The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Tom

When I started writing about DC more than ten years ago now, it was a reflex. I had decided that I was going to make the best of my time here, I decided that this was a place to love, and that I should love it here. And so I went out to find all the things I loved about DC. There were many of us at that old site that wrote because this city had made a personal connection with us, that it was a part of our makeup.

As We Love DC came into being, we were doing so at the curl of the wave that was a new DC. Adrian Fenty was Mayor, everyone was talking about how DC was changing, growing, building. The Williams administration, though decidedly unsexy, had made DC a place that could receive investment again, that could build a tax base that could increase services again. DC wasn’t the inner city, DC was just the city.

The last ten years have been a major change for the city – not a change that’s been just for the good, there’s been a lot of DC history that’s been swept out past the boundary stones – and it was exciting to be here and watch it happen. Old vacant storefronts became award-winning bars. Breweries appeared for the first time in almost a century. Industry was possible in a city that was largely focused around political capital, DC has proven, and those are the things that have excited me most about the last ten years. We make things here. We make beer. We make bikes. We even make weed now. We make things. We’re not just an economy of accidental convenience, we’re an economy of industry, of confluence, of vision.

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The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Jenn

At the end of 2013, I wrote what I thought was my ultimate love letter to DC, filled with the moments that had sustained me during my struggle with a life-threatening illness. It was a thank you to the city I’d lived in for over two decades, yet I also suspected, at the time, that it might be a farewell – not because I was losing that struggle, but because I thought I was moving. Of course, I was incorrect, life being a lesson in derailment and the power of creative disruption. My DC in 2013 turned out to be the penultimate love letter, and while I spent most of 2014 investigating another city, by the end of that year I was back where I started.

So here we are. DC, you still have me. And yet, the time to leave our beloved site has come to pass. So I find myself writing another love letter, one that’s slightly bittersweet. But don’t worry. I always rally by the end.

If there’s any lesson I’ve learned over the past three years of incredible life change and regeneration, it’s this: the story never ends. You may think you have come to the end of your journey, but it’s only a chapter, or an act in a play that continues on and on. Just as cities never stop evolving, never stop rising, only to fall, and rise again. If not in actuality, then in the mind.

Maybe that’s why there are so many discarded drafts of my Why I (Still) Love DC. They litter my mind, my desk, my laptop, piling up like sediment in an archeological site. Rather as my discarded selves litter the city itself, so many experiences, haunting this corner and then the next. I feel like Scheherazade, and worry that if I ever finish the tale, I’ll lose my head.

I began to wonder if all the difficulty writing it meant that I no longer loved DC the way I used to, and frankly, yes, it’s true. But isn’t that as it should be, after so many years? Love’s not an ever-fixed mark, no matter what Shakespeare said. He knew better, anyway. Love must change – always. Otherwise, it calcifies, and your city crumbles into dust.

There’s a narrative to my love story that’s already established here in other pieces at We Love DC. I moved here for the architecture. The cherry blossoms. The subculture politicos ignore. The fact that it wasn’t New York or Boston, the other cities which courted me, but provided an escape from my New England youth. That DC was supposed to be just a way station on the way to London. That I didn’t leave, because I unexpectedly fell in love, with its music scene, with its theaters and a thriving community of artists. Bought a house, brought it back to life. That was the first act. In another act, life went haywire. My heart stopped several times. I regenerated in many ways, but haunted my old life in others. I was poised to escape, but grounded in limbo. I wasn’t as certain about my love anymore.

We’ll talk about that chapter another time, somewhere else.

I could tell you about all my other selves wandering DC. Continue reading

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Rachel

The day-to-day existence I was living when We Love DC came into my life was one with little light. A darkness enveloped most thoughts I had at the time due to having lost my dad, dog, and two grandmothers all within the span of eight months. I had lost focus and direction. After having coffee with Jenn Larsen, one of the founding editors, I was persuaded to start writing for We Love DC. Finding my way into that world changed everything. The light was back. And I was ready for it.

Why do I still love DC? Because of what We Love DC brought to my life.

It took a few months for me to find my groove and re-establish my writing voice but coming from a place of feeling stranded, lost, and confused will do that to a person. In the Fall of 2009, We Love DC offered me an opportunity to utilize the skill sets I developed during my time studying journalism at American University.

But for me, We Love DC was never about having a byline or wearing a press pass. To me, We Love DC was a project that fostered my sense of self during a time of much needed self-discovery and mental preservation. I could write about any topic I wanted as long as I could compose a piece with passion, integrity, and facts. And the topic I was most passionate about was music.

