Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
What makes an iconic hometown anthem? Catchiness, yes, but a little bit of unconditional hometown love helps. That’s why “DC USA,” local folk-pop ensemble Ugly Purple Sweater’s ode to Columbia Heights, works so well: It’s a nuanced tribute to a neighborhood whose history hasn’t always been lovable. Touching on Columbia Heights’ tumultuous history after the 1968 riots, singer Sam McCormally runs his finger across several decades, taking us to the neighborhood’s present state: the cradle of the DC USA shopping center, a Big Boxified monument to capitalism and a major driver of gentrification in the area. “Now it’s an acronym/Putrid from the stench of no smell,” he sings. It’s the warts-and-all embrace of Columbia Heights that makes for a believable tribute.