Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Snapshot of Punk housing in Arlington

Hey Everyone-

I know that posts have been few and far between of late. My apologies. Between work and the holidays, time has been sparse.
Anyway, I saw this article in the City Paper on the end of an era in punk rock housing. I could summarize, but I'll let Aaron Leitko, who wrote the article, do it. He is a writer and I am not.

You can find the article here.

Also, the current issue of Alternative Press has the "Oral History of Jawbox". Find it on news stands. Or somewhere.

The articles, along with several other things I have been reading, and discussing with some folks has kinda of got my thinking about the DC music scene in a larger scope.

Read some thoughts after the jump.

There was a time when DC was an epicenter of punk music. The term harDCore has been credited with being invented here. The Straight edge philosophy (although not intentional) was formalized in DC. The list of bands that are credited as being among the most influential in the punk harDCore scene came from here (Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Void, Scream, Iron Cross, Government Issue, Fugazi, Rights of Spring, etc). The DIY mentality of "screw the major labels. we'll put out our own stuff" was inspired, and fostered among others, by Dischord and carried on with all the other labels (Teen Beat, DeSoto, Slowdime, Superbad etc).

So the point being, there is a lot to be proud of in our fair DC scene.

One of the oddities in the scene is the notion of the incestuous nature of the scene. One band broke up, and a new one was born out of most of the same members. Or two bands broke up, swapped members, and formed two new bands.

Also, the sense of isolation of the DC scene. There was a perception of elitism from the outside. A sense of fear that DC was a hopelessly violent scene. Most of this was wrong, but it was there.

Many of these perceptions are no longer held by anyone. But, to my surprise, there is still a disconnect with the music scene in a larger scale. I was having a conversation recently with a friend, who is in the indie music business (indie label owner, distributor) who confessed that he knew nothing about the DC music scene other than Fugazi was still on "indefinite hiatus". Talking to other in the music know, said much of the same. More recently, the news of Jawbox playing Jimmy Fallon moved the needle a bit, but not a ton. Really only among the folks who were fans of them 15 years ago.

That said, there are some interesting and great bands currently playing. I wish more people knew about them (Title Tracks, True Womanhood, Imperial China, etc.). There are also some bands that are still around after all these years (Clutch, Ted Leo). And even the occasional reunion show (Scream, Frodus). Fort Reno still happens every summer (Thanks to Amanda and crew). I think the scene is still vibrant, and relevant, but no one seems to know about it.

What do you think? Leave a comment. I want to know.

I am going to try and talk to a few folks in and out of the scene, and get there takes, and post them here. How soon or fast this will happen I can not say. I make no money from this, and have a mortgage to pay, and a family to feed. So, as time and schedules allow, I will see what I can do.


Glen Steven said...

It's good that DC might be off the radar... As we know, that isolation cultivates creativity and artists making music because they enjoy it and not because it could become a lucrative career..

Pete said...

Well, there is something to be said for there being less pressure on the various bands/performers to be on the "cutting edge" (if you will), and being allowed the freedom to do that. at the same time, like many things in life, it is best when you can go "all in". that is hard to do as an artist/musician when you can't pay the bills because it is hard to get noticed outside the city.

Glen Steven said...

Maybe the yuppie DC musicians should take a page our of Rollins' 'Get In The Van' and rethink trying to pay the bills by playing in a band. That being said, I totally get what you're saying and it's true that the economics of playing music has changed radically over the past 30 years. Ideally DC bands would be creating excitement in their own scene and wouldn't have to depend so much on touring. At this point in time I think bands shouldn't expect to make money playing music and that any success they achieve is in addition to the joy they've received playing to empty rooms in DC. ;)

Pete said...

Yeah, there is a lot to be said for the purity of the arts when no money is involved. As a visual artist, I would love nothing more. Wish it was easier for those who do it purely to that end.
There is nothing worse then some of the music out there today that is so clearly being created to sell. package and presented as a commodity rather than just the product of creativity.
Ah well, maybe if more people took the Fugazi approach in how/why they created their music. a boy can dream can't he? ;o)