City Desk

Baltimore City Paper Shocker: D.C. