Arlington, VA

The Village at Shirlington will be kicking off its summer concert series tomorrow (Wednesday), starting with the Dan Haas Band.

The concerts run every Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in front of Shirlington Library (4200 Campbell Avenue).

The theme of the concert series is “decades of summer,” with local bands performing music from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, as well as original songs.

Attendees 21-and-over are invited to try $5 wine samplings from Cheesetique. Proceeds will go to Arlington Thrive — a nonprofit providing emergency funds to locals in need — and Homeward Trails Animal Rescue — a nonprofit that brings dogs and cats from low-income, rural shelters to the D.C. region.

The full schedule

Any rain cancellations will be announced by 4 p.m. the day of the concert, organizers say.

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The annual Columbia Pike Blues Festival returns tomorrow (Saturday) with live music and several road closures.

The festival will run from 1-8:30 p.m. at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive. This year’s music lineup includes soul and blues artists Sugary Rayford, Thornetta Davis, Hardway Connection, Lauren Calve Band, and Funky Miracle.

Arlington County Police announced that some streets adjacent to the Pike will close between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday.

Road closures include:

  • Walter Reed Drive between Columbia Pike and 9th Street S.
  • 9th. Road S. between S. Garfield Street and Walter Reed Drive
  • 9th Street between S. Highland Street to Walter Reed Drive

This year, organizers are partnering with Shirlington-area New District Brewing Company to serve craft beer. Several food vendors, including Carol’s Concessions, Caspi, Mac’s Donuts, Sloppy Mama’s Barbecue, and Rebellion on the Pike, will also be serving meals during the festival, per the event’s website.

Photo (1) via Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, (2) via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

More Arlington Real Estate Optimism — “According to a report released Wednesday by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, the median home price in Arlington County is on track to spike 17.2 percent by the end of 2019.” [Washingtonian]

‘Rock the Row’ Starts Tonight — The United States Navy Band Country Current will perform tonight at Pentagon Row for the shopping center’s annual Rock the Row outdoor concert series. Concerts will be held every Thursday from 7-9 p.m. at the Pentagon Row plaza, through Aug. 1. [Pentagon Row]

Yorktown Girls Cap Off Stellar Soccer Season — “The Yorktown Patriots completed an unbeaten girls soccer season on June 8 at Hermitage High School near Richmond by winning the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 state-tournament championship.” [InsideNova, InsideNova]

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A great example of collaboration between Arlington County and the Community, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization presents the Columbia Pike Blues Festival for the 24th year.

It’s a collaboration with Arlington Arts, that celebrates artists for this highly anticipated annual event. As ever, the lineup is designed to get you on your feet, headlined by soul/blues vocalist and veteran Marine, Sugaray Rayford. Admission is free.

In addition to an array of available food and beverages and plenty of kids’ activities, the Festival will showcase a new Arlington Art Truck installation — Guggenheim Fellow and Baltimore artist Neil Feather’s interactive sound sculpture Futura Percussion 1860 featuring only mid-19th century technology and built from reused materials.

GRUMP is bringing local arts and crafts vendors from the area to show and sell their handmade work, from watercolor art to handmade soy candles to small batch silk screened shirts.

The Festival covers three blocks at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive.

