Here's how you know change has really come to Washington: Mississippi rapper David Banner and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich aren't only in the same room — they're in the same room checking out a Josh Groban show.
That was the scene at Gibson Guitars' downtown Washington, DC showroom yesterday afternoon where Rock the Vote and Rolling Stone were celebrating the Obama inauguration and the historic voter-registration drive that helped make it happen. Donors, supporters and friends of Rock the Vote enjoyed micro-sets from Groban and Sheryl Crow, as well as hob-nob time with an eclectic, if not surreal, gathering of actors (Ed Harris), musicians (Ashanti) and actor-musicians (Adrian Grenier).
But before the rock, a little talk. Rock the Vote executive director Heather Smith thanked supporters for helping register a whopping 2.62 million new voters while Crow made a plea for continued volunteerism. "I woke up this morning and wanted to put a nail in something," she quipped.
Groban bellied up to his piano and belted out three tunes, including Simon and Garfunkel's "America," with a voice so big, it practically swallowed up the chords he was punching out on the ivories. Crow's set was equally brisk, guitar techs swooping in between songs with freshly-tuned instruments, (this was a guitar showroom after all). Her stripped-down take on "Everyday Is a Winding Road" felt both breezy and cautionary — perhaps a warning to visitors destined to face the snarl of traffic in Washington today.
Eric Benet said he felt "blessed" to be in town for the inauguration. Adrian Grenier posted up near the hors-devours with his bandmates from the Honey Brothers. Women with camera-phones hovered. The Entourage star's hopes for the next four years: "I'm going to remain hopeful!"
Equally chipper was Ulrich, whose band had stormed through the nearby Verizon Center a few nights earlier. "It's unbelievable," Ulrich said of the electricity coursing through Washington. "It's amazing to be a part of the energy and goodwill. Everyone is so positive. It's all about the possibilities."
Banner shared his enthusiasm, but is keeping his eyes on the road ahead. "I feel wonderful, man," said the towering rapper. "But now it's time for us to go back to our respective communities and be a part of change. That's the only way Obama is gonna fulfill all of his commitments: if we as individuals continue to work."