Lary Hofman
June 22, 2010
Galaxy Hut
Arlington, VA

TP: The first thing that I’ve been asking everybody, is how they first heard about Kansas House, and when they started going there.

LH: I feel like, just through… I think it was just through hanging out at the Galaxy Hut. Some people were like, “hey, let’s go to this house party” kind of thing. I think it was probably through here that I found out about it.

TP: That’s what a lot of people are saying: “well I was at the Hut…” Somebody who lived there, worked here, or whatever…

LH: Yup. When I started the manager position here, Ann Jaeger was working here a lot, so I’m sure that’s how I found out about it. I think probably she was living there at that point, it was the late-90s. Ann Jaeger… it’s her fault.

TP: And did you ever go there for shows?

LH: Yeah I went to a lot… the ones I really enjoyed were the mellower ones, you know, the Punk-Not-Rock series. I went to a lot of those. Otherwise, I saw the Plan there. A handful of shows, one of the early Edie Sedgwick shows when he was playing with like an MP3 player or something. Yeah… lots of shows and parties over the years.

TP: So, actually talk about what the mellow shows were kind of like. What did they sort of entail?

LH: Well, there was this point in the late-90s when it got kind of embarrassing to rock out, and it was cool just kind of having the punk aesthetic but not having somebody screaming, but still having that sense of punk community but having a different art form to kind of support it was cool and different.

TP: So what kind of instruments would they use?

LH: A lot of strings, is what I remember, but it’s kind of blended because it was all kind of these one-off projects so it’s all in my mind as this blend of mellow experimentalism.

TP: Did you ever play there?

LH: Yeah, Aerialist played.

TP: So, talk about what it was like when Aerialist played.

LH: It was kind of like, I don’t mean to mention the Galaxy Hut, but it was kind of like playing here— it’s a small room, everybody’s in your face, nothing fancy. There’s no stage, you’re just right there with everybody else. It was a really unique experience. Playing house parties is cool, but this was like an organized house party spot so everything was just kind of… you walk into some houses, being in a punk band and you’re just like oh, this sucks, but it was just like a little mini club. They knew what they were doing and people came to the shows even though they didn’t know who Aerialist was.

TP: So Aerialist was you and…

LH: At that point it was me and a guy named Stevie, Steve Triechel. We were just a duo, keyboards and drums. That was at a time when we would play with punk bands even though we were trying to be a New Wave band, and [at] places like Kansas House, people were receptive to that. Then we would go on tour and we would play with these punk bands and people would just be like… you know? It seemed like this community was more receptive to experimental stuff, or something different than just balls out rock.

TP: So when you would set up there, it would be different than the way the Plan would set up?

LH: I feel like it was the same… it was in that little living room in the front, which is where I remember seeing the plan. I don’t know if it was different, other than they were ten times better than us.

TP: What was it… when you played there as Aerialist, what kind of recollections to you have of the crowd, what was their reaction?

LH: It was cool… that was at a point where, you know, DC was kind of known as a place where everybody would watch a show, like, really serious, and you know, kinda uptight feeling. But at Kansas House people would dance and that kind of went with the whole Dismemberment Plan too. It was kind of remarkable to see a bunch of kids, well, young adults, on stage dancing… one of the reasons was that it was kind of odd to see in DC. So, it was more like, it felt like it was loosening up, everyone was not being locked into this serious music kind of thing. There was more stuff going on in the late 90s when people were just kind of breaking the mold.

TP: What do you remember what it looked like inside.

LH: I remember a funky mantle. We set up in front of the fireplace or something. Just like, you know, people were drinking 40s on the porch. More than, like, the shows, I remember talking to people on the porch. And, it was more just like a communal place that was really cool. But, in terms of the décor, it was just like most group houses that I hung out at. It was like my house.

