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Eric Brace
Eric Brace
(Mark Finkenstaedt for The Washington Post)
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Nightwatch -- Live
Hosted by Eric Brace
Washington Post Nightwatch columnist

Friday, Dec. 6, 2002; 1 p.m. ET

Where's the best karaoke joint in town? What's the best brewpub around? Who was that band that rocked at the Black Cat last week? For the answer to any going-out-in-Washington question, just ask Eric Brace -- our resident nightwatchman.

From backstage at the annual Wammies (Washington's own Grammy Awards) to karaoke at Renzo's to salsa dancing at Cecilia's, every week Post staff writer Eric Brace throws himself on the front lines of the bar-n'-music beat in the Washington area. A Washington resident for nearly 30 years, Brace started with the Style section in 1990, where he wrote live music reviews and filed longer feature stories on the likes of Fugazi, Jawbox, Pearl Jam, Stephane Grappelli and many others. Then he created the Nightwatch column, which appears every week in The Post's Weekend section and on washingtonpost.com's Bars and Clubs page. He also sings and plays guitar for the country-rock band Last Train Home.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Eric Brace: hi gang,
thanks for signing on and checking in with the nightlife chat....
What's planned for the holidays...? New Year's Eve?
On top of that, let's talk about the year so far: favorite local show? best club.. ? new club??
bring it on..

Arlington, Va.: I have a friend coming in town this month who's a big blues fan. Any local gigs I should take him to, particularly of the "Washington institution" flavor?

Eric Brace: The washington blues scene is great as far as music and musicians go... but less than great when it comes to venues.
Local boy Catfish Hodege is great.. He's playing Whitlow's tomorrow night..
The Sauce Man, a Louisana blues guy who literally cooks at the same time as he plays is at Madams Organ Sat Dec. 7, and Madam's Organ also has Ben Andrews every Tuesday... Look for Robert Lighthouse there often too.
And Eddie Jones, a local RnB genius is at Bohemian Caverns Dec. 7, Dec. 20 and Dec. 28.
Whop Frazier is at Starland Cafe Dec. 13..
Robert Randolph (amazing gospel/blues/steel player) is at 9:30 club Dec. 13
The Birchmere has Shemikia Copeland on Dec. 12 (amazing)

Cubicle City: Hi Eric. I've got a first date tonight with someone who is new in town so I've been asked to pick the spot. We're interested in drinks. With the weather, I'm thinking warm wintery drinks. I don't want anything too romantic because it is only a first date. Any ideas?

Eric Brace: Does any hotel at all count as romantic? Because the best places these days for what you're saying are all the hotel bars: Rouge, Poste, Topaz, Firefly (all the Kimpton Hotel Group)... but older places like the Hay Adams, the Jefferson, The Mayflower, they can all be fun too...

Nice restaurant bars, like New Heights and DC Coast are swell, but there's the assumption of dinner with that.

Anyone else have a thought?

Arlington, Va.: Hey Eric --

It's that time again -- what are your top picks for albums of the year?

Personally I would have to mention Beck, Sonic Youth, Flaming Lips, Metropolitan, Interpol.

Eric Brace: I've been so wrapped up in the local scene, I've barely had time to check out the bigger scene..
I Realllllllly like the new Beck and flaming lips.
Interpol is very good..
Metropolitan is one of washington's best bands and their new record deserves to be on lots of year-end best lists...
I'm digging the Citizen Cope record still. Pretty local (despite living in Brooklyn now)
and the brand new Canyon.. Local and national .. it is greeeeeeeat.

Re: Hotel/date: Tabard Inn. Hang out in front of the fire.

Eric Brace: Yeah, but there was a request that it not be TOO romantic, and Tabard is one of the most romantic places.. you could get into all kinds of trouble on one of those couches in front of the fire.

Washington, D.C.: What's the deal with Filler at the Blue Room? It's billed as a no-cover event and I've been there several times with no problem. But the last time I went, a few weeks ago, the bouncer demanded a "password" and then tried to charge us $5 because we didn't know it. I was with a lady, so he eventually let us in but my friend who came later wasn't so lucky. I signed up for a Blue Room email list after this thinking I would receive the "password" but got nothing. I don't think it's a good idea to sweat your loyal patrons for a password or a cover, especially since I usually drop like 80 bucks on drinks every time I go.

