Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Rudolph and the Misfit Parade

Remember when this time of year meant hopefully catching "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" on TV ? My childhood bestie Joy has a birthday today, and when we were kids, she occasionally had to incorporate the event into her slumber party.

Who knew that when we grew up we would be able to watch the whole dang thing on our phones ?

Well, kids, it's time to tell you. The Island of Misfit Toys is real, and musicians live there, too. Especially players like Eddie Angel of Los Straightjackets (although we in D.C. like to claim him for Switchblade.)

This Thursday you can catch Eddie Angel's Guitar Party opening for  J.D. McPherson at the Black Cat. On Friday Bill Hanke recommends Slash Run for "1960s style garage stompers Ar-Kaics and 60s style lysergic jingle-jangle Beginner's Mynd. Drink the cool-aid, said Ken Kesey. I hate to say 1960s style, but the new generation needs to know." 

Gotta love Bill. God bless the freaks. 

P.S. The answer to last week's quiz? The "new wave" club was Silver Spring Station and the other was L.A. Cafe at 18th and Connecticut NW. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The End Is in Sight

Dang. December sure got here in a hurry.  I haven't even gotten used to writing 2018 yet. And what a wet dreary November it was. We had over 7 inches of record breaking rain- busting the stats of 1877. Time to get out those sunshine mimicking light bulbs and other seasonal lights.

I'm not sure what was going on in D.C. in 1877, but the December 1977 "contemporary music" listings in the Evening Star included the Rossyln Mountain Boys at Fred and Sullies, Grit at the Italian Gardens, Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band at the Back Room of the Varsity Grill,  Harrison Bond and Goddard at the Far Inn, Skyline at Paul Mall, and Spats at the Psyche Delly.

Charlie McCollum's Rock Notes column also recommended the line up at the Capital Centre which included the Kinks, Earth Wind and Fire, Boz Scaggs, Patti LaBelle, and "for the kiddies" Kiss and Aerosmith.

He also noted that "two new city rock clubs will open in the next month. At least one will feature new wave (i.e. punk rock acts.)"  This was back when New Wave had to be defined.

The clubs opened in January 1978.  Can anybody guess what they were? While you're thinking (and the answer is by no means obvious*) here's a partial list of what's going on this December 2018:


Caustic Casanova CD release party @ Atlas Brewery

Linwood Taylor @ New Deal

Woodgrove/ NRIs @ Black Cat Backstage

Granny and the Boys @ Showtime ( every Sunday thru December 30)

Unring the Bell/ Dot Dash/ Cory Shane @ Black Cat

Eddie Angels’ Guitar Party/ JD McPherson @ Black Cat

Thrillbillys @ JV

The Ar-Kaics/ Beginner’s Mynd/Teen Cobra/The It’s Alive @ Slash Run

Boat Burning @ Millennium Stage Free


Eric Felten’s Duke Ellington Nutcracker Suite @ Blues Alley

Rhodes Tavern Troubadours  @ Takoma VFW

Black Muddy River @ El Golfo

Daryl Davis @ Glen Echo

Fuzzqueen/Time Is Fire/ Company Calls @ Black Cat

Thrillbillys @ JV

Delarcos @ Dangerous Pies

Snail Mail @ 9:30 Club

The Messthetics @ Black Cat

Jimi Smooth and Hit Time

Dave Chappell @ JV


King Soul @ Rock Creek Mansion

*The answer will be in the next DC ROCKS

Thursday, November 22, 2018


Good morning, Washington. Happy Thanksgiving.

Please excuse my laziness today, but I thought I would re-run part of a piece I wrote a few years ago, thanking my dad for teaching me about this place we call the District of Columbia. 

My father George was born in 1916 at home on 11th Street NE to Greek immigrants. 
Maybe you can tell by the picture? 

George didn't speak English until he went to kindergarten, but he learned in a hurry. He went to school, worked and lived in the District most of his life, and his Washington had nothing to do with politics. He was always more at home in work clothes than a suit or a tie.

