Saturday, March 29, 2014

Last Rites

This week seems to be all about nostalgia here at the DC Rocks headquarters overlooking the wild and wooly Potomac River. At least the river has almost held its own although we did our best to kill it- especially in the sixties. Back then my parents sternly warned me never to go near its polluted waters.  (I always imagined my limbs withering away if I fell in by accident, but I never dreamed up snakeheads or that fish with two sexes. Yipes!)

Meanwhile it's going to be quite the going away party this Sunday up at Blob's Park, an institution that has seen everything from polka bands to Slickee Boys over its seventy plus year history. Julie Scharper at the Baltimore Sun has the full scoop.  She and I have written about the closing twice, but this time it doesn't look like the bulldozers are going away.

If you can't make it up to Jessup, check out The Bumper Jacksons- a new favorite of Ruthie Logsdon's-they'll be playing right here in town.  This crew has an old fashioned funky sound going with clarinet, trombone and upright bass to boot. Join in on their record release party at Sixth and I Synagogue and check out this very cool and unusual band. Too bad they didn't get to play at Blob's.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Easy Prospecting in Silver Spring

Mining for rock is no sweat at the Quarry House, and you don't need a pick axe to dig a true gem of a band the Highballers and the Rock-A-Sonics show this Saturday. No cover !

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Washington Wake Up and Smell the Seafood

The warm weather last Thursday gave me the notion to wander down to Hains Point to see if anyone was out waxing their car, but I ended up at Maine Avenue instead, gazing at a shrink wrapped, once presidential Sequoia.  Wandering up stream, my companion and I came upon the Channel Inn- a remarkably ugly building aptly named for its water front location on the Washington Channel.  I'd walked by it many times, but now I  remembered that my one and only association, "The Oldest Inhabitants of DC," have meetings there so we ducked into the Engine Room Lounge to check it out.

As luck would have it, we stumbled upon a free happy hour buffet. Wilson, our bartender, was friendly in a professional way, and the dozen other patrons were all clearly regulars. Definitely old school. Definitely somewhere we felt at home. We kicked back after filling our plates and were happily getting to know Wilson when he suddenly announced that this was the end of an era. All of the furnishings had already been sold, and the place was slated to be torn down soon. Their last day is March 30.

Yeah, I should have seen that coming. 

After promising Wilson we would return next week to say good bye, we wandered down to the fish markets and learned the same sad news.  The wharf will also be closing at some point- maybe this summer. The developers say the fish market will be back, but it will never be the same, of course, and the waterman we talked to didn't know how he would survive the proposed two year closing.

The Washington we once knew is fast slipping away- eroding quicker than a beach at high tide- so explore it while you can before the whole city qualifies for "Ghosts of DC" - a great site for those who like walking backwards.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Musings Upon a Long Winter

Yes, it's snowing again here in DC. The weather industry has come up with all sorts of snappy nick names for storms, but I think I'll stick with exactly what's happening here- a long winter. This might be the wrong time to bring it up, considering it's late March, but I love the white stuff.  I associate snow with sledding and hot chocolate and pancakes. I don't like driving in it, but I love watching it from a window- feeling lucky that I am inside.

Snow was a great cause for celebration growing up because of the possibility of "a get out of jail free" card at school. It didn't happen very often, but I still remember the suppressed exhalation of joy that would escape when, while trapped at our desks, one of us would look out of the window. "Oh! It's snowing!" someone would whisper, and all eyes would leave the teacher.

Back then I loved the "Little House" books so much that when the TV series came along I was truly offended that Michael Landon didn't grow a beard for his part as "Pa." The Long Winter was one of my favorites- the story of a tiny frontier town enduring an endless succession of blizzards,  but what I remember most about the book was the pancakes.

illustration by Garth Williams

To refresh your memory, the handsome Wilder boys, entrepreneurs of their day, had hoarded seed wheat and hid it in the wall of their shanty. Every night they would enjoy buckwheat pancakes while the rest of the town was on the edge of starvation.  No ordinary griddle cakes these- they were "light as foam, soaked through with brown sugar." The description goes on, but the scene was so wonderful that to this day, I am driven to make pancakes almost every snow fall. (Sometimes I even make them for dinner - eaten by candlelight of course)

That winter, which really happened in South Dakota in the early 1880s, makes DC's white out look like a piece of angel food cake. Yeah, the snow is falling, but the streets are (mercifully) clear; and even if they weren't, we have snow plows and public transportation. (back then even the train could not get through) We've got electricity and various sources of heat. Indoor plumbing. A gas stove with four burners...

