Interview date: 6/16/2010
Mexicali Blues restaurant
Ben Adams ran sound for many shows at Kansas House. He and his wife Anne-Taylor are former Arlington, VA residents who were part of the Kansas House community.
TP: So when was the first time you heard about, when you remember Kansas appearing on your radar?
BA: For me it was definitely when I was still living in Alexandria in ’97 or ’98. And some people I had known…
ATA: You had just moved back from Holland.
BA: Yeah when I had just moved back. And I had been back for a year or two. I would come to visit friends of mine out here. And I guess I had no idea what the first show I went to there was, but I definitely went to a couple of shows. It was never really a place to me, it was just sort of a house. Until we opened a record store, and then, you know, it was kind of part of… I almost think of the axis of Galaxy Hut, record store, Kansas House. There was something there then that they were almost like the same place for a while, you know?
ATA: There were the same people there.
BA: Exactly, and even taking it back to Sugar Shack and even that era, and GO! Even that era of Arlington, I feel like I always sort of knew about Kansas and being around those places and popping into a show here and there, but, it never really became a part of my every day until ’99. Like summer of ’99.
TP: When did the record store open, in ’99? When did Go! split to DC? We can probably look that up.
BA: Go! Must’ve left Arlington in ’97, I think.
ATA: Yeah, because I graduated high school in ’96, and it was still there. But I think at that point it had moved to like where the Dominos or the Papa Johns.
BA: It was right over… not in its original space but still here.
TP: So there really wasn’t an overlap.
BA: No, there was a good, at least a year and a half or two years between Go! Moving to the Black Cat basement and Now opening here.
ATA: I didn’t… I mean, I grew up in Arlington, and I certainly knew about it, but…
BA: But you were in college.
ATA: Yeah, for like, the glory days. I wasn’t living here because I was away in college. And so, when I moved back in like summer of 2000, and then I ran into Ben randomly– we had known each other in high school but hadn’t seen each other in four years? Six years? Four or five years, something like that… we ran into each other randomly one night, in Alexandria, because two mutual friends had taken us out. And now we’re married! So, I remember… I didn’t go to that many shows there. I definitely was at Galaxy Hut and the record store and the after-shows there. But I want to say it was when we started dating, because that’s how I met Ann, Heidi, Emily, which I would like to point out that 3/5ths of my bridal party of when I got married: all Kansas House related. It sort of sprung this community.
BA: So that would have been like 2001 or so when you started going to shows there.
TP: Talk about what it was like to see an event at Kansas.
BA: Mostly from my perspective, almost I’d say 9/10ths of the shows I went to there I was running the PA, so it was kind of different from my perspective.
TP: Actually, talk about that for a second.
ATA: Well, he said that this morning: “I would take it form the record store…”
BA: Yeah, and sometimes we would just roll it down Wilson Blvd. It had wheels on it.
TP: Did someone ask for a PA?
BA: I’ve been brainstorming this… I was actually on the phone with Ann last night just trying to jog my memory.
BA: Yeah… she and I were talking about this, but neither of us could remember how I sort of became the house soundman for Kansas for a while.
ATA: Well, it’s because you had access to the equipment!
BA: Well, I think that the PA was there and it was close by and sometimes, somebody would come with a car and we would drive it over. But, for the most part, it would be like, a skateboard for the speakers and then the unit itself had wheels on it, so we would just roll it down Wilson Blvd.– past Mario’s and the Hess station, and that’s just sort of the way that it got there. And you know, at the time we were doing shows at the record store, and we were doing shows out in the park. And I would take that PA all over the place. Like, I used to do shows at AU, at the SAIS building. I’d take it there, at the Luzon house, when they first moved in there, we did a couple there.
ATA: Well, at the AU shows, my car.
BA: Yeah, well, eventually, we’d drag it all over the place. But I think with Kansas, I think it might have been just Ann one day asking me, hey, can we borrow the PA, and then it just became like that’s just what happened, whenever there was a show there. The PA was the closest by, and sometimes I even just left it there, you know if it was a weekday and there was another show later on in the weekend. But there were times when we were doing, you know, a couple shows within a week. So yeah, I mean, it just sort of became, it was the easiest way to do it, and I didn’t mind. I liked doing it, and it was super fun. But in terms of actually watching shows, from my perspective it was weird. Because I was looking at everyone… I would be in that little corner of the dining room, sort of off to the side. And because it’s such a small room you didn’t have to really monitor a lot of stuff so I would get up and roam around. I was always watching wires and whatever.
