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Go Listen to Justin Moose

RFK Stadium will be veritably overrun with artistic talents this week. "Without a Trace" star Anthony LaPaglia, Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell and Hootie & the Blowfish drummer Jim "Soni" Sonefeld are playing in Saturday's Marco Etcheverry tribute game. United midfielder Ben Olsen and goalie Troy Perkins both paint in their spare time, reserve Nick Addlery lays down beats, star forward Luciano Emilio sings (badly) in the locker room and developmental player Bryan Arguez is a rapper.

But none of them, as far as I know, have a public gig tonight, as does United midfielder and amateur guitarist Justin Moose. The second-year pro is playing a solo set at bar/restaurant Judge's Chambers on Main Street in Upper Marlboro, as he's been doing nearly every Tuesday night for the past four months. And while the crowd is modest (a dozen or two friends and fans) and the pay is non-existent, the reviews are extremely enthusiastic.

"He's awesome, legitimately awesome," Bobby Boswell said.

"He's unbelievable," Clyde Simms said.

"I mean, he's bad-ass," Olsen said. "I'm a hack; he's the real deal."

Moose taught himself to play while listening to the radio when he was 11 or 12. His older brother played, and his mom taught voice and piano lessons, but Moose wasn't into voice and piano.

"I can't believe I didn't take lessons from her," he said today. "I just wasn't interested in it. I didn't think piano was the cool instrument."

So instead he played guitar, learning by ear and starting out with stuff like the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead. At Wake Forest he took one semester of jazz lessons--his only formal training--played with the school's six-piece jazz ensemble, and brought his guitar on road trips.

"A former guitarist from Marshall Tucker's band was our bus driver one time, we were on a trip, and the two of them were jamming in the hallway," Wake Forest Coach Jay Vidovich told me. "He's talented, there's no doubt about that."

When Moose arrived in D.C. he played with one rock group that broke up when its members went to law school; he also briefly played for a classic rock cover band called "Barefoot," and is still looking for a new group to mess around with. In the offseason, he plays gigs in North Carolina at least once a week. His brother is a professional musician who plays with a rock band called "">Galveston," and he's collaborated with singer/songwriter Karla Causey. Moose has three guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, a Djembe drum and has penned about 50 original songs, and while he said he's thought about trying to make a living with music one day, he's committed to soccer.

"This is my career right now and it's my first priority, but I do still play as much as I can and try to share my music with others as much as I can," he said. "I can't see myself ever stopping playing music."

In the meantime, the Judge's Chambers gig is a low-key outlet, a free show from 7:30 "until whenever," said Rick Fagnani, the owner's father. "He just freewheels it."

Moose plays a mix of his own stuff and covers, ranging from blues to Southern rock to folk, incorporating Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bruce Hornsby and Led Zeppelin. He is trying to bring a mandolin player with him, and there's talk that Boswell might appear, singing Don McLean's "American Pie." Simms--who's been teaching himself guitar over the past three years, is currently in a folk phase (think Damien Rice or Iron & Wine) and has jammed with Moose during the preseason--also might make an appearance during an upcoming show.

Several teammates go to Upper Marlboro to watch the shows, Olsen hopes to have Moose jam on DC101's Eliot in the Morning during the offseason, and Boswell wants to book him into D.C. clubs.

"He's amazing," Boswell said. "I think he's one of the few guys that could possibly never have to worry about getting an uncool job."

(You can hear some tunes here.)

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 16, 2007; 5:16 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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