Arts Desk

Arts Roundup: Whither Local Indie Rock? Edition

fugazi

Good morning! Between Fan Death's haterade and our look at the practice of door polling at local venues, in recent weeks Arts Desk has generated a fairly surprising amount of discussion about the state of D.C.'s indie-rock scene—not all of it civil, but that's OK. Clearly people are frustrated, for a number of reasons. (And by the way, we haven't had this many comments since we insulted Trans-Siberian Orchestra.)

Anyway: Paste has an interview with John Davis, formerly of Q and Not U and Georgie James, lately of Title Tracks, who talks about his new record. Good stuff. But things really get interesting here:

Paste: What is the D.C. scene like these days? Nationally, we don’t hear about it as much as we used to.
Davis: That’s something that’s getting talked about a lot in D.C. now. In the second half of the decade it seemed like a pretty big drop-off in quality and national attention than it was in the ’90s and the first half of the decade. The scene petered out with the breakup of bands like The Dismemberment Plan, Q and Not U, Black Eyes, Fugazi, El Guapo/Supersystem. There were just a lot of bands that stopped playing, and in their place was a lot of bands that didn’t really tour or make an impression nationally. Even in D.C., there wasn’t that much excitement about a lot of these bands. And in the meantime, a ton of people moved, people from my generation that I grew up with. This isn’t a scientific figure, but I would have to imagine at least 50-75% of those people moved to New York or San Francisco or Los Angeles or Austin or Portland. That had a big impact on why music’s declined slightly in D.C. in the second half of the decade. Even with Title Tracks, I’ve been struggling to find bands that we can align with and tour with and just been seen with. For me there isn’t much a scene anymore, but I’m sure there are other bands that would disagree. It’s been a weird time in D.C., but at least people are starting to talk about it now.

Paste: What is the D.C. scene like these days? Nationally, we don’t hear about it as much as we used to.

Davis: That’s something that’s getting talked about a lot in D.C. now. In the second half of the decade it seemed like a pretty big drop-off in quality and national attention than it was in the ’90s and the first half of the decade. The scene petered out with the breakup of bands like The Dismemberment Plan, Q and Not U, Black Eyes, Fugazi, El Guapo/Supersystem. There were just a lot of bands that stopped playing, and in their place was a lot of bands that didn’t really tour or make an impression nationally. Even in D.C., there wasn’t that much excitement about a lot of these bands. And in the meantime, a ton of people moved, people from my generation that I grew up with. This isn’t a scientific figure, but I would have to imagine at least 50-75% of those people moved to New York or San Francisco or Los Angeles or Austin or Portland. That had a big impact on why music’s declined slightly in D.C. in the second half of the decade. Even with Title Tracks, I’ve been struggling to find bands that we can align with and tour with and just been seen with. For me there isn’t much a scene anymore, but I’m sure there are other bands that would disagree. It’s been a weird time in D.C., but at least people are starting to talk about it now.

No clue if the "talk" he's referring to is ours. He goes on:

With Dischord not being as active locally, that’s been a factor in the scene being less prominent. The all-ages scene has diminished, too. Most of the music is in traditional clubs now, so that sense of community that comes with all-age shows is lost. And meanwhile, bands from D.C. aren’t touring, so they aren’t making a name for themselves. Very few people can name more than a handful of bands from D.C. now, so D.C. has really fallen off the map nationally.

So we need more all-ages shows, and local bands should tour more—I can't argue with that. But, contra the advice of another former Q and Not U member, bands shouldn't have to sound like '90 Dischord bands—or worry about finding any unifying aesthetic—to get people to care.

In other news:

- DCist has sketches of new artwork to be unveiled at the Takoma and Farragut West Metro stops

- Get out your pitchforks: There's socialism in the White House library!

- The Guardian asks Britt Daniel if Spoon is really the best band of the 2000s. Daniel says: "I think my mother might have had something to do with it."

- Local hip-hop trio Diamond District is touring Europe with Trek Life right now. Here's their latest tour diary:

Image courtesy of Fugazi’s MySpace page.

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