Stars and Bars: Imbibe Names Derek Brown ‘Bartender of the Year’

DC cocktail mogul Derek Brown was named 2015 Bartender of the Year by Imbibe magazine Tuesday.

Derek currently is best known as the common partner in a string of bars by the Shaw metro station along 7th Street NW in Shaw: Mockingbird Hill (1843 7th St. NW, DC), Southern Efficiency (1841 7th St. NW, DC) and Eat the Rich (1839 7th St. NW, DC).

On New Year’s Day, Derek closed the Passenger and the Columbia Room (1021 7th St. NW, DC), previously located in Mount Vernon Square. Those low-key and high-end establishments respectively served to make him a household name in the DC bar scene over the past five years.

In a profile video posted by Imbibe (above), Derek says, “Cocktails are truly a conversation with the world. When I think about cocktails, I think about how they connect to nature; I think about how they connect to history; and I think about how they connect to the people who made them and the time they were living in.”

Imbibe, based in Portland, Ore., is a bimonthly magazine covering the gamut of the U.S. bar scene. “From wine, spirits and beer to coffee and tea, Imbibe celebrates the world in a glass. We feature the world’s top drink destinations, recipes and in-depth stories covering the people, places and flavors of liquid culture,” the magazine says on its Facebook.

Congratulations, Derek!

Grapevine: Chef Alex McCoy Departs @ Duke’s Grocery

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Chef Alex McCoy, one of Duke’s Grocery’s three founding partners

Alex McCoy, former chef and founding partner at Duke’s Grocery, left the Dupont Circle-area gastropub in December and plans to open a new restaurant focused on southeast Asian food, Tim Carman of The Washington Post reported Monday.

On his Facebook page Monday, McCoy said, “Friends, after a year and a half of working with my awesome partners over at Duke’s Grocery, I am excited to announce that I will be leaving to work on a new project in the DC area. You guys and gals have been legends and I appreciate all of the amazing support you have given myself and the Duke’s family. The team is still working hard in the Duke’s kitchen and the burgers are still flippin’! 2015 is going to be a very tasty year!”

Carman delivered the scoop on McCoy’s new project: “a restaurant that will focus on Southeast Asian cooking, continuing the District’s trend of opening eateries that channel the authentic flavors of Thailand, Laos and other countries.”

McCoy vowed to travel throughout southeast Asia over the next few months to refine his menu, which comes as no surprise to me, as the chef is very fond of traveling to a dish’s country of origin before he perfects it, as he told me a few months ago.

Daniel Kramer, another co-founder at Duke’s, announced Rick Koplau, who has been overseeing the late night food program at Duke’s Grocery, will become head chef. Koplau previously worked at Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Lake Tahoe and Sarasota, along with stints in England, Germany and Poland.

Music Park: U.S. Royalty Release “More to This” Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jyhUHXcJTI]

DC indie rock stalwarts U.S. Royalty debuted a new video today for their song “More to This.” The video follows the band as they drive languidly along California highways, exploring Malibu, Venice and Mulholland Drive.

The song “More to This” takes the quartet down for a turn into hazy psychedelic rock, and the result is definitely quite easy on the ears. The song is about wanting out of a relationship where nothing more apparently is going to happen.

Vocalist John Thornley, guitarist Paul Thornley, bassist Jacob Michael and drummer Luke Adams report they have been writing new material. They have a few dates planning, including a stop at the 9:30 Club on Thursday, Jan. 22 with Dr. Dog, and another show in New York City’s Webster hall on Friday, Jan. 23.

Meanwhile, the band is planning to release a limited edition vinyl version of its first album, Mirrors, which is nearly four years old now. (Hard to believe!). Preorders of the vinyl include a digital download of the album and previously unreleased bonus tracks.

I last saw U.S. Royalty perform a little under a year ago after the release of their second album, Blue Sunshine. They were in good form then, and it will be interesting to see where a third self-released album and lingering major label ambitions take them this year.

