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Image: Courtesy of Records Collecting Dust
Image: Courtesy of Records Collecting Dust

Records Collecting Dust Sheds Light on Artists From Forgotten Era

Part of the appeal to old metal and punk records is the DIY attitude those bands put into recording the music. Instead of sounding pitch perfect and fresh out of a studio, these tracks could have been blaring live from a nearby garage, and that appeal is part of the authentic edginess.

Jason Blackmore is an integral part of this scene on the West Coast. When searching for a new project to deep dive into a few years ago, he resisted the notion of starting another band from scratch, and instead looked toward the past for inspiration. Though he had zero experience in film making, he embarked on a journey to document pieces of an era that helped shape him into a man. The result was the well received Records Collecting Dust, a collection of interviews with greats from the 1980s hardcore punk scene from the West Coast.

For Part II, Blackmore shifted regional focus and ventured east, highlighting Boston, New York and DC. Tonight at Black Cat, the film will be shown in the District for the first time, and it features 28 interviews with legends of the genre such as Ian MacKaye of Fugazi.

Tonight’s screening will also feature a Q&A with Dave Smalley, Dante Ferrando and Mark Haggerty. Before the play button is pressed, we got a chance to speak with Blackmore about his passion for the project, his DIY filmmaking and whether another one is on the horizon.

On Tap: When did you decide you wanted to make this documentary? And why did you focus on this specific genre of music?
Jason Blackmore: I’ve played in bands since the 80s, and was looking for a different avenue to express myself through music and came up with the film. I figured being located in San Diego, with almost no budget, it was a good place to start. There are a lot of folks from the Southern California area in the punk rock scene. My primary focus was always the 80s hardcore scene.

Yeah, in the future I could see myself covering different genres of music. I’m 48, so the hard core punk rock scene is very significant to me because it was the soundtrack to my adolescence and a lot of things happen when you’re 13, 14, 15. The people I’m talking to changed my life, and it’s my tip of the cap and love letter to those people.

OT: How did you know who you wanted to speak with, and what were some of the first steps with getting in touch with everyone?
JB: With the first film, I already knew some of the people just because of my history in music, and me living in San Diego. At that point in time, I had casually met a lot of the people, and became acquaintances and friends with some of these guys. Naturally, by the time I got to this one, some of the people had seen the first film and were eager to get on board and do an interview for the film, because they were aware of it.

OT: What was the response when you reached out?
JB: Oh yeah, it was great, absolutely. Just bringing up the topic of music, they were more than happy to talk about it, just music. By the time I got to the new one, people were thanking me because people were beginning to forget about this era. I had people thank me for making the film and documenting a period of time being lost; it’s a time capsule sort of thing. Maybe in 30-40 years, some people will see this film and learn something from it.

OT: Do you ever get intimidated talking to these musicians you respect so much?
JB: Honestly, you know, I’m more excited. It’s a little selfish, because I get to sit in these guys’ living rooms and talk about music and records. Who wouldn’t be excited? But yeah, there was a little nervousness at first. I was very honored to speak with all the people I could, and the fact that they opened the doors and allowed me in, I was very honored.  

OT: How many hours of footage did you have to sort through, and how difficult was it to figure out how you would shape the narrative?
JB: The first film was my first film ever and I have no background or education in this kind of thing. If you want to do something, do it, figure it out and go. So the first film was a learning process, and I asked too many questions and had so much footage and it was very painful. I asked 12 questions for the first film and I could only use half of them. For this film I asked less, and interviewed less, so I learned.

OT: Were there any huge differences from making the first and second film?
JB: Not especially. A lot of the people in that age range are speak of the same influences. A lot of Rolling Stones and Beatles, and that kind of stuff. Those bands are talked about a lot, so there are some recurring themes, but I definitely learned how to be more focused and ask less. I interviewed 28 people for the new film, down from 38 in the first. I learned the hard way, because we could have made an eight-hour film for the first one, but who’s going to watch that?

OT: Why decide to make a bonafide documentary, why not a web series or something along those lines?
JB: There’s all these different approaches to it, and it’s probably my age, because instead of making this an online series it seemed more official and more genuine to make a full documentary film. When you make an album, you put a lot of soul and passion into it, and that’s how I felt about making this film. To me, that is more real than watching something on your phone for five minutes. That’s the reason I’m booking in theaters. It will be available online, but for me growing up in the 70s and 80s, you’d go to the theater and see a film and I like that.

OT: Is there a part three on the horizon?
JB: Yeah, Part III would be the Midwest, but this has been the past six years of my life and I definitely want to hang out with my wife and not make a film at the moment. It’s very time-consuming. We’ll see what happens.

Doors for the event open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the screening are available here. For more information about the film, check out the website.

Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4527; www.blackcatdc.com

Photo: Courtesy of Wentworth Galleries
Photo: Courtesy of Wentworth Galleries

KISS Guitarist Paul Stanley Shows Artistic Flair

Members of the KISS Army know singer and guitarist Paul Stanley designed the iconic logo that has represented the rock band since the early 70s before rising to prominence and selling more than 100 million records worldwide.

But what many might not realize is the legendary rocker behind such hits as “God of Thunder,” “Love Gun” and “Detroit Rock City” is just as comfortable with a paintbrush as he is with a Washburn guitar.

“I started painting about 18 years ago,” Stanley says. “It really started out as a stream of consciousness and a way to purge while I was going through a tumultuous time in my life. I never planned on showing any of my work. It was for myself.”

Inevitably, friends and family would pop over to his house and ask about the artwork, not realizing that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was the master behind them.

“It was about 15 years ago when a gallery owner first asked me to exhibit, and I was pretty leery of it because I never had that in mind,” he says. “Curiosity got the best of me, and low and behold, people were taking some of my pieces home. I was surprised and thrilled.”

There was so much love for his artwork that Stanley decided to put it on display more regularly. This month, his work will be showcased at the Wentworth Gallery’s two DC area locations: Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda on September 14 and Tysons Galleria on September 15.

“These are works from my entire career. It’s interesting to see the journey, so to speak. I’ve always made the rule with painting – just like everything in my life – that there are no rules. I paint from the heart and the soul.”

His collection includes paintings, mixed media, limited edition prints and hand-painted acrylic sculptures at a wide range of price points.

“I’ve had no schooling and I’m really not interested in the intricacies of documenting what I see. I’m more interested in creating an impression and letting the viewer see what they do. The one thing that all my work has [in common] is an abundance of color. I believe the more color, the more you are designing who you are and how you see the world.”

The Starchild – Stanley’s KISS persona – understands that many of those interested in his art are fans of the band, and he expects a great deal of KISS Army members to attend. But he’s also attracting those in the art world and establishing himself as something of a critical darling.

