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On the wall at the far end of the pool table, above a cockeyed needlepoint of a scene from the Middle East, is an empty expanse of wall where the Argonaut’s 61-inch, $7,000 flat-screen plasma TV once hung. S&T stared at the blank wall and thought of the empty frames where the Rembrandts used to hang in Boston’s Gardner Museum. Lucky for the Argo, TVs are more replaceable than Rembrandts.
The Argonaut—the first of D.C.-bar impresario Joe Englert’s slew of joints to open on H Street NE—had dodged crime along the dicey corridor since opening its doors last August. But according to bartender Scott Magnuson, the luck broke when he walked into work June 23. Someone had thrown a brick through the window, wedged through the 6-inch slot between the window grates and the wall, and made off with nothing more, nothing less than the Argonaut’s high-priced centerpiece.
Following news of the break-in, a neighborhood message board buzzed with indignation. “Long live the Argo!” wrote one poster.
A little indignation proved the perfect excuse for a party. The Sunday after the break-in, Argonaut staff threw a “Can’t Bring Down the Argo” bash, at which the bar’s fans raised their half-downed ales and clenched fists in defiance of, well, many things.
The TV was just the proverbial straw. The bar has also been butting heads with the District over the Argonaut’s outdoor patio. According to Magnuson, the revamping of H Street means the District is particularly persnickety about the image it wants to cultivate along the strip.
Crusading for the cause of solidarity with brother bars strengthened the revelers’ resolve at the Argo. Magnuson says that the Argonaut wanted to show the two other Englert-owned bars that just opened along the H Street strip (Showbar Presents the Palace of Wonders and the Red and the Black) that regardless of crime and spotty public transportation, the area is rising.
Englert, the mind behind DC9, Capitol Lounge, and the Pour House, announced plans last year to open eight bars on H Street, thereby creating his very own nightclub district in an area ripe for revitalization (“Englertrification,” 8/5/05). Five more of Englert’s watering holes are opening in the area in the coming weeks and months.
Go-go wouldn’t be go-go without Rare Essence. The band has been together since its members were kids in the ’70s and was mentored by the genre’s godfather, Chuck Brown.
So why, then, is Rare Essence absent from a new go-go-themed calendar that’s now getting distributed by the Go-Go Coalition? The 18-month calendar, which had been in the planning stages since March and hit D.C.’s counters at the beginning of July, marks a promotional milestone for go-go. According to the coalition, it’s the first time go-go bands have organized themselves to produce a promo more sophisticated than concert fliers.
“Welcome to the future, the future of Go-Go. It is here and it is now,” writes the coalition’s chair, Moe Shorter, in his introductory note to the calendar.
The pages of the calendar feature promotional shots of bands, candids of go-go insiders hanging out during off-hours, and contact info for 18 local go-go bands. There are shots of S.O.S. at a park, L!ssen Da Grew^p playing pool, Fatal Attraction lounging around a white Cadillac, and Unseen Band at church. But no info on Rare Essence. The omission got people talking on the online magazine Take Me Out to the Go-Go (tmottgogo.com): Where is Rare Essence? “They declined,” was the only explanation offered by Go-Go Coalition treasurer Bobbie Westmoreland.
Did the band not get the month it asked for? A postscript to Shorter’s online note announcing the calendar may signal a dispute. “If your picture was excluded, it was done, on purpose,” the note says. “The purpose being, you didn’t believe enough in your self to do something for your self.”
According to go-go insiders, the Rare Essence no-show was no snub. It was the band’s decision to sit this one out—regardless of what Shorter’s postscript might imply. Rare Essence guitarist Andre Johnson says simply, “We didn’t have a decent picture…so we didn’t want to submit. Of course, we want to be included in [the calendar], but we’ll just get in on whatever the next project is.”
The band members were working day jobs and spending any free time in the studio, so they didn’t have time for Kodak moments, explains Johnson. Deadlines are deadlines, and the calendar had to go to press.
As for the P.S., Westmoreland says it was Shorter’s way of covering the coalition’s ass from incoming fire. She says the note translates as, “We didn’t intentionally leave anyone out; they just didn’t get us their picture.”
Westmoreland also points out that the go-go luminaries of E.U. (famous for its 1988 hit “Da Butt”) aren’t included in the calendar, either. Their excuse? No free time. In fact, she says, because this calendar is unprecedented, nearly all of the bands to which the coalition reached out had to scramble for their glamour shots. Only four of the 18 bands in the calendar had photos at the ready to pass on for reprint. The rest of the pictures had to be scheduled and taken, which was simple for some bands, like herding cats for others.
“It was a learning experience,” Westmoreland says.
Return to the Source
Looks like the quality of mercy may just be shown to Source Theatre building. It was just mid-June when the venue lay on its deathbed (prognosis: debtitis), but now it looks as if it could rally. At least one proposal to whisk the building out from under the poised sledgehammers of Bedrock Management Co. will indeed materialize by the July 13 deadline (“Source of Contention,” 6/30).
According to Anne Corbett, executive director of the arts real-estate development company Cultural Development Corporation (CuDC), the people hoping to save the theater have joined forces, with Corbett’s group taking charge.
Corbett has been talking with her lawyers about the possibility of her board taking over for Source’s board and to her banker about a mortgage based on the value of the property. She has also been chatting up architects and contractors and says progress is looking good.
Bedrock, for its part, is A-OK with this latest development in the Source saga.
“We like the arts. We like theater. We’re not about trying to shut down a theater,” says Bedrock Chief Operating Officer Curt Large. “We love the location, and we love the building…but if some other theater group wants to assume our contract [with Source’s board], we’ll step back and allow that to happen. If there is another solution, we’re willing to be a part of that.”
He added that should CuDC’s proposal be accepted, Bedrock will continue its hunt for spaces in the U Street and 14th Street NW neighborhood, even though square footage ’round those parts is notoriously hard to come by. Bedrock hasn’t opened one of its pool halls in the District since 1999; in the meantime, it has opened four in Virginia.
Peggy O’Brien, the president of Source’s board, is also happy to hear news of a proposal in the works.
“It feels good for people to be working in the same direction and not spending a lot of energy working against each other,” she says. “Whatever happens, it will surely be for the best, and that makes everybody feel good. It seems like the tectonic plates have shifted a little bit.”—Nell Boeschenstein
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