We may have buzzed by the monuments when friends or family came to visit, but I don't ever remember going to the Smithsonian or Capitol Hill except on a school field trip. 

Here's an excerpt from Thanks to My DC Dad:

Thank you for:

Taking me to the zoo.  A lot.  Sometimes just on the spur of the moment, sometimes for a birthday.  I suspect he liked it because it was uptown, free and outdoors.  I remember he would park our station wagon right near the elephant house and partly on the sidewalk. Crazy, right? He had a little home made sign that he would put on the dashboard which said  "Modern Linen -Making Delivery." That seemed to do the trick.

All those DC stories. George worked mostly in the restaurant world, and he had the low down on how the Italian statues got into AV's yard on New York Avenue. Another friend,  Ulysses Auger, got his start after World War Two when everyone was craving meat after years of rationing. "Blackie" was his nick name, and he sold steaks from the trunk of his car until he could open his own place called "The Minute Grille."  When he had made enough dough to buy the property at 21st and M, he changed the name to Blackie's House of Beef. Money was tight, and the kitchen was in terrible shape. One day my father and Uncle Mimi just happened by to see the new place. Blackie asked them whether he should spend money on improving the kitchen or buy a new sign. My father said go for the sign, and that's exactly what happened. It was a big sign!

Introducing me to DC food 

George always asked for a half smoke over a hotdog. He also liked the fried chicken wing sandwich at the Florida Avenue Grill which comes with another story.  Chewing right through the cartilage and spitting out the bones, he would talk about how Father Lalouissis from St Sophia's would come for Sunday dinners when he was a kid.  The chicken on the table only went so far with a family of five and an honored guest.  The priest would get the biggest piece, and my grandfather would get the next biggest and so it went.  My grandmother always insisted that "Georgie loved the wing." I guess it happened so many times that he believed it, too.

Teaching me how to drive with impunity. Technically I learned to drive on a VW bug with a driver's ed teacher, but my father taught me the finer points of operating a motor vehicle with his mind bending lane changes on the Beltway and sometimes stunning U turns on avenues around the city. Even though he constantly scared the crap out of my mother, he gave me a lot of confidence behind the wheel. And unlike my mother, he taught me how to pump my own gas.

Taking me to Sherrill's Bakery. When I first met the "girls," as George called them, Lola Rivas, the owner, started yelling at him in Greek as soon as we walked in. She seemed angry and scary to me.  Her daughters Kiki and Dottie were less frightening, but I didn't know what was going until the scene devolved into pinching cheeks and handing out cookies. They loved my father and were scolding him for not coming by more often.

The bakery was once a mainstay on Capitol Hill and served breakfast, lunch and dinner 364 days a year in a time capsule of a 1940s diner. It hadn't changed much since Lola and her husband Sam bought the place. A cigarette machine and a fortune telling scale flanked the front door, and I thought it was cool we didn't have to pay for the cookies. Former busboy and local film maker David Petersen almost won an Oscar and did win a well deserved Emmy for capturing those crazy hard working women and their customers in his documentary "Fine Food and Pastries." Hit the link to watch as there's nothing left of Sherrill's except memories now.  


If you don't feel like cooking today, JV's in Falls Church has you covered. They'll be serving up both turkey and one of DC's finest guitar heroes Dave Chappell for all your fine dining and rock n roll needs.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Ready or Not

 What gives Mother Nature? Snow before the leaves have fallen?  Here in my rural corner of DC,  I still have a rose or two trying to bloom out there. Well, they were.

For all of you who gladly go with the snow globe theme, the ice rink at the Sculpture Garden opens for the season this weekend. On the other hand, winter weather phobes might want to hide out at Hill Country Barbecue where everyone can pretend they're in Texas. The Highballers and Whiskey Daredevils are on hand to support the fantasy this Saturday.