“I would be foolish to claim that KISS fans won’t come, and I welcome that and want that,” he says. “Still, the larger pieces ultimately are being acquired by collectors and many know nothing about KISS or don’t like KISS. I’m thrilled to see a piece go from the gallery to someone’s wall.”

The top collectors of Stanley’s art will have a chance to join him for dinner after each gallery show.

Paul Stanley will be exhibiting his art at Wentworth Gallery in Westfield Montgomery Mall (7101 Democracy Blvd. Bethesda, MD) from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, September 14 and from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, September 15 at Wentworth Gallery Tysons Galleria (1807 U. International Dr. McLean, VA).

Admission is free, but RSVPs are highly suggested due to the expected large turnout.

For more information and pricing inquiries, visit www.wentworthgallery.com. To learn more about Stanley’s art, visit www.paulstanley.com/artwork.

Photos: Trent Johnson
Photos: Trent Johnson

From Freshman Foodie to Instagram Influencer: @dcfoodporn’s Justin Schuble

It definitely feels a little meta to watch On Tap’s assistant editor Trent Johnson take photos of @dcfoodporn’s Justin Schuble taking photos of Brothers and Sisters Pastry Chef Pichet Ong’s ornate The London cake at the LINE Hotel. This feeling is only intensified by the fact that our subject is on the stairs by the LINE’s iconic, off-kilter mirror – perhaps one of DC’s most Instaworthy spots to date – so there’s two camera-wielding Schubles and two mouthwatering, crepe-stacked cakes in every photo.

All self-referential insights aside, we decided to meet up with DC’s most successful food Instagrammer – with 246,000 followers and counting – at his location of choice so we could see him in action. The LINE has been high on his wish list for some time, so we pop down to the impossibly trendy AdMo hotel one afternoon in August to pick the 23-year-old’s brain about how he turned his college hobby into a booming millennial business.

The Instagram influencer is soft-spoken and thoughtful, an adept multitasker who is constantly searching the room for the best angles while still giving us his full attention. He approaches food photography – and his entire @dcfoodporn brand – as a curated experience, bringing an artistic element to every shoot. A steady stream of decadent desserts keeps coming from Erik Bruner-Yang’s kitchen, the final one in the hands of the pastry chef himself, who chats with us for a few about photography on the LINE’s front steps.

Schuble moves deliberately during the shoot, selecting a new location in the hotel’s lobby for each dessert and experimenting with countless angles. When he is sure he has enough options, we sink into two oversized armchairs and begin to talk shop – from his creative process for keeping his content engaging to how he grew his account from 100 followers as a Georgetown freshman to hundreds of thousands of followers as the owner of a profitable business.

BEFORE THERE WAS @DCFOODPORN, there was @freshman_foodie. After growing up in a Potomac, Maryland household that rarely ate at home – save for takeout – and with zero interest in subsisting solely off of Georgetown’s dining hall options, it made perfect sense to Schuble to eat out a lot. And as millennials often do, he began snapping photos of his food and posting them to his personal Instagram account.

Countless food posts later, he created the @freshman_foodie handle and a food-only account. By the end of the year, he had 100 followers and decided to rebrand with his current handle, which has now been used as a hashtag on Instagram in almost 272,000 posts.

The business school student bought a camera that summer and taught himself some photography basics, like how to manipulate lighting. He remains a self-taught photographer even now, crediting his natural eye for knowing what elements need to come together in a successful post.

Schuble has experienced steady growth since launching @dcfoodporn, reaching the 10,000-follower mark within a year. As his account became more popular, his plans to pursue a career in finance or marketing – real estate and working on Wall Street were among his considered paths – began to dwindle until he decided to try the Instagram influencer lifestyle out for one year. Fast forward to a little over a year later, and he’s running a successful media company through the @dcfoodporn brand.

“It is crazy,” he says of his rapid rise to local fame. “I think I got really lucky with timing. I was lucky that I got to experiment with this in college. That really allowed me to let the passion drive the account and its growth. I was set up for success because I had the flexibility to do things that maybe weren’t going to work, and there was no financial pressure because I was in school.”

But now that he’s in the real world – Bethesda, to be exact – he defines success by a new set of metrics that includes being able to answer questions like, “Can I pay my rent?” in the affirmative.

It wasn’t until brands began courting Schuble that he realized @dcfoodporn was a potentially viable business. Sweetgreen was one of the first to reach out soon after the 10,000-follower benchmark, a geek out moment for him since the chain was started by three Georgetown business students. As more brands hired him for projects, he became more selective and set a standard rate for his services.

“A lot of what I’m doing recently is paid work with brands. They’ll send me a product, and I’ll have to shoot it and do all of the creative and figure out the style and what I want to pair it with, which I love. I think that’s more fun than going to a restaurant where the chef does all the creative work and I just have to do my best to make it look good.”

A National Tequila Day-themed post with a bottle of Jose Cuervo nestled among fresh avocado halves and tortilla chips, a Potbelly Free Shake Friday promo filled with neatly stacked Oreos surrounding an Oreo milkshake, and a drool-worthy picnic shot for Voss water are among his recent brand projects.

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WHILE SCHUBLE LOVES TRYING his hand at art direction for brands, a huge percentage of his feed is still devoted to the local food scene.

“It’s always different. Everything about what I do is different. There’s no typical day and no typical photo shoot, which keeps it fun. I love that.”

Whether the visit is planned or impromptu, he says he always asks to be seated by a window with natural lighting. He inquires about the best items on the menu – although he usually researches options in advance – and proceeds to order both what he wants to photograph and what he wants to actually eat. This of course begs the question: how much of what he photographs does he consume?

“I’m actually very healthy, so I don’t necessarily eat every single cake or whatever it is that I post,” he says. “I do prioritize my health. If I can bring someone along with me to help eat the food and be an extra set of hands, that’s always great. I’ll usually take a couple hundred photos at each restaurant. Then I’ll eat a little bit, pack up a ton of leftovers and bring them with me.”

When he’s not saving a ton of money on groceries and eating like a king from his couch, Schuble strikes a balance between promoting hip spots he likes and maintaining a visual aesthetic. He often has to make a Sophie’s Choice between a dish that photographs beautifully but is lackluster in comparison to an unphotogenic plate of nosh that piques his palate. Another crossroads he frequently encounters is whether or not to post about an amazing spot where the food is off the charts but doesn’t have Instaworthy presentation, or the interior is void of any decent lighting options.