ATA: It was definitely… different from others, sort of similar to basement shows, but very different from seeing something at the Black Cat or even Galaxy Hut where it felt like there, I’ll call it active audience participation. Which wasn’t necessarily people on stage, but, you had to really be focused on what was happening, otherwise you might get smacked in the face by the neck of somebody’s bass. The only other things I remember… I mean, it was so loud. I can remember being there and you could see people, for instance you would see Ian, or whoever, definitely, us now, like, legit grown ups, that would have earplugs. And this is back when…
BA: We were very careless about wearing earplugs!
ATA: Yeah, I don’t need earplugs! And now, it’s like, you only get one pair of ears! I think about it now, I guarantee that part of my tinnitus…
TP: Happened over there!
ATA: Yeah! Because it was just like, the kind of… when you feel it in your chest!
BA: I think overall, beyond the sort of physical aspect of being crammed into a hot space and the mattresses on the windows, and you know, the constant din of someone yelling at someone else to get their feet off the wall, which is one thing that I always remember. It’s to me, it’s… especially I think in the era when Ann was really running all the shows, there were a lot of events there. When you went to a show, it was like, hey, we’re all sort of just getting together. And despite all the planning that had to go into it, it did feel sort of organic, as a Happening.
ATA: Well, and when you think about it, too, I would love to see a list of everyone, of every band that had played there…
BA: It would be a long list!
ATA: Yeah, but also some pretty impressive ones. Ann, I remember, she can probably, you can get her to tell the story. I remember, this was in, you know… when did that really good Moonie Suzuki record come out?
ATA: So it was… I think it was 2002.
BA: The one with the orange…
ATA: Right. It was on heavy rotation in my life. And I remember talking to Ann. Like, Ann was in the car with me one time and we were playing it and she was like, you know, something very Ann-like. And I was like: what’s wrong? This is a great record. And the whole reason for her sort of, um, not distaste, but sort of her attitude towards this band was that they had played a show at Kansas House and had stayed there, and…
BA: And made a huge mess!
ATA: And the lead singer took her wet clothes out of the dryer and put them on top so he could finish his stuff. And she was like, “who does that?” She was so angry! You know, but it’s that kind of, you were talking about the Rah Bras show, we were talking about the last show before Ann moved to Austin in like, what was that, 2003?
ATA: Was it 2003? No…
ATA: It was 2002.
BA: And it was French Toast. One of their first shows. And it was the first Legwarmers show.
ATA: Because those dudes… I went to high school with them, and they lived in…
BA: They lived across the street.
TP: In the Pietasters’ house?
BA: They were the Pietasters.
ATA: Yeah, they were the Pietasters. And those were all guys I went to high school with, and, like, my prom date. And so I remember randomly, they showed up and they’re wearing– they’re decked out in ‘80s gear and I’m like, what is this? And they played last. That was their first, you know. It was a total joke.
BA: It was the first Legwarmers show and it was just a joke.
ATA: And now they’re selling out the State Theater!
ATA: Yeah, but we were talking about, that was the first French Toast show…
BA: I don’t know if it was the first French Toast show, but it was one of the first. It was when they sounded totally different from what they ended up sounding like.
ATA: But I remember they did a cover, a slightly ironic cover. Not slightly, a totally ironic cover of “Who Let the Dogs Out.”
BA: It went into other barnyard animals.
ATA: Yeah, there was something very odd about it.
TP: So do you remember some significant shows?
BA: Definitely that one. That French Toast/Legwarmers show was a great time, because the Legwarmers were just hilarious. But I think about, the ones that really stick out in my mind, not necessarily for their greatness but for things that happened.I always remember Fourth of July when the Rah Bras played, when they had the barbecue in the afternoon and the Rah Bras played and then there was a later show, later that night. But it was two shows on the Fourth of July. And then there was another show that Jason Hammacher actually put together when he was living there. It was during the day and for some reason it stuck in my head as the Fourth of July but it wasn’t, it was probably early August.
ATA: The straight edge show?
BA: Yeah, and it was Good Clean Fun, and a couple of other straight edge bands, and then the Locust.
TP: The Locust played at Kansas?
BA: Yeah, and it was brutally hot, like so unbelievably hot. And Hamacher had asked me, and it was all day. It was a marathon show that ran from 10 in the morning till like six. And Hamacher had asked me to come over with the PA just that morning, and I agreed to do it. And it was so hot and there was nobody I knew well there. It was a lot of kids from a totally different scene. I didn’t really know anybody and I was just sort of sitting there and I just wanted to drink beer all day and hang out. And I was surrounded by straight edge kids.
ATA: Frowned upon.
