Being a newcomer to a city has its perks: every Friday-night option is appealing and going out is still an adventure. With First Impressions, I’ll be exploring DC’s music scene from my perspective, bringing you ideas for venues you may have never been to before and shedding new light on old standbys. Whether you’re a newbie like me, a die-hard local (do those exist in DC?) or somewhere in between, here’s hoping to a musical adventure in everyone’s weekend plans.
When weighing my options for the first installment of First Impressions, I hesitated to choose Friday Night Eclectic at Strathmore Mansion. Bethesda, Maryland hardly seems like a destination for DC music scenesters, and the typical classy programming of this multi-disciplinary arts center isn’t always aligned to the desires of weekend ears. But Friday Night Eclectic isn’t the typical fare of Strathmore, and Bethesda isn’t as square as you might think. Promises of dance beats from DC bands Ra Ra Rasputin and Miyazaki enticed me out in the end, and even after my 45 minute long-haul on the metro, I had no regrets.
Strathmore describes their Friday Night Eclectic as “the hip party you would host—if you lived in a mansion with an art gallery, a cool band and a bartender.” I guess their description is pretty accurate, even if I do wonder who put together the guest list. Suburban dads in baseball caps mingled with Mohawked girls and young urbanites on the dance floor, and skinny-jeaned hipsters rubbed elbows with long-haired hippie types at the bar. This oddly diverse assortment of concertgoers only added to the charm, however, and I found it a refreshing divergence from the more predictable crowds I’ve encountered in the heart of the district.
The venue itself, filled with dance music, radiated quirky. Oak wood paneling and ornate metal light fixtures adorn the whole first floor, and the grand staircase in the foyer exudes elegance – it is a renovated mansion, after all. In the midst of all this class, Miyazaki and Ra Ra Rasputin staged an excellent, high-energy show underneath a giant pipe organ. For those who temporarily tired of the bands’ synthpop stylings, a DC artist sold his wares in an adjacent room, even allowing onlookers to try their hand at using his paint sprayer. For thirsty folk, a cash bar in the dining room served up boozy delight, while locally made art adorned every wall and provided welcome wandering space. Although I came for the tunes (which did not disappoint), I was fully amused by the assorted offerings of the evening.
The music was danceable, the venue was surprisingly enchanting, and the eclectic vibe lived up to Strathmore’s intents. If you missed out this weekend, don’t worry – the mansion houses local bands every Friday night and throws in unexpected arts events to round the whole thing out. If ever there was a reason to venture that far up the red line, this might be it.