  • Sugaray Rayford — Rayford is nominated for two 2019 Blues Awards: “Soul/Blues Male Artist” and the “B.B. King Entertainer of the Year” Award. The Desert Storm veteran spent ten years in the Marines and says, “…I’m proud of the time I served. I wouldn’t have my wife and the life I have right now had I not served.”
  • Thornetta Davis — In such a musically ‘storied’ city as Detroit, it speaks volumes that in 2015 Thornetta Davis was crowned “Detroit’s Queen of The Blues” by official city proclamation. The winner of over 30 Detroit Music Awards, Thornetta’s 1996 debut solo album Sunday Morning Music (Sub Pop) received raves in the national media. Her song “Cry” from that album was featured on the HBO hit “The Sopranos.”
  • Hardway Connection — The smooth, passionate, sometimes funky and extremely “tight” sound of The Hardway Connection will make you get up and dance! The D.C.-based band has opened for everyone from Johnny Taylor and Toni Terry, to Chuck Brown.
  • Lauren Calve Band — Washington, D.C. area singer-songwriter, guitar and lap steel player Lauren Calve’s dynamic voice, Bonnie Raitt’s smoky aura and Ben Harper’s unique slide style. She released her debut EP, “Between the Creek and the Tracks” in 2014, for which she earned a Washington Area Music Association nomination for Best Roots Rock Vocalist.
  • Funky Miracle — Funky Miracle is an exciting collective that brings a unique organ trio + vocals lineup and an improvisatory approach to classic Soul, Funk and New Orleans tunes. Members of the group have performed with some of D.C.’s funkiest outfits including The Funk Ark, and Three Man Soul Machine.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) is a coalition of businesses, civic associations, property owners and the Arlington County Government. Our Mission: To champion and connect business and community along Columbia Pike, Arlington’s oldest and newest main street, where authentic diverse neighborhoods connect to the world.

Arlington Arts, a Division of Arlington Economic Development, exists to create, support and promote the arts, connecting artists and community to reflect the diversity of Arlington County.

Taking place at the intersection of Columbia Pike and South Walter Reed Drive, the 24th Annual Columbia Pike Blues Festival takes place on Saturday, June 15, from 1-8:30 p.m.

Click here for more details.

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Morning Notes

Lawmakers Regret Hasty Reaction to Scandals — “If they had to do it all over, members of Arlington’s legislative delegation acknowledge it might have been better to hit the pause button before rushing in to judge the actions of embattled statewide officeholders.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Adds Stanley Cups to Recycling List — “Stanley cups made of silver and nickel alloy and won by the Washington NHL franchise in 2018 should be maintained and recycled by the team annually for continued Arlington-Washington regional delight. #ALL CAPS #Back2Back” [Arlington County, RMNB]

Blues Fest Lineup Announced — “Riding a wave of accolades for his just-released CD Somebody Save Me (Forty Below Records) and two 2019 Blues Award nominations, soul/blues vocalist Sugaray Rayford headlines the 24th Annual Columbia Pike Blues Festival, on Saturday, June 15, 2019.” [Columbia Pike]

Police Participating in Drug Take-Back Day — “On Saturday, April 27, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Arlington County Police Department, Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its 17th opportunity in eight years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by huskerdont77

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The “Feel the Heritage” festival, Arlington’s annual celebration of African American history and culture, returns to Nauck this weekend.

The 27th edition of the community event is set to be held Saturday (Feb. 23) at the Charles Drew Community Center (3500 23rd Street S.). The festival will run from 1-6 p.m.

The event is set to feature a full lineup of live entertainment, “from traditional African dancing and drumming to soul and funk,” according the event’s website. Local vendors will also be offering everything from jewelry to homemade hot sauce.

The festival will include a variety of free arts and crafts activities, plus face painting, balloon art and a chance to meet critters from the Gulf Branch and Long Branch Nature Centers.

And be sure to come hungry — the event will also feature “Foods Around the World” Plinko, giving participants a chance to taste foods from around the globe at random, as well as a “soul food cook-off competition” featuring dishes from seafood gumbo to peach pie.

Limited on-site parking will be available, with overflow parking at the Macedonia Baptist Church (3412 22nd Street S.).

If you’re planning on hopping on a scooter to head to the festival, Bird is offering $5 off for anyone using the code “BIRDHERITAGE.”

Flickr pool photo via Arlington County Parks and Recreation

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The following feature article was funded by our new Patreon community. Want to see more articles like this, exploring important local topics that don’t make our usual news coverage? Join and help fund additional local journalism in Arlington. 

 “You walked in and you just felt good,” says Eric Brace.

When the IOTA Club and Cafe, a Clarendon performance venue whose motto was “live music forever,” closed its doors in the fall of 2017 after more than 23 years, Brace took it hard. Though the Last Train Home frontman played IOTA with his rootsy rock band on two of the club’s final three evenings, he couldn’t bear to return to the club for its closing night.

