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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, Oct. 18, 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.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

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: Hey there folks..
thanks for checking in on this lovely day...
Lemme ask you something: Has this bad, bad man in the white/cream van altered your life? Do you really think twice about pumping gas? Going out at night?
Does ALL this cr*p make you want to
a) leave washington?
b)stay in and rent movies?
c)go nuts & party like it's the end of the world? tell me.

Re: Local 16: Who, besides idiots, pays $11 for a Grey Goose and tonic? Where is all that money going?

What a rip off. Why do you encourage people to go to places like that?

Eric Brace: Hmmmm it's a fair question.
What i encourage, is for people to get out of their houses. From my perspective, TV/DVD's/Ramen noodles are the enemy of a vibrant, happening D.C. nightlife.
the 16th street stretch needs a shot in the arm.. with State of the Union and Republic Gardens closed.. Kaffa House is on again/off again, Bohemian Caverns is hurting.. there's all kinds of things wrong with it down there, but still, the landlords along that stretch (U from 9th to 18th)are charging such high high rents ($70 and more per square foot.. and if you know anything about rental space you know that's a TON of money), so very few cool/funky/divey/hip joints can afford it. It's either double-digit cocktails or TGIFridays, frankly. You'll note that all the stuff that has come in along 6th/7th/F/G streets around MCI center is all corporate out-of-town companies. I'd rather that D.C. owners take over spaces and make something out of them... and Local 16 is local... The owners love DC and try to make something good happen.. you may or may not like these owners and their other clubs: eighteenth st. lounge, dragonfly and red, but they're good clubs, doing cool stuff, and they're NOT Fado's, Hard Rock, Rock Bottom, corporate stuff. And that's a good thing.
What I do is TELL you that the drinks are expensive, so that then YOU can make the decision on whether to go or not. It's a beautiful space, and sometimes, on a nice evening, $11 would actually be a price worth paying to sip a really good drink on a really nice terrace... I'm not going to slam cocktails there and spend my life savings, but some people who have disposable income don't care. Meanwhile, we still have Fox & Hounds, Townhouse Tavern, Mille & Al's, the Raven, etc for cheaper stuff.

Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: No sniper is going to be in Adams Morgan, because A., he couldn't find parking, and B., he'd get stuck behind someone with hazard lights flashing in the middle of the street while trying to get away.

So, expect lots of extra Sterling-Reston-Rockvillites in the neighborhood this weekend. Yippee!

Eric Brace: there is definitely something to that way of thinking...
I'm not one to be inclined to stay in.. percentages are against this guy being anywhere near me at any given time (though i admit to almost going to that HDepot that night and that time... kinda freaked me out... but I came in to work instead .. such diligence!)
I keep wondering when the city might deign to do something about parking... buying land and building municipal lots... I've even writing letters to city council members about this!!
I'm not even going to get into an argument about "if you don't go out then the sniper wins!".. whatever.. he's sick and I can't begin to second guess his motives or his hopes. All I know is that it's important for me to see people going out, because it makes the world a safer place.
To that end, why (he asks rhetorically) does the city make people wait wait wait for permits: ABC/fire/etc... It's shameful. I know of three very cool places just begging the city to let them open their doors (and not secondarily make the city a boatload of money on the 10% sales tax this city punitively levies on restaurant/bar receipts), and the city can't be bothered to send inspectors/permit reviewers, etc.
I'm tired of this town's bureaucracy.

b. stay in: I'm not up nights paralyzed by fear, but if the question is go out or stay in, I'll stay in.

Eric Brace: Do arguments about percentages do nothing for you? More likely to be hit by a bus.. hit by a different kind of shooter (drive by, whatever).. hit by lightening, etc?
Not insisting, just curious.

Arlington, Va: I dunno how I feel today about the murderer but seeing GBV last week certainly was the best antidote then. For my money the best damn rock show around...

Eric Brace: They are a band that rocks, no dang question about it.
Sadly I couldn't be there. And if it took your mind off the other stuff, then they've done their job.

