Nightwatch -- Live
Hosted by Eric Brace
Washington Post Nightwatch columnist
Friday, Sept. 20, 2002; 1 p.m. EDT
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.
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Eric Brace: hello nighlife mavens!
I'm in the plush and opulent offices of washingtonpost.com in arlington, overlooking our fair city. Strange times these, but still I do love my city. Enough waxing sentimental, on to the questions...
Yes, Buzz at Nation is shut down. It will not take place tonight. I'm in the process of getting the full story.
Washington, D.C.: I know our city has a lot to offer. However, is there one type of bar, club, or scene D.C. is just plain missing and really needs?
Eric Brace: The city has tons and tons to offer... and it chafes me whenever people complain about it.. blah blah, not new york, not miami.. etc etc... In fact all the swank new places that are opening are more in the NYC/Miami chic vibe. We DON'T need more of the high-end beautiful people joints. What we do need is:
A couple of nice dinner-and-dancing places, ones with tall ceilings, great table service, a real menu, and a full big band playing three nights a week. I'm dreaming.. the cost of that would be prohibitive.
Also: a real COUNTRY club... for live country acts, with dancing.
A real soul club, like State of the Union almost was, some of the time, where all these great new soul bands can play when they hit the road.
Also: a real hang out for the kids... a teen club that's not patronizing.
Also: a few great live music joints in the suburbs. Montgomery County needs to change its laws (long story, but they actively discourage music.
Anyone else have thoughts on what's missing?
Cubicle Land: Eric,
My niece's boyfriend's band plays the back room at the Black Cat. He was telling me that the club has a "two week" rule. You can't play another D.C. area club within two weeks of playing there. This sounds like an affront to working musicians and to fans. Have you heard of this?
Eric Brace: I don't think its an affront... almost every club has a similar "rule", either explicitly, in whatever contract you signed with them, or implicitly in the booking itself. Clubs are looking to get people in the door, and if a band plays the Black Cat on a Thursday, and books itself a gig at the Velvet Lounge on a Saturday, lots of people won't go to the Black Cat show...
It's just economics, and the truth is, that if a band is big enough to fill two different rooms in the same week, the clubs will have no problem booking those dates.
Imagine if the Foo Fighters booked a gig at the 9:30 then asked Dante if they could play the Black Cat the next night... You think Dante would say no? But a new band that is just coming up and doesn't have a huge fan base--but is a band the club wants to "develop"--the club would be pissed if it undercut itself by playing somewhere else...
Some clubs have 30 day or even 3 month restrictions on geographical gig overlap...
Arlington, Va.: Wouldn't it be nice if you had Dave Grohl on as a guest?
Eric Brace: Speaking of the Foo Fighters....
well, heck yeah, it'd be nice if I had Dave as a guest!!!
I did a big story on him for the Wash Post Style section after the Colour & the Shape came out, and I've just moved into his neighborhood, so I'm gonna go swing by his place and leave a little note and see if I can twist his arm to get him in here....
Stay tuned, Arlington...
Rockville, Md.: Eric --
How about a note that this weekend may be the last gasp for the annual fair and carnival season in the area, with the last days of The Great Frederick Fair (as it is known) going on today, Friday, and tomorrow, at the expansive fairgrounds in Frederick. I would recommend either a night trip today or a day-long excursion tomorrow, as it is a huge, popular and fun fair. Thanks!
Eric Brace: I'm happy to plug such a fine event...
I checked it out in 1999 and it was a blast.
Takoma Park, Md.: Could you mention that the fun Takoma Park Folk Festival is being held on Sunday? Great music, nice surroundings, nice people and the usual food and crafts are all there for a nice day of music and fun. Thanks for mentioning this event, if you can!
Eric Brace: ok.. another plug for another fine event...
Washington, D.C.: So, is Jack Evans an idiot or what? Do people understand the ramifications of his nightlife bill, which would leave NO places on, say, the 18th Street strip with the appropriate zoning for a nightclub with a liquor license? How much of a chance does this bill have of passing?
Eric Brace: You're talking about a bill that the DC City Council will look at on sept 25.
It's a ludicrous piece of legislation. Some background.
