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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 05/ 1/2006

The Sun Sets on the Half Moon

By Fritz Hahn

Musicians and music lovers gathered at Half Moon BBQ Sunday for a couple of hours of honkytonk and Budweisers and to say goodbye to Silver Spring's best live music venue, which closed its doors forever last night.

Hosted by local rockabilly singer J.P. McDermott (and his band Western Bop), the evening featured a number of cameos, including Ruthie Logsdon of Ruthie and the Wranglers and Dagmar of Dagmar and the Seductones, leading up to a group finale of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

In between sets, McDermott told me he only found out the bar was closing on Friday night, when owner Marc Gretschel asked him to organize one last party. "I'm really going to miss this place," McDermott said, noting that his band had performed more than 50 times at the little concert hall and barbecue joint.

The Half Moon's closing appears to be a simple matter of economics. When the restaurant opened in a prime Georgia Avenue space back in 2000, Gretschel gambled on the neighborhood's future and signed a lease for up to 15 years. With Silver Sprung showing no signs of slowing down, that inexpensive long-term lease became worth quite a bit of money, and Gretschel received an offer too good to refuse.

It's too bad the Half Moon's fans only found about the closure at the last minute -- I got an e-mail about it on Saturday afternoon. Still, I have a feeling Gretschel -- the founder of the legendary Twist and Shout and Tornado Alley nightclubs -- won't be out of the scene for too long.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | May 1, 2006; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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It is a shame to lose a venue for local musical talent, but I am not sorry to see the restaurant go. It's food was mediocre at best and overpriced for what it was, especially considering their cheap lease. I hope the place that replaces it considers being the IOTA of Silver Spring. IOTA proves that you can showcase music AND have good food.

Posted by: Meg | May 1, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Can't say's I agree w/ Meg. Maybe she's just not a fan of BBQ(?). It does go better w/ roots rock than the nouveau cuisine the Iota offers. To each their own. I certainly didn't think the prices were high.

Hey Mark, maybe you should take some of that profit and get a cheap longterm lease on a space in Wheaton again. According to the Post, it's next in line for revitalization. For the sake of the roots music scene, I hope you never get burnt out on running live music clubs.

Posted by: John | May 1, 2006 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Outstanding food, awesome bands, honky tonk atmosphere, excellent prices, great owner and help!! Mark reopen we need you badly. This place will certainly be missed. I believe Mark will come back better than ever. Mark keep the BBQ!!!

Posted by: Alan, Potomac | May 1, 2006 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Hi Mark,

Sorry to hear Half Moon closed. We always had fun when we could make it. I liked the barbecue too, not to mention the music. Hope you made a killig!

Say hi to Regina for us.

John & Beth

Posted by: johnnyg in NE DC | May 2, 2006 1:36 AM | Report abuse

I was so upset to hear of Half Moon's closing. I loved the BBQ and we always had fun there.

I wholly support John's idea of relocation - Wheaton would love to have some great BBQ and great tunes!

Posted by: Elizabeth | May 2, 2006 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I met Marc in the mid 80s at the Twist and Shout. How cool was it to have a song written about it and to see the video!! I followed Marc to Wheaton and Tornado Alley where the good music continued. Then it was down Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring and Half Moon where I became a regular. It really was "Too Much Fun" to play bass with Bill Kirchen at his open mic on Tuesdays. What a nice guy as well as a great musician.
I had the good fortune to play on stage dozens of times with the bluegrass band I was in at the time. I was also invited to sit in on numerous occasions with friends when their bands were performing. That was always special.
I'll miss the Half Moon a lot - it was the honky-tonk version of "Cheers" where everybody really did know your name!!
I'll bet Marc isn't away from the music too long. He likes it as much as his many patrons and friends do.

Posted by: Mike Marceau | May 2, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

It was so great to see Sleepy LaBeef and the Hula Monsters within a walk (stagger) from my house. Not every venue needs to be a high priced, polished place. A CMU box with a microscopic dance floor works just as well. The world could use more honky-tonks that you can go to without blowing your entire entertainment budget. DC can keep their martini bars - I'll take BBQ and beer.
Personally I would prefer an affordable music venue in Silver Spring - we are still in a live music/dance deficit. Plus, no need to drink and drive when you can drink and walk.

Posted by: Karen, Silver Spring | May 2, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Hey Mark:

Thanks for many great times, great shows and Great BBQ & Burgers! You have done what so many other's wanted to do, but couldn't or wouldn't. We need you to continue your work in Montgomery County. Hope you can find a place in mid-county, Gaithersburg or Germantown. I'm sure there are a lot of people out here who would come out often.

Take a deserved rest and we hope to see you soon.

Thanks A Lot!

Posted by: Willie Smouse | May 2, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I loved the Half Moon! My wife and I would drive over to get the BBQ because it was real and not some prefab meal stamped out by a chain. I took my frinds and neighbors. I spent a birthday there. I sat a table and Bill Kirchen sat next to me one night and talked to me like I was an old pal.

In a world of sterile corporate venues with prepackaged entertainment, there are a dwindling number of places that can provide an authentic experience.

Posted by: Jere | May 4, 2006 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Wow, if you all think that was real BBQ, you haven't really had real BBQ. While Iota's cuisine may be nouveau, it is tasty. It is the tasty that I care about when I am eating. Again, it is sad to lose another local musical venue, very few people are going to miss the food.

Posted by: Meg | May 9, 2006 4:28 PM | Report abuse

The open mic on Wednesday nights was great. I will miss it.

Posted by: Paul | May 9, 2006 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Sorry to hear that Half Moon has closed. But I recently went to McGinty's Public House in Down Town Silver Spring and this place is definitely poised to be the new music venue in the area.... huge bar and dance floor, great food and some excellent bands showing in the next month or so.

Posted by: Katie | May 10, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Disgraceful Bar-b-que -- then again look at the folks that live in the region and frequent the place. I will put my "weekend cookout" goods up against anything these posers tried to pass off. Also, Iced Tea in the can? Enjoy your retirement sell-out, congrats.

Posted by: Imjustsayin' | May 11, 2006 4:10 PM | Report abuse

It was great when it was upstairs at the old firehouse. Huge dance floors, good food and cheap beer. With each reincarnation a bit was lost. Thanks for the memories.

Posted by: Chris from Bethany | May 25, 2006 2:50 AM | Report abuse

Great music, relaxed atmosphere, good BBQ, cheap beer... who could ask for anything more? Half Moon we'll miss you!

Posted by: Truck Turner | June 6, 2006 5:19 PM | Report abuse

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