Freedom Rock

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J. Freedom du Lac
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2008; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Britney Spears does.

The transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: A Swing and Another Hit; At Nationals Park, Pop Music Pumps Up the Baseball Crowd

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washingtonpost.com: Rage Against The Machine; Bob Lefsetz, the Music Industry's Go-To Gadfly

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washingtonpost.com: Gnarls Barkley Seconds Its Emotion

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washingtonpost.com: Post Rock: Offical Virgin Festival Lineup, Vol. 1

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J. Freedom du Lac: Greetings, chatters. The top of the Virgin Mobile Festival lineup was announced today, with Kanye West, Jack Johnson, Nine Inch Nails, Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots heading the two-day bill at Pimlico. Thoughts? Complaints? Suggestions?

What else do you want to talk about today? Nationals Park? REM? Bob Lefsetz? Gnarls Barkley? The greatness of Thao Nguyen?

You have the floor.

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Chocolate City: J. Free - I was at opening night. The one word I would use to describe the music played in the park is ... white. U2, Toby Keith, Kelly Clarkson, Smashmouth. The one thing that unites them (besides their status as painfully mainstream) is their complete lack of any of the hallmark qualities of classic American roots music. The only exception might be "Living In America" by JB. The Yankees are smart enough to play up the image of Frank Sinatra after ballgames, so why are the Nats so stupid as to refuse to give dap to Duke, Marvin, and Chuck B? Not even just a little?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, it was a wedding-day white playlist. Now there was some Donna Summer, plus James Brown, Sister Sledge, Lou Bega, Otis Day and the Knights, a little Daddy Yankee, a bit of 50 Cent, etc. But for the most part, country, pop and rock ruled the day.

Less Fergie and more Marvin Gaye, please. (And seriously: NO NEIL DIAMOND.)

Maybe Wale will become a big star this summer and force the team's hand.

Or, maybe you can write to the Nationals and voice your displeasure with their playlist.

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Virgin Mobile Lineup: What's Jack Johnson doing in that crowd ?

J. Freedom du Lac: What he's doing in every festival crowd in 2008: Showing up and playing some sweet tunes, maaaaaaaan.

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Rockville, Md.: Hey J. Free: I'm psyched to see 'Shine A Light.' Have you seen it and/or listened to the soundtrack, and, if so, what's your take?

J. Freedom du Lac: Not only have I seen it, I actually talked to Keith Richards about the film (and various/sundry other subjects) on the phone yesterday. Not that I could understand anything he said. Good thing I was recording it!

I very much like the movie. Two highlights: Their cover of "Just My Imagination" and the concert version of "Champagne and Reefer" on which Buddy Guy absolutely slays (and then walks away with Keith's guitar!).

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Washington, D.C.: RE: Music at Nationals Park. The sound system sounds great, and the canned music is fine, I guess, as far as it goes. But the crowd seemed awfully quiet to me, and though they did try to get cheers going with some canned organ/clapping, it just wasn't that great, and it would stop before anybody had a chance to start clapping/cheering along. Call me old-fashioned, but I think they really need an organ, too.

J. Freedom du Lac: I don't mind not having an organ in house. Too much organ and I feel like I'm in a cartoon. Or at Dodger Stadium. The recorded bits were enough for my tastes.

Just wish the playlist had been a little more creative - and daring. Why not play the opening bass riff from "Waiting Room" at some point? But, as the team's marketing veep says: They're basically playing wedding music. So...

As for the crowd: I think the fans were frozen to their seats.

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Nationals Music: So many players in the MLB (and fans alike) are Latinos. How come I never hear any Latin music at games? Ok- I wasn't there for opening night but I would bet $100 there wasn't any......

J. Freedom du Lac: What, you don't like Lou Bega's take on "Mambo #. 5"? (Me, neither. A little LESS Monica in my life, thank you very much.) They did play some reggaeton and a bit of merengue as walk-up music, but that was it. Nothing before the game, save for Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie." And I don't recall hearing any Latin music between innings.

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Scritti Politti: Don't have a comment. I just like saying 'Scritti Pollitti'

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks, I guess.

By the way, the Raconteurs are at the 9:30 club with the Black Lips on May 27 and 28. (I just like saying Raconteurs. Though I'd be more excited if the White Stripes were at the 9:30. [Speaking of Jack White, he makes a cameo in "Shine a Light," singing with Mick and playing some guitar on "Loving Cup."])

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Washington, D.C.: do you have the summer concert list?

