November 14, 2023
On Halloween, my lovely wife and I joined a couple of friends to see a group called Pink Martini perform at the Warner Theater. The group describes itself as the UN’s house band, circa 1962. They sing in 25 languages. Their repertoire includes a song about hope inspired by a ketchup ad in old Life Magazine, a cover of the theme song to a Japanese TV show, and a huge hit they had in France. The pianist/group’s founder randomly drops in Chopin chords. Guest singers have included a member of the Von Trapp family, regulars at the Kennedy Center and Los Angeles Philharmonic, and an America’s Got Talent finalist. NPR’s Ari Shapiro regularly sings with them (after seeing him perform, he clearly has a side gig as a respected journalist while he’s a professional musician, not the reverse). Pink Martini was founded by someone from Portland, Oregon who started his career as a Democratic fundraiser - he hated the music at events so he started his own group.
None of which is the point. The point is that we saw them on Halloween. That meant many people in the audience were in costume. Also in attendance were Senators Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska) and Chris Coons (D - Delaware). More on that in a moment.
At one point the group held a dance contest. The Warner Theater is not a dance hall - the Nutcracker is running there for most of December. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is there tonight. The contest judge was someone in an inflatable t-rex costume, and the winner was someone dressed as a lobster.
At one point, Senators Murkowski and Coons got on stage and led an audience sing-along to America the Beautiful, Edelweiss, and I’ve Been Working on the Railroad. They stayed on stage and danced to the group’s next song.
During intermission, the executive director of a national good government organization, dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi, lobbied Sen. Murkowski (who was dressed as a US Senator). The closing number ended with someone in the front row leading the audience out of the theater in a conga line.
A few lessons here. First, see Pink Martini next time they come through a town you’re in. Second, pay attention to DC beyond Foggy Bottom, there’s some pretty cool stuff going on around town. Finally, and most importantly, be Ari Shapiro and Senators Murkowski and Coons. Dress up as a lobster and dance in the aisle. Start a ridiculous musical group. Join a conga line. Be a little absurd. Be a little brave. Have (at least) a little fun.