By Alex Tebeleff
Hey everyone, my name is Alex and this column is called DC DIT. I find the DIT mantra of Do It Together exemplifies more of what I hope my participation in the DC music scene will contribute as opposed to Do it Yourself. My goal is to connect people with creative ideas and interests and help grow a scene that features a remarkable amount of intelligent and talented musicians.
Wednesday’s show at The Dunes will be my last show booking there. It’s been incredible these past months. My only regret is that it felt like we were building something unique together with these shows, but spaces like this always seem to have a time limit, and though we are still lacking in alternative spaces right now in DC, we just need to keep our eyes open and be creative! As great of a space as The Dunes was, the energy that everyone brought to the shows there was what made it special. Good music + open energetic minds = Great Scene. As long as we have people going to shows to support great local music and bringing positive energy, DC will continue to be one of the best growing music scenes in the country. With a little more awareness and support between the various sub-scenes in DC, I have no doubt DC can be up there as one of the strongest music scenes in the country.
This brings me to possibly the biggest issue facing musicians and music fans alike in DC: the lack of creative musical space for performing and rehearsing. For those non-musicians reading this, any musician in the city will tell you how hard it is to find sustainable long-term space to practice. I’ve been very lucky to have a house where the neighbors are ok with us practicing and having shows, and actually enjoy the music. Most aren’t so lucky, or live in apartments or smaller houses that can’t support a band practicing. The fact is that rent is so expensive in DC also hurts artists, as the reality is that most people in this country could never afford to live in most parts of this city, forget paying extra rent for a practice space!
With places like Gold Leaf Studios disappearing and inevitably being turned into condos, musicians need to always be on the lookout for places they can actually hone their craft. Making great art takes time and effort! Without a place to regularly rehearse, it’s unlikely a band will have the chance to be able reach their potential. Without great bands, it’s pretty hard to get an audience excited about the local scene. Luckily, we do have great bands in DC right now, but it’s always a battle with so little designated practice space, especially considering how expensive real estate is in DC.
As far as performance space, this is a story told in every city in the country, but it’s particularly difficult in DC right now. When 285 Kent closed down in Brooklyn this winter, people still had Shea Stadium, Death By Audio, Silent Barn, and countless other spaces to go see DIY shows with great bands. Spaces like that pop up all the time. With high real estate prices and less real estate in general, we don’t have that luxury in DC. However, we do have one huge advantage: house venues.
Places like The Rocketship, The Dugout, and our space, The Paperhaus, have been keeping a tradition going for years in DC of live, donation based shows that are open to anybody. They have been an essential part of growing the music culture in DC for decades. They give new bands a chance to try out their material and make those essential initial personal connections with people in an intimate way, and they help create relationships between music fans in a way that a club or bar just can’t provide. There’s a comfort to a house show and some other DIY spaces that is irreplaceable. That’s why I don’t worry about losing places like The Dunes, we do have something unique and special to fall back on.
The reasons why The Dunes won’t be hosting shows in the future aren’t important. I also recently lost the ability to book at Hierarchy (neighbors complained and the ANC stepped and told them no more live drums), and due to powers out of our control, we’ve had to find new locations to continue doing Union Kitchen shows this summer. These things unfortunately happen all the time to alternative music performance spaces.
What’s most important is to recognize about this perpetual cycle is that we need to continue to find alternative venues for live performance to keep giving the bands the opportunity to grow on stage, and grow a close, open-minded musical community. With the influx of houses just in the past 6 months doing shows, I’m not too concerned. But it can’t just be houses. We need more creative people and business like Union Kitchen, who decided to do outdoor shows on their parking lot, to make alternative spaces out of the city that is already around them.
We need places that can help support touring bands that deserve wider support on the road, and help grow local bands at home. Keep your ears and eyes open, and don’t be afraid to do it yourself! There will always be others down to help make it sustainable for everyone. No one else is going to turn that parking lot (or warehouse, or tire shop, etc.) into a music venue, so don’t think twice, just do it.
