By Alex Tebeleff
While Melinda mans the drivership of the Papervan on our way to Lexington, Kentucky, I sit next to her thinking about these columns I’ve written over the past months. I’ve always wanted an outlet to write about music, but I never took the time to find it, so I jumped at BYT’s offer to do this. I’ve been absolutely obsessed with music from a very young age, and I approach it not only from both the creative and historical perspectives, but also from a humanistic and cultural lens. Nothing gives me more direct knowledge and experience on the former than being on the road.
Touring is not really a great way to be creative, though luckily I play in a band that isn’t afraid to take risks on stage to keep that spark alive. There isn’t time to practice either. You just go from show to show, hopefully with the opportunity to explore a bit of the place you are visiting for the day, or maybe just that evening. It’s these explorations that really make the mentally and physically exhausting grind of touring worth it for me, aside of course from my deep love of performing live, and the tightness and chemistry my band gains from the continuous shows.
Through touring, I’ve discovered the natural wonder that is the New Mexican chile, that Los Angeles doesn’t actually suck, and that there really are speakeasy bars in Jackson next to the railroad tracks that only open when you call them up at 3am. The most lasting impressions involve what I’ve scene from the creative communities our generation is building across the country. Touring has made me very optimistic about the future for young people in this country, despite the failures of the baby boomers, and the resulting financial clusterfuck most of you reading this will probably be faced with chasing uphill for the rest of our lives.
The way that people use music as a means of making their lives better is quite unique. There’s the emotional connection, which leads to a self-recognition, and then a release. The more powerful the content, the more powerful the effect. It’s a cycle that leads to a healthier, more self-aware individual. It’s why many of you have heard me lament in private conversations so much about empty music; it’s a lost opportunity for people to really make their lives better. Music has the power to do that for everyone who lets it in. When a community of people engage in music in this way, it can only help to create a better community.
What I see from the live music communities growing across the country, including DC, is smart, open-minded people finding a way to connect with each other, with the social gathering in the name of music as the means. Obviously this has been going on for quite a while, but I find the current scenes particularly interesting. It’s harder than ever for a band to “make it,” as in the middle class of bands has been totally squeezed out by a dying industry that’s too stubborn, greedy, and shockingly uneducated on what it sells.
The financial situation for musicians in the industry actually mirrors the rest of the society as well. For example, while the bosses at many of the larger labels are making more money than ever, the decline in actual income for these companies is being taken out on the bands, so the opportunity to make a sustainable living out of music, even at the highest levels, is harder than ever.
While technology has given everyone and their mother the ability to get their music out in to the world, it still remains that those with the financial means to promote their music in the media and still support themselves are the ones who are most likely to get themselves out there and make a sustainable living out of music. Labels now look at demos less then ever as a result of how easy it is to make a high quality sounding recording. It’s just not worth their time to filter through the endless pile. And really, how can anyone trust any of the endless music blogs purporting to be experts on the subject? It’s the same filters that need to be paid for to reach the respective media outlets as any other business.
These observations have all led me to the conclusion that the only place you can truly trust to find quality music of substance and relevance is at live shows in your own backyard. It’s not just for local music either. In a scene like what DC has turned into, you have the opportunity to see music from scenes all around the country that are turning out quality music. So my best recommendation is to use the Internet as a tool to find shows to check out, and then turn off your computer. There’s really nothing like a group of people moving their bodies and opening their minds to creative music being made right in front of our faces.
Part Time from California headlines this great bill also featuring one of our best current locals, Go Cozy, as well as Sea Lions, a Garage Pop band from California that is also on local DC label Slumberland.
This show is a single release party for Pree, one of DC’s longest running active bands. Singer-songwriter May Tabol’s fantastic songwriting is a big reason why, and everyone in the band plays for the song. This particular incarnation of the band is my favorite so far. The focus on groove and movement has done nothing but good things for the performance of the songs. Richmond’s tropicalia influenced psych-pop band Adron, and killer DC three-piece Lies About open. Highly recommend checking this one out this week.
Holy hell this bill rocks. Krill’s last EP was one of my favorite releases of 2013, and the rest of the bill luckily features some very creative and dynamic live acts from DC and Baltimore. No brainer show.
Well this is where it gets difficult. Celestial Shore is an extremely creative band from Brooklyn, and very much the equal to Krill in live performance power. I’m glad to be on the road so I don’t have to make this choice!
The Deads are one of my favorite DC bands to come on my radar this year, they play in the middle of this great bill at The Pinch, with Post-Metal band Set and Setting from the growing artistic hub of St. Pete headlining, and DC’s Exar Kun opening.
A live filmed performance of 8×8 with music from DC dream pop act Furniteur.
Afghani classical vocal master Ustad Eltaf Huassain Sarahang is an incredible musician. We are lucky to have him play at a space like Tropicalia!
Select DC presents their first summer showcase with Philly’s psychedelic electronic act Profligate as an extremely strong headliner.
San Francisco’s Afrolicious and Brooklyn’s Zong Junction bring strong grooves as you would expect for a party to celebrate the 2 year anniversary of 14th street club Tropicalia.
Todd Marcus is a bass clarinet master and his quartet is not to be missed. Solo piano from Dwayne Adell opens the show at Union Arts.
DC/Baltimore songwriter Marian McLaughlin returns from tour to open for British Folk Rockers Smoke Fairies.
A particularly great bill of punk, as you would expect from a Positive Force show. This show benefits Empower DC. Make sure especially to check out Jail Solidarity, they are one of the best heavy bands in DC right now.
Brooklyn Art Rockers headline this great bill at Comet.
Ezra Mae kicks of a montly residency at The Pinch.
Classically trained drummer Sean Barna happens to also be a particularly great songwriter too, and this show celebrates his first official EP release (it’s out now if you wanna check it out!). Openers Typefighter and More Humans are two of my favorite long running rock bands in DC. Don’t miss the Two Wheel Worship event that opens the show either! Expect lots of really good food and motorcycles at this eclectic event.
Well luckily Young Rapids decided to make their end a hiatus, and they return to headline this fantastic bill at The Communiverse. Baltimore’s Raindeer and Brooklyn’s Friend Roulette are two great bands I’ve got to see at The Paperhaus before so I know they are wroth your time. Brooklyn’s Baked and Bueno are two bands that have garnered quite a lot of buzz recently too.
This show at one of DC’s newest regular house venues features an incredible bill of hardcore and punk. Coke Bust is still one of the best hardcore bands to ever come out of DC.
A party to celebrate Atlas Brew Works’ 1 year anniversary in NE DC with music from Bumper Jacksons, Unstable Heights, and Sunwolf.
A really diverse bill at one of the newer music venues in the city.
Rock n’ Roll, moody Synth Pop, and even experimental Theremin playing at this particulary diverse bill at The Pinch. This is also Warm Sun’s first show.
Prince Rama are on of Brooklyn’s most unusual and fun live acts. They are returning to Comet and you shouldn’t miss them.
This bill features some serious electronic Nola acts along with another couple from Baltimore and Brooklyn.