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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Porch Time

One memorable year a ways back, two of my children briefly became vegetarians while they were  in school. Not at the same time, of course, because that would have been too easy for the resident chef. They transformed separately and consecutively. The girl child was moved by a film she saw in class- a somewhat brutal exposition on the beef industry. It was "the next cow watching" that sent her over the edge. The boy, on the other hand, was a committed consumer of bacon, and had always eschewed anything remotely colored green. He converted on a bet.

This teenage episode reminds me of the People's Republic of Takoma Park. Goofy and politically over correct, it's a community we love in spite of itself. A nuclear free zone which spawned Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Fahey and Root Boy Slim as well as "Cat Man," "Fox Man" and "Roscoe." Azalea City: eclectic old homes and beautiful porches.

Come Saturday afternoon, like cicadas emerging from the murky underground, musicians of many stripes will be out in broad day light for the fifth annual Takoma Porch Fest happening from 2-4 p.m.  Click the link for handy map and schedule, and check out this cool little never never land for yourself.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Not Fade Away

Bob Weir /from Diamondback archives

I was never a huge Grateful Dead fan, but my UMD housemates sure were. If memory serves me, Dougal, Chauncy, Stuart and Pete all camped out in the snow to get tickets for the Dead's show at Ritchie Coliseum back in the 1980s. It was a big deal. Pete even designed commemorative tee shirts featuring Jerry Garcia's head on a terrapin's body. And thanks to my housemates, I found myself sitting on a folding chair close to the front. And thanks to the internet,  I can tell you exactly when that show was: Saturday March 7, 1981 to be exact. And it wasn't at Ritchie- it was at Cole Field House. With the date pinned down, I can find my own journal entry. (Being the odd child that I am, I took my notebook to the concert.)

"Row 11 Seat 5. Shoved Stuart over one. Everybody's standing on their chair swaying and screaming  looking glassy eyed at the stage. Alcohol, cigarettes, sweat and pot.  "It looks like rain, " Jerry croons and the crowd goes wild.  Now everybody's clapping, but all I see is a sea of knees. I  can occasionally get a glimpse of this page by the light of a flashbulb. I smell hash."

It was right about then that a flashbulb went off in my own head. I realized what a mistake I had made by attending the event stone cold sober.  Still it was a feather in my cap to be able to say I saw the Dead. And I wish I still had my tee shirt.

Fast forward to now. Jerry Garcia's famous "wolf" guitar which once brought almost a million dollars at auction, is being sold again.  This story didn't really catch my interest until I heard that the sale will be an unprecedented act of love beyond fandom. The man who bought the guitar in 2002 has pledged to donate all of the proceeds of the auction and the accompanying concert to the Southern Poverty Law Center - a group which has mounted the charge against hate groups and racism.  This "box of rain" is the kind of love this country needs. Now more than ever.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Connect the Dots?

A plethora of shows this weekend line up with a galaxy of genres: Psychedelic Prog Rock, Polyrhythmic Post Punk, Americana, Shoegaze, Roots Rock, Psych Dance, Street Blues, Gonzo Folk, Bar Prog, Party Metal, Math Rock just to name a few. Something for everyone. Right?  If you're left a bit dazed by all these monikers, get a magic marker and try to connect the bands to their ilk. Or just go with the flow and throw a dart. One thing they all have in common? As per DC ROCKS' credo- nothing here over $20 - most under $15- or no cover. All more fun than staying home and watching the news. Local music needs local people!


Greenland is back ! along with Emma and Fat Spirit at Slash Run.

Bold Deceivers take down Takoma VFW. 

Eric Brace is back ! with Peter Cooper & Thomm Jutz at Jammin'Java

Bumper Jacksons have a crazy CD Release Party at The Hamilton.


Cravin' Dogs 10th (!) CD / Party at Villain and Saint.

David Goodfriend's new project The Conrads' debut (!) at the Takoma VFW 

The Messthetics- a dream team of former Fugazi players and guitar hero Anthony Pirog will be above ground at Comet Ping Pong with Crown Larks and Time Is Fire.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

These Are People That Aren't gone

Acoustic show with two men who rocked the 1980s. Catch 'em before they head for the West.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ten Bands You Haven't Seen in Bethesda Lately

Bethesda back in the day was mostly a two story sort of town, but now it's easy for natives to get lost looking for familiar landmarks.  As developers knock down one block after another with Godzilla like indifference, rumors are running rampant. What next on the chopping block ?  The Farm Women's Market? Pines of Rome? Tastee Diner? The Psyche Delly? (Okay, the Psyche Delly's gone, but the block is still there.)