All establishments in DC have to have SOME kind of licence. I forget the names, but they are basically:
restaurant/lounge w/music/ nightclub/ dance club.
restaurant is the cheapest.. because communities feel that the rowdy elements associated with nightclubs and live music joints are responsible for higher social costs (clean up, policing, etc) so club licences are more expensive.
Many places that are licensed as restaurants (like Felix, polly's, chi cha lounge) also provide live music some nights of the week.
Jack Evans has introduced a bill that will not allow establishments with restaurant licences to charge a cover for live music. The assumption is that if they can't make money on it, they will stop doing it. Or they will upgrade their licences to whatever the club licence is.
But here's the thing:
If you can't charge a cover (nominal or not) for bands , then you don't have much money to pay bands, and the quality of bands goes down. But also the quality of the "going out" experience goes down. If i'm in a Mt Pleasant restaurant and I have a chance to hear a mariachi band, I'd happily pay $5 to see that. But the neighborhood groups opposed that because live music is bad.
Here's the other thing. The restrictions are NOT based on decibel readings.... I would understand somewhat if neighbors complained about noise.. but they don't.. They complain about the FACT of music in clubs, even when they can't hear them.
Cities like New Orleans and Austin encourage places to host live music. They know its what makes a city alive at night. they forget that it makes streets SAFER, by having people out and about.... ahhhh those stupid stup[id people
Unofficial Ombudsman: Hey, aren't you playing the Takoma Park Folk Festival? Whatever happened to full disclosure?
Eric Brace: Busted.
Here's the thing though. I don't think the terrific festival shouldn't get mentioned just 'cause I'm in it..
What I should have done is state up front that my band was playing there.
Petworth: Hi Eric!
So, I read your column a few weeks back, and got really annoyed. I've got lotsa issues with Mark Peters, and Marx Cafe. I just hate to see him getting such great publicity when I believe that he has done long term harm to the neighborhood. (In short, I believe him to be a bigot, and to be directly responsible for the Mt Pleasant riots, what 10 years ago now?)
So, how should I respond? Letter to you? Letter to the editor? Comments in the review pages?
I do not wish to slander the man - that is, I believe bad things about him, but I'm not interested in just trashing him. I am seriously interested in making the point that he is now being rewarded for years of bad behavior, as people forget what he has done.
Eric Brace: Hi petworth...
Directly responsible for the Mt Pleasant riots is pretty serious charge, but it sounds to me like you've got information that I don't have.
Yes, I hear some not-too-wonderful things about Mr. Peters, but I was so impressed by the Friday nights that those DJ fellows are creating that I may have overlooked the forest for some cool trees...
I'm eager to hear your side, and a letter to the editor, cc'd to me would be fine:
1150 15th st nw
i'm at the same street address.
GWU, Washington, D.C.: Eric
It's that time of the year again, tonight is the National Heritage Fellowships at GW's Lisner Auditorium.
Winners this year include an old-time fiddler, Ojibwe basketmakers/storytellers, a Lebanese nye (reed flute) player a Passamaquoddy basketmaker, a Conjunto accordionist and a Tibetan sand mandala painter, among others.
As in years past, tickets are free, and they have all been distributed, but all seats are released to the public at 7:15 (we have a lot of no-shows)The show starts at 7:30 p.m. I've never seen anyone turned away from this performance and the NEA has set up a live video feed overflow room just in case.
Hope to see you, and your readers, there.
Carl, GW's Lisner Aud.
Eric Brace: Another great event... get there early. This is always one of the best events of the year. The thing is, some people do get turned away, because though it's free, they require tickets and sometimes they do run out of tickets.. get there early.
Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: What's missing? How about a real good sawdust-on-the-floor brewpub, or a beer garden?
Eric Brace: that's a good call. perfect choices. Who's the entrepreneur to get this happening.
Washington D.C.: Have you heard anything about security issues for bands at the 9:30 Club? The guys from Dash Rip Rock evidently were told that they had to get their equipment out as soon as they were through opening for Horton Heat. They replied: "You mean just put everything in the van, which is parked outside, in kind of a shady area?" Yup. They did it, the van was broken into, and their axes were stolen. Bad break for a hardworking band that certainly can't afford that. I'm sure Hurwitz doesn't give a hoot.
