The band takes a break for a beer and a cigarette. A middle-aged gent leaving the dance floor walks over to the stage. Up front, sitting on its rack stand is a cherry-red Fender Stratocaster guitar, just like the one he played as a teenager. He picks it up, slips the strap over his shoulder, and fingers a couple of chords. From somewhere deep in his memory — or more likely his soul — he remembers a riff from Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and plays the first few bars. The crowd loves it and begs for more. In between waves of adulation some one tugs at his shirt, “Hey Dad, wake up!”
Baby boomer parents who start rock and roll bands often say it’s because of their passion for the music, but deep down they want to relive the thrills of their youth, or even drink in the applause for the first time. Karaoke night at the local bar just whets their appetite.
Surprisingly, there are several bands of middle-aged rockers in the Mount Vernon area. They all sound like they’re having fun.
“Hey, I’m putting a band together. Do you want to sing?”
Dan McDermott was living in the Waynewood neighborhood in 2001 when he started recruiting friends for a rock and roll band. Everyone had a high school buddy in a garage band, but how about a businessman with three kids?
“The whole thing started when my wife gave me a set of drums for Christmas,” recalled McDermott, an executive in the credit card business now living in McLean. His friend and neighbor, Fox News TV and radio personality Tony Snow, got a guitar from his wife the same year and soon the two began looking for more dads and moms to form a band. The group grew to the point that they began practicing in a former dental office attached to the side of Dan’s house.
Their name, Beats Workin’, reflects only a dream for now because everyone still has their day jobs. Lead singer Jay McConville, also a Waynewood resident, works for General Dynamics, and backup vocalist Susan Jaquet is a real estate agent in the District; “I’m the token chick,” Susan said. Bassist Lewis Leibowitz is a lawyer, as is Jamie Hutchinson, who plays guitar. Also on guitar is Dan Poneman, who lived in Hollin Hills when the band started, and is a principal at Scowcroft Associates. Ken White, another Waynewood dad, was the sound man and roadie for the band until recently when his job began interfering too much.
“It’s really fun,” declares Snow, father of three. “But we are realistic about the band. We make it fit into our lives instead of letting it displace something else.” Poneman, who worked at the White House for both the elder President Bush and Clinton, didn’t have time for anything else in those days. “Mark Gearan, Clinton’s communications director, arranged with my wife for a surprise birthday party,” Poneman said. “They invited some really good musicians for me to play with that night. One was Dan McDermott’s brother, so that is how we connected.”
Beats Workin’ plays “the music you grew up with,” mostly classic rock. They appeared at the National Hospice Foundation gala last April at the Ronald Reagan building. “We played dance music after the program,” Jaquet said. “They wouldn't let us stop.”
“We prefer to play for charities and benefits,” explained McConville, who met his wife Sue in high school when she sang for a band called Evil Sneakers. “The music’s more fun than the money.”
Booking: 703-619-9571, beatsworkinvirginia.com
Next engagement: Waynewood School Auction, Yacht Haven, Nov. 12.
<sh>Who’s Ya Daddie?
<bt>Two Mount Vernon CPAs take off their visors and cast aside their mild-mannered accountant personalities when they take the stage with their band. Hello rock stars! Where are the groupies?
“I played guitar in a Tidewater soul band called Slapwater in high school and college, but put it aside when I started working,” said Tom Southard who lives on Tower House Place on the Mount Vernon Parkway. “One of my clients, a Capitol Hill band called Blame It On Jane, let me sit in for a few licks five years ago and that got the juices flowing.”
Southard’s first recruit for a band was Brad Stiles, a CIA attorney whose daughter was a friend of Southard’s daughter Casey. In what started as a simple question, the two young women hatched the name of the band. Southard then enlisted his neighbor and fellow accountant John Langan, who also writes country songs that he pitches to publishers in Nashville.
Southard is the band leader and plays guitar, even though he admits not being able to read music — "hear it, play it," he says. Langan is the keyboardist, Stiles on bass, Rene Giesbert on drums (real estate agent), and singers Robert Smith (Metro) and Celeste Crenshaw (video producer) form the band's core. Southard uses members of the Army Band for the brass section when their concert schedule allows.
They play songs from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, including classic rock, soul and R&B. "It's all danceable," Southard says.
The group got an early boost by a warm reception at a party they played in April 2004 at Mount Vernon Country Club where both Southard and Langan are members. Their most recent performance was at a concert at the Old Town Theater in Alexandria that benefited the 9-11 Pentagon Memorial Fund.
Booking: 703-447-8182, whosyadaddie.com
Next engagement: Mount Vernon Country Club (appearance open to the public), Nov 12.
<sh>Black Moon Tonic
<bt>Four dads from the Fort Hunt community Riverside Gardens are in a band they started two years ago. Talking recently on the deck at Charlie Zdebski's house, with his six kids running to and fro, all agreed the main reason for playing is "boys night out."
Zdebski (guitar) is a partner at the Troutman Sanders law firm, Jim Woods (drums) is a manager at the financial management firm TIAA-CREF, Adam Fazackerley (guitar/vocals) runs a web design firm, "concept2creations," and Mark O'Connell (guitar) is Verizon systems engineer. The band also includes a Fredericksburg landscaper, Joel Torrey, who plays bass.
When attempting to name the band, each member threw out some ideas, but Black Moon Tonic stuck. "It just seems to represent the kind of music we play," Fazackerley said — classic rock, current rock, country and R&B. "We're just local guys who play music you love," added Zdebski. Their first gig was at St. Aidan's Church on Riverside Road in November, 2003. They play mostly private parties, but they are at the Village Wharf restaurant in Hollin Hall the first Wednesday of each month.
"We enjoy having them here," remarked Lou Fellah, manager of the Village Wharf. "They are good for business." During the band's October appearance, patrons were dancing and clapping their hands to the music. They seemed to be having more fun than then they would staying home to watch "Martha Stewart's Apprentice" on TV.
Woods and Fazackerley agreed that their wives are generally tolerant of the band and the time it takes them away from their families. There is one frequent question, however, from the wives: "Where are you going with this?"
Booking: 703-447-9045, blackmoontonic.com
<ro>"So you're a little bit older and a lot less bolder
Than you used to be
So you used to shake 'em down
But now you stop and think about your dignity."
<ro1>—Bob Seger, "Rock & Roll Never Forgets"
<bt>Unlike other dad bands in the area, members of Debris have been playing regularly for 25 years since they were dorm friends at James Madison University. Waynewood resident Jim White is the leader of the group, but the others are scattered about Northern Virginia.
"We started playing at clubs in Harrisonburg and Georgetown during the summer, White said. "We started with punk, but now play "hard pop," plus country and blues. We were also more serious when we were younger." The band plays often at The Grog & Tankard, a bar in the District that offers its stage to local groups.
White has a mini-recording studio in his basement, but that's just to help with writing songs. "We have all kept our jobs; we're not in this for the money."
Coincidentally, Jim White's teenage son Nick, plays in his own band, "Who Cares," with Colin McConville, son of Beats Workin's singer, Jay McConville. Their garage band is closer to the original mold than their dads'.
Next engagement: Nov. 12, Grog & Tankard, 2408 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C.