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There’s not a lot about Northern Virginia now that reminds me of the way it was when I was growing up there in the ’70s. It’s wealthier and more refined and liberal. Democrats win every big race.
JVs is a link to the old Old Dominion, however.
Judging from the scene inside JV’s, a wondrous Falls Church honky tonk that’s only a few blocks from my boyhood home, you’d think the state was still redder than Six Flags’ financials. Another American flag or MIA placard hangs every few feet overhead. It’s no accident that bikers use the place as their Ground Zero during Rolling Thunder weekend.
If there’s a bar inside the Beltway with a more overtly conservative clientele, I haven’t been there.
I went to JV’s in 2003 to watch George W. Bush’s speech to the nation the night he started bombing Iraq. I figured it would give me insight into how the rest of the country felt, since everybody I knew downtown was against the invasion.
The bar was packed that night, and I remember seeing a guy from the neighborhood who’d I’d known for years raising his beer and yelling “Let’s kick some fucking ass!” when Bush finished talking. Everybody cheered.
So I went back to JV’s again tonight. I wanted to see how a bar whose regulars leaned as far to the right as any three-legged dog would do on a night when the mood around town was all about entertaining The Other Side.
The answer: Not real well.
The musical lineup JV’s management put out there was as old school as the bar itself: Tom Principato, Catfish Hodge, Tommy Lepson, Pete Ragusa and Steve Wolf were playing together as the January All-Stars. About 30 years ago, all the Stars were in separate DC bands that each got radio airplay and would have packed any Georgetown nightspot on the night before a holiday — Principato in Powerhouse, Wolf with Danny Gatton’s Redneck Jazz, Lepson in the Lazy Boys and Root Boy Slim, Ragusa in the Nighthawks, and Hodge fronting his own group.
But on this night, at its most crowded, I counted 16 paying customers in the whole place.
Sixteen! That’s about 20 percent as big as the bunch there whooping and hollering on the night of Bush’s speech.
“I don’t know why nobody’s here,” said Lepson.
But maybe the guy taking money at the door dressed in an official JV’s t-shirt with the slogan “Don’t Blame Me I Voted for McCain” on the back provided a clue.
In any case, the show was fabulous. I still say that when it comes to hearing the blues or watching a declaration of war, JV’s is the place to be.