Beyond the Books

Your Guide to student life


Karolina Ramos

is The Hatchet's culture editor. A junior from Vermont, Karolina started writing for the culture section her freshman year, and has written the District Sound column since her sophomore year. Karolina is a political junkie and a music enthusiast (read: music snob) with a penchant for quoting "Tommy Boy," learning foreign languages and pretending to be even marginally successful at Jeopardy.
Worshipful Master Nicholas Sampogna installs Timothy Shea as Tiler of Colonials Lodge No. 1821 Thursday. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Photographer

Worshipful Master Nicholas Sampogna installs Timothy Shea as Tiler of Colonials Lodge No. 1821 Thursday. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Morgan Baskin.

Freemasons have been dissected and analyzed in Dan Brown novels and Nicholas Cage movies as enigmatic, with puppet strings in everything from banks to income taxes.

But Nicholas Sampogna, a 2010 GW alumnus and Mason, wants to dispel the stereotype that Freemasons are secretive and all-powerful.

“It’s just not true,” Sampogna said. “People hear about conspiracy theories regarding the Masons and their connections to the government and they assume we secretly run everything. In reality, the last U.S. president to be a Mason was Gerald Ford.”

Colonial Lodge No. 1821, a group of 55 Freemasons all with ties to the University opened its doors for a traditional Masonic ceremony at the Scottish Rite headquarters Thursday night in which nearly a dozen new officers were installed.

The House of the Temple, the meeting space for the Colonial Lodge, is a century-old sprawling marble colossus outside of Dupont Circle, an historical anachronism down the street from a dry cleaners and pizza shop. Its ceremony hall was outfitted with a regal oak throne and floor-to-ceiling purple velvet draperies for the event.

Sampogna, former president of GW’s Pi Kappa Alpha, said that Freemasonry today functionally serves as a community service-based fraternity. The Colonial Lodge formed in 2008, finishing its fifth year with alumni, faculty, staff and current students in its ranks.

For some, the Lodge also provides a sense of fraternal brotherhood.

Sophomore Nick Holy, who was installed as Marshal at the ceremony, said his parents were skeptical when he told them he was accepted into the Colonial Lodge instead of rushing a fraternity the fall of his freshman year.

“They thought I had joined a cult,” Holy said with a laugh. “I had to explain quite a bit about it, dispel some rumors, let them know it was credible.”

To apply for membership, applicants must be male and religious, former Worshipful Master and Class of 2007 alumnus Morgan Corr explained. Both requirements are rooted in centuries-old traditions, he added.

Members then vote on applicants’ admittance after a series of interviews, and the vote must be unanimous among members. Sampogna added that the term “blackball” was coined by the original Freemasons.

George Washington was a Freemason, as is former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. The group’s D.C. presence secured them a cameo in a CBS Sunday Morning video about Freemasonry in the U.S.

In the CBS interview, many members cited the “mystery” of the organization’s history and rituals, as well as its sense of tradition, as reasons for joining.

But the group hopes the reality of Freemasonry and GW’s presence within it will be well represented through Gelman Library. The ceremony included a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Gelman Library and the University Archives to preserve the Lodge’s archival effects in the library.

The group also pledged 10 percent of its annual funds to the library.

The decision to commit to Freemasonry is a hefty and permanent one: Once a member is in, he is a member for life. But the group’s tenets of brotherhood and service continually draw men to join.

“Death is, well, pretty much the end to your membership,” Sampogna said.

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tlc20This post was written by Hatchet reporter Santiago Mendoza.

“20” – TLC

It was 20 years ago that a trio of soulful, hip-hop dominating women launched TLC.

Eleven years after the release of their last studio album “3D,” TLC has produced their 20 year anniversary album “20,” featuring all the best tracks from their discography. The compiled release serves as an opportunity to remember what members Lisa Lopes, Tionne Watkins and Rozonda Thomas brought to music, through R&B, hip-hop and soul.

