Hey, Isn’t That Janeane Garofalo?

Where you know Janeane Garofalo from tells people a lot about who you are.

If you know her primarily as Winona Ryder’s spunky friend in “Reality Bites,” you’re probably old. If you know her from “The Larry Sanders Show,” you’re probably pretty hip (but also old). If you know her from her more recent roles on “24,” “The West Wing” or “Criminal Minds,” you’re probably my parents.

Point is, Garofalo’s had a long, varied career, especially when you consider that Hollywood’s never really known what to do with her. Her Wikipedia page is a dizzying series of near-misses, from an early role as Jerry Seinfeld’s dream girl on “Seinfeld” (she only lasted two episodes), to turning down lead roles in “Scream” and “Fight Club,” to being dumped from “Jerry Maguire” at the last minute for Renee Zellweger. You’re left with the feeling that Garofalo should’ve been way bigger than she was, a potential star always stuck playing the spunky sidekick.

Still, she hasn’t done badly for herself.

Not only is she one of the few celebrities whose voice you can hear in your head the moment you hear their name, but she’s making her Kennedy Center debut this weekend.

Judging from her past performances, you can expect a lot of droll political commentary, some asides about her asexuality and plenty of meandering digressions, though maybe not many actual jokes. In her most recent comedy special, Garofalo tells a story about a man who came up to her after one performance and said, “I enjoyed your talk.”

That sounds pretty good, though; most anybody can craft a setup and a punchline, but only Garofalo can pull off Garofalo.

Janeane Garofalo, 7-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; tickets $29-39.

Big Thief at 9:30 Club

A noted commentator once said on Twitter, “There are no wrong answers in life, but please just stop making guitar-based music, no one cares anymore.”

OK, that commentator was me, and yes, I was maybe trolling a little (I blame Twitter, it turns people into monsters!), but the underlying point stands, sort of. It’s not a controversial thing to say that rock music isn’t fresh or rebellious or even really relevant anymore, but I’d also add that that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. Which means I’m also admitting that my trollish tweet was kinda missing the point.

Take, for example, the music of Brooklyn indie darlings Big Thief. Is it breaking new ground? No. But is it enjoyable? Tremendously — almost ludicrously so, yes.

Rock music long ago dropped out of the cultural vanguard and moved into a space where it’s more a source of pleasure than of innovation. And that’s OK. Things that are derivative and repetitive can also be incredibly satisfying. If I’m drunk, and you give me a choice between a Big Mac and fries and a multi-course dinner at French Laundry, I ain’t picking French Laundry, and if you’re honest, you aren’t either.

Maybe the Big Mac comparison sells Big Thief short. With their soaring  wistful folk-rock melodies (think Father John Misty meets the New Pornographers), Big Thief is at least a steak sandwich — but you know what I mean.

It’s sort of related to the saying about perfection being the enemy of the good; sometimes a good band can be just as good, or even better, than a great one.

Big Thief, 7-10 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 10, 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; tickets, $26

Super Excited About Superchunk!

If you were listening to Superchunk in the ’90s, you were probably pretty cool. If you still listen to Superchunk, you probably have kids who make unkind comments about your inability to use your smartphone.

But one of the upsides of being ol- er, mature, is that you might have a little more disposable income kicking around than those days when you had to scavenge change from your car’s floorboards for beer money. Not that $29.50 (the price of admission to Superchunk’s show this Monday at the Birchmere) is all that pricey in 2019 dollars, but in the ’90s, it could’ve bought you a month of gas with enough left over for a carton of cigarettes.

Founded in 1989, Superchunk was one of the original members of the Chapel Hill, N.C., indie-rock scene that brought us Archers of Loaf, Southern Culture on the Skids, Ben Folds Five, Polvo, and many other bands that have blasted out of factory car speakers while I’ve smoked weed out of a soda can.

Listening to their first half-dozen albums now, it’s puzzling that they never hit it really big, though maybe their modest success was a matter of choice, or even good luck. (Have you heard Billy Corgan talk lately? He has about as much connection with reality as he does hair.) If they were multimillionaires, it’s doubtful they’d be touring now, doing intimate gigs like this, where they’ll play an acoustic version of their 1994 classic “Foolish.”