Tuesday, April 22
DC and California Hardcore, and UK Punk, well represented at this bill at The Rocketship. This is Collusion’s first show, featuring members of Coke Bust, Misled Youth, and Pure Disgust.
Every one of these musicians absolutely kills it. If you want to see some of the best Jazz players in this city, come check out this show!
Wednesday, April 23rd
If you haven’t seen Pree with their newest line-up, this show is a must. They’ve been around DC for quite a while, but they’ve never had a live line-up this good, with tons of energy from unique and talented musicians. Native America from New Orleans and DC’s The Sea Life round out a bill I’m quite proud to go out on.
Thursday, April 24th
This bill is packed with great musicians from the Punk and Alternative communities in DC and NY. It’s great to see so many bills at CD Cellar in Arlington!
Another bill with some stunningly talented musicians at Union Arts, this one once again features guitar master Anthony Pirog. If you haven’t seen him yet, don’t think twice about going to this show! Man Forever features Oneida drummer John Colpitts in a bit of a different context. This band performers musically and intellectually challenging contemporary percussion music. Chicago anti-Cellist Fred Longberg-Holm brings his avant-experimental trio to the bill as well, rounding out this great bill.
Friday, April 25th
Cigarette and Louis Weeks are two of my favorite acts in DC right now, definitely a great chance to see them at what has become one of DC’s best house venues. Philly psych band Big Tusk is also not to be missed, with Cain/ Scheible Duo bringing an experimental edge to the bill as well.
Emo tinged DC pop group Art Sorority for Girls headlines this bill at a new house venue (at least it’s new to me).
Saturday, April 26th
So excited to get this unique series going again! All the shows are free, outdoors, and feature food trucks that work out of Union Kitchen, the DC based food incubator that started this series on their parking lot. A great creative and fun use of space to help promote DC arts and culture! This year will likely feature a rotating list of outdoor spaces around DC for their showcases. DCDIT and others will be working with them on some extra bonus shows this year as well, including DC Jazz Fest with Capital Bop on June 27th! This bill has some of DC’s best in Rock (Baby Bry Bry), Pop (The Walking Sticks), and Hip Hop (Farma Wesley), and a collaborative set that I’m particularly intrigued by featuring rapper Haile Supreme and Psychedelic Rock band Sun Cycle. Hard to beat this on what looks like will be a beautiful spring day.
So happy to see this festival continue for a 5th year. It doesn’t get much better for Folk, Bluesgrass, and Americana in DC. In particular, make sure to check Vandaveer and Ballad’ve on the American Stage.
A daytime party at this fantastic DIY art space in Rockville. Live painting, other visual art on display, and DJ’s all day.
A free day-long part thrown by The World Missions Extension Center. Live bands and food are featured at this great event run by a community based non-profit that provides educational training to help those living in poverty in the inner-city.
Aaron Martin was recently featured in The Washington City Paper, and it’s about damned time this guy got his due. This guy is one of the hardest working musicians in town. I remember I could hear him practicing for hours all night at Gold Leaf Studios. If Br’er’s incredible set at The Dunes last week was any indication, this bill is definitely for those who believe great art should be dictated on the artist’s terms. Ambient-Electronic Piano trio Sontag Shogun headline this awesome bill.
With so many great shows going on during the day, this one seems like the best option for later in the evening. Young Rapids and Heavy Breathing have been two of DC’s best live acts for a while now, and France’s Zombie Zombie make Psychedelic Electronic music that should be particularly interesting to see how they pull it of live.
Toledo’s fantastic 2 piece Silent Lions has made DC a sort of second home, playing DIY shows all over the city on many occasions over the past year. If you haven’t seen them yet, they are worth the price of admission of this Saturday matinee show alone.
A particularly great punk bill at this house in McLean, VA.
Great bill, but head’s up, it’s already sold out.
Sunday, April 27th
Two great songwriters on this bill at DC9, with Steve Gunn from NYC and local Marian McLaughlin.