"Local" 16: Is yet another sign of the increasing gentrification of U Street. Bring back the early 90s, when there was so many reasons to go there. Now, it's overpriced jazz clubs, overpriced lounges, and Ethiopian restaurants that need to be closed by the health inspector. Erico is the only reason to go down to U, and that's sad. Really, really sad.

Eric Brace: I like Erico.. I like the Islander.. I like Polly's.. I like Utopia.. I like Kingpin.. I like Club U in the Reeves Center.. I like Bar Nun.. I like Ben's.. I like Chi Cha Lounge.. i like Twins Jazz. there are still plenty of reasons to go there.

I was hanging on U street in the early '90s and there were NOT that many reasons to go there.. And you can't tell me that Local 16 is NOT an improvement over Julio's. Julio's SUCKED, really really bad. It was a gorgeous space waiting for someone to come in and do something with it. They put in more than a million bucks into fixing up that space. I'll forgive them their prices. You can blame the landlords, and the city planners that want downtown arenas, convention centers, Spy museums etc and have lured the big bucks downtown, but don't blame the club owners for doing what they gotta do to pay their loans. I blame developers like Jamal for letting so many storefronts remain vacant because he can't get his square-foot asking price.
I have a feeling there will be a come-down in real estate and more cooler/slightly cheaper places will open.

Say it loud, say it proud, I'm going OUT: Shaking the blues by whipping myself into a frenzy seeing two favorite bands tonight: The Goons and The Meat Joy. And when I leave Royal Lee, I'll zigzag to my car without trying.

washingtonpost.com: Driving drunk is not cool.

Eric Brace: Royal Lee rocks. Goons and Meat Joy rock harder, yes.
Do NOT get hammered and get behind the wheel, you big dummy. I know too many dead people on account of that sh*t.

DC: Eric:

I know you did not write the articles, but I just wanted to thank the Post and your cohorts for the pieces on Ian Macaye, Fugazi, and Dischord. Along with hip hop, this is truly DC's own sound. I hear Fugazi may do a show upon return from the UK later this year...

Eric Brace: I wrote an enormous article on Fugazi for the Sunday Style section in 1994... I wrote an article on the 20th anniversary Dischord box set two weeks ago in my column.. I wrote about Dischord's 100th release 3 years ago.. I wrote about Fugazi and their film "Instrument" when it came out a couple of years ago.. I invited Ian to do this very chat two weeks ago (check out the archives at the Live Online page)
I'm glad David Segal got around to checking out some Washington music, but don't get my hackles up and say I don't write about Fugazi/Dischord!
And yes, I think they'll perform in DC when they get back from the current UK tour.
I love those guys and have much much respect for them.
And re the sound of D.c., surely you meant go-go and not hip-hop? ...
'sokay, carry on...

Early 90s: You're forgetting: The Insect Club, 15 Min, State of the Union, the Gardens, Asylum and Zig Zag. Better reasons than Bar Nun, Polly's, Bohemian Caverns, Club U or Twins, if you ask me.

Eric Brace: Insect Club and 15 minutes weren't on U st... they were a long way from U.
State of the Union just closed earlier this year. I liked the OLD Republic Gardens, yes. Zig Zag was fun for awhile, but service there was awful. Asylum had it's good days and bad days. All I'm saying is that there are still choices.
You can go to Velvet Lounge and the downstairs bar of the 9:30 for some of that same vibe you seem to miss.

Arlington, VA: I saw Joshua Redman in Seattle recently and got tickets to see him this Sat. at Center Stage in Reston. What is this venue like? Any good places nearby to check out before/after the show for a drink or snack? Why doesn't good jazz like this get booked at Blues Alley or Bohemian Caverns, or somewhere in the District? Thanks.

Eric Brace: Blues Alley DOES book huge names... Redman has played there.. but he prefers more theatrical stage settings. He's also expensive, and those smaller clubs would have to charge $50 a ticket to afford him.
the Reston Center stage is very clean, very nice, seated theater thingy. sound is excellent. There's a little Asian restaurant right on the square overlooking lake Anne that i like .. there's Cafe Montmartre and Bistro Bistro .. and plenty of other places in that Reston Town Centre place..

Wondering: This is a stupid question, but how do you get in to the bar at the 9:30 if you don't have a ticket for the concert?

