MS. REBECCA SHEIR
And finally today, we'll play a little music. Name a music venue in D.C., any venue, and chances are the Cravin' Dogs have probably played it. On April 2nd, the local band celebrates 25 years of gonzo folk and rock 'n' roll with a concert at Wolf Trap. Andrew Hiller sat in on a rehearsal.
MR. ANDREW HILLER
As the band members tuned their instruments and try out a few licks, I discover what drives the Cravin' Dogs and what their still craving after a quarter century in the music business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1
Salt and vinegar. Can you give me a chip, ya'll?
Food seems to be on their minds a lot lately. They titled their newest CD "Sounds Like A Wiener," and the first song up at today's rehearsal is "An Ode To A Takoma Park Pupusa Vendor."
The band's always been hungry, though. Lead guitarist and songwriter Caldwell Gray says the group first came together in 1986 at a barbeque in Capitol Hill.
MR. CALDWELL GRAY
We were playing in the backyard with another friend of ours who had a, like, a Marshall stack and Lipan (sp?) He was just cranking and the neighbor two doors, after like a 20 minute "Wild Thing" or just some such nonsense, she yells out her back door, is that your finale? Because I'm going to ask you just to finish up.
But of course they didn't. After they were chased out of the backyard they began playing at coffee shops and clubs around D.C., including a yearlong engagement at the Grog.
Of course, it wasn't always food that brought the band members together. Sometimes it was natural selection. Bassist Barry Warsaw is joining in on today's rehearsal from Atlanta via Skype, is sort of the Ringo star of the Cravin' Dogs.
MR. BARRY WARSAW
Well, I mean, I knew John and I knew Wally, who was, you know, in the band at the time and I think you guys had gone through, like, 8,000 bass players. But I had just started a new job at the time. I was like, I can't really be in a band. If this guy in leaves in six months, come talk to me again and I think he did.
Warsaw says the band had its ups and downs, sometimes they really worked themselves like dogs.
We would hit rush hour traffic going down to North Carolina for a Thursday night gig, play from like 10:00 to, I don't know, 2:00 in the morning, bicker with the guy for pay, leave at 3:30 in the morning, drive back to D.C. and hit rush hour traffic coming back into town. Sleep for an hour at Caldwell's house and then go to work.
But John Penovich says there were also some pretty cool moments, such as opening for Dave Matthews, Chuck Barry.
MR. JOHN PENOVICH
Probably a highlight would be opening for Styx at Meriwether Post Pavilion in 1991.
And drummer Tom Helf says most of the Dogs prefer the stage to the studio.
MR. TOM HELF
It's hard to play to machines. It's much easier to play to people.
But after 25 years of writing tunes for the band, founding Dog Caldwell Gray says he's learned the importance of studio time and sticking to a schedule.
I think you have to have a deadline. I don't think it's ever -- you never want to let go of it. You'll just keep holding onto it and polishing and polishing and crafting and crafting and never stop, never stop.
That's not to say Gray's music and lyrics can't be complex. Sometimes they even require translation.
The Dogs belt out their songs in five languages, English, French, Spanish, Latin and Croatian. Drummer Tom Helf says learning a foreign language isn't the hardest part.
It's tough to schedule, you know, five people's lives around band activities, but we keep coming back because he keeps coming up with the goods.
And after 25 years, despite complaints from neighbors, day job dramas and all the ups and downs of the music biz, the Cravin' Dogs plan to do it again at the Barns of Wolf Trap.
And this time when the audience on the lawn shouts, is that your finale? They may just be shouting for an encore. I'm Andrew Hiller.
For more information on the Cravin' Dogs upcoming concert at Wolf Trap, check out our website, metroconnection.org.
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza, David Schultz, Bryan Russo and Sabri Ben-Achour and Jared Walker and reporters Lauren Hodges and Andrew Hiller. Jim Asendio is our news director. Our ''Door to Door'' producers are Julia Edwards and Jonna McKone. No "Door to Door" this week, obviously, but don't worry, we'll back next time.
Thanks to Tobey Schreiner, Jonathon Charry, Andrew Chadwick, Margo Kelly, Timmy Olmstead, Kelin Quigley, and Greg Peppers for their production help. And special thanks to Dana Farrington and the WAMU digital media team for keeping our website up-to-date. Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts'' and our ''Door To Door'' theme "No Girl" are from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. Visit our website, metroconnection.org, for a list of all the music we use.
You can also find links to our Twitter feed, our Facebook page and information about subscribing to the free "Metro Connection" podcast. We hope you can join us next time when we jump in headfirst. We'll explore all sorts of firsts from Arlington, Virginia's first opera company to why most trees in our region probably weren't the first ones here. I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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