It’s no secret that music is the love of my life. We Love DC provided me countless opportunities to not only interview national touring acts that I’ve admired or kept track of for quite some time – like Rachael Yamagata, Tony Lucca, Megan Hilty (of Smash), Kris Allen (of American Idol), and Barry Manilow. But, even better than that, We Love DC presented the opportunity to live, breathe, and document the current state of the DC independent music scene. Continue reading

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Fedward

When I moved to the Washington area in 1998, it wasn’t for any single good reason. I had a few reasons that added up to something, but I can’t say my logic was in any way sound. Mostly I was 27 years old and felt like I’d exhausted my opportunities in my home town. I didn’t have anything tying me down, and I figured I had enough connections here that I could make a go of it. When people asked me, I’d say that everyone else lived in DC for four years so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I had a friend who lived in a group house on the Hill, and she idly said she was thinking of moving out, but she needed a roommate. I told her I’d arrive in August, and she should find us a place to live. That first year we lived in a rented house in Crystal City, but a couple weeks after Metro’s Columbia Heights station opened up I moved into an apartment a few blocks away, where I lived for ten of those four years.

Seventeen years later, I’m a married homeowner and I have a different glib answer about why it would be impossible for me to leave: I can never live anywhere with fewer than three airports. Given the choice I’d never use any of them but National, but I’ll fly out of Dulles or BWI if the itinerary is right.

But that doesn’t really answer the question of why I (still) love DC.

When I came to DC I found a culture that didn’t revolve around the business of government. My friends aren’t lobbyists or politicians. I’ve come to know a few congressional staffers and lifetime feds over the years not because of their answer to the question “so what do you do,” but because of the things they do when they’re not on the Hill (drink, mostly). I know a few lawyers, but most of them continue to prove my belief that the happiest lawyers are former lawyers. Continue reading

Essential DC, People, The Features, Where We Live, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Ben

Full disclosure: I really wanted to title this article “Why I (Still) Love DC: Take Two (or Ten)” but Jenn wouldn’t let me. (Something about ruining the pattern or other such reasonable editorial argument.) If you’re a long-time follower of We Love DC, you’ll know I wrote a similarly titled piece back in 2013 after this site’s fifth anniversary.

And then suddenly, here we are not two years later and the party’s over.

Back in the fall, when it was discussed about putting the old gal to rest, I didn’t really want to let it go. I’d hoped that a fresh generation, newer (or older) blood would pick up our baton, and sally forth. But alas–and unlike our lovely Congressmen and Senators on the Hill–our grand lady would not blather on about nothing, limping towards digital obscurity.

And I’m okay with that.

This will be my 647th and final post here at We Love DC. (And, for giggles, that’s about half-a-million words.) I never thought I’d be saying good bye, both to our readers and to the site.

It’s a bittersweet milestone for me, particularly.

2015 marks ten years -half my married life!- since I moved to the Metro DC area. My wife and I escaped a wretched employment outlook in Pittsburgh when the International Spy Museum took a chance and hired me to help run their retail shop. Brenda Young, my manager at the time (and she’s still there, I believe), was a true District resident from Capitol Heights and during our downtime in the office, would tell me all about this city and its secrets. Actually, considering where I worked and who I rubbed shoulders with on a frequent basis, I learned about a lot of secrets in the District…

Anyway, it was during my time there that I stumbled over Tom and his merry band of Metrobloggers. I applied to write, figuring I could bring a ‘fresh-behind-the-ears’ view to the team (only having been here two years at that point). I showed my bona fides and I was in.

And plunged straight into the depths of rebellion. Continue reading

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Don

I confess: I looked at the other pieces my cohorts wrote so far before starting this, hoping they’ve give me something to rip off inspire my direction. For what it’s worth, they helped me not at all.

This feels like writing about why I like air. For me the DC area just is, at this point. It’s where I settled, somewhat accidentally, thirteen years ago. It’s where I met so many good friends. It’s where I met the woman who is now my spouse. It’s where I became a dad. Turned forty. Died.

Just kidding about the last one. Would make a nice creepy short story though, wouldn’t it?

But maybe I will die here, just hopefully not soon. It’s hard to imagine going anywhere else. Before all those things above, this is just plain where I felt at home, and that hasn’t diminished in the slightest. When new, cool things come along I think well of course; in the city I came here from I would think well of course when hearing about something crappy. DC is the place where I expect good things to happen, and they so often do.

Maybe that’s the best indication of being in love. You look at the whole thing, warts and all, and can’t help but smile. The minor flaws feel like quirks and the bigger things you think are worth living with or trying to improve.

I love DC for what it has been for me, is, and promises to be.

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Patrick

White House Bowling

Bowling at the White House. Photo by author.

So, I have a hashtag. It’s called #RageLikePho.

People have come to associate me with the hashtag to the point it’s often mentioned in introductions to other people.

“This is Patrick, he has his own hashtag.”

People ask to take “#RageLikePho photos” with me thinking the hashtag refers to the goofy yet on-trend face I tend to make when people take photos of me.

They are not entirely correct. The roots of #RageLikePho stem from a We Love DC writers meeting back in January of 2013, when we discussed content ideas and approach of writing stories that reflected each writer’s own personality. A lot of regular features at We Love DC used a well-established pronoun-verb-object nomenclature: She/He Loves DC, We Love Music, We Love Drinks.

In a pizza-induced coma-like state, I started joking around about writing articles on the one good thing I can do: go out all night. I messed up the naming however and jokingly suggested a series of stories that recap my weekend benders and call it “Rage Like Pho.”

