Nightwatch -- Live
Hosted by Eric Brace
Washington Post Nightwatch columnist
Friday, Nov. 15, 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.
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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: Hello good beebles...
Thanks for checking in.. I'm no "guru," like some of the geniuses around here at washingtonpost.com, but I'll try to answer some questions you might have about the local scene...
Sorry i missed the chat two weeks ago... but that means we've got a month of nightlife to catch up on..
Tell me where y'all have been... good concerts.. great local bands... new fave hot spots??
Bring it on..
Washington, D.C.: This is probably a question asked a million times, but of course, I missed 'em. Are there any good martini bars around?
Eric Brace: Sure there are!
But it depends what you're looking for.
Are you looking for a swank place where you can imagine Dino and Ol Blue Eyes tipping back a martini? Or are you looking for a bartender who knows how to make a real honest to good Gin-and-vermouth martini very well?
You'll find the best bartenders at hotel bars:
in the Willard's Round Robin, at the hay-Adams' Off the Record Bar, Sofitel's Le Bar, and in the newer pizzazier hotel joints: the International (at Washington Plaza), Poste, Topaz, Rouge...
You'll also find a good Martini at Cafe Deluxe (both locations)and Toka and DC Coast and ... hmmmm anyone have thoughts??
Arlington, Va.: What's your favorite of the hot new hotel bars?
washingtonpost.com: washingtonpost.com's Hotel Bar Roundup
Eric Brace: sorta got this one in the last posting, and the link below is Fritz Hahn's list... also Firefly (at New Hampshire and N).. to go with Poste, Topaz, Rouge, International.
My newest fave may well be Firefly.
Stanton Park, Washington, D.C.: Do you know when Lounge 201 on Mass Avenue and 2nd NE is going to open? I hope it is going to be a nice hang-out for local non-interns. Do you know anything about the place?
Eric Brace: Lounge 201 will be right across the street from the Red River Grill -- and it's owned by the same feller. It's under construction (I drove by and it's got a long ay to go)..and while they're saying they'll open mid-december, knowing what I know of both d.c. bureaucracy and d.c. contractors, I'd bet $100 it won't open 'til end of January. It's something cap. Hill really needs... a cool mellow comfy lounge that's classy but unpretentious. It's gonna be good.
20011: Martini Bar - I have always liked the martinis at Aroma. Although lately, they're not using enough vermouth.
I also like the martinis at the Reef.
Eric Brace: good calls.. both. And when you're test-driving a new bartender, you've got to eyeball 'em to make sure they're getting your proportions right. Also, you've got to know how to order a martini so they really know what you want.
Old Town Alexandria, Va.: Stardust on the northern edge of Old Town is a funky little joint that mixes up a good martini. Great food and a cool atmosphere.
Eric Brace: And this is why I love my chats. I hear about places I've never been. 'Scuse my ignorance... but now I'm on my way there!!
D.C. Voter, Washington, D.C.: Hey, so what's this BS with the ABC again requiring small clubs to have at least 45 percent of sales from food? Do you know when the hearing is for this? I'm pissed off about it and I plan to be there to voice my opinion.
Eric Brace: It's nothing new. They just confirmed the definitions of the various licences recently, and some of the "tavern" licences require that percentage of food sales. I hadn't heard about hearings on this issue coming up, though I know the recent bill forbidding joints with tavern and restaurant licences to charge a cover charge died (thankfully) before it got the the City Council for a vote. Maybe the outcry against that bill has prompted some council members to call for hearings on this to revisit the liquor laws. I'll check into it. You can too... call you council member's office, since you're a d.c. voter... good that you wanna get involved!! Fight for your right to party!!
PSA -- Dec. 4: Hi there. This was tucked into a club list serve that I am on. It would be great if you covered this:
"Please come testify on Dec. 4 (location TBA, ask the liquor board) that people who support nightlife are the majority and the liquor board and the council should protect their interests against the small minority of citizens who routinely protest all liquor licenses and aspire to control the city's commercial corridors as if they were their own living rooms rather than vital public resources." As always, thanks.
Eric Brace: a-HA!
this is an answer.. though an incomplete one.
