Friday, June 27, 2014

Help save the Fort Reno Summer Concert Series.

UPDATE #2- Fort Reno is back on for the summer! Shows start on July 7th. Amanda had a meeting this morning with The National Park Service, which includes the Park Police, and they came to an understanding about requirements, costs, provisions, and what is needed going forward for both sides so that this concert series is allowed to continue in the future.  See what happens when adults sit down and talk like...adults?

see you on the field!

Hey all-

Just a quick "Call to Arms" today. As many of you who follow the DC music scene have probably already heard, for the first time since its inception in 1968, the Fort Reno Summer Concert Series is not going to happen. For a full explanation as to why, you can read Amanda's letter over at .

The crux of the matter is that the National Park Service and the United States Park Police are insisting the organizers of the summer concert series (Amanda, Casey and their all volunteer group) pay to have a police officer at every concert that is scheduled. Something that would have to be paid for, in advance, which means no refund for a rain-out. This would double the cost against an already small budget. That said, it's not about the money - it's about the fact that the NPS and USPP are pushing the need for an officer and are withholding the permit until it is paid for. All this despite the fact that it has never been required before, and no one from either the NPS or USPP can provide a reason as to "why now?" The concert series has always been policed, successfully by all the volunteers and by the concert-goers (myself included), as well. In my 20+ years of going, the worst offenses I have ever seen are some kids smoking weed or lighting off firecrackers. Which, it's worth mentioning, always happened on the upper part of the field, which is NOT under the jurisdiction of the NPS and USPP, but under DC parks and recreation. So, it doesn't fall under the purview of the permit. It's also worth noting, that in the past, when it was known that a band would draw a big crowd (Fugazi, Dismemberment Plan, Bob Mould, Q and Not U, etc.), then the organizers WOULD arrange for an officer to be there. That just makes good sense.

On a personal note, I grew up going to the Fort Reno concert series, and it was where I first started taking photos of bands. I now take my daughter, and it's one of the things she looks forward to most every summer. I finally had a chance to perform there last summer with my band, The Mauls, and it was (corny as it may sound) a bit of a dream come true. To have performed on the same stage that so many bands I loved also did is very big check off my bucket list.

As you might imagine, this caught fire pretty quickly yesterday when the news broke. The Washington Post ran several articles, including this one in this morning's Style section. The City Paper ran articles as well, including one with a list of the bands that were believed to be this year's line up. Also Dischord records posted this on their website.

So, what can you do? Well, a few things - One you can sign the petition started on here. You can also call the numbers on the list provided by Dischord and make it known you want this series to keep happening as it has for the previous 45 years.

Fort Reno is a fantastic tradition, and one that is really unique and special to DC. I can't tell you how many out-of-town bands tell me how cool a thing it is, and how many local bands love playing there. Let's make sure it keeps going.

UPDATE: WAMU 88.5's Bandwith is reporting that Amanda will be meeting with several folks, including representatives of The NPS and USPP on Monday. Let's hope this is a step in the right direction. Read the article here.

pete The List......

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cast Away - J Robbins and Brooks Harlan at the Metro Gallery

Hey all. Super quick post today, in what has evidently become the J Robbins show.

This is from a show back in October at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore where J played one of his solo shows. He was accompanied, as usual, by the man of many talents Brooks Harlan. Besides being a multi instrumentalist, Brooks runs a fantastic guitar and amp repair shop - with his partner in crime Shawna Potter - in Baltimore called Big Crunch. I highly recommend them, and I have sent and will continue to send all of my gear to them.

Anyway, J and Brooks performed a really nice set covering much of J's catalog including Jawbox, Channels and Office of Future Plans. J played acoustic guitar and sang while Brooks supported him with backing vocals, keyboards and baritone guitar. You never know how acoustic versions of songs will sound, especially when you are so familiar with the much louder, full-band versions. J did a really nice job of not overworking the arrangements and seemed to take more of stripped-down approach to the songs, just letting them stand on their own. Having seen J perform this way a few times now, I can say that I would love to hear a few of these put to tape and released as an acoustic J record. "The Office of Jawbox Channels - brought to you by Burning Airlines" record, perhaps? Well, one can hope.

UPDATE: Right after I posted this, J informed me he was about to post an acoustic EP called "Abandoned Mansions" on band camp. It's really good and has both Brooks Harlan and Gordon Withers supporting him. You can find it here. A bargain at $5.

Here are the pics. Oh, and I managed to get some decent videos of 3 of the songs. I've put those at the bottom of the post.

Till next time - see you in the pit.


The List......