Everyone laughed none the less.

A few days later I used it as a hashtag for the first time:

The first mention of #RageLikePho on Twitter

The rest is history.

When people ask me what #RageLikePho is I say it’s more like a lifestyle than a face. You might think it means rampant drinking, dance parties, or streaking through the quad. While it does have some debaucherous overtures, I personally think #RageLikePho is about having a good time, but not in a Clarendon Bro kind of way.

All I really need are friends and a chill place to hang out in a neighborhood that gives us options to mix it up after awhile. I’m not a one-bar kind of guy. Luckily DC has always given me those options in the form of many diverse neighborhoods and experiences.

Bar hopping in Dupont? Jazz in the Garden? Bowling in the White House? For the past nine years now I’ve lived in the DMV and have been drawn to the combination of history, power, and urban life that is truly unique. Sure, Los Angeles or New York may be bigger and Portland or Austin maybe hipper but there isn’t a place that has the right combination that DC has.

The District is my Goldilocks match in a world full of many great cities.

It’s why I fell in love with DC nine years ago and I continue to love it today, whether I’m Raging Like Pho or not.

The Features

Why I (Still) Love DC: Joanna

“Snow Shovel 0, Snow & Ice 1.”
“Just die already winter. I hate you. Die.”
“Winter wonderland, we good. You can go now.”

These are the updates I woke up to in February from friends in DC. As of January, I live in Los Angeles, and it was surreal to read people’s misery – to know how cold the winters can feel on the National Mall – and still miss the place. So. Damn. Much.

When my husband and I first moved to DC we didn’t know if it was temporary or permanent, but we decided to invest everything we had in the community there, just to see what happened. We weren’t expecting anything.

Scratch that – we were expecting lobbyists as our only drinking buddies. Dismal.

We left DC five years later, so I guess it was temporary. But by the time we left, our drinking buddies were actors and graphic designers and animators and librarians and, ok, a few lobbyists.

Truth is, we left right when we wanted to stay the most, kicking and screaming. Even reading those icy posts from friends, I had to hold my hands back from typing “cheap flights to DCA.”

Here are three things I miss terribly about DC:

1) Having a conversation with anyone about anything.

The city is full of experts, educated at every level and on every subject. People settle in the nation’s capital not to become bureaucrats, but because they care about stuff. That passion and intelligence is unlike anywhere else in the country, and it’s something I took for granted.

2) Getting around.

In DC, you can go outside and walk, bike, or ride wherever you need to go. Give yourself extra time for Metro, and demand better from it, sure; but never forget you have it, and other options, when so many cities don’t.

3) The village and the metropolis.

In DC, your shows go to Broadway and your Fringe is fringe. You can spend a day for free at one of the best art museums in the world right before joining the regulars at that dive bar. You know everyone and still have so many more people to meet. You can get lost in the crowd or run for president.

DC attracts some of the most creative go-getters in the world, and they still smile at each other and know how to share a proper whiskey. It’s the only place I’ve ever lived where people are as kind as they are educated, as empathetic as they are intense. DC deserves the naysayers’ gratitude, the country’s investment, and the right to vote.

So yeah, I miss it all.

I miss it all except the weather.

The Features

Why I (Still) Love DC: Dave

Photo by author.

Photo by author.

Sometimes I think it’s easier to love a city, or a place, than it is to love another person. It’s apples and oranges, really, or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s just as hard, just as complicated, and just as wonderfully exhausting to love a city.

I used to write a snarky blog called Why I Hate DC, and I’d spend my time finding things to gripe about, usually accompanied by Simpsons references or funny pictures. I wrote a lot and some of it was pretty funny. But it was tiring. It was exhausting to be looking for reasons to be upset.

Years ago, when Tom invited me to write for We Love DC, I was intrigued. I was excited by the premise of the site, its attitude, and the community of contributors. I made the leap, from Hate to Love, and it was wonderful.

I’ve been a few different people in the time since I wrote here. I’ve been a twenty-something, just old enough to think I wasn’t stupid anymore. I’m now thirty-one, gradually accepting the fact that I’ll always be pretty dumb. But, I’ve tried to keep a positive attitude about my life and my city. That’s in no small part to the friends and community that came from this place.

To be truthful, it’s incredibly hard to keep a positive attitude. There’s always a million things vying for your attention, and a lot of them are negative. Political scandals. The Metro crashing or bursting into flames. Children being abducted. Services for our most needy failing. You get the idea.

You have to make a choice to be positive. You won’t always do it. You’ll fail. In fact, you’ll probably fail more than you succeed (indeed like most everything in life). But you can make the choice to say you love the place you live, and that you’ll try to find the good and to praise it when you can.

That’s what I loved about this site, and more importantly, about the folks I met writing here. To Tom, Tiffany, Don, Jenn, Katie, and many others — thank you. I owe you some of you more than you know (and others, you know how much I owe you).

I know that long after we’ve all moved on to what’s next, part of us will always be centered around the idea that we can and will choose to love DC. For that I am so thankful.