It's true that the people who cause the majority of problems for bars and clubs are a tiny number. They may have legitimate beefs, but I blame the council for all of this for not having clear definitions, based on geography ("music allowed within the following blocks: x-y, y-z..etc etc") and based on decibel readings. Eliminate food requirements (arcane laws trying to protect us from ourselves) and encourage venues to get involved in the community... oh i dunno...
Cubeville, Md.: Hey Eric -- What cities here, do you think are best for music. I'd like to move soon and one of my requirements is a city that has a good music scene. Equal to, or better than D.C. I've thrown New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philly out for other reasons. But what about some other cities? It seems like the Northeast, and then L.A. and San Francisco have the most number of concerts, but am I overlooking other places that have lots of homegrown talent, or, a fostering environment?
Eric Brace: Move outta Cubeville Maryland and into downtown washington!!!
If you're set on moving to a city with a live music scene, I guess I'd say Boston, though i lived there many years back and was not enamored of it, though it's definitely more supportive of local musicians.
Other towns: Austin, Nashville, Chapel Hill, Atlanta... for ALL kinds of music.. not just rootsy stuff.
San Fran is too expensive and I know several frustrated musicians in that town... and Seattle--despite it's early '90s reputation--has never been terribly supportive of its local music.
SW Washington, D.C.: Eric -- Are you doing some sort of discussion next week? I thought I saw your name listed in the paper.
Eric Brace: I am indeed doing something: kinda weird actually...
The folks who program the Corcoran's lecture series have asked me if I'd come and talk about Washington at night and what all I've seen over the past 6 years of writing about it and the past 25 years of being in it. I'll be on stage at the Armand Hammer Auditorium on Wednesday Nov 20 at 7:30 (i think!!!)and I'll be being interviewed by Bill Dunlap.. Bill is a very cool local painter who is also a critic and general man-about-town, who you can see on WETA's "About Town" program... cool guy.. it'll be a fun night, though I"ll be nervous as all get out. Very flattering to have been asked, but i wonder if anyone will be there... Please come out if you're free. You can heckle all you want.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Eric!
Jammin Java keeps scheduling all these people I'd love to see, but I don't have a car. Am I out of luck or is there some way to get there by public transportation? Their web site only gives driving directions.
Eric Brace: It's true that Jammin' java has really kicked things up a notch in getting some pretty cool names.. folks like Jeffrey Gaines and Michelle malone recently, f'rinstance.
But as for public transportation, you're out of luck. I suppose you could take the Orange line to Vienna then take a taxi, but it's not really accessible. find a pal with a car, i reckon.
Falls Church, Va.: Music-wise what's new or maybe cool and just under the radar so I haven't heard about it? I want to see some local music this weekend that isn't an annoying cover band playing Blink-182 songs.
Eric Brace: hmmmmm under the radar? this weekend? The Hipnotix at Velvet Lounge...
they rock/ska/reggae/funk like nobody's business..
Don't miss the chance to see Canyon next time they're around.. and Metropolitan, the Out Circuit, Dame Fate, Rhodes Tavern Troubadours, Blue Rhythm Boys, Cigarbox Planetarium, Citizen Cope, Poem- Cees, Alternate root, Oktbrwrld, Alice Despard, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Villa Rosie, moodroom, that's a short list of some of the seriously fine local bands.... now why does Cubeville wanna move to city with a music scene??
Badlands/Apex: Have you been to Apex, the "new" Badlands?
Eric Brace: I haven't been there yet... Anyone? I don't even know what's changed besides the name.. is there still karaoke??
Who's got the answer??
SPANK me if I ever go there: SPANK sounds like a Manhattan-wanna be nightmare and the people pictured look like friends of Liz "White Trash, Get Out of My Way" Grubman from the Hamptons. Is it as bad as it sounds?
Eric Brace: well, it's one of those places where if you like that kind of place, you'll like that kind of place. I don't know why people get on my case (as they often do) when I write about places like that. when I've been to spank, I've enjoyed myself, no question.. it's loud and glitzy, and it's all about seeing-and-being-seen, and dressing kinda sharp, kinda sexy... it's about standing in line behind red velvet ropes.. it's about $10 martinis and hot bartenders. You know the drill. So go once, before it becomes a private club (go before 11 pm on a Friday or Saturday) so you have a chance of getting in, hang at the bar.. observe the folks who've reserved a white leather "bed" and treat it as an anthropological expedition.
