Balt-Alt: Charm City's Transmodern Festival

By Lavanya Ramanathan
Saturday, March 28, 2009; 12:00 AM

As much as Washington's art scene is transforming, we have yet to unleash anything like Baltimore's Transmodern Festival, a four-day, multi-venue festival of cutting-edge art, performance and music.

In its sixth year, Transmodern has grown, drawing talent from cities across the country and encompassing a handful of venues, including the H&H Building's galleries, lofts and the underground music spot Floristree. This year, electro party-starter Dan Deacon will add his Baltimore record-release performance (and his fan base) to the mix. But the mission of the festival has remained to spotlight diversity in the arts with female, minority and GLBT headliners.

A trip to Baltimore requires some planning (and some events in this bash regularly sell out), so be sure to save the dates: Thursday is opening night, and it's fitting that the festival begins with a performance by a Baltimore artist -- improvisational musician and visual artist Jenny Graf. Then, a mix of video artists perform. Tickets are $10. 8-11 p.m.

Friday and Saturday are the biggest nights: Friday will feature curated gallery shows, installations, experimental theater and "roaming actions" on three floors of H&H. Among the works are pieces by New York City video artist Julia Oldham, along with Sarada Conaway and Jackie Milad's live performance piece offering makeovers to brave volunteers. New York's Erin Markey (a onetime Sex Workers' Art Show performer) and San Francisco video artist and performer Anne McGuire are highlights of Saturday, along with Deacon (and a 15-piece ensemble), who will cap off events filling four floors of the H&H with installations and those potentially terrifying "roaming artists." Tickets for each night are $10. Friday's event begins at 8:30 p.m.; ditto for Saturday (musical performances, including Deacon's, begin at 11 p.m.).

Next Sunday offers the fest's free event, as performances and installations turns up on Lexington Market and Seton Hill streets for Pedestrian Service Exquisite. Transmodern Festival will largely be at H&H Building, 405 W. Franklin St., Baltimore. Most events are $10; a pass is $25. For schedules and ticketing, visit

Alex Minoff

We can't be everywhere. So we're enlisting like minds to tell us what they've got on their calendars.

Minoff is perhaps best known as a guitarist in Extra Golden, a band whose sound (and half its members) is rooted in another continent: Africa. But Minoff (late of Weird War) still calls Washington home. He's finally back from months of touring on the band's second album; so what are some of his favorite things in town this week?

-- The 24-hour joint American City Diner serves up milkshakes, burgers and a surprise -- a vintage movie, every night. Minoff happens to carry a torch for Lana Turner (and old movies in general), who stars in Tuesday night's feature, "The Postman Always Rings Twice." In an e-mail, Minoff tell us: "This steamy 1946 noir showcases Lana Turner at her erotic best, years before she had to start playing herself to earn praise." Free (for customers). Movie starts at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. American City Diner, 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-244-1949.

-- The return of the Washington Ballet's "Peter Pan." "I will admit that I am friends with the ballet's artistic director, Septime Webre," says Minoff. "However, his productions are beautiful and thoughtful, and his adaptations of well-known works always include a surprise or two . . . " $83-$120. Various times Wednesday through April 5. Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. Call 202-467-4600.

-- Ballet and movies have nothing on basketball. "I am a die-hard Wiz fan, and the only highlight of this truly horrible season was our victory over the Lebrons [by which he means the Cleveland Cavaliers] in January." The Wizards play the Cavaliers again at Verizon Center this week. $20-$2,500. 8 p.m. Thursday. Verizon Center, 601 F St. NW. 202-397-7328 or

The District

Nightlife Cocktails: Bottled, Not Stirred

Never got a chance to check out the defunct-and-now-so-storied Adams Morgan speak-easy Hummingbird to Mars? One of the creators, Owen Thomson, is mixing up more of his handcrafted cocktails at this new event at Bourbon. What's different? These classic drinks are bottled, meaning they're prepared ahead of time, chilled and then poured. (They were invented for those who like a Manhattan but don't like to wait for them.) Free admission (the specialty cocktails will be $10). 21 and older. 7 p.m. Wednesday. Upstairs bar, 2321 18th St. NW. 202-332-0800.

The District

Cherry Blossoms Lantern Lights

Today marks the annual Lantern Lighting Ceremony, including Japanese cultural performances, all at the site where the city's first cherry trees were planted. If you'd rather do something more interactive, the National Park Service leads regular guided "lantern walks" to see the blossoms by night (though, seriously, come early so you can see them by day, too). Bring your own flashlight tonight for a walk around the Tidal Basin. Peak bloom is expected to begin Wednesday. Both events are free. Lantern ceremony, 2:30-4 p.m. at the basin at Independence Avenue and 17th Street SW; lantern walk, 8-10 p.m. at 1500 Maine Ave. SW, near paddle boats. Visit

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