June 1, 2010
Capitol Hill, Washington, DC
TP: When was Kansas first on your radar?
MN: I really don’t know. I can’t remember there not being a Kansas. I spent some time away from town after college. I went across the country professionally losing my mind. And when I got back I was Ryan’s brother. Before I left, he was Marc’s brother, but when I got back, I was Ryan’s brother. But, I remember… so somewhere between going to college, and that whole fiasco, Kansas House happened. And when I got back, I started going. I remember seeing Johanna at one of those things. I loved the house shows, you know? So I can’t remember when the first one was.
TP: Do you remember who your connection to it was?
MN: No. I never had any idea who lived there. Except for, I knew Bob lived there, and I knew Ann lived there, and I knew Mary Chen. And I was very close with all three of them, and I at no point knew when they moved in, or they moved out.
TP: So it all sort of blurred together. Don’t you know Mary from before DC, right?
MN: Mary Chen went to my college.
TP: Which was…
MN: Emerson, up in Boston.
TP: Right, that’s right!
MN: How did you know that?
TP: I just know that.
MN: ‘Cause you’re nice.
TP: ‘Cause I’m nice, and I pay attention sometimes.
MN: And you remember stuff, unlike me. This is going to be the worst interview you have… “I don’t remember…”
TP: Actually, I think it’s interesting because no one remembers.
MN: Well, it’s because we were always there, weren’t we?
TP: And I think there’s something that’s telling about that. Where no one really remembers how they got there, they just remember being there.
MN: I’d love to know when the first show was, and who set it up.
TP: Yeah, and I think that even pre-dates us, in a huge way. Like, I know how I got there, and I know that things were happening there, but I don’t know when they started, and no one seems to know when that moment was.
MN: Not even Cynthia?
MN: Good lord! Good luck!
TP: I think that’s what making this so much fun, is that everyone has a different idea of when it started, that you don’t… and then somebody else will be like, well I remember going to this thing. Like, one of the things that I remember, which no one remembers, which, how can you not remember this? Is, Most Secret Method played during, because you couldn’t play at GW, because of the World Bank… was that you guys? You guys played an afternoon show at Kansas. I think it was you guys. Maybe it’s my own memory that’s clogged.
MN: Maybe… I don’t remember doing an afternoon show.
TP: How many shows had you guys played there?
MN: Man… I got a list, I can show you the list. We played a lot. It was a great place to, when, if there was a band that we met on the road, that needed a show, it was like, instant show. We could just set something up at Kansas, and it would be a blast, and even though it was just passing the hat, the touring band would make a ton of money. And we didn’t have to deal with the clubs and all the other nonsense. So, that’s usually when we played, something like that. Or, if somebody was having a party and wanted us to play. But I remember getting the Clocks over there, from Philadelphia, because Ann and I loved them. I remember getting This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, who got in trouble…
TP: Talk about that, cause Cynthia, Frank and I talked about that…
MN: Well, I don’t know what they were talking about, but This Bike is a Pipe Bomb were a little wacky. They were touring in an RV or something, but everybody took those stickers off the thing, and Johanna’s girlfriend put one on her moped, and I think the Clarendon Metro got shut down for like five hours because everyone was like, “oh, this bike is a pipe bomb!”
TP: It was in the Post. I remember it being in the Post.
MN: That’s ridiculous!
TP: I know! Especially because it was pre- any…
MN: Pre- all that September 11th anything.
TP: But the fact that somebody would put a sticker on their bike that would say, like, maybe if it was really a pipe bomb, there wouldn’t be a sticker on it.
MN: Well, I mean everybody had one. I had one on my motorcycle, you know? On the side, where it was supposed to say Kawasaki.
TP: Well, what other bands did you guys get in there?
MN: Juno, we got in there… S-Process, loved S-Process, who are still together. They just did a session with Ian. We played there with Dismemberment Plan a couple times, who else did we get in there? I don’t know.
TP: You have a list.
MN: I have a list of all that stuff. I just pulled it out because Ryan wanted to see a copy of it because he was writing something about his first trip to California, and our tour was his first trip to California. He wanted to know what was going on, and who we were playing with.
TP: That list would be… as well as talking to your brother who is very elusive.
MN: Well, I’ll find him. I’m the only one who knows where he is.
TP: Yeah, I think you have a line on that. Cynthia tried to call him. Cynthia was like, That Ryan Nelson, he never answers his phone!
MN: No, never.