J. Freedom du Lac: No. I must have left it in my other jacket.

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Hail to the Keef: There aren't many guitarists alive today who could pull rank and walk away with Keith Richards' guitar. Buddy Guy is near the top of the list.

What was the most surprising thing said by Sir Keef? (of what you could understand)

J. Freedom du Lac: Actually, Keith gives Buddy the guitar after the song. I asked him about it yesterday and he said, well -- you'll have to wait until the interview runs to see what he said.

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Today is...: From Wikipedia's Lollpalooza entry, as of 1:13 CDT:

...Miley Cyrus is also strongly rumored as a headliner. Miley is expected to perform with accompaniment from the acoustic stylings of Garpo3000. It is also rumored that Rage Against the Machine and Wilco will headline the show.-11]

J. Freedom du Lac:

Err.....

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What's Next?: What's the next great pop album? I'm not so much into indie rock. I like rock music if it isn't the Nickleback variety. Is there anyone else like Sean Kingston coming out? I can't help it - I love him!!!

J. Freedom du Lac: Robyn?

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Bethesda, Md.: Do the Nats let their players choose their music for when they go to bat? I remember the orioles did this back when i used to go to their games.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yep. They didn't use the new walk-up music at the game on Sunday because they couldn't get it ready in time for the game. It'll be introduced during the home stand next week.

They picked their songs near the end of spring training. Suggested them, anyway. The team still had to screen them.

Here's what marketing veep John Guagliano says: "We ask for a couple of ides and have to listen to it. We may tell them we don't feel it's appropriate, or we might go with one of other suggestions they give us. The tough part is, these guys are 18 to 25 years old. My music may change, my tolerance may change, but I have to be understanding that if Ryan Zimmerman wants to hear a certain song and it's going to help him win a game - as long as it's not offensive, I'm going to play it."

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Keef: Sorry, but the thought of seeing him on a big screen gives me the willies...

J. Freedom du Lac: Keith on IMAX. Should be ... interesting.

We had a good laugh about that yesterday, actually.

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Alexandria, Va.: Lets say I was going to make a tribute video to Alexander Ovechkin, showing his best checks, what music would you suggest as an accompaniment?

FYI! Washington Capitals vs Carolina Hurricanes tonight at 7PM on Comcast Sports Net! UNLEASH THE FURY!

J. Freedom du Lac: Ice Cube's " Check Yo Self."

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Falls Church, Va.: Thanks for the heads up about Levon Helm at the Rams Head on the 24th. Got me 2 tickets! I will file a full report upon my return.

J. Freedom du Lac: My full report will be filed before your full report!

See you there.

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Chevy Chase: Sweet Caroline is a Boston tradition. They use Sweet Escape during rallies at Orioles games. The Nationals are never going to gain their own identity if they don't develop their own traditions. Borrowing musical selections from other parks isn't a way to achieve this.

J. Freedom du Lac: What does "Sweet Caroline" have to do with Boston, anyway? The Caroline Kennedy connection? That can't be it since Neil Diamond didn't admit until last year that she was the song's inspiration and it's been a Fenway Park staple since 2002 and was played there regularly long before that.

As for "Sweet Escape," the Orioles ain't exactly doing something original by using Akon's woo-hooing during rallies. Just about EVERYBODY around the majors is doing it. And it's being used in other sports, too.

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Kingstowne, Va.: I just have to say THANK GOD the Nationals aren't using "Rock and Roll Part 2." They put it out there as a possibility for the "victory song." The tiresome reaction of the College Park crowd, who yell profanities every time that song is played, gets really old really quickly, and it would make NO sense at all for the Nationals' crowd to be yelling vulgarities following a WIN (when you should be celebrating your team's victory).

J. Freedom du Lac: There's that whole child pornography thing, too. That couldn't have helped Gary Glitter in the popular vote.

By the way, the Nats might re-evaluate the signature songs down the line after everybody gets to hear how they work in the context of the game/stadium.

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The tough part is, these guys are 18 to 25 years old. My music may change, my tolerance may change... as long as it's not offensive, I'm going to play it.: There is a chance though, that marketing veep John Guagliano won't even know if the song choice is offensive.

J. Freedom du Lac: You mean like when Christian Guzman used 50 Cent's "Disco Inferno" as his walk-up music and Fiddy was on the PA rhyming about putting your back into it?