Don’t Miss: Bliss w/ The Juan MacLean @ U Street Music Hall, 12/27/14

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Nancy Whang and Juan MacLean of The Juan MacLean (Photo by Tonje Thilesen)

Of course, you probably already know that DJ Will Eastman hosts his personal dance party Bliss on the last Saturday of every month at U Street Music Hall, which he co-owns and manages.

And of course, U Street Music Hall has become the place to experience exciting new house music.

But I would say they’ve really taken it up a notch with the Christmas edition of Bliss on Saturday, Dec. 27, by hosting DJ sets from The Juan MacLean, the duo of Juan MacLean and Nancy Whang (she formerly of LCD Soundsystem).

This means an unparalleled amount of DFA Records-inspired goodness will drop on DC this weekend. The production-savvy MacLean and Whang know how to make the most of sounds great and small, transcending subgenres from electroclash to deep house.

Of the two as a band, DFA Records says, “Throughout, Nancy is the triumphant leader–front and center; Juan works his magic with the arrangements and production, quoting freely from house, techno, and disco, yet surpassing genres all together. Together, Juan and Nancy play with the lyrics and melodies, as well as the arrangements, creating an interplay remindful of classic disco records. The sounds you’re just not supposed to reach for, the Juan always reaches for.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AokIMW5Ehpo]

If that wasn’t enough, the lineup for Saturday night also features Ben Browning, bassist for Australian new wave/house band Cut Copy. Browning has formed a special relationship with DC, spending some time here in general and spinning specifically at U Street Music Hall.

Tickets are available online or at the door.

Bliss
w/ Juan MacLean, Nancy Whang and Ben Browning
U Street Music Hall
Saturday, Dec. 27
Doors @10pm
$10 (Free for 21+ before midnight)
18+ (Advance tickets required for 18-20)

Music Park: Nicole Atkins @ Rock and Roll Hotel — 12/19/14

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As a half-full room at the Rock and Roll Hotel looked to the stage, the performer they came to see walked in through the doors behind them.

With her guitar hung around her shoulders, Nicole Atkins, a tiny chanteuse with a big voice, strode into the middle of the room and opened her set from the floor with her anthem “Neptune City,” the folky Americana ode to her hometown in New Jersey.

The audience reconfigured itself in a crowded circle around her and sang along Friday night, giving one of the warmest welcomes to a performer in my concert-going experience.

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Music Park: Positive Force Coat Drive w/ Cricket Cemetery @ Black Cat, 12/22/14

The Black Cat

If you’re looking to unwind and contribute to a good cause tonight at the same time, Cricket Cemetery, an Arlington, Va.-based independent record label teams up with Positive Force at the Black Cat (1811 14th St. NW, DC) to spin a free party in the bar and collect coats for those in need.

DJs Mike Schleibaum and Dean Sullivan will spin vinyl in the Red Room.

In a statement, the folks at Cricket Cemetery said, “During the harsh Winters of Washington, DC, far too many die from simply not being warm enough. In the tradition of punk rock meaning more than Mohawks, and leather jackets, we at Cricket Cemetery, and our partners in Positive Force, are embarking on what we hope to be a yearly winter coat drive to keep our fellow humans in our community warm.

“The Black Cat has graciously offered us their space to have a party to kick off this drive in the Red Room Bar, Monday, Dec. 22. There will be DJ’s, prizes, drinks and good hangs, but most of all we want you there to bring a coat, and throw a few bucks in the can for your community. All cash donations will go to Positive Force to continue their valuable work in helping those who need it in Washington, DC. SMASH! Records has also offered us a corner of their shop to keep a donation box for coats throughout the holiday season,” they added.

You may know Cricket Cemetery best as the label behind punk rockers Loud Boyz, the energetic DC punk band that seems to be everywhere in the past year!

