News & Politics

The Blogger Beat: DC Rock Club

Every Wednesday, we bring you interviews with our favorite local bloggers. This week, a first for the Blogger Beat: a quadruple dose of blogger goodness! We catch up with the four guys behind the local music blog DC Rock Club.

Jason, James, and Erin, DC Rock Club's
Washington contingent, at the Black Cat.
Photograph by Jennifer Molay

DC Rock Club, a local music blog, is a collaborative effort among four thirtysomething friends—James Fintel, Dan Corbin, Jason Andelman, and Erin Guild—who two years ago made it their mission to see one live show a week.

The idea originated with Jason, a chocolatier and owner of Artisan Confections in Arlington and the father of two, who wanted a reason to get out of the house and catch a parenting break. So he e-mailed his buddies, and DC Rock Club was born.

The group has a few rules: Besides seeing a show each week—well, each “decaweek,” as they call it, since they’ve altered the schedule to every ten days to accommodate fatherhood for Jason, Dan, and James and busy work schedules for all—they rotate who chooses the shows, and they’ve set a $20 limit for tickets. The person who selects the show is also responsible for posting a review on the Web site.

In April, Dan moved to Austin to be closer to his family, and the Rock Club—gasp!—thought about disbanding (pun intended). Instead, they decided to try covering music in two cities. Dan says it’s worked out well: “The best part is that it helps us stay in touch. Plus the guys can visit for South by Southwest and Austin City Limits.”

We checked in with the music bloggers to find out their favorite local bands, the best and worst area venues, and what they’d name a band if they were rock gods. A teaser: James would pick Erotic Stranger.

Three albums you can’t live without:
James: Rubber Soul by the Beatles, Gimme Fiction by Spoon, and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by the Kinks.
Jason: Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan (a classic), Life’s Rich Pageant by R.E.M. (perhaps the two greatest opening songs ever), and The Woods by Sleater-Kinney (I go back to this disk again and again).
Dan: Emergency & I by the Dismemberment Plan (my favorite album by one of my all-time favorite bands), Life’s Too Good by the Sugarcubes (one of the first indie records I owned, it helped me realize my music options weren’t limited to glam rock and classic rock, the prevailing genres in rural upstate New York in the late 1980s), and Running Water for Babies (easily the most important record I own; it’s the only thing that will calm my daughter when she’s fussing at 3 AM—I’d be a wreck without it.)
Erin: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel (Jeff Mangum’s earnest vocals are penetrating), Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones (driving rock with a dash of country), and Cowards & Robbers by Cold War Kids (there isn’t a song on this album I don’t like, and I find it easy to sing along to . . . for better or worse). 

Last album you listened to:
James: Songs in A&E by Spiritualized.
Jason: The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit. I listened to it in the car today. It doesn’t hold up to the live show, but it’s quite good nonetheless.
Dan: What Did You Do During the War, Daddy? by the Jet Age.
Erin: I just drove for eight hours and listened to the entire Heartless Bastards catalog along the way. Great records, disappointing live performance.

Number of songs in your iTunes:
James: 3,873. I’m sure some people would say that’s not a lot, and they’d be right, but note that I regularly purge the weak stuff from my collection. I’m like Stalin with my music purges—ruthless, murderous, efficient, cold-blooded. You can do a shuffle on my iTunes and rest assured that you’ll hear something good 99 percent of the time.
Jason: 6,943.
Dan: I primarily use Rhapsody instead of iTunes, and albums I listen to regularly are saved in my library. There are about 5,000 songs in there now, but there are a lot of albums I’ve stopped listening to and it could use some cleaning up. I’m looking at you, Weezer.
Erin: 6,972. My iPod and hard drives were stolen recently, so like a fledgling sports teams, I’m ‘rebuilding.’

Best and worst shows you’ve seen with Rock Club:
James: Best is a tie between Sleater-Kinney and LCD Soundsystem. Worst was Gob Iron—boring acoustic roots-rock crap.
Jason: The best show was Sleater-Kinney, although Radiohead during the deluge in Bristow is right up there. Worst show would be local band Telograph.
Dan: Picking the best show is much harder than picking the worst. The second night of the Dismemberment Plan’s reunion at the Black Cat was unbelievably good. I also liked Spoon, the Gossip, and LCD Soundsystem—they were all top-notch—but I still love Sleater-Kinney the best. I hope my daughter grows up to as bad-ass as those ladies. The worst show was Telograph at the Black Cat. They were terrible.
Erin: For the worst, it’s the Ponys—the three-plus times I’ve seen them. I had hoped this band would break up, but then I realized they might form four equally annoying bands if they did. As for the best shows, the other guys will probably say the Gossip and/or Sleater-Kinney. I missed both of these shows and am reminded of it mercilessly. So I’ll have to say the first Long Blondes at the Rock & Roll Hotel.

