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The Half Stack EP
In 2015, Jim Spellman, best known as a drummer with ‘90s indie-pop band Velocity Girl, put together a part-time band made up of fellow veterans from the D.C. punk scene. This local supergroup includes Spellman on guitar and backing vocals, Bill Barbot from Jawbox on lead vocals and guitar, Brian Baker from Minor Threat and Bad Religion on bass, and Pete Moffett from Government Issue and Burning Airlines on drums. In 2019, the group, Foxhall Stacks, released their first recordings, a two-song cassette followed later by an album. Not hardcore, twee pop, or post-punk, the four-piece instead mixes ’70s power-pop and hard rock with Oasis at their most arena rock. Now, they’re back with the four-song The Half Stack EP, and they’re donating 50 percent of the proceeds to We Are Family DC, an organization that delivers groceries and other supplies to senior citizens. The group sounds best at their most tuneful—think songs you can harmonize along to on your couch in quarantine while playing air guitar. Opening cut “Danish Movies” has a Cheap-Trick-meets-Big-Star-meets-Sloan melodic chorus and great “woo-hoo” backing harmonies. Alas, it also has some formulaic guitar leads. “Surround” recalls Fountains of Wayne with its hummable vocal melody and straightforward guitar lines. Instrumental “Flanger on the Hi-Hat” calls to mind early ’80s Van Halen at their most pop-metal, while closer “#1 Sounds” brings up memories of the cover of Big Star’s “In the Street” that serves as the That 70’s Show theme song. The Half Stack EP is available on Bandcamp. $4. —Steve Kiviat
Recordings from The Cellar Door’s golden era
In mid-December 1970, local concertgoers had lots of choices for a night’s entertainment: Beryl Middleton, born in Leeds, England, but relocated to the D.C. area, was performing her smoky lounge stylings at Ray Walters’ The Stable on P Street NW in Dupont Circle. The Cardinalaires, a vocal group made up out of Catholic University students and grads, sang Christmas songs at the Shoreham Hotel. But the adventurous explorer headed further west to 34th and M Streets NW. Today it’s a Starbucks—what else would it be?—but from 1965 to 1981, this was the site of The Cellar Door, a 163-seat club that hosted some of the most famous performers of an era that, as hard as it may be to imagine at this date, made Georgetown a hotbed of counterculture. On December 16, 1970, Miles Davis, riding on the March release of his explosive Bitches Brew, set up shop for a six-night stand at the intimate venue, in an engagement that led to the two-album release Live-Evil and the six-disc set The Cellar Door Sessions 1970. But that’s not the only music you can hear from The Cellar Door’s golden era. In 2013, Neil Young released an album culled from his own six-night engagement, which had ended just a few weeks before Davis’ sets. And artists from singer-songwriter Richie Havens to Bethesda bluegrass favorites The Seldom Scene recorded live albums at the club. We don’t know when the region’s music venues will reopen, but we can spend hours steeped in the documents recorded at one of the city’s most fabled stages, not far from the Exorcist steps in a neighborhood that’s now nationally known for overrated cupcakes. Additionally, the club marked a very different milestone just a few weeks after Davis packed up. The group Fat City opened up for a rising folk star who helped members Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert finish a song they’d been working on. That newcomer was John Denver, and the song was “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Live albums from the period are available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube. Free. —Pat Padua