Eric Brace: That's odd.... hmmmmmmmmm.
I didn't think there was supposed to be a cover charge at the Blue Room on Sunday nights (Filler night).
But when I did the story on that about a year ago, the fellers who run it DID leave the door open to a cover charge if they had to pay a touring DJ (someone of national or international stature), so maybe you came upon it on one of those nights....
but yeah, the password thingy is laaaaaame.
I'll inquire.
Anyone else have this problem...?

Alexandria, Va.: Eric,

I'd like to get my dad tickets to a concert for Christmas, something in the next month or so. He's a big fan of brass -- any ideas?

Eric Brace: RUN to the Kennedy center on Monday Dec 9 for the FREE annual Merry Tuba Christmas!... It's one of the best events of the season... more than 100 tubas, sousaphones and the like playing special HORN arrangements of xmas music. It's a real blast, from 6 to 7 pm.

But also, at Blues Alley there are two things that WILL sell out and are worth checking out: Tuesday Dec 10: The Eric Felton Orchestra doing Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite, and Wednesday Dec 11, the Capital Bones Big Band doing Stan Kenton's holiday arrangements.

If you're talking about classical brass stuff, I'm out of my depth...

Bethesda, Md.: Hey Eric,

Are you the guy who digs divey bars or is that Rhome? Either way, you should wander over to "The Corner Pub" at four corners in Silver Spring. It's a great dive!

Eric Brace: Oh I'm a dive guy.
In today's Nightwatch column in the Weekend section, I show my appreciation for a truly excellent one: Peyton Place in Springfield.
I haven't been to the Corner Pub, but i hear it's pretty nice... I was disappointed because I heard they were booking music earlier this year then they stopped. Has that changed??

I'm a dive guy: Raven, Hank Dietle's, Griff's, JVs,

Arlington, Va.: E --

I agree with you on Canyon, great stuff. I'm looking forward to seeing them with Phaser later this month.

My vote for bar of the year, most every year for that matter, is the Galaxy Hut in Arlington. Great beer and great staff.

Eric Brace: hear Hear on the Galaxy Hut... I've been a regular since it opened.. since BEFORE it opened actually, when it was roratonga rodeo.
I wonder how long it can survive the Clarendon boom.
I hope forever.

Silver Spring, Md.: Another great hotel site, although I'm not sure if it's open in the winter, is the Hotel Washington's rooftop deck. Drinks, food, etc. and it's right over 15th and Pennsylvania with some spectacular views.

Eric Brace: Great views... but indeed, that terrace is closed until May.

Burnt Stump, Va.: Eric,

Several of the best shows we attended this past year were at DAR Constitution Hall -- The Down From The Mountain (Oh Brother) concert and the recent Elvis Costello tour (with NRBQ opening). Big fun!

On a smaller scale, virtually any show at Iota is a delight, hope to catch the Handsome Family there the next time they roll through town.

Uncle Munkle

Eric Brace: Hey you've got great taste.
All of those, are amazing.
Many folks i know didn't "get" NRBQ opening for Elvis.
I no longer speak to those people.

Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: My favorites this year:

Shows: Coldplay -- 9:30, Drive-by Truckers -- Iota, Canyon (all the local shows were great, especially the one at Iota with Golden).

CDs -- All of the new CDs by the above bands I would recommend without hesitation. I also liked GBV, Citizen Cope and Dismemberment Plan's releases this year.

Eric Brace: Another superb list. You show a diversity of taste (and venues) that's commendable.
I wish everyone would give the locals as much of a chance as you clearly do.

SW Washington, D.C.: Hey Eric, I didn't know you were involved with MHZ networks! I was flipping in between Christmas specials last night and saw you interviewing Balligomingo on MHZ Presents! Is this a new gig for you?

Eric Brace: I have been playing host on the TV show "MHZ Presents" for a couple of months now.. we've taped about 15 programs, and three or four have aired already. I play roughly the David Byrne/John Hiatt character from "Sessions from West 52nd" or whatever the name of that fine show is. It's on most thursdays at 8 p.m., but it's sometimes hard to find on various area cable networks. (go to www.mhznetworks.org for a "how to find us on your TV" guide)

It's a public station so they have no money so I do it for free... it's just a lot of fun.

Washington, D.C.: For a first date, I'm a big fan of Local 16. If the date goes south, at least you have good eye candy to amusement!

Eric Brace: It is a fine joint, yes. Service still lacks a little something, though, and now with the weather, the roof may be closed, unless they got those heaters they were promising. As for first date spot on a friday night, it might be a little crowded/noisy/slowservice... could cause awkwardness...