Eric Brace: There's a stairway on the outside of the building going down, and you can mosey down there for a drink. At least you used to be able to... ?? hmmm anyone know?

Washington, D.C.: sensitive much? that didn't sound like an accusation...they were giving props to the post

Eric Brace: oh I know i know..
forgive me.
wrong side of the bed...

DC: Eric:

I completely meant Go Go.

I screwed up by not remembering it was you who wrote the 20 years of Dischord piece.

I enjoyed the Ian chat immensely. That guy can Chat, can't he?

I wrote because I know you love Fugazi and you've written about them a great deal, so chill out (I never said you don't write about them, but was under the misimpression that you had not done one of the 3 recent written pieces).

And you're right; I thought Segal couldn't get past GBV and all those one-syllable-named bands that are all the hype. Sorry for the misleading post. Go Fugazi! Go Brace!

Eric Brace: my bad. I'm chill (as the kids say...)
thank YOU for the props.

Arlington, VA: I live right next to that Home Depot, so I have been pretty freaked out all week. But, I am definitely more afraid to get gas or run errands than I am go to go to bars and clubs. I know that doesn't necessarily make sense because this guy is unpredictable, but we have to enjoy ourselves.

We hesitantly went to the Wilco show on Tuesday night, and it was very worth it. I think that snapped me out of the post-shooting funk.

Eric Brace: I hear good things about those wilco shows too.
it's good to be freaked, because then you think. And if you think and choose to stay in, that's cool. And if you think and choose to go out, because you think clubs will be safe, that's verrrry cool.

party like it's 1999: but maybe not drink too much to notice my surroundings.

Eric Brace: That's the ticket.

Oops, yes, drunk driving is bad: I mean, my friend's car. Of course drunk driving is bad bad bad. Never done it, never will. Especially since my best friend doesn't drink.

Eric Brace: Nice to have that kind of best friend...
Of course you never had. I never for a second suspected you had...

ophelia: i'm going to party my butt off...i figure stumbling around the streets drunk makes me harder to hit...

Eric Brace: good call, ophelia, but better hold onto your butt though.. don't want others stumbling over it...

local 16 vs julios: its too bad we couldn't find a happy medium. i couldn't agree more, julio's SUCKED. i knew lots of people who went there anyway for the rooftop but bad service bad food bad bad bad.

then again, $11 for a cocktail would be the end of the night fore me. imagine not knowing that going in (thanks for letting us know eric) and having 3 or 4 of those...yikes. but i live just around the corner from local 16 and it is awfully pretty. anything has to be better than julios

Eric Brace: voila...
I would like a happy medium too. I would like a comfortable cozy bar, preferably with live music (a really NICE live music joint on U is what I miss)
glad you were forewarned/forearmed vs. $11 drinks.
they may have come down (by some reports, they have) but they're still around $9 or so...)

Arlington: As a musician it makes me want to write.
As a human being it makes me want to hide.
As a father it makes me want to cry.

Eric Brace: well said.

20009: hey eric,

my whole take on the sniper thing...what's the point in hiding from someone you can't see, who has shown NO pattern in choosing his victims, locations, timing...what're you supposed to do? stay in all the time? that's just silly. its like worrying about terrorism. i say, if it's coming, it's coming and sitting around locked up in my apartment certainly isn't going to help anything.

Eric Brace: well, the argument for sitting in your locked apartment is that you very probably won't get shot.

Re: Live Music cures all: Totally echo the sentiment by the GBV person. Wilco on Monday night was so good they made me forget that I have rent to pay, laundry to do, garbage to take out, we're looking at an oncoming war -- whatever. Who cared about anything else when Jeff Tweedy was playing? Life's a gift. Gotta keep livin' it.

Eric Brace: live music is my favorite thing. When it's good. Well, second favorite. Hmmm. No, third.

Washington, D.C.: 9:30 Backbar is free on nites when the shows aren't big. Try going there when the joint is sold out, and you are SOL. I'd toss my money at Kingpin and Velvet, which need the cash more than 9:30 ever will.