The compilation of tracks feel nostalgic, fully representing the legacy and repertoire of the group’s best hits. Its best features are the same hits from a decade ago, but it doesn’t hinder the album. Compilations should remind us of the mastery behind the artist’s entire catalog, and “20” masters that.

The album is a brief, refreshing glimpse at the gradual evolution of the group. The first four tracks harken back to TLC’s largely overlooked underground hip-hop roots. “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” is a raunchy anthem reflective of the Salt-N-Pepa style of self-satisfaction that is surprisingly empowering, while “Hat 2 Da Back” resonates the classic hip-hop vibe of the early 90’s, showing off member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes’ rapping capabilities.

The next set of tracks, like “Red Light Special” and “Creep,” demonstrate the huge shift in style TLC made away from hip-hop in 1993 and towards the smooth and sensual R&B genre. Classics like “Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs” are the obvious staples of the album, where the sassy, anthem-like lyrics and fierce back beats encapsulate what the group sounds like at their best.

The Ne-Yo-produced final track of the album, “Meant to Be,” doesn’t necessarily display any new or groundbreaking material from TLC — it’s still the same synthetic catchy background beat to harmonious vocals and catchy lyrics — but it reflects the same sentiment of the album: that even after a decade and the unfortunate and untimely death of group member Lisa Lopes, TLC still remains relevant and important to the new generation of artists trying to constantly re-revolutionize the music industry, something TLC did seemingly easily and  relatively unnoticed.

The Good: All the group’s greatest hits compiled into one album makes for easy listening for fans while showing TLC-newbies why the trio’s work was so loved and respected.

The Bad: The scope for “greatest hits” albums are limited. It would have been nice to see new material, but it’s also understandably unrealistic.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Cameron Soojian.

Kat Keimig | Hatchet Photographer

Kat Keimig | Hatchet Photographer

Angelic acoustic guitar chords and classic songs reverberated throughout Lisner Auditorium Friday when Elvis Costello took the stage.

The legendary musician, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, performed solo for over two hours in front of a sold-out crowd. Costello played more than 25 songs.

Costello started the show with an acoustic set, opening with “Green Shirt.” The predominantly middle-aged crowd cheered as Costello’s iconic voice rang throughout the historic music hall while he played choppy, yet coherently rhythmic accompanying guitar chords.

Costello then moved to a playful rendition of “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home” by Nat King Cole. In the middle of the song, he stopped singing and began whistling a solo while continuing to play rhythm on the acoustic guitar.

A “request” sign was activated by Costello via foot-pedal towards the end of the show to initiate a request hour, prompting calls from audience members hoping for a rendition of their favorite songs.

“Play ‘Alison’!” yelled one audience member from the far back corner of the auditorium.

Costello acknowledged the suggestion, but before he began to play what many consider to be one of his signature songs, he stepped away from the microphone. The crowd took to their feet and stepped closer as he began to speak.

“We should use this auditorium the way it was intended to be used,” Costello said to the audience while standing close to the edge of the stage. “Without a microphone.”

Silence ensued as Costello played off-microphone, but some fans could not resist singing along with the song’s memorable chorus and diluted the purity of the moment.

When he played “Watching the Detectives,” the first hit single credited to his backing band, the Attractions, Costello switched from acoustic to electric guitar. During the chorus, audience members smiled as they clapped along and danced in their seats.

Throughout the song and the entire show, Costello experimented with a loop pedal, which allowed him to record and overdub live small clips of guitar. After recording a musical phrase and looping it, he immediately began soloing or recording a new loop to layer over the first one.

Costello is currently touring along the east coast and will play four nights accompanied by The Imposters in December.

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West coast psychedelia group Night Beats treated a D.C. crowd to experimental rock Wednesday night. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

West coast psychedelia group Night Beats treated a D.C. crowd to experimental rock Wednesday night. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Cameron Soojian.

Snarling fuzzy solos and reverb-drenched bass blasted through vintage guitar amps Wednesday at Comet Ping Pong, as Night Beats took crowds into the musical world of Texas psychedelia.