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Nats City Rockers: My choice for Nats music: "I'm So Bored with the USA" by The Clash. I'm sure it would go over well with everyone at the stadium. The "Watergate tapes" reference establishes the local connection.

J. Freedom du Lac: The author Josh Pahigian ("The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip: A Fan's Guide to Major League Stadiums," "101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out," etc.) had an amusing DC-related suggestion. Doesn't have anything to do with music, but he proposed using a sound bite of Chris Matthews saying "Let's play hardball" when the team takes the field.

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Nats signature songs : Can we get the final list? I didn't see one in your article.

J. Freedom du Lac: Classified information, apparently.

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Losing Song: Is there going to be a special song the Nationals play when they lose?

J. Freedom du Lac: You know, "Beautiful Day" might work there, too. After all, the song is (I think) about losing your material posesions and finding joy in what you still have.

Come to think of it, that's kind of a weird thing to play for a bunch of people making hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) for playing a game.

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Please!: Suggest to the Nats brass playing "Washington DC" by the Magentic Fields!!!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes.

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Doesn't have anything to do with music, but he proposed using a sound bite of Chris Matthews saying "Let's play hardball" when the team takes the field. : Now this would be different and would certainly help the Nationals develop an identity. Political sound bytes instead of songs.

Wait, now we're really getting off topic.

J. Freedom du Lac: Team motto: "Yes We Can."

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Suggested walk-up song for Dmitri Young, with a local connection: "Dare to be Fat" by Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band.

J. Freedom du Lac: Ouch! He's a big cat, though. Very big.

Phish's "Meat" has some titular possibilities, too.

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Damn Nationals?: I fully realize that the ballpark isn't the best place to play Broadway musicals, but how many teams have an entire musical based upon them? Maybe a little "Gotta have Heart" after a loss?

J. Freedom du Lac: Peter Gammons said he was at the Oakland Coliseum during -- err, I can't remember which World Series. But the A's lost one of the games and immediately played "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" afterwards.

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Fairfax, Va.: If you had to bet, is this the last hurrah for the Boss and E Street Band? Danny is sick. Clarence is old. Max is moving to Los Angeles and won't be allowed to take breaks to tour.

J. Freedom du Lac: Wouldn't be a chat without at least one Springsteen question. You really have to wonder how much longer Clarence can do it - and also about Danny's health. (What's the latest on that, anyway?) Is it true that NBC won't let Max hit the road when they take over the "Tonight Show"? What's up with that?

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Chicago, Ill.: Damn, I thought Next Big Thing = "Robyn" meant Robyn Hitchcock...

J. Freedom du Lac: Sorry! Here is a cool (if VERY long) Robyn Hitchcock session and interview from KCRW's "Morning Becomes Eclectic."

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More Nats playlist: Some Henry Rollins, Fugazi, Bad Brains, etc.

J. Freedom du Lac: Like the man said: Nothing too hardcore.

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Phoenix, Md.: Where are they going to fit Jack Johnson into the schedule, before Nine Inch Nails? Hopefully the small stage has something-- anything --interesting while he lulls everybody else to sleep.

J. Freedom du Lac: You're assuming NIN also performs on Saturday night, when Jack Johnson is slotted onto the schedule. (He's at All Points West on Sunday so it's pretty obvious that he'll be at Pimlico on Saturday.) Also, who really knows who they'll put where. Remember, Velvet Revolver played on the smaller stage last year.

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Baseball, Hockey: Is this the music chat or the sports chat? I'm getting confused.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's the food and wine chat. Let's talk about the greatness of the 1978 vintage for cabernet producers in California, shall we?

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Washington, D.C.: Danny Federici came back for a show in Indy, and is rumored to return at Anaheim night 2.

J. Freedom du Lac: Good.

Wonder if I can get down to Charlottesville on the 30th. Hmm...

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Birchmere Food: Goin' to the Birchmere, and am, against my better judgment, going to order food! I did that a long time ago, and while it wasn't terrible, it wasn't exactly distinguished. I go for the music, which is great. Not the food, except for the beer.

So, what might be my best Birchmere meal? What's a good entree? It's been years since I last ordered. Maybe the kitchen has improved?

J. Freedom du Lac: Speaking of the food and wine chat ...

I haven't explored the menu enough to have an opinion here. The pulled pork sandwich is decent. The red beans and rice are fine. They won't change your life, but really, who goes to a concert for great food? (Though Strathmore sometimes serves up some pretty delicious stuff.)

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Nats playlist: How about going all local? EU, Last Train Home, Slickee Boys, Nils Lofgren, etc.?