Grab your (kid’s) flannel and your weed (CBD gummies) and get ready to rock (nod along with gentle melancholy)!

Superchunk, 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; tickets, $29.50

All Rise for Ron Swanson

Nick Offerman, the comic actor best known as the myopic libertarian dummy Ron Swanson from “Parks & Rec,” is bringing his new one-man show to the Kennedy Center for one night only, and it looks like he’s living up to his character’s famous advice to “never half-ass two things; whole-ass one thing.”

All Rise” is billed as “an evening of deliberative talking and light dance that will compel you to chuckle,” and according to early reviews, it’s all that and more. Offerman does some singing, some dancing, some joke-telling and some political commentary.

Lucky for us, he whole-asses everything, exuding his signature charm while performing crowd favorites (yes, he plays “5000 Candles in the Wind”) and dropping hilarious non sequiturs like, “So, have you guys heard about guns?” (Yes, yes I have.)

Offerman’s well-honed schtick is that of the self-important dunce who’s too self-absorbed to realize everyone’s laughing at him. In that sense, he’s more the American heir to Ricky Gervais’ David Brent than the dopey Steve Carell ever was.

It’s a male archetype we all know well, whether from awkward Thanksgiving dinners, horrible entry-level retail jobs or newspaper headlines. Is our fascination with this figure due to the fact that we’re waiting for them to be felled by our derision, or that we’re jealous of how they’re able to soldier on obliviously, shrugging off consequences along with insults?

Offerman’s talent isn’t so much how well he’s able to depict this regressive male narcissist, but how he’s able to convey, through a twinkle of the eye, that, yes, you’re right, and he agrees with you.


“All Rise,” 7-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; tickets, $39-$69

Lend Your Ears to Jay Som

Jay Som, the Filipino-American one-woman-band from California, describes her music as “headphone music,” which sort of describes all music in 2019 just by default, but still. The lush, layered compositions she painstakingly creates in her bedroom (literally) certainly lend themselves to close, solitary listening; you miss two-thirds of the music if you play it on your laptop or car speakers. But it’s headphone music in another sense, too.

People today listen to their headphones (or, yeah, Airpods or earbuds) everywhere, all the time, as a sort of counterweight to the boredom of waiting in line, the rudeness of the typical commute, the drudgery of the treadmill at the gym. So music meant as a palliative has to fulfill certain requirements.

One, it has to be emotionally evocative, to counteract the desolation it’s being deployed against. Two, it has to be short and catchy, to hold your attention. And just as a matter of practicality, it should be sonically dense, so you get a nice wall of sound/white noise effect to blot out the guy talking on his phone next to you at the pharmacy, the woman coughing on the back of your neck on the bus, etc.

Jay Som’s music fulfills all these requirements in spades. If it sounds that life-changing on your earbuds, imagine how good it’ll sound blasting out of the world-class sound system at the Rock & Roll Hotel.


Jay Som, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, Rock & Roll Hotel, 1353 H Street NE,  $18.

 

Is it Arthritis? Stiff Little Fingers at Black Cat

Stiff Little Fingers is probably the most important punk band you’ve never heard of, unless you have heard of them, in which case I apologize for making unkind assumptions. (Be honest, though – you’ve never heard of them.)

Their debut album, Inflammable Material, came out in 1977, which was a monumental year in punk history; other bands who debuted that year include the Sex Pistols, the Damned, Wire, Suicide and the Clash.

Stiff Little Fingers has actually been described as “the Irish Clash,” a flattering comparison that was probably never actually that accurate. The Clash gestated in the London music scene, whereas SLF was formed in Belfast during the Troubles — no track on the Clash’s debut approaches the ferocity of SLF’s “Here We Are Nowhere” or “Alternative Ulster.”

You could also argue that SLF has been the more influential band; no one’s yet produced anything like “Sandinista,” or “Combat Rock,” while every wave of punk revival since ’77 has had a handful of SLF acolytes.