Adams Morgan/Mt. Pleasant, Washington, D.C.: Hi Eric,

I have some friends coming into town tomorrow night and want to take them somewhere in walking distance. I want something a little different than the usual bar-hopping scene. Any suggestions?

Eric Brace: Any suggestions?
You could zoom up and down the U street scene... go from Local 16 to Chi Cha to utopia to Pollys to 2K9 to 9:30 club to Kingpin and Velvet...
but i just suggested something you DIDn't want to do..
Ok, what about a cool indie flick at Visions, and hang at the bar there??
Or walk across Conn. Ave to Bistrot Du Coin..?
In Mt. Pleasant, the Marx Cafe has cool DJS... then there's the Raven (cold cheap beer).
Or you could go dancing.. do you salsa???
Hit Habana Village, or Latin jazz Alley.. get a Mohito and learn to Mambo.

Re: NRBQ: I saw them open for him 15 years ago too. That show brought back my youth. Sigh ...

Eric Brace: Sigh indeed.... and I saw them 25 years ago at the Psychedelly...

Washington, D.C.: Two things.

Har Mar Superstar -- any info on them? (Measle Mumps Rubella is opening for them at the Black Cat.)

And tomorrow at "The Warehouse," which is on 7th Street on the East side of the new convention center, there will be an art opening featuring some pretty hot installation artists. It should be worth a look, fer shure.

Eric Brace: Harold Martin Tillman, aka Har Mar Superstar, is overweight, balding, and crazy. He dances around in his underwear. He rants... he raves.. it's apparently an amazing live show.

Good call on the Warehouse.

Arlington, Va.: Eric,

For the first date drinkers, I would add the Tabard Inn. Cozy by the fire with a dry martini. It did wonders for my first date two Decembers ago.

Favorite show this year (not by a local) Bob Dylan at George Mason. Bob has a killer band with Charlie Sexton and Larry Cambell on (many) guitars, plus Tony Garnier on bass and George Receli on drums. Bob played a lot of great piano as well as some good licks on his Strat and Martin. And did I mention the songs?

Eric Brace: Bob has the best band he's ever had.

Arlington, Va.: For various reasons I may be on my own for New Year's Eve. I can't bear the thought of staying home alone this year. What do you recommend for a single gal?

Eric Brace: I've only just barely begun to look at the new years eve listings. Lemme look in my files now.

Washington, D.C.: What are you thoughts on whether or not the Interpol concert at 9:30 will sell out tonight?

Sorry for the boring question.

Eric Brace: It will probably sell out (according to my deep deep sources), but that'll be walk-up. Buy a ticket in advance. There are still a bunch on sale.

Washington, D.C.: I note that Todd Rundgren is playing the Birchmere in February. That's pretty cool. Do you have any sense of what he's doing or what could be expected? He's so extraordinarily creative that I have to think it'd be great, but I don't know much about his shows or whether he's there because he wants to be or because that's the best he can do.

washingtonpost.com: Snazzy Web site: www.toddrundgren.com.

Eric Brace: I saw Todd at Jaxx two years ago and it was really a great great show.
Tunes from his whole career... his new stuff was excellent too. If he's at the Birchmere it may be quieter? Hang on.. lemme call them over there:
Hmmm no answer.
It's worth a risk.. and check the Todd link.. maybe there's some discussing of what he's up to.

Good call on the Har Mar: Sheesh, thanks for the warning.

Eric Brace: It's some crazy shit...
more a spectacle, like pro wrestling, than, ummmm, art.

Warehouse art info: You'll probably hate this, but this is a ton of info about art "thing" The Warehouse at warehouse. I know most of the artists in this are super solid, but seeing an installation by Dan Steinhilber is something people in this city should do NOW! He will be WORLD CLASS eventually. If you like this thing on Saturday. He's got three installations made of everyday materiels at Signal 66 right now that will knock your socks off.

1019 7th St, NW
Washington, DC 20001
(across from the site of the new DC Convention Center)
Gallery Hours: Thursday, 6:00-9:00 pm and Saturday-Sunday, 12:00-5:00 pm
Free and open to the public

Presented by the Washington Project for the Arts-Corcoran and Decatur Blue, and curated by the members of Decatur Blue from the WPA-C's ArtFile slide and media registry, this exhibition showcases artists employing a diverse range of mediums and materials. These regional artists explore the themes of mass production's accessibility, scientific technology, the decay of dignified architecture, the decline of the hand-made, and man's adaptation to these changes. Their work responds to the unique demands as well as liberties presented to Washington artists by composing new alternatives. The channels through which they connect their pictorial and conceptual visions are never direct, but rather fluctuating, pulsing playfully between the two and allowing the viewer to move through the work with his own grace.