J. Freedom du Lac: Interesting idea, but not going to happen. Though it would be kinda cool to hear "Last Good Kiss" on the PA.

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Arlington, Va.: Rock and Roll Part 2 -I noticed that it hasn't gotten as much play recently anywhere. Care to inform us about the pron connection. I always liked that song (and the Blur woo hoo song). Just because MD students don't have any class doesn't mean the rest of the people have to stoop to their level.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thisnot just in.

"Gary Glitter was jailed for four months yesterday for amassing 'a vast private library of child pornography.'"

- Nov. 13, 1999

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Fairfax City, Va.: You forgot the mention the cowboy music playing under the player introductions -- the theme from Bonanza or something. I thought we were at a Texas Rangers game. Hee Haw.

I beg you to call back the Nats marketing guy and ask him to give us JUST ONE HALF INNING without music or schlocky contest. Just let us enjoy the game for 3 minutes.

Lastly, Denyce Graves - amazing.

J. Freedom du Lac: The volume on that was so low that I could barely hear it. Ditto Ray Charles/"Georgia On My Mind" during the Atlanta intros.

One of the great things about going to the park early was that I got to hear Denyce Graves do a sound check, during which she was trying to figure out exactly how she'd sing the Anthem. Pretty fascinating listening to her work it out.

As for the half-inning of silence: Buy a row of season tickets right behind the plate and fill the suggestion box there. Otherwise, forget it.

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Touching you, touching me....: Avid Red Sox fan here. There is no "reason" Sweet Caroline is played at Sox games it just is, and the fans like it, and we're superstitious, OK, we need to hear it. Further explanation here.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeahbut, the other songs that have a big part in the game-going experience at Fenway - "Shipping Up to Boston," "Tessie," "Dirty Water" - all have great regional reasons to be in heavy rotation.

Speaking of which, using "Shout" as the seventh-inning stretch song: I think using the Otis Day and the Knights version is ridiculous. Especially since the Isley Brothers original has a great local tie.

From a 2001 Richard Harrington piece on the Isleys:

It was a 1959 concert at Washington's fabled Howard Theater that changed the course of the original Isleys, brothers Ronald, Rudolph and O'Kelly. While performing Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," Ronald interjected the phrase "You know you make me want to shout," which apparently provoked a frenzied audience response. A rep from RCA, which had just signed the Isleys, noted the reaction and suggested their first single be built around that catchphrase. The resulting two-sided single, "Shout (Parts 1 and 2)," melded the call-and-response of traditional gospel with rock 'n' roll instrumentations and over-the-top vocal exuberance. Though it didn't reach the Top 40, "Shout" became one of rock's signature songs.

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Chevy Chase: I was at 7 major league baseball stadiums last year, and the only two that played the Sweet Escape during a rally as runs were scored were Oriole Park and RFK Stadium. I heard it several times at the former before even hearing it at the latter. The only one to play it between innings was Baltimore. They played it on an organ at US Cellular Field in Chicago.

The Boston connection to Sweet Caroline is that the Red Sox played the song on a consistent basis at their games before anyone else. The Nationals can and should get their own late inning tradition.

J. Freedom du Lac: Sorry, but I'm going to take take the word of the guy who's been to every park in the majors (save for Nationals Park) over yours.

"For me, the game speaks for itself; I don't need to hear Gwen Stefani and Akon when I'm at a game." - Josh Pahigian

The song is everywhere, he says. Your sample size was too small.

Just because somebody is first with an idea doesn't mean it's a good one. I mean, I'm not going to applaud the Nationals if they start using a new Celine Dion song before anybody else.

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who goes to a concert for great food?: The same people who go to museums for the $50 hotdogs?

J. Freedom du Lac: Are the hot dogs that expensive at The Source? It's good to be Wolfgang Puck!

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Washington, D.C: What is the deal with Jack Johnson? I just don't understand his popularity. The dreadlocked Jack Johnson wannabe kid on American Idol is just as entertaining Jack Johnson himself.

Johnson's music belongs in a dentist's office, not on a festival stage!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, but eight out of nine festival bookers seem to disagree.

His music is pleasant enough, I guess, in the same way that John Mayer's pop is pleasant. (Mayer is a different guy when he starts playing the blues.) And that easy-going vibe is good for festivals, I guess.

Personally, I don't care since Producer David is going to wind up covering Jack Johnson's set, assuming I can come up with another bet he's certain to lose.

