Back in November, DC Music Download asked me to be a part of their eulogy for the Paperhaus (one of the best DIY venues in the city that had unfortunately recently gone on indefinite hiatus). Most of the other contributors praised the house’s unparalleled support of the DC music scene or the lightning-in-a-bottle moments when 9:30 Club-worthy bands somehow ended up playing in a cramped living room in Petworth, but I chose to reflect on a specific, lesser-known act who I caught there one chance Saturday night and which remains one of the best performances I have ever seen live:

100 Watt Horse – who just so happen to be playing a show at Songbyrd Record Cafe this Wednesday night.

Random Nerds is proud to have joined up with our friends at DC DIT to put this one on, and I couldn’t recommend more that you click here to get tickets for it. There’s just something about the 100 Watt Horse live experience that you have to witness to believe.

This is what I wrote for that DCMD piece:

On Saturday, Aug. 13th of 2013, after Fluffer from Bloomington, Ind. and D.C.’s own The Sea Life had finished tearing through loud, fuzzy sets, a young kid in a short-sleeved, button-down shirt that I want to say was Hawaiian print began finagling with some cables and pedals near the stage. No one was giving him much attention, I honestly think everyone assumed the night’s festivities were already over. But maybe 10 minutes later, this unassuming kid quietly stepped up to the mic with just an acoustic guitar and began leisurely fingerpicking a melody – something so sweet that it almost felt out of place after the night’s more brash appetizers.

It wasn’t long until he had the entire Paperhaus living room packed again, and pin-drop silent.

We were, collectively, hooked on the entrancing, intensely intimate songs coming out of this unsuspecting performer going by the name 100 Watt Horse. 45 minutes later, when he had exhausted his catalogue, we still wanted more. We needed it. So George Pettis, in his short-sleeved, button-down Hawaiian shirt, said, ‘This might be weird, but let me try something.’

From there, he led us in a house-wide singalong of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ that brought tears to multiple crowd-members’ eyes. Those packed on the floor stomped their feet along with the beat while those of us on the stairs slapped the wall with cathartic zeal. It was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced at a show, and I owe it all to Alex Tebeleff and his magical, musical Paperhaus.

But don’t take it from just me…

Below are accounts of that 100 Watt Horse show from some other trustworthy sources that were there that night, including George Pettis himself.

So if you live in the DC metro area, get tickets here and come watch me weep openly in public.

Alex Tebeleff, Paperhaus:

I’ve had a few hundred bands play at my house, and the show 100 Watt Horse played really stuck out. People would not let him leave the stage! It was just him closing out the show with his acoustic guitar. Not only were his own tunes killing it, but the covers he chose, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “Sixteen Blue,” “You Are My Sunshine,” still stick out to me. They were perfectly placed classics, perfectly timed for the crowd to go deeper in. George just kept going till he ran out of songs.

It was also the first time The Sea Life had played a house show in DC, and their introduction into the scene in general. If I remember right, both Fluffer from Cincinnati and Shook Foil from Atlanta played that night and were fantastic as well.

All around, one of my favorite shows we were lucky to have at The Paperhaus.


Kwasi Ansu, All Things Go:

I had the pleasure of being exposed to 100 Watt Horse back in 2013. It was a Paperhaus show in their sweaty basement in Colombia Heights on a hot August night. The guys who came on before him aggressively rocked, so to see this unassuming guy walk up there in an old Hawaiian shirt and nothing backing him but his guitar was unexpected.

What came next was later described by my buddy Alex [Anderson, of Loud Boyz] as, “a religious experience,” as this guy proceeded to bring down the house. He mused us with a soulful cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have fun”, but he had me playing his song “Tennis shoes” for years afterwards.

One of the best shows I have ever seen.


George Pettis, 100 Watt Horse:

The first time I visited D.C. was on tour with my previous band Wowser Bowser and we didn’t even have a show. We all just drank buckets of whiskey and somehow managed to take out some of the rental bikes for free. I believe our friend had a master key for them somehow, maybe he worked for the company that rented them out? Anyway, we grabbed bikes and proceeded to visit all the monuments and just get progressively more belligerent at each stop – Jake even peed on the Washington Monument, which is really hard to do because it’s lit from 360 degrees.

The reason I bring all that up is that it was a super great night and I remember coming back to D.C. the second time wondering how I was ever gonna top it. I was already pretty nervous about playing last with my quiet-even-for-folk-music set, but that nervousness was magnified by about a zillion after Shook Foil, The Sea Life, and Fluffer went on and absolutely killed it.

The thing about this line of work, though, the thing which makes it so addicting, is that you really never know what’s going to happen when you step out on stage.

That night turned out to be one of the most memorable and enjoyable nights of music I’ve ever experienced and I played one of the best sets I think I’ve ever played. It makes me sad to think about Paperhaus drawing to a close, but that DIY aesthetic never dies; it just shifts and moves down like a snake through generations of young kids making real art.

I’m so excited to be back in D.C. and so excited to see what the future brings for a town that is legendary for its underground music and art scenes.


Now GET TICKETS HERE, ya audiophiles.


header image courtesy of James Jackson