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Local Business - Titus Andronicus at the Black Cat

A little while back, I finally got a chance to see Titus Andronicus. I have been a fan for a number of years - but missed several earlier chances to see them. So, I jumped when the opportunity presented itself this time. And the Black Cat is a perfect venue for them.

I won't go on too much about them, as there is plenty that has been written, and with more skill than I have to offer. But I will say that they were really good. Like wow good. The energy was amazing, and they blazed through their set, making it feel a lot shorter than the hour plus that it was, hitting songs from all the previous albums and some new material as well. Frontman Patrick Stickles is a force of nature. I was floored with his ability to play guitar while singing some of the densest lyrics out there. THEN he notices that his guitar is slightly out of tune, and he tunes it without stopping. I'm pretty sure he's operating on another level. If you get a chance, check out his interview on WTF with Marc Maron, which you can get free on iTunes for now.

My only complaint about the show at all was a certain number of folks in the crowd. Before Titus started, Patrick made a mini speech asking people to treat each other with respect and not mow anyone over. He even quoted (and credited) Ian MacKaye from his Fugazi days, saying "We are not a soundtrack for violence." Well, some folks didn't listen, and I fended off more than a few meat heads from bowling me and others over. I got pretty tired of it, and I eventually moved back so I could enjoy the rest of the set with out catching an elbow.

The only other curve ball for me was that I tried to shoot with a new camera with mixed results. The camera is great, and I think it could work for certain bands, but not something as high energy as Titus.  But that's why I tried it out, and now I know.

You can see the pics here.

Till next time, see you in the pit.


The List......

Monday, June 9, 2014

Drum on the Clocks, and Strum on the wires - Channels, BELLS≥, and Soccer Team at Rock 'n Roll Hotel

So, for those who don't know, Channels was a band that formed after the break up of Burning Airlines. Some of the reasons for the break up were J. Robbin's desire to record/produce more, tour less, and spend more time with his lovely wife, Janet. But one who's life revolves around music, both producing others and writing his own, can't simply stop. Thus was born Channels, made up of J, Janet and drummer extraordinaire, Darren "I can make all the rock faces" Zentek. It was a wonderful mix of personalities and talents that produced an EP on DeSoto - and a full length on Dischord. During this time, Channels played a handful of mostly East Coast shows, and J and Janet had a wonderful kid named Cal. Shortly before Cal's 1st birthday, he was diagnosed with type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), and life understandably changed for J and Janet. I won't go into detail here, but needless to say, the band took a backseat to Cal's care. You can read more about Cal and SMA here. There is also a link on the right to donate to help out with the very expensive care the Cal requires.
So, fast forward to 2014 and the Channels records are being put out on vinyl for the first time by Arctic Rodeo records. In celebration, Channels got together to play two shows - one in Baltimore and one in DC. By all accounts the shows went well. I can't speak for the Baltimore show, as I missed it, but the DC show was really fun, and they sounded great. J even said to me about a week later that they were really fun to play, and it made him "want to do it again". So who knows, but it would be fun.

The pics are here and here.

Open the night's show was a band from Brooklyn known as BELLS≥. And no, that is not a typo. It is spelled - in all caps followed by the "greater than or equal to" sign. I have done it enough now to know how to type the ≥ symbol without looking it up (OPT/ALT - period key on a Mac, you're welcome). BELLS≥   features the former back beat of Jawbox, Zach Barocas, Chris Ernst and Stephen Shodin on guitar, and Tom Broucksou on bass. I am not normally a fan of instrumental bands, but there have been a few lately that have gotten my attention, and BELLS≥ is most certainly one of them (Black Clouds would be the other one currently). They have and undeniable energy that is driven by Zach's drums - and accented beautifully by Chris's and Stephen's guitar work. The bass work was handled admirably by Tom in what was to be his second-to-last show (nothing ugly - he and his wife are moving to the West Coast - tough commute back to Brooklyn). Also joining them on stage was DC's noted rock cellist Gordon Withers - notably of J's other band Office of Future Plans - and also featured on BELLS≥ last record "Solutions, Silence and Affirmations".

The pics are here.

Wrapping up the night nicely was Soccer Team. While they had the tough job of following Channels set, they handled it well and provided the crowd with a nice set that featured quite a few new songs. Despite Ryan's complaint that he couldn't see the "dots on his guitar," they sounded great - and provided a nice ending to the night. They have been playing more lately, and now we know they have been writing new material, so here's to hoping there's a new recording in the near future.

See the pics here and here.

Ok, I have a few more quick posts to put up shortly - one old one new.

till next time, see you in the pit.

pete The List......