It’s spring and the musical lineup at Arlandria’s The Birchmere (3701 Mount Vernon Avenue) is heating up.
Folk/bluegrass band The Wailin’ Jennys is headlining next month in two — unfortunately already sold out — shows on April 16 and 17.
At the end of April, jaunty 60s pop group Herman’s Hermits is set to perform at The Birchmere. Herman’s Hermits were were one of the leading bands of the British Invasion of the mid-60s.
May also shows promise too, with KT Tunstall and Amy Grant headlining early in the month.
Other shows this month and next include:
- March 23: Gerald Albright
- March 24 and 25: The High Kings
- March 26: Larry Carlton
- March 29: Stanley Clarke N 4Ever
- March 30 and 31, April 1: Drew & Ellie Holcomb
- April 2: Malinda
- April 4: The Church
- April 7: Bob Schneider
- April 8: The Sun Raarkestra
- April 12: Rick Wakeman
- April 13: Trevor Hall
- April 14: Christian de Mesones
- April 15: Oh He Dead
- April 16 and 17: The Wailin’ Jennys
- April 18 and 19: Graham Nash
- April 20: Langhorne Slim & John Craigie
- April 21 and 22: Average White Band
- April 23: Girl Named Tom
- April 24: Steve Morse Band
- April 26: Suzanne Vega
- April 27: Flatland Cavalry
- April 28: Ohio Players
- April 29: Eaglemania
- April 30: Herman’s Hermits
And then, in May:
- May 1: The Wallflowers
- May 2, May 9: Amy Grant
- May 4: Raheem Devaughn
- May 5: Tusk
- May 6: KT Tunstall & Martin Sexton
- May 7: Charlie Winston
- May 8: Cowboy Junkies
- May 12: The Manhattans
- May 13: The Jerry Douglas Band
- May 14: The Gonzo Compadres
- May 19: The Curtis Mayfield Soundtrack Show
- May 20: Najee
- May 21: Bodeans
- May 23: The Lone Bellow Trio
- May 24 and 25: Chrisette Michele
- May 26: Bela Dona Band
- May 27: The Smithereens
- May 28: The Seldom Scene & Larry Keel Experience
Photo via kttunstall.com
Chris Issak, John Waters and Judy Collins are just a few of the dozens of famous artists who petitioned the Alexandria Planning Commission and City Council to approve The Birchmere‘s Special Use Permit request to keep up its flashy new 5-foot-by-2.5-foot digital sign along Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria.
The Planning Commission approved the request 7-0 on Tuesday, and it now goes to City Council. Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek said that the letters with all of the supporting signatures would be “an excellent auction item.”
“Performing artists are now expecting the venues to keep up with the times,” wrote Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Judy Collins. “It is a necessary tool to promote the artists as well as the venue.”
Some requests were simple, like filmmaker John Waters, who wrote, “I am writing to support the Birchmere’s request to be allowed to keep their new LED sign.”
Chris Isaak wrote: “I wholeheartedly support the Birchmere Music Hall in their effort to retain their beautiful new sign. Please help them out… thank you!”
Gary Oelze, the owner of the music hall, erected the large electric sign last summer without city approval, prompting a request from the city manager’s office to go through an official process. Oelze, who was recently named a Living Legend of Alexandria, died last month.
“I think you know we do have a process in place for digital signs,” Macek said. “This is probably a case where they should have come in advance of putting the sign in.”
The Commission also approved a request to keep the sign lit until midnight, as well as the installation of a smaller sign at the entrance of the venue.
The following artists wrote letters in support of the new sign:
- Bela Dona Band
- Karla Bonoff
- Chris Botti
- Norman Brown
- Carbon Leaf
- Judy Collins
- Daryl Davis
- Raheem DeVaughn
- Will Downing
- Charles Esten
- Samantha Fish
- Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer
- Chris Isaak
- Glenn Jones
- Samara Joy
- Kenny Lattimore
- Musiq Souchild
- The Seldom Scene
- Ricky Skaggs
- Rick Springfield
- Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
- Storm Large
- Livingston Taylor
- William “Smooth” Wadlaw
- John Waters
- Alyson Williams
- Dar Williams
- Jason D. Williams
(Updated 10:10 a.m.) Like Bob Dylan, The Birchmere has switched to electric — at least for its signage. Also like Dylan, it’s a change that’s causing some trouble for the music venue.
It started last summer when famed music venue The Birchmere Music Hall (3701 Mount Vernon Avenue) was finding it difficult to hire someone to change out the letters on the venue’s old sign.