It’s evident he takes the role of accurately representing DC’s food scene very seriously, and as a fellow local who has watched the District transform into a burgeoning foodie city, I truly appreciate that. He makes an excellent point that while the DMV has long been home to a myriad of authentic ethnic cuisines, the ambiance was often less than optimal for foodies back in the day. But with a trendier, more millennial-driven food scene on the rise, ethnic flavors are becoming more approachable as they’re being presented in hipper locales.

“I think it’s a lot easier now for people to be exposed to so many different things while still staying in their comfort zone. I also think it’s great that people in other cities actually see DC as a real food scene. It’s been cool to grow @dcfoodporn during that same time that DC has grown. When I started, my list of places to check out was not nearly as long as it is now just because every day, something new is popping up.”

ULTIMATELY, Schuble wants locals to recognize his brand. He’s proud of his DC following, and even notes that someone recognized him in the LINE’s lobby while he was waiting for our interview and asked if he was “that

@dcfoodporn guy.” On the flipside, he says he never takes advantage of that recognition when stumbling upon a new spot; instead, he prefers to fly under the radar as a paying customer.

When we start chatting about the road ahead, he says he’d love to reach a million followers.

“I think it’s nice to have huge goals that you can strive for. And if you don’t get there, don’t beat yourself up.”

In the meantime, he’s been expanding his brand to include more lifestyle and travel content.

“I posted a photo at the airport the other day and it got more likes than any of my food photos this week. I think people are hungry for different types of content and for me, it’s about playing around with that and figuring out what people want to see, what I want to post and how it relates to @dcfoodporn. How can I elevate the brand?”

As for how long he wants to stay on the influencer career track, that’s TBD. While he loves having a profitable outlet for his creative side and enjoys the perks of frequent travel and friendships formed with other media personalities, he’s also realistic about the burnout rate of this type of gig and says that at some point, it’d be nice to settle down and keep a normal schedule. He’s even toying with the idea of starting another media company – something related to food, but the next step.

“I do love the food scene, but for me it’s more about full experiences and being creative. I think food lends itself to that, but there are other areas I’d be interested in.”

For now, Schuble is committed to growing the @dcfoodporn brand, even leading social media workshops around the DC area to teach local Instagrammers how to tell their stories in a more engaging way. Don’t miss his next class at Rosslyn-based pop-up The Alcove (19th and N. Moore Streets) on Wednesday, September 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Learn more at www.rosslynva.org/pop-up.

If you aren’t already following @dcfoodporn on Instagram, you should be. Learn more about Schuble and his media company at www.dcfoodporn.com.

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Photo: Courtesy of Terry Fator
Photo: Courtesy of Terry Fator

America’s Got Talent Winner Terry Fator Brings Winston and Friends Nat Harbor

As the winner of the second season of America’s Got Talent, ventriloquist and singing impressionist Terry Fator captured the hearts and funny bones of millions of viewers. After, he catapulted his notoriety into one of the biggest Las Vegas deals in history—a five-year deal at the Mirage worth nearly $110 million.

Once the initial contract was over, the resort signed him again and again, and Fator has been performing regularly in what is now called the Terry Fator Theatre for almost a decade.

“Even in my wildest dreams, I didn’t expect a deal like this to come along,” he says. “It wasn’t long before this that I was performing at people’s homes or just doing a set in a small venue. Never did I think that something like this would come along.”

Of course, Fator credits his menagerie of “puppet friends” with helping him get to such a place. Be it Winston, the impersonating turtle; Emma Taylor, the little girl with the big voice; or lounge singer Monty Carlo, the ventriloquist knows the audiences’ love for his characters is what has propelled him to career heights.

“I’m coming up on my 10th year at the Mirage and every year I add characters and try to do something relevant to what’s going on,” he says. “For instance, when David Bowie passed away, I always wanted to do something with Bowie and Bing Crosby coming together, and I already had Bing in my Christmas show, so I invented a Bowie puppet so they could sing ‘Little Drummer Boy.’ I let inspiration decide what I am going to be creating.”

Although he comes up with the ideas, he admits he’s no craftsman so he hired what he considers to be the best of the best puppet makers to help his friends come to life.

“Most of my puppets are made by the same people who work for the Muppets, and that’s the pinnacle,” Fator says. “Steve Axtell is one of the top in the world, and he does more of the latex. Then there’s Chance Wolf who is new to the business and his stuff is incredible. I find the top talent and the best.”

On September 6, Fator and his puppet friends will be coming to the MGM National Harbor, where the audience can expect his trademark impressions, storytelling, singing and maybe even a little dancing.

“I have a lot of new stuff. I’m always updating and changing characters and routines, so even if someone has seen me before, it’s going to be a different show this time around,” Fator says. “One of the most characters I do now in my Vegas show that I just started bringing on the road is my Donald Trump.”

While this might seem a bit dicey in the DC area, Fator shies away from politics and just has fun with the character.

“Whether you love him or hate him, you will leave not knowing what side of the aisle I am on,” he says. “He’s a big character. I don’t make fun, I have fun. You’re guaranteed to laugh.”

Fator first learned the art of ventriloquism as a fifth grader after checking out a book on the subject from his school library. Not long after, he won first prize at a church picnic for his first live ventriloquism act.

Last year’s America’s Got Talent winner was 12-year-old Darci Lynne, a young ventriloquist who Fator helped mentor on her journey to the top prize.

“It’s very important for me to inspire the next generation. To me, the greatest compliment I can have is to one day be watching someone on television and they say ‘my inspiration was Terry Fator.’ I feel that keeps your legacy alive,” Fator says. “I think of Edgar Bergen, who died in the 1970s, but I was inspired by him and he lives on. I feel it’s a big role of any ventriloquist to keep the art alive.”

In addition to Bergen, Fator was inspired by people like Willie Tyler, Jeff Dunham and Shari Lewis, and one of his absolute favorites was Jay Johnson, who played Chuck on the adult comedy Soap, who was never without his puppet, the wisecracking Bob in any scene.

“I was too young to watch because of the adult themes, but anytime Chuck and Bob would come on, my parents would call me into the room and I could watch, but then after it was over, I had to leave,” Fator says. “Jay is a great among greats and one of the best ventriloquists to ever be, so what a great one to inspire me at such a young age.”

At his show, Fator honors the military and first responders, and donates the profits from any merchandise sales to the Terry Fator Foundation, which supports numerous military and first responder charities. In fact, he was recently awarded the prestigious Bob Hope Award due to his continued excellence in supporting the nation’s military.

“It’s a very inspirational show and when people leave, they are going to feel on top of the world,” he says. “I just want to take people away from their problems and issues and just let them laugh and feel better about themselves.”

Terry Fator will perform at the MGM National Harbor 8 p.m., Thursday, September 6. Tickets start at $17. For more information click here.

