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Nightwatch - Live
Hosted by Eric Brace
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 20, 1998

Eric Brace
By Mark Finkenstaedt/TWP
Wondering where to go to salsa? How and why the club Decades turned into Zones? Who was that drummer for the band that thrashed at the Black Cat last Friday night? Just ask Eric, our resident Nightwatchman.

From backstage at the annual Wammies (Washington's own Grammy Awards) to metal night at Phantasmagoria to waltz night at the Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom, every week Post staff writer Eric Brace throws himself on the front lines of the bar-n'-music beat in the Washington, D.C. 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 Music & Nightlife Web page. He also plays rhythm guitar for the country rock band Last Train Home.

Today's chat ended at 3 p.m. Check out the transcript below. Until next time, feel free to email him at nightwatch@washpost.com.

Adams Morgan: My girlfriend and I went to the WAMMIES this week and thought that it SUCKED! Why don't they just speed up the awards and have more bands play? Also, what the heck is the deal with bands like the Dave Matthews Band winning when they aren't even around and aren't a part of the local scene?

Eric Brace: Before I get to the WAMMIE question, lemme say howdy to all of you who are signed on, and who are sending in questions... I appreciate you caring enough about DC nightlife to do this chat thingy with me..
About a year ago I asked for comments from readers (for the print version of the paper) about what was wrong with DC nightlife... Boy, did we get an earful.. We ran a big cover story in the Weekend section and that generated more responses/complaints..
Generally, I see myself as an advocate of going out, of stopping in to new clubs/bars/restaurants, of paying a cover charge to see a band you've never heard or heard of, in the assumption that going out is its own reward, even if you don't stumble onto the best ska band or bowl of steamed mussels inthe world.. the point is to get ya'll off the couch and out on the town. I assume that if you're signed on to this site right now you agree with me.. and you probably are pretty opinionated about the state of things out there. I LOVE strong opinions... SO, please let me know what you've found, what stinks, what's great..
you can click that on right here/right now, or you can send me e-mail at nightwatch@washpost.com...cool?

the Wammies took place at Lisner Auditorium this past Tuesday (11/17).. The Washington Area Music Association was giving out its annual awards to local musicians, and they went pretty smoothly, I thought... They ran just over three hours, and featured performances by Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Legendary Orioles, Randy Barrett, Pam Bricker, Tuscadero, Toshi Reagon, ... am I missing anyone?
This reader wonders why there aren't more performances and fewer presentations and chatting.
I think because the point of the night is the awards.. and even with the presentations, more than two-thirds of the awards weren't given from the stage.
There are definitely too many awards given every year, and WAMA has heard this complaint. The WAMA board says they'll be examining how to focus the awards, thus giving the whole shebang more clout.
But clout isn't the only point. the point IS in good measure to pat folks on the back... and ummmmm Full disclosure here, my band Last Train Home did win a WAMMIe...
but that doesn't prevent me from being able to see the flaws in the organisation and in the ceremonies..
While I don't think they sucked (like this reader), I think they could be tighter and more lively.. maybe with more performances.. tough call.. but given the amount of criticism WAMA has taken recently, I suspect things will be better next year.

rockville, MD: Just a question about the Wammies. Is there some reason I'm unaware of as to why the Pietasters weren't nominated? IMO, Willis was one of the best albums of the year.

Eric Brace: I agree that the pietasters made a great record this year. I know of lots of good records that didn't get nominated, and here's why: The nominations to get onto the WAMMIE ballots are made by WAMA members.. If they don't know about the ska scene, then they aren't going to be able to intelligently recommend records that should be on the ballot.
The members submit recommendations for the ballot.. those are brought before the WAMA board, the 5 or so nominations are placed on the ballot, then the WAMA members vote on those nominations. Soi clearly the only way to get mo'better nominations and winners is for people (listen up, ska community [among others] to join WAMA.. it's small enough of an organisation where one person really CAN make a difference in influencing the outcome

Austin, TX: Tell me about Fugazi. Will I feel like an old geezer at their show if I'm 30?

Eric Brace: The members of the mighty Fu are all in their early-to-mid-30s so I don't see why you should feel like a geezer at one of their shows.. sure you'll get some hardcore kids who just want to get a glimpse of their DIY idols (not idles...).. Their latest record is more experimental and ambulatory ... less strident punk rock in yer face stuff.. I still think they're one of the most creative bands anywhere, and after ten years they still come up with music worth listening to..
Plus, if you haven't seen them live, they are without a doubt one of the greatest live acts of all time. Seriously

washington, dc: What's the latest on the progress on the old State Theatre in Falls Church?

