Wednesday, December 30, 2015

So Long 2015

Thursday night people will be drinking champagne, donning funny hats and blowing strange looking horns. Such behavior just about sums up New Year's Eve here in America. In Romania, however, folks dress up like bears. In Rio de Janeiro, there are parties on the beach with offerings honoring the sea goddess. In Scotland people have been known to fling fireballs.

That reminds me- one memorable New Year's Eve, I attended a back yard party in Silver Spring where I was informally deputized as Fire Marshal. The culminating ceremony at midnight involved a flaming croquet ball rollicking  down gutter like structures a la Rube Goldberg, from the first floor deck to a discarded, fuel soaked Christmas tree. I was unceremoniously handed a shovel, and my job was to give that ball a little boost in case it fell short of its mark, which it did not. Due to a generous amount of liberally applied accelerants, the result was spectacular, although the blowback came dangerously close to torching my hair. True story. (And possibly my one and only appearance on YouTube.)

Personally I like an outdoor event involving fire or bear suits to usher in the New Year. Second to the croquet incident, First Night Alexandria can be a low-key cool thing with plenty of live music, but if you want to shake things up the last night of 2015, Trouble Funk at the 9:30 Club will never let you down. Peace and love and all the best for 2016. Let's try and keep it going' one more year.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Throwing Back Christmas

Christmas Eve was once the most magical night of all for me. A live tree suddenly appeared in our otherwise pristine living room.  Candy canes and cookies. Presents. And that stocking thing. How crazy was that? It didn't look like my mother's panty hose, but what the heck- let's call it a stocking if someone is going to fill that thing with candy and toys.

I believed in Santa Claus. I actually heard hooves on the roof when I was four, although by the time I was five, I felt a tiny arrow of doubt pierce my small brain. Wisely I didn't let on to the parents just in case they pulled the plug on all that gift giving stuff.

Back then the TV was a fixed item that stayed put in one room. It was too heavy to move, and you had to plan your life around what show was on. "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" appeared in early December often on my friend Joy's birthday. If she had a party or a sleepover at her house,  everything stopped while we all watched "Rudolph." Now you can catch the whole shootin' match on youtube.

Christmas with the parents continued deep into my adult life, but now that they are gone, we struggle to reinvent tradition. This year my daughter and her boyfriend arrived at 3 a.m. having driven straight through from New Orleans. My grown son, also home, seems to have developed an addiction to the "Andy Griffith Show." He carries his lap top from room to room, and suddenly, instead of making gumbo, I find myself captivated by an impossibly adorable and tiny Ron Howard asking "Why, Pa?"

I am lucky that my children are home, and I remind myself not to dwell on our lack of an "Aunt Bee" around the house. (Never mind those deserted beer bottles popping up like mushrooms everywhere, and that alarming pile of dishes in the sink.)

My parents' house was always neat and tidy. not. But we still watch the old movies and TV shows, and milk them for meaning. Last night my daughter chose "Rudolph." Not a favorite really, but for old times' sake, we pulled the DVD out and preceded to over analyze.  Hmmmmm. Was this just a metaphor for a mixed up little gay deer coming out to his controlling father and mean boy friends?  And after all these years how could I have missed Yukon's sled dogs included a dachshund and some sort of purple poodle?

Nowadays every Christmas is different, and traditions are shaky as we meld our past with the present, all the while making new memories. Hopefully funny ones. And even though this contentious country is supposed to be about freedom of religion, Christmas has always bulldozed its way in, taking no prisoners and leaving many of us feeling like we don't belong. This may be why I take comfort in Rudolph's words when he, Yukon, and Hermey, the dentist-elf stood before the lion king and introduced themselves this way:

"Well, sir. We're just a couple of misfits from Christmas town."

Aren't we all?

Merry Christmas.

P.S. No matter what your tradition,  DC Rocks has misfit options for you: IOTA will be screening old Star Wars movies both this evening and Christmas night, and for the musically inclined head over to JV's for  Dave Chappell tonight, Jr Cline tomorrow and jingle on...