Who wants pancakes for dinner?

illustration by Garth Williams

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Catch the Soul Train to Frederick

Spring fever brings the clarion call to get out of that cabin and sally forth. This Saturday, when the temperature is predicted to hit seventy, might be a good day to consider motoring up to Frederick. Once there, you could stop in at Vinyl Acres and maybe even visit with DC veteran rockers Martha Hull and Bob Berberich. Their record shop is about a two minute walk to where Bob is playing Saturday night in downtown Fred. Have a bite somewheres and meet up at the Weinberg Center- a cool old theater which will be featuring Ronnie Newmyer's colossal spectacular of Southern Soul. Ronnie has corralled talent from all over this burg including  Bob Berberich,  Jon Carroll, Tom Principato, Patty Reese and members of the Hardway Connection. That's just to mention a fraction of musicians who will be working their show with three bands: Soul Serenaders, Soul Crackers and King Soul. Tickets are $20, but you can get the DC insiders' discount by entering the promo code: "Tribute 20" which will shave off 4 bucks.

Don't feel like leaving town? The same circus of characters in the Soul tribute show will be at  Bethesda Blues and Jazz this Friday night.

And another alternative for Saturday?  Hang close in with DC's own Nighthawks- back where a lot of bands belong- in Georgetown at Gypsy Sally's.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hanging Tough

At least my geraniums are thinking Spring. This eagerly awaited season arrives here in Washington on Thursday when we will wake up to our Earth leaning neither toward nor away from the Sun. The equinox happens at 7:02 a.m. here in the District of Columbia.

Weather forecast? As of now sunny and high near 60.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Don't Check This Out

The Quarry House. It can get crowded. It can be loud. Sometimes it can even smell a little weird, but The Beatnik Flies are playing there this Saturday, and the Flies rock.

 I won't say anymore because I don't want anyone else to come.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

DC Trash Talk

Jake Flack of the Rhodes Tavern Troubadours has a way with words and a wicked sense of humor. His song "Supercan," a DC anthem of sorts, sincerely thanks Marion Barry for bringing us those democratic vessels that grace our alleys, and only gently alludes to our mayor-for-life's foibles. Just this month, we denizens of the District got brand new Supercans thanks to our current mayor Vincent Gray. But along with the garbage bins came a new report further involving Mayor Gray's possible involvement with a shady shadow campaign. Despite his denials, things smell a little off -a lot like that that forgotten chicken sandwich in the back of the firdge.

DC politics as usual?

It's makes my head hurt to think about it. That's why I'll be at Iota this Friday night listening to the Troubadours rock and roll rather than Mayor Grey making statements that begin with "to be honest..." The uber- talented though sometimes elusive Marshall Keith will make a rare appearance to get the night going bringing the sum total of Slickee Boys in the house up to two. Music starts round 9. Cover only $12.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lundi Gras

When people fall in love with New Orleans, they fall hard. Head over heels, ass over teakettle, hard. Some come for work, others for the music. Some find themselves here just on a whim. A guy I talked to last night drove with a buddy from Maryland, woke up under a banana palm, finished off the bottle of wine he had started the night before, and made up his mind that this was the town for him.. eighteen years ago.

Every time I come here I come in contact with people from Washington. One young couple from DC  came down here post Katrina and started the St Bernard Project to help survivors who couldn't afford to fix their own storm damaged homes. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my son touring a few of those houses.

Life here is sweet. People are friendly and extremely creative. New Orleans is not your usual homogeneous American town, but a unique and spicy blend of cultures which trickle down from French, Spanish and African settlers. Religious refugees from Arcadia found their way here. Pirates felt at home. Musicians, writers and artists continue to flock here.

Right now - the city is pulsing with excitement. Mardi Gras is upon us, and raw energy is pumping throughout the neighborhoods. People walking to and from parades and parties are a pageant in and of themselves-all decked out in feathers and beads, funny hats and striped shirts. King cakes are piled up at the grocery store. Purple yellow and green feathers are stuck in fences and scattered across lawns by the wind. If you have never been, it might be  time you came down to see for yourself, but be aware, you might fall in love, too.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hallmark Happy Hour

 If you ever went down to the old 9:30 club for happy hour in the 1980s,  you more than likely got a drink from Mark Hall. Mark first got into the bar biz at Columbia Station in the mid 1970s, but he also worked at Desperados and dc space. He was a manager, bartender and deejay at 9:30 for many years, and played everything from punk to Bob Dylan; go-go to Bach. At happy hour, he both bar tended and deejayed. I still remember some of those videos he played - Run DMC's "Walk This Way," ( which was a sort of battle of the bands with Aerosmith.) INXS' "Need You Tonight" with that hot guy in the leather jacket. Robert Palmer and his girls. The Cure.

It's been over 20 years since Mark Hall's last happy hour at the old 9:30 Club, and about time we got together with old friends and new. Please come out and raise a glass, but also help raise funds for "Hallmark" so Mark can stay in his apartment until he figures out what's next. 

The Big Hunt is throwing a rent party from 4-7 pm on March 16. Expect live music from Roaddog and The Yachtsmen. ( which include members of former bands you might recall like The Razz , Slickee Boys, Jr Cline, Nightman and Southern Wind to name a few) 

Cash bar. 

If you can't join the party, donations can be sent to: 
Mark Hall Fund 
3311 19th Street, N.W. 
Washington, DC 20010