Eric Brace: That night, there were three bands playing, Dash RR was first and when they loaded off stage, the manager and the band agreed to put their gear in their van to get it out of the way of the other two bands. The van was in the alley, where there is usually security presence, including d.c. police.
the break in occurred a half hour after the last band (Rev. Heat) played, and the club started letting some of its employees go home, including, it would seem, the alley security guy. When DRR took their CDs, T-shirts and such to the van, they found the window broken and , i think, 3 guitars gone. A bad scene, for sure, preventable, for sure, if personnel had been stationed outside. Common? I hear about it all the time from bands on the road, but honestly, this is the first time i've heard of bands losing stuff at the 9:30 club. I'm sure the club is very upset about it and will be making sure that bands get loaded out ok, and safely. Maybe they will try to find a way to keep all gear inside the building until the vans ready to be loaded and driven away. It's a tight building.. not much extra space anywhere, especially on a multiple band bill.
Palookaville: "a real COUNTRY club... for live country acts, with dancing."
The technical term for this is "honky-tonk," no? When I read the first part of your comment, I thought of the Birchmere, but of course that's more of a listening club, and a dang good one. I thought when they instituted the Bandstand shows in the new location, that the idea was to fill the distinct niche you are describing, but they don't seem to be having too many of those shows, so your main point is sound.
I myself would like to see a medium-sized location that would book jazz concerts for acts that are too big for Blues Alley or Twins, like Sonny Rollins, David Murray or Max Roach. Not all the time, just every month or so as part of the rotation. The Kennedy Center and Lisner book some of these folks but not that many, plus the seats in the Kennedy Center are so uncomfortable they make me want to kill myself.
Back when the State Theater opened, they had a suggestion sheet for acts people wanted to see, and I wrote down some of these names, but I was chatting with one of the owners and he said he'd love to but he didn't think the audience was there. Maybe he's right. Still, I envy NYers, who typically have a choice of five or six top-flight acts on every single night. (I'd go broke and my wife would leave me if we lived there.)
Eric Brace: I'd hardly call "honky tonk" a technical term, but yeah, that's what i'm talking about.. and yep, the bandstand at the birchmere was planned as something like that, but it hasn't really panned out, mostly because of sound issues, but they're still working on that, so perhaps....
large sized jazz club would be great... but it's not going to happen.. not enough money in it... are the seats at the ken cen THAT uncomfortable??
I was going through my listings this week and found about 20 acts I wanted to see just in the next 10 days or so... just think if you lived in charlottesville, or cleveland or baltimore. Not 1/5th of what we have here.
Petworth, Washington, D.C.: Eric - last week's news about Warren Zevon has got me in a funk. It's also got me reminiscing.
I remember seeing him, a number of times, at the Bayou. (And what an odd place that was.)
Anyhow, I'm looking for suggestions - good music along the zevon lines, and good places too see such music. Any suggestions?
Eric Brace: me too.
I caught him at the bayou a few times.. in fact, I think I opened for him there once.
good Zevon-esque stuff? hmmmm new Will Hoge.. Drive By Truckers.. Graverobbers (local)...Richard Thompson.. Anyone else?
I'd say go to IOTA (several nights a month)to hear music as good as Zevon's.
Washington, D.C. (re: harrington article): so, at the confluence of the potomac and anacostia rivers you have not only one of the great jazz capitols but also a major center for country music and by extension, early rock n roll. for all the griping folks do about dc not having a native identity or soul, you gotta admit that we've got as rich a musical heritage/legacy as any place around. why live anywheres else?
Eric Brace: There's so much musical history here..and Harrington's story on the history of DC country is a great place to start... in february he did a companion piece on the history of black music in d.c...
He should write a book.
Speaking of books, don't forget Mark Opsasnick's "Capitol Rock" about the history of DC's rock scene from 1955-to 1975
4th and I, Washington, D.C.: Okay, Eric, what's your take on Buzz shutting down? Who's fault is it? Promoters? Owners? Witch hunt on the media side?
