Tuesday, January 20, 2009

11 Random and (Mostly) Musical Observations From Inauguration Weekend

1. The concert at the National Mall on Sunday was fantastic. Had I been watching on television, I’m guessing I would have changed the channel after about five minutes, but being there with thousands of people is a completely different experience. And I feel this way even though I was very far from the stage and had to rely mostly on the large screens. But you don’t have to be front and center to know Stevie Wonder will be the coolest man in the room until the day he dies.

2. Bruce Springsteen was the first performer. Later, Josh Groban took the stage. For those interested in semantics, you could argue Springsteen opened up for Groban. If I were Groban, after Springsteen left the stage I would have approached him and said, “Thanks for warming up the crowd 'Boss' [singular quotation mark used to signify speech in a derisive tone], but I’ll take it from here.”

3. I was thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday for obvious reasons. I think he was an optimistic man who truly believed one day an African-American would take the oath of office to be President of the United States. However, had you told him the very same weekend Garth Brooks would entertain thousands of people of all colors and creeds by playing the Isley Brothers’ “Shout”, he probably would have branded you a liar.

4. In between the musical acts, they had an amazing collection of speakers from Tom Hanks to the President-Elect himself. I started to ponder which top three speakers, if invited, could have immediately sucked the life out of such a wondrous event and eventually settled on Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Bernie Madoff, and a recently pardoned OJ Simpson.

5. I was at a club on Saturday night. I debated with a friend whether it would be kosher for a DJ to ever play Girl Talk. Is that cheating? Or is it more like the DJ-equivalent to a play-within-a-play? Are there any DJ’s out there that want to answer this for me? Do you all play Girl Talk? Or is that a one-way ticket to being ostracized from the DJ-ing community? And has anyone ever enjoyed a play-within-a-play? I haven’t. Perhaps that alone should remove it from any comparisons to Girl Talk.

6. The DJ did play “Big Pimpin’” by Jay-Z. What a ridiculous song. I think someone approached the Jigga Man with that horrible beat and dared him to try and make something out of it. A week later Jay-Z had another hit song. And that’s why he’s the king.

7. The Rock and Roll Hotel is a great place. I went out there on Monday night to interview Frightened Rabbit (more on that later this week), and take in their show. It’s a bear getting out there (especially on the eve of the Inauguration), but that’s my only complaint. It has a great feel and good sound. And if you arrive before the doors open, Sova Espresso is three doors down and serves a mean Bulgarian roast.

8. While I was waiting to get in the venue, a very out-of-place-hippie-looking woman behind me in line with a natural fiber backpack asked who I was there to see. I told her Frightened Rabbit, and curiously asked her the same question. She told me that she and her male companion were in town for a Burning Man meet-and-greet that was taking place inside the club. Really? She asked me to describe Frightened Rabbit. I did the best I could. I asked her to describe a Burning Man meet-and-greet. I was told it was a “gathering of like-minded people looking to spread love and celebrate President Bush’s last day in office.” When we got up to the doors, the ticket-taker asked for their tickets and the hippie woman very confidently told her she wasn’t there for the show, but rather the Burning Man function. I felt bad, but I started laughing. You would have too had you seen the look on the ticket-taker’s face. The ticket-taker had no idea what she was talking about, told them she was unaware of such an event, and upon realizing they didn’t have a ticket to the show, denied them entrance. So the like-minded people had to spread their love elsewhere. Just out of curiosity, I did a Google search and actually found that there was supposed to be a Burning Man meet-and-greet at the Rock and Roll Hotel that night. Maybe the burners didn’t realize that they had to actually call and make reservations. They don’t always operate the same way as the rest of us.

9. The bathrooms at the Rock and Roll Hotel have those old-school Soldier Field-like troughs for urinals. If you value short lines over sanitary conditions, then this is the place for you. And who are these bands promoting themselves by putting their stickers on the inside of the trough? Whatever the case, I ran into Thom Yorke of Radiohead in the bathroom, and several of us egged him on and promised him $30 to do "this." I was lucky to capture the action on my camera phone.

10. Frightened Rabbit is a great band and I’m not the only one that knows. The place was packed and sold out. A few people asked me why I didn’t go to the Hideout sponsored Inauguration bash at the Black Cat that same evening to see Andrew Bird, Ted Leo, Tortoise, and others. I could have, but I opted for Frightened Rabbit. Scott Hutchison beginning the encore playing “Poke” by himself and away from the microphone validated my choice.

11. While everyone was waiting for the first band, the DJ played “Paper Planes.” If I am standing in a room with at least 3+ people, that song will always put a smile on my face. I notice I am not alone. Everyone seems to always perk up when that song comes on. After the show was over and we were shuffling out of the club, they played a blistering-loud “Like Eating Glass” by Bloc Party and that, combined with the reminder that the next day would bring Barack Obama’s Inauguration, made me smile again.



Travis said...

As an ex D.C.-er*, I'm interested in this Rock n' Roll Hotel. It wasn't there when I lived there. First time I looked at the Website, I was dubious. It seemed to a corporate re-packaging of the Hotel Chelsea, which, of-course, is not an actual venue. However, from your post, Alex, my inclination seems to be incorrect. So is it not like a Hard Rock Cafe in the punk rock vein?

*(side-note: is this the correct term? Is it Washingtonians, or is that for the state? That I lived there for two years and have to ask this question highlights the unfortunate lack of community identity that plagued the district when I lived there.)

Alex said...

The website is alarming, but I assure you it's not at all like a Hard Rock-type of place. I think they spent all their money on their website, and honestly, their bathroom looks like something out of hell. It's in the northeast which is the biggest drawback.

I think Washingtonian is the correct term. But I would never answer to that.

Alex said...

Also, I should have added this, but on that Burning Man link, if you do a ctrl + F search for "rock and roll" you'll see the scheduled meet-and-greet.

Thomas said...

Alex, enjoyed the write-up. Glad you included the urinals, Poke description, and even the "Like Eating Glass" exit... but you forgot about the mountain of fried chicken

Alex said...

You're right, that omission is inexcusable and should have been #12. Best fries I've had a few years.

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