Yes, the band is getting up there in years (in punk years, they’re about 350 years old), and yes, these reunion tours can be depressing affairs, not only because the band’s so old, but because the audience, i.e. you, is too. But maybe watching some elder statesman snarl and strut for an hour will inspire you to dig deep within yourself and dredge up the last of your adolescent defiance.

“After seeing Stiff Little Fingers in concert,” you’ll type on your Blackberry on the Uber ride home, “I’ve decided that you should take this job and shove it, effective immediately.” (“Please disregard, I was hacked!” you’ll email the next morning after you sober up.)


Stiff Little Fingers, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23, the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; tickets $25-$30

 

Take a Peek at Pico Iyer Saturday at Politics & Prose

In college, I took a course in semiotics, mostly because it sounded easy. (It wasn’t.)

I struggled with the readings, which were either incomprehensible or boring. But the professor, a Ph.D. candidate with an anarchic streak, said that any student who, uh, went to the bathroom in the main atrium of one of the banks downtown, during business hours, would get an automatic A. Facing a possible F, I seriously considered it, even going so far as to scout one of the bank lobbies, trying to figure out how to make a getaway before the security guard got to me.

Then we started reading Pico Iyer, whose visionary writings on travel and globalization (before globalization was even a term) are infused with the kind of insight that shifts your worldview on contact. I devoured his books, wrote my final paper on them, salvaged a B, and avoided the embarrassment of being arrested with my pants around my ankles.

Born in England, and raised in California and the U.K., Iyer has taught at Harvard, traveled from North Korea to Paraguay, and now lives in Japan. In the early ’90s, he was already writing about “a world that is itself increasingly small and increasingly mongrel.” If he felt like that then, what in God’s name could he possibly think about the internet and social media?

Ask him Saturday night at Politics and Prose, where he’ll discuss his new book, “A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations.”


Pico Iyer, Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, 6-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19. Free.

Cirque de Soleil’s Volta is Electricfying

Cirque du Soleil’s Volta only has 11 days left in its run in Tysons, so get your tickets now, before it’s too late!

If you’re not familiar with Cirque, FYI, it has little in common with the now-defunct Ringling Bros. circus. This show has no animals, clowns or tightropes; entertainment is centered around acrobatics. In fact, Cirque du Soleil started out as a small band of performers who juggled, danced and performed other acts of derring-do in the streets of Quebec in the 1980s. Their fan base grew, and today they perform 13 different shows in cities all over the world.

In Volta, Cirque stays true to its origins of street but adds in sports, treating audiences to performances incorporating jump ropes, unicycles, bicycles, makeshift apartment buildings and other common elements of an urban landscape — even washers in a laundromat.

Acrobats leap from “buildings” and bounce off a trampoline only to soar back up and land on two feet like a boomerang video. BMX bike riders tear up vertical ramps, fly into the air and twist and twirl before making a perfect landing as they shoot back down again.

Mr. Wow

A group of double Dutch jump-ropers leap and flip through the twisting ropes as if the obstacles aren’t even there. Individual acrobats take turns jumping and soaring through a series of hoops they stack higher and higher. A unicycle rider balances a passenger in innumerable positions as he adeptly pedals in circles.

While the show is amazing to watch and the costumes are a kaleidoscope of stunning colors, there’s a deeper message in Volta that transcends the flashy “Wow” factor, and it’s to reject and rise above judgment and be yourself, no matter what others think.

This idea is conveyed through the show’s main character, Waz, who has blue feathers for hair. This anomaly brings him shame, and he tries to hide his difference to gain acceptance and admiration from others. Spoiler alert: He learns to embrace his differences and lives happily ever after.

Volta is entertaining, beautiful and magical. Don’t miss it.


Volta, through Sept. 29, 8025 Galleria Dr, Tysons, VA; tickets, $49-$255.

 

Otakon Coming to D.C.

Fans of anime will flock downtown this weekend for Otakon, an annual convention celebrating Asian pop culture, specifically, anime, manga, music, movies and video games.

Serious fans will dress up as their favorite anime characters in bright and beautiful costumes and wigs or full-on Pikachu or Sonic the Hedgehog suits.

