When Rockvillians are looking for live music, their tendency is to look south towards Silver Spring, DC, or, heavens! across the Potomac. Well, those are great places–who can argue with the concerts at the Kennedy Center, The Fillmore, 9:30 Club, Wolftrap, or the Birchmere. But there are plenty of great places for seriously good music in and around Rockville if you know where to look and when to show up. In no particular order, here’s my list of concert venues and presenters of good live music:
- The Institute of Musical Traditions may be based in Takoma Park but it holds a concert series of Celtic, folk, bluegrass, and Creole music at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church (they call it Rockville, but it’s south of White Flint on Old Georgetown Road, so perhaps North Bethesda or South Rockville). Takes a break during the summer. Tickets run $15-20.
- Unplugged on the Rooftop, a Tuesday night concert series in Town Square featuring a mix of established and undiscovered local bands, such as The Digits and Meredith Seidel. Admission free, cash bar.
- Wine Down is a Thursday night series from June through August that features live acoustic music while sampling wine and food from the nearby restaurants. Free.
- Friday Night Live starts the weekends from May through September with free outdoor concerts (mostly rock from the 80s and 90s) in Rockville Town Square on Friday nights.
- Focus Music presents concerts of acoustic traditional and contemporary folk music at three locations around DC, including the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockville.
- Folk ‘N Great Music hosts intimate house concerts every other month on a Saturday evening (yup, in houses around Rockville and it’s the very first unionized house concert series in the US). Next concert in June. Reservations required, donations encouraged.
- Maryland Summer Jazz Festival, now in its eighth year, includes public concerts and a jazz camp in July. Not exactly sure of the location but I suspect it’s somewhere in the south end of Rockville judging from the list of sponsors.
- Rockville Concert Band, Potomac Valley Youth Orchestra, and other musical groups perform at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater in Rockville’s Civic Center Park throughout the year. Admission fees vary and most recommend reservations.
- Also in Civic Center Park, Glenview Mansion hosts monthly concerts on Sunday afternoons in its conservatory. Admission free.
- Music Center at Strathmore is certainly of the region’s crown jewels and just ten minutes from my house. It has two venues: the large new concert hall and the intimate music room in the historic mansion. Both present amazing performances by some of the leading artists in the country as well as being a home for the National Philharmonic (Rockville’s own Piotr Gajewski is conductor), Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Washington Performing Arts Society.
- Hometown Holidays, a regional event hosted by the City of Rockville, takes place over Memorial Day weekend with something like forty free concerts on eight stages (this year’s headliner is country singer Easton Corbin), along with lots of food, craft booths, and of course a parade.
Wow, there’s plenty here in Rockville to keep your feet tapping all year but I’d love to make it a dozen. If I missed a local concert venue or presenter (local means within two miles of the Red Brick Courthouse), please share it in the comments below.
If you enjoy gardens, there’s no better place around here than Brookside Gardens, a fifty-acre horticultural showplace maintained by Montgomery Parks (aka Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission). It’s a wonderful place to enjoy all year but especially in the spring when blooming azaleas pack the woods are packed and tulips fill the beds (although with today’s brisk winds, who knows what will survive).
Brookside is free and open from sunrise to sunset, but on beautiful days you’ll want to arrive well before noon to find a parking spot. It’s only 10-15 minutes away from Rockville but it can be a bit hard to find the first time since it’s tucked inside a residential neighborhood . To get there, go straight down Viers Mill Road towards DC, turn left on Randolph Road (at the Korean Korner) and after you cross Georgia Avenue (where the Kensington Volunteer Fire Station is located), look for Glenallan Avenue and turn right into the neighborhood and follow it around to the entrance to the Gardens. A great place to get away, take kids, or enjoy with guests, and if you’re really into gardens, they offer classes and a library in the visitor center.
