D.C. Battle of the Bands

Yes, the press and the government should always have an adversarial relationship, but who would’ve expected it in the form of battling bands?

On Monday night, CBS newsman Bob Schieffer and his group went note-for-note against chief White House spokesman Tony Snow and his motley crew, and if the flowing drinks, cheering crowd and shaking booty were any indication, a good time was had by all.

And in the National Press Club’s ballroom, no less – the same historic place where some five decades ago, an NPC official said, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev promised he would “bury” us.

Well, Snow and Schieffer had people dancing on Khrushchev’s grave, so to speak, all for a couple good causes.

The event – kickoff of a fundraising campaign for the NPC library – originated as a chance for Schieffer to bring in Honky Tonk Confidential, a D.C. band for which he’d written some tunes on their latest CD. “But it was my idea to bring in Tony’s band,” said Schieffer, who was looking to put a spotlight on more than just the NPC library.

“Tony and I are members of a non-exclusive club,” he continued during a conversation shortly before hitting the stage. “We’re both cancer survivors. And we thought by doing this, we could get focus some attention on the need for people to get physicals and not think of ‘cancer’ as an automatic death sentence.”

Schieffer had bladder cancer. Snow is once again fighting colon cancer, which recently returned, but he is back at work and continues to live as fully as he can.

“You’ve got to have some fun,” Snow said, adding with a wry smile, “I now pop chemo pills in senior staff meetings and wash it down with coffee. Weird taste.”

In jeans, boots and a cowboy hat, Schieffer twanged his way through all the originals he wrote for HTC and then some of theirs. Snow’s band – which featured a ringer, his friend and former guitarist for Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – rocked their way through a mix of covers ranging from Willie Nelson to James Brown to Van Morrison to Chuck Berry and Jethro Tull.

Schieffer’s vocals (example below) resembled talking more than singing, but hey, he doesn’t sing the news at work. And Snow may be the only flute player who’s ever done – or ever will – an Ian Anderson imitation in white sneakers and a White House-logo T-shirt.

Based on the highly scientific measurer of applause known as the human ear, Snow’s band won by a semi-decibel.

Neither is advised to quit his day job soon, but the house was definitely rockin’ – even as Snow and Schieffer urged people between songs to get physicals.

—William Triplett in Washington.

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