The band, whose lineup consists of lead guitarist Lee Blackwell, drummer James Traeger and bassist Tarek Wegner, performed in front of a small audience at the dual pizza-place and concert venue, rapidly and energetically progressing from one song to the next without pause.

On a small stage tucked away in the back of the bar, Blackwell played “Puppet On A String” off of Night Beats’ self-titled album. Approaching a solo near the middle of the song, Blackwell stomped on his guitar pedal and engaged his vintage fuzz face, taking the audience a musical step into the past.

Meanwhile, Traegar and Wegner supported Blackwell with forceful drumming and heavy bass as four audience members danced in front of the stage, waving their arms in the air under dim hanging lights. The audience exploded when the group played “Shadow of the Night,” a track from their debut EP “H-Bomb.” Blackwell’s agile guitar playing and reverb and vocals  drove the song forward, while Traegar and Wegner backed him up with intense, booming bass and drum lines.

Night Beats recently released their album “Sonic Bloom” early October through The Reverberation Appreciation Society, a record label started by music festival organization Austin Psych Fest.

Blackwell told The Hatchet that the album signaled the group’s evolving musical sound and embracement of experimentalism.

“We tried to just kind of expand, so there’s some tracks that are weird, some stuff that was more of an experiment,” Blackwell said. “This one song, ‘At the Gates’ was kind of an R&B, sax and keys sort of thing.”

This December, Night Beats will embark on a tour of South Africa, a concert series sparked by a spontaneous comment from an audience-member.

“We played in London a couple times and a couple kids came out to the show and were just kind of like, ‘Hey you should play in South Africa’.” Blackwell said. “What ended up transpiring is our booking agent for Europe and the Middle East got in touch with those guys. Through her and magic we made it happen.”

Night Beats will play in Johannesburg on December 13 followed by Cape Town on December 14.

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Kate Nash crowd-surfed and brought audience members on the stage at her 9:30 Club set Monday night. Carson Rolleri | Hatchet Staff Writer

Kate Nash crowd-surfed and brought audience members on the stage at her 9:30 Club set Monday night. Carson Rolleri | Hatchet Staff Writer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Carson Rolleri.

When Kate Nash took the 9:30 Club stage Monday night, the audience heard more than clashing guitars and quirky, quippy lyrics.

Nash made it personal, talking about bad friends, empowering women in music and that one time she found string cheese wrappers in her bed.

The show embodied Nash’s own contradictions: at once serious and angsty, yet playful and full of the fun energy the English singer is known for. She made sure there was never a dull moment, from talking about her lowest lows to thrashing around on stage and even crowd-surfing.

The show’s openers highlighted the two extremes of Nash’s style. Skating Polly, a two-woman punk rock duo, was deeply rooted in its genre: Songs like “Placer” mixed softer music with strong, jarring vocals that created a deliberate discord with the music.

Second opener La Sera brought a mellow-rock feel with songs like “Running Wild,” which she explained was about “losing control and eating all of the cupcakes” — literal cupcakes, in this case, which she gave out to audience members between each song.

Nash’s entrance highlighted the theatrics of her physical set design, with a two-minute music video playing from five retro televisions that adorned the stage. The nostalgic vibe paired with the energetic lyrics of being more than “a toy” set a playful the tone for the rest of the show, rife with witty lyrics and Nash’s seemingly inexhaustible energy levels.

The first part of Nash’s set stayed true to the more punk-inspired tone of her newer album, “Girl Talk,” with songs like “Sister” and “Kiss That Grrrl” capturing the raw angst and aggression packaged with the strong energy typical to Nash’s style.

The set also included fan favorites like “Foundations” and “Merry Happy” which were laced with the tinges of her new, gruffer sound.

Nash’s final song saw audience members joining Nash on stage and jumping into the crowd, closing out the night with a prolonged jam session with her musicians, the “girl gang,” and the clamor of audience members dancing across the stage.

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Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 1:18 p.m.