Finally congratulations are in order. Back in the day when we were all hoping to start a rock n roll band,  Chuck Levins Music Center was there with picks and amps and good advice.  Guitar geeks especially should be aware of Chuck's  60th Anniversary Party with Paul Reed Smith on hand.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Count 'em

Just how many musicians does DC actually have? The answer is too many to count, of course, but now there's a plan is in the works to do just that.  According to city officials and a story on WAMU today,  look for an online census coming in January 2019. Meanwhile, I've been counting local musicians since the early 1970s starting with Fat City, The Seldom Scene and The Blackbirds. But that was just the tip of the iceberg leading to the vibrant scene we have now.

This weekend is ridiculous with gigs- all starring veteran musicians- starting tonight with The Rhodes Tavern Troubadours' early throw down at the Takoma VFW. Free show starts at 7 ends at 10- just right for the working stiff's schedule and pocketbook.  Friday night The Rock-A-Sonics rip up JVs while The Hall Brothers are at the College Park American Legion-another free event and money back guaranteed good time.

Saturday night is when things get really crazy. Pick your poison, people:

Rock n roll?

The Nighthawks at JVs now with Dan Hovey tearing things up on guitar.

Big band ?

Find Eric Felten swinging the very romantic Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo.

Something not in a pigeon hole?

How about the Bold Deceivers at the Takoma VFW? They describe themselves as "Satan's cabana boys take up folk" with an event they're calling " First Annual Hell's Bottom Hootenanny. " Can't argue with that.

For you nostalgic types, take a trip to fantasy land. You can catch The Beatles, The Dead,  Dylan and The Band. All on one night for Pete's sake. ( i.e. The Apple Core at Jammin' JavaOn the Bus AND The Bob Band at Villain and Saint. And last but not least The Last Waltz tribute at The Hamilton, but beware this show usually sells out.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


Happy Halloween from all the squirrels at DC ROCKS. Here's November's calendar so far.  Please revise at will. 



Lung / Kosheri/ Tone @ Dangerous  Pies

Mick's Jaguar/ Fuzz Queen/Capital Offender @ Slash Run


King Soul @ Villain and Saint

Bobby Smith Band @ Takoma VFW

Rhodes Tavern Troubadours @ Takoma VFW


Rock-A- Sonics @ JVs


The Nighthawks @ JVs

Last Waltz Tribute @ The Hamilton

The Apple Core  @ Jammin' Java

On the Bus/ The Bob Band @ Villain and Saint


Weird Babies/ Venray and Makeup Girl @ Galaxy Hut


Highballers@ Hill Country


Beverly Bros @ Takoma VFW


Nighthawks/ Skip Castro Band @ State Theater


Janis Joplin and Jimmi Hendrix Tribute @ Wolftrap Barns


The Thrillbillys @ Takoma VFW


Black Masala @ Villain and Saint

Thursday, October 25, 2018

E. A. Poe- A True Story

Once upon a time my friend Paul was commissioned to sculpt a bust of Beethoven for a small college in Vermont. He had never shoved anything that big into a kiln before so he made a spare head- just in case Ludvig exploded. Another friend - Bad Bob- lived in Richmond at the time and thought the spare statue should become Edgar Alan Poe, so Paul obliged. Being men, neither thought much beyond that moment. Bad Bob lived in a studio apartment in Richmond, and Paul lived on a farm in Maine so Mister Poe patiently waited in the barnyard for a few years before I came along and admired the abandoned project. To my surprise, the next time Paul came for a visit,  he brought along a two hundred pound house warming present which is how Edgar Alan Poe came to live in Washington, D.C.

Having Poe in my yard does come in handy - especially around this time of year. For instance once Annabell Lee and Poe Junior dropped in which was a definite treat.

Another time a neighbor knocked on my door and asked if I would consider adopting a raven that lived in Pittsburg.  (These things happen when Poe lives in your front yard.) I have to admit I thought about it, but the bird ended up being able to stay with his folks in Pennsylvania.

Ravens are fairly hard to spot around here unless you go to the zoo which is where  Iris the Resident Raven lives and occasionally paints.  I have always liked the aviary there. Back in the day, I thought it was one of the most romantic places to meet someone in town.

