Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Discover what the NMAAHC has to offer your family and friends and add it to your travel bucket list.


Ever since its dedication on the National Mall in September 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has been one of the most popular Smithsonian institutions. So many people include this museum in their Washington, D.C., itinerary that you need a timed entry pass to gain admission. Tourists can brave either the periodic timed pass release four months in advance, or try the 6:30 a.m. same-day pass release online. I recommend that you request an early entry time, like 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., to get ahead of the crowds and see as much as you can before the museum closes at 5:30 p.m.

Typically, I don’t recommend museum food, but the Sweet Home Café is really at another level in taste, quality, and ambience. It features classic dishes at four very distinct stations representing the Southern, Creole, Northern, and Western regions. Café staff are among the friendliest and personable I’ve met at a museum. Stop at the café rightbefore you embark with your group into the galleries. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time backtracking from the exhibits to the café and then finding your exhibit. Continue reading “Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture”

Whistler Film Festival: ‘Born to Be Blue’

Born to be Blue is a passion project that was years in the making for actor Ethan Hawke and director-writer Robert Budreau. Hawke plays the role of jazz trumpeter and crooner Chet Baker, who seems to be on the cusp of a comeback when the film opens in the mid-1960s. After his release from an Italian prison, there’s a black and white sequence that pulls the viewer back 1950s. The big moment is an evening in New York at the Birdland jazz club, where legend Miles Davis (Kedar Brown) is in attendance.

Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo
Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo in ‘Born to Be Blue.’ Photo courtesy of the Whistler Film Festival.

Co-star Callum Keith Rennie emerged for a Q&A after the screening at the Whistler Film Festival earlier this month. He called attention to the tensions that he felt Budreau and Hawke wanted to capture. “It was the new white guy on a scene that was predominately understood to be Black. It was ‘the new kid in town.’ I think there was a bit of a distance between the groups coming together,” Rennie explained to the crowd at the Village 8 Cinema.

Continue reading “Whistler Film Festival: ‘Born to Be Blue’”

Book Tour – ‘Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink’ By Elvis Costello

Slate writer Dan Kois interviewed legendary singer-songwriter Elvis Costello in Washington, DC.

Elvis Costello in DC
Elvis Costello in Washington, DC. Photo Credit: Bruce Guthrie

Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Elvis Costello stopped by Washington, DC, last week for a memorable evening with fans. The event was held at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue and was comprised of an on-stage interview with Slate writer Dan Kois. Costello has been promoting his new memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. There is also an audiobook version available with his voice.

With such a prolific career that spans some 400 songs, one might imagine that Costello hasn’t missed an opportunity to expand into uncharted territory musically. However, he revealed otherwise to Kois and the packed venue. Humorously ascribing it to his “flawless judgment,” Costello decided not to collaborate with critically acclaimed singer Adele on her album, 21. “That’s not in the book,” he added, flashing a grin to the audience.

Sporting a white hat, black-framed glasses, and a black suit, he came across as humble, witty, and quite likable in the discussion. Costello spoke about collaborating with Paul McCartney, his love for history books, and listening to music with his twin sons. Continue reading “Book Tour – ‘Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink’ By Elvis Costello”

Interview: Hollis Brown Reflects on New Album ‘3 Shots’ and a New Tour

Be sure to watch my full interview to learn more about Hollis Brown and to hear snippets of a few of the latest tracks from 3 Shots.

Rising rock and roll band Hollis Brown stopped recently for a concert at the Southern Café & Music Hall in Charlottesville, VA. The ambitious rock quintet is promoting their latest album, 3 Shots, boasting a variety of tunes with a mix of rock and country influences. Standout tracks include the titular track of “3 Shots,” “Cathedral,” and even the eulogistic “John Wayne.”

Hollis Brown Group Photo
Photo: Hollis Brown / Bloom Effect.

Cementing its current line-up in 2014, Hollis Brown consists of vocalist/guitarist Mike Montali, guitarist Jonathan Bonilla, bass player/vocalist Dillon DeVito, drummer Andrew Zehnal, and pianist/vocalist Adam Bock. It’s noteworthy that these gentlemen hail from different parts of the United States (New York, Ohio, and Missouri), yet they succeed in exuding a confidence and swagger that is usually characteristic of veteran bands. That positive energy is further bolstered by the seamless merging of vocals and strong guitar work when they perform onstage. Continue reading “Interview: Hollis Brown Reflects on New Album ‘3 Shots’ and a New Tour”

“Walking Dead” Star Emily Kinney Exhibits Whimsy and Flair on her “This is War” Tour

Emily’s tunes run through roller coaster of tones in a folk-pop style: from lighthearted and whimsical all the way to sad and haunting. They share a frankness about life that doesn’t fail to draw you in; that is, if you haven’t already been won over by her personality and spirit!

Her upcoming album is entitled “This is War,” but Emily Kinney radiates a lovely aura of excitement and geniality in her constant smiles. The actress and singer, most known for her role as Beth Greene on “The Walking Dead,” performed this past weekend on her guitar at Jammin Java in Vienna, Va. It wouldn’t have been a complete night without a couple of tunes from the hit AMC show. She even brought her glockenspiel, to the delight of the crowd. Continue reading ““Walking Dead” Star Emily Kinney Exhibits Whimsy and Flair on her “This is War” Tour”

Fitz and the Tantrums Bring High Energy to the Jefferson Theater

We’re going in a different direction this week with a blog post on the music scene. Fitz and the Tantrums threw a spectacular show at the Jefferson Theater last Friday in Charlottesville, VA. Young and old fans alike filled the floor and the upper level, singing along with leads Michael Fitzpatrick (“Fitz” as he was endearing called by the crowd) and Noelle Scaggs. Relatively unknown in the “mainstream” music scene until recently, the band has been gaining traction with an expanding fan base. It has opened for big events such as the Sweetlife Festival, Bruno Mars’ tour, and even appearances on Today and Ellen Degeneres. Continue reading “Fitz and the Tantrums Bring High Energy to the Jefferson Theater”