Archive for the ‘U St.’ Category

Wallflowers at the 9:30 Club

The Wallflowers When Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers (recently sans Rami Jaffee) took the stage at the 9:30 last night, it was the first time they’d been on tour in two years, and the first time in DC in nearly four. It was pretty clear that they’d not been on stage in a while, but it didn’t show in the music, just the pacing. Long breaks were frequent between the songs, as Dylan tuned one of about six guitars he played during the evening. When he noted some restlessness from the near-capacity crowd, he explained he didn’t use electronic tuning, which seem to mollify the crowd.

It was a great show, overall. Dylan’s vocals were fresh, yet full of a rasp that was not borne of fatigue but rather a unique part of his genetic heritage. The songs were all heartfelt and sincere, Dylan’s voice could lend Happy Birthday a degree of gravitas usually reserved for songs of triumph or mourning. The highlight of the night for me, though, was Fred Eltringham on the drums. The man’s just have a good time. Not in that kinda-creepy Mick Fleetwood way, though, but in more of an “I love my job and everything that comes with it” sort of way. New guitarist Stuart Mathis was simply amazing last night, with a virtuoso’s touch on lead guitar, with soaring melodic solos that were not mere approximations of the studio versions, but added depth and character to the live performance. I don’t go for the jam band philosophy of rock concerts where each song should be 20 minutes long, featuring lengthy solos based on jazz reinterpretations of the cuban cover of the song, it doesn’t work for me. Mathis’ excellent solos captured the essential character of the songs without straying too far afield into the land of the jam band, from whence many concerts do not recover.

The set was a mélange of their catalog, featuring tracks from Red Letter Days, Bringing Down the Horse and Rebel, Sweetheart, but nothing indicated that they’re headed back to the studios for a fifth album, which was a bit of a disappointment. In contrast to the Killers show I saw this summer, the Wallflowers show was entirely business like. There was no set. There were no antics. Just a band getting up and rocking out. It was just what I was looking for, and just what I got. I left the 9:30 with my ears ringing with the last chord (as they still are this morning), and looking forward to their next stop in DC.

Two final notes from the show:

1. Dear TR Kidd & the Visions. Please consider going back to your day jobs. If you don’t have day jobs, please look into them. Your opening set last night was quite possibly the worst live music performance I’ve ever seen.

2. Dear guy behind us who was totally rocking out. I respect your enthusiasm for the show last night. I recognize that you likely worship the man’s entire catalogue, but that was no reason for you to gratuitously shout “WOOO!” in quiet moments. Also, the Night at the Roxbury dance routine was entirely uncalled for.

Ingrid Michaelson at Borders Tomorrow

Ingrid.png Ingrid Michaelson, singer/songstress, is performing at lunch at the Borders at 18th & L Streets at 12:30 tomorrow. So, if you’re not packed with lunch, go by and see her perform. If you’ve seen Grey’s Anatomy, or caught anything with an Old Navy ad lately, you’ve heard her voice, and tomorrow you can see her down at the Borders.

Or, you could see her open at the 9:30 club tomorrow at 5p. I’ll be at the 9:30, but for the Wallflowers show that opens at 10. Tomorrow’s going to be an awesome day for music here in DC, check some of it out.1

1 Not that every day in DC isn’t an awesome day for music, but tomorrow is especially so.

Friar on U Street

Is that a monk on U Street? Is it Halloween in June? Or maybe a player getting his freak on? Nope, none of the above.

That would be a Franciscan friar headed to work along U Street in Washington DC. A Franciscan friar who thinks the robes are a little over-the-top but is down with the message none the less.

And with a easy gait from a love of the lord, he walked with me, a devout Atheist, and to his credit and my respect, he never once tried to convert me or question my faith.

So to repay his grace, I’ll leave out the snark and say that I respect those that join a clergy, be it of any religion, especially one that involved a vow of poverty. I have way too much techno-lust for that.

Spark Out

For more on the caffeine front: Sparky’s Espresso Cafe is no more. This is actually old news, but I was reminded of it last night when I picked up some cat food at Green Pets next door, seeing the cafe shuttered and chained. One of the first businesses to lead the charge of a clump of cool shops at 14th & S, the grungy little coffeeshop has finally fizzled out. I remembered when it opened how excited I was and later on how the promise of a chocolate chai or cappucino made my early morning crawl to One World Fitness more motivating. But then I’d noticed a steady decline in quality, service, and general atmosphere for a while, culminating in a night I was snarled at for incorrectly busing my cup and thought to myself “Ah, next time, I’ll head to 14U.”

There’s been a lot of speculation about the reasons for the closing – higher rent being a suspected culprit – so I asked the most reliable informants – their neighbors – if they knew what was up. Apparently it was taking a long time to get the alcohol license renewed, so they had to cut back on hours, which made them lose business, so they decided to pack it up and close for good. Who knows, the real reasons could be myriad. Suffice to say it’s gone for good, and a license application for a new place called “Cork” is up. My informant says this is rumoured to be a wine bar/cafe.