“I did not go on the last day because I was kind of too sad,” says Brace, who lived in the D.C. area for about 20 years before moving to Nashville. “I was just physically and emotionally wiped out.”

In a somewhat ironic turn, Last Train Home — a band that had one of its first gigs at IOTA in the mid-’90s and went on to play annual New Year’s Eve shows there for a string of years — performed a late-December set at The Birchmere just a few hours after our conversation. The legendary Alexandria music venue was an inspiration to IOTA’s founders, longtime Arlington residents Jane Negrey Inge and brother Stephen Negrey, who identified it as one of their “idols” in a press release prior to the club’s closing.

Now, more than a year since the closing of the storied arts space — home to performances from Norah Jones, John Mayer, Ryan Adams, Dawes and countless others between 1994 and 2017 — Arlington has yet to fill the void.

For Josh Stoltzfus, deputy director of Arlington Cultural Affairs, the county arts scene is essentially a series of micro-scenes, defined by the venues and events in each neighborhood. But when it comes to specific music spaces, Stoltzfus says, “there is no one flagship that everything revolves around.” Luckily, the county boasts many restaurants and bars offering live, local music, including Galaxy Hut, Rhodeside Grill, Westover Beer Garden, Cafe Sazon and Bistro 29.

Yet none of those establishments regularly host a mix of national touring acts, D.C.-area musicians and poetry readings, as IOTA did for more than two decades.

Today, the Wilson Boulevard building that once housed IOTA lies dormant, its vestibule sporting a dangling string of twinkle lights and a well-preserved, if incongruous, welcome sign. The block is slated for redevelopment as Market Common Phase 2, a property of Regency Centers, with construction expected to begin early this year.

In the press release announcing their closure, IOTA’s owners cited the impending construction and anticipated rent increase as contributing factors in their decision. But as a cultural mainstay that managed to survive for nearly two dozen years in a transforming neighborhood, IOTA and its legacy has not been forgotten.

One project memorializing the space is “The IOTA Chair,” a video series led by D.C. musician Rachel Levitin, who purchased a chair from one of the venue’s fire sales and re-imagined it as a set piece for performances and interviews of onetime IOTA performers she posts on Facebook. Another notable tribute is on the way — in September, Inge launched a GoFundMe campaign for a book that will retell IOTA’s history through her and Negrey’s eyes. Thus far, the effort has raised only about 13 percent of its $30,000 goal but garnered dozens of supportive comments.

“IOTA was one of the most beautiful music communities I ever met in my travels; it helped make my life worth living,” writes one donor.

Inge declined to be interviewed for this article but reflected on her venue via email: “At IOTA, live music was the center and purpose of everything we did,” she writes. “We chased inspired live experiences and creative new music for our stage. Stephen and I had the honor to meet and work with wonderful poets, musicians and musical performers, touring and local. We got to know the people who appreciated the shows, who got it, and who supported IOTA to keep us going for so long.”

For D.C. singer-songwriter Laura Tsaggaris, who started playing IOTA in the early 2000s and has performed throughout the area, the club was “the center” of the local songwriting scene.

“It felt easy — easy to stretch out and do what you wanted to do there,” Tsaggaris says. “I’ve never felt as comfortable as I did there.”

To acquire an IOTA-esque mystique, an Arlington music venue would need to strive not just to attract talented national artists but also serve as a sought-after haunt for the local arts community. Arlington singer-songwriter Justin Trawick, founder of “The 9” songwriter series and co-host of “The Circus Life” podcast, began making the trek to IOTA from Leesburg in 2005 in pursuit of the club’s well-known open-mic night. IOTA had a scene, he says, perhaps matched today only by Jammin Java in Vienna or a couple of newer D.C. venues, such as sister venue Union Stage.

“They’ve really created an amazing culture of not only bands that play there, but people who want to hang out there in that ‘Empire Records’ kind of way,” Trawick says. “IOTA had that.”