MGM National Harbor: 101 MGM National Ave. Oxon Hill, MD; 301-971-5000; www.mgmnationalharbor.com

Photo: Aja Neal
Photo: Aja Neal

Fresh Fountains

DC heat got you down? Feast your eyes on some of the District’s most iconic fountains and maybe even dip a toe in a few of the city’s kid-friendly water features, because we’re all kids at heart during the dog days of summer, right?

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

7th Street Park Fountain, District Wharf
700 Wharf St. SW, DC
While you can often find little ones dashing through District Wharf’s water feature, all are welcome to partake in the fun. And don’t be afraid to take a seat on one of the plastic rocking horses either.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Bartholdi Fountain, U.S. Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Ave. SW, DC
Designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, also the talent behind the Statue of Liberty, this massive water feature stands at 30 feet tall. Its original home was Philadelphia, and the gorgeous structure now rests on the grounds of the U.S. Botanic Garden. Stop by and admire this Gilded Age stunner on your next garden adventure.

Photo: www.landcollective.com

Photo: www.landcollective.com

Canal Park Fountain, Capitol Riverfront
200 M St. SE, DC
Canal Park is a sustainable community hub open year-round but is especially vibrant in the summer due to its built-in, ground-level illuminated water features. Take a dash through the water on your walk to Nats Park or people watch on one of the many benches or colorful chairs.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

The Court of Neptune Fountain, Library of Congress
68 1st St. SE, DC
Neptune and figures of the Tritons touting their conch shells keep watch over this Library of Congress fountain. It’s especially stunning at night, with lights adding to the majestic nature of the bronze Roman statues.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

District Square Fountain, District Wharf
100 District Sq. SW, DC
While not for sitting or splashing around in, this elegant fountain is a welcome sight for those perusing District Wharf’s shops and restaurants on a beautiful summer afternoon.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Dupont Circle Fountain
1 Dupont Cir. NW, DC
Flanked by benches, trees and plenty of shade, this marble memorial fountain is smack dab in the middle of Dupont Circle’s many bars and restaurants. On the weekends, you can often find events, live music and more taking place near the iconic structure.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Georgetown Waterfront Park
3303 Water St. NW, DC
Try walking through the space in this arching fountain without getting soaked or go all-in on a hot day. Located right on the water in Georgetown, it’s the perfect (free!) post-dinner and drinks pit stop.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Summerhouse Fountain, U.S. Capitol Building
West Front Lawn, Senate side of the U.S. Capitol Building in SE, DC
If you’re craving respite from the tourist-filled grounds of the National Mall, look no further than Summerhouse. This shady grotto has a water feature inside with seating for more than 20 people, tucked away on the outskirts of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Photo: Fareeha Rehman

Tivoli Fountain, Columbia Heights
1445 Ogden St. NW, DC
This colorful fountain is nestled among the shops and restaurants in Columbia Heights. You can sit on one of the surrounding benches to cool off after a shopping spree or sprint through it if you’re feeling adventurous.

Photo: Aja Neal

Photo: Aja Neal

Water Feature, Yards Park
355 Water St. SE, DC
This cascading water feature is a great spot to fully splash around in or just admire on your next visit to Capitol Riverfront. It’s surrounded by lots of grassy park space, so you can even settle in for a sunny picnic.

Photo: Pierre Edwards
Photo: Pierre Edwards

A Day in the Life: Full Service Radio’s Jack Inslee

We could be corny and say he’s a jack of all trades, but indeed Jack Inslee is working hard to raise the bar in a variety of creative arenas in DC. After helping launch and then producing Heritage Radio out of New York City for several years, Inslee made his way to the District to team up with the masterminds behind the LINE Hotel to bring Full Service Radio to life. Inslee operates the live radio station out of the hotel’s lobby and brings guests and hosts from all cross sections of the city to a space where they can broadcast “the real DC” to the world. Inslee feels the station is starting to take on a life of its own, which is what he has hoped from the beginning. He likens himself to a traffic director, “trying to elevate what’s already happening in DC and what all the awesome hosts here do in their lives.”

When he’s not on-air at Full Service or traveling to promote DC’s creative community, Inslee can be found curating stages at Bonnaroo, DJing at Velvet Lounge, collaborating with local musicians, and hanging at Jimmy Valentine’s and Songbyrd, ever plotting new projects. And like the true DC convert he’s quickly become, he finds much-needed – though rarely gained – quiet time in the nooks and crannies of Rock Creek Park. We picked Inslee’s brain about Full Service Radio and his other ventures, and how he keeps a pulse on DC’s creative scene.

On Tap: You’re relatively new to DC from NYC. What’s the transition been like?
Jack Inslee: It’s crazy. I’m almost approaching two years in the District and I say this all the time: I’ve become like a DC evangelist. I’ve basically fallen in love with the city. It continues to surprise me constantly. It’s definitely much smaller [than New York], but there’s more room to breathe and space to think. And I think that the things happening in this creative community here in DC are wildly overlooked and underrated. It’s a special place right now, and a special moment to be in this.

OT: You’ve been working on the much-anticipated – and now lauded – Full Service Radio since before the LINE opened last December. How is it growing and evolving?
JI: I have been overwhelmed by the positive response that the network has gotten in these early stages. We are lucky to have a wildly incredible roster of hosts and collaborators that we’re working with. I couldn’t be luckier than to be in the LINE Hotel too, which is such an exciting space and place in the city. The energy here is just incredible. That public interaction is everything. But frankly, I’m not happy yet. It still feels like preseason to me. I’m never really completely satisfied, but that’s kind of what keeps things moving forward. I’m trying to improve every day.

OT: Do you have people walk into the radio station off the street and ask what you’re doing?
JI: Oh yes, constantly – for better or worse. All the radio shows stream live into the [hotel] rooms as well as on the Internet, so sometimes we’ll have a guest come down just having listened to a live broadcast and they get to interact with the host and the guests. There’s this real-time response that’s really neat and exciting.

OT: How frequently do you bring new shows on board? Do you have a goal to reach a certain number per week?
JI: I get flooded with so many requests and I want to embrace that enthusiasm. I don’t want to turn people away. I want to be a person that says “Yes” and welcomes those people in, but we’re definitely at capacity. We launched with 33 shows a week and we still have all of those shows. Come fall, we’ll have a handful more that will come on. My ears are always open for new ideas. At the very least, I want to accept every pitch and idea that comes in.


