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Washington Journalists Rock at Journopalooza

Seven groups competed for glory at the fourth annual journo-band showcase on Friday.

Dirty Bomb, fronted by three Reuters reporters. Photograph by Duncan Chaplin.

Journalists, it seems, are a multifaceted lot. When they aren’t covering the news of the day or sharpening their wits as standup comedians, they’re moonlighting as musicians—and some pretty serious ones at that. This was evident at the fourth annual Journopalooza on Friday, where seven bands composed entirely of journalists vied for the title of DC’s best media band.

While sardonic pop and rock took center stage, the Celtic sounds of Paddy Goes West (playing a fiddle, a five-stringed banjo, and even a dulcimer) and the throaty blues of Nobody’s Business added some much-needed variety to the mix. As you might expect from journo-bands, lyrics tended toward the topical, with one song titled “Daylight Savings Time,” Suspicious Package’s refrain of “You got a secret? Watch out or I’ll tweet it,” and an ironic dedication to the Koch Brothers.

The Stepping Stones, a Monkees tribute band led by the Washington Post’s John Kelly and Dan de Vise, dethroned the returning champions, Suspicious Package, with their tight vocals and timely homage to the late Davy Jones. The rightful winners, however, should arguably have been the careful blend of funky blues and R&B that is Nobody’s Business with McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay and lead singer Melissa Bronez, whose smooth and full-bodied rendition of the Soul Brothers Six’s “Some Kind of Wonderful” was just that.

A trio of Reuters reporters fronted Dirty Bomb, an explosive veteran band that had everyone on their feet with Andy Sullivan’s spine-twisting moves, pitch-perfect voice, and rock star quality. They ended their set by playfully mocking Tom Toles, the Pulitzer prize–winning political cartoonist for the Post who performs in bands Lethal Bark and Suspicious Package, both of which fell sadly short of the mark.

All the ticket proceeds went to Writopia and REACH Incorporated, benefiting literacy and writing programs for DC’s youth. Hosted by Grammy-nominated progressive hip-hop artist and DC local Christylez Bacon, the event was punctuated by Bacon’s oral percussion skills as he beatboxed a few introductions.

Suspicious Package ended the night with covers of classics by the Rolling Stones, Dire Straits, Billy Idol, and Third Eye Blind that had many of the more discerning listeners hurtling towards the nearest exit, proving that sometimes, the pen is mightier than the chord.