BA: Yeah, and I didn’t really know what was happening. I was just sort of sitting there with the PA. I remember doing that. Oh yeah, and the first Dead Teenagers show. That’s the one that always sticks out in my mind.
ATA: Which, it’s somewhat related to Kansas House. But, still one of the greatest bands to ever play in DC. And don’t get me wrong… love the Motorcycle Wars kids, but…
BA: Their shows were the best shows.
ATA: But it is true… Motorcycle Wars can go fuck themselves. It is totally Dead Teenagers!
TP: And it’s funny, because that show, they were only supposed to play that show.
BA: Yeah, and again, I was talking to Ann last night and we cannot for the life of us come up with the name of JJ’s band, that they played with.
TP: The Dishes?
BA: The Dishes! How did you remember that?!?
TP: So Cynthia [Connolly]… first she called Ryan Nelson who didn’t answer his phone. And then she called Erik [Denno], and Erik was with Allison [Wolfe] at a swap meet, at that flea market in LA on Fairfax that’s across from where the CBS lot is. And he said that show was the Dishes, and I can’t remember who else. I can look it up because it’s in that transcript. But, I thought that show was with Spot, but apparently it wasn’t, that was a different show, but it was around the same time.
BA: Yeah, that was a different show. The Dishes! God, it was driving me crazy trying to remember the name of that band.
TP: Who was that band?
BA: It was these girls from Chicago that I forget how they were friendly; I think it might have been… JJ was either in another band or she was a couch that people slept on when people were in Chicago. Because that band wasn’t around for very long, but they were good. That was the thing– she was coming to town and needed a show, and Ann put the show on, and her and Erik and Ryan just sort of decided to do this one-off thing and they recorded that cassette in the basement. And…
TP: They re-did it because Chad Clark produced the CD.
BA: Yeah, they redid it as a CD later, but the original cassette was just a four-track they recorded in the basement at Kansas. And they had taped it over… I don’t know if you still have this, a cassingle…
TP: I do! Those cassingles came from City Paper!
BA: That’s what I thought.
ATA: What was the one that we had? It was like an R&B…
BA: It was, it was.
ATA: Because it ends, and then it’s like woo-woo,
TP: you hear it!
BA: and then it’s R&B.
ATA: it’s like, slow jams!
TP: I can’t remember what happened. I think Ann sent out an email. I think they needed cassingles, or they were trying to get a bunch of singles that people weren’t listening to anymore. And some label had sent us a box of them, thinking we were going to give them away, which we totally weren’t. And there was like, I don’t know, in my memory, it’s like hundreds of them, but it was like a box of them. So I wrote back to Ann and said, “I have a box, would you like them?” So, that was my part! I did my part!
BA: And they had a lyrics sheet, which I’m pretty sure I still have both the cassette and the lyrics sheet.
TP: They were a concept band.
BA: In a sort of haphazard way. It was definitely a concept record.
ATA: The music stands on it’s own. We were listening to it on the way over here.
BA: We were listening to it on the way over here, just to get in the mood. It’s one of those things where like, it’s definitely a concept record.
ATA: But I’m telling you, there are shittier bands and shittier albums that have gotten much larger play.
BA: Yeah, for sure. That was a great time. The old Motorcycle Wars/Dead Teenagers rivalry was. It was a great summer and a half that that went on.
TP: When was… they played the Metro twice, right?
BA: Motorcycle Wars, yes. Dead Teenagers, I think only played the Metro… maybe never played the Metro. I think they played in the store once. But I don’t think they ever played at the Metro. Yeah… but I think, you know, like I was saying before, with the kind of access that was happening then, Kansas at the time. I think, what surprises me now when I think back about it. You know, like the guys from Durian had their house over on Harrison St., there had been the Positive Force house in Arlington, there had been sort of other houses where people had shows, but Kansas became a venue. It wasn’t just…
ATA: And Bob Massey slept in the closet!
BA: Yeah, and his bed was in the closet!
TP: Everyone totally mentions Bob’s bed…
BA: In the closet!
ATA: I remember not believing that until I saw it. We actually have furniture from Kansas House.
BA: We have the chair.
ATA: When Ann moved that first time and she had that big yard sale. There was this… and I got two things from her. One is this green vinyl barrel back chair, that everyone who sees it, wants it. It’s a great chair.
BA: It’s a fantastic chair.
ATA: The other one was a sleeper sofa that was, like, from 1968.
TP: Where was it in the house?
BA: It was the one that…
ATA: had roses all over it.
