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Sunday, February 20, 2011

The State of Rock Revealed at the Wammies Tonight

Tonight WAMA- the Washington Area Music Association recognizes DC area musicians' talent by handing out awards and putting on a show at the great old State Theater in Falls Church. WAMA is a non profit organization powered by volunteers and dedicated to all who are involved in local music . Tonight's celebration will honor the late  Dave Giegerich, beloved leader of the Hula Monsters . Monsters old and new are expected on stage, but the categories of musicians being recognized this evening are vast from Hip Hop to Bluegrass, and everything in between. DC ROCKS sends out a hearty salute to all those on tonight's ballot, but here's a story of one rather young nominee from DC ROCKS' photographer Chip Py:

 “Hey Robbie, that kid is going to get up on stage with you during the second set.” I said.

“Oh good. I’m gonna like that,” Robbie Magruder said as he dumped his smoldering Marlboro  into the Eco Friendly ash tray on the deck of the Old Town Bowie Grill thus ending the Thrillbillys' first set break.

That was huge understatement coming from Robbie Magruder. Many DC music fans know Robbie from his many years as Mary Chapin Carpenter’s drummer, but few are still around to recall when Robbie banged  the drums for guitar virtuoso Roy Buchanan. Robbie is happiest on stage when he is banging out the blues.

Let me back up to a bit. The Thrillbillys were playing one of their rare gigs beyond the famed and often doomed Sunset Grille in Annandale.  The band is a side project for Nighthawks' bassist and Bill Kirchen’s former side man- Johnny Castle.  David Kitchen, Andy Rutherford and Robbie Magruder play in this band as well- not because any of these musicians needs the work; they play  because they flat out like to.

The Old Town Bowie Grill was packed for the Friday night show. The bouncer asked if I had a reservation for a table. “ No," I said, "but I'm comfortable standing in the corner, near the stage. Better for shooting.”  I showed him my worn out Nikon, now being held together with duct tape.
As I took my place near the corner of the stage, I noticed a teenager with a  huge red Afro eating dinner with his parents. I had seen this kid around at a few shows and had heard he could play guitar, but had never stuck around to hear him.

When The Thrillbillys came off stage for their first break, I asked Johnny Castle if he knew who he was. Johnny told me he was Andy Poxon, and  that he had sat in with The Nighthawks a few times.

“Is he going to get up on stage with you guys tonight?” I asked.

“He might,” Johnny replied grabbing a pen to go autograph CDs. 

I turned to Thrillbilly’s Guitarist David Kitchen and said “Would you ask him if he'd get on stage?” David obliged and went over to the table. Minutes later Andy was heading out to the car to get his guitar.

At first I thought Andy was a little lost on the stage. He stayed in the back corner and  seemed somewhat in awe of Johnny Castle’s dramatic bass solos. He threw in just a short lick or two, messing nervously with knobs on his amp as the veterans swapped leads. But by the second song, Lee Dorsey’s “Ride The Pony,” Poxon stepped up and proved himself. Not only did he throw in his own licks, but he picked up where Andy Rutherford and David Kitchen left off, and took it further still. Musically he was now standing parallel with some of the best musicians DC has to offer.
The audience responded.  A waitress grabbed a tambourine from somewhere and danced around the club throwing in her own percussion. Everyone was on their feet!

It was a great night.

Andy Poxin is just 16 years old and nominated for three Wammys.

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