This Weekend, Musically: Also the Bicycle Thieves at Iota and Karl Straub and Cowlick Lucy at Staccato.
Eric Brace: Those are some fine recommendations as well.
Washington, D.C.: Hi there --
Just flipping through the Weekend section on my lunch break. Do you know if there are any tickets left for the Caetano Veloso concert Wednesday? If so, how much are they going for? Thanks.
Eric Brace: I just called the Lisner information line (202-994-1500) and they have a long recording that goes back to late September shows... boy that's some bad management. I'd have to call Ticketmaster to find out if there are any seats yet..
oh wait.. I just went to the Ticketmaster site...
it says: "Tickets are not on sale at this time".. the $35-50 tickets for this mellow brazilian songwriting great are NOT sold out, according to the site, but simply not yet on sale.. hmmmm seems kind of weird.. keep checking the Ticketmaster site.
Mt Pleasant has a date tonight...: ...and he wants to see some live jazz. I've 86'd Blues Alley and Twins for economical reasons, and HR-57 is out too (we both enjoy cancer sticks). What is the deal at Vegas Lounge? Or Bohemian Caverns?
Eric Brace: Utopia... the band Collector's edition is pretty swell.
and Bohemian Cavers is a half baked mess these days. Too bad you can't put up with HR 57s no smoking.. that' becoming my fave place to see live jazz... also Ellington's on Cap hill (8th st se) is kinda cozy..
New York, N.Y.: I was recently in D.C. and went by Vegas Lounge and was so saddened by its closure. Why does everything good (like higgurs and the tenleytown Roy Rogers) have to close?
Eric Brace: Ha! Higgers Drugs! That's a blast from the past.. used to walk by that every day on the way to Wilson High... and then would grab fries at the Roy's you mention (for a while, it was the busiest Roy Rogers franchise in the country.. now it's a mcDonald's and the Higgers is a CVS.. does that mean the New Vegas Lounge will become a Hard Rock Cafe??? No, it's being renovated. At least that's what I heard. NOT closed for good.. but I'll investigate further.
I did it all for the snookie: Eric:
Eric Brace: It's a game where you hit hard round balls across a felt table top with a cue stick, as in pool/pocket billiards, but you're not trying to get the balls into pockets.. you pushing them around in relation to each other and some little posts on the table.. or something like that.
Why do you ask?
Gaithersburger: Will I see you tonight at the Iguanas show?
Eric Brace: The iguanas perform at the Barns tonight as they did last night... and while I dearly love love love those guys, and am pals with them, I cannot be at the show. Tonight's is sold out. You going, Gaithersburger?
Mt. Pleasant with jazz date angst again: I considered Utopia but have never been (yes big fat loser here). What's the Collector band or whoever like? Will there be a cover charge/room to breathe?
Eric Brace: Whoa, you've got to settle down ! No more angst about jazz date. You should try out Utopia.. i like the space a lot, and the food ain't bad either. It won't be too crowded, and if there is a cover, it shouldn't be more than $5. Collector's Edition is a mostly straight-ahead jazz combo.
Arlington, Va.: Eric,
Did you make it to the Blasters show? It was the best -- but I was sitting in front of the mix board and for the first time ever at the 'Mere the sound was a bit distorted. Could that be because of sound bouncing back?
Small complaint. As Dave said -- next time a dance floor!
Eric Brace: Soundwaves bouncing around a square room should make it sound distorted, but maybe a little muddy, especially if they played as loud as they should have.. sadly i couldn't be there. them boys rock.. I saw them at the Channel in Boston in 1982 and it was one of the best rock shows I've ever seen....
Snookums: I asked because it was mentioned in the cover story today (Long Branch Saloon), and I didn't know what it was.
Thanks, Snook Doggy Dogg
Eric Brace: ahhh yes.. that's right.. I typed that a while ago so I forgot.
Long Branch saloon is a cool joint out near Deep Creek Lake.. a real roadhouse type joint. Deep Creek and Long branch: worth a road trip.