Much like the B sides to an album of songs, these artworks offer alternatives that are unfiltered, passionate, sincere, and distinct. DB Sides is an exhibition of new artwork by twelve local visual artists, featuring photographs by Christine Carr and Geoff Johnson, paintings by Isabel Manalo and Maggie Michael, sculpture by Joan VanSledright, and mixed media and video installations by Bridget Sue Lambert, Brandon Morse, Dan Steinhilber, Anita Walsh, and Team Response (Jason Balicki, Justin Barrows, and Matt Sutton).

Eric Brace: More information is always better than less.
And for people who want alternatives to bars, places like the Warehouse and Signal 66 and Decatur Blue are excellent.
I hear great things about Dan H., but haven't had time to check him out.

But I gotta say, sentences like these:
"Their work responds to the unique demands as well as liberties presented to Washington artists by composing new alternatives. The channels through which they connect their pictorial and conceptual visions are never direct, but rather fluctuating, pulsing playfully between the two..."

are part of why zillions of people don't care about modern art... or get scared away from ever checking it out.

Alexandria, Va.: Eric,

Tuesday at Jammin Java there is a John Prine tribute with Steve Key, Herb Tyson, David Alberding, and many other local folkies. Good chance to survey the local scene.

Eric Brace: Jammin' Java has been doing a bunch of those "Tribute" nights,, and I think they're a great way to check out a bunch of local acoustic/folkie/singer-songwriter at one sitting.

Washington, D.C.: E:

Where can I go hear some soul-stirring gospel music? I want to usher in the season with some gospel-induced joy. Any ideas of local church concerts or something like that?

Eric Brace: You know, i wish I had an answer for you...
I've been to a couple of righteously rockin' services, but now can't remember the exact church names, so don't want to take a leap and get it wrong. Maybe send me an e-mail at nightwatch@washpost.com and I'll dig up a few for you.

Washington, D.C.: Favorite concerts -- Most of the ones I saw:

Fugazi (Ft. Reno)
Nils Lofgren (State)
Sleater Kinney (9:30)
Martin Sexton (Birchmere)
Gomez (9:30)

Peter Gabriel was good, and I only wish Bob Dylan played closer to town this year -- his last show at MCI was incredible. And hey, I enjoyed seeing you at Iota!

Eric Brace: Another good list (especially the last entry!)
As usual, Fugazi proved that it's still an incredibly creative and powerful band. One of the best live bands in the world. I don't go home and put on my fugazi records, but live, they cannot be beat.

Open minded: Yeah man, I'm open minded, but you certainly need to be in a certain mental zone to deal with the flailing "underpants" thing. So there's the Grandsons tonight, will head to that. I have to plug IOTA -- I am a bonfide urbanite 'fraid of the burbs and Virginia especially, but this past year of hanging out at IOTA has done just that, opened my mind. Great club and I am glad they are booking all kinds of music again, like in the beginning.

Eric Brace: One of the best clubs in the country indeed.. and I have not been able to write about it in my Nightwatch column (as opposed to recommending shows there in my Circuit box) because I do happen to play there a lot.....
And speaking of playing a lot, I have made noises here and there about going away to try my hand at full-time music, and that's in fact what I'm doing.
More on this in the next note.....

washingtonpost.com: FYI, gospel events listing in Entertainment Guide.

Eric Brace: Ahhhh the Righteously Rockin' Lisa T., who is minding this chat while my usual producer, Fritz Hahn, frolics in Paris, has come up with the gospel link.
Thanks, Miz T.

Eric Brace: Time is up... thanks thanks thanks...

But let me say, I am sure gonna miss these chats. We've got two more left, Dec 20 and Jan 3. Jan 3 will be my last day at the Post, as I'll be taking a one-year leave of absence to take my band Last Train Home on the road. On Dec 20, let's talk more about this year's best, and your New Year's plans (i'll be way more prepared on THAT front, I promise). And on Jan 3, let's talk about all the stuff that's gone on in D.C. the past 6 1/2 years that I've written the nightwatch column.

It's a pleasure chatting with you folks, and if you've got other questions or comments, feel free to send em along at nightwatch@washpost.com.

Your nightwatchman,


That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

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