BA: For a long time it was in the living room, but it wasn’t the one that was along the main wall facing when you walk in the door. It was always either pushed all the way up against the wall that the staircase was on or it was in the middle of the room when nothing was happening there.
ATA: It was more like a loveseat. It was a sleeper, so it would pull out to a twin size bed that was the most uncomfortable, it was terrible. And it weighed a ton. Because I remember I had moved into a house with some friends of mine, in Arlington.
BA: Didn’t you guys end up putting that in the basement because you never used it?
ATA: We did… It did weigh a ton and once we got it down into the basement of the house that I moved into, the prospect of having to move it back up the stairs was one that we were not willing to face.
BA: But we still have that chair and it’s our favorite chair. It’s fantastic.
ATA: It’s the cats favorite chair too.
TP: So, talk about what the neighborhood was like during that time, the neighborhood being the “Axis of Arlington.”
BA: Um, well, first, I mean… you grew up here. I grew up in the area, but not right around here, but you grew up fairly close to here, and you remember what it was like over time…
ATA: Well, and at the time, I remember when the Sears was there where the Whole Foods is now, and like, this was sort of, a very sort of desolate place. And the only things… when I was in high school, I think Whitlow’s opened…
BA: And there was Strangeways…
ATA: Right, Galaxy Hut opened because…
BA: Well, Roratunga Rodeo opened.
ATA: Right, and it was definitely one of those things where, when I had come back in 2000, it was like…
BA: Where the hell am I?
ATA: Well, there certainly wasn’t, it was a severely pared down version of what it is now. There were a couple of places…
TP: Wait, was Roratunga Rodeo Galaxy Hut before it was Galaxy Gut?
BA: Yeah… because Alice and her ex-husband had opened it together. And he had Bardo Rodeo and this was Roratunga Rodeo, and then when they split up she changed the name to the Galaxy Hut. But you know, at the time, like you were saying, AT, it wasn’t… it was definitely on the way. It would be wrong to say, well, in 2000, or in ’96 or ’97, that Clarendon was a ghost town. They had already built the Whole Foods, the building that Now Music and Fashion was in was already there. But there were definitely a lot of empty lots that were clearly going to be built on. But because of that it was definitely just open space and it was… even though there was already the Whole Foods and sort of the beginning of it, there was still Café Dalat. And there was still the smaller places that haven’t really survived. You know, I lived, at the time, I lived at 50 and Washington Blvd, and just sort of walked up to work everyday. It was weird because I feel like a lot, one thing that I’ve been thinking about is that nowadays, when you talk about Northern Virginia, and having grown up in Northern Virginia, people who live in the city and are cool and hip, they always sort of turn their noses up at Virginia. Like, I’m not going to go to Virginia to do anything. But, for some reason, that sort of five, six year span from ’97 to 2003, it was totally legit to come to Arlington. And not only was it legit, this was where all the good stuff was happening!
TP: It’s where everything was happening. What were you going to say about the ghost town aspect?
ATA: Well, that it was sort of like, it had that ghost town, and then there were these sort of pockets of interesting places where interesting people were. And you could go downtown and go to Black Cat and go to a big show, but you could just as easily, you know, drive or walk over here, and if you did drive— parking was not a problem!
TP: Back then!
BA: Different story today…
TP: Cut to, 2010!
ATA: And you could have dinner at Mexicali, you could buy records over there and go to the outdoor show that Ben was putting on, go pick up Ann at Kansas, go down to Galaxy Hut and just hang out with…
BA: With all your friends. And everyone was there. You know, I remember particularly the summers…
ATA: And they were really good shows, too!
BA: The summers of ’99 and 2000 in particular, those were Galaxy Hut summers The patio, every weekend and most weeknights there was a good crew on the patio.
ATA: And it’s totally one of those things where you would want to walk past, if you were going there. You could walk past the window and you could see inside, like, is it really crowded? What’s happening?
BA: But, I think, you know, as a whole, the neighborhood was already sort of changing. We met a lot of resistance doing outdoor shows at the park. A lot of the neighborhood associations around here wanted no part of that. And, you know, I wonder if they feel it’s as much of a disruption, in retrospect, as compared to all of this construction.
TP: What did you have to do? Did you have to get permits? Talk about what you had to do to get the shows to happen.
BA: Well, Clarendon Alliance, which was the business association of Clarendon, which was very nascent at the time. It was basically just Rebecca who owned this [Mexicali Blues], and Joe, the guy who owns Faccia Luna, and the guy who owns Whitlows. And the guy that was the staff director of the Clarendon Alliance. And the guys who owned the record store would just send me to the meetings. And one day they were talking at one of the meetings and saying, you know, the city, or the county has been telling us that they put those electrical outlets in the park out there and you guys don’t do anything with them. And I was like, well, why don’t we just do concerts out there? I guess I had just started booking Fort Reno that summer.