Other places to meet up this weekend include a myriad of musical choices. Friday David Goodfriend's newest project the Beverly Brothers will whoop up a happy hour show at JV's, and   King Soul will haunt the Takoma VFW on Saturday.  And all you grown up trick or treaters not visiting Poe can catch The Thrillbillys at JV's on Halloween night.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Peace Like a River

I've been thinking lately about where to find peace in our town. The obvious haunts come to mind right away- Hains Point, Rock Creek Park and the Arboretum. But I've also got my favorite hidey-holes like the Bishop's Garden behind the Cathedral where you can ponder life in outdoor rooms.  Down in Georgetown, I used to get a sandwich and a soda at Harold's Deli on M Street and picnic in the back yard of the Old Stone House. The deli is long gone, but the beautifully kept garden is still there. Over in Anacostia there's that magnificent view from Frederick Douglas' front yard,  but my favorite part of the property is the man cave he once called The Growlery. Here's a picture of WPA workers fixing the roof in the 1930s.

Mr. Douglas had his space tricked out simply with a desk and a couch so he could think and write. Or write and think.  Since then the Park Service had to replace the original building with a replica of the tiny cabin without the furnishings, but it's still a beautiful place.

Finding serenity downtown can be more of a challenge, but once a month the Luce Unplugged Concert Series takes place on the third floor of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and it's happening again this Friday. Here's the word from Andras Fekete of Boat Burning:

"This free concert will transform the soaring atrium which features vaulted ceilings, multi-tiered balconies, sweeping glass surfaces and deep recesses into a fully-immersive, walk-around sonic installation. Audience members are invited to wander the space during the performance to experience the aural effects from different angles. The October showcase will feature the ambient, synthesized tunes of AARON LEITKO and the maximal minimalism of BOAT BURNING's experimental rock."

I like being "invited to wander the space" for this sonic extravaganza as I have a hard time sitting still for anything. Plus - bonus- there's a free 3 Star beer tasting plus snacks for sale. Music starts at 6.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Deep Fall

Enough with the warm weather already. I know a lot of you get depressed around this time of year. Somebody I know even refers to falling leaves as "harbingers of death," but I dig the colors.

Plus I like Halloween and all the goofy decorations around town.

I was rereading George Pelecanos' Hell To Pay last week when I ran across this rather relevant paragraph featuring a favorite reoccurring character Derek Strange:

Soon the colors would change in Rock Creek Park. And then would come those weeks near Thanksgiving when the weather turned for real and the leaves were still coming down off the trees. Strange had his own name for it: deep fall. It was his favorite time of year in D.C.

This weekend it sounds like we will get our first real taste of Autumn with a high of 63 and a low of 48 predicted for tomorrow. And those cooler temps might actually kick our trees into gear. Hopefully the rain will clear out by Saturday in time for the H Street Festival which is a magnificent spread of food and music and stuff. Also over at the Wharf which is always buzzing on the weekends, King Soul will be playing for FREE.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Drown Out the Noise

Usually I am a news hound, but the trauma of last week's hearings made me snap off the radio now and then.  For my own sanity I found myself cranking up my own mix tapes- blaring songs from long ago.  I'm still having the heebie - jeebies, but I have taken a stab at DC ROCKS' October's calendar and would welcome more input. As far as this weekend goes the Takoma Park Street Festival is always fun- full of music with three different stages and numerous bands. Here's a few photos from past street fests over the years.

First off there are no cars which is always a plus:

And don't forget to drag along the kids before they are too big to drag-

although some kids never get too old (!)



Thrillbillys @ JV


Valentine Slim @ Takoma VFW

Black Masala @ Pearl Street Warehouse

Lunch With Bob @ Takoma VFW

Takoma Street Fest

Rock -A- Sonics @ JV matinee


Dave Chappell and Anthony Pirog Band @ JV


Rhodes Tavern Troubadours @ Takoma VFW


Hula Monsters @ Villain and Saint


H Street Festival

King Soul @ Pearl St Warehouse free matinee!

