A Punk Fundraiser for Scream’s Kent Stacks and Other Best Art Bets for June 2–6 WCP

An ode to D.C. drummers: Tonight, Scream (the punk band, not the horror franchise) hosts a benefit concert at Black Cat for its longtime drummer, Kent Stacks, who’s receiving treatment for lung cancer. Pete Stahl, the band’s frontman, points out that the venue is co-owned by another legendary local drummer, Dante Fernando, and that the event is also a hat tip of sorts to the many great drummers D.C. has produced, from Bob Berberich to Marvin Gaye, Dave Grohl, T-Bone, and Earl Hudson. As Stahl put it: “You’ll be supporting and celebrating our stickman who comes from a long line of great D.C. drummers.” —Sarah Marloff

Thursday: Punk Fundraiser for Scream’s Kent Stacks at Black Cat

For Pete Stahl, frontman of seminal local punk band Scream, it feels as if the band’s original members have always known each other. “It’s hard to remember where we met Kent,” he tells City Paper. “It just feels like we’ve always been together.” He’s talking about drummer Kent Stacks, who toured and recorded with the group for about five years until 1986, when a pre-Nirvana Dave Grohl picked up the torch so Stacks could do the family thing. Scream, and its members, have come a long way since 1981, when they formed in Bailey’s Crossroads, practicing covers in Stacks’ parents’ garage. Life brought the originals back together in 2010, and last September they reunited again to record at Inner Ear Studios before it closed. The album, DC Special, will be released this year. But that’s not what Scream’s show on June 2 is about. Instead, the band is throwing a mega concert at Black Cat to raise funds for Stacks, who’s been diagnosed with lung cancer. According to Stahl, Stacks isn’t able to work while undergoing treatment and, like too many Americans, doesn’t have health insurance. “Playing a show is our raison d’être,” Stahl says. “We’ve done tons of benefits over the years and it’s especially satisfying to be able to organize an event that benefits our own.” Of course, Scream will grace the stage, but the full lineup includes XK Scenario, The Messthetics, Hammered Hulls, Bed Maker, Nate Bergman, Distortion Inc, and PG Soldiers. If that wasn’t an appealing lineup on its own, Baby Alcatraz and Ian MacKaye will DJ between sets. “We wanted to play with the cool kids,” says Stahl, noting that picking the lineup was easy. (McKaye’s sister, Amanda MacKaye, is in Bed Maker, and his brother, Alec, is a member of Hammered Hulls: “We thought it would be cool to make it a real family affair and ask Ian if he wanted to DJ,” says Stahl.) It’s a stacked lineup for only $25, and the proceeds will help Stacks and his family pay the bills during treatment. As for Stacks, Stahl calls him an “individual,” one who collects drum sets and enjoys surf fishing and trainspotting. “It was always fun to tour with Kent on those long drives, especially out west when you can see a train coming for miles and he would tell us all about the make and model of the train and its engines,” Stahl remembers. So keep it in the family and help the community in the name of punk. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kent, a fundraiser for Kent Stacks, starts at 7 p.m. at Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. blackcatdc.com. $25. —Sarah Marloff

Thursday: Mess Esque at Pie Shop

Mess Esque; courtesy of Pie Shop

In 2021, Mess Esque, an indie duo from Australia, came out with two of the most original, free-sounding records of the pandemic era. Composed of multi-instrumentalist Mick Turner (who made up one third of the Dirty Three) and singer/songwriter Helen Franzmann, the two began working remotely shortly before that became a necessity in 2020. This form of collaboration stuck and you can hear why. There is an instant chemistry between Turner’s off-kilter instrumentation and Franzmann’s voice; its shapeshifting, unpredictable quality recalls the way Mary Margaret O’Hara and Turner’s old collaborator, Chan Marshall, could summon a feeling of intimacy with a whisper or plaintive line reading. Their sound can be both murky and piercing at the same time. The effect calls to mind the great Australian writer Gerald Murnane, who wrote in the beginning of The Plains: “I looked past the regular pattern of streetlights towards the dark country beyond. A breeze came in warm gusts from the north. I leaned into the surges of air that rose up from the nearest miles of grassland.” Mess Esque are making songs beyond that grid of streetlights. You want to follow the pair through their meandering, blurry songs. This startling unstructuredness came out of their creative process. Franzmann bases her lyrics on her dreams and her bits of notes memorializing them. “I’d just come out of sleep at around 2 a.m., stand up, go to the microphones and start,” she said in an interview with Sun 13 in October. “Sometimes it would be a complete improvisation and Mick would receive a lot of rambling, and other times it would be a very clear idea, harmonies and all.” One of her first songs the two created was “Sweetspot.” It’s a band favorite. “Your eyes are always open so wide,” Franzmann sings as if she had just woken up (maybe she had). “You’re just looking for the sweetspot.” Something, maybe a pair of horns or vintage keyboards, shine through the song’s murmur and clang. “And even though the walls are closing in/ everyone wants to talk to you/ You’re just looking for the sweetspot.” You’ll find it when they play the Pie Shop, with Florry opening, on June 2. The show starts at 8 p.m. on June 2 at Pie Shop, 1339 H St. NE. pieshopdc.com. $12–$15.Jason Cherkis

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