Arts Desk

Head-Roc’s Mouth: “We Gotta Do Better than This!”

headyAn occasional feature in which esteemed D.C. rapper Head-Roc shares what’s on his mind.

[A conversation I had yesterday about the cancellation of yesterday's Cornel West Theory show at Bohemian Caverns. All me talking.]

“Really? The show is cancelled? Why?”

“They were shut down? Since Saturday?”

[My “Mouth”]

Well, why the fuck didn’t the venue tell The Cornel West Theory that before tonight??

…and there goes more fuel to the fire of my argument that the D.C. entertainment industry is dysfunctional and predatory, and that we must do something about it.

I won’t lie to you. Upfront, I admit I'm writing this piece because:

  1. I am pissed that I got all gussied up, out in full diplomatic hip-hop regalia, to go see The Cornel West Theory rock the house at the uber-historic e Bohemian Caverns only to find the place has been shut down—since Saturday!
  2. I am very pissed that I took the time out to do my best, spreading much love to my Cornel West Theory brothers and sister, writing yesterdays Head-Roc’s Mouth!

Wait a minute. No one told The Cornel West Theory that Bohemian Caverns was closed?

Including the promoter of the show, I must assume?

And on that note, others might have known as well. Hell, maybe I was supposed not to have known, but one thing’s for sure: Who should have been contacted were the Cornel West Theory point people. Maybe their record company, Socket Records, should have known?

And what about the other people who did know? Who knew? Did the Up and Up Open Mic people know? They got the hottest shit going in the building with that Tuesday night joint. I don’t know if they knew or not—and I’m not asking them to clear themselves either. I do know that they weren’t there last night, either. I do know it’s not their fault that Bohemian Caverns was shut down by the city for certain violations. It can’t be the fault of Up and Up’s, Cornel West Theory’s, or any other of the event planners and artists that produce shows there because all they do is make these music venues/hybrid restaurant/nightclub/coffee shop/bookstore/art gallery spaces shit-loads of MONEY while rarely and barely getting paid for the WORK they do to promote and popularize that people come and spend MONEY at these “entertainment” spaces.

So, the question is: Where does the money go? Well, since I don’t play devil’s advocate I won’t do the typical, by itemizing what it takes to run a venue, other than to say:

What it takes to sustainably operate an entertainment venue is “What It Takes!” And until proprietors take the time to cover all the bases of “What It Takes” to run a venue, then they  should not attempt to do so. If all bases of “What It Takes” to operate as an entertainment venue are not covered, instantaneously the venture devolves into a business operation where TAKING advantage of the local arts scene is the only way to stay afloat. As pointed out in my previous articles, this predatory relationship is now status quo in Chocolate City.

Now, this piece isn’t to lump the stewards of Bohemian Caverns into the mix with other venues and persons running their venues that I’ve mentioned in past espousing on this issue. I am, however, saying that for Bohemian Caverns to not inform one of our region's most tenured, authentic, polished, prolific and loved groups that it couldn't host last night's show, which wasadvertised for weeks, is fucked up. It’s fucked up to The Cornel West Theory. It’s fucked up for those of us who are fans of their work, and it’s fucked up for Bohemian Caverns and its history. However, fucked up doesn’t mean it’s not fixable. And I would love to see that happen in this instance.

Hi, my name is Head-Roc, and I am fan of The Cornel West Theory.

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  • spirit equality

    The Up and Up showcase is next door at Liv, not at Bohemian Caverns.

    Often people in one venue have no idea what's going on in the other, since the two venues are not physically connected and are decently spaced from one another.

  • Q

    First of all, Bohemians Caverns is NOT SHUT DOWN. It is temporarily suspended from operating due to the effects vandalism and sabotage committed by a former employee in the restaurant space that is physically attached to Bohemian Caverns. Bohemian Caverns can and will be open again in the very near future. And ,in fact, planned to be open on the night of which you speak. Unfortunately, the resolution of the issue has taken longer than expected.

    Secondly, Bohemians Caverns DID NOT BOOK The Cornel West Theory to perform. The promoter (who is not an employee of Bohemian Caverns) DID BOOK The Cornel West Theory. As soon as Bohemian Caverns caught wind that the promoter had in fact made arrangements for the band to perform, The Cornel West Theory was contacted directly and immediately. These are the facts that can and will be corroborated by all three parties involved (Bohemian, the band and the promoter). Apparently, you neglected to check with any of them with regards to facts in this matter.

    And for the record, the band/talent at any performance in Bohemian Caverns that is booked by Bohemian Caverns is paid in full, on time, and as agreed to in advance between the artist and the venue. Ask anyone who has done business with the Caverns and you will get the same story. (Including The Cornel West Theory).

    Lastly, to answer your question "where does the money go". The money absolutely goes to the artists! Bohemian negotiates with artists/agents/managers in advance to come to mutual agreements when performances are booked. Hence, the artists are the ones that are guaranteed to make money when they perform at Bohemian Caverns, NOT THE VENUE. Otherwise, they would not agree to perform there, obviously. The venue however may or may not make money based upon the expense incurred on that night. Expenses including but not limited to: Rent, Labor such as Management, Security, Bar Staff, Cleaning Staff, Sound and Lighting Techs; as well as Sound and Lighting Equipment, Heating and Air, Water, Insurance, Waste Disposal, Licensing Fees, Phone, Fax, data and internet services, oh and let's not forget marketing and promotions in publications like the WASHINGTON CITY PAPER (your employer), and the list goes on...etc, etc, etc, etc.

    So for those who want the facts, now you have them. For those that want to read a misdirected, unfounded and unsubstantiated rant, please refer to the blog above!

  • sonya


    You are taking personal an issue that was much more about pointing out some of the inconsistencies and undesirable practices in the DC Arts scene. I know for a fact that the Cornell West Theory was not aware that their show was canceled until the night of the show. So perhaps the info did not get where it needed to get. But ultimately, the point is that the author used an instance with Bohemian Caverns to illuminate larger city issues but said very clearly, "Now, this piece isn’t to lump the stewards of Bohemian Caverns into the mix with other venues and persons running their venues that I’ve mentioned in past espousing on this issue." The greater point is that folks need to do better and this is an opportunity to do so.

    Your level of protest feels heavy handed and a bit guilt laden. Thou dost protest too much, my dear.

  • Q


    As I said in my statement, Bohemian Caverns notified the artist (that someone else booked) IMMEDIATELY when they received the information that the artist had been scheduled to perform in the venue by a THIRD PARTY. It was impossible to inform them at any earlier point in time because there was no knowledge of the fact the the promoter had booked them. So it was not, in the words of the author "fucked up for Bohemian Caverns and its history" by any means. What is so hard to understand about that?

    If the article is about, as you say, "some of the inconsistencies and undesirable practices in the DC Arts scene" then Head-Roc should find an example where that dynamic applies.

    Additionally, my language and use of fact, as opposed to bitter and false rhetoric is far from heavy-handed relative to the profane and negatively provocative statements that necessitated my response.

    By the way, I am not your dear, but thanks for allowing me to clarify the points that you missed in my original response.

  • SteveK

    Here's what has to say. They note that it was health code violations:

    Failing to minimize the presence of vermin on the premises.
    * Operating a food establishment without a valid license issued by the Mayor.
    * Operating a food establishment with circumstances which may endanger the public health.
    * Operating a food establishment with gross insanitary conditions.
    * Operating a food establishment with no hot running water.

  • jux

    i guess Q ran out of stuff to say after Steve K put it down. Communication is key.