Reuters Congressional correspondent/Dirty Bomb guitarist Andy Sullivan is ready to put his skills to the test against fellow journalists-turned-rockers.
Do you want your face melted in a deadline-oriented, first-draft-of-history kind of way? Are you ready to rock objectively?
Journopalooza is counting on it. The annual event, which showcases bands anchored by journalists, returns Friday for its fourth installment; proceeds go to Writopia Lab and Reach Inc., two charities that help local children with creative writing and literacy. Objectively, it could be the greatest Battle of the Journalist-Dominated Bands you’ve ever seen — by being the only one you’ve ever seen. Regardless, it’s fair and balanced to say that some of these bands can play.
According to organizer Christina Davidson, a writer and book editor who has worked for the Atlantic, the competition started as a joke. She had crossed paths with Tom Toles, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post, and had seen a private performance of a journalist-heavy band that had been incubating in Toles’ basement for ages. Suspicious Package refused to play in public. “A lot of us, me starting the list, were not really ready,” Toles said.
Davidson had friends in other journalist bands — she’s the Bill Graham of D.C.’s media-oriented music scene and is an operatically trained soprano (though she says, “I’ve been too heavy a drinker for years to ever get into that range again”). She joked to Toles that a battle of the bands “would be hilarious,” and when Suspicious Package emerged as a cover-playing butterfly, the joke became reality.
This year, seven bands will take the stage for sets in the 20-25 minute range. And it’s a nice stage: The event has moved from the National Press Club to the Hamilton, a new venue at 14th and F streets. The downstairs concert area seats hundreds, and the upstairs restaurant looks like Old Ebbitt Grill and Clyde’s had a huge, wood-paneled baby (it’s the same ownership group). It’s an upscale, 24-hour facility, and it might be the only place in town for when your embassy party breaks up at 3 a.m. and the ambassador announces he is so over Denny’s.
For the music, you might envision Wolf Blitzer in KISS makeup, but on average, the bands have a bit more skin in the game.
Andy Sullivan sang as a soloist with the Portland, Maine, Symphony as a tween, he picked up guitar as a teenager and he played with a Minnesota country-rock band in his 20s. Copy editing supplemented his income, but “the label fell apart, the van broke down, the girlfriend kicked me out.” He changed careers — Sullivan now works as a Congressional correspondent for Reuters — and the timing was perfect. “I was leaving music right as the music industry was about to be destroyed by the Internet,” he said. “And I made the wise career choice to go into another field that was about to be destroyed by the Internet.”
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