The Landing: an Audio Visual Experience by Maxwell Young

 Mr. Wisdom AKA The Oracle practices his soliloquy. Photographs by Russ R. 

Mr. Wisdom AKA The Oracle practices his soliloquy. Photographs by Russ R. 

More like a crash landing because what Uptown Art House presents at the Kennedy Center this Thursday, The Landing, is more than an audio-visual exploration, but an exposé on who has been pushing the arts community in Washington, D.C. over the last several years. 

 Flyer designed by  Richard Mijangos .

Flyer designed by Richard Mijangos.

Jamal Gray, the master curator of Uptown Art House brings together an experienced group of creators across the entire spectrum of the local arts ecosystem.  Featured players Maps Glover, Maya Sun, Mr. Wisdom, Ashley Shey, Ra Nubi, and Yacine Fall have been driving the performance art scene in the city, at times collaborating together in public and private exhibitions.  They are joined by Nag Champa Art Ensemble who is no stranger to playing in hallmark institutions like the Kennedy Center, producer/writer extraordinaire Britt Sankofa, wardrobe designer Afrovelvet, and the man behind the far-out psychedelic visual projections you will see during the production--Jimmy Keith.  Individually these artists have strong movements in their various disciplines.  Those hip to the scene would have experienced their work at venues such as Capital Fring, Black Cat D.C., The Philips Collection, Torpedo Factory or at DIY venues including The Bee Hive, Rhizome, and Uptown Art House.  But together as a troupe, they create a chilling, impactful piece that conveys the power of the arts culture in Washington, D.C.

The Landing is inspired by the 1984 science-fiction film Brother from Another Planet, the philosophies of Sun Ra, and the literature of Octavia Butler, though it is a completely original work.  Lyer (played by Maps Glover), an alien from the planet Sept, arrives on Earth searching for his companion Layan (played by Maya Sun) while experiencing foreign stimulants for the first time.  It is narrated by The Oracle, Mr. Wisdom, who offers a range of thoughts suggesting this intergalactic adventure is pre-ordained by a higher power.

Planning for this hour-long performance began in December.  Having watching several rehearsals, it is a reactionary piece.  Spectators are encouraged to participate, and during some of The Oracle's soliloquies, you'll think his words pertain to you--perhaps they do.  But beyond the improvisation that occurs, the players are feeding off one another's energy and movement.  Its been a resounding sentiment amongst the artists that what happens on stage is a visceral response to how they make each other feel in those moments.  As individuals, they are both actively experiencing the performance and the expressions of their peers, inspiring a totally new understanding of the theatrical piece.

"There's this interesting dichotomy when you are trying to portray this experience or emotion within your movement or gestures alongside other people who are also having this internal experience," said Glover.  "What makes it rich is when you can be inspired by peoples' movement at the same time.  Everyone is going through these internal experiences whether it be them exploring their characters through words or how they're articulating their ideas.”

The Landing: an Audio Visual Experience debuts at the John F. Kennedy Center Millennium Stage on Thursday, March 15 at 6pm.  The event is free.

Stop by Uptown Art House following the show for the after party.

Kennedy Center Millennium Stage

2700 F St. NW

Washington, D.C.

Ki Pollo Restaurant Creates Cultural Melting Pot by Alex Young

Dominic Branduzzi, Claudia Moyano, Roger Li | Photos by Alex Young & Sophia Dyke

People looking for a bite to eat can find an array of food in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood. The authentic Italian restaurant Piccolo Forno that specializes in handmade pasta and wood-fired pizza, as well as a Japanese pub called Umami, and Ki Ramen, an establishment that has their own in-house Japanese noodle, offer tasty options. Dominic Branduzzi and Roger Li, both 35-years-old, own the respective restaurants and have a partnership along with 40-year-old head chef Claudia Moyano who cooked at Umami and Ki Ramen.

Now, the trio continue to mix ethnic influences into their food and into their newest eatery called Ki Pollo. Cultural backgrounds like Lucca, Italy origins for Branduzzi, Korean-American heritage for Li, and Mendoza, Argentina origins for Moyano, form an intriguing experience and tasty menu at their four-month-old street food restaurant that Branduzzi, Li, and Moyano own and operate together.

Like its sister restaurant Ki Ramen, Ki Pollo sits in Lawrenceville bringing "new things to the table," according to Branduzzi.

Mouths are drawn to the niche dishes Ki Pollo serves. Korean style fried chicken and empanadas create "different options" for customers to try Moyano said. The cuisines mesh well in Lawrenceville because it’s "a food destination," Branduzzi said, and comfort food "fried chicken brings everyone together."

