Monday, May 3, 2010

DC Road Trip Bliss: Shout Out Louds

Perfect road trip = art + restaurant + music. Friend and I accomplished all that and more after a slow trip up soul-sucking 95 to get to Washington today on what definitely felt like a hot August afternoon.

Stop #1: National Museum of American Art to see "Christo and Jeanne Claude: Remembering the Running Fence." This exhibition included drawings, photographs, models and videos of the 24.5 mile white fabric fence erected in 1976 through Sonoma and Marin counties, CA. It was fascinating to learn about the initial resistance of the ranchers to the art which quickly turned to support, resulting in the landowners taking a stand against the local government and ensuring that the project happened.

Views of the fence from hilltops and the air show a magnificent structure that could not have been defined as anything but art. Most impressive was the way it ascended gradually from the Pacific Ocean, as if rising from a force of nature, but almost as cool was how the ranchers utilized all the components of the art, from fabric to poles, in any way they chose after it was taken down. The audacious concept and execution were positively inspirational.

Stop #2: Marvin, in the U street corridor, a restaurant dedicated to singer Marvin Gaye and the years he was self-exiled in Belgium. The menu features both Belgian dishes and the soul food the native Washingtonian loved (can you say chicken and waffles?). To start, Brendan L'Etoile (the sous chef whom we'd met) sent us a seared fois gras with Richmond strawberries, Armagnac and a sherry vinaigrette gastrique. Words are inadequate but my friend summed it up by saying, "This tastes like a heart attack." Oh, it was that good. We sent him a little something to sip on in gratitude, but we definitely got the better part of that deal.

We followed that unexpected treat with Chorizo and fennel moules frites and agreed that they were, without a doubt, the best mussels either of us have ever had anywhere. Next up was the Nicoise salad with exquisitely rare ahi tuna and anchovies like we haven't tasted in rva. Despite being stuffed to the gills, we went on to a braised Berkshire pork shank with white bean stew. There may have also been a bottle of Vouvray in there somewhere. We could not have eaten another bite if our lives had depended on it.

Stop #3: 9:30 club for Freelance Whales and Shout Out Louds. The club was incredibly hot, almost as if the a/c was not working and the crowd obscenely young and obnoxious (I'm not saying that there's a connection). It was my second time seeing FW and they were just as impressive this time, with their earnest attitudes, unusual instruments and multiple vocalists. For fans of the Arcade Fire or Fanfarlo, they are a band worth investigating. Live, they will make you a fan; just ask my friend who gave her approval halfway into the first song.

The last time the SOL played DC was a 10:00 show on a Sunday night in Fall 2007 and I didn't go because of work the next day; needless to say, I felt like I had been owed for almost three years. Their Swedish pop (with a lead singer who sounds like Robert Smith of the Cure) is fabulously catchy with a bass line that ensures dancing about. With a female backup singer and enough cowbell to satisfy all, their sound grabbed the audience from note one and held them. We got to hear just about all of the new CD, Work, which I've been playing nonstop for over a month now, so it was especially satisfying for me.

It was an awfully hot day for our adventure, but every stop provided a pleasure of a different kind. Exiting the car at a gas station in Lorton, we were met with a delightful gust of wind on our bare legs. Setting the tone for the rest of a most enjoyable day, friend announced, "Sometimes all you need is a good breeze up your skirt."

And on some road trips, you get that and so much more.


  1. hi karen - my DC/vcu friend is workin on a Marvin Gaye mosaic for some park (near that restaurant?). Not sure if he finished it. Its a big 3' circle - did you see it?

  2. I didn't see it, but I'll be sure to look for it nest time. Actually I'm planning to be up there again soon, so I'll give you a full report!