Can’t Live Without
Cold brew coffee with a tiny splash of milk and simple syrup
A solid (even if messy) “to do” list
Tea Tree Therapy Toothpicks, mint-flavored
Memes, jokes, good tweets – anything that makes me genuinely laugh and smile throughout the day
Relaxing music for a stressful day, energetic music for a shamefully lazy day


OT: Outside of Full Service Radio, are you still DJing and making music?
JI: I definitely stay busy with travel, DJing and producing music. A really exciting project that I’m over the moon about is a new album I made with Odetta Hartman called Old Rockhounds Never Die, coming out August 10. Odetta is an Americana artist and I do experimental electronic production and manipulate her voice and all kinds of weird things. It’s like this f–ked up, futuristic cowboy/soul kind of thing. I’m also working with some other DC musicians, and always DJing around town here and there. And I travel around and interview people in other cities [including visits to the LINE in Austin and L.A.] as well to bring it back to Full Service Radio. [We’ll be] doing little pop-ups in those cities and then finding ways to bring DC stories to those cities to expand our reach.

OT: You are a big part of DC’s art and music communities, but you also have a history in food. How does it influence your life these days, especially being at the LINE?
JI: It’s definitely become a real passion of mine over the years, and I think DC is starting to become known as a food destination as well. [James Beard Award-winning Chef] Spike [Gjerde] brought in [legendary Chef] Alice Waters as a guest on his show, so the food programming on Full Service is actually fairly robust and exciting. It’s one of the few places where policy conversations make it into the mix. And I do generally really draw from good food. Maketto is the first [place] I really fell in love with when I moved here. It’s like okay, I can get some really spicy bone marrow broth and some designer street clothes on sale? Cool. Yeah, that’s where it’s at. I just think that space is like a beacon for the city.

OT: You’re clearly excited about the creative scene in DC, but what concerns you most?
JI: DC seems to be really concerned with DC all the time. Often times, it can end up feeling like a silo here where it’s just everybody talking to each other. I just wish people would get out more and reach out to people in other places more. That kind of goes against this whole community thing that makes DC super special, so it’s not to say abandon that. But to put it in blunt terms, there’s this weird inferiority complex or something. When people feel like they’ve hit the outer walls of DC, rather than just getting down about it, [people should] push past them. It’s something I’m always trying to fight against and help people with.

OT: Who are some of the people in DC you think we should keep an eye on?
JI: Sir E.U and Tony Kill. They just put out an album called African American Psycho, and I think they’re both geniuses and they have been doing exactly what I was just talking about. They were just in L.A. and they’re pushing past the boundaries of the city. They’re crazy experimental and waving their own flag and I can’t say enough good stuff about that album. To me, that’s the stuff that’s giving me inspiration and part of why I love this city so much.

Learn more about Inslee and Full Service Radio at www.thelinehotel.com/full-service-radio.

The LINE Hotel: 1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; 202-588-0525; www.thelinehotel.com/dc

Photo: Emory Kristof, National Geographic
Photo: Emory Kristof, National Geographic

Untold No Longer: The Story of The Titanic You’ve Never Heard

We all think we know the story of the Titanic. The world’s largest, most luxurious ocean liner sank in 1912 – a triumph of engineering transformed into unspeakable tragedy.

We now know exactly where she lies, thousands of feet below the surface off the coast of Newfoundland, but the Titanic’s location remained a mystery for 70 years. Then, her story became entwined with a modern narrative of Cold War technology, the tragedy of lost nuclear submarines and a secret mission. This is the haunting, fascinating tale at the heart of the National Geographic Museum’s new exhibit, Titanic: The Untold Story, open daily through early January.

National Geographic Explorer Robert Ballard joined the Army during the Vietnam War, but went to graduate school and got a job building submarines. One December night in 1966, he got a knock at the door from a Naval officer.

“He handed me an envelope and said, ‘You’re not in the Army anymore, you’re in the Navy,’” Ballard told On Tap in a recent interview. “That began a long career of living two different lives.”

To the public, he was a well-known oceanographer, writing articles and researching ocean geology and hydrothermal vents. But Ballard kept working with the Navy and requested funding to develop remotely operated submersibles. The Navy agreed, and assigned Ballard a mission to locate, photograph and study the final resting place of the USS Scorpion, a nuclear submarine that sank in 1968. He was to locate the submarine’s nuclear reactor and nuclear weapons, and to get evidence that would help explain her loss.

There was a problem: it was the height of the Cold War between Russia and the United States, and it was imperative that Ballard’s mission avoid drawing the attention of Soviet intelligence. What better cover story for the mission than a search for the lost wreck of the Titanic?

The Navy added research on one more submarine wreck to Ballard’s plate: the USS Thresher, a nuclear submarine that sank five years before the Scorpion. The scientist was to study both the Scorpion and the Thresher to determine if the nuclear material from both subs was impacting the environment.

Though Ballard already knew what led to the Thresher’s demise, questions about the nuclear material remained. The reason the Scorpion sank, however, was inconclusive. Still, Ballard discovered her location using a phenomenon known as the sound channel.

“There’s a special layer about 1,000 meters down where all sound is ducted. If you listen in the sound channel, you can hear noises much, much further away. And we’re pretty sure that whales figured this out a long, long time ago, and that they use it for long distance communication.”

During the Cold War, the U.S. Navy set up listening arrays in multiple parts of the ocean to detect Soviet activity and recorded whatever sounds they picked up. Ballard said the Navy used these recordings to roughly determine the location of the Scorpion.

“We thought, ‘I wonder if we heard her die?’”

Sure enough, they heard the boom as she imploded in the deep. His towed camera system, the Argo, dove to depths of 9,800 feet to find and document the remains of the Scorpion. He had figured out that ocean currents created a debris trail as the Scorpion sank and followed the trail to the wreck.

He then realized he could use the same strategy to find the Titanic. With the allotted time for his mission nearly up, he found the Titanic at the very edge of the search area. He was awed by what he saw.

“I didn’t expect to be affected by this whole thing,” he said. “I’m a scientist and a naval officer, clinically doing things. But it spoke. I was bowled over by the impact of being there.”

Pairs of shoes litter the ocean floor around the wreck, marking where people who died and sank to the bottom once rested. Because leather shoes are treated with tannic acid, sea life won’t eat them and they remain preserved.

“It’s a tombstone. Nothing is small down there. Everything’s gigantic in size, but then there are these little pairs of shoes. It draws your attention away from the massiveness and the grandeur.”
Ballard noticed them every time he went back.

“Every time I made a return trip, I always knew, I saw those shoes and I said, ‘That was somebody.’”

He recalled returning to the Titanic in 2004 with new vehicles.

“I’m sitting in my command center with a beautiful high-definition camera and a remote control robot, and I’m just staying there. For days, I wandered the Titanic. And I got closure.”

