My friend Joah’s blog/app/site is blowing up!
I first met John in early 2009 here in Austin not long after I returned from my own stint living in D.C. We’ve remained in touch, often catching up around music festivals, and most recently during my summer visit to D.C. where I caught up with John in the Adams Morgan area of D.C. where he’s taken over a house that used to be the studio for the band Thievery Corporation, D.C. natives themselves. Needless to say, with his gig at C3 and fistbumps with the President, he’s found a nice niche between music and politics, and – as a result – Austin and D.C. Let’s learn some more… – Joah
Localeur: Describe your journey – if you could briefly, how did you get to where you are today? What are some basic tenets you live by?
John: My mom was a docent at the National Gallery of Art when I was a kid. I loved the art, and at a very young age, I could recite the names of most of paintings, the artists and movements that were associated with them. I think I have been cataloguing images, sounds and experiences ever since. I shamelessly follow my passions for politics, music, art, and experiences. Obsessively even. That’s led me a lot of unexpected places. I went to art school, worked at the White House, and now I work for one of the biggest music festival and event producers in the world. By pouring my energy into my passions, I have built an extraordinary career.
Localeur: You had the privilege of producing the Obama inaugurations. What are the main differences in producing festival, or perhaps a large-scale concert for a massive band, versus the inauguration?
John: The biggest difference is the personalities involved. All of the component parts are the same, but the priorities and angle of approach are very different. There’s a lot more suits in politics, than rock and roll.
Localeur: Certain types of music can paint your experiences in during travel. How does travel paint your personal views on music, or alter taste? Or vice versa?
John: I travel a lot. The music, food, art, and culture of different places season you a little bit every time you try them. I most enjoy those cities with their own distinctive character – the kind you notice right when you get off the plane. A visit to Austin can have me listening to Willie Nelson and craving tacos for weeks.
Localeur: What cities have taken you by surprise in your travels, where maybe you came with preconceptions?
John: Los Angeles. I even lived there for a little while, and I thought I knew what it was all about. But every time I go there, I discover something new, interesting, and unexpected. I love LA, and I never thought I’d say that. It’s really become a hub for a lot of the creative entrepreneurial spirit that is driving so many interesting industries like culinary [arts], music, and fashion.
Localeur: Where is the best place(s) your career has taken you?
John: Berlin is probably my favorite city I have traveled to, and I have gotten to go there for work a couple of times now. Grant Park in Chicago will always be memorable for Obama’s Election Night Event and Lollapalooza. But getting to return to my hometown of DC, as a producer for the 56th and 57th Presidential Inaugurals, was as good as it gets for me.
Localeur: Where are some places you have yet to travel to, but have dreamed about?
John: I have always wanted to go to Australia. I have an uncle who lives in Western Australia, and I have always wanted to go visit. But I figure it takes a month or so to do Australia right, and an opportunity to take that much time off hasn’t presented itself.
John on a boat with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio because work.
Localeur: What is your fall back spot, the one place you know you are going to have a memorable time or a great meal?
John: My neighborhood spot in DC is Mama Ayesha’s. Spectacular Lebanese food in Adams Morgan – it’s been there since the 70’s, but a lot of newcomers don’t know about it.
Localeur: Where do you go to clear your mind, or reset, in DC – or anywhere?
John: Whenever possible, I go snowboarding. It’s my favorite way to clear my head. No place makes me happy like the mountains, [especially] in Colorado. When I can’t get away, it’s in-town excursions with my two dogs. They love Rock Creek Park.
Localeur: What should people know about DC that perhaps is overlooked?
John: The National Park Service has some of the best bars in town. You can buy limited selections of beer and wine at GSI Concessions stands around the major memorials. As a resident of DC since 77’, I’ve only discovered this fact in 08’. I visit the memorials a lot more frequently now. Also, I’m amazed by how many people I meet who have never heard of mumbo sauce or go-go music.