Though IOTA certainly had a successful open-mic culture, with two sign-up times per night to accommodate the dozens of eager performers filing in, Arlington’s open-mic opportunities live on. Alexandria musician Alex Parez hosted IOTA’s weekly open mic in its final three years and has since transferred the IOTA format to Rhodeside Grill. While he says “no place can replace IOTA,” he expresses pride over the local talent that continues to surface in Arlington.

Yet Brace, who is also a former music journalist for The Washington Post and the founder of Nashville-based Red Beet Records, expressed doubts about whether modern-day Arlington can provide an affordable space for an IOTA-size venue, which had expanded its capacity to roughly 300 when it closed.

“Arlington’s square footage is so expensive; it’s hard to have a place where you can afford to just have a big empty space in the form of a stage, and it’s hard to invest a lot of money in a great sound system and have a great sound person every night the way IOTA did,” Brace says.

But with the coming arrival of Amazon HQ2 to the newly named “National Landing”, it’s not unthinkable that music venues along the lines of The Wharf’s Union Stage or Pearl Street Warehouse could be part of the development mix.

A spokesperson for National Landing developer JBG Smith declined to comment, but the property website does highlight JBG’s plans for the “Central District” redevelopment project, set to include “a 130,000-gross-square-foot entertainment and shopping destination anchored by a 49,000-square-foot Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a specialty grocer, restaurants, bars and other experiential offerings.” Could a live performance space be one such offering?

For now, Arlingtonians hoping for an IOTA-like experience will have to wonder and wait for an existing Arlington music hub to expand its offerings (not to mention its footprint) or an entirely new venue to spring up.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Brace says. “There’s always people making music, and they’ll have little pop-up clubs in basements or house concerts. I’ll choose to be hopeful.”

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The Westover Market and Beer Garden will still be able to offer outdoor amplified music after striking a new deal with county officials, offering a compromise to placate neighbors who remain concerned about the noise emanating from the establishment.

The County Board unanimously agreed to revamped permit requirements for the popular beer garden Saturday (Oct. 20), stipulating that musicians at the restaurant will only be able to play amplified music outside until 9 p.m. on Fridays, one hour short of the current 10 p.m. limit. The Board is also requiring the restaurant to submit a modified “sound management plan” by this coming March.

County staff originally urged the Board to ban all amplified music at the beer garden, arguing that the restaurant had repeatedly violated its noise limits and elicited a number of complaints from people living in the residential neighbors surrounding the location at 5863 Washington Blvd. The beer garden has drawn all manner of county scrutiny in recent years, from its noise levels to its compliance with county permit regulations.

Yet the restaurant’s owners offered to limit outdoor music on the weekends as a middle-ground solution, and it was one the Board happily accepted.

“The Board recognizes that the Westover Beer Garden is a popular gathering spot for the neighborhood,” Board Chair Katie Cristol wrote in a statement. “But it also is close to homes. Arlington’s mixed-use neighborhoods, where we sometimes have commercial uses very close to homes, depend on everyone following the rules to work. By reducing the hours for amplified outdoor music, the Board is seeking to address the violation, while also giving the beer garden a path forward to comply with the conditions of its use permit.”

Several beer garden patrons spoke in support of the restaurant Saturday, noting that noise in the parking lot of the restaurant’s shopping center would often rise to the same level as the decibel limits set on the restaurant by the county. The beer garden has the distinction of being the only establishment in Arlington with an “outdoor live entertainment use permit,” according to the county, and its supporters argued that it’s generally abided by the permit’s strictures over the years.

“There are some things you have to accept as part of a big picture with wherever you live,” Dee Doyle told the Board. “There’s some noise, but that’s part of the bargain… The benefits of this business vastly outweigh any negatives.”

The Westover and Tara-Leeway Heights civic associations both urged the Board to maintain the beer garden’s live music permissions, and the restaurant’s backers argued that only a few disgruntled neighbors were complaining about the noise generated by the establishment. According to a new county staff report prepared for the meeting, county police received 12 calls about noise at the restaurant between April and October, but 75 percent of those calls came from the same two households.