According to a special use permit application:
In July 2022, after having trouble finding people willing to do the manual labor of changing out the sign, trying to think of ways to enhance The Birchmere and attract additional business coming out of a devastating pandemic that severely impacted its revenues, and looking at the modern technology employed by other successful music venues in the region and beyond, the owner of the music venue replaced the changeable copy sign with a digital freestanding sign in the exact same location along Mount Vernon Avenue.
The venue owners built a new sign using the same pole as the original sign, with an additional pole on either side for added stability. The new sign is slightly larger than the previous one and has a new digital display.
Unfortunately for The Birchmere, the change ran afoul of the city’s zoning ordinance.
“Although the sign is constructed using the same sign pole as the original sign and is only slightly larger, the current sign can no longer be approved administratively due to the 2016 revisions to the Zoning Ordinance pertaining to signage requirements,” the special use permit said.
In November, a warning was issued to The Birchmere along with instructions to bring the sign back into compliance.
The venue has since filed an aforementioned special use permit application to waive some of the requirements for the sign.
“This modern sign, which allows for the digital change of copy, is consistent with the use of the Property as a music venue,” the permit application said. “The Birchmere is an iconic venue that has been attracting major artists and their fans to the City of Alexandria, celebrating music and contributing to the City’s tax base, for over forty years.”
The Birchmere argued in the application that the new sign isn’t causing any harm and is vital to the venue’s continued success.
“Given that the old sign and new sign are similar in size, in the same location, and illuminated (albeit through different mechanisms) there will be no negative impact of the new sign on pedestrians, drivers or the surrounding area,” the application said. “Finally, the proposed sign is a critical component of The Birchmere’s continued success as an arts and cultural venue, the value of which has been emphasized in the City’s Master Plans and economic development initiatives.”
The new sign application is scheduled to take the stage at a Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 7.
The “Wicked Game” and “Jesse’s Girl” stars from the 1980’s are headlining at the Birchmere as the Arlandria music venue winds down its 2022 calendar.
Toward the end of November, Chris Issak is bringing a Christmas Tour to the Birchmere. The $115 show is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 28, and features music from a Christmas album that came out earlier this month.
That Thursday, Rick Springfield is also coming to The Birchmere for a $115 show called “Stripped Down”, described by the venue’s website as an “intimate solo performance of music and storytelling.
Transgressive cult film director John Waters is also returning to The Birchmere for his annual Christmas show: A John Waters Christmas.
Other upcoming shows in November include:
- Nov. 1: Joep Beving
- Nov. 2: Pink Martini
- Nov. 3: John Moreland
- Nov. 4: Phillip Phillips
- Nov. 5: Loose Ends
- Nov. 6: Ottmar Liebert & Luna Negra
- Nov. 8: Mac McAnally
- Nov. 9: Jeff “Skunk” Baxter & The American Vinyl All Star Band
- Nov. 10: Damien Escobar
- Nov. 11 and Nov. 12: Paula Poundstone
- Nov. 13: Rodney Crowell
- Nov. 14: Zoe Keating
- Nov. 15: Jake Shimabukaro
- Nov. 16: Tower of Power
- Nov. 17: Boney James
- Nov. 18 and Nov. 19: Jeffrey Osborne
- Nov. 20: Della Mae & Sister Sadie
- Nov. 25: The Seldom Scene & Dry Branch Fire Squad
- Nov. 26: Mary Prankster “Pranksgiving 2022”
- Nov. 28: Chris Isaak
- Nov. 29 and Nov. 30: Musiq Soulchild
And then, in December:
- Dec. 1: Rick Springfield
- Dec. 2 and Dec. 3: Chris Botti
- Dec. 4: Dar Williams
- Dec. 8: Over the Rhine
- Dec. 9: Delvon Lamaar Organ Trio
- Dec. 10: Pieces of a Dream
- Dec. 11: Karla Bonoff & Livingston Taylor
- Dec. 12: Samatha Fish with the Jesse Dayton Band
- Dec. 13: Storm Large
- Dec. 15 and Dec. 16: Carbon Leaf
- Dec. 17: Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
- Dec. 18: Luther Re-Lives – featuring William “Smooth” Wardlaw
- Dec. 20: Samara Joy
- Dec. 21: A John Waters Christmas
- Dec. 22: Maysa
- Dec. 23: Charles Esten with N’est Pas
- Dec. 29: Bela Dona Band
- Dec. 30: 25th Annual Hank Williams Tribute
- Dec. 31: New Years Eve
The Birchmere’s (3701 Mt Vernon Avenue) annual Halloween event Raven’s Night is scheduled to return next month, along with a slew of other musical acts.