Eric Brace: Buzz has been the target of many investigations.. Fox 5, the military, DC Police. I think they were just tired of being hassled, and (I'm guessing here) I'd bet that the city was making rumblings about making it hard for Nation to renew its licences or something...
The assumption is that at a rave/DJ/dance event the size of Buzz, there's going to be lots of ecstasy floating around. And I bet that's true. But it's hard to blame that on the promoters. Authorities want a scapegoat, i think... I mean, I haven't heard of any bad incidents in the aftermath of any buzz nights. Not along the lines of drunk underage patrons leaving a club and driving off, killing a cop (as someone did leaving Dream last month) so I'm not sure why people are so out to get Buzz. But it was the folks of Buzz who pulled the plug. The level of hassle must have been unbearable.. I'm trying to get the full scoop.
SW Washington, D.C.: Eric --
Any word on when and where the Metro Cafe is re-opening?
Eric Brace: the owners are still mum.. but they keep saying soon.
I'd bet late october. stay tuned.
Jazz at The Ken Cen?: Yuck. Talk about the wrong kind of everything. Something more along the size of the 9:30 club, but with seats/tables. Now you're talking.
Eric Brace: ouch. a harsh critic.
the jazz programming has improved at the ken cen, and you should try their KC Jazz Cafe later this year. Check it out on the web site. It offers much of what your wanting.. no really. They retrofit a jazz club (quite nicely) into a big room on the terrace level.
But yes.... a 1000 seater with tables... that could dovetail nicely with my request for a supper club, perhaps.
Washington, D.C.: Eric,
If you had to pick between these three shows (for both budgetary and school night reasons), which would you choose: Aimee Mann (at 9:30 on Sept. 29), Neko Case (at Black Cat on Oct. 2), or Ryan Adams (at 9:30 on Oct. 3 or Oct. 4)?
Eric Brace: Aimee has run out of things to say, though she says them quite well...
Ryan has developed into a full on rock star with all the attitude that implies.. and his solo shows are spotty affairs.
Neko is still developing aas an artist and is doing the most interesting stuff right now of the three.
I'd say Neko, though her live shows haven't been that overwhelmingly great in the past... I'd still go with Neko.
Middleburg, Va.: I'm going to see Mr Show Live at the Warner Theatre tonight. How early should I get there for the 7:30 show? Do you know how long the show lasts?
Eric Brace: I don't know how long it is, but it's going to be the funniest show this city has seen in a long time. Those guys are comic geniuses... If it's assigned seating, get there at 7:15... if it's general admission.. get there at 6:30.
Arlington, Va.: What's missing? A home base to continue the U Street black arts renaissance. Without State of the U and Metro we have no midsize venues for live hip-hop anymore. This year was the end of an era.
Eric Brace: Agreed.
The New U is crumbling...
Bohemian caverns never delivered on its promise.. State and republic gardens both were cool, now gone .. I hope Marc Barnes puts some of his big money from Dream back onto those two...
Kaffa House is gone.. 2K9 isn't the showcase venue it said it would be (a big name every month or two).
U Street: particularly re: jazz, i'll take a night at twins or hr57 over bigger names in nyc, where its 50 bucks, 45 minutes and out.
sure would be nice to see the lincoln theatre, weird shape though it is, more intensively and more interestingly used.
Eric Brace: and i'll take HR 57 over twins, mainly for service and vibe reasons.
the Lincoln theater is owned by the city and has all kinds of union stipulations on its use. It is thus severely restricted in the kinds of things it can book.. it SHOULD be a showcase jazz theater.. yes indeed.
Washington, D.C.: Some time has passed since the premiere, but I am wondering if there has been any talk going on about the movie "the pocket: the dc go-go experience". I went to the premiere and show at the Lincoln Theatre where the Uncalled 4 Band, Q and not U and Little Benny and the Go-Go Allstars all did sets. In chatting on the phone with a friend in SF,CA about the show, punk band playing inbetween 2 go-go bands and he was blown away. It's like DC is a vortex of secret music history. What gives?
Eric Brace: secret to whom?
you know about it.. I know about it, and now your friend knows about it!
The issue always ends up being radio play. And there's go-go on wpgc... but the rest of the world is often in the dark.