TP: Whereas Erik Denno was in line at a swap meet. Answered it on the first ring. They’re two sides of the same coin, those two.
MN: They were born on the same day!
TP: Um hmm…
TP: Um, so, talk about what it was like to play a show at Kansas, and what it was like to sort of be in there.
MN: It was great, ‘cause we lived in Anacostia, so you know, we’d just load up the van, drive over two bridges and we’re there. And, I mean, I love house shows. I always did love house shows. I’d never been to a house show until Fine Day went on tour, and there was a couple places that we played, and I just learned to love them so much.
TP: Why did you love them?
MN: It’s a little chaotic, there’s no control over, no real control over what people are gonna be doing, all of everybody’s stuff is all jammed up in a corner, usually. So the whole, like, entire intimacy. There’s no dressing room where the bands are separated, and there’s no separation between band and audience really except at some point you are playing.
Um, wait, we did play a show at GW. There was a house show we played at GW with Ted Leo’s band, Chisel.
TP: With Chisel?
MN: Yeah, but it was a house show, on like, 22nd street.
TP: Frank was talking about that. Cause he said that was the first house show he’d ever been to.
MN: Yeah, Johanna almost missed that one. Like, Ryan and I almost played that, she walked in right when we were supposed to go on. And I don’t know what was goin’ on that night— the bassist for Chisel was late, too.
TP: So there was something in the air about bass players.
MN: Yeah, like Chisel played two songs without him. People talk about intimacy at shows, but it was the real deal. And there were places that were crummy to play. We played a house in Corvalis, Oregon where they didn’t really have this idea that the bands still need to eat and get gas, and on tour that kinda sucks when they’re handing you the donation box and there’s like a brownie in it and somebody’s 8-ball keychain or something. It’s just like really, cause this is actually a lot of work that we have to do, and we don’t expect to get rich off this, but we’d like to buy a sandwich tomorrow, maybe, or get some gas.
TP: Right, get to the next place.
MN: But, generally, everybody understood that. It was about celebrating the music and like, not having a cover, or the cover was usually like five bucks or something, and everybody was really nice, and it usually ended up turning into a party of some sort or another. It felt like a party because all your friends were there. And Kansas especially because it was local, and it was the place. I think we were there, like once or twice a week for like, for seven years? That’s why I can’t remember stuff, do you know what I mean?
TP: Did you guys ever do any recording or practicing there?
MN: I didn’t. Ryan did when he was in Les Trois Malheurs. And to be honest, you know there were some basements around the country that were made for basement shows. We played a place in Buffalo, that got, like, 400 people fit in the basement. It was enormous, this basement. At Kansas, we played in the living room, in front of the fireplace; it was totally tiny, they had to move all the furniture out of the house in order for the bands to play. And everything shook, in that house. It’s amazing that the cops… I don’t ever remember the cops coming to shut us down.
TP: I know, I don’t remember that either
MN: Cause who were their neighbors? It was like that field, and that, like greystone place, and like Mario’s pizza. So no one was complaining. It was awesome.
TP: Talk about what you recall the living room looking like, either on a show night or on a regular, or like on a Tuesday night.
MN: So the living room, on any given night, if you just showed up and there was no show, the furniture was all from thrift stores, really awkward colors. The place was pretty tidy considering how much punk rock was going through there. But, mismatched everything, weird art on the walls.
TP: What kind of art was on the walls?
MN: I don’t know, like I knew if it was somebody’s photos, like I remember David’s photo being up or something…
TP: There was that weird Ford poster… do you remember that?
MN: Yeah, the car was up there for a long time.
TP: No, but President Ford… was there a car? There also was a car.
MN: Yeah, like industry art and stuff. Because it depended on, that’s the thing, I don’t know who lived there. If you know an Emo dude was there, then it was all old refrigerators, that kind of garbage. But I remember the furniture. I remember it not being very comfortable. I remember the table that everybody used to put their feet on, and there was always a television, and there were always massive amounts of televisions because people were moving in and out all the time. I remember there being a time when nobody remembered who owned something. Which happens in group houses. Like, whose couch is this? What is this that we’re sitting on? So that was any given night, and people in and out, at all times. And that’s what I mean when I don’t know who lived there. Somebody would walk in and we would be watching a movie, and I would say, who is that? And they’d all look at me like, that’s blah blah blah, he totally lives here.
TP: That’s one thing that Tom Crawley said…
MN: Derek lived there, right?
