The Rock and Roll Hotel is a relatively new venue stuck out on H Street in the north-east of the city, fifteen blocks walk from the nearest metro stop at Union Station. The club’s website advises you to get a cab from there, either because it thinks you’ll get mugged or that its patrons are archetypal anti-walking Americans, but in fact it’s only about a ten- to fifteen-minute stroll on a balmy spring evening.
The RnR Hotel is ramshackle enough to come across like a 1980s retro British student venue, blighted by a lack of draft beer, but quirky enough to let you forgive its workers for being young and cool and playing The Smiths in the upstairs bar. Just to take me properly back twenty years (it’s a place where my head spends an unhealthy amount of time), I’m with my mate Drew, who I indeed went to college with in England back in the 1980s, and we talk about long forgotten mutual objects of scorn. That was Birmingham, England. (Here comes the segue, tada.) Maria Taylor is from Birmingham, Alabama.
“Last time we were here we played in Arlington to ten people,” she says gratefully to the maybe 100 to 150 people at the RnR Hotel last night. It’s been a difficult tour thanks to blizzards, the flu, and someone raiding her and keyboardist sister Kate’s dressing room. Yet here they are, a band of six (her brother’s in it too), making all this effort to come all this way and play us her astonishing songs. As they crank up the noise I get that four-beer fuzz that makes me think, “I love them all and want to be their friends forever.”
We wonder how they make a living out of this. It only cost ten dollars for the ticket, CDs are the same price, and even their t-shirts go way below the accepted statutory minimum of $20, selling for just twelve. I buy one, because you have to spread the word. Drew buys the two CDs (the new release ‘Lynn Teeter Flower’ is every bit as strong as 2005’s wonderful ‘11:11’) even though he could have been a thief and burned my copies. But as he told me this morning, he wanted to go to sleep with them under his pillow.
In DC: 21 years
Soccer Interest (most DC cab drivers like to talk soccer): Brazil, the English Premier League, and the 2006 German World Cup team. Displayed a Ghana flag after they beat US 2-1 in 2006 WC, and had a native customer refuse to get in.