The Features

Why I (Still) Love DC: Tiffany

When we started this site nearly 8 years ago, we got a little gentle ribbing from other local blogs about how so many of our original Why I Love DC entries were just super-earnest variations on “DC is where I truly became who I am.”

Funny thing about that: DC is where I became who I am.

DC is where I am becoming who I will be.

DC is where I am, becoming.

The longer I spend in DC, the more I am entwined with it, the more inextricably we become part of one another. Every landmark, every neighborhood, every watering hole goes from being a feature of this geographic location to being an anchor for my life.

When the cherry blossoms peek out and promise the coming spring, I remember the spring I spent riding my bike to work along the National Mall, knowing that it was the only way I was going to see the blossoms that year because I was working too hard to launch an important project.

When I’m cutting through the city, trying to shave a few minutes off my too-long commute, I’m not just driving through strangers’ neighborhoods, but passing near to the homes of dear friends where we grill dinner and relax on the patio, or friends we haven’t seen in far too long and resolve to shove aside the never-ending press of our calendars and make time to bring them over, cook for them, laugh with them, and relax.

Coming up North Capitol, I pass the hospital where my son was born. I drive through the neighborhood my husband Tom and I chose together and see the school Charlie will attend, the playground where we take him to run around and induce a long nap, the homes of our friends whose children will grow up playing with ours. I marvel that they get to grow up in a city other kids will only get to visit once on a school trip.

As the site called We Love DC draws to an end, I still love DC; how could I not? I may first have loved DC for her beauty, her talent, her quirks… but as the years pass, like any other lovers whose knowledge of each other deepens with the passage of time, I love DC for the things affectionately familiar, the things I am still discovering, and the sweet memories we have made and will make together.

The Features, Why I Still Love DC

Retrospective: Why We (Still) Love DC

Since our founding in 2008, every writer who joined We Love DC was asked to pen a love letter to the city. Our original Why I Love DC series became a running manifesto for how we wanted to engage with our readership and our lives beyond the capitol. We were unabashedly cheerleading for the District, with no agenda other than to challenge the dominant opinion at the time that DC wasn’t worthy of abiding love. The litany we fought against was: “It’s a transient city;” “No one wants to stay here;” “It’s just a political city;” “It’s boring.”

We felt differently. We still do. All those myths we set out to bust.

Over the subsequent years, we’ve asked nothing more of our writers than to speak the truth about their experiences living here, to be positive, and to write about what they loved. Now that we’re winding down the site, it felt appropriate to ask alumni to revisit their Why I Love DC pieces and take their current pulse on the city’s heartbeat.

While many of the articles written the first time around focused on what it meant to find yourself in love with a city unexpectedly, a city at the time maligned and misunderstood by many, our revisitation comes at a different time for DC. It seems almost overnight the District went from punchline to cool, but of course, it was a far more organic process than the hype would lead you to believe. Those of us who’ve directly experienced the waves from murder capital to millennial chic are thrilled by the District taking its rightful place as a cosmopolitan nexus, a gateway to the world, its beauty fully appreciated, while at the same time some can feel a conflicted nostalgia for those other days.

Like all great love affairs, it’s complicated. That’s what makes passion interesting.

So please join us as we launch our retrospection on Why I (Still) Love DC with articles by past writers over the next several days. Sift through the original Why I Love DC archive for some memory lane action. Join the dialogue #WhyIStillLoveDC and let everyone know your own pulse.

We’re still curious. And that’s as it should be.

We Love Music

We Love Music: Sonic Highways

Foo Fighters at Black Cat

When I heard on Tuesday around noon that the Foo Fighters were going to play a club show in DC to go along with the premiere of the second episode of Sonic Highways. When the news was confirmed by the Black Cat, people left their downtown offices and headed for the 14th Street club to stand in line. By 3pm there was a line, and by 4pm, it stretched for blocks. By 5pm, all hope was lost for the second half of the line. 

When I arrived on Friday night, 90 minutes before doors, the line for entry stretched halfway to T Street. They opened the doors early, catching most of us by surprise. By the time ten o’clock rolled around, the crowd was thick and driving, as the monitors started the traditional HBO static. If you haven’t yet watched Sonic Highways, it’s something you need to see. From the Jazz Age of Ellington, to the rise of Go-Go and the bounce beat, to the Revolution Summer and the rise of DC Hardcore. Out of all of that, director Dave Grohl said, came the Foo Fighters.

It was an hour-long love letter to the DC of Grohl’s youth, the grittier, harder DC. A place where bands had to forge their own record labels to build an audience, a place where the hard scrabble of work met up with the idealism of the Capitol to influence style. From Minor Threat to Bad Brains, to all of the little single season bands that came and went like butterflies. Shirlington’s Inner Ear Studio was the venue for this episode’s recording session, where Dischord Records defined the iconic sound of 1980s punk music. The story of its owner and engineer, Don Zientara, is interwoven with the musical history of the District.