Monday, December 14, 2015

WWW Just Dance

Ah, the Internet. Our world wide web of wonder. Last week, I wanted to see if my daughter had started her day down in New Orleans, and I found myself texting her "Up and at 'em, Atom Ant." This phrase set off a dusty little bell in the back of my brain. That was a cartoon, right? I didn't just make that up, or did I? So what did I do? What every thinking citizen in this bizarre-o brave new world does:

I asked my phone.

Seconds later this image appeared.

(And of course, there's more ant footage on youtube.)

Then there's this little masterpiece of a mash up matching a Bruno Mars song to dance numbers used in old films. The timing is just right, but what struck me most was how much fun and how beautiful people can be at their best, and how music can bring those qualities out in all of us.

Finally the Internet wants me to tell you that this Wednesday evening The Thrillbillys and Ruthie and the Wranglers are on a double bill at Gypsy Sally's. Georgetown's closest thing to an old fashioned bar and dance hall. Excellent musicians and old friends will be celebrating the season as well as Bill Starks' birthday. Many of my readers already know what I'm talking about here, but this kind of show is why I write about local music on the ' net. It'll be a lot more fun if you come, too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Last weekend I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue pondering how unrecognizable these blocks are in front of the White House. The street doesn't look like a street- it looks like a pedestrian mall, which is exactly what it is now. When I stopped contemplating the surface I was walking on, I looked up to see a burly guy in uniform with a fed up expression on his face, one arm stiffly folded across his chest while his index finger pointed to the left.  I looked at him confused. "Get on the sidewalk," he said. Were cars coming? I looked around. "There's an event going on. Obviously," he snapped. Oh. Okay. There's a party at the White House and instead of funneling guests through the side or god forbid the back entrances where E Street has also been taken from us, we the tax payers are pushed onto “the sidewalk.” The meaning of terrorism for many translates into gruesome and tragic death counts, but for us this week in Washington, it is an ever pervading loss of little freedoms as we walk beneath the half mast flags. 

Photo by Kevin Lamarque

Later that day I went home and rewatched ”Oh, God" which just happened to come up on my Netflix queue. It’s not the best movie in the world although George Burns is priceless. He appears pretty much as himself in the role of God, but in a human form that a simple grocery clerk played by John Denver can understand. (Yes, that John Denver- the singer- not the guy who played Gilligan.) God wanted John Denver's character to get his message out- that we need to stop hurting and killing each other.  "There's been enough of that," he said. God also wanted us to know that organized religions are getting in the way of that goal.  Oh, and that we should take care of the planet. To quote: " Have you ever tried to make a fish from scratch?" This little gem came out in 1977. Maybe Donald Trump needs to put this in his movie queue. It's hard to argue with George Burns.

Or are we collectively just not smart enough to get it?

Today marks another sad event in American history- the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. He was gunned down in front of his apartment building thirty five years ago, walking home from a studio session. I was in college when it happened, and didn't hear the news until I woke up the next day.  I love this short essay remembering the event by our own Bob Boilen, the musical wizard behind the curtain at NPR. As for me, I wished I could go back to sleep, pull the covers over my head and pretend it never happened.  An impulse that has cropped up more times than I can count since 1981. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Abaad Rocks

My internet service has been sketchy for a long time, but last Sunday it went completely kaput. After introducing me to a couple of nice guys in India, Verizon finally sent over a real live person today.  This guy crawled all over the house, inside and out and finally discovered that the phone line had been cut, then taped up by some nimrod. Meantime all week my son has been doing his math homework on his cell phone, and bad girl that I can be, I didn't do my homework at all.

Thank goodness, now that the new line is up, and I'm back in cyber land, my virtual desk is close enough so I can look over John Kelly's shoulder and copy off his paper. Lucky for me, his inspiring Washington Post story about long time DC rocker Abaad Behram is the perfect prelude to this Friday's show at Villain and Saint featuring  Johnny Bombay and the Reactions and Jake Starr and exactly what I wanted to write about.

See you there.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Post Dinner Wingdings

Suffering from the nimiety of Thursday? Want to shake your tail feathers?  The fellows of Goin' Goin' Gone and King Soul will be all over that dance mission this Saturday night - one in Bethesda and the other Takoma Park on opposite sides of  that Red Line horseshoe. All you have to do is show up with a little bread and dances in your head.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thinking Thanksgiving

My most prevalent Thanksgiving memory might be one of my mother sighing in the kitchen while my father, un-showered and unshaven, a leaf blower strapped to his back is still buzzing around the patio just fifteen minutes before fifty or so Greek family members arrive at 5 p.m. sharp.

