COMMENTARY: Flashing back to memorable show, WTOP reporter climbs back on stage

Modest Proposal Friendship Station
Bill Crandall and WTOP’s Neal Augenstein in front of the now-defunct Friendship Station, at 4926 Wisconsin Ave., where their band, Modest Proposal played a memorable show. (Courtesy Chris Suspect)

It’s coming up on 35 years since well-dressed fans of mod music filled the dance floor of the now-defunct Friendship Station for a Sunday afternoon “All Ages AllDayer.”

Back then, what is now a quiet block of Wisconsin Avenue Northwest was lined with 1960s-era Vespa and Lambretta scooters. And, oh yeah, my band — Modest Proposal — was the headlining band on stage, and I was the lead singer.

On Sunday, Feb. 17, 1985, we hosted an afternoon show at Friendship Station — a club on the second floor of 4926 Wisconsin Ave. NW. On a stage that is a foot high, energetic musicians risked hitting the ceiling with a Who guitarist Pete Townshend-esque windmill.

Modest Proposal flyer
Original flyer from 1985 show, featuring Modest Proposal and Mod Fun — the bands will reunite 35 years later. (Courtesy Chris Suspect)

Mod Fun, a trio of younger-than-us musicians from the New Jersey-New York sixties scene, drove down Interstate 95 to be here in time for when doors opened at 1:30 p.m.

Fast-forward 35 years, past starting a career as a radio reporter, getting married, having two children, and playing a one-off Modest Proposal reunion show in 2009.

For better or worse, most of my involvement in music for the past three decades has been relegated to recounting stories of “back when I was in a band,” as well as D.C.’s groundbreaking hard-core punk and new wave scenes.

Well, it’s time to stop talking, and start singing and dancing.

It’s been a secret until now, and you’re the first to know: On Sunday, March 15, Modest Proposal and Mod Fun will reunite for “Modest Proposal/Mod Fun AllDayer 2020” to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the show. It will be held at the new Pearl Street Warehouse on The Wharf in Southwest D.C.

Modest Proposal 2020 includes co-founder guitarist Bill Crandall, drummer Danny Ingram and bassist Hunter Bennett, who currently make up the rhythm section of the highly-acclaimed Dot Dash.

A lot has changed since 1985

The strip of Wisconsin Avenue Northwest between Fessenden Street and Ellicott Street was once a night life destination, with Friendship Station, One Flight Up, Patton’s and The Godfather Supper Club, where topless dancing rather than fine cuisine topped the menu.

“The fact that 18-year-olds could purchase beer and wine in D.C. through the mid-’80s contributed to nightclubs there on upper Wisconsin Avenue,” said Brian Kane, whose One Flight Up was a few doors away from Friendship Station. “The 18- to 21-year-old kids would flock down Wisconsin Avenue from Montgomery County.”

“Once D.C. bumped it to 21 years old, that factor was negated,” Kane said. “And the Bethesda Metro station opening in 1984 opened up the entire city to clubbers.”

Friendship Station is long gone, and the two-story building is now inhabited by Massage Envy.

After years of neighborhood complaints about noise, public urination and other side effects of nightclubs, the once-cutting-edge stretch of Wisconsin Avenue is now home to more family-friendly establishments, including Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza and The National Diving Center.

The changes aren’t limited to the site of the legendary (at least in our own minds) show.

In 1985, my 34-inch waist, slim-cut, three-button suits were usually soaked in sweat at the end of a performance, which included jumps that required tucking my head to avoid hitting the roof at Friendship Station.

With Advil to soothe arthritic knees and a 2018-issued pacemaker pumping away, I’m ready to take my new hearing aids out, my reading glasses off, and climb back on stage and sweat through a suit — just like the old days.

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