After the episode’s conclusion, the Foo Fighters took the stage and played an energetic three-hour set that spanned their twenty-year history and pretty much their entire catalog. They lead off with the first track off Sonic Highways and focused on the Chicago metro area. They followed with extended versions of The Pretender, New Way Home and Up In Arms and an extra long version of Arlandria, named for the neighborhood along Four Mile Run on the border between Alexandria and Arlington where Grohl once lived. 

RDGLDGRN at Black Cat with Foo Fighters

All Photos by Tom Bridge, Used with Permission

No one’s going to hold up Foo Fighters as if they defined an entire genre out of whole cloth, or as a groundbreaking effort, they’re not that sort of band. What they are is a damned fine group of entertainers. You need only look to drummer Taylor Hawkins, who played Friday night as if he was the living embodiment of the Muppets’ Animal. His frenetic play and mastery of his craft was absolutely electric on stage. Hawkins would take the lead on covers of Cheap Trick and David Bowie & Queen that Grohl would call reminiscent of the better art of the Springfield Keg Party band. Grohl bounced between showman and rocker, sometimes being nostalgic for the Springfield Keg Parties of his youth where, as he put it, “lesser musicians interpreted the greats”. That was shortly before they played David Bowie and Queen’s Under Pressure.

Probably my favorite moment of the night was Grohl calling up local band RDGLDGRN to the stage to make sure that everyone could do the chop in the middle of a gallop beat/bounce beat rendition of Monkey Wrench that I’m pretty sure has never been done before, and may never get done again. While the predominantly white crowd tried their damnedest, no one was mistaking the Black Cat for a Go-Go on Friday night, but that didn’t matter. 

When I was 21, and finishing college in Ohio, I took a trip with my college radio station to New York for the CMJ festival. Shows, showcases, panels, all the good stuff, set against the megalopolis’ backdrop. The weekend smelled like hot garbage, the feast of San Gennaro, and it sounded like punk rock, rock n roll, and stuff too weird to categorize. What I remember from that weekend are two things: the diavolo sauce at Umberto’s Clam House is too hot for human mouths, and the Foo Fighters’ show at Bowery Ballroom. I also determined I’d never, ever want to live in New York.

That Foos show stuck with me, not just because it was hard to get in, but because I saw someone who did what he loved, did it well, and could have a good time doing it. I saw a lot of workman-like sets at CMJ, I saw more still at the Newport in Columbus, where bands would play meaningless sets with no drive or passion. I thought that was just an Ohio thing, but CMJ proved to me that the dead-eyed musician wasn’t something limited to the Buckeye state. When I moved to DC, I was petrified I was going to see more of the same. I was thankfully wrong.

What I did see on Friday, though, was a crowd that loves this city the way that Grohl does, and that shared environment that makes this place unique. There’s no question of The Black Cat’s place in rock history, but the places that DC Punk called home are long since gone and demolished to make way for a DC that the 1980s wouldn’t even recognize. Gone are the brutalist buildings of the 60s, and the older buildings that the riots ran down, and the 70s modern that’s made way for the cranes and the backhoes of the late 90s and mid 2000s. Places like the old 9:30 Club on F Street, The Bayou, and dc space are long gone. 

I’m anxious to hear the rest of Sonic Highways as the first two songs have woven in historical elements of note both into the lyrics and into the musical structure. This is the sort of ethnomusicology that I find fascinating, and that some mark with terms like “cultural appropriation”. It’s clear from the episode this week that Grohl and Big Tony from Troublefunk go back a ways, as Grohl threw a party for Troublefunk at 9:30 Club early this year, and I would argue that, if anything, Foo Fighters is working to elevate the profile of Go-Go for additional attention. My main wish is that Grohl had done this years ago before Chuck Brown had passed, as while I enjoyed Troublefunk’s contributions, Chuck Brown’s would have been a next level grab for them.

There has been a lot of (earned) criticism of the last two albums from the Foos, that neither carried enough weight to have been from the band that gave us “There Is Nothing Left To Lose” and “The Colour and The Shape” which were triumphant pieces of both good writing and rock engineering. That is not something that I can attribute to either of the tracks that we’ve heard from Sonic Highways. If they’re indicative of the rest of the album, it looks like the Foo Fighters are back to their old selves. That’s a welcome development. Look for them to play a large arena show next year (RFK stadium perhaps, given the picture of them with DC United Jerseys with #15? That would be excellent.) and I look forward to seeing them play again.

As the three hour set drew to a close, with one song left to go before last call, I wondered if Grohl would make Everlong the final song of the night. I was right. He’d done it before in New York, jumping down off the stage to play amid the crowd. Maybe it’s age and experience, maybe it’s better security, he played from the stage this time. It was no less poignant. “Everlong” was one of the Foos first hits, and Grohl credits the song with the longevity of the Foo Fighters, and much of its DNA.

At the chorus, Grohl wonders aloud, “If everything could ever feel this real forever / if anything could ever be this good again”. 

For me, fifteen years after that New York show, the answer was a resounding yes.