Branduzzi moved to the United States when he was four, and he's owned Piccolo Forno and the Grapperia bar at the restaurant's rear for 13 years now. Li has 14 years in the 'Burgh's restaurant business. His first New Moon restaurant was on the North Side next to PNC Park. Additionally, chef Moyano is a 10-year veteran in Pittsburgh kitchens.

With experience in the restaurant scene, the Pittsburgh transplants and business partners were curious to find "what else could Lawrenceville use," and "what would people gravitate towards," Branduzzi explained.

"In our travels, we had eaten some really good fried chicken, Korean style fried chicken in Philly especially," Branduzzi said. Li remembers “growing up in restaurants” in his native Philadelphia, working for his family. “The only job I had was in the kitchen,” Li said.

The Korean style fried chicken from their travel matches Moyano’s empanadas, a staple dish in Latin countries. “Every country has a different variety of empanadas,” Moyano said. She likes her empanadas with beef, although other choices like chicken and shiitake mushroom are on her menu.

Love and I ate Ki Pollo on a Friday night just before close. Rhythmic Latin music like the song “Amor Silvestre” played through stereo system. The four-piece fried chicken with sweet but savory bao buns came quickly accompanied by the Pollo empanada with a side of rice and beans. Fresh pieces of chicken breast, drumstick, thigh, and a whole wing got washed down with our own Blue Moon booze. Enjoy the perks of BYOB at no additional cost.

Branduzzi notes that the cultural "duality here" welcomes “families,” Moyano finished. Young people in the ‘Burgh’s creative scene frequent Ki Pollo too. Chanice Lazarre, the head of marketing and management for rapper NVSV and the Library Collaborative record label, spoke to her colleague musician Smitty (SMTATOE) at the Library in the South Hills. “You should try Ki Pollo,” she said. He looked curious as Lazarre put Smitty onto something new. “Ki Pollo, the fried chicken and empanada spot. It’s bomb.”

While the Lawrenceville restaurant attracts different types of people from varied city regions for meals, “more diversification would be the thing I hope to see in the next five to ten years in Pittsburgh,” Branduzzi said. Selections like “good Filipino food, good Cuban food, or good Mexican food” will boost the environment and make the food climate even more of a cultural mainstay.

As an American, it’s all about the melting pot.
— Dominic Branduzzi

The melting pot creates various tastes like those at Ki Pollo, which Li wants people “to feel that they will crave,” he said.

Take Your Ass To Studio Ga Ga by Maxwell Young

 The groove doesn't stop once you hit that pocket. Photo by Maxwell Young

The groove doesn't stop once you hit that pocket. Photo by Maxwell Young

Gillead Gaari, a house/garage DJ who spends half his year in London and the other half in D.C., was on Late Bloom Radio in January talking about the role criticism plays in club culture today.

“When I wanna go to a club, I wanna see people dancing.  I don’t wanna see people judging each other.  I’ve been to a couple clubs in D.C. over the years.  Before I found the places I really wanted to go to, I had to go to go somewhere and there’s immediately someone staring at you as someone who doesn’t necessarily belong,” he explained.

There’s a high level of vanity in scenes all over the world.  People are being assessed for the clothes they wear, if they bought bottle service more than it’s actually about enjoying the vibrations of the night.

“We’re a city of ‘Very Important People,’ so it’s like, ‘Who is you?’” Jamal Gray, host of Late Bloom Radio outlined the District’s politics.  “Even on the street level it’s like, ‘Who is you?’”

 Van Hillard has finessed Studio Ga Ga in two separate venues.

Van Hillard has finessed Studio Ga Ga in two separate venues.

Gray prodded Gaari and asked him if he felt like there was a venue within Washington, D.C. where people could be free.

“I got a place.  Shout out Van Hillard--showed me so much love when I came back to D.C.  It’ll take you a two-minute walk from [Adams Morgan] to go to Studio Gaga.  That’s the most chill dive bar.  That’s the first directive I’m giving you,” GG said.

Studi Ga Ga is an exploratory space, though it is equipped with the essentials--a dance floor (with a disco ball!) and bar space. Some nights all you have to do is walk in and you’ll be transported to the underground, where Nappy Nappa is wearing blacked-out fighter-pilot goggles or this girl from Texas, Nicki Apostolow, is shrieking into vinyl records as she scratches them.

Asmara Lounge on 18th St. is the Ethiopian restaurant that hosts Studio Ga Ga on its second floor.  Over the last three months, Hillard has regularly hosted the program titled, ‘Tech Yes’ with the consistent trio Tony Kill, Ledroit, and Sir E.U.  Formerly known as “Delta 7,” the DMV natives project the perfect combination of house, experimental, and hip-hop sonics that you forget the name is Studio Ga Ga rather than Studio 54.  It’s not hard to stay in that groove for several hours--the drinks are cheap, too.