Here are ten bands you might remember playing that old rock haunt:

Evan Johns and the H-Bombs, Switchblade, Insect Surfers, King Soul, Tru Fax, Nightman, both The Slickee and the Rosslyn Mountain Boys, Catfish Hodge, Beatnik Flies. 

Wait, one of those is a lie! 

Silly social media games aside, the good news is live music can still be found in Bethesda. Flanagan's Harp and Fiddle took over the Psyche Delly's old address, and  The 19th Street Band will be there FridayMary Ann Redmond plays on Saturday.  Feeling supper club fancy? Cut the rug with Chopteeth at Bethesda Blues or- last but never least- King Soul will be just up the avenue throwing it down at Villain and Saint. Both play this Friday.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Spawn of Travesty

If you remember Cap'n Tugg and Gore de Vol, you grew up when TV programming was anything but generic. Every day after school we watched Cap'n Tugg, cruising the Potomac with Fantail the Parrot, fighting villains like Axel Graxle and Captain Flashflood while pushing "Bosco" to pay the bills.  

He communicated with Mister Flanagan in the engine room with something that looked like (and probably was) a vacuum cleaner hose and received updates from Commander Salamander. The humor of it all sailed right over my elementary school head, but I was a loyal viewer.

Another local celebrity, Creature Feature's horror host, Count Gore de Vol introduced the Langley Punks to the world with the film short Attack of the Paramecium Man. Nowadays films reach for perfection, but we lose the sheer genius which overcame low budget and very low tech. The Langley Punks, who in my humble opinion, were direct spawns of Cap'n Tugg, produced an explosion of insanity from the petri dishes of their imaginations. Who could forget titles like Alcoholics UnanimousHyattsville Holiday and Intestines From Space?

Really? No clue? Then prepare to be educated tomorrow evening at The First Absolutely Final Retrospective gathering and film event at the AFI in Silver Spring.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Can This Date Be Saved?

I don't want to tell you procrastinating types that tax day is not April 15th this year. Why?
Because April 15th is a Saturday, and then comes Sunday which is Emancipation Day, but the holiday shifts to Monday April 17th which is my father's birthday as cited on his birth certificate, but since he was born at home in DC, and since Greeks aren't big on birthdays per se, and perhaps because there was a bit of a language barrier thrown in, we celebrated his birthday on April 18th  his whole life long without knowing any better, which is why this year April 18th is Tax Day. Oh and please note that this Sunday Greek Easter shares the day with regular joe Easter something that happens now and again depending on moons and things. 

But the reason I don't want to tell you about the shifting tax day is because of the fun shows this weekend which you can go to because your taxes are already done. Right? Or you can procrastinate until Monday. Up to you. 

Meanwhile the Desson Thompson Trio will be shaking things up at Villain and Saint and competing for attention with Doug Stevenson and the Spades just down the road at Hank Dietle's. (Bringing us to the question why are there two things to do this Friday when for weeks on end there's nothing on tap?
 (Answer? See paragraph one.)

And Saturday, especially for those of you who live left of town, Ruthie of the Wranglers has this to say:

So what heading does this show fit under? Music, party/nightlife, comedy, concert, barn dance, country, americana, roots rock n roll, hollerin' contest, beer slam, dance, social, relaxation therapy, love-in? I need some of all of that!! Scientically proven to improve your mood. WARNING: Side Effects include smiling, weight loss, increased appetite, fits of laughter, possible slurred speech and uncontrollable dance-like quick movements which may become permanent. 8:30 pm. Let's rock it! We are NOT EVEN CHARGING ADMISSION FOR THIS SHOW!

Friday, April 7, 2017

What Goes Around

Glen Echo Park has come full circle since it was first envisioned as a Chautauqua community. An artists' utopia. In the 1890s, it was touted as "Glen Echo on the Potomac: the Washington Rhine." Original plans called for a large sylvan amphitheater, a hall of philosophy, a women's temple, and a school of fine arts, as well as hotels and cottages.