Q&A: Guitar showman Andy McKee

Famed for his innovative playing style, guitar master Andy McKee will perform at The Hamilton Nov. 7. Photo courtesy of Perpetual Media Relations.

Famed for his innovative playing style, guitar master Andy McKee will perform at The Hamilton Nov. 7. Photo courtesy of Perpetual Media Relations.

When Andy McKee plays the guitar, he plays more than merely the strings.

Rather, his fingers tap along the guitar’s neck, pat against the body and glide along the frets, using the instrument as a percussive tool as well as a melodic one. His innovative approach has given him droves of fans on YouTube, earning him over 25 million views with tracks like “Rylynn.”

McKee continues his fall U.S. tour at The Hamilton tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $29.50. The Hatchet caught up with McKee to talk about music and the internet, jamming with Prince and topping himself with new EPs.

Hatchet: You came to prominence on YouTube. Has that kind of online forum been critical for smaller, independent artists?
I don’t know if it’s critical, but it definitely helped me out. I was fortunate to get in kind of early when YouTube was still pretty new. YouTube is such a huge website now it can be hard to maybe break out on there now.

At that time I had just joined an independent record label that was focused on acoustic guitar, the kind of stuff that I do, it was their idea to put videos on YouTube, at that time I was just ignorant of what YouTube even was. We had no idea it would kick off like it did, we were really pleasantly surprised with that of course. It was a crazy, freak thing but if you get on early and playing guitar in an unusual way helped me get out there in a big way.

Hatchet: But with the online territory comes the trouble of pirated music and shared files. Has that impacted you at all?
McKee: A little bit. I don’t really try to file lawsuits or anything like that, but I’ve tried to let people know that buying my music legally definitely helps me and my family, it’s a way for me to have an income. I guess I try to make it obvious how it affects independent artists like me or artists that are sort of with smaller labels. Pirating sort of takes the money right away from the artist that you like.

Hatchet: You also sell guitar tablatures online. Is that a hard sell when there are a lot of free guitar tab sites with your music on it?
McKee: One thing that I wanted to when I made those tablatures available on my website was just to make it really affordable. If people are aware that they can get them from me directly and for a good price, it helps, but I’m sure I’ve been affected by all the other versions out there for free.

Hatchet: You toured with Prince last year on his “Welcome 2 Australia” tour. How did that come about?
McKee: It was crazy, we got an e-mail from Prince’s management saying he was interested in working together. We didn’t think it was real at first! He had discovered my music on YouTube as well, so I went up there to Minneapolis where his studio is and met him and a couple of the band members and just sort of played a bit together, and the best thing I knew, he wanted to tour together in Australia. It was really an honor to play with him, he really is a musical genius and can play all kinds of instruments and it was just an amazing opportunity to play a lot of those larger audiences.

Hatchet: What was that departure like from small, intimate venues to arenas? Do you feel like your music translates well in that large setting?
McKee: I think so! As well as that tour, last year I also opened for a really great band that I’ve always loved called Dream Theater, so on those shows as well, it was really large audiences over in Asia. On both of those instances, there were people really into it. But there is something about the more smaller audiences, where people can see you better, and the way that I give a show as well when I’m doing my solo thing, I really like to engage with the audience, talk and joke, and I like to be able to see their faces. So I like that as well.

Hatchet: You’ve crafted a solo act that’s so novel in how it keeps audiences engaged — even people without an understanding of music can see your hands move and see the finger tapping and be impressed. How do you top that?
McKee: Well, I guess the whole thing with YouTube and the song “Drifting,” the one that really took off, was me playing the guitar over the top of the neck and hitting the guitar body and stuff, but all those sort of pyrotechnics and things where you’re sort of putting on  a show, I really try to use those things to just write good music. I’ve just been focusing mostly on using techniques and trying to come up with the best compositions that I can that are interesting to people, that they’ll remember and that they’ll have an emotional attachment to — those things that people really love about music that stick with them for the rest of their lives. So that’s what I’m trying to do, just write really good music, not necessarily like, play six guitars at once or something (laughs).