Thrillbillys and guests @ JV


The Toasters/ Caz Gardiner/ Free Lobster Buffet @Dangerous Pies


Beverly Bros. @ Takoma VFW


Bold Deceivers @ Takoma VFW


Dave Chappell @ JV 

Easter Island / Color Palette @ Dangerous Pies


Beverly Bros @ JV 

27 King Soul @ Takoma VFW

Spooky 31

Thrillbillys @ JV

The Independents w/ Glenmont Popes and Children of October @ Dangerous Pies

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Two Cans and a String

Many moons ago, in March of 1988, I went to see the Daniel West Dancers perform at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater.  While waiting in the lobby before the show, a tall, somewhat frazzled looking woman was being slightly too pushy and slightly too loud as she bumped her way through the crowd.  People started to buzz. Some laughed nervously while others tried to get out of her way. No one wanted to make eye contact.  Once inside, this same weird person started a ruckus by loudly asking people to move so she could sit in their seat. Finally an usher came and escorted her down the aisle- still arguing. Then suddenly she was climbing onto the stage where the dancers stood waiting. Surprise! She was part of the show all along. This is one of my favorite memories of Susan Mumford. Performance artist. Musician. Writer and friend. She was also an all around good egg.

I talked to Susan many times before I got to know her. She was the ethereal woman with short cropped blonde (or sometimes black) hair,  usually dressed in shapeless clothing sitting behind the ticket window of the old 9:30 Club on F Street NW.  Back then artists of all stripes felt comfortable there when the club was little. We congregated like moths under a street lamp and ended up becoming friends for life. My friend Peter was one of the regulars. A decade or so later I told Susan that Pete had had a big crush on her. (Now I know lots of guys had crushes on Susan.) Her reaction was basic incredulity, and a slightly wistful "I wish I had known."

Susan in person was a very different ball of wax than Susan performing. On stage she was wildly unpredictable. Powerful. Loud. Off stage she was quieter, very funny and cool, but always strong. Susan might be best known for her role in the avant-garde band Tiny Desk Unit, but I will always remain impressed with how she moved in with her father who was suffering from Alzheimer's at the end of his life.  She stayed with him until he died. After that, Susan pretty much kept to herself and too soon afterwards also became ill. She had to battle cancer for the rest of her life, but she didn't lose her sense of humor. I once emailed her telling her I was sorry for not being in touch or taking her out for air.  She shot back:

Yes you should have taken me out for more air. or tried a bicycle pump. It's a coon's age since we yakked girl!
(as in raccoon - how long is a raccoon's age?  i bet it's a long time)

I'm sorry to say that Susan left the planet earlier this month, but for those who knew her- Bill Warrell is organizing a gathering this Saturday evening in Blagden Alley at 926 N Street from 8 p.m. - 2 a.m. In the meantime, I will leave you with another email to me from Susan in the same format that she wrote it in. I think it's more poetry than message. I will miss you, Susan. Wave at the nice man.
(I hope you can hear with me with two cans and a string.)

aaaaagh  sorry, my computer's crapped up (ooh, visuals)

so i only open it maybe once a week
maybe not

meant to answer this before when i saw it, but was watching the battery minutes deplete
and chickened out

prefer 2 cans and a string

will now call on your cell if anything fascinating leaps up and slaps me in the face (ooh, more visuals)

just thinking of you,


Friday, September 21, 2018

Let Them Eat Pie

For those of you dreading the end of Summer, now is the time to remember a few silver linings about Fall. I for one am looking forward to the day that the mosquitoes drop dead and the leaves start to turn. When I lived in San Fransisco, I don't remember having to battle insects,  but one drawback for me was the lack of seasons. There were only two. Rain and not rain. Green or brown. I really missed the big trees with their vaudeville routine of raucous colors.  Fall also makes me think of apples which brings me directly to pie.