We Are Family, a DC senior outreach network also will be on hand to collect donations, according to the Cat’s website.

DJ Night and Coat Drive
w/ Cricket Cemetery and Positive Force
Black Cat
Monday, Dec. 22
Doors @8pm
Free
All ages

Music Park: Paperhaus Tribute to Kraftwerk @ U Street Music Hall — 12/14/14

Kraftwerk Trans-Europe Express with Sheldon Cooper
DC’s own Paperhaus paid tribute to Kraftwerk Sunday night

Wow, Paperhaus knocked it out of the park last night at U Street Music Hall.

The psych rock quartet were joined by Erik Sleight of Br’er and Stronger Sex to stage a performance of the Kraftwerk album Trans Europe Express. I had little to prepare my expecations for the experience, but it didn’t matter. Even if I had the highest of expectations, the band would have exceeded them easily!

First and foremost, of course, Paperhaus augmented their synthesizer arsenal. Alex Tebeleff, normally on guitar and vocals, dedicated himself to a synthesizer while Erik supplemented him. Eduardo Rivera took occasional synth duties in addition to his guitar and backing vocals.

After a brief introduction, the band ably leapt into the first track, Europe Endless, and they sounded great! Alex enunciated his words in such a way as to lend them a Kraftwerkesque aura, while Eduardo occasionally sang into a vocoder.

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Music Park: Paperhaus @ Black Cat — 12/9/14

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Paperhaus is a band in touch with its feelings.

And those feelings often manifest themselves in six-minute songs that project the majesty of a space or an idea — “Mountains are moving high against wide sky,” vocalist Eduardo Rivera sings by way of example on the very new “Untitled.”

In that way, Paperhaus often wear their prog-rock influences on their sleeve. The band’s ethereal and lengthy guitar riffs and often-mystical references certainly *smack* of King Crimson or early YES but its winning formula of two guitars, bass and drums and a love of jamming out feed their self-described psychedelia. Lyrically, Paperhaus explore topics like the joy of being alive or the pain of lost love.

The band debuted some new songs backstage at the Black Cat on Tuesday, Dec. 9, opening for Jamaican Queens. The kicked off with “Untitled,” a selection from their self-titled debut album set for release in February. “Untitled” seems to celebrate being alive with references to a bit of religion and a bit of nature, and the pleasant, ambling guitar work couples well with Eduardo’s airy, soft voice.

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Music Park: Paperhaus to Perform Kraftwerk @ U Street Music Hall, 12/14/14

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DC psychedelic band Paperhaus are set to perform the entire Kraftwerk album Trans Europe Express at U Street Music Hall on Sunday, Dec. 14.

Lead vocalist Alex Tebeleff took a few minutes out of a busy day today to tell ParkLifeDC how the show came about.

“We are doing Kraftwerk because we love their music!” Alex said. “It’s truly some of the most innovative, interesting, and beautiful music I can think of.

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Don’t Miss: Flying V’s Batman: The Long Halloween @ The Writer’s Center, Bethesda, Md., 12/8/14

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A local indie theater company tonight is hosting a staged reading of Batman: The Long Halloween—an inspired concept!

Flying V Theatre will host the reading of the 13-issue comic book series at The Writer’s Center (4508 Walsh St., Bethesda, Md.). It’s a good choice for comic book aficionados and novices alike. The story features a murder mystery that tours through the entire Batman rogues gallery from Joker to Catwoman to Poison Ivy to The Riddler and beyond, and it looks like Flying V has assembled an entertaining cast to tackle the story.

“Taking place during Batman’s early days of crime fighting, The Long Halloween tells the story of a mysterious killer named Holiday, who murders people on holidays, one each month. Working with District Attorney Harvey Dent and Captain James Gordon, Batman races against the calendar as he tries to discover who Holiday is before he claims his next victim each month, while attempting to stop the crime war between two of Gotham’s most powerful families, Maroni and Falcone,” according to Wikipedia.

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