- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2009

Don’t expect Baltimore’s most promising export, Fools & Horses, to leave Maryland anytime soon. “This area is fantastic,” enthuses Arlington native Matt Hutchison, whose songwriting talents and radio-ready vocals help anchor the band. “A lot of people ask why we don’t move to New York or L.A., but we like it here. We have family here. It’s so close to everything, and we’ve been fortunate enough to break reasonably well into the D.C. scene, too.”

After forming in 2002, Fools & Horses worked hard to penetrate the Washington music scene, playing regular shows at the Iota Club and garnering praise from a steadily widening group of fans. The band’s biggest break, however, arrived in 2006, when the boys entered a radio-sponsored contest to open for Bon Jovi. Fools & Horses won the challenge and took the Verizon Center’s stage several weeks later, playing swaggering rock ‘n’ roll to hordes of Bon Jovi fans.

“It really springboarded us,” says the singer, who attributes the band’s win to the recent addition of guitarist Steve Herrera.

“Something like that generates so much buzz, it’s not even funny. It’s like a game of telephone, where you say something and then it comes back to you down the line. We opened for Bon Jovi once, and months later, we have people asking us how the tour with Bon Jovi went, and whether or not we got to hang out with them on the road.”

One year later, Fools & Horses began making frequent trips to Haymarket, Va., where local producer Scott Spelbring helped the band record its third album, “I Am the Ghost,” which was released last fall to local acclaim. Breakup anthems and confident pop hooks were employed in equal measure, making it the band’s most marketable record to date.

“We’ve been playing quite steadily since the release,” says Mr. Hutchison. “On and off, we’ve had shows three or four nights a week, with a quick break around Christmas.”

The band’s regular haunts include the Iota Cafe in Arlington, the Recher Theatre in Towson and the Red House Tavern in Baltimore. This spring, however, Fools & Horses will widen its touring circle considerably.

“We’re going over to Japan to entertain the troops,” Mr. Hutchison says. “Armed Forces Entertainment has accepted us to come over, so we’re going to be out for a month or so. It’ll be our first international experience.”

The band hopes to continue playing shows abroad, and plans to tour in the United Kingdom are currently brewing.

“I was born in Annapolis and lived in Columbia for the first nine years of my life, but we moved over to England for a few years,” Mr. Hutchison says.

“That’s what developed me into an Anglophile, and that’s how our band’s name came about, since Fools & Horses is named after the British TV show ‘Only Fools and Horses.’ Those years in London really impacted my life and influenced our music. We hope to tour the area.”

• Area residents can catch Fools & Horses Thursday at the Rock & Roll Hotel (1353 H St. NE). Music starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $15.

Digital digest

Napster, the online music service that helped popularize peer-to-peer file-sharing in the early 2000s, was acquired by Best Buy Co. Inc. in 2008. Although the service continues to offer music to paying customers, Best Buy also will acquire the personal data for all of Napster’s existing subscribers.

Privacy policies remain in place, but Best Buy has yet to articulate how it will share such personal data with its affiliated companies. However, those users who don’t wish to grant access to their personal information have until Feb. 17 to discontinue the service.

This marks yet another blow to Napster’s slumping popularity, which peaked in February 2001.

• • •

The Isle of Man, a self-governing British dependency located in the Irish Sea, may take a different approach to digital-music sales.

While unauthorized downloading remains illegal in virtually every other country, the Isle of Man has proposed a scheme in which Internet companies would purchase music licenses from record labels, song publishers, and the like. In turn, Internet subscribers would pay a yearly tax fee for the freedom to download an infinite amount of music. The plan is still in its infancy, although the Isle Of Man’s Government e-Business Division expects little opposition from the music industry, which endured another year of slumping sales in 2008.

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