Best and worst venues in the DC area:
James: I like the Black Cat, but the best venue is still the 9:30 Club—good sound and AC plus access to bars. The worst venue, hands down, has got to be Nissan Pavilion. Do the Japanese gentlemen who run Nissan have any idea how much this place sullies their brand name? Terrible ingress/egress and dopey, chicken-shit staff.
Jason: Best venue is definitely the 9:30 Club even though we don’t go there too often. Worst venue is Nissan Pavilion. Far away, terrible traffic, and the parking lot blows.
Dan: Before leaving for Austin, I was pretty down on the Velvet Lounge. Their Web site was a joke, they had stupid rules about taking video at shows, and the place was becoming a dump. But maybe things have turned around under the new owners. I like Galaxy Hut and the Rock & Roll Hotel, but the Black Cat is still my favorite. The Red Room is always good for people watching, and I have good memories of the shows we’ve seen there.
Erin: This is tough. I’ve always been a Black Cat fan, but the Rock & Roll Hotel will get my “best” vote here. It’s the perfect size, has good bartenders, and the trough-style urinal reminds me of taking a leak at Fenway Park. Worst: Nissan Prison . . . er Pavilion. If I were in charge, I’d knock that thing down and start over at the RFK site.

Favorite local band:
James: It used to be the Fake Accents, but they broke up. Idiots. I guess These United States is the best local act I’ve seen. I don’t particularly care for beardy acoustic music, but these guys are quality. I didn’t really like all the Dischord-label stuff either (sue me), so I would have to say that the last really good band that came out of DC was the Starland Vocal Band.
Jason: These United States. I dig their sound, and they don’t take themselves too seriously.
Dan: Imperial China. They’re unlike any other band in DC. They mix together postrock, math-rock, no wave, and even hardcore. They’re the only DC band that has a permanent spot on my iPod shuffle. It gets me pumped when I’m out running.
Erin: Of the active groups, I’ll go with These United States—they work hard. They’ll play anywhere: car show, art exhibition, Harris Teeter opening, petting zoo. I’m going to ask them to play the national anthem at my next softball game. I think they’d do it.

Best bar with live music:
James: I’m stumped on this one. I suppose DC9 is more of a bar than a music venue—does it count?
Jason: Galaxy Hut in Arlington.
Dan: My vote is for the Black Cat—the Red Room might be my favorite place in DC to hang out and drink beer—but the Rock & Roll Hotel is a close second. In less than two years, the Hotel has nearly overtaken the legendary Black Cat.
Erin: The Red Room at the Black Cat. It’s a good bar regardless of whether there’s a show. Dan likes to order “Black Cats” there, which isn’t a real drink, but they deliver him a beer nonetheless. He’s a bit "special."

Band of Horses or My Morning Jacket?
James: If you held a gun to my head . . . no, wait, if you held guns to their heads, and said, "Pick one and we’ll execute the other group," I would have to go with My Morning Jacket. This is a trick question, though, because all hippies are lame.
Jason: Band of Horses (only because I have seen them live).
Dan: Band of Horses gets the nod here, but I’m not enthusiastic about either band. I like the Band of Horses’ singles more, but everyone says My Morning Jacket is incredible live. I wouldn’t know. We’ve only seen Band of Horses, and it was boring.
Erin: I’d go with Band of Horses. Not so much their latest album, but I dig Everything All the Time quite a bit.

Interpol or Modest Mouse?

James: I haven’t heard much from Interpol since Turn on the Bright Lights. I didn’t really care too much about Modest Mouse, but lately I’ve grown to like them.
Jason: Interpol.
Dan: Why is Modest Mouse so revered? Why is The Moon and Antarctica considered a landmark record? Pitchfork gave it a 9.8 out of 10! Are you kidding me?! I don’t get it. I’ll take Interpol in this matchup even if their last album sucked. Modest Mouse is overrated.
Erin: Interpol. I have no further comment.

Spoon or the Decemberists?
James: The Decemberists aren’t bad, but Spoon is the best contemporary American band. So Spoon it is. The Decemberists are so gentle and effeminate that I have to listen to some AC/DC afterward to restore my manliness.
Jason: Spoon. I am now a convert. These guys are good.
Dan: Spoon. Help me God if any of these guys say the Decemberists. Colin Meloy’s singing is grating. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with some nerd rock—I’m a programmer/music lover, after all—but let’s not start comparing it to Spoon. Spoon is the best band playing today (sorry, Radiohead fans). Every album they release is exceptional.
Erin: Spoon. Easy. I like the Decemberists, but you have to be in right mood for them. I know Dan hates the guy’s voice, but I don’t mind it. Spoon is good no matter your mood.