Eric Brace: The State Theater, on washington sT in Falls church is almost ready to open.. I drove past there last night and saw construction going on at around 11 pm..
It used to be an old movie theater, and is being turned into a 700-seat restaurant/nightclub and while they haven't defined the menu or the music booking policy yet, it'll be an interesting addition to the scene. At teh Wammies I ran into one of th owners who is sticking to his first-week-in-january opening plan.. no word on what the grand opening will be..

rosslyn, va: ERic, heard the band Tuscadero got dropped by Elektra after they released an album with them. What happened??!?!

Eric Brace: Apparently Tuscadero learned the hard rule of major label record deals. If you don't sell a ton of records right out of the gate, then you're history. After Elektra released a remixed version of the Pink Album (that had come out on, umm teenbeat I think), tuscadero took a couple of years to get the follow up out there.. Elektra released this second record earlier this year, and it just didn't have that huge "modern rock' hit that evil-ol'-radio is always searching for... so the label cut bait... Tuscadero is still playing shows, so happily, they still exist... I haven't spoken to them and confirmed the fact that they're dropped . I'll ask them and see..
I heard rumors this week that the same fate had befallen emmet swimming, but I ahven't confirmed that one either.. All this points out that a major label deal is rarely the brass ring some folks hope it will be..

Arlington, VA: Whatever happened to the band, Egypt? Are any of the original members still playing?

Eric Brace: Egypt broke up about two years ago, and some members reformed as Earth to Andy... they have a record out and it's pretty dang good.. they work out of Charlottesville and tour on that jam band circuit, though they're broader than that.. I don't know about the rest of the band...

Washington, DC: Eric,
With the demise of the Bayou upon us, what clubs do you think will pick up the slack and book the kind of artists the Bayou did? Also, will there be an attempt to relocate the club?

Eric Brace: The Bayou will be closing on Dec31 1998...
I hear that the owner, John Boyle is looking for another space, but word is that it's to be more of a dance club.. sleek, with beautiful people, but with SOME live music.. As far as someone picking up the slack for the bands that have played there.. hard to say.. I see the 9:30 club is already booking some bands that have traditionally played the Bayou, like everything and pat mcgee.. but I hear that Cellar Door may be involved in booking the STate Theater, mentioned above, out in Falls Church.. and those jam/collegey bands would do well in northern virginia.. Wilmers park is certainly booking its share of jam bands.. as is Terrapin station in college park (gov't mule, etc)

Washington, DC: What fun things are going on around here for New Year's Eve?

Eric Brace: ahhh New Years.. um... EVERYBODY is planning something on New Years Eve.. and so far, I haven't seen any master list of events.. All the hotels, all the clubs, all the restaurants..
I can't say I'd recommend any one place. Everywhere will be crowded. You just have to know your scene ond go to it.
Maybe the new mayor will re-instate the dropping of the stamp (!!!) at the Old Post Office building, but other than that, I haven't heard of any grand civic events..
First Night is becoming a big deal in annapolis and old town alexandria.. lots of bands and festivities at those places along the water... I know I know.. i'm no help at all.. that's because mostly, I just stay home and pop some bubbly in private.

Annandale, VA: In your opinion, who is the best female jazz and blues singer in the Washington area?

Eric Brace: Hmmmmm
there are so many different styles..
I really like Pam Bricker, Sharon Clark, Sunny Sumter, Mary Ann Redmond, Terri Clark, Angela Stribbling, Debbie Kirkland Marianna Previti, Dawn Robinson... i know that's a long list of favorites, but there really is a plethora of really really fine female Jazz/blues singers. go see any of these performers.. I can recommend them all.

rosslyn, va: in relation to your answer to the tuscadero question, heard anything on how Girls Against Boys is doing? i thought they were in a similar position....

Eric Brace: After Geffen spent SO MUCH MONEY signing GvsB (there was quite a bidding war for these boys from Wilson High), I don't think they'll be cut from the roster right away... their first geffen record only just came out a little while ago.. I would think they'll be given a chance to prove themselves on a second record.. of course proving themselves only means having radio play their record, something radio DJs should be doing anyway instead of shoving people like meredith brooks down our throats..