Falls Church, Va.: Got a little sister coming to visit soon, who likes to go out somewhere she can dance. Little = over 18, under 21. Any suggestions? Someplace safe, please; she recently told me about going to a club in Providence, RI where a fight erupted and people were stabbing each with glass shards.
Eric Brace: the dance nights at the Black Cat are good and all ages...
Platinum on thursday, Polly Esthers on Thrusday, Dream on Thursday... insomnia on Fridays... (most of these are courtesy of my producer Fritz who's got a head for these things...) He'll be adding a link to his underage lists on washingtonpost.com
Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Is Celia Cruz sold out ? Ticketplace has no more tickets left. Will there be some at DAR tomorrow?
Eric Brace: they are in fact all sold out (they were free tickets)...
I would go to Constitution Hall saturday around 5 pm to see if they'll released anymore tickets, if you're really eager to go... and you should be.
Falls Church, Va.: To get to Jammin' Java -- take the metro to Dunn Loring, then take the T2 bus. It stops right at JJ's front door.
Eric Brace: Well, right on. And thanks for that.
Arlington, Va.: How come D.C. punk rock sucks and why is the Black Cat such a non-D.C. friendly place now?
Eric Brace: hmmmm... how come you've got a chip on your shoulder?
There are lots of very fine DC punk bands.
And I see dozens of DC bands in the Black Cat's current listings.
Gaithersburg, Md.: I'm going -- and its not sold out any more. More tickets were just released -- I bought mine this morning!
Eric Brace: This is regarding the Iguanas show tonight.
good for you...
All y'all should try to get tickets and go... it's funk/tex-mex/norteno/rockabilly/r'n'b/soul gumbo.....
SW Washington, D.C.: Eric-
The piece about jam band The Ordinary Way made me wonder if this band does any Grateful Dead covers.
I like the Dead; you know if they do any of their music??
Eric Brace: I like the dead as much as any non-grateful dead fanatic, but having said that I'm happy to say that the ordinary Way stays away from Dead covers. they have very very strong original tunes.
McLean, Va.: Hey Eric-
I just heard "Texas Fred" give you a thank you on his radio show for your article.
Eric Brace: ha! that's great...
he's a great man.. terrific radio dj and "personality"... I'd rather listen to 1000 hours of Texas Fred on WPFW than a minute of those assxxxxs the Sports Junkies on "progressive" whfs.
Arlington, Va.: What's your thought on Graham Colton tonight at Iota? Worthwhile?
Eric Brace: he's 20 years old... texas college rock guy....
He doesn't speak to me much, but I'll admit he's got a lot of talent.. if you like folks like Vertical Horizon and Jackopierce, you'll like him.
Metro Maven: thank you Falls Church for the metro directions. it certainly sucks to be car-less sometimes, i don't suppose there's a bus that goes to the front door of the birchmere too?
Eric Brace: yes there are busses that run along mt. Vernon Ave in Alexandria... don't know what they are though... Metro's Web site must be able to hook you up , no?
Fairfax, Va.: I saw Todd from Emmitt Swimming playing in a band with some of the guys from Smartbomb a couple months ago at Iota, I think they called themselves Quitter. Is this a permanent band? I also saw that Emmitt is playing the 9:30 on New Year's eve. Is it a reunion thing or are they back full time?
Eric Brace: I saw that too... don't know if either is permanent, but I'll try to find out.
Petworth, Washington, D.C>: I don't konw if you'll konw the answer to this or not, but it's worth a try.
Two different local promoter types (I guess that's what they are - I hadn't heard of either one before this) seem to have gotten hold of my email address. One calls itself EastEnd, and the other calls itself VIP something. Anyhow, I didn't sign up for either list, and their email is truly getting annoying. Yet they have no way to get OFF their lists!
Are this real local groups? Have you ever heard of them? Who ARE they, and why are they in my inbox?
Eric Brace: I get those e-mails too, and haven't tried to get off them yet.. but I'll do some research..
buzz me at email@example.com and I'll try to get an answer for you.
Eric Brace: ok folks... that's the end of another round.
thanks so much for logging on and let's check back in two weeks, yes?
Come see me at the Corcoran, yapping about all this stuff, next wed. nov 20 at 7:30..
drop a line.. stay in touch..
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