TP: I forgot you did that!
BA: So I had all this overflow of all these bands that I wanted to get on the Fort Reno shows but couldn’t because there are only so many shows. So I said to Tom, the guy who ran the Clarendon Alliance, we can do shows out there. So I went to the county and I talked to the police and we gave the neighborhood associations a chance to voice their opinions on it. And the police and the county board basically said they’d rather just have people hanging out there on a Friday night than nothing. Because at the time, there was no farmer’s market in that part, there was nothing. It was just there.
ATA: Though I doubt what they had in mind…
TP: …was Clark standing on top of the elevator.
BA: Or any of the number of things that happened in that place with the weird shows that we put on there. But I think, because again, a lot of it was the overflow from Fort Reno, and it was the really “out-there” stuff that wouldn’t really work at Fort Reno. But, like, the American Workplace played one of the outdoor shows. And they were a fantastic band but probably wouldn’t have gone over as well playing the Fort Reno stage as they did playing on the sidewalk in the park. And I always loved those shows because it was like, the traffic going by on the side and people looking at you all weird. But really, it was just a matter of going to the police and saying, “can I do this?” And them saying, “yeah.” And we did it for two summers and it was great. But I think that that tied in general… you know, I tell stories about a lot of bands that played either in stores at the record store and then a show at either the Galaxy Hut or Iota.
ATA: Yeah, when you talk about that sort of axis like that, that was really…
BA: But Kansas was a huge part of that because a lot of those bands would come and do that for Kansas. You know, they would play either opening for some other person on an in-store during the day and then play a show at Kansas that night.
ATA: Or, they would play an in-store, a show at Galaxy Hut and stay at Kansas.
BA: It was all sort of just one.
ATA: It was, it was show space, slash, hotel, slash, group house.
BA: And in addition, you know, I was saying earlier about how what interests me about Kansas and what I remember most about Kansas is that it was a house that people lived in, rather than it was a venue. You know, the stories I most remember from there where when I was not being the resident soundman but I was being the resident chef. When I was, you know, cooking for bands when people who would play at the Black Cat or play at the Galaxy Hut would come back and stay at Kansas and I’d be cooking food for them at 3 o’clock in the morning. And that happened a lot, you know? And then there was, the one that Ann and I were talking about last night and always sticks out in my head was the gnocchi-making party. Were you at that?
TP: No… I don’t think so.
BA: We had a party… it was a going away party for the Plan when they were leaving for a tour with Pearl Jam, when they did that Pearl Jam tour. And basically I taught everybody how to make gnocchi. Everybody came over, and it was like, the Plan and a lot of other people, and we had a big crew. And we just took over the kitchen and the dining room of that place and we were all making gnocchi and rolling it off of our forks. And then it was right after that guy Jason moved in… not Jason Hamamcher, but that guy who ended up running the shows after everybody moved out. The sort of skinny. soft-spoken kid.
TP: Yeah, I know who you’re talking about but I’m not sure…
BA: So he had just moved in…
ATA: That was one of the things. The shows kept going on there. Jenny lived with him there for a while.
BA: Shows went on until it closed. There are kids that work for me now who are like: oh yeah, I have friends who used to live at Kansas House and there are people who I’ve never heard of or seen in my life. And I don’t know what goes on there…
ATA: Well, nothing now.
TP: Right, but that’s what’s kind of amazing— there was our time, and Hamacher did shows, and Collin Crowe did shows. So people had moved in.
BA: They just kept it on.
TP: They just kept it going, so it was still happening.
ATA: But it was slowly morphing into different, or maybe I was just getting older…
BA: I think it was always current. I think the people who ended up doing shows there later… it always was what it to us during our period. Where it was those local DC bands and the bands that couldn’t get on a bill, for one reason or another. What I was saying before… the bands that played at Kansas, it wasn’t that they couldn’t get a show at the Black Cat, or they couldn’t get a show somewhere else, on merit, just that it didn’t always work out. I feel like a lot of shows that happened there happened because of scheduling mishaps somewhere else. Or like, what Marc Nelson was talking about, when you talked to him, about how you called up because something went wrong somewhere else and boom, you got a show.
TP: You were playing in Philly, and then you were playing someplace south of here, or west of here, and you would call somebody and say, can you do a show?
BA: And I think that’s what made it such an interesting place to be. If you were tapped in enough to the general rhythm of that place, you knew that something was going to be happening.
