Somewhere between missing Spain beat Germany in the semi-finals and getting lost for 45 minutes in an area I grew up in, my optimism toward the “neighborhood tour” I was about to get dwindled. The original plan to meet up with the boys of Merrifield Records at the Falls Church metro took a typical turn and they suggested we meet at the McDonalds across the street because Lord knows if you are ever lost, regardless of where you are in the world, you will always be able to locate the McDonalds. You could be lost in the Arabian Desert and somehow, someway there will appear a McDonalds and inside it will be the thing and/or person you are looking for.
ANYWHO, after numerous conversations with myself about how lost I was, I realized (amidst shaking my fist and yelling at things while simultaneously chain-smoking and eating a bag of Twizzlers) I had un-lost myself.
Thankfully, the boys seemed to all be waiting patiently and no one made any misogynistic jokes about women being directionally challenged. However, Michael did suggest he ride along with me and Aineki (who shot all the wonderful photos below) to direct us, which was much appreciated.
To give a short introduction of our tour guides from Merrifield Records and the bands they are/were in: Dex Fontaine (The Danvilles, No Lover, Nikki and The Weeps, The Dustys, Death by Sexy, Cobra Collective), Kenny Dirog (The Danvilles, Nikki and The Weeps), Michael Hindert (The Danvilles, The Merrifields, No Lover, Nikkie and The Weeps, The Bravery), and (briefly) Davey Bell (No Lover, The Dustys). All Virginia men born and bred, ready to give me an introduction to the best of this mysterious land across the river.
First place on the map was the CD Cellar, hunkered down in a basement between a Psychic/Tarot Card Reading shop and Stacey’s Coffee Parlor, the Cellar plays orphanage to a seemingly endless amount of vinyl, CDs, DVDs, and so on. For those of you who want the subterranean feel of an old hand-me-down record store and find yourself in and/or around the Falls Church area I would suggest at least peeking your head in. Even if you aren’t able to find anything suitable to meet your music needs, the basement provides (at least) a brief escape from the hell-like temperatures outside.
Next, we headed to Action Music, which is (oddly enough) located in yet another basement. The walls of the place are lined with an overwhelming mix of new and vintage guitars, and amps strategically outline a curvy path through the room. Something about the place gave off a homey feel. Maybe it was the warm welcome we received from the owner, Matt, who was happy to answer any of the questions I probed him with, or the bashful young sales associate who for some reason reminded me of the comedian, Demetri Martin.
Since Mike started the label last year, the half-dozen bands associated with it have scooped up a metric ton of instruments, pedals, and amps from the store. “Action’s big selling point it the service,” Mike says. “They are not the typical uncaring Guitar Center dudes.”
As the day became a little cooler we braved good ‘ole rush hour traffic to the next stop, a place in Vienna called The Soundry. A little confused at first, we pulled into a pothole-ridden parking lot and among a row of old buildings was a brick wall with a large opening and a banner with a pink skull symbol…looking much like a coffee shop owned by some trendy pirates.
Encouraged by the surprisingly friendly staff, we walked through the shop and into a giant warehouse-type room with all white walls. Housing about four or five artists who appeared to be unfazed by the fact that a pack of strange people were walking through their workspace. Continuing through a narrow hallway that had walls lined with miniature tiles, some painted and some with sculpted figurines, each designed to meet the theme of the others surrounding it. The hallway gallery’s artwork is changed regularly, giving artists a chance to display their work. At the end of the U-shaped building was a giant garage with painted, glossy black doors and a stage used for Open Mic nights. Cool. The whole idea behind The Soundry was just so cool. A laid back place for people to come and hang out and work on their art. Sounds like a genius idea, why aren’t there more places like this in DC?
The last two stops on the list were in the heart of Vienna, the Vienna Central Park Caboose, dated 1859-1968, and the Vienna Inn. I don’t know why you would care about the dates of the Vienna Caboose but I felt it necessary to include them for historical purposes. The tiny square park is outlined by rows of cars and looks like an obvious place for high school kids to sit and do illegal things on weekend nights, only come to find out cops are waiting for them. Nevertheless, it is a very scenic area around sunset and was nice to sit for a hot minute.
When I ask the guys about their experiences at the Vienna Inn, it doesn’t go very well, since they can hardly remember much of anything past 10 PM whenever they go to the ancient bar. They try to get me and Aineki to go inside but we beg off and drive away fast before they can convince us!
If by any chance you aren’t planning on doing anything productive tonight (which I know you aren’t because it’s a Wednesday and no one does anything productive on a Wednesday) you should stop by DC9 and see the hometown boys from The Danvilles perform. Regardless of your preferred genre, their sound will make you happy you went out on a Wednesday night and had a few too many beers and closed your eyes while loosely bobbing your head, instead of staying in like all the other squares at your job.
Northern VA may have too many McDonalds, but despite its detractors, when you hang out with people who genuinely love it there, you almost start to believe it has nooks and crannies of awesome and even (*GASP*) culture. Thanks for the intro guys!