This column is written and sponsored by Arlington Arts / Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.
One of Arlington County’s signature events, the 29th annual Rosslyn Jazz Festival draws thousands to hear internationally-renowned musical artists.
The Artists on this year’s roster are all rooted in the unique synthesis of sounds from the Gulf Coast that evoke jazz, blues, soul, funk and Caribbean genres: the Houston-based band The Suffers, Grammy-nominated New Orleans brass band Cha Wa, singer/cellist Leyla McCalla (formerly of the Grammy award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops), and D.C.’s go-go/jazz ensemble JoGo Project.
Presented by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) and co-sponsored with Arlington’s Cultural Affairs Division/Arlington Arts, the partnership harnesses the respective strengths of the locally-focused non-profit and Arlington County Government to maximum effect.
“Creating a vibrant arts and cultural scene is a core part of our work to make Rosslyn a more attractive place for both businesses and residents,” said Mary-Claire Burick, president of the Rosslyn BID. “The Rosslyn Jazz Fest brings community together to enjoy music and culture in a way (and at a scale) that no other event in Arlington does; it has brought vitality and energy to Rosslyn for 29 years and we look forward to many more.”
Most of the on-the-ground logistics, such as permitting, promotion and vendor area coordination, are led by the BID. Using their formidable network of staff, volunteers and community connections, the BID transforms the three-acre Gateway Park and the surrounding thoroughfares into a safe, smooth-running festival-site, stocked with some of the area’s top food trucks with options to engage the entire family.
While the County had always provided production and marketing support, since 2001 the experienced programming team at Arlington Arts expanded their role to oversee all elements of the on-stage production and curating the musical line-up.
Re-envisioning the festival to highlight more national and international touring artists, attendance quickly rose from 1,200 to an average 7,000 annually.
“Like jazz itself the festival has evolved,” says Josh Stoltzfus, who programs the Festival, as Director of Cultural Development for Arlington Arts. “During the past several years, we’ve been incorporating a more diverse array of music to feature critically acclaimed global music, soul, funk and all manner of jazz-related expression.”
Now drawing upwards of 10,000 attendees when the weather cooperates, it’s not unusual to see audience members who travel from as far away as Philadelphia, Raleigh or Chicago for the event, all of which benefits Arlington’s restaurant and hotel industry as well.
Free and open to the public, this year’s Rosslyn Jazz Festival takes place on Saturday, September 7 from 1-7 p.m. at Gateway Park, 1300 Lee Highway (2 blocks from Rosslyn Metro, at the foot of Key Bridge).
The Rosslyn Jazz Festival is coming back with some Grammy-nominated artists headlining the event.
The free festival is planned for Saturday, Sept. 7 from 1-7 p.m. at Rosslyn’s Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway).
This year, the annual festival will feature:
- Cha Wa, a Grammy-nominated New Orleans brass band
- The Suffers, an eight-piece band featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert
- Leyla McCalla, a singer/cellist
- JoGo Project, a D.C.-based go-go/jazz ensemble
The festival will also include food trucks, a pop-up beer and wine garden, and a visit from the Arlington Art Truck, according to its organizer, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.
The focus of this year’s musical selections is art and music from the Gulf Coast, the BID said in a press release.
Attendees are encouraged to take the Metro to the Rosslyn station — a five-minute walk from the park — as parking at the festival will be limited.
Photo via Rosslyn BID
A thief reportedly stole equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars from the famous Inner Ear Studio near Shirlington this morning.
The building’s landlord was the first to spot something was amiss: a car was parked by the rear door of the recording studio with the trunk open.
“He got pictures,” said Inner Ear owner Don Zientara, of the landlord’s eagle eye. “But they were stolen [license] plates.”
Several police officers could be seen on scene today just before 1 p.m., searching the studio. An officer photographed the remnants of a lock that had been punched through, leaving a gaping hole in the building’s front door.
“The stuff I can see just by looking totals around $10,000,” said Zientara, who described holes in the wall where some of his music recording equipment once stood.
He said he’s still working on assessing all the pieces of equipment that were stolen, but so far noticed a power supply, a pre-amplifier, and a Telefunken AR-51 tube condenser microphone are gone. Other, expensive items like computers had been left untouched, he noted.