TP: How did you guys normally find out that something was happening there?
ATA: Flier. And that was also the time, when we were doing Ladyfest planning. And in my mind, that was sort of, there was this period of late-90s, early-oughts where the flier was king. Everybody wanted to make something. It still had to look, well it sort of was handmade, but there was sort of this craftiness. And I remember because my first job out of college was for the Consumer Electronics Association, which used to be down the street. A couple doors down from the Galaxy Hut. Which, when I had started, I didn’t know Travis Morrison, but he had worked there also and he had quit right before they went on tour, so there was like this weird cross-section of personal and professional.
BA: Or like, down there, you would get fliers…
ATA: I would just use the photocopying machine for like… oh, you have fliers you need? I think maybe for the last show that Ann did. I just remember… somebody would get me an original…
BA: Yeah, Xerox pirates.
ATA: And then I would just, I would go in, wait until 5 o’clock and wait until half the office had cleared out and then be like, “oh no, I’m just making copies!”
BA: And you know, I was lucky enough that the record store was where all the fliers got put up, and so I always knew. And then they would have to use the stupid PA. So, they would have to ask me. But generally, I think it was just fliers. Fliers, fliers, fliers.
ATA: It was obviously pre-Facebook, pre- any of that.
BA: I guess we had Friendster back then, didn’t we?
TP: No I don’t even think so.
ATA: I remember that later…
TP: And people didn’t really, I feel like people didn’t really use that…
ATA: Some people had cell phones.
BA: Nobody used Friendster.
ATA: But, you wouldn’t, like, maybe you would call a couple people. There was the flier table at the Black Cat. There were the fliers we posted up at Now…
BA: There was the corkboard at Galaxy Hut, which Alice never really wanted things for other than Galaxy Hut shows on.
ATA: You would just stuff ‘em in your pocket and hand them out.
TP: I never knew she only wanted Galaxy Hut shows there…
BA: She wasn’t really strict about it. That’s just… she really only wanted that up there.
TP: Would you put fliers for Kansas House shows up at Now?
BA: Yeah. Yeah, we did. And we had a couple different spots for fliers. There was where the listening stations were. We used to let people put fliers along the top of the listening station. Which I always thought was the right place because we always put our posters for our in-store shows up on that wall. And I would let people put them there. Or, they would leave them by the front door or we had a corkboard over by the dressing rooms, and things just sort of got put up eventually. But yeah, it’s true… with fliers. Because I think about that with Fort Reno, there’s always been the Fort Reno-dot-com with all the listings on it, but for the most part you would find out about Fort Reno shows the same way and I think… yeah. It was all fliers.
TP: I remember, when I did listings for City Paper, we would put the Fort Reno shows in the paper, but it was always questionable… you would always have to have a phone number in order to put in a listing. And I couldn’t put in a listing without a phone number. I don’t know how they do it now.
BA: Well, my phone number was the phone number for Now and for the outdoor shows.
TP: And for a long time, it was, like, whoever was booking it, it was the phone at their house. If they got a cell phone, it was that phone, or it was like, some weird number.
BA: Yeah, because it was Beth’s phone when Beth and I were booking Fort Reno.
ATA: Right… and we were living together at that point because he had a, it was a PO box down in Courthouse…
BA: PO Box 666…
ATA: Right, it was also used for Arrest Records, who put out French Toast and Garland of Hours stuff. And that was where things that we sent to. And there’d just be piles of…
BA: Submissions and fliers…
ATA: It makes me wonder, if… could that exist, could that sort of, you know, development aside, there was something that felt very communal and personal about those times… there was something, you know… we have this thing in our kitchen, a Chinese scroll thing.
BA: It’s little kids doing arts and crafts.
ATA: And it says “Do it yourself.” And I know it’s fairly trite, but, there is something about it, because it wasn’t that you could put it on a website or you could send out a text message or you could do whatever. That there was something that required…
BA: I think handmade was the key word there.
TP: And D.I.Y.
ATA: It required some serious effort on your part.
BA: And luckily, you know, at the time, Ryan Nelson was around to make awesome fliers…
TP: And forget cut-and-paste, it was cut-and-tape.
BA: Literally cut-and-tape, and you know, whatever… I think a lot of really cool shit came out of it.
TP: And learning how to make the tape so that when you photocopied it, I remember when I figured this out I was so excited… figuring out how to tape it so when you photocopied it you couldn’t see the tape.