Ballard’s secret mission was quietly declassified just a few years ago. Kathryn Keane, vice president of public experiences for the National Geographic Museum, was amazed to learn that the search for the Titanic was the cover story for Ballard’s mission. National Geographic staff were even on board with Ballard during his mission, and still no one knew.

“I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t know that, and I work here,’” Keane said. “If I don’t know this story, most of the public doesn’t know, either.’”

The new exhibit skillfully blends science, history and storytelling. You begin your visit awed by the technology and the mission’s secret backstory, and end by reading the personal stories of Titanic passengers and viewing amazing recreations of the Titanic’s rooms made for James Cameron’s 1998 film Titanic, which remains one of the most successful films ever made.

It’s a moving experience. Keane noted that this is the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Scorpion, and the losses of both submarines – the Scorpion and the Thresher – and the “unsinkable ship” have far-reaching effects.

“The layers of tragedy surrounding this story impact generations of people,” she said of the Titanic.

It’s certainly difficult to picture the loved ones of these lost crews and ship passengers waiting in vain for good news without feeling their pain. The last artifact in the exhibit is a letter from President Ronald Reagan, designating the wreck of the Titanic as a memorial site.

And though undeniably one of the most pivotal moments of his career, Ballard isn’t interested in being known solely as the discoverer of the Titanic.

“My mother called me after we found the Titanic and said, ‘It’s too bad you found that rusty old ship.’ She understood hydrothermal vents and the science I was doing, and she said, ‘Now they’re only going to remember you for that.’”

But as Titanic: The Untold Story shows, Ballard’s contributions to ocean exploration are far greater than a single mission in 1985, and the story of these three lost vessels is greater than the sum of its parts. Keane said she hopes the exhibit inspires a generation of new explorers.

“One of the things we love to do here at the museum is invite families and get young people excited about exploration and science,” she said. “The story of the Titanic is why they’ve come, but if they come out of it interested in science, exploration, even in serving their country, that would be a victory for us because that’s what we do here.”

Titanic: The Untold Story runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through January 6, 2019 at the National Geographic Museum. Tickets are $15. And don’t miss the Taste of the Titanic event on Wednesday, July 25 at 7 p.m. to experience the actual menus aboard the ship, from first-class cuisine to third-class nosh. Learn more at http://tasteoftitanic.com/

National Geographic Museum: 1145 17th St. NW, DC; 202-857-7700; www.nationalgeographic.org/dc

 

Taste of Titanic (600px)

 

Photo: Violetta Markelou
Photo: Violetta Markelou

A Day in the Life: Swatchroom’s Maggie O’Neill & Warren Weixler

An artist and an architect meet in DC, each with their own unique skill set. Realizing that they can accomplish more together, the artist says, “Let’s start a business.” And just like that, design, art and fabrication firm Swatchroom is founded.

While there’s more to their origin story than our abridged version above, a partnership did fall into place in 2013 because both artist and architect saw the strengths that could come with combining their individual experiences. Artist Maggie O’Neill’s background as a painter and designer paired with architect Warren Weixler’s experience at the helm of two design-build firms has made the duo unstoppable in the aesthetic formation of some of the DC area’s most sought-after interiors.

Swatchroom is responsible for the buzzworthy interiors of brand new Poca Madre in Penn Quarter and recently opened Morris American Bar in Shaw, just to name a few. No two Swatchroom designs are alike – the team takes pride in creating spaces that fit the vision of each space to a T while pushing creative boundaries and making people think. Weixler says every client has their own idiosyncrasies and way in which they like to function, so he and O’Neill have to learn what’s important to them and approach each design in a completely individualized way.

The designers are at the forefront of the creative renaissance that’s taken the city by storm over the past few years and continue to work in DC, and even across the globe, on a diverse portfolio of projects. We met the pair in their bustling Shaw studio, where the team was hard at work putting the finishing touches on several projects, to talk about their creative journey.

On Tap: How did you meet each other?
Maggie O’Neill: We met because I was working on a restaurant called Lincoln. [We started] collaborating on fabrication. In cases when I was designing for projects and I couldn’t bring [Warren] in as the architect, he would come in and help me work on a whole host of things.
Warren Weixler: I had a small boutique architecture firm called Design Operative. Around 2008, when the work went away and the bubble burst, I had the choice to lean on some other skill sets I had. When the work started to come back in, I had the choice to either get rid of all that stuff and just go back to only architecture, or to try and incorporate it all together. When Swatchroom started to stir about as an idea, I got really excited because I thought, “I can get away from the technical world of plans and permits and actually live in the architectural world.”

OT: What motivated you to station this brand-new business here in DC?
MO: I was born and raised here. Swatchroom had clients before it existed, so we have a base here. That base also has projects in other cities, which is exciting. That allows us to work in other markets across the U.S. and internationally.
WW: We want to try to lead some of the trends or the ways in which things are done. That’s much harder in a bigger city that’s established. If you go on Google and go to New York City and search “design firms,” like 2,000 pins drop. It doesn’t happen here. It’s growing, but we actually get to affect change in the restaurant industry [with] some of our clients. I think we’re extremely lucky to be in a position to help the growth of a city rather than try to fight everybody else to get jobs.

OT: A large portion of your work is restaurant and bar design. Why are you both drawn to those spaces?
MO: I’m a dreamer all day long, and we want you to use your imagination and to really just push people [to] this sort of Alice in Wonderland moment. You take somebody out of their real life and give them a treat for a little while. There’s just so much joy in that, and the restaurant industry has allowed us to do that.
WW: That is a new trend. How do you blur the lines of what [a space] is? The LINE Hotel is a perfect example of that. Is it a restaurant? Is it a hotel? Is it a workspace? Is it just a cool spot to hang out? It’s all of the above, it’s none of the above. Does it actually matter? Those conversations are really interesting. Rather than saying, “This is an office building, this is a restaurant, this is a hotel,” owners and developers are saying, “It doesn’t matter.”
MO: It’s great because there is no clean answer. I love all that muddiness. This is such a linear city, and it has been for so long. It’s been a city of Democrat versus Republican, “yes” versus “no,” you know – lines. And now there’s so much gray…
WW: …color, there’s so much color!
MO: I’m happy to say, while I don’t think we’re there yet, we’re a hell of a lot better off than we were.


Swatchroom Must-Haves
Music
Plants
Artwork
Natural light
Coffee in the a.m. + bar cart in the p.m.