“It was kind of indiscriminate,” said Zientara, who said his insurance will likely cover the losses.
Over the past three decades, he said thieves have never targeted his Shirlington studio — though a bass guitar once went missing many years ago.
Police responded to the call about the theft just after noon today, though the theft took place earlier in the morning, per scanner traffic.
Since then, the studio has continued to record independent artists. But it’s also attracted big names like the Foo Fighters, who recorded in the studio for their 2014 album Sonic Highways. An HBO documentary about the band and the album prominently featured Inner Ear.
Foo frontman Dave Grohl and bandmates previously recorded at Inner Ear before he went on to worldwide fame as a member of Nirvana.
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Fret Zealot is a system of LED lights linked with an app to show a new guitar player where to place their fingers to play a song. The business launched six years ago and Fret Zealot is now available in over 600 stores, according to CEO Shaun Masavage.
After the success of the company’s fret zone guitar device and app, Masavage said the company started looking at other instruments on which to apply its technology.
Ukuleles are undergoing something of a revival, with the ukulele market experiencing 10-20 percent growth in recent years. According to Masavage, the company has received a lot of requests to develop a version of Fret Zealot for the ukulele.
“The ukulele is pretty much easier to play, but still has the same barriers to entry,” Masavage said. “If they get our system, whether you’re experienced or a new player, there’s something for everybody. You can take this instrument with a fret zone on it, and it will show you how to play from day one and play in a way that will keep you interested.”
There was just one problem: no one working at Fret Zealot knew how to play a ukulele. Fortunately, they knew where they could acquire technology to teach them how to play the instrument.
“None of us had learned ukulele, we were learning cords as we went,” Masavage said. “We literally used our own technology to teach us how to play. [We would play] ‘Let it Be’ by The Beatles, which is just four chords. You can’t help but smile while playing it.”
Masavage said his goal is to have the app and the fret zone device for ukuleles ready to go in late August or September. The company is currently a little under $400 short of its $20,000 goal in Kickstarter. The full price of Fret Zealot for the ukulele will be $139.
The Disney musical “Newsies” is set to debut at the Kenmore Middle School Theatre (202 S. Carlin Springs Road) in mid-July.
In association with Encore Stage & Studio, the performance brings together children in order to foster a passion for the performing arts and culture. Students in the program participate in workshops taught by professional artists.
The storyline of “Newsies” takes place in New York, where young journalist Jack Kelly leads other journalists in a rally against unfair working conditions.
The musical originated as a film in 1992, but the first live performance took place at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011.
“There are many exciting dance numbers including ‘Seize the Day’ and ‘King of New York,'” Sara Duke, the executive director of Encore Stage & Studio, said. “The audience will be impressed.”
Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 703-548-1154. Prices are $15 for adults and $12 for children, students, seniors or members of the military. Opening night takes place on Friday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m. Other show times run through Sunday, July 28.
Photos via Encore Stage & Studio
This column is written and sponsored by Arlington Arts / Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.
Chosen among “the essential summer outings” in the DMV for 2019 by The Washington Post, the 50th Anniversary Season of Lubber Run Amphitheater’s Free Summer Concerts is underway!
Since the construction of the first permanent stage in 1969, generations of Arlingtonians have enjoyed free summer cultural events at the sylvan venue nestled two blocks off Route 50, ranging from Arlington Children’s Theater to bands like Eddie from Ohio and superstar Ritchie Havens.
More than a thousand music lovers turned out for 2019’s opening weekend concerts featuring two-time GRAMMY Award nominated singer-songwriter Raul Midon, followed on Saturday by acclaimed singer-songwriter Justin Jones.
As part of their nod to the venue, which Arlington Arts programs and manages, The Washington Post noted that “while the schedule includes the usual rotating cast of performers, there are also some standouts such as… local bossa nova powerhouse Verroneau.”
The venue also benefits from the strong support of the surrounding community, and especially the Lubber Run Amphitheater Foundation. Other upcoming highlights range from area salsa stalwarts Sin Miedo and Arlington Philharmonic’s pet-friendly ‘Pops in the Park’, to an evening of cabaret performances by some of your favorite voices from Tony Award winning Signature Theatre!