My craziest Thanksgiving weekend? The year my little cousins from Florida put ice in all the water glasses thus spreading a virulent and somewhat violent stomach flu throughout the family. This became apparent on Saturday when we all staggered into St Sophia's for my daughter's christening-valiantly setting forth unaware that every other one of us was as green as the next guy. At the after party back at my parents' house, my father was found sleeping underneath a pile of coats left on his bed. Probably best that I don't add a picture here.

My Thanksgiving song. "Alice's Restaurant." Anyone who grew up with WHFS knew to tune the radio in on Thanksgiving Day for Arlo Guthrie's version of just what happened to him "two Thanksgiving ago or two years ago on Thanksgiving," not at Alice's restaurant because that's not where Alice lives, but at the church nearby the restaurant where she lives with her husband Ray and Facha, the dog. This year, by the by,  marks the fiftieth anniversary of "Blind Justice."

Thanksgiving movie. Barry Levinson's "Avalon." One of my favorites, and quite possibly one of the most beautiful movies ever made about life here in these United States. Lesson learned? Don't cut the turkey without Uncle Gabriel.

Best thanksgiving dinner. ( Besides my mother's real in-the-bird stuffing that she hid in the kitchen, and my dad's free samples delivered by greasy fingers right from the bird and into your mouth )
One I won't have- my friend Paul's making turducken up in Maine today where it's a balmy 40 degrees in Bangor. And this one: Turkey, Oysters and Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham served up by my niece and her husband in Plum Point, Maryland, hopefully later today.
Happy Thanksgiving and much love to my friends and family near and far.

Friday, November 20, 2015

La Ville Lumiere

Paris.... The city of lights. Possibly named so because Louis the IV ordered his streets to be well lit, or maybe because it was one of the first cities to have gas lamps. Still others think the moniker dates back to all those big idea dudes like Voltaire and Rousseau. For me, it's the town where my waaaay back childhood friend, Karen lives.

Although my hopelessly romantic side longs to revert to the Jazz Age so I could booze around with Scotty and Zelda, present day me was a very happy camper last summer when Karen's husband Andy kindly took us to a former road along the Seine which was closed forever in favor of picnics. After watching the sunset with a decent little bottle of wine, we walked home past the Eiffel Tower lit up like a Christmas tree, tricked out with light and laser beams as it is most evenings.

To top it off, a wild little light show takes place close to midnight. The whole thing shimmers for about ten minutes like a giant sparkler on the Fourth of July. We could see the spectacle if we looked straight up through a tree in Karen and Andy's back yard.

When the news hit on Friday,  my first worries were allayed when a sleep deprived Karen shot me an email late on that dark night telling me that she and her family were safe. Karen sent me this picture last Saturday.

Aside from my friend, I feel a kind of kinship with Paris.  I've experienced the vista from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower which beat out the Washington monument for man made height in 1888. Between the river and the bridges, I see the inspiration for Washington. Having lived through the 9/11 attacks, I remember the eerie quiet of that otherwise beautiful September day when no air traffic except fighter jets ripped through our blue skies, and everyone but the residents left town for weeks on end. Our hearts were full of pain... and dread. Last weekend I wondered what would happen next in Paris? Would things shut down? Would children go back to school?

Here's what a Parisian father ( caught on video) said to his three year old son who was wondering if they would have to leave Paris to be safe:

Father: "Don't worry … We don't need to move out. France is our home," Angel tells Brandon in the video.
Brandon: "But there's bad guys, Dad."
Father: "Yes, but there are bad guys everywhere."
Brandon: "They have guns, they can shoot us because they are really mean, Daddy."
Father: "It's ok, they might have guns, but we have flowers," Angel tells Brandon.
"They have guns; we have flowers." As all the politics swirl around this event, this is the quote that struck me the most. How every day people pick up their lives after such a traumatic event. For Paris, as for us in Washington, the pain and anxiety will remain fresh for far too long, but the official mourning lasted only three days. People did go back to work. Kids went back to school. This is the picture Karen sent me on Monday- taken on the way home after picking her son up from orchestra practice:

Lights. Flowers. Candles.
We do our best as humans to light the darkness which sometimes we bring upon ourselves.  We continue the struggle to learn to live together on a scale big and small. Le vivre ensemble. Be patient with that idiot who just cut you off on the Beltway. You never know when a small kindness might make a huge difference.  Might create a revolution

Lumiere. Les fleurs. Les bougies.  Vive la France.
And Happy Birthday, Karen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Ruckus in the Rumpus Room

Do you remember the first Clyde's down in Georgetown?  It once was an unpretentious little place for a burger and a beer. Legend has it, this is where Bill Danoff, inspired by the happy hour menu, penned that tenacious ear worm of a tune "Afternoon Delight."

In 1995 Clyde's opened another location- this time distinctly more upscale and uptown in Chevy Chase. Ten years later when upscale upgraded itself,  Clyde's (and Giant) held their own as that stretch of Wisconsin Avenue was transformed into Rodeo Drive.  Upstairs there's still a really nice restaurant with a model train making the rounds, but down in the basement where the transportation theme continues,  the bar is humming, and the music is free.  (And on Fridays, there's a second happy hour at 10 p.m. Honk!)

This weekend the Watt Brothers will rock this space on Friday and The Beat Hotel hit it on Saturday. Both bands guaranteed to breathe life into an other wise dull part of town.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Washington's True Colors

Last post I pondered the angst causing angle of sunlight these Autumn days, but this time, due to our possibly politically incorrect Indian Summer, Washington will be shining its "True Colors." Even though the days are hair-wrenchingly shorter than last week, the weather will rock with unseasonably warm temperatures and sunny skies.

(photo by Roger Cokinos)
I wish I had out of town guests. Then I'd have an excuse to walk the C and O, or check out the view from either Fred Douglass' or Bobby Lee's front porches for technicolor tableaus of our swinging metropolis.  Another place I like to take people is the Claude Moore Farm where you can gin up the time machine and head back to 1771 for a hang with the tenant farmers. It's a bit like a really poor man's Williamsburg. (Double bonus? Spying on the cloak and dagger folks jogging behind the fence at the CIA.)

(Photo/ DC Rocks)

The final field trip would be to JV's in Outer Mongolia. Actually this bastion of "ageless charm without yuppie bastardization" is just down the road from Falls Church proper, but if you wander too far you will land in the cobweb of Seven Corners. Here our mediocre model of American Suburb runs amok, and is aptly symbolized by this monkey-gone-mental morass of an intersection so try and plan your route carefully.

Possible travel perils aside, JV's is worth the risk- nestled where it is on Route 50 in a small shopping center between the Goodwill and a decent Asian restaurant. But it's a perfect little live music venue with stage, dance floor and bar, a scene kept hopping by Lorraine Campbell for many a moon.

(photo by Gerald Martineau)
Thursday is my usual go-to night, and plenty of people are in the know already, but this weekend the Thrillbillys will be doing a rare Saturday evening appearance for all you week night shut-ins. Five dollar cover for an ass- kicking band.

(Photo By Gerald Martineau)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Slippin' Into Darkness

October in Washington DC, and we find ourselves once again on a planet tilting tragically away from the sun. As the trees struggle with the DTs of chlorophyll withdrawal, we humans tend to seek solace in costuming under the cloak of an ever deepening twilight. Disturbing apparitions replace summer flowers while front yards are transformed into theaters of the macabre.

And most scary of all?
Big plastic bags o' tiny treats piling up all over the place. Just one won't hurt, right? They're so little after all...NO!
Step away from that mini Mars bar. Drop that bite sized Reese's Cup. Put. Down. The Jujubes.

DC ROCKS' recourse for denying those sugar lovin' soul sucking demons is to lock those seemingly harmless snack sized Snickers in a closet and tell someone stronger than yourself to hide the key until just before dusk on Saturday when the little ghouls will come a begging.

But have mercy on our souls for the flesh is weak. Distract yourselves from that tempting closet door by attending the Halloween Howl  at Bethesda Blues on Friday where you'll find all kinds of monsters making merry melodies ...