TP: Derek Morton lived there.
MN: Yeah, and I had no idea. He walked in and went straight to the back room and I was like what just happened?
TP: And it’s funny, because Thomas was talking about that, because he was saying that people would come in and out, band stuff, a lot of people that Jonathan was recording, and he said he would be sitting there and be like, hey, and people just wouldn’t acknowledge him, and he said: I just never got used to that, it was so weird.
MN: I never lived there… that would drive me crazy. But, there was an amazing amount, the period I’m thinking of, there was an amazing amount of creative energy going on. Jonathan did live there for a while, didn’t he? Especially, like, between Mary Chen, and all of her crazy ambition, and Bob Massey, and like his massive soundtrack recording. I mean, he dreamt up the Nitrate Hymnal there.
Okay, so on a show night, the room was: wood floor, fireplace, the bands played in front of the fireplace, and humans. Filled to the brim of humans. And mattresses… I don’t know where the mattresses came from, cause I never saw them anywhere else. Mattresses up in front of the windows. Not like it did any good, cause you could hear the show from the metro if you were listening, close enough. And the whole house would shake, I just remember the floor boards, really, at all times. Yeah, it was amazing what they pulled off there. And like, the PA? Whose PA were we using? Like, I never had any idea what was going on.
TP: Yeah, and it’s actually an interesting thing too, because I didn’t remember the mattresses, at all. I don’t know why.
MN: You don’t?
TP: I don’t remember the mattresses. I did once Frank mentioned them…
MN: I remember because they made it hot, it was so hot!
TP: It was always so hot! And I also don’t remember any shows happening in the wintertime, although I do remember parties happening in the wintertime, but I don’t remember any shows happening in the winter time.
MN: One party, was this one of your Aquarius parties? Where Ryan and Chris djayed?
TP: I think it was.
MN: And it was all old hip-hop. We danced. My favorite parties ever are when people actually dance. And I swear to god it was 4:30 in the morning and people were still dancing up there. That was amazing. But it was that kind of community, you know, that was celebrating us.
TP: Talk about, sort of the creative energy that was happening.
MN: Well, what do you mean?
TP: So, Mary had her, she was doing a lot of her writing. Bob was doing the salons. You didn’t do any of the salons, did you?
MN: No. Punk-not-Rock salon, I loved it. I thought it was one of the best ideas anybody ever had in ages. And I tried not to miss any of them. I think David actually recorded as many of them as he could. But, I did take advantage of the house being available at some point, because I realized we were surrounded by these poets, like Colin, the skater; and Mary Chen, and Jamie and Tracey, were all writers. So I hosted a night of poetry.
TP: I remember that, I was there.
MN: And I made a bunch of tea. I thought people would drink tea and nobody drank the tea. Remember, it was like, gallons of different tea on the table that nobody would drink. To me, it was like, oh, poetry, I’ll serve tea. I had no idea what I was thinking. But that was great, and everybody just got a chance to show up and read, and it was mostly our friends, but it was lovely. I read, I think some of Rob Derezza, was living in Hawaii at the time but I read some of his stuff. I think Thomas might have read, too, didn’t he?
TP: I don’t know… I remember there was something you did at Joe’s Movement Emporium…
MN: Oh, that was the dance theater show…
TP: You did, Dr…
MN: Dr. Manhattan on Mars. And Thomas brought his copy…
TP: I remember that, and I think he was… I think that may have been, but you must’ve known Thomas at that point. He brought it with because he was going to refer to it as you were doing it. Which is funny because I actually just read that last summer for the first time, and when I got to the Dr. Manhattan on Mars chapter, I was like, this, is, why do I know this… oh! And then I was like, I really wish I could replay that in my head.
MN: I’m mad that that movie came out, because I can’t really do that anymore.
TP: I think you can.
MN: Well, I’ll put it on the shelf for a while. I did that because Mary Richards bailed. Mary Richards was supposed to do some of her performance art in that show and she bailed on me so I ended up writing that stuff, and adapting that stuff. More creative stuff that was going on there, the Punk-Not-Rock salons were great. I don’t know why I can only think of stuff I did there… when I was auditioning, and this was late in the day, for, I think you were at this, too.
