Kelela ROCKED the 9:30 club so hard I’m obligated to tell you about it
The minute Kelela tickets dropped my bestie and I were in the digital line to pick them up. Kelela was introduced to me via a road trip to Bonnaroo and I immediately enlisted myself as a stan of the DC native melodic dance music siren. Her debut project CUT 4 ME, the mother of all follow ups Hallucinogen next, the third treasure Take Me Apart, and the most recent masterpiece/center of this tour visit, Raven. When Raven dropped during #BHM I immediately was drawn to several of the many bops she decided to feed her children with. Contact is by far my favorite song with Closure and Bruises having a pussy battle for the runner-up. It forced me to deep die into her past projects and replay Kelela staples like Take Me Apart, LMK, Onanon, The High, All the Way Down, and Floor Show. “BITCH I’LL DIE IF I DON’T SEE THIS!”
We load up my ravy Ms. Thang, get a sitter for the boys, and pack the shortest skirts we own for an evening of rubbing up on strangers.
Wednesday Evening --
My wife and I arrive at U street and I’m immediately thrown into my childhood morning commute. At the age of 7 I was using the DC train and bus system to go back and forth to school. There aren’t any school busses in the city and my mom had felt my brother and I were started to act entitled. “Julian, hanging around all them white kids got these kids scared. Y’all are going to ride that bus and if the school calls me to say you’re late THAT’S YOUR ASS.” I would catch the bus from our cushy Chevy Chase suburb and descend into the city center. We would pass the same corner that combines the pool with the blue top Mcdonald’s across from the Howard bookstore. We drive past the Petco that we brought our second family pet to all the time. The streets seem thinner or maybe they just seemed so big as a kid. Gentrification has made my memories slightly skewed but also more embodied. We skuttle into the basement apartment, walk past the sleeping Mekh on the couch, and head to bed.
We started the day watching Barry and grabbing breakfast from Busboys and Poets. It’s a DC bookstore/cafe staple expanded into several equally impressive locations that became very easy to get confused. We grabbed up all the grub and went back to the basement to crunch down. As I watch two of my most favorite people appreciate their plates a very gay idea pops into my head: Museum Date! I order us tickets to the National African American History Smithsonian and we slap on the cutest outfits and go to run in the sun. We battle downtown D.C. on a particularly field trip compacted Thursday afternoon and make our way into the paneled building. We spend the next few hours asking “where are the faggots at?” It was cute…but male-centered. We stop for pics on our way back home to change for dinner and the highly anticipated Kelela concert.
Several showers and makeup brushes later we were cunty shrimp ready to be fried: spark up. We head to the venue on foot and make it super early - love that for us. We decide to go across the street to an Ethiopian restaurant, Ghion, and get SLOSHED on some delicious honey wine. We ate enough sambusas and injera to pop a button and then and only then did we feel it was time to wait for the siren herself. We line up next to Telfars, exposed collar bones, leather pants, bodycon dresses, and myriads of gender presentations. We light our Kelela blunts and soon we see other mini puff clouds forming up and down the street. Our queen brought all the DC hotties out for a night of smoking, laughing and jumping.
We enter the 9:30 club and wait for her. And then she emerges. And everything is right.
We walk home feeling inspired and uplifted. And hungry. Midnight snacks. Falling asleep on the couch. Waking up at 3AM to head back to bed.
We woke up in disbelief the night before. Thankfully not hungover. And ready to eat. We ordered a myriad of foods off of DoorDash. My wife had some work to do so Mekh and I decided we needed to finish Barry and binge John Wick 3. I need to run some errands so I run out to dash around before we catch lunch, dinner, and head to my friend’s performance in Baltimore. I run around getting gas and trying to find a Red Bull at a reasonable price and I begin to cry. I miss what was. I hated so much about being a child that going back to so many places that give me joy was overwhelming. Being severely depressed is like having the world’s largest blinders. I’ve come back to my hometown with my chosen family and I had an amazing time. This place isn’t like it always was. You're safe now. So let’s head to lunch. We go to the Colada Shop for empanadas, margaritas, catching up, and pastelitos. Our dinner reservations at doimoi are moved to 8:30 because duh, Friday night and I let my friend in Baltimore know that this bougie dinner will be the last to stand in the way of us hanging out again. We head to the liquor store to drink Tequila and yell at John Wick. We end up at doimoi right on time and end up leaving somewhere around 11. We dance at the speakeasy downstairs and head back to the car. Back to the basement apartment for more late night laughs. Back to bed. Tomorrow we leave.
Saturday was sleepy and rainy. We stayed in the AirBNB until one minute before check out and piled back into Ms. Thang. One last day of actually sitting in Busboys and Poets and whatdoyaknow we get the sweetest waitress. We each get a staple and clean our plates. Mekh needs to catch a bus and we’ve only got 20 minutes to get there - time to go to a dispensary. We head to a very dystopian dispensary and pick up some eddies and a free pre roll before grabbing one last order of pastelitos. We obviously change Mekh’s bus time and head to Union Station. We kiss kiss and hug hug then set our sights back to the boys. Back to Pittsburgh. Back home, for now.
Kelela gave me a lot to stew on. My relationship to my childhood home. The feelings of deserving a vacation. Being able to afford a vacation. Being in majority queer spaces with my wife. And with my gender variant baddies. Not knowing most of the people I grew up with anymore. Knowing the people I do now. Being who I am. It’s a lot. But there is more to come.
All photos and videos by yours truly