So from espresso to vino. Caffeinated grungy hipsters to – who? Social implications here? Or is it all economics – alcohol makes more $$ than caffeine? Interesting. In any case, I’m very curious to see how this wine bar pans out. It’s only a two block crawl home…

Trolley Tracks in 13th Street NW

Look what I found emerging from 13th Street just on the south side of U Street NW: trolley tracks.

Yes, DC’s history shows itself in asphalt. The past, coming back to pop a tire one day soon. If you look in the north side of U Street, 13th shows trolley tracks too, but not so much.

I knew of the trolley that ended in Mt Pleasant and the tracks in Georgetown. Where else are tracks visible in the street?

City Mouse Tastes Country Life

In keeping with my resolution to eat more fruits and vegetables this summer (six consecutive mornings of Irish Breakfasts will do that to a girl), I got up early today to go to the new farmers’ market in my neighborhood (early for me on a Saturday, that is. I got there at 11:30am. I’m lazy, what can I say?).

The 14th & U Farmers’ Market opened last weekend and will run every Saturday 10am-2pm outside the Reeves Center until November 17. It’s small, about seven or eight local producers, and it’s going to become my new addiction. Just a five block stroll from my house and all the seasonal bounty I can carry back. Fantastic. I had about $25 in cash in my pocket and picked up apples, mesclun salad, arugula flowers, strawberries, and applewurst. I could easily also have been tempted by the delicate thin asparagus (I HATE thick asparagus with a passion), jugs of apple cider, farm-fresh eggs, and rhubarb (if I had any clue how to make rhubarb pie).

Back home my husband laughed at his city mouse ecstatically eating strawberries and waxing poetical about how adorably sweet they were (“and they’re not all the same size!” I cried, waving my now-red fingers in glee). As a former country boy he knows all about the virtues of farm produce and thinks my naivete pretty hilarious. It is, but that won’t stop me from indulging in my new Saturday ritual next week. Hope to see some of you there. I’ll be the girl buying all the honey she can carry.

Simply Home

Friday night we entered the Thai New Year. So it was fitting that we ended up having dinner at Simply Home, the “eat drink shop” spot on U Street. The Thai options in the Shaw/U Street/Logan radius of my house include Sala Thai, Thai Tanic, and Rice, all with very different vibes, but after last night Simply Home has rocketed to the top of my craving list.

After a hellishly stressful two-week stretch, I had a strong desire for a tranquil dinner. So I breathed a sigh of relief and instant happiness upon exiting the bustle of U Street madness to a zen cocoon of white walls washed with low light, accented by dark wood and cute little seating cubes. It was the exact mood I needed – very contemporary without that cold feeling modernism can sometimes impart. “Check out the popcorn packing chandeliers,” my friend said admiringly. We settled in, ready to inbibe.

U Street Companions No More

For years, I’ve gone to Companions, a pet store on U Street NW. Today I went there to get aquatic plants for my fish.

I am no longer a guppy dad, but I still need to replenish my tank with greenery. And today I went home empty handed.

Companions is now closed. Gone. A storefront completely empty. I didn’t even see a “going out of business sale”, though I am not surprised.

Their service was slow, selection poor, and their fish died often. Still, they were local and I tried to support them. Now, there is no need.

There is still a need for pet supplies in DC. My fish have a naked tank. Any suggestions for Metro-accessible alternatives?

“But what the hell is a half-smoke, and how did it get here?”

In case you have not seen it yet, the CityPaper has an excellent cover story on D.C.’s “indigenous street food”, the half-smoke.

CNN Travel “Discovers” U Street & Logan Circle

In thinking about Logan Circle or U Street, would you ever say “New life comes to once-gritty capital streets?

If not, don’t be too shocked, as I never thought that either. I see both areas as “challenged” or maybe “transitional” but never “once gritty”. Georgetown was “once gritty”, but Logan and U? Not so swank as to have the polite “once gritty” as a past tense suggesting they are clean and safe.

Now, that’s not to say I find either as dangerous places that I fear not tread. On the contrary, I spend much time in both and send my Mom on errands in either without question. But the CNN crowd might have a different anxiety level than you or I.

Why? Their recommendation of Busboys and Poets, the ultimate in Yuppie/Buppie over-sincerity. Yes, its a nice place, and the food is good, but don’t you find the populace to be a mite too earnest to be real?

Or even better, CNN’s recommendation of Viridian, that they so helpfully note has “dinner for two $64”. Whoa! At that price, I should be in Georgetown with general social-climber attitude that gives nosebleeds at 50 meters, not urban U Street.

No matter, I am sure that CNN meant well, and they might just attract a tourist or two with the article, but I only wish they would’ve gone past the flash or glam or famous and looked at other neighborhood loves.

Who will join me in a shout out to the New Vegas Lounge or The Caribe?

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