Clara Barton, who was a rock star at the time, was convinced to join the community with a donation of land for her Red Cross headquarters, but by 1897, when she left her offices in Washington, (above d.c space) the Chautauqua dream was over. Fake news and rumors of malaria had scared people away causing the artist's colony to fail financially after only one successful season. Clara Barton, a nurse and ever pragmatic, was still happy to have the space for her enterprise.

The rest of the property was rented to carnival folk, and in 1906, the manager tried to chase Ms Barton away by building a roller coaster in her front yard. But he underestimated the eighty-five year old Barton. She had scavenged building materials for her home and worked on the interior herself, and she still prided herself on being able to hammer a straight nail. She didn't budge, and her house is on my top ten list of cool places to visit. (Admission is free.)

Over the years Glen Echo on the Potomac was transformed into a full blown amusement park that thrived until the 1960s.

Now, under the management of the National Park Service, Glen Echo is art centric again.  The Dentzel Carousel, a work of art in itself, is the only original ride that was rescued, and it's a grand centerpiece- surrounded by art studios and galleries. I hear Pralines- an outstanding local bakery- has a concession there, too. Dances are held regularly in the perfectly restored Spanish Ballroom, as well as the Bumper Car Pavilion, which is basically an outdoor venue so folks can still take in the scene if they don't want to dance. This Sunday look for the Wild Anacostias  from 3-6.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Two Ply Plea

Spring is here, D.C. Opening Day is tomorrow. Everything is blooming. Birds going ape. Summer is around the bend and that means rocking out at Fort Reno. We hope. From the Slickee Boys to the boys from Fugazi - collectively we've got a lot of memories:  Grin. Tinseled Sin. Babe. Crank. Going Going Gone. Razz. Liz Meyer with Danny Gatton. The Neptunes. Claude Jones. Dinettes. Priests. Tru Fax.  No Trend. The Upsetters. And more recently: Greenland. Nunchucks, Hello Dharma. The Evens. Sleeper Agent. Pup Tent. The Black Sparks.

Davis White recalls: "Fugazi playing on the fringes of a thunderstorm, and if you were there, you know the moment. (Huge fifteen fingered lightning in the sky behind the stage during a dramatic pause in a song."

Recently the Fort has been held hostage by security issues meaning this all volunteer event has to cough up dough to pay for a police presence or it's a no go. We the people who love to rock need to  make sure this unique series survives. Please hit up this link to help.

And another S.O.S. this time in Arlingtron which is rapidly being swallowed wholesale by soulless development. Now IOTA is on the chopping block and faces extinction by corporation. Music fans there are trying to save this space from oblivion starting with a petition to the developer and Arlington County. Here's the link if you would like to sign.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tiny Purple Fishes

When I hear "Tales of Brave Ulysses," I see in my mind a psychedelic mermaid and lyrics painted on the wall of a chicken house on the property of E. Howard Hunt- a not so imaginary wire tapper. Nope. It's not a drug induced flashback- at least not for me. I wasn't cool enough to have drawn it.  It's just a memory. I was about fourteen and barely aware of who Eric Clapton was, but I was learning fast. The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith. That short lived group produced just six songs, but it's one of my favorite albums ever. What a band!

This Friday, Ron Newmyer, has wrangled up yet another crew of musicians; this time to pay homage to Clapton at Bethesda Blues. Imagine tiny purple fishes...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Adios For Now

DC ROCKS would be remiss not to note the passing of Evan Johns in Austin last week. Although Evan left Washington many years ago, his name and energy will always live on here in the DC scene- at least for those of us old enough to know better. The name Danny Gatton is on his resume, but he was a force of nature in his own right, and Austin was lucky to have him in the end. A crazy fun guy making crazy good music is hard to forget.

Here's Evan with another man we miss Michael Maye. (Thanks for posting this where I could find it, Linda Parker. )

And one more from the Austin archives with Danny Gatton.