But Thomas McCall, who lives near the restaurant, argued that people living on both sides of Washington Blvd have come together to protest the beer garden’s disruptions. He viewed the depiction of his fellow neighbors as “selfish” for complaining as a frustrating one, noting that he felt the neighborhood had tried to work with the restaurant in good faith on the issue.

“This permit modification allows the music to continues, allows the the patrons to continue to enjoy the beer garden, and alleviates the problems for nearby neighbors,” McCall told the Board.

Yet Bill Lawson, an attorney for the beer garden, argued that “if these guys can’t have amplified music, there’s just no point” in offering live entertainment outside at all.

“If you complain often enough and loud enough, you might succeed in shutting this business down,” Lawson said.

He offered the reduced hours as one way to address the issue, and added that owners David and Devin Hicks would also be willing to offer an independent “ombudsman” to monitor noise levels on a regular basis.

The Board was eager to sign off on that compromise, though many members expressed consternation that the issues at the beer garden have so frequently required their mediation.

“We want to build community, but at the same time, as we grow and change, if people have a nice home and a nice situation, we need to make sure they suddenly don’t hear a lot of music where they live,” said Board member Libby Garvey.

The Board will review the beer garden’s permits once more next October.

 

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Just eight days before the start of its 12th performance season, the National Chamber Ensemble was faced with a potential disaster — the group’s concertmaster and violin soloist broke his hand.

Leo Sushansky, who doubles as the NCE’s artistic director, suffered a “freak accident” Friday (Oct. 12), the group said. Mary Anne Ellifritz, a member of the NCE’s board, says Sushansky was rushing to answer a phone call when he made a perilous decision to avoid a disassembled harpsichord on his living room floor.

“He thought he would hop over it and make it to the phone in time,” Ellifritz wrote in an email. “He tripped on the music holder and went down… He wasn’t aware that he had gotten hurt at first, just bruised. When he went to put the hand under cold water, he saw it the fingers and hand were oddly shaped.”

And to make matters worse, Ellifritz says Sushansky subsequently learned that the call was from the front desk of his building — staff thought they’d received a package for him, but it was actually for another tenant.

“That’s quite a traumatic wrong number,” Ellifritz said.

With the ensemble’s opening concert set for Saturday (Oct. 20) at the Gunston Arts Center, the group desperately needed to find “an eleventh hour replacement” for Sushansky, and fast.

Luckily, the ensemble seems to have managed to have done just that. Another violinist with the NCE, Jorge Orozco, managed to come up with a solution to suggest to the group’s leaders; he had a friend who he thought might be up to the job.

Orozco happened to know that Dietrich Paredes (a touring conductor, violinist and the music director of the Caracas Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela) lives in D.C. and would likely be in town for the concert. After what the group described as “an urgent phone call,” Paredes agreed to fill in for Sushansky.

He’ll now lead the ensemble for the group’s “Masters of the Italian Baroque” program, which will feature work from composers including Vivaldi, Corelli, Albinoni and Pergolesi.

But that’s not to say that Sushansky will be completely sidelined due to his injury — the NCE says he’ll take over as conductor in the second half of the concert, leading the ensemble as it performs Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater.” The NCE will be joined by soprano Sharon Christman and Washington National Opera mezzo-soprano Anamer Castrello for the performance.

After its performance Saturday, the group will hold four more concerts this season. Its next performance is slated for Dec. 15 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington.

Season subscriptions to the NCE cost $145 after. General admission is $36 for adults and $18 for students. Group discounts for 10 or more are available by calling 703-685-7590. Tickets are available online.

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Arlington officials could soon tell the Westover Beer Garden to turn down the volume, with a new round of bickering over live music at the restaurant set to go before the County Board this weekend.

