds” is a tribute to the shore. He has family in Virginia and attended college in D.C., so the DMV runs through his music.

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John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting performs on piano

Taking ‘Five,’ but Giving Back So Much More

John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting discusses performing an original song for Ukraine in front of the wreckage of Mriya and the band’s upcoming show at the Anthem with Barenaked Ladies with contributing writer Eric Althoff.
John Ondrasik would just as soon chat sports. In fact, even his stage name, Five for Fighting, comes from the world of hockey. When his face pops up on a Zoom screen, behind the singer-songwriter in his Los Angeles-area home resides not just his piano but jerseys of Pat Tillman and Luc Robitaille—the latter given to Ondrasik following the Kings vs. Ducks hockey game played at Dodger Stadium on a decidedly un-snowy California day in January of 2017.

“Not to rub it in, but I was at the final game when the Kings beat the Devils,” Ondrasik smirked of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. (I am from New Jersey.) When I shared that I am also a USC alum, Ondrasik, who attended cross-town rival UCLA, waxed about the dynasty of his alma mater’s basketball program under legendary coach John Wooden. Our conversation then turned naturally to both of our schools decamping from the Pac-12 in 2024 to join the Big 10.

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NIVA Conference 2023 graphic

NIVA Conference Unites Independent Live Entertainment Industry

The National Independent Venue Association Conference 2023 (July 10-12) will bring together the independent live entertainment industry for panels, workshops, networking, and performances from across the country.
As the leading conference for independent music and comedy venues, festivals, and the promoter industry, NIVA ‘23 will support, educate, and connect industry leaders across the U.S. “Important topics discussed this year will include industry diversity, mental health, safety, insurance, economic impact of live entertainment, booking, artist development, ticketing, and the role of live entertainment in policymaking.”

Keynote panels will feature prominent industry leaders, members of the media, recording artists, and NIVA members. NIVA ‘23 will also give members the opportunity to engage with NIVA’s federal and national partners on Capitol Hill, in the Administration, and throughout the Capitol region.

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A press photo of DC/DOX film festival

DC/DOX Film Festival Explores the Modern National Anthem and More

On June 15-18, the inaugural DC/DOX will showcase a diverse lineup of 60 documentary screenings, including five acclaimed films that center around music. DC/DOX, which provides a platform for “powerful, timely stories in our nation’s capital,” will be held at premier venues throughout Washington, D.C. See the full schedule here.
A quest for greater equity, inclusion, women’s rights, police reform, and more are among some of the most pressing challenges that we face as a country. Throughout history, creatives have served as a medium of social change through their art, and this holds true today.

DC/DOX co-founders and industry veterans Jamie Shor and Sky Sitney launched their documentary film festival to “bring together innovative visions, bold voices, and truth seekers” through non-fiction film as a means to create community and greater understanding, as well as highlight the connection between the past, present, and future that individuals everywhere have a role in shaping.

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A press picture of Sam Tinnesz

Sam Tinnesz Talks Latest Album and the Beauty of Second Chances

RIAA gold-selling artist Sam Tinnesz discusses his latest album and mental health journey.

Nashville-based RIAA gold-selling artist Sam Tinnesz knows how to write a hit song. With a collection of viral releases that have amassed millions of streams and more than a billion views on TikTok, as well as major TV and film placements, Tinnesz continues to win over new audiences with his evolving sound and genuine down-to-earth personality.

Join contributing writer Cynthia Gross as she connects with Sam Tinnesz to discuss his latest album, There Goes the Neighborhood, lessons learned from his traumatic experience being signed to a label, what he believes is key to creating a song that resonates widely, and how he discovered a sense of purpose after losing his faith.
Sam Tinnesz grew up in a musical household, and his earliest memories center around hearing songs his father played at home. It was not long before Tinnesz began to sense that he, too, had something of value to offer.

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Music Portraits of Contemporary Fathers amalgamation

Musical Portraits of Contemporary Fathers

Contributing writer Charlie Maybee celebrates Fathers list of contemporary pop songs that commemorate the good and bad of fatherhood.
Father’s Day can be a sentimental or challenging day depending on individual perspective, but there is no doubt that dads have a significant influence over the way that many people move through the world, and how they express themselves through music. This year, I am deciding to move against the grain a bit and discuss some contemporary pop songs about fathers or fatherhood that run the gamut from positive to negative experiences, often landing somewhere in between.

I want to be clear from the get-go that this is not a ranked list of songs nor a definitive guide to portrayals of fatherhood in music. It is more a think-piece that explores a general theme found across a variety of songs and styles.

Without further ado, here are some songs that come up for me, and please feel free to listen along with our official playlist.

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