TP: I was at this…
MN: I was auditioning for the Academy for Classical Acting…
MN: Before I auditioned for the Academy to get my Master’s degree, and I hadn’t acted in a while because the band took off and the band was going really well. I was doing band band band band band, except for that one show you just mentioned, where Mary Chen and I did that dance and all that other stuff. And that was really helpful for me. I called Bob and he said yeah we can totally do that. And I called all of you guys and everybody came over and I actually got really good feedback from everybody…
TP: And you got into the program.
MN: And I honed my audition and I totally got into the program. So that was great for me; that was awesome. I can’t remember… They never really did like gallery openings, right? Cause that wouldn’t last very long, but it was mostly music, and it was great to have a space. It great to have a space and god knows what the rules were at that house. Nobody got turned down as far as I remember.
TP: One of the things Kim Stryker said was that people just did whatever, and if it worked, it worked. If it didn’t work, it didn’t work. But, it created an atmosphere that allowed people to not worry about any constraints.
TP: So even though Dischord was literally down the street. And people who lived at the house worked there, probably, at some point, it was a place where, like, those rules didn’t necessarily apply.
MN: But no rules. I mean, at some point, it was like having a party every other day. And the best thing about it was being able to talk to people between the bands, find out what was going on. We had a pretty tight circle of people, you know? Kerosene, Dusters, Most Secret Method, Les Trois Malheurs, sort of the sub-popular bands. We weren’t in the Jawbox, Shudder to Think realm. Although, we’ve gotten to be friends with a lot of those guys. I adore J. Robbins.
TP: Well, they were always around. Like, they would come to shows, but they weren’t the people who were…
MN: There weren’t the people who were largely running those shows. And not really playing. You know, Jawbox was not going to play at that house. But, you know, they’d go.
TP: They were definitely at a bunch that I’d been too.
MN: I’m sure they would have loved to. When J. started recording, it was at a house in Silver Spring. Jawbox was just too big to play there, by that point.
TP: It sort of was a place where I think that we were lucky. There was Jawbox, and the Dischord bands, and some of the Simple Machines. They were all up here, but then this other stuff was happening probably because of that.
MN: Definitely. And they were supporting that. And Ian totally, told us straight out, he didn’t think we were a Dischord band but he definitely helped us put those records out and he sold them for us.
TP: I think you’re totally a Dischord band!
MN: Really? I mean, whatever he meant, it’s his label…
TP: Yeah, he can do whatever he wants.
MN: And no hard feelings… that guy helped us more than anybody, and he’s helped everybody, more than anybody in the world, you know what I mean? I would never… I have no grudges at all. I mean, everybody was always: “I want to be on Dischord! I want to be on Dischord!” But Ryan worked there, and everybody was a part of the scene and god, his support was amazing. They’re still selling our stuff.
TP: It’s almost why I think a place like Kansas ended up existing. Because there were no rules, and you could do whatever you wanted there, and you had all these people who were just tapping into that creative energy that then allowed you to sort of, be almost reflective of it. Like, we couldn’t remember… we called Ryan originally because we couldn’t remember how many times Most Secret Method played, and we were talking about Oswego playing and I remember the first time I saw Dead Teenagers was a Kansas show. So, of course, Cynthia called Erik and he was talking about practicing there, and kind of like, that… and I definitely think there was some kind of spirit that happened there, that allowed for all that stuff to happen.
MN: It was a place where spontaneous and structuralist creativity was available, and that is an important space, especially in a scene like ours was. Actually, I don’t know of a place that’s like that anymore. Because… I love the Black Cat. I love the Black Cat, you know? I don’t mind playing the clubs, but there’s a level of formality about doing that, that’s different than calling up Ann and going “hey these guys are coming to town, can we do a show next Fri? Okay, great!” Or,“so-and-so had a show that fell through in Delaware, they’re close to here can we get ‘em a show?” It was amazing.
TP: And it’s funny too because Juno ended up playing there because they couldn’t get a show.
TP: For some reason, they couldn’t get a show at the Black Cat, and everyone was kind of like, are you kidding?
TP: Like, what’s wrong with you? And I feel like, in a way, the way that I think about it, that was sort of the pinnacle of Kansas shows. Frank was talking about it was like, the most epic show that ever happened at Kansas.
MN: which one was that?
MN: It was amazing!
TP: And I think that it’s true because I think that was the most amount of people I remember seeing… and I remember talking to Ann and she was like, weird stuff is happening… people are calling and they were like “what time…” I can never forget her saying this: “somebody called and said, ‘what time does Juno hit the stage?” and her response was “do you mean what time do they hit the living room?” And there was something that was almost a smugness about it. Like, this isn’t what you’re used to. But it wasn’t so smug that it wasn’t inviting. Like, anybody who wanted to could be a part of it.
