And the winner of Little Steven’s Underground Garage Battle of the Bands is—too little, it turns out.

Having outperformed nine other local groups at the Black Cat on June 5, Springfield, Va.’s, the Nuclears rightfully earned a spot among the best damn unsigned garage bands in the land (Artifacts, 6/11). Or so it seemed.

In winning the D.C. contest—brought to you by E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt, WARW “The Arrow” 94.7 FM, and the hard-rockin’ Dunkin’ Donuts—the quartet was slated to compete on July 22 at New York’s Irving Plaza against finalists from eight other cities.

“We won!” the band triumphantly proclaimed on its Web site. “NYC here we come!”

But last week, Van Zandt’s company, Renegade Nation Productions, revoked the Nukes’ victory—and their upcoming trip to NYC. Oh, and the $6,000 worth of new instruments and amplifiers the band would have received, too. Instead, Renegade announced, runners-up the Five Maseratis and the Beatnik Flies will represent D.C. at the finals.

Why? After all, battle judges had given the Nukes high marks for their energized onstage presence. “Their youthful energy,” noted contest promoter Andrew Courtney, “is really what put them over the top.”

And pulled them down: To explain the sudden disqualification, organizers cited a contest rule that declares, “All band members must be 18 years or older.”

Nukes’ guitarist Mike Dudolevitch, organizers found out, is only 16—a fact the band had failed to mention when signing the contest’s entry form, which clearly states the age requirement.

“I feel 18,” the young strummer says in his defense.

The group—which otherwise includes the old-enough Robert “Atom” Sproles, 19, on bass; drummer Joe Kozlowski, 18; and Mike’s elder brother, Brian Dudolevitch, 18, on guitar and lead vocals—knew going in that Mike’s age could be a problem. So the bandmates tried to keep it under wraps. “We were very well-rehearsed going into this,” says Brian.

Unfortunately, somebody let it slip—on camera: A video crew filming the contest recorded the Nukes joking about underage sex, which roused organizers’ suspicions. A call to the Dudolevitch home confirmed the age discrepancy.

“In all respect to the band, they got pretty damn far,” notes Courtney. “They won….They just let it slip.” Otherwise, he admits, “We would’ve never known.”

Despite their victory snub, the Nukes are now gearing up for another battle of the bands at hometown venue Jaxx Nightclub on June 29. “It’s all-ages,” the older Dudolevitch notes. “We checked.”

MISSINGFORMATION

Have you seen this put-on? Taped to a light pole near the corner of 16th and Q Streets NW, a photocopied photograph depicts the ghostly image of a white male in his early 20s sitting in a Metro car. His image is transparent, as if the young man is disappearing into thin air.

“Missing,” the flier reads. “Nathan B. Anning…Last seen on 2/24/04 riding the Green Line en route to Greenbelt, is said to have dissapeared [sic] around 2:30 p.m.”

But check the FBI National Crime Information Center’s missing-

persons list: Anning isn’t there—probably because he doesn’t exist.

The fliers are just a hoax—make that an art project—perpetrated by 23-year-old Columbia Heights artist Noah Angell. “It’s a photograph of me,” Angell admits. “Nathan B. Anning is a variation on my own name.”

And Anning’s phantom image didn’t come from the Green Line, either. “It was actually taken on the Blue Line out by Franconia-Springfield,” Angell says. “A timed exposure,” he explains, lent the picture its ghostly look. “Say it’s a three-second exposure. I’d sit there for about a second and a half, then jump out of the frame as fast as I could. That’s how you get that effect.”

Since March, Angell has been posting the phony missing-person fliers along D.C. streets as part of “an experiment”: “I was curious,” he says, “if people would see the posters, see me, and make the connection.”

Public response, however, has been rather nonconnective. “A lot of times, while I was posting them, people would come up and start reading them over my shoulder, not really recognizing that I was that guy,” Angell says.

And calls to Angell’s voice-mail number, which is printed on the fliers, have offered little, if any, feedback. So far: No reported sightings. Most callers, in fact, say nothing.

“I hear a lot of street noise,” he says. “Or somebody talking to their friend for a second then hanging up. I think most people are just curious enough to call but just skeptical enough not to say anything.”

Indeed, the most substantive response to Angell’s project comes from advocacy groups concerned with actual missing-persons cases. “We really don’t want anything diluting the impact of real missing-persons fliers,” says Tina Schwartz, spokesperson for Alexandria’s National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “Pictures are the No. 1 tool in recovering missing children,” she says. “I’d hate to see something like this hinder their effectiveness.”

Kym Pasqualini, president of the National Center for Missing Adults in Phoenix, agrees. “Something like this, it could potentially desensitize the public,” she says. “And we need the public’s help. It’s vital to us solving cases.”

Angell argues that his image is too phony-looking to take seriously. “It seems somehow unbelievable,” he says, “that you’d have a picture of the person as they’re quote-unquote ‘disappearing.’ I’m sure some people are curious, and some people might think it’s legit, but it’s altogether a little too curious to really trust.”

Schwartz disagrees: “I don’t think that everyone would distinguish this as art,” she says. “There might be a better venue for fliers like this—like a gallery.”

TRYING TO FIT IN

Officials in the eco-friendly suburb of Takoma Park, Md., view the sidewalk along Carroll Avenue from Philadelphia Avenue to the D.C. line as a rather “unpleasant and unsafe” stretch of streetscape—“especially on the southeast side of the street,” according to the city’s Web site.

So this summer, Takoma intends to clean up the sidewalk environment: In addition to specifying refurbishment of the concrete walkway, the addition of trees and shrubs, and the installation of new lighting fixtures and those ever-alluring bollards, the improvement plan further calls for adding some public art—even if it is particularly odd-shaped.

On May 7, the city issued a request for proposals, offering $10,000 to put the best sidewalk-art idea into action. But given the available space—described as “a slightly undulating 6-inch ribbon or strip, 800-feet in length” that must remain “flush with the surface of the sidewalk to avoid the creation of tripping hazard”—there wasn’t a whole lot of room for creativity to flow.

One month later, at the June 8 submission deadline, the project had generated only three proposals—all of which are for mosaics.

“They’re kind of fun,” says Sara Daines, Takoma Park’s director of housing and community development, effortlessly curbing her enthusiasm. “One,” she says, “looks like a stained-glass window.” Another artist, she says, proposed “a sort of geometric ribbon” of colored tiles, with insets of found objects from the street.

What, no scrolling ode to the Takoma Park Nuclear-Free Zone Act? No Silent Spring walk dedicated to Rachel Carson?

No—and Daines blames the idea deficit on the project’s spatial constraints. “One of the challenges with this particular strip of the street is that it’s a tiny little sidewalk with a lot of traffic,” she says. Even with abutting-property owners donating some frontage, there’s still only so much room for the artwork.

“It’s snaky and it’s skinny,” says Daines of the site, noting that no artist proposed capitalizing on its obviously serpentine qualities.

So allow us: How ’bout an 800-foot-long, 6-inch-wide electric-Kool-Aid-kolored tribute to Maryland’s endangered rainbow snake? That’s sure to be fun for artists and Takoma Parkers alike. Or is it too much of tripping hazard? —Chris Shott

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