ATA: Yeah, to tie it back to Kansas House– the whole reason that we know the kids from Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, who are, Chris is a really good friend of ours is because of Ann, because Ann went on tour and did merch for when it was Q and Not U and…
BA: They played their homecoming show at Luzon.
ATA: So I got Ted to do a Ladyfest fundraiser at Galaxy Hut, and that was one of those, I was very proud of that flier. And I literally spent… I searched for this Betty Page photo that I clearly did not have the rights to use, you know? But it was her, wearing animal print whatever…
BA: But it was literally scissors and tape.
ATA: Yeah. It was scissors and tape. And I drew a DC stars tattoo on her arm.
BA: But it was not Photoshop. That’s the thing, there was no photoshop.
ATA: Incredibly rudimentary.
TP: But I do wonder, it still is, like, even though there’s access to that, in a way… most people don’t have Photoshop, because it still costs a lot of money…
BA: Right. And lo-fi is still the most accessible. And that’s one of those things… it’s not like when the new technology comes along, the old way of doing things isn’t there anymore, it just gets forgotten I think. And I think in general, what you were saying about finding out about shows, there’s no reason that people couldn’t still make fliers, and I guess people still do…
ATA: They just don’t give ‘em to you!
BA: No! Because they put ‘em up in the bakery, but honestly what I see more of nowadays is less hand out fliers and more just post-up fliers.
TP: Or, emailing them.
BA: Right. But you’ll get a full 8 ½ X 11 size page flier that’s pasted up somewhere, but you won’t have accompanying handbills to hand out to people, and I think the handbill flyering for punk shows and house shows, that is less common whereas you put up a poster in a central location and everybody texts each other about it. Sticky Fingers in a way is a meetingplace now for the young, crusty-punk kids in Columbia Heights. And they all sort of just come together and go to the Corpse Fortress or whatever house is having a show that night, and I think…
ATA: Sometimes though, I find it thoroughly entertaining to see. I mean, I don’t work at the bakery, but I know the kids who work there, and…
TP: And I have to say, it’s not just a bakery, it’s the fact that it’s a lifestyle bakery.
BA: It is, it is in a lot of ways, and especially for the younger kids. One thing that sort of throws me is that this generation of young DC music types, there is almost like a uniform, and the real sort of common thread look to all of them.
ATA: This is what I find incredibly entertaining when Ben is like, “not to be, like, what’s with these kids today, but what is with these kids today?”
BA: Well, you know, when we were in our early/mid-20s, we didn’t all dress the same, and we didn’t all have the same kind of tattoos, and we didn’t all have the same kind of haircut…
ATA: Well, that’s objective, because there was a uniform.
TP: There was a uniform, but it was not as uniform.
BA: I guess that’s right… it was more interpretive.
ATA: It was Chucks and socks, skirt, for ladies… Chucks, no socks, skirt, hoodie.
TP: But it’s funny because Marc… he didn’t talk about this in his interview, but he has talked about this before, where… he used to have this thing called the “punk nod.” And I’m sure that it wasn’t just him. But, you could walk down the street and you would see someone, and you would just know by whatever it was about them, whether it was how they carried themselves or what they were wearing, that they were one of you. And you would sort of go, you wouldn’t say hi but you would go (nods) and you would keep walking. Like, you just knew who they were. Talk about this uniform.
BA: Well, I mean, I don’t mean to ride ‘em down for it or anything…
BA: But, they, it’s all, on some sort of metal or hardcore band’s totally illegible logo somewhere on your person, whether it’s stitched on the back of your jacket or on your bag, or whatever. And you know, just basically they look… it’s usually beards, although not as much as you think. Scraggly definitely, but…
TP: Not Dan Higgs, but Zach Galifanakis.
BA: Not even Zach Galifinakis. More like, I don’t even know…
ATA: Color Me Badd?
BA: No… Not manicured to that level.
ATA: That’s also dating me!
BA: That would be awesome if that became the new punk fashion to have the chin-strap beard.
ATA: It is in Richmond.
BA: But I don’t know, I guess, you know, there’s really a lot of, I guess to a certain extent it’s a continuation of what we all wore at some point in our silly lives. There’s a lot of wallet chains.
ATA: Well, you’re not one to judge… he has the longest.. he could do jump rope with his wallet chain!