Raven’s Night is returning for its 10th year. The event features belly dancing, live music, a costume contest and a pre-show carnival.
This year’s theme is Underworld, emphasizing demons, witches and wizards. Tickets are $35 and the event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29.
Singer, songwriter, and composer Rufus Wainwright is scheduled to perform at The Birchmere at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 12. In addition to writing two operas and setting Shakespeare sonnets to music, Wainwright was also featured in the Shrek soundtrack.
Apparently, a different version of the song was used in the movie vs the soundtrack, but this is an Alexandria news site and not a Shrek news site so that’s as far into that as we’ll go.
The band 10,000 Maniacs was scheduled to perform late in October. but The Birchmere said family and health challenges have led the band to cancel their tour.
Other shows coming up include:
- Oct. 1: WMAL Free Speech Forum
- Oct. 2: Cheryl Wheeler & Christine Lavin
- Oct. 4: Milton Nascimento
- Oct. 6: Sierra Hull
- Oct. 7: White Ford Bronco
- Oct. 8: Hiroshima
- Oct. 9: The Manhattans
- Oct. 12: Rufus Wainwright
- Oct. 13: The Man in Black: a Tribute to Johnny Cash
- Oct. 14: Kirk Whalum & Keiko Matsui
- Oct. 15: Oleta Adams
- Oct. 16: WAR
- Oct. 17: Leo Kottke
- Oct. 19: Jim Brickman
- Oct. 20: Avery Sunshine
- Oct. 21 and 22: The Whispers
- Oct. 23: Watkins Family Hour
- Oct. 25: Steve Vai
- Oct. 26: Brent Cobb & Hayes Carll
- Oct. 27: Larry Fleet
- Oct. 28: We Are One X-Perience
- Oct. 29: Raven’s Night 2022
- Oct. 30: Tom Paxton
- Oct. 31: Squirrel Nut Zippers
Blue Oyster Cult, a rock band best known for Don’t Fear the Reaper and possibly an SNL parody, is making a return to The Birchmere (3701 Mt Vernon Avenue) next month.
The other major star in September is Modern English, a post-punk band formed in the 1980s.
- Aug. 17: The Fabulous Thunderbirds
- Aug. 19: Jon B.
- Aug. 20: Melanie Fiona
- Aug. 21: Christopher Cross
- Aug. 22: The FIXX
- Aug. 25: Peter White
- Aug. 25: Huggy Lowdown
- Aug. 27: Kim Waters
- Aug. 28: Neil Diamond Tribute
And then in September:
- Sept. 2: Danny Gatton Birthday Celebration
- Sept. 3: Raheem DeVaughn
- Sept. 8: Blue Oyster Cult
- Sept. 9: Adriana Calcanhotto
- Sept. 10: Reckless Kelly
- Sept. 11: Judy Collins
- Sept. 12: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
- Sept. 14: Modern English
- Sept. 15: Robert Cray Band
- Sept. 16: The Steeldrivers
- Sept. 17: Steep Canyon Rangers
- Sept. 18: Kevin Ross
- Sept. 20: Kathleen Edwards
- Sept. 21: Cymande
- Sept. 22: Phil Vassar
- Sept. 24: Paul Thorn
- Sept. 25: Heaven 17
- Sept. 28: Marshall Crenshaw
- Sept. 30: Tinariwen
The full calendar is available at The Birchmere’s website.
Image via Blue Oyster Cult/Facebook
Summer highlights at The Birchmere include rock band America, R&B singer Lalah Hathaway and a suite of country-folk music legends.
July has a certain blues/country flair, with singer-songwriter John Hiatt performing two shows, folk musician A.J. Croce covering the music of his parents — folk musician Jim Croce and his wife and songwriting partner Ingrid Croce, and a show by country-rock musician Steve Earle.
