Saturday, October 15, 2011

Best Rock Clubs In The DC Metro Area

(David Malitz, Washington Post, September 15, 2011)

For those about to rock, here are the area's best spots for live music.

9:30 Club
Washington, DC

This is the gold standard for rock clubs, and not just in Washington but across the country. There are plenty of reasons it regularly wins nightclub of the year awards from such magazines as Billboard and Pollstar. Such pantheon artists as Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, James Brown and Dolly Parton have all graced the 9:30's stage.

Birchmere Music Hall
Alexandria, VA

Alexandria's 500-seat sit-down venue is the local home to many top veterans of country, singer-songwriter, R&B and bluegrass. Show up early if you want one of the best tables; prime spots are usually gone shortly after the doors open at 6 p.m.

Black Cat
Washington, DC

The Black Cat has been the undisputed king of indie rock clubs in Washington since it opened on U Street in 1993, before the area became the night life hub it is now. With the upstairs Mainstage (capacity about 700) and downstairs Backstage (capacity about 150), it hosts established and fledgling acts.
Washington, DC

The success of this venue in the U Street neighborhood helped pave the way for the Rock & Roll Hotel and the Red Palace, which have the same management. All those indie bands with bad names that you read about on blogs with worse names? They regularly make their first D.C. stop here.

Fillmore Silver Spring
Silver Spring, MD

The 2,000-capacity club Silver Spring is a new major player in the local concert scene. It is the latest in a franchise inspired by the legendary San Francisco club founded by promoter Bill Graham in the 1960s, with venues in such cities as Denver, Miami and Charlotte. It bears many of those clubs' hallmarks -- elegant chandeliers, posters from Fillmore concerts across the country and a psychedelic mural that greets you at the entrance. But this is not a counterculture hot spot, instead one that caters to audiences of all ages and tastes. There will be everything from classic rock to electronic music, jam bands to R&B.

Iota Club & Cafe
Arlington, VA

Tucked away in the yuppie heaven that is Clarendon (Whole Foods, an Apple store and the Container Store are all within a block), this cozy venue regularly hosts alt-country acts and singer-songwriters. A recent renovation expanded the dining area, and the new layout gives the space a welcome, open feel.

Jammin' Java
Vienna, VA

This converted coffeehouse in a Vienna strip mall is the go-to place for singer-songwriters, folk acts and children's music. The club is owned by local folk rockers the Brindley Brothers, and acoustic guitar is definitely the instrument of choice.

The Red Palace
Washington, DC

The newest piece in H Street's live-music puzzle and the sister venue to the Rock & Roll Hotel and DC9, the Red Palace combined the closet-size rock club the Red & the Black with its next-door neighbor, the burlesque-themed Palace of Wonders. There are still some sideshow-themed evenings, but you'll mostly see up-and-coming indie rock bands.

The Rock and Roll Hotel
Washington, DC

This club (not actually a hotel, of course) was one of the first foundations of the H Street revival. It's now the area's sturdy centerpiece and continues to be one of the best places in the city to see bands before they get famous. (James Blake and Odd Future were two recent sold-out shows.) There's also a giant bar upstairs that hosts regular sweat-inducing DJ nights.

The State Theatre
Falls Church, VA

A converted old movie theater, this Falls Church concert hall is one of the area's most versatile venues. The main level has tables and a general admission area. And from the seated balcony, you get an appropriately cinematic view of the stage. The State is home to local '80s tribute band the Legwarmers, who play a couple of sold-out shows every few months.

U Street Music Hall
Washington, DC

It's rare that a nightclub can immediately become one of a city's crown jewels, but U Street Music Hall is that rare club. The brainchild of longtime D.C. DJs Will Eastman and Jesse Tittsworth, U Hall opened to much fanfare and immediately exceeded lofty expectations. From the simple layout (limited seating, lots of room for dancing) to the no-cameras policy and the heavenly bass that quickly became the stuff of legend -- this is a place by and for music lovers. The club hosts mostly DJs, but rap and rock shows are peppered throughout the calendar.,72311.html?wpisrc=nl_gogthu   

Before Hitler, Who Was the Stand-In for Pure Evil?

(By Brian Palmer,, Oct. 4, 2011)

ESPN dropped singer Hank Williams Jr. from its Monday Night Football telecast after he publicly compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler on Monday. Today, the Führer is universally recognized as the embodiment of evil and the most convenient example of a truly terrible human being. Before World War II, who was the rhetorical worst person in history?  The Egyptian Pharaoh, of course.  In the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, many Americans and Europeans had a firmer grasp of the bible than of the history of genocidal dictators. Orators in search of a universal symbol for evil typically turned to figures like Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, or, most frequently, the Pharaoh of Exodus, who chose to endure 10 plagues rather than let the Hebrew people go.

In Common Sense, Thomas Paine wrote: “No man was a warmer wisher for reconciliation than myself, before the fatal nineteenth of April, 1775 [the date of the Lexington massacre], but the moment the event of that day was made known, I rejected the hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh of England forever.” In the run-up to the Civil War, abolitionists regularly referred to slaveholders as modern-day Pharaohs. Even after VE Day, Pharaoh continued to pop up in the speeches of social reformers like Martin Luther King Jr. 

Generally speaking, hatred was more local and short-lived before World War II. Nineteenth-century polemicists occasionally used Napoleon Bonaparte as shorthand for an evil ruler—they sometimes referred to “the little tyrant” rather than name the diminutive conqueror—but those references were rare. There is little record of oratorical comparisons of political leaders to Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, or Ivan the Terrible. Even Adolf Hitler himself once commented on history’s tendency to forget the sins of bloody dictators. In 1939, the Führer asked rhetorically, “Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?” (The authenticity of this quote is disputed.)

In the absence of a universal boogeyman, different regions latched on to a particular person as the personification of evil at different historical moments. Yet genocide and murder were less likely to earn a man universal revilement than treason or other forms of disloyalty. During the Civil War, for example, some Southerners spoke of Abraham Lincoln in vaguely Hitler-like terms. Upon Lincoln’s assassination, for example, the editor of the Texas Republican wrote, “the world is happily rid of a monster that disgraced the form of humanity.” (Some Confederates called Lincoln a “modern Pharaoh.”) Part of this scorn was based on their view of Lincoln as a traitor—both of his parents were Virginians, and Lincoln was born on slaveholding soil. Northerners, for their part, focused their ire on the traitorous assassin John Wilkes Booth. In fact, 52 years after Lincoln’s assassination, some Americans compared Woodrow Wilson to Booth, because he betrayed his country by leading the United States into war.

King George III was also a major whipping boy for American rhetoricians for decades after the Revolution. A good example is Walt Whitman’s “A Boston Ballad,” in which he argued that the Fugitive Slave Act, which required Northern States to return escaped slaves to their owners, represented a return of the ghost of King George.