BA: I think just in general, you could see these kids coming from a mile away. And you know, they’re having a great time. And it’s good to see that there’s still a scene, I guess is what I’m saying. Even though it’s not in Arlington, and a lot of me wishes it still was. We were just talking about this as we were driving around– it couldn’t be anymore. There’s no more affordable places to live around here anymore. I think that at the time, just to get back to the question about what the neighborhood was like, at the time it was sort of the perfect combination of affordable space…
ATA: You could get a cheap apartment not to far away, within walking distance from these decent places and to the metro…
BA: Exactly you have the transportation aspect and the affordability of it and the fact that the bars and restaurants that were here at the time were cheap. It was cheap to live… you could go to Dalat for a little bit of money and you could go to the Hut and drink cheap beer and there were a lot of things for you to do that were reasonable.
ATA: And I also think that it was, it was for you. The only things that were here were catered to people who wanted to go to Galaxy Hut, who shopped at Now.
BA: And I think those years were sort of the culmination of what happened in Arlington after that. Like we said, Positive Force… you know, you look at what Teen Beat did and what Simple Machines did, and what Go! did and what it started, and I think that laying the foundation so that those things that were catered to us made sense, you know? It was sort of like, okay, here’s the blossom on top of this bush, and this whole thing has been growing and growing and then these years were…
TP: And it’s not like we had a whole lot of money, right?
TP: Like, they were catered to us…
ATA: Galaxy Hut, Alice would have made a lot more money, too if…
BA: People were charged accurately?
ATA: Right, I know!
TP: Yet, and it’s something that’s really interesting to me, like, it obviously has something to do with the economy, but like, it was an affordable outing…
BA: Without being for profit. Which is why the record store fell on end. Why Alice had to sell the Galaxy Hut. And honestly, that’s what it comes down to. The Kansas House was perfect for that environment because it didn’t need to make money. The whole point was just to make money for the bands and for everyone to have a good time.
ATA: But if you didn’t have the money to toss in, it wasn’t, you know… sometimes you didn’t have it, but it didn’t feel…
BA: Yeah, I think there is something to be said. The way it was all constructed at the time, and I think that goes to the fact that there was a lot of open space, and not a lot of development had been done yet. And it was just sort of this weird transition where a lot of the businesses that were in some of the buildings that were clearly doomed to be torn down didn’t really care so there just wasn’t a whole hell of a lot going on commercially, and so the economy was created by the people who were still there and those people happened to be people of similar sensibility.
ATA: And now, there’s a Palm Beach Tan.
BA: Exactly. You know, in the end, it’s I don’t know… I keep coming back to the idea of it as the house that people lived in. And I think about the personalities of the people who lived there and wanted to put things on there that made it so awesome. Bob’s salons were a direct reflection of Bob’s personality. And the shows that Ann put on were a very direct reflection of Ann. And Hamacher– definitely. Chris Richards, for the very brief time that he lived there, he put on a couple of shows and Q and Not U played a couple of times. And I think that the people that lived there made it happen and I’m sure that is what happened when all of us stopped going to shows there. When Jason [Barnett] started doing his shows there I’m sure they were a reflection of what he liked. And you know, further, and I think that’s what was so great about that place, is that it was almost inherent. Because honestly, I know that the early shows were the same way for Derek Morton. And I don’t know if you talked to Jonathan yet, but I mean…
TP: There’s a reason why Trans Am has a connection with that house.
BA: Yeah, and I think it’s so many good things happened there because there were good people that lived there who not only allowed things to happen…
ATA: Who were doers.
BA: That’s exactly the point– that they were proactive about making something awesome happen there. They were doers. And I think that you had this amazing series of people that just, they took the resource that was there, this great old funky house that, were it not for the better aspects of some of the people that lived there, it would have fallen apart years ago because it just got well taken care of. And the people that lived there wanted awesome things to happen there. By sheer force of will. It was sheer force of will. There was certainly talent and street smarts and organization that went into it…
ATA: And creativity…
BA: …but just the sheer…
ATA: This is what I am going to make happen.
BA: And this is what I think really led to it being the kind of place we’re sitting around talking about 15 years later. It’s you know, we all had such great times there. When the Outcast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad” video came out, and they sent me a pre-released copy of it on VHS and I raced over to the house with it after, from work. And I was like, you guys, you have to watch this. And we just sat in front of the TV and I can’t remember who all was there. I know that Bob was there, and…
ATA: Ann probably didn’t care about it.
BA: There was probably ten people sitting there, watching this video over and over again. But, just the people that you’ve talked to already and the people who are in the line-up… they’re all amazing people, and they’re people who have done awesome shit both inside of that house and outside of that house. But, I think that era and that house really brought the best out of this neighborhood at a time when we didn’t have a lot of money, and it was great to have a place where things could happen without having to okay it with someone.
ATA: Or have a bunch of money to make it happen.
BA: Or pay for it to happen, you know, and that’s really a major difference.