Aaron Thompson’s Night at the Museum
Back in January, local gravel-voiced troubadour Aaron Thompson performed a set at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where along with some other local experimental and indie-rock names—Jacob Chmara, Nathan Jurgenson (ex-Phonic Riot), and Janel & Anthony's Janel Leppin—he performed a pretty meaty set of old and new tunes. Good news: Thompson has posted the set on Soundcloud for free download. Some of the songs will be on an upcoming EP that Thompson says he's releasing this fall.
Local museums and indie rock: I can't say for sure that there's been an uptick in the marriage of the two, but these shows have certainly become more visible. American Art regularly hosts local groups as part of its "Art + Coffee: Luce Unplugged" series; Cephalopods, the newest band from Black Eyes' Hugh McElroy, plays at the museum this weekend. Thompson—who also writes stirring, woozy instrumental music—has scored work for the Corcoran. After-hours events at the Phillips and the Hirshhorn often feature local music. There are more outlets staging dressed up indie-rock shows in galleries. Hillyer Art Space is a gallery, not a museum, but it sits behind the Phillips, and its new local-music series, The Recorder, looks really, really promising. (Semi-related: I understand that the bands that played Capital Fringe's free Gypsy Tent shows were compensated relatively well.)
Meanwhile, sticking to the club circuit doesn't always pay so great. I'm guessing a lot of D.C. bands are best off going DIY or going art-world, and not bothering with clubs at all.