MN: Right. And I get that clubs have needs, like they need to know that a certain number of people are gonna come in. Especially in the bigger spaces, they have bills they gotta pay and all that. But Kansas was… they weren’t even doing it to pay their rent. As far as I know, all of the money went to pay the bands. Not a single dime went to anybody in the house.
TP: Like you were saying before, they were doing it to celebrate the music. And I think that’s a really key thing, too. There was nothing other than: this was a space for that to happen. Talk about… so you sort of talked about this. You had applied to graduate school. What were you doing, what was your occupation while you were hanging out at Kansas. Or occupation, I’ll put it in airquotes.
MN: Oh, the thing I was doing to support the fact that I was in a band?
TP: Maybe, cause you were a musician during that time…
MN: I was a musician. A lot, from oh I don’t know, I guess ‘95ish, to, even after school, 2003. Um, I was working at libraries. I ran into Gregg from the Delta ’72, and he got me hooked up with this library temp agency, which was a temp agency that just sent people to libraries. Which was awesome, and I got all these library skills. And, crazy enough, I temped at the IMF library, and ended up getting a job there. What was awesome about that was they had to attract European… most of the staff there is not American, so the benefits packages are kind of amazing. And, um, I got five weeks paid vacation every year, which was tour. Totally great.
TP: Cause it’s interesting to hear what people were doing, like Eric and Kim were talking about, Kim was like: I didn’t have email, we called people.
MN: We called each other. We called people… we called our friends. I think it was better than email. Well, I mean, I’m not going to get into that, but the amount that… I had two or three notebooks in my bag at all times, and one of them was contacts for bands, one of them was contacts for shows around the country and one of them might have been notes about directions and all that stuff. Until Ian showed me Fugazi’s form. That he used for booking tours… because I was complaining about all of this and he said, “oh, have you considered making one of these?” And I went, oh there it all is… location, date, load in time.
TP: That’s why he’s…
MN: Yes, well I photocopied it right away. I was like, “can I borrow this?” That’s what it was… people got off tour, and people asked you for all the phone numbers that they had. Because people who set up shows don’t last long. That’s the other amazing thing about Kansas. Almost every tour, it was rare that we would go back to a city, and the person who was doing a house show was still doing a house show. And Kansas went on, and on, and on, and on, and I think they were still doing… I drove by there, six months ago, and there was 300 people out and vans piled up and I was like, oh my god, there’s a show! What’s going on!
TP: And I think that’s interesting too, that nationally, it was really well known, that people would come back to play there. Like, you could very well see a band that you saw two years before, at Kansas. So, talk about, maybe, what your perception of the neighborhood was.
MN: Ah, it was old Clarendon. I mean, that neighborhood was nothing, it was completely uninviting. At the time, there was… none of those high rises were there, at least the Metro was, like, two blocks away. But Clarendon looked like an old beach town without a boardwalk, back then. Like, all the houses were cottages, and that’s what Kansas felt like, it felt like an old beach house, it was like, how many bedrooms were in that place? It felt like, there were doors that just kept opening up into peoples bedrooms, every time I went upstairs I’d be like: oh! Even that weird hutch, in the back, that glassed in, it was a porch, right? But it was somebody’s bedroom. And Bob Massey lived in, I’m pretty sure it was a closet…
TP: It was a very tiny room. And Cynthia kind of went in there and took film of it when everybody was gone, which is amazing… I watched it, and when she went into the room that was Bob’s… I remember being in that room, but I was like, where did he put himself?
MN: Where did Bob go? I remember, I was sitting in there one day when he was playing some music for me and was like: “where do you sleep?”
TP: I know! It’s like, there’s some magical thing that rolls out, or like, that’s not really a window, it’s a portal somewhere.
MN: It was crazy… what was the question?
TP: Talk about the neighborhood.
MN: Oh, the neighborhood… I never had a lot of connection to Arlington necessarily because besides Kansas and Go! Compact Discs, and Galaxy Hut. Galaxy Hut was just getting started,I guess.I didn’t do a whole lot of hanging out in Arlington until there was a reason to go. And so the only places that I had a relationship with where the places I just named: Go!, the Sugar Shack when Renee owned it, or when Renee took it over, Galaxy Hut, and all these were places that were just doing small shows. I mean, the shows at Go! Compact Discs were amazing. But that’s it, we’d blow in, play a show, go get some ice cream at the homemade ice cream place and then take off.
