Watch NPR and OK Go follow downtown’s edge

When NPR moved its headquarters in April, the music division had little fun with the trip. They called up the band OK Go to make an episode of the Tiny Desk Concert series. The results are pretty cute:

But, being a writer for GGW, I couldn’t help but notice all of the recent construction and development! You get a great look at the variety of the city as they move from Mt. Vernon Square to North Capitol Street.

NPR’s real estate history matches Washington’s economic changes over the past 40 years. When it was founded in 1971, its offices were at 16th & I Streets, next to the brutalist First Church, which was the core of DC’s declining downtown. It’s first purpose-built offices were on M Street in the West End, which lasted until NPR moved to the then-dilapidated Mt. Vernon Square in 1994. Now that downtown real estate prices spread north and east, they’ve relocated to a building in NoMa, designed by DC-based firm Hickock Cole.

Also, the drunk history of DC is hilarious. They desperately need one for Col. L’Enfant’s sad, sad story.


Rock Creek Park

Oddisee has been a bit of a thing in DC since he showed up a couple of years ago, but since summer’s coming around, I’d like to bring up his mixtape from last year, Rock Creek Park. When I graduated from high school, I don’t think that I could have imagined a hip-hop album about anything within a half-mile of my parents house that wasn’t a tryin’ it homage to Maret’s lunch menu, but hey, things change. And it’s really great, as both music and also for what it represents.

The instrumental album, I suppose, feels like the park. At the least, it feels like a great soundtrack to rolling around the park when your mind’s at ease. The opener, “Still Doin’ It,” establishes the theme with collaborator y.U.’s lyrics about biking and driving around DC. That kind of multimodal use of the city warms the cockles of this urbanist’s heart. The symphonic “Carter Barron”  plays off the go-go rhythms of “Clara Barton.” Oddisee throws pretty much any sound you can find in DC together and makes it work. And doesn’t “Closed After Dark let you know that the Blackbyrds still know what goes on there?

Anyhow, check it out. It’s local. And still fresh.

Listen: Joanna Newsom at 6th&I

By Mehan on Flickr (cc)

I  just came back from a trip to New York, got some great reading done, and had an infrastructural safari in Manhattanville. I’ll talk about these in good time, but for now I want to continue my tradition of talking about things that happened months ago.

Back in late February, I went to see Joanna Newsom at the 6th&I Historic Synagogue, and you know, the word “awesome” is really overused these days. It was awesome. You can also read NOMOFOMO’s coverage of the event, which was actually written around the time of the concert.

In the time since then NPR covered and recorded the entire show. If you have a little over and hour, you can listen (fixed so the link works now), and for the good of your soul, you should take the time.

Now, many people find her voice to be skreetchy, generally because most people gave up after her first album, and I can’t necessarily blame them. But her voice has mellowed without losing any of the color or expressiveness that she always had. It may have gotten better, in fact. As an example, check out the album version of Inflammatory Writ, a song I used to find unlistenable:

Inflammatory Writ – Album version

And compare that to the much different version from the concert:

Inflammatory Writ – 6th&I 2010

The setlist was ’81Kingfisher, The Book of Right-On, Easy, Soft as Chalk, Inflammatory Writ, Good Intentions Paving CompanyHave One on MeYou and Me, Bess, Monkey & Bear, and she played the “bummer” of Baby Birch at the end.

After the GGW Meetup

At the GGW meetup this past week, Dan Reed or Matt Johnson reminded me of the segment of Koyaanisqatsi that shows the results of bad parts of civilization and… well just watch – with the volume up.

Oh, and this brings up all the year-end album collections getting thrown around. I’m going to spare the bloviation, and just give you some lyrics tangentially related to Pruitt-Igoe:

When a concert isn’t just that


Last night began week five of this summer’s Fort Reno concerts. The annual series of musical triptychs, which take place in an improvised venue in the Tenleytown park, may be the most urbane happening of any place in DC. Amid the mild yellow-orange light of a summer evening, a small local band plays and a few hundred people of various ages watch while they sit on the grass. But beyond that and behind the stage, those less interested in the concert partake in all kinds of leisurely activity. Really, I’ve never seen the park so well used.

North of Tilden: Rock & Roll, P&P, and Lord & Taylor’s

Three minor news items in the Upper Northwest:

The Sweater Set get ready.

1: The first two Fort Reno concerts were a smashing success, with at least 300 people showing up to listen, eat, and frolic on the grass around the stage. Monday night’s show was a fun mix of different styles. The Sweater Set delivered on their ultra-indie promise to give a twee multi-instrument set. Funk Ark played some solid 70s funk that made the sudden arrival of a Park Police car seem a little too like a cop movie, especially when teens started fleeing the concert with black plastic bags. Lastly Pash led the night out with a harder energy, although the lead singer’s vocals were drowned out in the mix, which took away a lot of the melody.

The second night began with noon:30, who added some soul-like vocals to cool and muddy indie rock. They’re having an EP release party on July 4th. Meow vs. Meow followed up with a harder sound with a lot of strong rhythm. Lastly, the Electricutions played the crowd out, just after the sun had totally left the horizon. There’s another show this Monday and another on Thursday, but more on that later.

Plenty of potential connectivity.

2: National Realty & Development, the owners of Lord and Taylor’s, have announced plans and received approval to build a one-story commercial building on the “home plate” parking lot behind Mazza Gallerie. The Northwest Current’s reporting mentions that the original lease between L&T’s and Mazza called for the parking lot to be used as a car park in perpetuity. Now, the unanimous and quick vote of the council is to turn it into a walkable shopping district, competing with the deluxe stores along Wisconsin Avenue. Could still have some height on top of that, but apparently the 50-year lease ends in 15 years, so development won’t have enough of a payoff for them. Completion of the five stores is expected for early 2011.

3: Politics and Prose, the cultural institution at the border of Tobago and Chevy Chase, announced its schedule for July/August. You can look at the schedule, but here are the authors presenting books on urban issues:

  • Wednesday, July 8th, 7PM: Alyssa Katz will discuss her book on the foreclosure and mortgage crisis, Our Lot.
  • Friday July 10th, 7PM: Reloville, by Peter Kilborn, examines large subsets of suburban residents whose livelihoods depend on not forming close ties to the local community and frequently moving on to a new job.
  • August 11th, 7PM: Jane Jacob’s struggle with Robert Moses, and the issues it was born of, are retold in Anthony Flint’s Wrestling with Moses.

Maybe I’ll see you there. It’s not too accessible, but you can take the L1,2,4 or the M4 from Van Ness and Tenleytown Metro stations, respectively.

Fort Reno concerts announced

Concert not shown.

The entity that organizes the annual Fort Reno Concert series has finally gone online, and not a moment too soon. The first show is next week, on Monday, June 22nd, showcasing some strong talent from the DC area. First up is Pash, an indie rock band that sounds superficially like Metric, having a good band and a great female vocalist. Second is Funk Ark, a funk group that seems to mass-customize grooves for a post-partisan era. Lastly, but not leastly, the Sweater Set, about whom the only thing to say is: kazoo harmony.

The concerts are an annual event going back at least until the 1950s that let some up-and-coming local bands get some wide exposure. I’ve talked to some old timers who remember sitting out on the grass and listening to blues and folk music after ending their days at Deal and Wilson. It was a good time then, and it’s still a good time. Check it out.

The show starts at 7:15.