While we are on a nostalgic note, music connoisseur and archivist Robbie White and former 'HFS deejay Weasel have been curating the local scene this past year with a radio show called "Forbidden Alliance" on WOWD. Past shows include members of the Nighthawks, The Slickee Boys and Razz as well as writers, film makers and deejays. The bad news is the show happens live every Sunday morning from 9 until noon which means many a bleary eyed player staggers in. The good news? Robbie has uploaded the shows for posterity so that we, the lazy people, can listen anytime. Here is that link.

WOWD Takoma Park has a very limited range, but it is a great alternative to "normal radio." You can stream it here.

More good news. Robbie's has a new show- just music this time- called "Put a Bullet Thru the Jukebox" on Wednesday mornings 8-10 a.m. Robbie has pretty much dedicated his life to collecting all kinds of music. He plays everything from the recognizable to 11 and 1/2 minutes of psychedelic 80s rock that I guarantee no one else is putting out there. He is knowledgable and eclectic and will share that talent with you which means never having to turn the channel. Again wickedly early, but you know what to do.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

DST and Other Anomalies

What is going on with this winter that never happened? There are things flowering in my yard that are not supposed to start blooming this early. The birds are freaking out. I'm freaking out. And as my friends said at a bonfire last night: What good is there in finding seven new planets if we can't even go there?

My hero back here on Earth, however, is my favorite kind of human- the smart and funny John Oliver.

He deftly sifts through the facts and fictions of our present reality with brilliance and humor. Especially appropriate for watching this weekend: "How Is Daylight Savings Time Still a Thing?" And two of my current favorites: Trump vs Truth and this astounding visit with the Dalai Lama which sheds light on many levels.

Aside from arming ourselves with truth and resisting the trolls, we all need a throw down. My suggestion for this weekend is lose yourself to dance. 

Turn up the decibels with Daft Punk at home and energize to go out. If you are wondering what's so funny 'bout peace love and understanding then head to Wolf Trap for the Elvis Costello tribute. Or (in keeping with the tribute thing) Allman Others play with Steal Your Peach at Gypsy Sally's. For swampy zydeco rockers: The Wild Anacostias are whooping it up at the Takoma VFW. And finally what would an insurgency be without punk rock? Priests at Black Cat.
 All on Saturday because Friday just isn't a thing anymore except for this:

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Glover Park Once Knave's Disappointment

Glover Park is a bit off the beaten path. Just above "upper Georgetown" and below Cathedral Heights,  the neighborhood was first settled in the early 1800s and included a chunk of land called Knave's Disappointment. (I gleaned this fun tidbit from a Brief History of Glover Park for my fellow history geeks.)

GP today remains relatively unaffected by time- perhaps due to the lack of a Metro station. This might be a silver lining considering how much of Washington is raging upscale. The neighborhood still includes the Russian Embassy, a community garden, and good ole Guy Mason Rec Center where the Old Poor House once stood.

Although many of the storefronts have changed, Old Europe and Pearson's are among the living. For those of you who remember blurry nights and a full range of bands from gawdawful to up and coming at "the Grog," the same space is somewhat cleaned up in it's reincarnation as The Mason Inn, where Herschel Hoover will be opening this Saturday for Austin band The Mammoths.

Also on the docket for Saturday, Bill Hanke, local rock connoisseur, tells me it's well worth the drive up to the Music Cafe in Damascus, Maryland. Looking at the stellar line up, I have to agree: Dave Chappell, Anthony Pirog, Jan Zukowski and Pete Ragusa will hit it at 8 p.m.  (Get there early - it's a small joint.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Not Just Tuesday

If you are missing a certain town and certainly a different frame of mind today, look for Marcia Ball and The Beat Hotel at the Hamilton or the Little Kings at the Black Rooster Pub this evening to ease your pain.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

All Booked Up

I love libraries thanks to my mother who grew up near the one in Mount Pleasant.  She was around six or seven years old when she first realized she could take her wagon over there and bring home her fill of books every week. 

I remember being that age when she first took me to a book mobile-  a tricked out RV kind of thing which magically appeared on twilit summer evenings. The truck fumes outside were slightly nauseating, but inside the books smelled great. 

As I grew up, the only draw back to the system was the anxiety brought on by overdue fines- never mind the shame and horror of a Lost Book. Well meaning librarians would torment me, encouraging me to search at home one more time. In the car? Under the bed ? Not hardly. I excavated a novel once, years too late. It had landed in a laundry basket in the basement- under that fuzzy orange sweater I never really liked.