Unfortunately, last Wednesday’s Tech Yes popped off without Tony Kill, who recently landed a feature in The Fader for his slow bounce, chopped up Gogo redux of 24 Hours’ “What You Like.” However, it was a treat to see Rob Smokes return to his hip-hop roots in support of Ledroit and Sir E.U.

It’s a familial vibe at Ga Ga, you can feel the camaraderie.  A GW senior found herself amongst the scene for the first time a couple weeks back.  It was a paradigm-shifting moment for her to realize this type of movement happens in Adams Morgan--a place she frequents for brunch and coffee shop outings.  The scene deserves more love from the youth.  Save the shade for the clubs in Dupont and come lose your inhibitions.  Who knows, you might come back.

Studio Ga Ga  

2218 18th St. NW

Washington, D.C. 20009

John Geiger Joins The Burgh Boyz Podcast by Alex Young

 Photo via  @nikgeiger2  Instagram

Photo via @nikgeiger2 Instagram

Shout out to interview maestro Quentin Cuff for asking designer John Geiger the right questions to get him talking game on episode 25 of The Burgh Boyz podcast. Geiger spoke about his work at the Nike campus, living in Miami, trading sneakers with 2 Chainz, and more. Cool tidbits and anecdotes drop throughout the interview session. Of note, Geiger said he and Nike are “working on something for 2018.”

Entertain yourself. Listen to the new The Burgh Boyz episode with Cuff, DJ Motormane, and DJ Spillz featuring DJ Solo Dolo and Geiger (23:14).

Quentin Cuff: I know that you really hoop... and if anyone looks this up on YouTube, there's a crazy video of Geiger fighting somebody in the middle of a game.

John Geiger: Yeah, the [2003] state championship game.

Mars Jackson on Wax by Alex Young

 Mars Jackson with his “Good Days Never Last Forever” vinyl record | Photographs by Alex Young

Mars Jackson with his “Good Days Never Last Forever” vinyl record | Photographs by Alex Young

"It took seven years just to get something like this," Mars Jackson said as he held his forthcoming translucent, orange vinyl record, "Good Days Never Last Forever." He's finally ready to release an official album. 

Currently, Mars and his label, Misra Records, rollout "Good Days Never Last Forever" (GDNLF). He joined Misra in 2016 as their first-ever hip-hop signee. The first single, "Heart Dance," from the album gained traction in Australia first as a credit to Misra's distribution methods. To end January 2018, the single hit all streaming platforms and the rapper premiered its music video at the "Down & Derby" skate party. A Yung Mulatto illustration covers the "Heart Dance" song art.

"A label believed in me every step of the way. There weren't any nos. I learned how to expand myself as an artist during this," Mars said. "I don't like being put in a box. I make good music. It's wonderful to be a fan of all genres."

Mars said GDNLF is "complete to show what kind of artist I am and just not one dimensional." Mars played the album for InTheRough in the comfort of his apartment back in September 2017. The lyrics encourage with lines like "we can live forever." The project is dreamy while acknowledging realistic aspects of life in the album title. 

During the album's recording, he wasn't "looking for a sound. We were having fun." Confident vocals show how Mars was "not being scared to use my voice," he said. Cool references throughout GDNLF like "JR Smith with my shirt off" or "That's So Raven" keep the tone uplifting. Instrumentation shines. "Good Days Never Last Forever" releases this summer.

This was different for me like this whole process. Doing mixtapes and just throwing songs out there compared to actually telling yourself you can sell music it’s totally different. You have to go through some things first before you even have the cojones to say, ‘Yeah, you’re going to buy my music.’
 Photograph by Jordan Armstrong

Photograph by Jordan Armstrong

A lot of outside input and feedback went into "Good Days Never Last Forever" and it relies on a local Pittsburgh cast's support. "Nice [Rec] took me under his wing and trusted me over his production," Mars said. The producer Nice Rec has "worked with the best" and has credits on albums like Wiz Khalifa's "O.N.I.F.C.," along with executive production on Mars' "Good Days Never Last Forever." Musician Benji "kills" his feature on the song called "Simple" on the album, and rapper Choo Jackson also features on the record. "Keep it local. If it's local, it means a lot," Mars said.

To that end, Ryan Brown of lifestyle label farESH Brand creative directed the project. "He saw the vision," Mars said of Brown. Additionally, graphic artists and photographers Brian of Frequently Fly, Generic Pieces, Keep Pittsburgh Dope, and Paizley helped create the album cover and insert booklet. "Pittsburgh everything," Mars called it.

