Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

April 16, 2009

The second of three (3) posts coming up today, all related to some talented young friends of mine who are alumni of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ).

thaoThao Nguyen (2002) – most TJ alumni know her as Teresa – graduated with degrees in Sociology and Women’s Studies from William & Mary. In high school she worked mostly with vocalist Brenna Clerkin as the duo Brenna & Teresa. Here’s a selection from their EP Three Words:

Knocks Me Down – Brenna & Teresa

From this morning’s Washington Post:

Falls Church native-turned-Kill Rock Stars darling Thao Nguyen plays tomorrow at the Black Cat with her band the Get Down Stay Down, and offers more than enough smart heartbreak to go around (sorry, no faux-lebrity melodrama, though). Nguyen and her band broke out last year with the album “We Brave Bee Stings and All,” a jaunty collection of soulful pop tunes spiked with downer lyricism delivered in a staccato sing-speak.

beestings“I’m a huge Motown fan, and I enjoy the juxtaposition of a bright-sounding song with a melancholic lyric,” Nguyen told us when we chatted up the 25-year-old recently by phone in Portland, Ore. The sad thread isn’t a put-on; her childhood seems to have consisted of toiling in her mother’s laundromat (“I feel like I was an indentured servant,” she says jokingly of her days spent making change for customers) and time spent alone.

“I would say I spent the majority of my time in my room, being sad or watching television. Growing up there helped in that I had nothing else to do but focus on playing music,” Nguyen says. She has since moved to San Francisco, where urban living seems to suit her, uh . . . better. Tomorrow’s show is something of a homecoming.

“For all the lamenting I have done,” Nguyen confesses, “I am a product of the place I came from. And everyone [here] has always been so supportive and hospitable.”

The Black Cat is at 1811 14th St. NW. Tickets are $13. Show starts at 9 p.m, also featuring Sister Suvi and David Shultz and the Skyline.

Move quick, or you’re gonna miss Thao because she’s off to Durham, NC on Saturday.

Here’s a recent video for Bag of Hammers (you may have heard the tune on a Clorox commercial):

My connection to Thao:  she rehearsed in my basement. That’s right – some of her first collaborative work took place there in the summer of 1999 after summer school computer science sessions, playing songs like “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Cocaine,” and Cake’s “Let Me Go” with a band (that term is used loosely) calling itself Cool Whip. [Note – most TJ students go to summer school to fit in all the classes they want to take with the ones they have to take. It’s like camp for them.] Later, my son Chris backed her and Brenna on drums at a TJ talent show and at Jammin’ Java in Vienna. Yes, another A-List connection, folks.

thao2Here is a review of her most recent work written by Chris after he caught up with her when she played at Berkeley in 2008.

UPDATE:  See Washington Post Weekend feature from April 17 – may require free login, may not be available more than two weeks or so.

The other two TJ Alumni posts are on Sam Willmott (2005) – also performing in DC on Friday evening – and John Petersik (2000).

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
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