Happily enough, Washington has a great pie shop on H Street NE called Dangerously Delicious Pies. The first store in Baltimore came into being thanks to rocker Rodney Henry of the Glenmont Popes who got into the pie biz trying to make ends meet at the merch table. Fortunately for us he a really good baker, and he was able to start another branch here almost ten years ago with friends Sandra Basanti and her husband Stevie McKeever.  This summer they expanded the business and created a 75 person capacity venue - nowadays a rare thing in DC - above the pie shop. (Not an easy thing to do in a 100 year old building.)

The space has been thoughtfully renovated by sound engineer Dennis Manuel and musician/ carpenter/ pie man Stevie McKeever. (Get the full scoop here at DCist.)  This Saturday Jake Starr and the Delicious Fullness front a show with Lazlo Lee and the Motherless Children and Dominy. No cover.  Music starts at 8:30.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Everybody's Missing the Sun

As I write, a ray of sun is cutting through the trees outside my window looking startlingly beautiful and noteworthy. It is 8:00 a.m. Friday morning, but now - just a moment later,  the light is fading, and we're back to our new normal- perpetually grey skies.  I do love a rainy day, but a lot of things were shifted out of Florence's way this weekend including several boxes of books in my basement and the H Street Festival which had to be rescheduled for October 13.

Hurricane dodging fatigue or a cloudy mood can be handily cured with music under a sturdy roof that is not your own. Tonight The Rhodes Tavern Troubadours take over that crazy little Takoma VFW they call Hell's Bottom with a "hurricane dance party." Elsewhere this weekend nostalgia seems to be the order of the day what with The Vi-Kings working their 1960s throwback magic at JV, and Nils Lofgren playing three shows Friday- Sunday at the Birchmere. (Saturday is sold out.)  The Newmyer Flyer show also happens Saturday at the Hamilton. Twenty two local musicians will endeavor to reanimate both Bruce Springsteen's "The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle" and Van Morrison's " Moondance." Spinning vinyl is cool again, but hearing it live is out of sight. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

September Sloth Song

I've always said that I lose the will to function properly around July when the relentless heat and humidity of our "swamp" drive me into hibernation. Even so I usually get up early and hack at my garden for a little while before the sun announces another scorcher.  This past week I didn't even go outside if I could help it. Reverting to sloth mode, I fell to worshipping the buzzy drone of my AC unit and the misty fog of my ice maker.

Meanwhile the DC ROCKS' Creative Overachiever Award has to go to George Pelecanos who is home this week promoting his newest book The Man Who Came Uptown.  This will be George's twentieth crime novel, all of which are set in real life Washington, D. C. His characters inhabit a city which has been relieved of reference to the federal government. Quackenbos and Fort Stevens? Yes. Pennsylvania Avenue? Hell, no.  Additionally George will be shoehorning his book tour between producing Season Two and Season Three of the HBO series The Deuce- his latest collaboration with David Simon and the folks who brought you The Wire and Treme.  I hereby and forthwith dub George the anti-sloth.

Catch him if you can- he will be reading his latest at Politics and Prose this Sunday from 3-4 p.m.

And here's the belated DC ROCKS Calendar of Industrious and Mostly Musical Achievers:


George Pelecanos Reading @ Politics and Prose


Rhodes Tavern Troubadours @ Takoma VFW

Johnny and The Headhunters @ Pearl Street 


H St Festival

Moondance/ Wild, Innocent & E St Shuffle @ Hamilton ( Newmyer Flyer)

The Vi-Kings @ JV


Fuzz Queen @ Dangerous Pies


Thrillbillys @ JV


Split Seconds @ Slash Run


Jake Starr @ Dangerous Pies


DC State Fair

Human Country Jukebox @ Pearl Street free (12:30)

SW Sessions w/ Elijah Balbed & Isabelle De Leon 
@ Pearl Street ( free)


Dave Chappell Band @ JV


Sister Ex/ Menage a Garage @ Dangerous Pies


Bumper Jacksons @ Hill Country BBQ

Art All Night Dupont

Johnny Grave w/ Uptown Boys Choir @ Dangerous Pies*


Alex the Red Parez/ Derek Evry @ Galaxy Hut

(* Size of print due to incomprehensible vagaries of html)