Shows coming up in June include:
- June 3: All-Star Purple Party (a Prince tribute band)
- June 4: Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes
- June 5: Jose Feliciano
- June 9: Dixie Longate
- June 10: Tusk (a Fleetwood Mac tribute band)
- June 11: Four Bitchin Babes
- June 12: Gaelic Storm
- June 13: We Three
- June 15: Debbie Gibson
- June 17: NRBQ and Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun
- June 18: The S.O.S Band
- June 19: The Zappa Band
- June 20: Jesse Cook
- June 22: Lalah Hathaway
- June 24: Tribute to Tom Petty
- June 25: Pieces of a Dream
- June 26: The Music of Cream
- June 27: Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
- June 29: Dave Mason
Then in July:
- July 1: The Amish Outlaws
- July 2: Donnell Rawlings
- July 3: Kindred the Family Soul
- July 5: Leonid & Friends
- July 6: Acoustic Alchemy
- July 7: Euge Groove
- July 8: Ginger Billy
- July 9: Laurel Canyon
- July 10 and 11: John Hiatt & The Goners
- July 14: Herman’s Hermits
- July 15: Voices of Motown
- July 17: The High Kings
- July 19: Colin James & Torozo Cannon
- July 20: Steve Earle & The Dukes
- July 24: A.J. Croce
- July 26: Herb Alpert & Lani Hall
- July 28: Stephen Kellogg
- July 29: Anthony Brown
- July 30: Who’s Bad (Michael Jackson tribute band)
The full list of upcoming events at The Birchmere is available online.
Photo via Steve Earle/Facebook
ALXnow has good news and bad news.
The good news — not to step on The Zebra’s beat — is Gordon Lightfoot is coming to The Birchmere (3701 Mt Vernon Avenue). The more on-brand bad news: the show is already sold out.
But there are lots of other shows coming to the Arlandria music venue over the next few months, including a return of Three Dog Night and 80s alt-rock icons 10,000 Maniacs and Aimee Mann.
This spring will also see local karaoke performers Kevin and Michael Bacon return to The Birchmere.
Shows coming up in March include:
- March 10: The Oak Ridge Boys
- March 11: The Voices of Motown
- March 12: An Evening with Tom Rush
- March 13: Harmony Sweepstakes
- March 17: Edwin McCain
- March 18: Joshua Radin
- March 19: The Smithereens
- March 20: Christian de Mesones
- March 22: Langhorne Slim
- March 24: Euge Groove
- March 25 and 26: The High Kings
- March 27: The English Beat
- March 28: Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs
- March 29: Delta Sprint
- March 30: Pokey LaFarge
- March 31: Joan Osborne
Then in April:
- April 1: The Manhattans
- April 2: Bob Schneider
- April 4: Walter Trout and Tommy Castro & The Painkillers
- April 6: Tab Benoit
- April 7: Asleep at the Wheel
- April 8 and 9: Average White Band
- April 10: Cowboy Junkies
- April 11 and 12: The Bacon Brothers
- April 13: Gordon Lightfoot
- April 14: Sergio Mendes
- April 15: Eaglemania
- April 16: James McMurtry
- April 18: The Zombies
- April 19: Delamitri
- April 20: Three Dog Night
- April 21: Leonid & Friends
- April 22: Shawn Colvin
- April 23: 10,000 Maniacs
- April 24: Joey Alexander
- April 25 and 26: Aimee Mann
- April 27: Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer
- April 28: Raul Malo
- April 29: Al Stewart
- April 30: Janis Ian
The full list of upcoming events at The Birchmere is available online.
Photo via Image via The Bacon Brothers/Facebook
SROs in hot water over alleged inappropriate sexual messages — “The investigation stems from a recent report by a former student about alleged sexually inappropriate conversations that occurred during her time at the school, according to two people familiar with the inquiry but not authorized to speak about it on the record.” [Washington Post]
Holiday theft down in the city — “According to data collected by the Alexandria Police Department, a total of 56 shoplifting and concealment incidents have been reported for November and December, with a few weeks still left in December. This marks a decrease from 2020, which had 93 cases over the same two months, and 2019, during which 111 cases occurred over the same two months.” [Alexandria Times]
Afghan siblings, wounded in Kabul airport bombing, seek new life in Northern Virginia — “Mina, 8, and her brother Faisal, 13, navigated a tricky route to arrive in Alexandria. Now they must build a new life, while mourning the one they left behind.” [Washington Post]
Over 50 years of an iconic music venue in Alexandria — “Birchmere tell-all book by local writers published in November.” [Alexandria Gazette]
Arlandria music venue The Birchmere has a jam-packed schedule for the holiday season, with a few notable big names and old favorites returning.
Coming up later this week is musician Chris Isaak, best known for his 1989 single Wicked Game.
Classic 70s rock band America is coming to the Birchmere next month, though unfortunately the show is already sold out.
Birchmere frequent guest KT Tunstall — whose hits like Black Horse and the Cherry Tree were everywhere around 2006 — is also making a return in December. With a completely different vibe: surrealist filmmaker John Waters is also returning to the Birchmere for his yearly Christmas show.
There are also some fun tribute concerts planned, from a show about rock band Genesis to a tribute to Hank Williams late next month. Read More