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New sign at The Birchmere (image via City of Alexandria)

(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.

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Chris Isaak (image via The Birchmere)

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:

And then, in December:

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Poster for Underworld event at The Birchmere (image via The Birchmere)

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:

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Blue Oyster Cult tour announcement (image via Blue Oyster Cult/Facebook)

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.

And then in September:

The full calendar is available at The Birchmere’s website.

Image via Blue Oyster Cult/Facebook

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Steve Earle and The Dukes, photo via Steve Earle/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:

Then in July:

The full list of upcoming events at The Birchmere is available online.

Photo via Steve Earle/Facebook

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Image via The Bacon Brothers/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:

Then in April:

The full list of upcoming events at The Birchmere is available online.

Photo via Image via The Bacon Brothers/Facebook

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Morning Notes

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]

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Chris Isaak holiday tour, photo via Chris Isaak/Facebook

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

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There’s a lot in store this week in Alexandria. Here’s a few events to look forward to.

Wednesday, September 8

  • Blue Oyster Cult at The Birchmere (7:30 p.m.) — The 1960s-era band is known for such hits as ” The Reaper”, “Burnin’ for You”, and “Godzilla”. All guests must provide proof of vaccination if they want to attend the performance.
  • Outdoor story time for toddlers (11:30 a.m.) –This outdoor program is perfect for ages two-to-five, and will  be held outdoors and in-person at Burke Branch Library. Masks are required, and you might want to bring something to sit on.
  • Trivia night at The Light Horse (7 p.m.) — “Grab your mates & head down to 715 King Street for a great evening of Q&A in a fun and friendly atmosphere. Delicious food, cold craft beers and delish cocktails await”

Thursday, September 9

  • Julia Fordham at The Birchmere (7:30 p.m.) — The British singer-songwriter is performing after her shows were rescheduled from April and October 2020, and all tickets from those shows will be honored. Additional tickets for Thursday night are on sale.
  • Willa Cather book discussion (7 p.m.) — “In the upcoming year, a statue of novelist Willa Cather will be installed in statuary hall in the U.S. Capital Building. Let’s celebrate with a discussion about one of Cather’s intriguing novels, The Professor’s House.”

Friday, September 10

  • August Wilson’s “Fences” at the Little Theatre of Alexandria (7 p.m.) — “Join Manumission Tour Company on September 10th at 7pm to see a special performance of August Wilson’s famous play, FENCES. Proceeds raised from this special showing will go to the production of an upcoming MTC about black history in Old Town’s South East Quadrant.”

Saturday, September 11s

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Morning Notes

Standards of Learning Test participation drops in Alexandria — “At ACPS, 60 percent of eligible students participated in the spring 2021 SOL tests. In past years, the school division had participation above 98 percent. The SOL pass rates for ACPS for all participating students were 57 percent for reading, 82 percent for writing, 44 percent for history and social science, 39 percent for mathematics, and 43 percent for science.” [Patch]

Fire Department trains at The Birchmere — “Recently, AFD conducted a multi-company drill at the Birchmere on Mount Vernon Avenue. Regular training, communication, and familiarization with their coverage areas keeps our first responders well prepared to respond during emergency situations in the City.” [Facebook]

Today’s weather — “Mostly sunny in the morning then increasing clouds with some scattered thunderstorms later in the day. High 92F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%… Variable clouds with scattered thunderstorms (in the evening). Low 73F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Restaurant manager — “Restaurant AGM responsibilities include, managing day to day operations, guest satisfaction, payroll and supervising restaurant staff performance. To be successful in this role, you should be familiar with restaurant operations and have a good understanding of what makes a great guest experience. You should also be available to work weekdays including weekends and holidays.” [Facebook]

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