On All Hallow's Eve itself,  opportunities abound to get out and "listen to the children of the night."

For starters Roaddog will be howling at El Golfo in Silver Spring.

The Vi-kings spook up spirits of the '60s at Bethesda Blues...

 "The Dead Will Rise" at Villain and Saint with Black Muddy River Band...

And last but not least- just up up the Pike- the Ubangis and the Rock-A-Sonics will be scaring things up at Hank Dietles- an old road house haunt for many a lost soul.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Where in the World is Westover?

It's hard to describe the Westover Market Beer Garden in one sentence. It's a grocery store. And a pub. And a butcher shop. Like JV's, it's a little bit of anarchy in an otherwise innocuous Virginia shopping center. I can't even tell you where it is without cheating and looking at a map, but it's not far from the Virginia side of DC, maybe somewhat to the right of Seven Corners triangulated by Falls Church and Bermuda?? I know that's going to be a challenge for all us right handed Marylanders and DC centered types, but it might be worth the navigation. In summer there are live bands outside. In the winter there's usually a bonfire going, and a party waiting to happen. Oh, and did I mention the crazy ass beer selection? I mean there's barely enough room for the groceries. And there's good food served up to boot.

This Saturday is the last concert of the season featuring The Yachtsmen and Chef Jay's Jumpin' Jupiter. Beware-this is the great outdoors, and the music will start early around 5 p.m. ending at 9.
Get your compasses, your sextant, and your GPS at the ready. On your mark. Get set...Go dogs go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Eat a Peach

This morning the Allman Bros' "Blue Sky" is blasting on my juke box reminding me to be happy. Just a little while ago, I was fumbling around in that fog of getting out of bed too early with too much to do, but now I've got "early morning sunshine - tell me all I need to know." It was music that got me through those grinding days of high school, the emotional wrenches of loves gone South, and today it will most likely be mopping the kitchen floor. Thank you all you musical types for keeping that torch lit, and don't forget to dig around your musty albums, or cracked CD cases, or scroll through that digitized weirdness we have at our fingertips nowadays and give yourself the present of cranking it up now and then.

This Thursday find that flame still a burning when 7 Door Sedan throws itself a CD release party at Jackie's Sidebar in Silver Spring which, just as an aside, was the end of the Red Line from 1978 until 1990 for all you Metro history buffs. Doors are at 8 and music at 9 opening with Spidercake.
$5 gets you in with the in crowd.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

An Octopus's Garden Under Water

A few weeks ago much needed rains swamped our area bringing relief to area gardens, but too much water for the folks at Vinyl Acres up in Frederic.  Although most of the store's inventory was ruined in the resulting flood, the music history here can't be squelched considering the proprietors, Bob Berberich and Martha Hull both hail from deep in the bedrock of DC's music scene.

Fresh out of St John's High School, Bob Berberich hung his high hat with The Hangmen, a group that had DC girls swooning in the 1960s and their hit "What a Girl Can Do" was number one on the local charts.

Bob later played with the Rosslyn Mountain Boys and also with Nils Lofgren in Grin.  Here they are outstanding in their field.

Meanwhile in a remote corner of Bethesda, Martha Hull went to Walter Johnson High and dreamed of being the lead singer for the Slickee Boys. The rest is local rock history as far as that goes, and anyone who ever saw her perform will find it hard to forget how well Martha delivers the song.

 You can help keep this cool little store rocking by donating here or by attending the swinging re-opening party this Saturday. Live music starts at noon and promises to run all day and then some.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Female Humans Rock

Color me slow to catch on, but I didn't comprehend that women could play the guitar until I saw Joan Baez on TV. I was only about seven at the time, and my family wasn't especially musical -tuning so that concert  made a huge impact on me. By the time my fifth grade teacher Ms Wenger came along sporting long hippie hair, mini dresses, and her own guitar, I was sold. (I may have flunked the geography test, but I was gung- ho for my happening classmate, Georgie Mechlin to teach me the chords to "House of the Rising Sun.")

Times have changed. And changed again.

This Thursday it's nothing but female fronted bands including Gina Harlow and the Cutthroats rocking the night at the Tree House Lounge on Florida Avenue.