TP: Or go to Dalat…
MN: Oh, Café Dalat… yeah.
TP: I feel like that was very important to that era.
MN: That was very important to that era. But that’s it. I couldn’t name another place. Ann worked at Whitlows on Wilson, which had it’s ups and downs. But that was it. I never hung out there, so I don’t know if I could really talk about that. I remember my brother and Alec MacKaye got harassed by a cop. I think Arlington cops were a little uptight…
MN: Yeah… especially if I was driving my van with the DC tags, they’d pull me over a lot. Ryan and Alec were warming up Alec’s car one night… he’d be better at telling you this story. Alec drove this ’67 Comet, and it had to warm up, and it was cold, so they had their stocking hats on, and before they went anywhere, like three, four cop cars came, and detained them, and questioned them separately and they were like ‘what is goin’ on?” The best answer Ryan got from one of the cops was: “well you guys are sittin’ there, with your, you know, hats on, and we thought this might be an armed robbery or something.” And he was just like: great, what’s your number? Because I’m definitely reporting you. It’s just ridiculous.
TP: I feel like it’s also one of those things, so while that was happening… in the rest of the world. Like I distinctly remember going there I’m pretty sure, I think it was David Wilson showed his movie, and then you guys played, and it was the day of the World Bank Protests, the IMF Protests because GW was closed. I remember this being significant. GW closed the entire campus because they were on…
MN: the main route for the protests.
TP: And the administration was asked by the police to close and not let anybody in, and basically sent everybody home. I remember it because it took, what normally took, like 15, 20 minute drive took nearly an hour and a half to get through Rock Creek Park. And whenever anybody talks about that stuff, like that era, I always think about Kansas. So is there any, like, while that was happening, in the rest of the world, do you sort of have an idea of what was going on?
MN: Um… there was a period, there was a summer when I spent a lot of time in Arlington, and it was only because I was dating Renee. And that was probably ’96, and actually, it was Renee, from Go! Compact Discs was more or less responsible for naming the Most Secret Method. We were reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… she picked it up at an old store and was like “oh look at this!” And we started looking at it and found the phrase. Renee and Ann lived together, and all of that had an impact because Ann became our roadie and never stopped touring with us and it was fantastic. But I don’t remember… what was going on in the world. It was ‘96ish? You know I have no memory of that protest. We played at GW a couple of times but I don’t remember a GW show getting cancelled.
TP: I’m gonna find out about that…
MN: I also don’t remember playing with David’s movie. I remember watching David’s movie…
TP: Maybe I’m constructing all of this in my head… Jamie Perez will know because I remember he was there.
MN: Now, David’s arrival in town was kind of an amazing thing. Because, like, his car broke down, right?
TP: I don’t know…
MN: He took over the city for a summer. And I think it was that summer I was dating Renee.
TP: And I guess, didn’t he work at Go! or something?
MN: He volunteered at Go! and he was so good that they hired him. And he volunteered at Dischord, too.
TP: I don’t remember of that era. I don’t remember what I was doing during that time.
MN: You were writing Rock Stars Hate Me.
TP: I think it was before that.
TP: Because I remember when he came back, when everyone was like: oh, David Wilson’s coming back and I was like, who is this magical David Wilson that you’re all talking about? And then he shows up, and I was like, oh! He is magical!
MN: He’s hott! Yeah, that guy’s beautiful.
TP: I think Jen Bane said he is the single reason that changed her mind of men being able to wear flip-flops.
MN: Yeah, David also exuded a weird sexuality that men and women coveted being near him.
TP: It wasn’t necessarily that he was hott, which he is, but more that he’s magical.
MN: Magical, and sexually ambiguous.
TP: Yeah, he cultivated it, and when he came back it was like: David Wilson’s coming back!
MN: David Wilson… yeah!
TP: And he had cultivated this persona, and then he showed up and it was like “oh, David Wilson is here for a few weeks!” And then he was here for the opera.
MN: There were movements like that. There was the Summer of David Wilson. He arrived, his car broke down, and was ostensibly waiting to get his truck fixed and ended up just staying for three months. I don’t know where he was living, but suddenly, he was at every party. He loved dancing. He just threw himself at this town and this town responded with nothing but love.