Hatchet: Your last album “Joyland” came out in 2010. What can we expect after the tour? A new album in the works?
McKee: Yes, there is! Over the next few years what I’m planning on is releasing EPs rather than full-length albums and releasing new music more frequently rather than having an album every few years. So I’m going to have a new EP hopefully at the end of next month or December. I’ve also been experimenting with piano a bit so I have a solo piano song that’ll be on there.

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James Blake drew crowds with pulsating synths and a sense of humor at 9:30 Club Saturday night. Colleen Murphy | Hatchet Staff Writer

James Blake drew crowds with pulsating synths and a sense of humor at 9:30 Club Saturday night. Colleen Murphy | Hatchet Staff Writer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Colleen Murphy.

Combining pulsing club beats with introspection, Saturday’s James Blake show was equal parts chill dance party and best friend secret-sharing.

The British electro-soul singer performed alongside two bandmates in front of a sold-out audience at the 9:30 Club, his conversational style between songs adding warmth to a show filled with moody overtones.

Sitting behind a red keyboard, Blake started the show with “I Never Learnt to Share” off his self-titled 2011 debut album. Using his trademark layering technique by live-recording small bits of melody and looping them over each other, Blake’s murmurs reverberated through the club as the clips picked up the audience’s screams.

Backlit by moody hues and illuminated with a gold spotlight, Blake brought both an intense emotion and a sense of humor to his set, laughing off an audience member calling him “James Blunt.”

The audience slowed down during his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” as his sexy coos hypnotized the room, a sharp contrast to the pulsating rhythms that prompted a dance break in the middle of the show.

As he returned alone to the stage for his encore performance of “Measurements,” Blake asked the audience to stay quiet as he again used loops of his voice to create a layered effect. The echo of his own voice later escorted him off the stage, leaving the crowd in an eerie darkness.

Blake won a Mercury Prize for the album “Overgrown” in October, an honor given to the best British album of the year. The album was heavily influenced by Blake’s long-distance relationship with his Los Angeles-based girlfriend and his friendship with folk singer Joni Mitchell.

Blakes’ introspective style has picked up attention from cross-genre artists, leading to collaborations with artists like Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, producer Brian Eno and Chance the Rapper.

Tickets are available to his 7 p.m. Sunday 9:30 Club show for $32.

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Fitz and the Tantrums will played two sold-out shows at 9:30 Club Oct. 30 and 31. Photo courtesy of BB Gun Press.

Fitz and the Tantrums will played two sold-out shows at 9:30 Club Oct. 30 and 31. Photo courtesy of BB Gun Press.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Margaret Kahn.

Adorned in vibrant costumes, hundreds of concert-goers packed 9:30 Club for Fitz and the Tantrums’ sold out show Thursday night.

Attendees donned their finest and wackiest outfits, with the winners of the night’s costume contest going to Beaker the Muppet, a giant squirrel and Ash Ketchum.

Opener Capital Cities, dressed in adult onesies, met a surprisingly adoring crowd who jumped, screamed and knew the lyrics to songs aside from their poppy, trumpet-driven hit “Safe and Sound.” After an animated set that fused brass with bouncy synths, they welcomed Fitz and the Tantrums.

The band kicked off the night with “Don’t Gotta Work It Out,” a chord-heavy retro hit, then appeased both old and newcomer fans by delving into older tracks and singles from their newest album, “More Than Just a Dream.” Upbeat new songs like “Break the Walls” and whistle-driven “The Walker” drew on the band’s signature peppy, rhythmic tonality, and their encore performance of the scream-inducing “MoneyGrabber” was just as lively and energizing.

Singer and tambourine player Noelle Scaggs’ incessant energy completely stole the show. I don’t think I saw her stay immobile for longer than a second all night — she was too busy dancing to stop. Scaggs’ strong R&B-tinged vocals proved she’s beyond humming doo-wop “ooh wee ooh”s behind Fitz.

Lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick — the band’s namesake “Fitz — was a bit disappointing in comparison. While his voice was flawless, he seemed visibly tired and a bit distracted, half-heartedly miming the choreographed dance moves with the rest of the band. “He’s barely making it,” a concertgoer murmured. If he had stolen just one percent of Scaggs’ energy, it would have been a perfect show.

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The ten-piece Idan Raichel project had crowds dancing at Lisner Auditorium Tuesday night. Miranda Houchins | Hatchet Photographer

The ten-piece Idan Raichel project had crowds dancing at Lisner Auditorium Tuesday night. Miranda Houchins | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Margaret Kahn.

With a set of strings, pianos and multilingual performers, one musical group brought a bevy of cultures to D.C. Tuesday night.

The Idan Raichel Project’s global sound was on full display at Lisner Auditorium, where the hyped-up ten-piece band played to an energized crowd that was more than happy to stand up and dance.

Raichel, the Israeli ringleader of the ensemble,  explained to the crowd that a demo session in his parents’ basement eventually expanded into a recording project with over 95 artists, though just the night’s ten-piece ensemble went on tour.

The vast array of musical styles represented in each song reflects the diverse cultures of immigrants to Israel — the ten-piece band represented birthplaces ranging from Rio de Janeiro to a refugee camp in Sudan.

The three lead singers were barefoot and dressed in flowing, toga-like cotton gowns. They sat perched on a line of stools, frequently rising to dance and even enter the crowd to get people moving. Throughout the set list, they effortlessly switched between Hebrew, Amharic, Arabic and Spanish.

The language barrier was transcended by moving pieces, like singer Maya Avraham’s performance of “Min Nhar Li Mshiti,” an Arabic ballad about losing a mother. The pain in Avraham’s voice as she uttered the universally-understood line “ya mama” resonated across the crowd.

One moment the audience was swaying to belly-dancing friendly tunes, and the next, the crowd was transported to a reggae-inspired Caribbean dance hall. The diverse nature of the Israeli immigrant experience was reflected throughout the night.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Tatiana Cirisano.

Treated to Twitter jokes and piano ballads, GW students gathered with their family Saturday night at the Smith Center to see The Fray take center stage for Colonials Weekend.

Photo courtesy of the Fray Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of the Fray Facebook page.

As the lights went down, members of the crowd snatched their iPhones out in anticipation, cheering and stomping their feet on the floor. Lead singer Isaac Slade kicked off the show, saying “How ya doin’, G-dub?,” launching straight into the ballad “Hurricane.”

Slade got personal with the audience right away, spontaneously jumping from the stage into the center aisle within the first 15 minutes of the concert. Students plunged into the aisle, screaming and trying to take photos with the singer.

Throughout the performance, Slade continued to interact with the crowd, running through the aisles a second time and joking with students between songs.

“I didn’t party in college, I don’t know how it works,” Slade said. “Are you gonna tweet each other now or something?”

Devoted fans crowded the Smith Center floor, singing along to every track and cheering after every word Slade spoke. The band’s performance of the 2006 hit “How to Save a Life” had parents and students alike belting out the well-known chorus.

The band played popular tracks like “How to Save a Life” and less-known ballads such as their newest song, “Love Don’t Die.” As soon as the first few keys of tracks like “Never Say Never” could be heard, the crowd fell right back into the excitement.

When the band left the stage an hour into the concert, the audience burst into cheers and more foot-stomping, anxiously inviting an encore. The band returned moments later, and Slade led the crowd in singing a brief strain of Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

Before closing the show, Slade again got personal with the audience, explaining how the band came to be.

“I thought I was gonna be in this band for two and a half years, maybe. We’ve been in it for 11 and a half,” he said. “We started this trying to quit our jobs. This beats the hell out of a shift at Starbucks. Any baristas here?”

Slade closed the show by telling the crowd, “We’ll see you next summer,” alluding to a possible tour to follow the January 2014 release of the band’s fourth album.

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