Certain eco-thinkers have suggested that we try to rescue our wrecked planet through a technique called rewilding, and it goes a little something like this: When scary alpha-predators are reintroduced to the very lands from which human activity initially drove them away, the rest of the food chain falls into a stronger rhythm and the wilderness thrives. So if you want peace in the valley, you’re gonna need some wolves.
How about music scenes? Can they be rewilded? A scene is a cultural ecosystem of sorts — and Washington’s could certainly use some help. Surging rents have exiled too many inventive artists to Baltimore, Brooklyn and beyond. And who’s taking their place? Hordes of young professionals who, speaking broadly, do not appear to be all that interesting or interested. And so our nightlife becomes cluttered with nostalgic ’90s dance parties, tongue-in-cheek tribute bands and uninspired DJs who practice their dark arts with the charisma of a shuffling iPod.
This makes Anna Nasty a wolf. After leaving Arizona in 2013 for a solo tour, the enigmatic 20-something finally landed in Washington last spring as the bassist of two separate punk groups: Neonates and Chain and the Gang. But performing solo as Olivia Neutron-John, Nasty makes music that’s especially fraught, frightening and fantastic.
During a recent show at the Black Cat, the jumpsuit-clad singer vocalized in fawning whispers and slasher-flick groans, tickled and punched an ancient Casio keyboard and did some sexy tai chi while shooting death stares across the crowd and into the void. Somehow, it almost felt like a party.
And in a way, it was. When an artist with this much poise, edge and imagination decides to take up residence in the busy-busy blandness of This Town, their arrival should be widely noted and wildly celebrated.
Now run for your life.
Olivia Neutron-John (with Timeghost and Ora Iso) performs Monday at Union Arts, 411 New York Ave. NE. Show starts at 8 p.m. www.unionartsdc.com. $7.