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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Down For the Count

I think I stopped watching the evening news about twenty five years ago- shortly after the best sportscaster ever, Glenn Brenner left the planet. I mean what was the point?  Every night we heard about all the scary stuff going on, but with Glenn gone, there was no one there to make you laugh your head off at the end of the broadcast. When he was "in charge" of sports, even non athletics fans like myself tuned in just to see what he would do next. Once he turned anchor Maureen "Mo" Bunyan into a Damon Runyon character, complete with fedora and cigar, to prognosticate the upcoming games. Another time he enlisted Sister Marie Louise, a nun and rabid foot ball fan.

This Friday my kind of sporting event is happening at Bethesda Blues (which has now decided to be Bethesda Live.)  Blue eyed soul crews King Soul and Soul Crackers will be duking it out in a mock battle of the bands called "The Thrilla in Vanilla."  The loser  gives up the right to use the word "soul" in their name. (Gotta give these boys points for creativity here.) Not just a concert, this will be a danceable exercise in hilarity. I'll bet Glenn would've loved to be a ref in this ring.

Friday, September 16, 2016

All the Small Things

Sometimes it takes an outside eye to catch your own style. My friend Wendy was the one who pointed out to me my penchant for little things.  She walked into my kitchen one day, picked up my mouse sized cast iron frying pan and started laughing. Then she pointed out the colander that comfortably might hold four or five raspberries and a bottle of hot sauce that was only slightly taller than the miniature troll standing next to it -if you didn't count his hair. I'd always heard that "good things come in small packages" as a kid, but I wasn't aware that I had embraced that idea. I gravitate towards sliders, silver dollar pancakes and definitely pint sized venues.

As far as night life goes, I think the Galaxy Hut on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington might be the tiniest coolest bar I know. It holds around 50 people and has 28 taps -none of which are Budweiser. This place certainly isn't for everyone, but I have seen some of the best shows I can remember within the confines  of that space including many by the founder herself- Alice Despard. This Sunday catch The Rambling Shadows (for those of you with in tact memories -you might remember folks from The Crippled Pilgrims and Black Market Baby.) and the Gully Jimson Quartet. Five dollars is the perennial cover charge here to keep the bands from starving.


My new favorite radio show from the land of Lilliput is on WOWD-a low power radio station in Takoma Park, Maryland. (The station's bathroom might be bigger than the studio space.) The format focuses on hyper local things, but on Sunday mornings from 9-12, DC music fans anywhere on the world wide web can tune in to "The Forbidden Alliance Show" hosted by music connoisseur Robbie White and his able assistant former WHFS deejay Weasel. Robbie plays anything but top 40 and has a jam packed schedule interviewing local musicians and the like.  This Sunday's show will feature Joe Dolan of the Beatnik Flies and the Vi-kings. Creative radio as it should be - far from the corporate world.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Instant Karma

The Beatles have been on my radar as long as I can remember, but I was a bit too young to fully appreciate their music at the time. I was more a Snoopy fan when they broke up in April of 1970, and way into dogs and riding bikes.

But sometime in my late teens I found their music irresistible. While a lot of my class mates were into the latest disco and pop tunes, I was looking back to Rubber Soul and the White Album. As life went on, I found the recordings of their early energy pouring out of Hamburg just as compelling, and I still wonder at their staying power. I never get tired of their albums. 

Speaking of staying power, I am not sure how Ron Newmyer has time to eat or sleep as he is churning out yet another tribute show to John Lennon this Saturday. I have seen a bit of the prep that goes into these shows. How can I  describe just how much work is involved? 
Imagine organizing twenty two cats in one place and getting them to tap dance. In a bathtub. Then add just a little bit of water... 

Please believe me when I say, he and and a truly impressive line up of hep cats will not disappoint -this is a truly cool way to see the impossible - John Lennon (and the Beatles) coming alive again at the Hamilton.  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hey Hey My My

Once upon a time, I remember getting a Captain Kangaroo record for my birthday which I was allowed to play on a portable record player in our basement.  I was thrilled. I started combing the house for music, ransacking my brother's rock n roll as well as my father's forgotten 45s. Finally I ventured out and bought my own vinyl which was a different rite of passage altogether. I started out humbly enough with a 45 of "Uncle Albert."  I even put my name on the front so it wouldn't get lost at some frenzied slumber party which it never did.