County staff believe musicians at the Westover Market and Beer Garden, located at 5863 Washington Blvd, have gotten a bit too loud on Friday and Saturday nights in recent weeks. With the restaurant’s live music permit up for review once more, they’re recommending that the Board restrict the beer garden from offering any “amplified music” at its outdoor patio for the foreseeable future.

Staff argue in a report prepared for the Board that doing so would “mitigate noise impacts on the surrounding neighborhood,” but add that the beer garden’s owners disagree with that characterization.

This is far from the first dispute over the restaurant’s outdoor seating area, which has frequently attracted scrutiny from county zoning officials. Arlington even briefly barred the beer garden from welcoming live music outdoors in 2010, before lifting its ban a few years later.

Yet, over the last few months, staff wrote that zoning officials warned the restaurant that music was exceeding the agreed-upon decibel limits for the outdoor space. They added that several neighbors had called police to complain about the noise, particularly in June, though those calls all came in before 9 p.m., the time limit imposed by county permits for the beer garden to cut off loud music.

The staff report added that some neighbors have already contacted the county to support the restaurant, reasoning that a ban on amplified music would be “a more balanced approach than revoking the use permit completely.” Westover would still be allowed to offer live, un-amplified music both indoors and outdoors under the terms of the proposed permit arrangement.

The Board is set to review this matter at its meeting Saturday (Oct. 20).

Photo via Facebook

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Clarendon Grill is closing at the end of the month, the longtime Clarendon nightlife spot announced today (Monday).

Long a venue for live music, Clarendon Grill (1101 N. Highland Street) first opened in 1996. Its interior and back patio were both renovated in 2010.

In a Facebook post, the bar thanked its customers for its more than two decades in business.

“When the Grill first opened there were few bars and fewer customers. As Clarendon grew in popularity, so did The Grill. We were extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of a community that has since blossomed into a vibrant collection of local businesses,” said the post. “Thank you all for your support over the past 22 years.”

ARLnow reported in August that “for lease” signs were posted on Clarendon Grill’s windows. The last event currently posted on the bar’s website is a Halloween party scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 27.

Also via social media, prolific local restaurateur and businessman Scott Parker, whose venues like Don Tito and The G.O.A.T. competed with Clarendon Grill, lauded its contributions to the local nightlife scene.

“Congrats to them and their team on an absolutely amazing 22 year run,” Parker wrote. “People outside the industry often have no idea the true blood, sweat, and tears that go into running an establishment. 22 years in business is no small feat. Absolutely amazing! I’m thankful for what they have brought to Arlington, and how they paved the way for more bars and nightlife to come in.”

The closure represents another blow for live music in Arlington. Another major Clarendon music venue, Iota Club and Cafe, closed last fall.

It is unclear at this point what may be taking Clarendon Grill’s place.

The bar’s full announcement post is below.

So Long, Farewell…

It’s been an amazing ride. Our hearts are heavy as we share that the doors of the Clarendon Grill will be closing for good at the end of October. We were not ready, but sometimes things happen to change the course.

Some of you were around when the doors of the Clarendon Grill first opened back in the 1996 and some of you may not have been born yet. Either way we have truly enjoyed being the go to place for live music in Clarendon. When the Grill first opened there were few bars and fewer customers. As Clarendon grew in popularity, so did The Grill. We were extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of a community that has since blossomed into a vibrant collection of local businesses.

One of the most unique aspects of the Clarendon Grill is the staff. From our General Manager, to our bus boys, to our bartenders-the staff has remained the same for close to 20 years. That is a reflection of the unique culture and values that went well beyond a typical neighborhood bar. The Clarendon Grill was not just burgers, beers, and live music; it was a family to it’s staff and a “Night Out” for the community.

One of the many things we can be thankful for is all of the memories we have helped create, whether happy, funny, sad or forgettable (purposely or not). Thank you all for your support over the past 22 years.

It’s been a great run, but alas all good things must come to an end. There will be other bars, but none quite like the Clarendon Grill. Some things are replaceable like burgers and beers, but other things are intangible and we will argue that the staff and the experience we provided, will not be matched.

Cheers!

The Clarendon Grill Staff

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