Concerts continue through September 15, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with 11 a.m. family-oriented programming on Sunday mornings (run-times vary). So bring a picnic, some friends and enjoy the arts at Lubber Run Amphitheater, located at 200 North Columbus Street, Arlington, Virginia 22203 (North Columbus Street and 2nd Street North).
While there is a small parking lot, there is abundant free street parking in the surrounding Arlington Forrest neighborhood.
For directions on how to get to Lubber Run Amphitheater and leave the car at home, check out the video below by Arlington’s Car Free Diet, a program of Arlington County Commuter Services (ACCS), a bureau of the Department of Environmental Services!
Here’s a sampling of upcoming programs into July. For a full-schedule, visit www.arlingtonarts.org.
Friday, June 21 — Full Power Blues Band
Saturday, June 22 — Sin Miedo
Sunday, June 23 — Grandsons Jr
Friday, June 28 — Arlington Philharmonic: Pops in the Park (pet friendly)
Saturday, June 29 — Signature Theatre: Cabaret Under the Stars
Sunday, June 30 — Encore Stage & Studio: A Sidewalk Stoll (family performance)
Friday, July 5 — U.S. Army Blues
Saturday, July 6 — The Fuss
Sunday, July 7 — Reptiles Alive (family performance)
Friday, July 12 — Vox Pop
Saturday, July 13 — King Soul
Sunday, July 14 — Rocnocerous (family performance)
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
- June 19: Dan Haas Band
- June 26: Elizabeth, Phil & Chris
- July 10: Justin Trawick & the Common Good
- July 17: Lloyd Dobler Effect
- July 24: 19th Street Band
- July 31: Nathaniel Davis
- August 7: Driven to Clarity
- August 14: Eli Lev Band
Any rain cancellations will be announced by 4 p.m. the day of the concert, organizers say.
Clerk’s Office Stressed By Extra Work — “Increasing amounts of paperwork – whether of the hard-copy or electronic variety – are putting the squeeze on the staff of Arlington’s clerk of the Circuit Court.” [InsideNova]
Amazon Aiming for Net-Zero HQ2? — “Amazon seems to be eyeing the possibility of constructing ‘net-zero energy’ buildings when it readies its new offices in Pentagon City and Crystal City, and raised the issue repeatedly in negotiations with county officials.” [Washington Business Journal]
APS Lauded for Music Education — “Arlington Public Schools has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation for its commitment to music education.” [InsideNova]
Nearby: Alexandria Running Out of Office Space — “Alexandria’s efforts to lure new companies into the city are being thwarted by a space problem — there’s just not enough of it… there’s a dearth of the the right kind of office space, and that needs to change if Alexandra hopes to step up its game.” [Washington Business Journal]
A senior from Arlington’s H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program appeared on NBC’s The Voice last night.
While Calista Garcia didn’t move on to the next round, her audition did get praise from the judges — including John Legend and Adam Levine — for her choice of song. Legend said she has a “powerful voice” but “wasn’t quite there.”
Garcia made headlines last year after she was selected as a 2019 Strathmore Artist in Residence.
— H-B Woodlawn Theatre (@hbwtheatre) March 19, 2019
Arlington will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a free annual event featuring local performers this Sunday (Jan 20).
“Supernatural” actor Christian Keyes is set to host Arlington’s MLK Tribute, which is now in its 50th year. The event will run from 5-6:30 p.m. at Wakefield High School.
Community members and county staff created the annual tribute one year after King’s assassination in 1968 as a way to bring the community together around King’s vision for social equality.
“Arlington’s beloved MLK tribute event is a joyful celebration of Dr. King and his powerful advocacy for social and economic justice, non-violence and empowerment that continues to serve as a beacon for our nation more than a half-century after his assassination,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a press release.
The program features music, dance and spoken word roles.
The lineup includes:
- Spoken word artist Outspoken Poetress (Audrey Perkins)
- Inspire Arts Collective
- Soloist Jackie Pate
- Soloist James Gibson
- Arlington resident Joy Gardner
- The Hoffman-Boston All Star Chorus led by Molly Haines
- Teen Network boardmembers
- Winners of the Arlington Public Schools’ MLK Literary and Visual Arts Contest
Guests will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis, and overflow space with a live stream of the program will be available if the auditorium reaches capacity. Anyone attending is encouraged to bring non-perishable goods to donate to Arlington Food Assistance Center.
Photo via Arlington County
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“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.”