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The band Barkitechture literally crashed onto D.C.’s music scene a couple of months ago. After a fight in May led to the band’s bassist, Britton Powell, tossing a bar staffer through a window, the Arlington-based group has found itself barred from several prominent D.C. venues.
The incident happened when Barkitechture—comprised of Powell, Benjamin Daly, and Wilson Kemp—played the Red & the Black at 1212 H St. NE. Powell and Daly are 19; Kemp is 20. The tavern and music venue doesn’t allow all-ages shows, but it does permit bands whose members are underage to play. “It’s unfortunately a financial decision,” club co-owner Bill Spieler says of the ban on all-ages shows. “We would need to staff with at least two, three extra security,” he says. Why? “To make sure that none of the patrons who are underage would be drinking,” he says.
Still, if an underage band is good enough, the Red & the Black will give them a chance. Steve Lambert, who also books DC9 and the Rock & Roll Hotel, says he was drawn to Barkitechture’s experimental sound. In fact, he says, he liked them so much that in addition to booking them for the May 17 show at the Red & the Black, he penciled them as openers for Marnie Stern at the Rock & Roll Hotel on July 24. Lambert says that the gig at the Red & the Black was a sort of dress rehearsal for the larger space.
It didn’t go well. From the minute Barkitechture’s members walked into the Red & the Black that night, they felt uncomfortable, Powell says, as if every move they made was being monitored. When Powell asked for water, he says, he was told to give the glass back as soon as he was finished. The band also received a speech from the staff about exit procedures. “They told us to leave the second we were done playing,” Kemp says.
But according to manager Corinne Meier, she was just explaining the rules so Barkitechture’s set would be problem-free. She says she told them that “if a bottle drops at your feet, don’t even pick it up” because if they did grab it, they’d immediately have to vacate the premises. That’s just the way it works, she says. “This is our license.”
After her speech to the band, Meier took her post at the bar, where she learned that an underage girl had tried to get in. It was Powell’s girlfriend, and she was trying to see the show. Meier asked her to leave, and Powell’s girlfriend, 20, went outside. Then a friend of the couple, Anthony Morley, also underage, showed up. He says Powell’s girlfriend, who was crying on the curb, reported that she’d been kicked out. “I was like, ‘Oh, that sucks, because I’m not 21 either,’ ” but he suggested they go in anyway, “which I admit wasn’t the best idea,” he says. Meier spotted them immediately, escorted them outside, and chastised them. The discussion got heated, Morley says. “They were screaming,” Meier says.
Powell got wind of the argument. He heard his girlfriend had been pushed, he says, and “my temperature started rising.” (Meier says she never laid a finger on the young woman.) Powell rushed outside and within moments, Powell says, he was pushed by an employee from a nearby bar, a claim the staffer, who asked not to be named, denies. According to the police report about the incident, the staffer “attempted to separate two people” after Powell’s girlfriend and Morley were refused entrance. However the fight started, Powell says, “I ended up throwing him through a window.”
The window belonged to Stacie Navarro-Joaquin, the owner of Stella Bleu, a clothing store and salon at 1208 H St. NE. She was upstairs when she heard her window shatter. “He didn’t actually come clear through,” Navarro-Joaquin says. A mannequin seemed to break his fall. (According to the police report, he had cuts on his right arm and forehead but refused medical treatment.) The window cost about $350 to repair, she says. Joe Englert, co-owner of the Red & the Black, picked up the tab.
Powell says he’s still processing the shock of the incident. “I’ve been underage my whole life, and nothing like this has ever happened.” He’ll never play the venue again, he says.
That’s for sure, says Lambert, and the same goes for the Rock & Roll Hotel and DC9. Lambert says he was so disturbed by Powell’s behavior that he’s banned Barkitechture from all the clubs he books. What’s more, he called Dante Ferrando, owner of the Black Cat, and told him about the incident. “Everyone is interconnected,” Lambert says. Mess up once, he says, and “you’ve just burned a bridge with the whole city.”
Ferrando says he would “definitely be hesitant” before booking Barkitechture at the Black Cat after hearing from Lambert. Blacklisting bands is rare, he says, but it does happen every once in a while. “If any of the clubs have any really bad problems of any sort…word gets out, even among clubs that would ordinarily compete,” Ferrando says. He only remembers one situation, when a bandmember stole beer from the club’s walk-in refrigerator, that caused him to sound the alarm and warn other venues. But bands who steal, fight, or intentionally damage equipment are all candidates for being banned, he says, adding, “most bands do stupid things, but they’re not like that.”
Lambert says he put approximately 25 bands on his do-not-book list over the course of the last year, although his criteria are a little different from Ferrando’s. What gets you banned from the Rock & Roll Hotel, DC9, and the Red & the Black? Bringing alcohol into the building, disrespecting venue staff, and grossly overestimating a crowd, he says. Do that, he says, and “you’ll never, ever play another one of my shows.”