Image Courtesy of Dean Robbins
By Dean Robbins
Country Western garage band Jenny Don’t and the Spurs took a last-minute detour on their 2023 tour promoting their new horror-inspired EP Lovesick Crawl to visit the Runaway in Brookland. For the uninitiated, the Runaway is a small (and I mean small) bar and music stage near the CVS on 12th Street. It is about a 10 to 15-minute walk from the Catholic University of America (CUA).
In the band’s one major moment of banter, lead singer Jenny Don’t discussed the relatively last-minute booking of the concert alongside the curious coincidence of the booker having the same name as a crazed man they once had to deal with. They are very much different people. Whether due to a more last-minute booking meaning the D.C. stop does not appear on the tour’s poster or simply an unfortunate Sunday night slot, attendance was a little slim, even for the small venue. That is a real shame because Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, alongside the two openers Killers from Space and The Starlings gave a great show.
Killers from Space are an instrumental band going for the musical aesthetics of fifties and sixties sci-fi movies. Think of the movies The Day That Earth Stood Still (1951) or Invaders From Mars (1953). The Theremin (an electronic instrument played by a hovering hand that makes singing-saw-like UFO sounds) player Stephen Blickenstaff, because any band in this vein needs one, is also an accomplished horror and did the cover for Jenny Don’t and the Spurs’ Lovesick Crawl.
As someone who has attended the bi-annual convention Monster Bash dedicated to cheesy pre-1968 horror and sci-fi movies, the band was right up my alley. They performed a 9-song set, including two splendid covers of “The One I Love” by R.E.M. and “Don’t Worry Baby” by The Beach Boys.
The Starlings are a Baltimore-based indie rock quintet warm off the release of seven tracks, seemingly not forming an official album, in August of last year on Bandcamp. Instrumentally, they were interesting but were inconsistent vocally. The band has two vocalists; one is a bit better (or at least more enjoyable to hear personally) than the other. My preferred vocalist, whose name is unknown to me besides not being co-vocalist Kirk Wulf, was reminiscent of Jay Farrar from Son Volt, one of the best alt-country bands of the 1990s. Their set was six songs long and pulled from their new releases.
Finally, around 10 p.m., Jenny Don’t and the Spurs took the stage. They hail from Portland, Oregon and ooze country rockabilly vibes. For the record, half of the band wears cowboy hats. The group has enough talent for a few bands, especially lead guitarist Christopher March who got a few moments of his own to shine. His Roy Rogers-esque, singing cowboy look killed, too. Most of the setlist seemed to have come from the 2021 LP Fire on the Ridge, but my knowledge of the band’s discography and notes from the event itself is incomplete. The performance of the album’s title track was the highlight of the night for me.
All three of the bands melded well with the venue’s kitschy in all the best ways vibe. An example: the glorious multicolor string lights. The bar also has a nice selection of draft beers, wines, and mixed drinks for those born in a more favorable year than myself. For those unable to partake or just craving good food, the menu is also above average for such a joint. The Runaway Nuggs and Truffle Mac & Cheese come highly recommended by at least three people. They serve food all day, including breakfast and brunch. Low-cost concert tickets (around $10-$15), a cozy atmosphere, and a convenient location make the Runaway a no-brainer for every CUA student to visit.