Arlington, VA: I heard about some new club called Hades. Have you had a chance to go yet? What's the scene/music there??

Eric Brace: Hades is the sleek Saturday-night-only scene near 20th and P... I haven't been yet, but it looks like a chic dance club. I'll check it out in the next few weeks

Baltimore, Md: Did the Crow Bar ever reopen in a new place?

Eric Brace: So far there's no word on the reopening of Crow Bar, but the last time I talked to him, owner Steve Zarpas had decide not to look for a place in northern virginia, but to stick it own in the newly buzzing downtown DC.. he said he'd found a place within blocks of the old one (20th and K) nd that he'd have answers before the end of the year.. don't expect anything to open before next spring though.

Washington, DC: I've been getting all these emails promo-ing the Velocity Grill on Saturday nites.... first the "ice lounge", now "absolut saturdays".... are these worth checking out?

Eric Brace: I've deliberately stayed awy from Velocity grill (in the MCI center) until they find their sea legs.. Nothing has worked there, and the expected crowds haven't materialised.. and now with the NBA canceling tons of games, the economics (and nightlife) of the area are going to take a dive.. or at least remain flat. I'm curious about what they're trying (it seems they've tried {as you point out] several recipes for FUN FUN FUN, but none has worked..
Anyone been over there yet on a Friday or saturday? tell me what you've found...I'll get over there this month..

DC: I caught the Legendary Orioles downtown last week and was really impressed. Can you tell me a little more about them?

Eric Brace: The Orioles (who have officially added the "Legendary" to their name recently) have been making music in one form or another for 50 years..
I think there are two remaining original members, and the most recent addition, Eddie Jones, is as fine a soul singer as exists in the area.. he also fronts the Young Buckswho play around at places like Bailey's in Silver Spring, and Gee's.... the Young Bucks and the Orioles often do shows together...
They have some recordings, which you can find at joe's Record Paradise in far Silver Spring.. Joe Lee, the owner, has produced some sessinos with them, and can steer you toward CDs, tapes, and gigs..

Dundaulk, Maryland: With the demise of the Bayou, would you say that the 9:30 club is becoming the club for all people? Perish the thought of dead-head cover bands playing the 9:30. Where has the world gone to?

Eric Brace: ah yes.. but when you're a club that can hold 1200 peole, you can't bring in obtuse-but-cool bands like Pere Ubu, because you'll lose your shirt.. above all, the owners of 9:30 club and IMP entertainment are businessmen and they'll try to make money by packing the place.. if it takes a jam band to do that, well, they'll do it..
They still manage to bring in some of the best music on the planet... it can't all be the hippest stuff.

Nashville, Tennessee: It shouldn't be a really big surprise that Tuscadero was dropped. Their songs were cute but the band members weren't what you'd call very skilled. In some respects, they're a beginner musicians' dream. It took them all of three years from learning how to play their instruments to landing a record deal. Not bad. They should be impressed with how far they've gotten given how little effort they've really put into their musical career. After all, there are much better -- more accomplished -- bands like Mother May I that received the same fate. It took Mary-Chapin Carpenter many years to get anywhere.

Eric Brace: You make a point...

Mathias, WV: Where can a couple go ballroom dancing?

Eric Brace: Try the spanish ballroom at glen echo.. two sessions every night... though sometimes its swing, or zydeco.. Try America restaurant in Tysons corner (in the mall...) every friday... There aren't that many places.. anyone care to recommend?

alexadria, va: yo eric,
ever thought of working on a book on all that you have encountered in the dc area music and nightlife scene... bet you have some pretty good stories?

Eric Brace: My memory is so random.. the good episodes slip from my brain.. but I have seen lots of very bizarre and random stuff out there.. I'd be presuming alot by undertaking a book, mainly that anyone cares.. and I'm not sure they do.. maybe I'll fictionalise something in a scandalous roman-a-clef, and say its by Anonymous... wooweee, I'd rip the lid right off of this one-horse town!!!! (just kidding)

Arlington, VA: Hello Eric, I have heard good things about State of the Union on Friday nights. For a sense of how my tastes run--I enjoy Buzz, but Red after midnight is a cheese-fest. Although, Red has occasional Cold Rice evenings and special DJ's like Trane which are exceptional. What is your opinion of Fridays at State of the Union?