Otakon is an anime-lovers mecca, drawing thousands of devoted fans from far and wide for a weekend of immersion in fantasy and fun.

Activities include cosplay, gaming, karaoke, dancing, a manga library and meet-and-greets with artists, musicians, designers and others. Marvel at the beautiful creations in the art show, attend musical performances and try your hand making crafts.

Check out the gaming hall, featuring new and classic video games, and enter a tournament if you’re feeling brave! Don’t miss the separate section of indie video games — you can say you played it first!

Featured presenters at Otakon this year include Weeb Palace (anime, video games and cosplay), Dollfille (makeup artist and Living Doll) and Super Art Fight (live art wrestling), among others.


Hours: 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, pick up pre-registration badges 3 – 10 p.m. Thursday; preregistration $95/adult $50/9-12 years old (8 and under free) full weekend, $50/adult Friday only, $60/adult Saturday only, $70/adult Sunday only, all prices higher at the door; Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW

 

Drink, Shop, Relax

If you’re still on a vacation high from the long weekend and looking for ways to celebrate next weekend, check out these exciting local events:

Bourbon & Bluegrass: Don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and blanket to this fun event featuring live bluegrass music and specialty Knob Creek bourbon cocktails at President Lincoln’s Cottage at Eagle Gate at Rock Creek Church Road and Upshur Street NW, 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2. Tickets ($65; $35 under 21; 6 and under free) include two drink tickets, beer samples from local breweries and a tour of the grounds. VIP tickets ($100; $65 under 21; 6 and under free) include access to the VIP section of the Governor’s Mansion where you can see Lincoln’s goblet, unlimited snacks and free parking. Performers include The Fly Birds, Moose Jaw Bluegrass, By & By, Hollertown, Rock Creek Revival and Reed Appleseed. Nonalcoholic beverages and food will be for sale. Featured vendors include Geppetto Catering, Pepe food truck and Timber Pizza. All proceeds go to support the cottage.

Brunch on the Baselines: Nationals Stadium will not lie dormant this weekend when our home team is playing in Cincinnati. Fans and food enthusiasts will take the field for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch and photo op in the dugout from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 2. Tickets are $75 for 21 and over, $35 for under 21 and $20 for those 6 and under. The menu includes fruit, eggs, bacon, fried chicken, potatoes and ice cream. Drinks include mimosas, bloody marys, beer, wine, soft drinks and water. Tables will be set up along the baselines and foul lines. No strollers, heels or backpacks. Parking is $20.

Beer in the ’Burbs: Lovers of beer will not want to miss Fairfax’s first craft beer festival from noon to 5 p.m. this Saturday, June 1, in Old Town Square. Sample beers from more than 15 breweries across the commonwealth; $3 for 3 ounces, $8 for 16 ounces. The event will also feature live music, and food will be available for purchase from food trucks.

Takoma Trukgarten: If you’re closer to the Maryland side, come to this craft beer celebration on the D.C.-Maryland line from noon to 5 Saturday, June 1, 201 Ethan Allen Ave., Takoma Park, MD. Sample from among 20 craft beers and ciders, and stop by the TPSS Co-op’s wine tent. Reps from local restaurants and food trucks will be on hand to sell tasty treats. Early-bird tickets are $25 and include six drink tickets and a commemorative glass. For $35, get the glass and 12 tickets. Nondrinkers pay $10 to get in. On the day of the event, ticket prices for drinkers are $10 more. Event goes on rain or shine, kids and dogs welcome, ID required to drink.

Yoga on the Waterfront: What’s more relaxing than child’s pose? Practicing yoga at the water’s edge for free! Come learn from yogis from the Yoga Factory, then follow up your class with free juice samples from Toastique. Transit Pier, 9 to 10 a.m.

The Pink Cabbage Funky Flea: If you prefer shopping to drinking, check out the wares from more than 50 vendors at this annual flea market in Ellicott City, MD, at 11707 Frederick Rd. Enjoy live music and stop by the food tent at this fun event, held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1; rain date Sunday, June 2. Proceeds go to benefit the American Cancer Society.