Taylor Hawkins fronts the Foos for a cover of Cheap Trick

Speaking of DC Punk history, tonight, at The Passenger, Brian Baker (Bad Religion, Dag Nasty, Minor Threat), Brendan Canty (Deathfix, Fugazi, Rites of Spring) and John Davis (Title Tracks, Q and not U) are holding an event at The Passenger and Warehouse Theater, with DJ sets from each, to help build the DC Punk Archives. Admission is $5, or a piece of DC Punk Scene to be donated to the event (posters, records, zines, flyers, set lists, t-shirts, that sort of thing), and there will be cocktails from Tom and Derek Brown. 

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Aaron Silverman of Rose’s Luxury

Aaron Silverman in the kitchen of Rose's Luxury (Photo courtesy Rose's Luxury)

Aaron Silverman in the kitchen of Rose’s Luxury (Photo courtesy Rose’s Luxury)

We’re revisiting our Capital Chefs feature with a series by music reporter Mickey McCarter. A lot has been happening recently in kitchens in D.C. restaurants, and Mickey takes a look into them from his usual seat at the bar in this series, which runs occasionally on Thursdays.

Aaron Silverman credits his neighborhood, Barracks Row in Eastern Market (on Capitol Hill), with the success of his restaurant, Rose’s Luxury.

And a desire to stay connected to that neighborhood is one of the big motivators for why the chef/owner does not take reservations, despite some controversy surrounding the policy.

“We don’t like kicking people out of their seats to sit the next person down,” Silverman told me in a recent phone conversation, “but a big part of it is that it’s advantageous to the neighborhood. All of the people in the neighborhood are at an advantage because they don’t have to drive for an hour or fly to get to us and then find out that we are full. Their risk is much lower. They can just walk across the street.”

Whether a restaurant takes reservations or no, its customers still have to play a waiting game. With reservations, they are calling on the phone every day with hopes to get a seat—four, six or eight weeks out. With no reservations, diners have the opportunity to show up that very day, but they may have to wait in line.

“Anybody who wants to be at Rose’s today can eat there today—guaranteed. You may have to get in line early and you may have to wait, but you are guaranteed to eat dinner there today if you want to,” Silverman declared. “If we took reservations only, we would be booked and there would be no way. You couldn’t just go.”

The policy of no reservations is the “lesser evil” because people who have waited can enjoy their meals for as long as they like, Silverman said.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Ought @ DC9 –10/16/14

Ought (Photo courtesy Constellation Records)

Ought (Photo courtesy Constellation Records)

Tim Beeler is on your stage, and he has something he wants to say to you.

Guitar in hand, sometimes he sings it to you, but just as often it seems, he speaks over the snappy art punk beats of his band, Ought.

And Beeler wants to talk about being in the moment, being in love, putting things together — but all in a perspective from “every man.” In that way perhaps, the lanky vocalist is extremely reminiscent of David Byrne or Lou Reed in his delivery.

Thursday night at DC9, Ought opened with “Today More Than Any Other Day,” an amazing tribute really to living one’s life. It’s a bit like lyrics by Byrne superimposed over melodies that could have come from Television. Musically, Ought could have sprung straight from 1977 via New York City.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Yelle @ 9:30 Club — 10/11/14

About two-thirds of the way through her set, French pop siren Yelle strides up to a platform to situate herself between the two drummers comprising her band.

Performing the bright electropop song “Tohu” from her new album, Complètement fou, she picks up a disco ball and holds it in her hands before her. Laser-like lightbeams crisscrossing the stage until this point changed direction to target the ball.

The lights scatter from the disco ball. The resulting light shower rained out over the room and the audience, and everyone was dazzled.

Yelle followed up the theatrics by bouncing right into the popular “Safari Disco Club,” the title track to her second album.

Indeed, light tricks or no, the sold-out audience was consistently dazzled by Yelle when she stopped by the 9:30 Club on Saturday, Oct. 11 in a tour supporting the latest album, released last month.

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Essential DC, History, Interviews, Life in the Capital, Opinion, Special Events, Sports Fix, The Features, They Make DC, We Love Arts

Local Indigenous Artist Showcases the Racism of Redskin

(c) Gregg Deal

(c) Gregg Deal

Those who think the continuing movement to change the name of the local pro football team is a waste of time and trivial were clearly not at the recent Art All Night event here in the District. Secreted in one corner of the venue was local Indigenous artist Gregg Deal. His project, “Redskin,” took on the racial overtones of the team moniker and projected it at his audience.

What he, nor spectators or his helpers predicted was just how pointed it ended up being.

Deal first let me know of the project in early September. What initially struck me about his proposed performance piece was the fact he was willingly subjecting himself to some serious abuse. Natives in the area–as well as those protesting football games elsewhere in the country–have always been subjected to abuses by team fans, especially if they’re open about their opposition to the name. (Witness the reactions by fans, as recalled by several Natives, during a recent taping for The Daily Show.)

