Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mardi Gras Mambo Time

Living here on the semi frozen tundra of the Mid-Atlantic, it is hard to remember that Carnival season is upon us, and indeed, almost half over. Mardi Gras falls on a Tuesday this year, (hah) on February 17th to be exact.  A mere 18 days, 11 hours, and 33 minutes from now. (Make that 32 minutes.)

In New Orleans parades are already rolling and gaudy as all get out King cakes are stacked eye high in the grocery stores. Mardi Gras "carols" are playing on the radio- especially on WWOZ , "guardians of the groove." Through the magic of the internet you can tune in live -just like I am now. As I write "Treme Mardi Gras" featuring Kermit Ruffins just played followed by Louis Armstrong, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Creole Clarinets.

But if you cant 't buy a ticket South, DC has a couple of local bands playing this Saturday night, January 31st that could fit the bill.  Little Red and the Renegades are promising an accordion and steel drum driven "Mardi Gras blow out," at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, and The Beat Hotellodging at the Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda, are going for "Mardi Gras swamp funk," complete with horns.

Only 18 days and 10 hours to go y'all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Old Schoolin' It

I've mentioned Gypsy Sally's many times since it opened a little over a year ago. It was great to hear about a new club, and it's a lot nicer than bars I remember frequenting "back in the day." The room has wonderful bones complete with a real stage, a nice long bar, elevated tables, and a dance floor, but the owners of the club are a bit at sea. They just let one of the best booking agents in the area slip through their fingers, so I have to wonder how long this venue will last. It would be a shame to lose this club considering the dearth of Places to Go in Georgetown.

That being said an intriguing show is coming up at Gypsy Sally's this Friday, harkening back to a time when DC was chock full of saloons. Two retro-inspired bands: Miss Tess and the Talkbacks and the Bumper Jacksons will bring their own twist to old school jazz, vintage country, and deep roots rock. The Bumper Jacksons say their sound covers music from "the brothels of New Orleans to Appalachian hollers," if that gives you a better clue. Both bands are fronted by women, (hear us roar) and both look like a barrel of fun. A lot of music for $15.

Saturday night, those Southern slingers of Memphis stax, King Soul, will stage a comeback at the Takoma VFW- down in the holler off Eastern Avenue. Old school music, dancing and cheap drinks served up in a true blue dive. Cover just 10 clams. Or head over to the Quarry House where Monsters from the Surf and El Quatro take charge. (No cover there)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fancy Is as Fancy Does ?

Last Saturday night almost 400 people paid $15 a piece to see the Vi-Kings at the posh, but somewhat controlling Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club. (The name kind of paints a picture, doesn't it?) Tack on to that price tag, a $10 minimum, and a lack of choice as far as seating goes- same price no matter whether you are seated on a first come first served basis. (and if you don't arrive with your friends, don't count on sitting with them.) Dress code: suggested business casual. (A jacket, boys, but you can lose the tie.) For your money? It's a great place to see a show if you are feeling fancy, and there is an ample dance floor if they move enough tables, but if your budget is tight, or you chafe at being told where to sit…think twice.

On the B side (as in basement) this Saturday, the same band is playing at the Quarry House in Silver Spring- no cover, no minimum and no seating restrictions except by the limitations of the room. The Quarry House is…intimate. You may have to ask someone if you can steal a chair or share a table, but that makes it all the merrier in my book. The fanciest things here are the libations, and if you study the drink menu religiously like I have, you can find a mighty nice bourbon for $6.  (Bring a flashlight) Dress code: Business casual minus da bidness. The guys in the Vi-kings will play just as hard here as they did Bethesda Blues, and  although the Quarry House may not be as comfortable as a supper club, neither is rock n roll.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Good Hang

Singer songwriters Eric Brace and Karl Straub have known each other for close to 25 years now, but since Eric moved to Nashville, it had to become one of those long distance type of affairs. Despite the miles between them though, they did manage to finish a project which I will loosely call an American roots opera- loosely based on the story of Ike and Betsy. (You know Ike and Betsy, that couple from Pike? )

Yes. A musical kind of thing based on a song we used to sing in grade school.

Much as I respect both these guys, I confess "Hangtown Dancehall" sounded like a recipe for a coal mine disaster to me. I was skeptical, but I was lucky enough to see this dream of theirs come to life last fall at the Birchmere; and now I am a true believer. 

That being said, "Hangtown" is NOT happening at IOTA this Sunday, but Karl and Eric will be doing an acoustic set of songs from the show, as well as old Last Train Home/Graverobbers numbers and some new stuff, too. This will be one of those performances that may or may not happen again, so don't count on another chance. 

 Show starts at 8:30 sharp. $12 cover.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cool Thoughts on a Snowy Day

With temperatures struggling to get out of the twenties, every single snow flake that fell today is not budging an inch. Gladly stuck at home for now,  I'm pondering what's cool and what's not.

What's cool?
The Martini Shot: a new collection of short stories by our own home boy, George Pelecanos. George, whose writing draws a bead on DC as only a local can, will be appearing at the new  Busboys and Poets in Brookland next week.

What else is cool?
All the movies and books coming out about DC's punk scene, WHFS and the 9:30 Club.

What's not cool is getting so wrapped up in what was, that we forget about what is. A lot of great old memories cropped up with the recent premiere of "Salad Days", but fellow old codgers have commented about getting around the nostalgia to what is happening now.

We may have lost a lot of old venues, but musicians from those "back in the day" bands (like Government Issue, White Boy, Beatnik Flies, and Slickee Boys) are still out there wielding axes and slogging away at our local music scene. Meanwhile young bands are cropping up with all kinds of ideas and sounds. DC ROCKS can't keep up, but look for The NRIs, The Walking Sticks, The Very Small and Bumper Jacksons.  And check out Jack On Fire's demo "Burn Down the Brixton" a funny and very local number sounding off about  DC's newer hipster scene.

Stay warm this week, but please remember going out is cool!