Now don't be busting on Zig-Zag. That was my JOINT when I was 17. I loved drinking coffee all night long and getting waited on by Lois Maffeo. It made my cardigan-wearing-indie-nerd-heart go pitter-patter.

Oh, and I'm so tough I plan on going to Potomac Yard tomorrow. So if the sniper hits me, remember me as a brave and stalwart fellow always willing to spend a little dough at the Tar-GAY.

Eric Brace: good points.. ok okay.. lois was a cool waitress.
And I saw several cops parked at Target the other night when I went shopping there for halloween lights... hope they deter the freak.

Alexandria, VA: Anxious? Depressed? Scared. Me too. That's why I must attend Rock n' Bowl this weekend. Life, fun, and love trump death, fear, and hate every time. Thus endeth the lesson.

Eric Brace: Bop-n-Bowl this weekend at the Falls Church Duckpin lanes is a fine way to lose your blues.. JP McDermott & Western Bop throw down the classic country and rockabilly as well as anyone around, and '52 pickup can help the cold beers go down too. go go go!

staying in: Hmm...the percentages bit is interesting, but psychologically it is different cars, lightening etc. are not trying to kill you Also, percentages aside it feels like I can control those more -- look when crossing the street, don't stand in a big open area when it is lightening, don't go down deserted blocks or flash money...

Eric Brace: You've got a point, and you make it well.
Were you on the debating team in school?

New Places: Saint X and what else? Hints, locations please.

Eric Brace: hmmmm.. can't say. I promised. But there will be a few little-ish cool joints opening up before the end of the year. I will be writing about them, but you can bet that Fritz Hahn, my online counterpart (and producer of this chat) will get stuff up on the wpost.com entertainment pages faster than I'll get em into the nightwatch column, so keep reading us both.

DEE CEE: Going to see Sleater Kinney Sunday -- their shows in 2000 at the 9:30 were great. Going?

What's the deal on the opener, Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- There's a bit of hype there.

Eric Brace: Yeah Yeah Yeahs rock.. singer Karen O. kicks butt .. and I like em. Can't make it to the show though.. too much local stuff I gotta cover for my beat, dang it!!

Halloween - o - matic: So, curiously, the Post has not listed the opening of Artomatic on October 31st on their Halloween best bets? Artomatic 2000 ran through Halloween and I have never seen better costumes or general effort befitting the masquerade side of the holiday. With all this gloom & doom around, go for the fin de'siecle atmosphere, go with a costume(or just a mask), go see art, go hear bands, Go to www.artomatic.org for the hours.

Eric Brace: you mean the Post.com folks haven't listed it online yet?? Fritz, what is your problem??? You're right .. the 2000 one had amazing costumes.. such artistry! such creativity! such fun! yes.. go to their site.. and go to art-o-matic.. It's something to show all the "d.c. sucks" naysayers that there's great stuff here.

McLean, Va.: Was thinking about going to the No Doubt/Garbage concert at the Baltimore Arena next week. Seen Garbage a bunch and they're great live. Do you think it's worth the drive/ticket to see that show at the Balt. Arena?

Eric Brace: I gotta say.. I really LIKE No Doubt and Garbage, so yeah, I'd say it's worth the drive, plus you get out of town.

Washington, DC: The Rock was one non-corporate bar in the MCI area, but apparently couldn't make enough money to stay open. Why was that? On the wrong -- east -- side of MCI?

Eric Brace: yep... wrong side of the arena... plus not terribly well managed. they tried hard though.. tried many things. Renting out to office parties. Bringing in a zillion TVs for college games. Hiring live bands. I'm sorry it's gone... co-owned by folks who co-0wned the previously mentioned Insect Club, Zig Zag, 15 mins.. and are still involved in Capitol Lounge and Lucky Bar.

20009: When I saw Yeah Yeah Yeahs in NYC, they sounded thin and were basically aping The Gossip's sound with none of that band's personality.

I'm interested to see them again and see if it was an off nite, but if not I may have to invest in a shirt I saw somebody else wearing that weekend "No No No."