So why do it, especially in an art venue? “As people of color, or more specifically, Indigenous people, we deal with something called microaggression. It’s the needle pricks in our general American society and culture that says or does things that are offensive to Natives. They’re called ‘microaggression’ because they are passive aggressive enough to get by your average person, but still aggressive,” said Deal. “For example, when I worked at the National Museum of American Indian in 2004-2005, someone asked me if I still lived in a Tipi. This would be microaggression because it’s an insane questions that is based on stereotypes, but it’s also a statement about what this person believes quantifies me as an Indigenous person.”

The term ‘redskin,’ painted faces and faux headdresses, drunken war chants – these are all examples of microaggression. Deal’s performance piece was meant to use all of these abuses, commonly found in tailgate parties at FedEx Field and used by team fans around the world, over an eight-hour period. “I ended up calling it after just over four hours,” said Deal. “All of us–my friends who were helping me and myself–were just mentally and psychologically drained from the experience.”

Bryce Huebner, an Associate Professor at Georgetown University, was one of Deal’s assistants who played a part of one of the abusive fans. “I said things that I would never say in real life, in hopes of making it clear how ugly and harmful the casual racism against indigenous people in the United States is,” he said. “I was struck by how difficult it was to start playing that role, when I arrived my heart was pounding and I could hardly speak; but more troubling by far was the fact that it became easy to continue as I started to play off of the other actors. There’s an important lesson there: if you surround yourself with people who espouse hostile attitudes, it’s much easier to adopt those attitudes yourself.”

Deal said a lot of the audience mentioned to him how truly real it felt, watching it unfold, and he agreed. “After it got rolling, the invective felt truly real, like a few situations I’ve found myself in around the District.” When I mentioned that a Huffington Post review said it was unauthentic because he had used his friends as the antagonists, Deal laughed. “They should’ve been in my place, then. It certainly felt real to me.”

Deal (seated) in the middle of his "Redskin" performance. (c) Darby

Deal (seated) in the middle of his “Redskin” performance. (c) Darby

Tara Houska, a board member of Not Your Mascots and a big proponent of the name change movement in the District, was one of the audience members. “The experience of watching Indigenous-based racism being hurled at a Native was difficult, to say the least,” she said. “Some of those phrases hit too close to home, and brought me back to moments in which I’ve experienced racism. At times, it was hard to keep in mind that it was a performance. I wanted to yell at the antagonizers to back off, and felt the hurt Gregg must have been feeling.”

Both Houska and Deal were also participants in the recent Daily Show segment that showed a panel of team fans and a panel of Indigenous people who, after separate discussions, confronted each other through the show’s direction. The segment has had mixed reaction in the press, with a lot of sympathy generated for the four white fans (who all self-identified as some fraction of various tribes, but with no real knowledge of their heritage – or, in one case, how generational fractions work). The incidents taped at FedEx field later between some of the Native panelists (specifically, the 1491s) and fans weren’t shown, which is unfortunate.

“Honestly, both the Daily Show and my art performance felt very similar,” said Deal. “The racism against Indigenous people in this country is so ingrained it it’s culture that the only way a team could exist as a mascot (which is defined as a clown, a court jester, by the way…nice ‘honor’) in the first place. The Washington Redskins–and other Indian mascots–are a really good illustration of not only how disconnected America is from it’s own history, but how disconnected it is from the issue of equality towards Indigenous people is. We are literally sitting on an issue where a significant amount of this country’s Indigenous are saying ‘it’s offensive’ and the answer is ‘no, it’s not offensive at all!’”

Gregg Deal with "Colonialism"

Gregg Deal with “A Nice Can of Colonialism”

Deal went on to say the whole movement to change the name isn’t really about offense, but about equality. “What you’re looking at is the tip of a very big iceberg of issues that are simply illustrated by this specific issue. The fact that we don’t seem to own our identity enough for someone to allow us to assert that identity appropriately, but that a corporate sports team is making billions from our image and likeness and has the audacity to fly it under the flag of honor is insanity,” he said. “Let’s be honest here, it’s not about honor, tradition, or any other lame excuse Dan or his constituents are saying. It’s about money, and the fans have all bought into supporting one of this country’s financial top one percent.”

Houska felt that Deal’s passion really came through in his performance piece, and she applauded him for taking a stand in such a public way. “I think it was a very in-your-face method to get locals aware that Natives experience racism, including the racist imagery and name of the Washington team,” she said. “We have all experienced being belittled and told to ‘get over it.’ I hope that people walked away with a sense of understanding that microaggression is a very real and damaging thing. And how it feels to be deluged by caricatured Natives via the Washington football team and having no say in it, despite being the subject of that caricature.”

Deal agreed. “I believe the term REDSKIN, if it belongs anywhere…it belongs to Indigenous people. In the same way the Black community essentially own the N-word,” he said. “While there are different schools of thought on that word and it’s usage in the Black community, it’s understood that if you use that word outside the Black community, you’re a certain type of person. The word ‘redskin’ belongs to us, and it’s not up to [non-Indigenous people] how it’s used.”

For more information on the name change social media movement, visit Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, Not Your Mascots, or follow the #changethename hashtag on Twitter.