TP: With open arms…
MN: Yes, just like… yes! I remember the Cold Rice parties, that wasn’t really an Arlington thing.
TP: That was Ian Svenonious.
MN: That was a Svenonious thing. I remember the waves of what bands were playing and like, I don’t remember politically what was going on at all. I don’t know why. I mean, we played a lot of protest shows and benefit shows. I can probably tie it to whose albums were out at some point.
TP: Really, like who?
MN: Like the Dismemberment Plan. Like I remember getting a free “Is Terrified” at the Black Cat and thinking, this guy is just handing everybody at the Black Cat a free CD! And I listened to it and I loved it and we ended up playing hundreds of shows with those guys.
TP: That’s how I met Chad Clark.
TP: At the very first Indie Rock Flea Market, Chad and Hilary Soldati were walking around handing people CDs, saying, “hey, I’m in this band we’re called Smart Went Crazy.” And I was like, okay, whatever…
TP: And I never listened to it. And then, I was like, oh, hey, I know… this other guy I work with is in Smart Went Crazy. And when, um, the second one, with DC Will DO that to you, Con Art came out, I was like, I should go back and listen to this CD that got passed to me. Like, literally, whatever park, on the playground.
MN: It was the first Dischord CD?
TP: I think, maybe.
MN: You know what… now that I’m thinking about it, there was a big thing going on in Arlington. But it was all Kansas Street and Renee. Because Renee loved Arlington, and that town did nothing but fight her, and Go! Had to move like three times. She kept doing those shows, like, in the parking lot until the condo people started complaining when they built that big condo. The saddest thing to me about it is that it seems like Arlington, and DC for that matter, were never interested in something– not that the city would have to support that or anything– but that it was such a special… those two places were special for the reasons that we’ve talked about. That they could be spontaneous, they were fun, there were no rules. There weren’t a lot of, like zoning or anything, nobody worried about any of that shit. Nobody signed any contracts. You just did it. And the whole thing, like the whole redevelopment of Arlington, which I think Jimmy Askew once astutely called “Betheslington” because it’s totally just like a little mock-up Bethesda now. They took all the soul out of it. Dalat is gone. The ice cream place couldn’t exist. I’m sure they raised the property taxes on the stores to the only point that the only thing that could move in was the Gap. And they sucked the soul out of it. I’m surprised that Kansas lasted as long as it did. But Rene couldn’t do it anymore, nobody could do it anymore. And that happened here. Seventh Street, the Warehouse Theater was doing all kinds of cool stuff and they’re hangin’ on by a thread because their property taxes went up 500%. What kind of a city does that to it’s inhabitants? You know? It’s cruel to do that to people. There you are. So, the Renee, the Indie Rock Flea Market period was very important. I worked one of those and watched Renee chase the Snapple truck out, because they weren’t official sponsors of the thing. They were just hoarding in. And I was like, well they’re giving out free drinks. And Renee was like: No! Absolutely! No! Corporate Blah-de-blah, and she just went up to the dude and was like: Get! Loved her, man! I loved her!
TP: Okay, I guess this is the last talking point-slash-question. What do you think was your most significant moment.
MN: At Kansas?
MN: Ah… kissing Bob Massey on the front porch one night. Solely to do it. There was no, we were never, like… neither of us had ever dated a man. We were not attracted to each other, but we kissed, hard. And Christine was wicked jealous, because she had a huge crush on Bob Massey. I don’t even know why it happened. That’s how crazy that place was.
TP: Was that at a party? Was that at a show?
MN: It was a show. I think we played, or something, probably with Telegraph Melts. Out on the front porch.
I don’t know… I think the Juno show. I feel really good about that one just because we met Juno on tour, and we played a house show in Santa Cruz, and adored each other. It was just such a great meeting. And we played with them as often as possible. So getting them in that house, which we knew they would just go crazy for, was really something special. I don’t know. I got a lot to be grateful for, because it gave me so much. It gave me such an outlet, it gave me such community. You could just show up there and something was happening. Even if it was everybody just watching TV eating pizza. It was awesome. Oh, and we also used to do dinner parties there. Ann would have dinner parties with the Katy Otto crowd and Sarah Clemms and Bonnie. I miss Bonnie so much! So I don’t know… So the Juno show was definitely right up. Oh, no. but the best night I had there was that damn party. That Aquarius Party was possibly the peak of the underground scene celebrating their lives together. There was no hate at all that night, it was all love. And that house was definitely shaking.