The cassette and 8 track tapes that followed never had the charm and artwork of the album, but wow, what joy and power it gave us.  Cars were transfigured into our own private concert halls.

And don't get me started on mix tapes. We were suddenly free to make up our own segways culling this song or that from albums.  My College Park housemates and I were all into it. Alan provided the Doghouse with a near professional reel to reel soundtrack, while Dougal was amassing enough live recordings of the Dead to cover his bedroom wall, and Chauncy turned me onto innumerable bands which I first heard blasting out of his second story window on Guildford Road.

Tapes were presents, tapes were apologies. They were vital for road trips, break ups and celebrating just about anything. When the CD came along claiming superiority, I howled in dismay. NO. I wasn't going there. I dug my heels in for years, but finally succumbed to that overwhelming tide thinking there was no turning back. Boy, was I wrong.

Flash forward to now. What remains? Much to my surprise- all of the above. Despite Walkmen and iPods and blueteeth, vinyl has been reclaimed, and on a recent trip out West which included haunting record shops, I saw the good ole cassette tape in its own section clawing its way back as well.

Joe's Record Paradise, a DC tradition,  opened in 1974, and although they have moved numerous times, their clientele has always followed. Joe's is not just a store, but part of our history and has always attracted musicians and deejays as a hang out or even a place to play. Their latest home however, was almost derailed by the Man ( i.e. the Montgomery County Government.) The opening was seriously delayed by red tape and financial issues which still plague Johnson Lee. Please don't wait for "record store day" to drop by 8700 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. Your patronage can help make sure rock n roll doesn't die- at least not in this little corner of the world.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Root On

Ugh. School started obscenely early again this year, and despite a meeting about scheduling efficiency, two visits to the school counselor and multiple emails, my son still ended up with a class he didn't want (no surprise) and a class he already took last year. What? No matter who is in charge, it seems our education system slogs on and on with an unusual penchant for imposing unrelenting lassitude. (And I am not referring to teachers here -who more often than not are themselves victims of bureaucracy.)

But perhaps unrelenting boredom was why a boy named Foster Mackenzie the Third was not invited back to more than one prep school here in Washington including Sidwell Friends (which also ejected Mark Noone of Slickee Boy fame). Still he managed to make his way to Yale and then emerged as our salvation from All Things Banal as Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band. One of the rare shows I actually remember during my student years clearly misspent in College Park was seeing that crazy crew at the Back Room. It was like watching pirates sail up Route One.

Although Slim has left us, this Saturday Dick Bangham and his gang of merry minstrels will be amassed for a Root Boy Slim tribute at Bethesda Blues featuring many of the ass kicking musicians who landed in the band including Dan Hovey, Marshall Keys, Ron Holloway and Tommy Lepsom as well as a sneak preview of the film "Boogie Til You Puke"- Dick's current project. Tickets $25 in advance, but beware- $35 on the day of the show(!) Yeesh.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Postcard from the "Other" Washington

DC ROCKS is on the road and found this very cool mural outside a music store in Seattle.  Click on the picture to check it out.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Message from the Action Man

I still don't want to think about David Bowie not being on this planet here with us. When I hear his songs now, I feel a beat of sadness at first, but then the music takes over, and I appreciate him all the more. I don't think I realized how over the top popular Bowie was before he died.  After all, he was always on the edge, never mainstream, but his talent and energy are such that it seems like anyone and everyone can find a song that speaks to them- especially the misfits amongst us which pretty much includes all of humankind.

This Saturday at The Fillmore, "action man" Ron Newmyer has corralled a posse of musicians for a tribute show. Herding this many people together to perform on one night is a feat, but seeing our local talent  cover their favorite Bowie songs can bring a bit of the joy back- at least for one evening. Please break out your inner glam and support the DC scene at this event.