TP: So, one of the things that a lot of people are talking about is how connected Galaxy Hut is to Kansas. I mean, and I even remember, there were many times when you might start here, and then end up there or vice versa, and sort of do that walk on Wilson Blvd. So I was wondering if you could kinda talk about…

LH: Well, you’re talking about that walk between here and there, now there’s like 200 nightclubs on the way to where the Kansas House used to be from here. Then, it was just like, it was like, between the Galaxy Hut it was just a strip of Vietnamese shops and restaurants and cool little funky places. But, you know, it wasn’t like a nightclub district like it is now. In terms of how this place relates to Kansas House, it was kind of the same set up. You know, set up on the floor, in front of people, with a basic sound system, and you know… we would get sort of the same kind of bands. In the 90s, in DC, if you couldn’t get a show at the Black Cat, like if there was a touring band that couldn’t get a show at the Black Cat, that’s pretty much what there was in DC. So now there’s all those places on H Street, there’s DC9, there’s so many options for touring bands now. But back then, it was like try the Black Cat, and if you can’t get a show at the Black Cat, then maybe a you can get on a show with your friend’s band at Galaxy Hut or Kansas House. And back then, also, Arlington was like the DC music scene’s headquarters. All the labels were in Arlington, all the studios were in Arlington. And it was definitely, I guess, when you talk about the DC scene in the 90s, a lot of it was in Arlington. Arlington’s totally different now, but back then it was Kansas House, Galaxy Hut, and some places to get a bite to eat in between.

TP: Yeah… talk about what else this neighborhood was like in that era.

LH: It was a lot of cool storefronts that were sort of run down. That were relatively low rent, that had… you know, when I first moved here, I started coming around here in ’95, moved here in ’97, and Whole Foods had just gone up, but the rest of Clarendon was run down storefronts with weird little shops that sold stuff to, I don’t know who. And a bunch of run down restaurants, and now it’s pretty much the opposite, in ten, fifteen years.

TP: When do you think the change started happening?

LH: I think it started when Whole Foods moved in. When Galaxy Hut started, Alice started this place in basically 1990 under a different name. And back then, it was like no man’s land. You could walk out, you could hang out in the middle of the street with a beer and no cars would drive by. It was like, tumbleweeds. And a Sears, that people would go smoke a joint in. It was like the Wild West. You know, it wasn’t like a dangerous area, but it was run down and low rent. And you know, I think the Whole Foods was one of the first anchors to– I wouldn’t say gentrify because it’s not like a lot of people lived on this strip– but that started the… I don’t know what the best word for it is, but for better or for worse, Whole Foods started it.

TP: And then, sort if it changed gradually or did it change kind of quickly?

LH: You know, I feel like there used to be more of a locked in plan for Clarendon, where they didn’t want big chains and big box stores to come in, and all of a sudden that changed, like, at the end of the 90s. And they invited all this bullshit development with the Cheesecake Factory, and that mall over there. But, you know, the powers that be, for years, wanted Clarendon to be more like a local neighborhood shop kind of place and then that all went out the window in the late 90s when they invited all this big development in.

TP: And that, I guess, how has that sort of affected that community, the Wilson Blvd. Community.

LH: A lot of stuff affected that… a lot of stuff started opening in DC, the labels that were, you know Simple Machines closed shop, Teen Beat kinda moved away, and just more places opened up in DC to cater to the music scene. But, you know, we’re still here.

TP: I know! What do you think is kind of the most significant contribution to Kansas and the Hut, to sort of…

LH: Just kinda that place where, back in the day, where smaller bands from around the country could get a show from a friend of a friend, and kind of, you know, there weren’t just that many options back then. There was the Black Cat, and the bigger clubs aren’t really receptive to you, unless you have a fan base of like 100 people. So it was more like, both places were spots where touring bands, who were upstart local bands could be like, okay, we’re going on tour, we just formed, okay get a show here through a friend of a friend. And this was where you did it, because there really wasn’t that outlet in DC, unless someone set something up at a church, there was no dedicated venue for that smaller bands, unless I’m forgetting something… like Metro Café.

TP: Oh, yeah.

LH: But Metro Café, at that point, they were doing a lot of DJs.

TP: I was gonna say, I completely forgot about that place… that place went, like, poof!

LH: It was the other place, for a long time. Like 9:30 Club, once they moved, they weren’t doing small shows. Black Cat filled that void. But then, other than Black Cat, what was there? There was Metro Café for a minute.

TP: Places that existed for like blips but not… and I think it’s interesting how like, you were saying there really wasn’t a difference between here and Kansas.

LH: Yeah, it was both bands that were too big for the space just totally blasting.

TP: Can you think of anything else to add?

LH: Um, no not really.

TP: Awesome, thanks Lary!

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