Metro Weekly

Kathy Mattea and Tanya Tucker kick off The Birchmere’s August slate of shows

Aaron Lee Tasjan, the Prince Tribute Experience, Pam Ward, and Shuga Shang will also perform

Kathy Mattea, tanya tucker
Kathy Mattea — Photo: David McClister

Next weekend the Birchmere welcomes two legends of country music with significant gay appeal. First up, on Friday, Aug. 20, is Kathy Mattea, the first major country star to speak out about AIDS almost 30 years ago. She did so as a presenter at the Country Music Awards in 1992, where she defied organizers by wearing three red ribbons and, from the podium, explained that each ribbon represented a friend who died from the disease.

Mattea, whose rootsy style is more Americana than modern-day country, is also credited with helping spearhead country music’s first major fundraiser for AIDS, the 1994 Red Hot + Country compilation.

The next night, Aug. 21, sees the return of Tanya Tucker for a show celebrating the 25th album from the artist billed as “the original female outlaw.” Produced by Brandi Carlile and Scooter Jennings, 2019’s While I’m Livin’ helped Tucker snag her first two Grammys and has reinvigorated the 62-year-old artist’s career.

The Birchmere has managed to keep its doors open for much of the pandemic by limiting operations, programming, and capacity, while strictly adhering to an expanded, extensive set of safety and cleaning measures. Until this summer rolled around, they also turned generally to local bands or acts, particularly of the tribute variety.

If the original act was rooted in soul or gospel, for example, there’s a good chance Pam Ward and Shuga Shang featured prominently in the lineup. Just as they do on Sunday, Aug. 22, as the two power-piped performers team up, along with special guest Derrick “Triple” Shawn, for “a night of pure elegance” in tribute to a select few female R&B legends, chief among them Aretha Franklin, portrayed by Ward, and Shang as Chaka Khan.

Two weeks later, on Sept. 4, the late Purple One will get his due with the “Prince Tribute Experience” featuring a full band supporting Eugene “Junie” Henderson, whose day job is leading the hitmaking D.C. go-go band E.U.

The August lineup also includes up-and-coming, gay singer-songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan, who will close out the month opening a show for Todd Snider on Aug. 31. Ann Wilson of Heart takes the stage Aug. 14, Colin Hay appears Aug. 17-18, and the Secret Sisters appear Aug. 25.

The Birchmere is at 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices vary. Call 703-549-7500 or visit www.birchmere.com.

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