OT: Your most recent restaurant project is Poca Madre, which opened its doors on June 19. Tell us about your design inspiration for this space.
MO: Victor Albisu is the chef, and he is [also] an artist and a passionate person. The aesthetic is modern Mexican and has this fresh, high contrast to it. It’s a lot of black and white with a ton of greenery and hints of brass, and a few powerful statements aesthetically and potentially politically. It’s a petite environment in that it’s not a big, vast space so wherever you are you will feel a kind of intimacy.
WW: [Albisu] came to us in a moment of growth. He wanted to change Del Campo, which had been around for five years or so, and wanted to bring a Taco Bamba to the city. He said “Okay, I’ll take the front half of the space, because it’s basically a big ‘L,’ and make that Taco Bamba on I Street. Let’s take the remainder and let’s make that this new concept.” We were not only part of the design, but also in helping another business owner get through a growth plateau to reinvent a space that they own.

OT: It sounds like every project you take on is very unique. Talk us through some of the everyday challenges you face.
WW: We have that responsibility as designers to say, “Don’t spend your money on that thing, spend it here,” so I think organizing the budget and the study of how that money works is super interesting. The other challenge from my technical mindset is how we tend to push the envelope on artwork with huge installations, large wall features and such. While all of that is extremely creative and flexible, building code is not. We’ll constantly come up with great ideas but have to worry about sprinkler heads or a fire alarm. How do we push the envelope but make sure it’s legal for the building? It’s fun to play in the conceptual world, but how do you actually execute that? I feel like that’s what we’re good at: figuring out how to get it done and how to get it made and who to use to do it.

OT: Would you say there’s a distinct Swatchroom style? How do you make each space different?
WW: Maybe we have a Swatchroom style, but I don’t know if it’s on purpose. I think we’ve really tried to dig into the narrative of the concept of the client and what that concept means to them and let that drive what the space looks like. We’ll all call each other to the table if we’re trying to repeat a material or a detail or do something again. We force ourselves to stay fresh that way. I think those two things combined have [led to a] portfolio where none of the work looks the same. I’ve even had potential clients come in and ask, “The same people did all of that?” We’re proud of that. It should be different.

OT: You’ve achieved a lot as a design firm in a five-year span. How have your goals changed since 2013?
MO: Our first goal was to figure out how to manage the messaging to people we were already providing our services to. We grew by three or four more people that year, so the skill sets and talents those people brought in was part of our other goal: to actually bring in people that had different expertise [than us]. That way, the conversations and creative problem-solving are better.
WW: It was bootstrapped and organic, and we also made a pact that we’re not going to change for change’s sake, but we’re open to change. In these chapters of your business life, and as trends change, you have to change to stay current and to stay ahead. If we just jam the same process, we may not get the same results. [With] each chapter, we’re like, “Okay, let’s keep growing. Let’s keep changing for the better and keep organizing in different ways.” Luckily, our team is awesome in that they’re open to change, too.

Follow Swatchroom on Instagram at @swatchroom, O’Neill at @maggieoneilldc and Weixler at @warrenweixler. For more on Swatchroom, visit www.swatchroom.com.

Swatchroom: 1301 9th St. NW, DC; 202-808-3343; www.swatchroom.com

Photo: Jason Hornick Photography, DCPL Archives
Photo: Jason Hornick Photography, DCPL Archives

Cultivating Culture by Design

There’s more to DC than meets the eye. At first glance, behemoth monuments and countless museums seem like the capital’s main culture source, but they’re really just a small fraction of its identity. Beneath the surface, a dedicated collective of artists, designers and historians join forces to bring the true heart of the city to light. Organizations like DC Preservation League (DCPL) and MuralsDC work tirelessly to showcase the best of DC’s unique and rich history by protecting old and creating new cultural sites for Washingtonians to enjoy.

DCPL began its mission to “preserve, protect and enhance the historic and built environment of DC through advocacy and education” in 1971 when an activist group, Don’t Tear It Down, formed to save the 1899 Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue from demolition. After saving the post office and a number of other sites in the 70s, Don’t Tear It Down rebranded themselves as the DC Preservation League in 1984. Over the past 40 years, DCPL has sponsored more than 200 historic landmarks for nomination to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites.

Rebecca Miller, executive director of DCPL, says preserving historical sites is important not only for understanding the history and development of a city, but also for having a better cultural understanding of everyday people from the past.

“Sites with cultural significance need to be preserved so that we as a society understand that not every great person lived in the big classical house on the hill,” she says. “Everyday people, who lived in everyday buildings, have done significant things that have led to the world as we know it today; some of these sites deserve to be recognized and preserved as well.”

DCPL is currently working toward diversifying the types of historical sites they protect, including sites important to the African American Civil Rights and LGBTQ+ communities.

“Often, the history of these groups of people have been left out of the conversation, and it’s time that we document all people’s history and culture,” Miller says.

To Miller, the “perceived uniqueness” of DC’s architecture and design stems from its position as the nation’s capital. However, one of the most important factors in the city’s building design is the 1910 Height of Buildings Act – legislation restricting building heights to the width of the street it fronts plus 20 feet, as long as they aren’t taller than 130 feet, according to the

National Capital Planning Commission. The Old Post Office Building was grandfathered in after the original act passed in 1899, and remains as the tallest high-rise federal building in the city.

As DCPL guards DC’s culture by preserving historical sites, MuralsDC protects neighborhoods from illegal graffiti with unique and beautiful murals painted by local artists. As a project funded by the DC Department of Public works in 2007, MuralsDC has sponsored more than 50 projects across the city, engaging District youths along the way by teaching them the art of aerosol.
Christopher Shorter, director of the Department of Public Works (DPW), says although MuralDC’s main goal is to keep the city clean by deterring vandalism, they also focus on featuring the cultures of each unique neighborhood.

“MuralsDC makes a point to deliver a sense of history and a personal statement about each community to the city’s art scene,” Shorter says. “We try to paint each mural as a reminder of who we were, who we are and who we’re trying to be as a city.”

To Shorter, DC’s art and design scene is becoming as prominent as its monuments and museums. By transforming alleyways from shortcuts to destinations, residents and visitors can connect with and learn more about neighborhoods they might not have been to before.

“When MuralsDC paints an original work of art on the side of the building, we’ve done more than just help to eliminate graffiti,” he says. “We’ve provided an amazing gift to the community.”

MuralsDC’s last project was on Half Street in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. The property owner of Friendly Food Market wanted to bring the neighbors together, so naturally, a beautiful mural came to mind. As artist Eric B. Ricks decorated the building’s side, community members would gather around to ask him questions and speak to one another about the mural’s significance.

“That speaks to the power of public art,” Shorter says. “It can bring a community together and evoke a sense of pride. But most of all, it’s a great way for DPW to show DC communities that we don’t just work in the community – we really care about the community.”