Eric Brace: excellent shirt... those kind of "damn the torpedoes" rock bands can often have off nights, but I only heard the record, so, I'm not saying to invest again.
That t-shirt makes me think of one I saw at Austin's South-by-Southwest music conference 10 years ago: SXSWSUX
It was the backlash shirt, but it turns out to have been made and handed out by the organizers of SXSW, beating the critics to the punch. So: my money is on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs having made the No No No shirts, and are making money off them.

Shenandoah Valley: Well, you do have the best job in the world (next to Segal's), and you are in a band, and what more do you want? (Smile when I say that)

Eric Brace: hmmmm I DO have the best job.. better than Segal's actually. And I wish I didn't always have to be covering local stuff so i could (as mentioned above) go see Sleater-Kinney and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, for instance.
I wanna play music on the road.. might have to leave this best-job-in-the-world. I'll keep y'all posted!

Columbia Heights: Is Chi-Cha's food worth eating? Do you know what the prices are like?

Eric Brace: yes... the tapas is generally quite good... garlic grilled shrimp.. mini empanadas.. ceviche. Prices are middlin' . Not Cheap. Not through the roof. worth trying.

20009: This one may be a little off the wall but what bars do a good job of cleaning their beer lines and which bars don't? I hate having a my beer ruined by dirty lines.

Eric Brace: that is a good question.
My favorite beer is at the Sweetwater Taverns. They keep the lines meticulously clean and beer is stunning.

Re: Art-o-matic: the event IS listed, when you click on 'all halloween events'. Art-O-Matic
it's even an 'our pick'.

washingtonpost.com: Yeah. What they said.

Eric Brace: ooops.
Now take back what you said.

Eric's Top Three: So # 3 is live music?? Sheesh. What could #s 1 and 2 possibly be? Sex, perhaps, but the other? Chocolate? Heh. Do tell!

Eric Brace: I won't tell.
nope. not gonna do it.

Arlington, VA: Instead of doing the usual Halloween party-thing on Halloween night, I was thinking of going to Iota to catch The Ocean Blue. Been to Iota a bunch, but never have seen Ocean Blue live. What do you think?

washingtonpost.com: That's such a sublime idea.

Eric Brace: cute pun, fritz...
I think Ocean Blue has progressed nicely from aping the Smiths to having their own thing. You could do much worse on Halloween.

dc bureacracy: it could break a person's heart. you really have to wonder what the people who run this city are thinking. i got into a huge argument with a coworker yesterday who made the grand pronouncement "there's no nightlife in dc." i vehemently disagreed, i find plenty to do in dc. but one has to wonder if the goal of dc government officials is to someday make that statement true.

Eric Brace: I'm glad you vehemently disagree.
I do too... from mariachi to go-go to folk to drum'n'bass... there's everything here. No it's not NYC.. but no place is.
The city would be booming if the city gov. got behind its nightlife.

O-Town: O-Town. Just typing that makes me laugh.

Who are some of your favorite characters from this scene round town? Not necessarily name folks, just people you have an affinity for that the rest of us unilluminati might like to meet someday? Musicians, writers, drinkers thinkers, anybody you feel happy when you run into out on the town.

Eric Brace: you know.. this is a great question. As my time covering the scene draws to an end (2003 sometime.. I'll keep y'all posted), I'll be thinking about this a lot, so please ask me this again at a later chat, mkay?

Eric Brace: ok then folks..
thanks for the chatting and the arguing and the arm-twisting and the convincing. I like talking with y'all.
People say "Be safe" all the time in saying good bye, but this time, I really mean it. go out. Look around. Be cool.
See you soon.

Arlington, Va.: James McMurtry at Iota on Monday: Yay or nay?

Saw him in Austin a couple of years ago -- I was a little worse for the wear -- but didn't drive! -- and from what I remember, he was great.

washingtonpost.com: FYI: That's one of Eric's Weekly Picks, an online-only feature in the Bars and Clubs section.

Eric Brace: I'm more interested in the opening act ill lit.
McMurty depresses me, despite his abundant talent.

Art-o-matic: I figured it out, when you click "All Halloween Events" and get the list of links to articles, the last link on the page goes to "ALL 54 Halloween events" FYI it was in this link that Artomatic was not.

I did find it under the "going out" section. Thank you Fritz.


Eric Brace: You're welcome.

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