Usually this type of post goes up on January 1, but I always prefer a bit of distance to identify the biggest stories of past year. Although this is admittedly from my limited personal perspective and is bound to generate controversy (but hey, that’s what these lists are supposed to do), here’s my list for Rockville in 2010:
1. Red Gate Golf Course. This is continued to be a thorny issue and made have seen its thorniest moment when the City Council used $2.4 million in “surplus” money to pay off past debt and the anticipated shortfalls for 2011, and also (once again) punted the decision to another time. Despite countless meetings and studies, for years the Council has been astonishingly agonized about making a decision on whether to commit to an annual subsidy, integrate it into the recreation program, levy a tax to support it, or to close it down. Meanwhile, the golf course continues to bleed money and participation rates continue to slide. Perhaps we need to start over: if we were offered 130 acres today (Red Gate is the second largest park in Rockville), what would most benefit the community? I don’t think most people would say golf course.
2. Snowpocalypse. Who can forget this snowstorm? There was so much snow it closed the federal government for a week. The adventurous walked and explored the city in a new quiet way and neighbors found a new reason to talk and help each other. There was a lot of frustration with snow clearing and the City wasn’t prepared, but remember, the city worked around the clock and conscripted employees into snowshoveling duties to deal with this record snowfall. We also improved our abilities to monitor and respond to these situations so when this happens again (and it may not be for another fifty years), we’re prepared. And someone at the City gets two stars for Continue reading →
In addition to Rockville Central and Rockville Living, Rockville Patch provides another online source of news and information about our fair city. Patch is based in New York City and operates throughout the country, working in communities of 15-100K population that are “underserved by media and would benefit by having access to local news and information about government, schools and business”. Each “Patch” is run by professional editors, writers, photographers, and videographers who live in or near the communities they serve and for the Rockville version includes nearly two dozen editors and contributors, including Sean Sedam, Lauren Sausser, Jillian Badanes, and Nathan Carrick (in case you run into them at an event). They’ve been operating in Rockville since October 2010 and recent posts include a review of Zio’s Restaurant, a video on the Comptroller’s visit to Best Buy to promote Maryland’s tax-free weekend, and images from around town. It seems to have already attracted the attention of the usual online community activists, including Temperance Blalock, Theresa Defino, and Joe Jordan (on Red Gate Golf Course, no surprise), so you’ll see some familiar faces.
On Monday, September 20, the Mayor and Council concluded (for now) the situation with Red Gate Golf Course, an issue that’s been vexing them for the last year (and longer). Unfortunately, they didn’t resolve the issue, they just kicked the can further down the road to let the next city council deal with this tar baby. By eliminating past debt and next year’s anticipated deficit, they were able to put off the hard decision about the golf course until 2012.
Rosy predictions about the golf course’s future (“we’re giving them a clean slate,” “I just know they’ll succeed as soon as the economy improves”) are either condescending or naïve. The golf course has run deficits for years and has had declining participation for nearly two decades–this isn’t related to the economic downturn. Without a serious change in management or increased investment, Continue reading →
For the first time in a very long time (John Tyner can perhaps assign a precise date), the Mayor and Council held one of their regular meetings at the Twinbrook Recreation Center since, as Mayor Marcuccio stated, “you can’t come to see us, so we’re coming to see you.” It was a regular meeting, so no agenda items were Twinbrook-focused, but half of the people who spoke at Citizen’s Forum were from Twinbrook and raised the following concerns: Continue reading →
The October edition of the King Farm Chronicle, the community’s monthly newspaper which is mailed to over 3,500 homes within King Farm, will feature the upcoming Rockville City election. They asked the candidates to provide answers to four questions and here’s the fourth and last one (with a bit in addition to the Chronicle’s 250-word limit):
4. What do you believe is the best use of the King Farm Farmstead Park and how would you bring that about? Do you favor expanding the City’s community garden at the Farmstead, or using the space to build a parking lot?
I strongly support preserving King Farm Farmstead, not only because of its historical significance but also because the community draws its name from this place–that doesn’t mean it needs to remain a farm, a dairy, or a home or has to be enshrined as a museum. Because of its history as a farm, its use for a community garden is certainly sympathetic. But I encourage additional compatible uses to ensure Continue reading →
Although the Twinbrook neighborhood is more than fifty years old, it was only ten years ago that the City of Rockville built a community recreation center here. Today we celebrated this achievement, which brought out lots of people, young and old, on this beautiful day with a welcome from Mayor Susan Hoffman and tables filled with information about various city programs, including the PTA, Human Rights Commission, and the Twinbrook Citizens Association, and prizes provided by the City and Noodles and Co.