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An Evening with Marian McLaughlin and Near Northeast

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Marian McLaughlin is a songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist the pushes that boundaries of folk music with imaginative lyrics with intricate melodies.

Marian’s adventurous approach to music was inspired in part by Situationist Guy Debord’s theory of “dérive”, where one sets off on an unplanned route, letting their surroundings subconsciously direct the journey, "with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience". She applies this practice to her songwriting, letting instrument or idea guide her. During an interview with NPR Music, Marian explained how she sees parallels in her songwriting to dérives. She primarily writes in an intuitive manner and taps into her stream-of-consciousness when constructing lyrics. Noting that there's a vast amount of direction and space when it comes to playing the guitar, and exploration always leads to discovery. The results are often composed and cohesive, yet full of unexpected arrangements and shifting movement.

Marian started learning more about music during her high school guitar class and enjoyed bouncing creative ideas around with friends. She picked up more technique at George Mason University while attending master classes and private lessons with Larry Snitzler, an accomplished concert guitarist and pupil of legendary guitarist Andrés Segovia.

Since then, Marian has played live all around the DC area from prominent venues to intimate house shows. Marian has been an active figure in DC and Baltimore’s growing music community, hosting, curating, as well as performing in unique events. In 2014, She recorded her first studio album Dérive and collaborated that summer with a filmmaker to create a video for her song “Before You Leave”, which was featured on NPR Music’s blog All Songs Considered. She frequently collaborates with songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Ethan Foote, who wrote arrangements for her album Spirit House, some which were featured in an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert.

This past fall, Marian will released her third album, Lake Accotink, an environmental song cycle about humanity’s multifaceted relationship with nature. Overwhelmed by ongoing ecological issues, Marian began working on Lake Accotink as a way to to process the effects of progress. Throughout this lyrical journey, she observes humankind’s gradual impact on the environment, acknowledges the ebb and flow of natural cycles, celebrates existence of all life forms, and meditates on impermanence. Even when facing challenging concepts such as land fragmentation, plastic buildup in our oceans, and climate change, she makes sure to continuously set positive intentions for a hopeful future.

Marian's stream-of-consciousness storytelling acts as an anchor for Lake Accotink. The album leans heavily toward a chamber folk genre and features a rotating cast of ensemble members. Lake Accotink explores other musical directions, from experimental rock to sampling field recordings. Marian also pushes her own musicianship on this album by playing piano, harp, drums, and synth on top of singing and playing guitar. In a live context, Marian works with musicians that she really admires to creative intimate and innovative performances.

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Near Northeast formed in Washington, DC shortly after meeting while
playing a South Asian music festival at the Kennedy Center. Guitarist
Avy has made music in San Francisco, Portland, Europe, and India.
Antonio developed his approach to percussion in Bosnia and New Mexico.
Violinist and vocalist Kelly grew up singing and playing in Atlanta
and Athens, Georgia. Austin took up the bass during his childhood in
Virginia. While their aesthetics reflect the music on which they each
cut their teeth --- Latin American, Indian, Balkan, and Appalachian
--- their songwriting chemistry and musically adventurous spirit reach
past these reference points.Near Northeast released their debut
full-length Curios in 2015. In 2017, the band followed up with True
Mirror,  their full-length second album, and with Indali Variations
1-8,  a cassette single featuring meditative ambient music. While True
Mirror shares aesthetics and instrumentation with its predecessor, it
forges forward into new ground as a band building both craft and
confidence atop a strong foundation built of diverse musical
backgrounds. The songs, at-times darker in tone but also more varied
in their musical exploration, take Near Northeast's finely executed
indie-folk sound to new heights, with acoustic ballads,
electronica-inspired elegies, roof raisers and barn stompers.

Near Northeast has been featured in the Washington Post ("a world
music flavor, with a little Indian influence"), DCist (”rolls in
stormy waves”), Washington City Paper ("fuses Graceland grooves with
ornate, chamber-pop flourishes"), D.C. Music Download ("some of the
standouts were folk trio Near Northeast's intimate performance in the
blizzard"), and Mecca Lecca ("straddling the line between the
grandiosity and intimacy within their sound"). Curios was nominated
for two Wammys by the Washington Area Music Association, and their
live video "What to Say" was highlighted by NPR-affiliate WAMU's music
blog Bandwidth for DC-based Tiny Desk video submissions. You can
listen to a radio feature from WERA-FM here.

The band has performed at regional festivals and concert venues across
the Mid-Atlantic; including The John F. Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts, Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival, Fort Reno,
the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and many music venues. They have
also toured in the Northeast and on the West Coast, and are working on
their first tour of Southeast Europe.


Earlier Event: June 4