He pens the local music blog the Vinyl District, a site he describes as “a virtual trip to the record store.” He started the blog a year ago as a way to support mom-and-pop record stores in the Washington area. Jon has witnessed the slow, incremental demise of independent music stores, and he blogs to increase awareness about them and to celebrate all they offer to the community.
Don’t worry—Jon’s not a vinyl-only purist, though he does argue that records sound better than MP3s or CDs. For him, listening to music the old-fashioned way is about the experience, taking in the cover art and appreciating the meticulousness of the production process. But he also has a more personal reason: Buying and listening to records reminds him of his father, who passed away two years ago. “Some of my fondest memories are of our almost-weekly trips to the local record stores at the Jersey Shore, where I grew up,” he says. “I can slide a record off of the shelves and recall with precision the season or the time of day of a particular trip with my dad in the car.”
For Jon, blogging doesn’t pay the bills—and neither do his chops as a drummer—so by day he works as an art director for a public-policy think tank in DC. We caught up with the 41-year-old to dish on the local music scene. We found out his picks for best and worst venues, his favorite local band, and what vintage records he’ll never part with.
Word or phrase to describe the local music scene:
“If we’re talking bands and live music, I’ll go with ‘meh.’ Which is not to say there aren’t bands here doing great things or that there aren’t a host of venues to see diverse, live acts or that the scene isn’t supportive. I’m just continually underwhelmed by the output when the conditions seem so right. I’d love to be grabbed around the neck, shaken, and proven wrong, however.
Favorite local band:
“Paul Michel single-handedly has me reconsidering my answer above.”
Last record you listened to:
“John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Life With the Lions, one of two releases on the Beatles’ offshoot ‘experimental’ label, Zapple Records. Side two features five minutes of the heartbeat from the baby Yoko lost before birth. Uneasy listening.”
Last record you bought:
“This will sound odd (or crazy depending on your taste) but I just scored Jellyfish’s second release, Spilt Milk, on vinyl from eBay for more dinero than I care to reveal. LPs from the ’90s—when the record industry’s thinking was to move far, far away from vinyl—are pretty hard to come by these days.”
Number of records you own:
“I need to get back to you on this one, actually. Since Orpheus announced that yet another Irish bar was booting it from its current location—and since its records have been priced to sell as a result—I’ve acquired hundreds and hundreds of LPs over the past months spanning every genre and era. I’m continually pressed for shelf space. (But seriously, do we really need another Irish-themed bar in the area displacing a 31-year-old DC institution? Embarrassing.)”
Vintage record you’re most proud of owning:
“I can’t say I’m most proud of just one LP, but I’m proud of having the entire Beatles UK catalog, from the Parlophone releases to the later releases on Apple Records, in the cherished—brace yourself—‘mint condition.’ Pristine. Never played.”
Best concert DVD you’ve ever seen:
“Waving goodbye to any street cred . . . KISSology, the series of three Kiss DVDs that came out starting late last year, is pretty great, from a fan’s perspective. (Aw, c’mon. I’m from Jersey.)”
Best and worst live shows you’ve seen:
“I distinctly recall wanting to scratch my eyes out during the Moldy Peaches set when they opened for the Strokes at the 9:30 Club in 2001. Mind-numbingly awful. However, I was fortunate enough to see the La’s on their first and only US tour at the old 9:30 Club location, followed by Suede and the Verve on their initial treks through the United States. Jane’s Addiction, again at the old 9:30, on the night they lost the Best Metal Act Grammy to Jethro Tull was pretty amazing, too. The band waited until the award was announced and took the stage late to what seemed like a den of wolves—and they just tore into Tull’s song ‘Aqualung.’ My teeth hurt for days."
Best and worst venues:
“I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone when I underscore just how great it is to have two major venues, the 9:30 and the Black Cat, within walking distance from each other in this town. Both are responsible for a ton of great shows and some seriously foggy mornings. Yet, aside from Galaxy Hut and Iota, I’ve got zero tolerance for Virginia and its trifecta of bland: the Birchmere, the State Theatre, and the seriously stale Jammin’ Java. Please, somebody spill a beer or something so I can actually feel like I’m in a club of some sort. I’ve attended weddings in less-sterile venues.”
Venue with the best food or drink selection:
Allow me to be clear: Food and live music have no place in the same room. Sure, it might be a necessary evil for venues like the 9:30 and the Black Cat to serve food to keep the cash registers ringing—but, really? Please eat beforehand, okay?”
Best neighborhood for the music lover:
“Hands down, it’s still the Dupont/Adams Morgan/U Street area that has the most viable venues for established acts and the many ‘you probably should still be woodshedding’ up-and-comers. Plus, there are quite a number of independent music stores all within walking distance from each other.”
Best bar with live music:
“See? Now you’re talking. Bar + live music. I like that math. And the answer is Black Cat!”
Favorite place to go for some peace and quiet:
“That’s called a 9-to-5er, right?”
Most you’ve ever paid for a concert ticket:
“Not as much as some have paid, I’m sure. Two hundred dollars got me second row center at the Capital Centre for the Kiss reunion tour in 1996. It was worth the price alone to see Ace trip over his guitar cord before the curtain dropped.”
Guitar Hero or Garage Band?
“Allow me to be clear: neither! Pull yourself away from the TV and go support some real, live music. Sheez.”
Finish this sentence: “If I were in a band, it would be named . . .”
“. . . Guitar Hero or Garage Band. Nothing but living-room concerts.”
Best indy record store:
“I’m going to miss Orpheus one hell of a lot when it ultimately closes, but that said, Som Records, Smash Records, Crooked Beat Records, Red Onion Records, and DJ Hut all make me quite happy to live in the heart of downtown DC.”
“This is a tough one, but I think I’d start with John Lennon on rhythm guitar and vocals, Paul McCartney on bass and vocals, George Harrison on lead guitar, then Ringo Sta—hey . . . wait a minute.”
Favorite music blog besides your own:
“There’s no way around it—Brightest Young Things’ all-points coverage is DC nightlife. They’re simply the best on the block these days. Also, from the personal concertgoing perspective, I’m a huge fan of guys over at DC Rock Club. The 9:30 Club has a ridiculously cool and informative bulletin board, too. All three are my morning must-reads.”
Next week, the Blogger Beat chats with the hilarious local blogger Arjewtino. (He’s Argentinean and Jewish—get it?) We hit on a little bit of everything: where he goes to indulge his multiple personalities, his mustache style of choice, and the one thing he would never blog about. Check back next Wednesday for the interview!
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