Learn more about these DC organizations that enhance and beautify the city’s culture.

DC Preservation League: www.dcpreservation.org
MuralsDC: www.muralsdcproject.com

Photo: Courtesy of 2 Birds 1 Stone
Photo: Courtesy of 2 Birds 1 Stone

Drink In Style: 10 Instaworthy Bar Designs

Most people judge a bar based on the quality of its drinks and selection of liquors. But that is just one aspect of the experience. Design plays an influential role in making a bar memorable, with an impact rivaling that of the taste and service. DC’s list of visually stunning bar spaces includes everything from restored Irish architecture direct from Dublin to Wes Anderson-inspired cocktail lounges. Here are 10 of our favorites across town.


Photo: Courtesy of 2 Birds 1 Stone

Photo: Courtesy of 2 Birds 1 Stone

2 Birds 1 Stone
Mismatched glassware and hand-drawn menus welcome thirsty customers at 2 Birds 1 Stone. The underground cocktail haunt features a brick-backed bar accented with white cabinetry and chairs. White brick walls line the rest of the space, which has various seating nooks and benches for groups large and small. It feels lively and intimate all at once, as if you’re hanging out with a drink at your best laid-back friend’s house. 1800 14th St. NW, DC; www.2birds1stonedc.com


Photo: Courtesy of Chicken + Whiskey

Photo: Courtesy of Chicken + Whiskey

Chicken + Whiskey’s Speakeasy
There’s whiskey – lots of it – behind the decoy refrigerator door at this Latin American kitchen on 14th Street. Swing open the door and you’ll be met with dozens upon dozens of bottles of brown liquor from around the word, all lined up behind the long wooden bar. Another wooden ledge for perching drinks encompasses the cozy space and makes for easy, hands-free conversation. A chalkboard displays the selection of cocktails, beer and wine while vinyl on the speakers completes the lowkey experience. 1738 14th St. NW, DC; www.chickenandwhiskey.com


Photo: Farrah Skeiky

Photo: Farrah Skeiky

Cotton & Reed
The team at CORE architecture and design used industrial elements like exposed pipes, a large garage door window and baby blue metal shelving to make Cotton & Reed fit right in as a modern member of the Union Market neighborhood. The big design feature is the bar top, which is covered in wooden hexagon tiles featuring realistic sketch-style artwork of all types of flora and fauna. That artwork alone is Instagram worthy – and it pops even more when paired with one of the bar’s signature rum cocktails. Guest can also gaze back into the distillery and production space. 1330 5th St. NE, DC; www.cottonandreed.com


Photo: Andrew Cebulka

Photo: Andrew Cebulka

Dabney Cellar
This underground hangout – an offshoot of James Beard Award-winning chef Jeremiah Langhorne’s The Dabney – is an ideal spot for sipping wine with seasonal, local food. Edit Lab at Streetsense oversaw the design, which includes a spiral staircase and large chalkboard used for writing the day’s menu. Additional touches like the reclaimed wood bar and shelves and custom-made iron racks for wine and firewood add to the space’s intimate and rustic feel. 122 Blagden Alley, NW, DC; www.thedabney.com


Photo: Courtesy of the Left Door

Photo: Courtesy of the Left Door

Left Door
Each Left Door experience starts by entering its unmarked door off the corner of 14th and S and ascending the narrow staircase that leads to the bar. Drinking at Tom Brown’s speakeasy is a close-quarters affair, whether you’re chatting under vintage lighting at the bar or nestled in velvet arm chairs in the corner. It’s a fitting ambiance for the menu of both innovative and classic cocktails. 1345 S St. NW, DC; www.dcleftdoor.com


Photo: Courtesy of Morris Bar

Photo: Courtesy of Morris Bar

Morris American Bar
This airy cocktail bar from David Strauss is worlds away from dimly-lit speakeasies and underground hangouts, as you won’t find any leather couches or Edison bulbs here. Morris Bar’s two-level space was designed by Swatchroom with inspiration from director Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Those visual cues come in the form of pastel shades of blues and greens throughout the room and local DC artwork from Dana Ellyn and Nicolette Capuano. The bar is seated only, leaving plenty of breathing room for enjoying a cocktail and the whimsical décor. 1020 7th St. NW, DC; www.morrisbardc.com


Photo: The Watergate Hotel

Photo: The Watergate Hotel

The Next Whisky Bar
Retro Washington vibes and modern styling come together at the Watergate Hotel’s Next Whisky Bar. The centerpiece here is a curving wall of shimmering liquor bottles that wraps around the lounge area and glass bar top. The gold color pops against the red chairs and area rugs, giving a contemporary touch to one of DC’s most notable addresses. 2650 Virginia Ave. NW, DC;
www.thewatergatehotel.com/the-next-whisky-bar


Photo: Courtesy of Nocturne

Photo: Courtesy of Nocturne

Nocturne
Shades of dark indigo, pink and blue join pops of vibrant neon in the dimly-lit Nocturne, the 17-seat basement spot hidden beneath Sugar Shack Donuts in Shaw. The bar concept was inspired by “The Abandoned Night in Paris,” which was one of the original cocktails at Nocturne’s Alexandria-based sister bar, Captain Gregory’s. Fittingly, Nocturne’s entrance is themed as a Parisienne salon, with the main bar designed as a garden under the night sky. Nocturne’s table and bar tops shine bright white, illuminating the flight-style cocktails. It’s a stark contrast with the rest of the room, which feels like stepping into a sleek, futuristic party after dark. 1932 9th St. NW, DC; www.nocturnebar.com


Photo: Courtesy of Delucchi Plus

Photo: Courtesy of Delucchi Plus

Rí Rá Georgetown
It’s more than just the beer and whiskey that are Irish at this Georgetown pub. Many aspects of the Victorian-style main bar – including the back bar – originated at Gerry Nangles Pub from Summer Hill, Dublin. Upstairs, the cozy whiskey room features bars and cabinets that were restored from Maddigans Watchmaker and Jeweler on Ellis Quay, Dublin and paneling from the Dublin branch of the Royal Bank of Ireland. 3125 M St. NW, DC; www.rira.com/georgetown


Photo: Courtesy of Tilt Bar

Photo: Courtesy of Tilt Bar

Tilt at Black Jack
Pass through the doors at the rear of Black Jack to find the colorful, graphic bar top and walls of the pinball-themed Tilt. There aren’t any physical pinball games here, but the feel is evoked through the pinball artwork on the bar taken from actual machines. The rest of the space is similarly vibrant and features nearly wall-to-wall posters and artwork, including the “Tilt” name illuminated in large-scale letters. 1612 14th St. NW, DC; www.tiltdc.com