Former Government Issue frontman John Stabb had practiced the line a hundred times, but he never thought he’d have the chance to use it. Then, last month, as he was being attacked, he did.
Stabb, born John Schroeder, is best known for his role as part of the first wave of D.C. punk bands to release their music on Dischord. He continued to play music long after G.I. broke up, in bands like Betty Blue and the Factory Incident. Now 46, he works at Glen Echo Hardware in Bethesda as a “jackass of all trades,” he says. “I went from hardcore to hardware,” he jokes.
To get home from work, he takes three buses and walks a short distance to his Burtonsville, Md., condo. At 10:30 p.m. on July 17, he was almost home when a bunch of kids approached him. “They just popped up,” he says of the five or six teenagers. He got punched by one, he says, which caused “buckets of blood” to pour out of his nose and the whole right side of his face to swell up.
Stabb tried to defend himself. He put on what he calls his “psycho face,” pulled out an X-Acto knife, and uttered the sentence he’d saved for just this kind of occasion.
“I said, ‘You ever have to beat the shit out of a bunch of dudes in lockup so you wouldn’t get raped?’”
Unfortunately—and perhaps unsurprisingly—Stabb’s line fell flat. His assailants came at him again. “Put the knife down, bitch,” he remembers one saying. He turned to run, but they knocked him down. Finally a car approached. Stabb ran toward it, he says, and the kids, who are still at large, scattered.
Stabb was rushed to Laurel Regional Hospital, where doctors tended to his wounds. He then went to Washington Hospital Center, where he underwent four-and-a-half hours of surgery for three facial fractures, two broken bones, and a broken nose. Stabb now has five metal plates in his head and a mouth full of braces. “I have more metal in me than Spinal Tap,” he says.
All that hardware came at a hefty price. Although his hospital stay was covered by his health insurance, his surgery wasn’t; Stabb estimates his bill will be several thousand dollars. His friends in the music world and beyond have been making donations and planning benefits on his behalf. On Aug. 10, the Velvet Lounge will host the John Stabb Benefit Show No. 1 featuring Dave Smalley, frontman of punk bands DYS, Dag Nasty, and Down by Law, along with newer bands Pup Tent, Lorelei, and the Saviours.
The benefit is being organized by Stabb’s friend and fellow musician Marc Ganancias, who will also perform. “We as musicians need to help each other out,” Ganancias says. Future benefits are tentatively planned at the Black Cat in September, as well as shows in California and Georgia, Stabb says.
Smalley says he jumped at the opportunity to help Stabb out. “I’ve been friends with John for so many years. We’ve both been wayward punk musicians,” he says. He calls G.I. “one of the most unique bands from the early D.C. punk scene,” a distinction he says is owed largely to Stabb’s writing. “John’s lyrics were always really deep and moving or really funny or both.”
Stabb says he expects the assault will make its way into the lyrics he writes for his new band, the Manchurian Garden Club, which includes Karl Hill and his wife, Aimee Soubier, both from the Factory Incident, Steve Hansgen of Minor Threat, and Bryon Bishop from the Sisters of Morrissey.
In the meantime, he says, he’s fighting night terrors and post-traumatic stress, and slurping on his liquid diet of burritos from the blender. Most of all, he’s overwhelmed by the outpouring of support he’s received from his friends. “Both my wife and I feel moved and blessed by the whole punk rock community. It’s basically brought us to tears every day,” Stabb says. “It’s not often that an avenging punk rock godfather gets his face rearranged for free.”
A New House for Warehouse?
The Warehouse Next Door, a home to D.C.’s punk, indie, and experimental music, is eyeing the former Bi-Rite supermarket space at 3400 11th St. NW, says co-owner Paul Ruppert. He and his mother, Molly Ruppert, have “signed a letter of intent” for the spot, he says, and they’re optimistic that, if all goes as hoped, Columbia Heights could soon be home to the Warehouse’s restaurant, bar, and live music venue. “It’s definitely not a done deal, but we’re excited,” Ruppert says.
In April, the Rupperts announced that, due to skyrocketing property taxes, they might be forced to close their 7th Street NW arts complex, which includes a cafe, theater, art space, as well as room for live music (Show & Tell, 4/27). Taxes for the properties (three buildings and a parking lot) jumped from $50,000 last year to $262,000 this year. Faced with the sharp increase, the Rupperts said they were searching for a more suitable location.
It looks like they may have found it. Ruppert says Columbia Heights would be a good fit for the Warehouse Next Door “because a lot of our customers live up there,” and it would be bigger, too. According to Ruppert, the 7th Street space was about 800 square feet, and the Bi-Rite is about 1,200.
While the Warehouse Next Door hosted its last official music show, featuring Negativland, Aug. 5, Ruppert says it isn’t completely closed just yet. The Warehouse is scheduled to participate in Sonic Circuits, D.C.’s experimental music festival, in September. Otherwise, he says, the former music space will be used for theater performances through the fall. Scena Theatre’s No Exit opens at the Warehouse Sept. 15. The complex will also host one of its long-running Art Romps on Sept. 7.
Cold Water on H2O
Troubles continue at H2O Restaurant & Lounge. In May, a patron at the nightspot was shot and killed after an altercation that allegedly began inside the club. Following the attack, Police Chief Cathy Lanier invoked her emergency powers to close the establishment. It remained closed for more than a week before the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board returned H2O’s liquor license on a provisional basis.
Now, H2O may close again. On Aug. 1, the ABC Board moved to suspend its liquor license for 13 days (to be served in September) for operation and consumption of alcohol after permissible hours, an alcohol administration official says.
According to its license, H2O must close by 3 a.m. on weekend nights. But on multiple occasions last summer, ABC investigators and police observed alcohol being consumed after the establishment’s official closing time. On July 23, 2006, patrons were still drinking alcohol around 4:30 a.m., one investigative report says. “We disputed that,” owner Abdul Khanu says. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Director Maria Delaney says the suspension means no alcohol can be served from Sept. 4–16, and the sanction comes with a $24,000 fine. Khanu says he’s not certain whether he’ll keep the establishment open during the September suspension.
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