Sus didn’t get the memo about the concert, though, and had a conflict that night, forcing the band to back out of the gig last-minute. Sasarak, understandably, was not thrilled.
The following semester, Sus and Sasarak ended up sitting next to each other in a class and hit it off. In August, they’ll celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. And on Saturday, Sasarak will finally get Sus to play the Planned Parenthood benefit he owes her.
The couple are organizing the show, for which every participating vocalist is female or nonbinary. More than 45 D.C. musicians will take part in the performance: Staycation will serve as the house band, with vocalists rotating in and out. The Emma Bleker-fronted D.C. psych rock band Nah. will also do its own short set of Radiohead covers. Sasarak will act as stage manager.
The idea for this benefit came to Sus and Sasarak, both lawyers, quickly during brunch one afternoon: The two are big Radiohead fans and noticed they haven’t seen many tributes to the enduring rock act. (Coincidentally, Saturday’s show comes exactly 23 years after Radiohead played the Black Cat while touring behind “The Bends.”)
The two are also supporters of Planned Parenthood, and Sus even did some pro bono work for the nonprofit as a co-counsel with the ACLU from 2013 to 2015. The funds from Saturday’s show will benefit the D.C. chapter of Planned Parenthood.
“Letting people make their own decisions and choices about reproduction in their bodies seems so fundamental to me,” Sasarak says. Planned Parenthood has “always been very important and near and dear to my heart.”
When the show was announced, Sus received an outpouring of support from the D.C. music community. Mundy Spears, singer of new-wave soul act MUNDY and the High Vibes, reached out and asked to join in.
“Especially right now in our sociopolitical climate, Planned Parenthood needs all the love we can give it,” says Spears, who identifies as nonbinary. “It’s constantly losing funding, and so many Americans count on Planned Parenthood for their sexual health and testing, so it’s a really important thing to keep alive.”
Besides the fact that Planned Parenthood offers a variety of health care services for women, there’s another reason to feature female voices at a Radiohead tribute.
“From a musical standpoint, [Radiohead singer] Thom Yorke has a very high vocal range and women can pull it off a lot better than men, frankly,” Sus says. “It’s also important to give women a voice when we can.”
Staycation has worked up more than 20 Radiohead songs for the show and will play them as written, for the most part, though the singers will be putting their own touches on the vocals.
Tula Pisano, who will sing as part of the house band and as a featured vocalist, considers that aspect a welcome challenge.
“I’m still trying to find the best way to lend my voice to it,” she says. “With ‘Paranoid Android,’ I found myself trying to mimic the way [Yorke] sang it but ultimately I still have to sing it the way I sing, so I’m working on finding the right sound from a personal standpoint. We’re not trying to be Radiohead carbon copies.”
As a singer, Spears likes to blur the line between masculine and feminine sounds, an approach that lends itself well to Yorke’s style.
“I think that’s something that he really does beautifully,” Spears says. “He really plays with that contrast between masculine and feminine tones.”
For Sus, that’s part of what makes this show special.
“Thom Yorke has a very specific emotional, emotive way of singing that is very unique to him, and each singer I have seen in the rehearsals has brought their own variation of that,” he says. “It’s not like him at all. It’s their own spin on it and I dig it.”
Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; Sat., 8 p.m., $20-$25.