"Anything that happens in Pittsburgh I see. I'm just a fly on the wall," Mars said. The 31-year-old New York born and Pittsburgh raised resident has been in the rap game for a while and a key part of Pittsburgh's creative scene. He told a story about Daily Bread clothiers utilizing Mac Miller and A$AP mob during their 2009 rise for brand promo, and then sitting in watching the filming of a Hardo and Jimmy Wopo rap video years later. "They were trap'd out."

In the inner city, we make stuff pop and then you get bigger companies who look to see what’s going on in the scene and use some of the blueprints.

Although don Mars still views himself as a "local artist" and people still "see me as their peer," he said. Overall, "it's always good to give people the love tap," explaining his encouragement for Steel City residents.

Mars will join local talents Benji and singer Sierra Sellers for a performance on Feb. 16 at the Club Cafe venue. Get tickets for the 10:20 p.m. show here. Also, Mars needs a tour DJ for shows like his April date in New Jersey. Email him at if you have interest and qualifications.

Before Mars releases "Good Days Never Last Forever," he wants people to know that "they've never heard me like this."

Club Cafe

54 S 12th Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Commendations for Pittsburgh Winners by Alex Young

   Familiarize yourself with those up for  Commendation here.  See who won the Commendation polls for best of Pittsburgh above or below.

Familiarize yourself with those up for Commendation here. See who won the Commendation polls for best of Pittsburgh above or below.

Commendations show appreciation for the productive and progressive communities in Pittsburgh.

Specifically, these Commendations acknowledge people in the 'Burgh who produced consistent content and who was worth recognizing in particular lifestyles such as art, music, or products for the 2017 calendar year.

We received 26,922 total Commendation votes by InTheRough readers. The polls closed on January 2, 2018. However, many more votes were submitted up until the Review Party for Commendations on January 12, 2018. See where the best of the 'Burgh finished in the polls.

The nominees for Commendations were selected based upon the articles about Pittsburgh life that featured on InTheRough. Known achievements, creations, and events determined nominees too. Winners had the highest vote total shown in parentheses.

While the nominees and winners of the Commendations receive praise from, those who attended the Review Party at Senseless on January 12 also received a physical award. Geechi P attended the event to receive his Most Stylish Commendation. Art Like Us walked away with the "Teenie" Award for Best photographer, and the Lokal Foreners accepted the award for Best Music Artist on behalf of the late Yung Mulatto. Additionally, DJ Femi braved the severe ice storm and proudly took home Best DJ. By the time the Review Party had ended, Senseless placed their Commendation for Best Shop on their top shelf. It was fitting to have Art Like Us photograph pieces of the night after his second ‘best photographer’ award for 2017.

Ultimately, understand that ITR still grows and works to push an honest commentary about an authentic scene. The Commendations for peoples' best work of 2017 represent research and appreciation of contemporary culture in Pittsburgh. There's always more to learn from the communities in the Steel City and elsewhere, so 2018 is about broadening our horizons and exposing a new cast of heroes. It matters to be thorough and accept all feedback to improve the 2018 Commendations.

Familiarize yourself with those up for Commendation here. See who won the Commendation polls for best of Pittsburgh above or below.

Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 3.37.30 AM.png

Stillers Post Season 02 by Maxwell Young

 Stillers Post Season 02 printed at Artist Image Resource Inc.

Stillers Post Season 02 printed at Artist Image Resource Inc.

The third Stillers collection, Post Season 02, is now available.

The motivation and anticipation surrounding the Stillers' playoff hunt is palpable as we ready ourselves for number seven.  We're fighting for our football family and brethren this year, playing in the spirit of Mr. Rooney and in the strength of Ryan Shazier.  

Playoff demons stemming all the way back from 2002, and made painstakingly fresh thanks to Week 15's heartbreaker at Heinz Field, will be exorcised in Foxborough, Ma.--20 years since the last time the Stillers were able to knock the Patriots out of championship contention.  We will get seven before they get six.


'SteelSpeed' is inspired by the change of focus and precision that occurs in January and February.  We're no strangers to playoff football--it is expected--but the pulse of the locker room becomes elevated and the roar of Stillers Nation becomes much louder on the stairway to seven.  We have kicked into hyper-drive.

Post Season 02 is a collection of sweatshirts and sweatpants designed and screen-printed by InTheRough staff.  Green sweats and the re-purposed 'Eye' logo made popular by our 'Enjoy the Goods' t-shirts solidify the collaboration between Stillers and InTheRough, for they are one and the same.  Post Season 02 would not be possible without Quaishawn Whitlock, the technician and artist behind the atelier--Artist Image Resource Inc.  Thank you also to Justin Berk, Lanie Edwards, Alex Hersh, JR Walker, and Alex Young.

Stillers sweats are available for purchase individually or as a set here.  May they bring good fortune in this year's hunt for a seventh Super Bowl title.

Stillers bend, they don't break.