Behind the Bar: November 2017
November 4, 2017 @ 12:00am
In a city as politically charged as DC, it makes sense for music to be a natural outlet for creative expression. Songs of contrasting styles and viewpoints help balance the federal government’s hold on the area, and bands relish the opportunity to give suits a reason to shed their boring three-piece for a graphic T-shirt and jeans meant for dancing. Want a drink or two before rocking out to your favorite band? Some venues have bars a flight of stairs away, while others are surrounded by watering holes. Here are three places to pregame before your next concert.
Owner, Five to One
On Tap: How did you become such an avid music lover?
Trevor Frye: I grew up with it. My stepdad used to have this amazing stereo system in our living room, and I would listen to everything from classic rock like The Doors to 80s rock. I was into Mötley Crüe, and probably things seven or eight-year-olds shouldn’t be listening to.
OT: What was it about music that inspired you to open Five to One?
TF: It was always something I wanted to do because I think that music and bars [are] two things that bring people together. I really fell in love with just putting some music on and trying to create cocktails around the vibe of the music.
OT: How are Five to One’s drinks different from what’s served at other bars?
TF: We don’t use any garnishes here. It keeps everything really clean, [and] it also keeps things very consistent. We also rotate our drinks almost every night [based on acts playing the 9:30 Club, which is less than 500 feet from Five to One]. We have a standard list of our house cocktails, “Originals,” and a small section of what we call “Covers,” which are from bartender friends all over the country.
OT: How does a preshow visit to Five to One enhance the 9:30 Club experience?
TF: If you come in before, you’re kind of starting your concert experience before that. If you come in after, you have something to relate it to. Hopefully if you come in before, while you’re at the show maybe some things click about the drinks, but really we just want to get people in the mindset to listen to good music.
Miller High Life and Bitters
Miller High Life
Five to One: 903 U St. NW, DC; www.fivetoonedc.com
Owner, Villain & Saint/RW Restaurant Group
On Tap: How did you come to open Villain & Saint?
Robert Wiedmaier: I opened this spot up [about two-and-half years ago]. I said, “Well, I’m not going to put a restaurant in there, but I’ll put in a small music venue.” So I ended up building this out and putting the sound system in. And we have live music here every night.
OT: How does Villain & Saint set itself apart from other venues in terms of how it treats the bands?
RW: I knew from being a chef and traveling the world that you aren’t always treated [well on the road]. We would show up to all of these hotels and restaurants, and no one would be there to help us carry our stuff. The same thing [happens] with the bands; no respect. I make sure that everybody that plays here, we help carry all of their stuff in, and we feed them well and take good care of them. There’s a green room downstairs.
OT: What do you like to do after work?
RW: One of my favorite things to do is, I leave Marcel’s around 9:30 or 10 [p.m.], and I drive down [to my house on the water]. I’ve got a big bonfire pit and an outdoor stage. We’ll have bands down there, and I’ll meet a bunch of people to drink bourbon around the firepit and listen to music all night long. It’s a blast.
Bourbon “On the Rock”
Two fingers of Angel’s Envy or 1792 Bourbon
Single large ice cube
Villain & Saint: 7141 Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD; www.villainandsaint.com
Co-owner and Talent Buyer, Rock & Roll Hotel
On Tap: What’s unique about Rock & Roll Hotel’s layout?
Steve Lambert: This place was created based on a lack of this size venue in the city. It opened in 2006 [and] is unique due to the fact that it has three floors and a rooftop deck, which is a rare thing to have in the entire country.
OT: Do the bands ever come up to the bar after a show?
SL: All the time. I would say almost 100 percent of the acts will come up here and hang out.
OT: What genres do you tend to pick when booking shows?
SL: We do all varieties. Last week we had Turnover, which is like indie rock/emo-indie rock, then [rap group] The Underachievers, then Andrew WK. Generally speaking, I’m pretty open to all varieties of music.
OT: How have the bands you’ve booked over the years changed?
SL: In the early [to mid] 2000s, there were a lot of bands that played here that are now f—ing huge, like Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, St. Vincent and The War on Drugs. It wasn’t like bam – sell out DC9. Bam – do a thousand tickets. Bam – do 10,000 tickets in 18 months. There was more of a gradual build. And technology changed a lot to reach more people.
OT: How is Rock & Roll Hotel different from other DC venues?
SL: It’s a lot different because it’s not just the show. There’s multiple floors to hang out on, and that’s a nice option to have.
(two beers, two shots)
Rock & Roll Hotel: 1353 H St. NE, DC; www.rockandrollhoteldc.com