Wilco or Radiohead?
James: I’ve always preferred Radiohead even if they have a bit too many songs that go “beep boop beep . . . ahhhh uhhhh . . . beep booop.”  Wilco’s good, but they’re more for people who drive Volkswagens and live in Brooklyn.
Jason: Radiohead. Does anyone really like Wilco??
Dan: I’m probably the only one who listens to Wilco more than Radiohead. But because our main gig is reviewing live shows, Radiohead is the winner. Erin and I went to Wilco in March, and the crowd was the most fawning I’ve ever seen. After each song, they erupted like it was the greatest thing ever. It wasn’t. Radiohead, on the other hand, devastates live.
Erin: I’ve given Wilco a chance, but they don’t speak to me. I don’t get why they have such a cult following. Radiohead I get.

The National or Drive-By Truckers?
James: Gotta go with DBT based on their body of work. That said, ‘Mistaken for Strangers’ by the National is a top tune.
Jason: The National. The Boxer is one of my favorite albums from last year.
Dan: I’m not a big fan of either, but gun to my head, I’d go with the National. Actually, with a gun to my head I’d probably pee my pants.
Erin: The National. Alligator and Boxer are great albums, and as a general policy I avoid anything that involves truckers.

Favorite spot for a postshow (or preshow) bite:
Unanimous: Granville Moore’s.

Finish this sentence: “If I were in a band, it would be named . . .”

James: Either Standard Deviants (Devo-style new-wave music) or Erotic Stranger (yacht-rock-type music to make love to, à la Hall and Oates). Maybe the Standard Deviants would be my main band and Erotic Stranger would be a side project. I’d have to work out the logistics of it all.
Jason: Executive Ape. The lead singer would be dressed in an ape costume and wear a three-piece suit. For some reason, that makes me laugh.
Dan: Mayonnaise. Considering my musical talents, any band I would be in would be atrocious. We’d need a name that was equally dumb and inane as our music. Because Psychedelic Horseshit is already taken, Mayonnaise will have to do.
Erin: Desperanto. It’s a band that plays mostly Eagles covers, but all the lyrics are sung in the international auxiliary language of Esperanto.

Rock Club member who picks the best shows:

James: Me. No one else has my superior taste and sophisticated musical palate. Honestly, I don’t even know why I’m friends with these dudes.
Jason: I pick the best shows.
Dan: Jason gets my vote. He picks good local shows and spearheaded our road trips to Baltimore and Chicago. Ask who picks the worst shows and I’d win in a landslide.
Erin: Tossup between Jason and Dan. Because Jason gives me a lift to Rock & Roll Hotel shows, I’ll go with him now. James is always trying to get us to disco/electronica shows. And I rarely bring anything to the table.

Dream lineup:
James: LCD Soundsystem, Spoon, Gordon Lightfoot.
Jason: Joy Division and the Smiths opening for the Fugazi reunion at Fort Reno.
Dan: I’d reunite the Fake Accents and pair them with the Dismemberment Plan and Sleater-Kinney.
Erin: Bad Company, Radiohead, the Who. Most of my dreams don’t make sense.

Favorite local music blog besides your own:

James: Brightest Young Things irritates me, but I have to admit that I am a faithful reader. I also like The Vinyl District. That guy must have every record ever made.
Jason: I always like the musings at Post Rock.
Dan: Post Rock. J. Freedom du Lac and David Malitz are great writers who look at music in new and refreshing ways. They ask smart questions when interviewing bands. They don’t hop on the bandwagon and puke hyperbole on the latest blog-buzz band. They cover local bands that deserve recognition and ignore the ones that don’t. And I want to add that if Erin answers anything but Audiogram for this question, he’s a dirty, filthy liar.
Erin: I don’t read as many as I should, but I’m a fan of Audiogram. Emma Peel writes exceptionally well, and her insights are genuine and provocative.

Next week in the Blogger Beat: We get the fashion 411 from style and makeup blogger Capitol Hill Barbie. She gives us the lowdown on her favorite salon, the best spot for fashion people watching, and the one makeup item she won’t leave her home without. Check back next Wednesday for the interview!

Previous Blogger Beat interviews:
DC Goodwill Fashionista
What’s Up Arlington

Have a favorite local blogger you’d like to hear from? Send an e-mail to

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