Seth needs to book Ozomatli. Now THAT is a great festival band.

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Shirlington, Va.: What do think about Bob Lefsetz's recent rant at a conference where he was basically saying concert tickets are way too expensive and out of hand ? I agree with him 100%. I stopped going to big & medium-sized concerts years ago when they went above $30.00 per ticket. The concert industry & the bands/artists themselves have simply outpriced me.

J. Freedom du Lac: As a guy who generally doesn't pay for concert tickets, I'm not sure I'm the best person to comment on this. Having said that, I'll comment anyway: The pricing is out of control. As are the service fees. I'm going to Jazz Fest for a couple of days, for fun, and I was looking at getting some tickets online - and I just about gagged when I saw how much the various fees were. I think the tix are $40 per, but if you buy four, you wind up paying something like $195. That includes a print-at-home charge, which is ludicrous. As Lefsetz said at the Pollstar panel: "How come there's a print-at-home charge if IM DOING ALL THE WORK?" It was a major laugh line, but he's spot on there.

He also noted said something about concert-goers being raped and bent over. The man has a way with words.

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Arlington, Va.: I have not heard the brand new REM album 'Accelerate.' So what is the big deal about this album vs. the past several albums they've released since their original drummer, Bill Berry left the band? I'm a long time fan but, I haven't like the albums they've made since Bill left.

J. Freedom du Lac: It rocks more than the others, which were kind of snoozy. Crunchier with, um, accelerated tempos.

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John Mayer or Jack Johnson's Popularity?: I too don't get John Mayer nor Jack Johnson's popularity at all. Both make bland, cliched Pop music. Mayer sings like he has marbles in his mouth and Johnson is too mush mouthed. His guitar playing is pleasant enough. He's a better guitarist than a singer.

J. Freedom du Lac: You know, I always thought Notorious BIG rapped like he had marbles in his mouth - and yet, he's considered one of the greats. So...

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Triangle, Va.: Can I emphasize just how much I despise hearing "Sweet Caroline" at the new ballpark? It's too identified with the damn Boston Red Sox, and if all the Ivy Leaguers in town want to hear it, let 'em go back to Fenway.

If I ran the show, here are three things I'd play:

1. First visiting pitching change -- "Land Of A Thousand Dances," by Cannibal & the Headhunters (a better version than Wilson Pickett's, with more potential for call and response).

2. For a Nats rally, a la the tomahawk chop -- the first few bars of Link Wray's classic "Rumble," recorded right here in D.C.

3. For the seventh-inning stretch -- "Cynical Girl" by Washington favorite Marshall Crenshaw.

None of these are used at any other ballpark, so they'd be uniquely Washington's. Be a leader, not a follower.

J. Freedom du Lac: Link Wray!

Excellent.

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Lefsetz and more: Excellent piece on Lefsetz. I believe I was the one who planted the seed during an e-mail exchange about Jeffrey Steele. It doesn't seem his rants are alcohol fueled, so I think my admiration for his passion has increased. The lack of evidence on income seems to support he's made good investments, or he's imitating musicians, depending on his partner.

What do you think about The Kills, The Raveonettes, Jay Reatard? I like them. All discoveries based on Producer (still?) David's SXSW blogs (perhaps one of those from Jon Pareles reports).

Thanks for all the chats.

J. Freedom du Lac: Bob says he doesn't have any money - no hidden nest egg, no trust fund, etc. - and I believe him. It's true that he's dating Felice Mancini, who does have money, but Bob continues to live in an apartment near Santa Monica College (he says it's rent-controlled), and he doesn't seem to live extravagantly.

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Alexandria, Va.: I suppose it's sort of cheesy, but the seminal ballpark music moment for me remains the Nationals' first game at RFK back in 2005. 8th inning, Nats leading 5-0, the crowd is going nuts, and while the D-backs change pitchers the PA is playing ELO's "Hold on Tight." The crowd started jumping up and down to it and shaking the stands. Great moment, and while the song may be cheesy, it was the perfect song for those circumstances after 34 years with no baseball. "Hold on tight to your dream...."

J. Freedom du Lac: That's kind of inspired, actually.

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Nats Losing Song: How 'bout "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" by Postal Service for an evening loss?

J. Freedom du Lac: Very nice.

Time to start an official thread in the blog so we can track all of these ideas. They're coming fast and furious here. A lot of good ideas left in the queue.

I'm out of time, folks. Thanks as always for stopping by. See you on the blog.

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