I'm glad you were diggin' the film. It's going to be submitted to festivals and such, but it's a real indie and doesn't have any distribution so won't get wide release unless it blows people away at a festival and gets picked up ... They did a great job on the movie I think.
One of my favorite shows was Minor Threat's last show, at the Lansburgh Center, with Trouble Funk.
Diversity! spread the love!
But the movie, give it to a friend...
Alexandria, Va.: Hey Eric. How do you think Buzz's closing affect Alchemy and VelvetNation? How will the venue continue to operate without such a huge revenue generator?
Eric Brace: those are the key questions right there. and I don't have the answers. will soon though.
Arlington, Va.: Any bands coming to town that you're excited about seeing? Do you know if the Old 97s will be coming back to DC any time soon?
Eric Brace: oh man.. so so many. check my circuit box today in Weekend and my online picks here at post.com. John Doe/Kristin Hersch/Grant Lee PHillips at the 9:30 saturday.
Rhett, the lead songer from Old 97s has a solo album out this month.. he'll be touring supporting that.. Old 97s will be back in 2003, not before.
U Street Queen, Washington, D.C.: Rumor has it that Thievery Corporation was filming a video at the Black Cat last week. Can you confirm? Great to see local talent using local venues for things like that. Especially when they have a bigger following in Europe than in the U.S.
Eric Brace: True.
Thievery is HUGE around the world.. .they're beginning their world tour soon.
Washington, D.C.: A few years ago, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra did a series of free shows at the Lincoln. That was so good. I'd love to see something like that again.
Eric Brace: I remember that. the SJMO isn't the world's greatest though. It needs a bigger budget and better players...
SW, Washington, D.C.: Eric--Is Acropolis holding its own? Has it taken any business from 1223, Dream or VIP?
Eric Brace: It's not stealing biz from anyone. No one I've talked to likes it very much at all... it does ok, though. It won't disappear right away.
AU: When do you think people will start announcing Halloween events? Have you heard of any good ones yet? I'm ready, working on a great outfit, and now need a place to go party.
Eric Brace: What's your outfit??
big party announcements.. hmmm good question.
Lindy Promotions, 444, partydigestdc.. they'll have listings. Nothing up yet.
Alexandria, Va.: Eric. I see the Assrockers are playing the Velvet on Saturday night. What's their story?
Eric Brace: they're a hilarious and very rocking band that take the best parts of rock music and make it even better.
Me again. About Marx Cafe: Any word on Marx Cafe/Soundclash? I just hate to drive there and find out its closed.
If that isn't still going on, how is the Crossroads place as far as reggae is concerned. Would someone who loves old school reggae-type music find something to enjoy?
Eric Brace: the Marx Cafe changed its phone number recently: 202-518-7600.
Soundclash IS happening on friday sept 27. worth a visit.
Alexandria, Va.: Just a heads-up. Scott Henry, John Tab, and others will be live on 99.1 tonight from 12-3AM taking calls and spinning tracks.
Eric Brace: Good to know. (these are the guys that run Buzz)
Washington, D.C.: Eric --
Just saw a flier up in front of Lisner advertising a 25th anniversary show of Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus (recorded at Lisner) and featuring Levon Helm, Billy Bob Thornton and others. What do you know 'bout it?
Eric Brace: I only know what's on the flier... don't know what levon or billy bob will be doing (i'd crawl through broken glass to watch levon play drums)...
I know this: Little Feat still rocks.. but man, I miss Lowell George.
Washington, D.C.: Do any of the D.C. British joints ever have live music, or is always just soccer? (thinking Lucky Bar, Mackey's) Friend is coming to town and we both went to London a few years back, after college. Trying to think of something interesting to do....
Eric Brace: sometimes mackey's has a guy and a guitar.. but no. Generally no live music. the irish bars do though. But I suspect you won't be going to them. hmmmmmmmmmm the Anglo scene in d.c. is minimal.. perhaps Fritz has some thoughts... Fritz?
Eric Brace: ok gang.. gotta go.. thanks so much for logging on and reading and asking questions.
y'all rock... any further questions/comments, feel free to buzz me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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