Don’t think too hard about the theme of the Kennedy Center’s inaugural Direct Current festival, which kicks off Monday and runs through March 19. “There’s not really a central thematic thing that you can sum up in a word other than the Kennedy Center hasn’t had a festival of new art like this,” says Mason Bates, the institution’s composer-in-residence, who helped spearhead the idea. “This first time, I think mainly it’s about bringing stuff in that people haven’t encountered. Maybe in the next few years there might be more of a focus. We’re gonna see what we learn.” When Bates says “new art,” that can mean modern works (like Taylor Mac’s ambitious stage show “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music”) or older ones presented alongside newer ones in inventive ways (Bates’ classical-meets-electronica rave “Mercury Soul”). Direct Current crosses many disciplines (dance, film, theater, multimedia, classical, jazz, electronica, indie music), many of the shows are free and several are D.C. premieres. Check out these stories to learn about just a handful of the performances you can catch during Direct Current.
Plug in to these other Direct Current highlights:
Flor de Toloache
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; Mon., 6 p.m., free.
The New York City-based, all-female mariachi group Flor de Toloache delivers a fresh, modern take on the male-dominated music genre. The women haven’t thrown out every traditional element of mariachi, though: They still sport those glittery suits.
‘A 24-Decade History of Popular Music’
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; Tue., 7 p.m., sold out.
Taylor Mac’s “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” starts in 1776 and progresses up to today, using songs of the time to examine America through the ages. The original work is 24 hours long; for the festival, the drag artist is performing the abridged version (about 2½ hours).
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; March 9, 7 p.m., $15.
Artist John Bertles leads a workshop on how to make your own musical instrument out of recycled materials. Follow it up on March 11 with the East Coast premiere of Nathaniel Stookey’s “Junkestra,” performed by So Percussion on instruments made from garbage as part of Mason Bates’ “KC Jukebox: California Mystics.”
‘Madrigals Meet Minimalism’
Dupont Underground, 19 Dupont Circle NW; March 9, 10 p.m., $10.
Madrigals aren’t just about Renn Fest-style clothing and neat harmonies — at least not anymore. The Washington Chorus performs with DJ Justin Reed at the “Madrigals Meet Minimalism” pop-up party. When was the last time you heard 16th-century vocals at a party?
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; March 18, 7:30 p.m., $29.
The social, historic and ecological importance of the Colorado River is at the center of the documentary “The Colorado.” In collaboration with the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, a screening of the film will be accompanied by live musicians performing the score; a panel discussion will follow
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW, and other venues; Mon. through March 19, various times and prices.