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Friends In High Places

"I didn't set out to get tied in with the Republicans, but I didn't shy away from it," he says. "Some of my Democratic friends aren't too crazy about it."

He laughs. "One of the guys in the band is a Democrat -- I'd rather not say who. But we told him to keep his mouth shut."

Country musician Wil Gravatt and his band made a name for themselves on the Republican campaign trail in 2004. They now have a regular Thursday night gig at Arlington's Music Box. (Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

_____Maryland Government_____
Jackson's Political Drive Comes to Md. (The Washington Post, Mar 14, 2005)
When Ehrlich's Day Needs Saving, He Looks to Hamilton (The Washington Post, Mar 13, 2005)
Ehrlich Discounts Steffen's Influence (The Washington Post, Mar 13, 2005)
Cerebral Sarbanes Aloof to Limelight (The Washington Post, Mar 12, 2005)
Full Report

After the band's whirlwind experience in 2004, Gravatt says the members decided to go into "a self-imposed lull." It didn't last too long.

The group recently began a regular Thursday night performance at the Music Box (2300 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington; 703-841-0100), a new bar and restaurant down the street from the Court House Metro station.

It's a fairly nondescript little place, with musical instruments mounted on white walls, a small stage in one corner, and record sleeves hanging all over the bar area. When the band gets going at 9:30, most of the tables near the front of the room are taken, and couples are two-stepping on a makeshift dance floor.

Gravatt, sporting his trademark white cowboy hat and goatee, has the kind of voice that dances around the cry of a pedal steel guitar and makes singing "Luckenbach, Texas" sound as natural as it would in any South Texas dance hall. But it's not all straight-ahead, by-the-numbers versions of country hits. "Move It on Over" features a funky bass rhythm that Hank Williams wouldn't have dreamed of. Sometimes a spry "Ring of Fire" segues into "Dixie" and back.

On Tuesday nights, Gravatt plays a more sedate show at Capital Q (707 H St. NW; 202-347-8396), a Texas barbecue joint in Chinatown. He sits by the door, strumming his acoustic guitar and serenading customers who come in for pulled pork sandwiches or smoky half-racks of ribs.

The Wil Gravatt Band has three CDs to its credit -- two of them are concert discs, including "Live at Whitey's" -- and there are plans to write some new songs and take them into the studio later this year.

"We've made a name for ourselves playing classic country with my own arrangements, but I'd like to get more originals in there," he says hopefully.


The '60s-mod Spy Lounge (2406 18th St. NW; 202-483-3549) could be closed for three months after a March 2 fire that caused part of the ceiling to collapse, according to owner Alan Popovsky. He says that damage from the blaze, which started in a second-floor office about 5 a.m., isn't as bad as was first thought but that he's still expecting repairs to take 60 to 90 days. The fire was contained quickly, and no residents of the apartments above the lounge were injured.

The neighboring Felix Restaurant and Lounge, which Popovsky also owns, was unaffected and remains open, as does the upstairs Zipper Lounge.

Popovsky is hopeful that work on Spy Lounge can be completed soon and is already promising a "nip and tuck" makeover on the building in coming months. If that sounds familiar, it should: At the end of 2004, Felix was closed for a couple of weeks to renovate the lounge's tired "New York, New York" decor. The result is a far more appealing minimalist look, with white walls, tall white candles and sturdy dark wood furniture. (Of course, the Statue of Liberty's gigantic crown remains behind the bar.) Also impressive is the new drinks list, inspired by Popovsky's recent trip to London. Felix's standard list of Cosmopolitans, Manhattans and Bond-inspired cocktails has been jettisoned for upscale beverages more suited to warm weather -- or dreams of it, anyway. Among the standouts on the new menu: a mango caipirinha, made with Brazilian cachaca liqueur, mango puree and lime juice; and the spring punch, a blend of vodka, berry liqueur, lemon and a splash of champagne. (Yes, it may hit you harder than you expect.) What hasn't changed, though, are the basics: "Sinatra Night" on Wednesdays with live jazz and swing music by Satin Doll or the Joker's Wild; James Bond movies playing on the flat-screen televisions; and bands playing lounge music on the weekends.

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