Capital Chefs, Food and Drink, The Features

Capital Chefs: Alex McCoy of Duke’s Grocery

Alex McCoy at the bar in Duke's Grocery

Alex McCoy at the bar in Duke’s Grocery

We’re revisiting our Capital Chefs feature with a series by music reporter Mickey McCarter. A lot has been happening recently in kitchens in D.C. restaurants, and Mickey takes a look into them from his usual seat at the bar in this series, which runs occasionally on Thursdays.

Alex McCoy, the chef and co-owner of Duke’s Grocery, really doesn’t like to make a dish unless he’s traveled to its country of origin.

“You can go online right now, and if you want to learn how to make Indian food, you could spend hours and hours and hours watching videos and tutorials and reading up about it,” McCoy said.

“Twenty years ago, in order to do the same, you would either have to live in India or work with an Indian chef,” he told me one recent sunny afternoon while sitting on the patio of his East London-inspired bar and restaurant.

McCoy believes there is an element of authenticity to the latter approach, which he takes very seriously. For example, the young chef very much enjoys papaya salad, and perfected his own after travels to Thailand. While anyone may look up how to make a papaya salad, it’s a totally different experience to experience the food directly from a street vendor who has lived with the dish her entire life and who has made it in front of you, he said.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

Hot Ticket: Yelle @ 9:30 Club, 10/11/14

Yelle (Photo by Maciek Pozoga)

Yelle (Photo by Maciek Pozoga)

At the end of last month, Yelle released her third studio album, Complètement fou — French for “completely crazy” or “stark raving mad.” Yet interestingly, it’s perhaps her smoothest album to date.

The breakout songs from the first two Yelle albums had much more in common with spiky synth beats found in some of her contemporaries in the nu disco scene. By contrast, the songs of Complètement fou are largely more mellow, sparkling with an upbeat 80′s synth sound that you may associate with Goldfrapp or other trailblazing acts that revitalized synth-driven electropop in the past decade.

In support of the new album, Yelle comes to the 9:30 Club on Saturday, Oct. 11. I’ve seen her at the 9:30 Club twice before (on tours supporting Pop Up and Safari Disco Club), and I can report that she’s charming, cute, engaging and entertaining. (I also was extremely impressed with how quickly her English improved!)

Truly, how rare is it that U.S. audiences embrace a foreign pop act that sings in their native tongue? Personally, it takes me back to the days when Falco or Nena could score a hit song in the U.S. top 10 with their own new wave stylings.

Tickets are available online! A bientôt!

Yelle
w/Lemonade
9:30 Club
Saturday, Oct. 11
Doors @ 8pm
$25
All ages

Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Lykke Li @ 9:30 Club — 10/6/14

Lykke Li (Photo courtesy Press Here)

Lykke Li (Photo courtesy Press Here)

The lights and fog on stage created the illusion of a misty sky behind a circular enclosure. Thin, sheer black curtains hanging between the lights created the illusion of a temple.

But the priestess of that temple was no illusion. Indeed, the sold-out crowd gathered at the 9:30 Club Monday night to drink from the altar of their chosen indie singer-songwriter heroine Lykke Li. Clad in flowing black garb, the beguiling Swede struck a moody, artistic note as she paraded and swayed through a solid 75 minutes of sadly atmospheric songs.

Li opened the show with the title track of I Never Learn, her third and latest album released earlier this year. The song, like many of her others, deals with unfulfilling or lost love — and the implication is that “never learning” equates to “never getting over someone.”

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Comedy in DC, Entertainment, The Features

Hot Ticket: Tim and Eric & Dr. Steve Brule @ Lincoln Theatre, 10/9

Tim and Eric @ Dr. Steve Brule Live @ Lincoln Theatre 10/9

Tim and Eric @ Dr. Steve Brule Live @ Lincoln Theatre 10/9

If you’ve caught the Adult Swim programming late night on the Cartoon Network anytime in the last 10 years, you’ve likely encountered surrealist comedy duo Tim and Eric (born Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim).

The two have a new show coming up on the Cartoon Network with Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories, and their well-regarded last show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, spun off Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule (portrayed by John C. Reilly).

This Thursday, Oct. 9, the Lincoln Theatre hosts two live performances by Tim and Eric AND Dr. Steve Brule—at 7pm and 10pm! The comedy concert promises to bring elements of their television programming to a live venue as Dr. Steve Brule “discovers and shares bits of great knowledge about all areas of life,” in a manner similar to his television show.

The Los Angeles Times gave the stage show a positive review when it hit the west coast last month, as Randall Roberts described some of it:

For their part, the characters played by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the comedy team whose cockeyed sketch series “Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” birthed the cult of Brule, were just as busy and equally disconcerting. As unprepared but confident “improvisers,” the pair set the tone early by utterly failing at improv — with Heidecker shushing and berating the crowd for ruining his focus.

Tim and Eric AND Dr. Steve Brule 2014 Tour
Lincoln Theatre
Doors @7pm
$39.50
16+

Tim and Eric AND Dr. Steve Brule 2014 Tour
Lincoln Theatre
Doors @10pm
$39.50
16+