Eric Brace: I think Fridays at State of the Union are among the most varied and fun nights in Washington.. great DJs (if you like soul, funk, hiphop, techno.. ) good bands.. (groove oriented) and a very mixed crowd.. if you can find parking near U st. it's worth checking out

DC: Are Archie Edwards and Mr. Bones still playing (still alive!) in the area?

Eric Brace: sadly, piedmont bluesman archie edwards died earlier this year... He was one of DC's most singular talents... barber, blues singer, all-around bigman... It's sad he wasn't more widely known and appreciated.. not sure about Bones.. I'll find out..

Downtown DC: I went (as a single) with a couple to Glen Echo so that they could learn how to jitterbug, and it was great! Good teachers, lots of people there at different levels of expertise and ages (couples and singles), inexpensive (I think we paid $10 each for the whole night), and a fabulous band. I definitely agree with your recommendation, Eric.

Eric Brace: passing this along

Orlando, Florida: I am going to be coming up to D.C. for a visit. Where are the Hot Entertainment areas. Is there anything like Pleasure Island in or around D.C.?

Eric Brace: ummm pleasure Island> What's that (am I clueless or what..?)

Vienna, Virginia: How important do you think the Wammies are in the local music scene? This week's review in the Post didn't seem to think much of the WAMA, but I know in some instances it can really make a difference. Eva Cassidy comes to mind -- a lot
of opportunities seemed to open up for her after she sang "Over the Rainbow" at the Wammies and wowed a noisy partying crowd into total silence.

Are you involved with the WAMA at all?

Eric Brace: While the Wammies did help bring the late Eva Cassidy to many people's attention, I haven't really seen it having a tangible affect on most local musicians careers.. (and yes, I'm a WAMA member).. Their influence may grow if more people join and take it seriously.. hard to say what comes first (chicken/egg thing)

alexandria, va: speaking of feeling like an old geezer, it was so weird. i remember going to a weezer show a while back and feeling like a grandpa.... so many of the people there were kids! and with their parents and everything! i'm only in my twenties!

Eric Brace: rock and rock clubs are generally going to cater to youth.. they're the ones that can stay out late and party and be rebellious and cause trouble.. all the things that define rock'n'roll...
but just because you're not a teenager, doesn't mean you're a geezer (yet)... me, I"M a geezer.

DC: Pleasure Island is this mega complex in Disney that has like 6 different clubs in it, each with its own theme. Disco, rock, one that is always like New Years or something. A little overwhelming, I think. Anyway, just FYI.

Eric Brace: Hey thanks.. No there's nothing really like that in DC.. there will be, undoubtedly, however.. i know major corporations are looking to come into DC in a big way with restaurant, nightclub, movie complexes.. we'llsee.

Kensington, MD: Recently, a friend of mine and I made a bet as to which club in the Washington area has the best acoustics. I say it's the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA, but he swears that the 9:30 Club in DC is better. A steak dinner is riding on this, so...

Eric Brace: For rock, it's definitely the 9:30.. for folk/county/blues/bluegrass it's definitely Birchmere.. Those two clubs may be the best sounding clubs in the WORLD for what they do..totally state of the art, and they should be appreciated for doing it right when they each relocated..

Old Town, VA: One place I really enjoying going to is Iota in Rosslyn. Great, intimate atmosphere for music. I saw signs for an "Iota Cafe" next door. What are they planning to do there - just add more food? - and do you know what their ETA for the opening of that place is?

Eric Brace: IOTA opened their cafe side last week.. and instead of bar food, they're serving fine dining like quail and such.. it's an impressive looking restaurant (adjacent to the music/bar side) and not cheap.. good wine list.. but I haven't eaten there yet.. gonna try to this week.

Alexandria, Virginia: Eric: I am new to the area and would like to know what clubs that people ages 30-40 go to on weekends?

Eric Brace: always the toughest question... Ice House in hearndon, IOTA, the Bistro Bistros... City/Capitol Blues..
ok,, I've got to run.. my time is up...
for next time (two weeks from today) I want to hear from you about your club experiences in places that have shut down... places like Twist & Shout, the old 9:30, Faces, the Gentry, Desperados... I'm looking for fun anecdotes on musicians you saw at those palces.. where you hung out... old clubs that are fading into memory.. you're favorite old hangs etc.. lemme know.
Thanks for your questions and I'll talk with you next time.
eric b

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