But now, I no longer cower beneath the shadow of Library Angst. You can renew a book up to ten times in the District. TEN ! And the book doesn't become overdue for 30 days after that. That adds up to a whopping 240 days. To put things in perspective, a grizzly bear could give birth to a whole new bear in that amount of time. 

Turns out, librarians understand the anxiety thing, and they took away a lot of restrictions to encourage people like me. How cool is that?

The good news/bad news is the MLK Library will be closing for renovations soon and will not reopen until 2010. (Step into that future here.) Meanwhile this Friday, the library will be anything but quiet. (I love the end of this video)

Andras Fekete of Boat Burning gave me the lowdown:

We're terribly flattered to be part of ALB's Rock the Stacks​ as there are many DC legends playing including Fort Knox Five (members of Thievery Corp)​, Super Silver Haze​ (with Fugazi​'s Brendan Canty​), Rob Myers​ of Thievery Corporation​, Benjy Ferree​, Furniteur​, Sitali Siyolwe​ & Juju Julius House​, Warm Sun​, Elmapi​, and Small Doses + the ALB All Stars (Jerry Busher​ & friends).  

It should be mentioned that the ALB All-Stars will be a sort of DC supergroup, with Betsy Wright (EX HEX), Joe Herrera (Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, Thievery Corp), Matt Rippetoe (The Harry Bells), Artemis"Ardamus” Thompson, Renell “RNL” McEwan, Jerry Busher (Fugazi), and Amy Farina (The EvensThe Warmers). 

So much packed into this one night.

Tickets start at $75, but all proceeds will go to the DC Public Library Foundation.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Start A Love Train

Kennith Gamble and Leon Huff have contributed a lot of love to the world since 1963. They became a driving force behind the Philadelphia Sound producing and writing one hit after another. A traffic jam on the Schuylkill Expressway led to The Soul Survivors' reaching #4 on the pop charts with "Expressway to your Heart."  In 1972 they signed the O'Jays to their label Philadelphia International, and that's when "Love Train" left the station for number one.

This extremely relevant, almost prescient song is my valentine to you this year. Pull up the original video or the Soul Train version and sing it, baby.  Give it up to the dance break:

People all over the world (everybody)
Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world (all the world, now)
Join hands (love ride)
Start a love train (love ride), love train
The next stop that we make will be soon
Tell all the folks in Russia, and China, too
Don't you know that it's time to get on board
And let this train keep on riding, riding on through
Well, well
People all over the world (you don't need no money)
Join hands (come on)
Start a love train, love train (don't need no ticket, come on)
People all over the world (Join in, ride this train)
Join in (Ride this train, y'all)
Start a love train (Come on, train), love train
All of you brothers over in Africa
Tell all the folks in Egypt, and Israel, too
Please don't miss this train at the station
'Cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you
People all over the world (Sisters and brothers)
Join hands (join, come on)
Start a love train (ride this train, y'all), love train (Come on)
People all over the world (Don't need no tickets)
Join hands (come on, ride)
Start a love train, love train
Ride, let it ride
Let it ride
Let it ride
People, ain't no war
People all over the world (on this train)
Join in (ride the train)
Start a love train, love train (ride the train, y'all)
People all over the world (come on)
Join hands (you can ride or stand, yeah)
Start a love train, love train (makin' love)
People all over the world ('round the world, y'all)
Join hands (come on)
Start a love train, love train

Now that you are in a better mood, we can turn to Valentine dances happening over the weekend to get you warmed up for Feb 14.

First off for Friday. If you're feeling swanky,  Billy Price and The Nighthawks will be at Bethesda Blues.  Want to shake things up? Aztec Sun at Rock n Roll Hotel

Just was to lay low? Valentine Slim is at the Takoma VFW.

Saturday....pick your love potion: Eric Felten's Jazz Orchestra Red Dress Dance at Glen Echo or The Beatle's Love Songs Tribute at the Hamilton.

For Dead lovers, The Black Muddy River Band is out at Branded 72, for old school rhythm and blues  Charlie Owen and Pocket Change at Hank Dietle's,  and for hopeless romantics The Vi-Kings of Bethesda will make a rare appearance at JV's.
Why? Because

"Ride the train y'all."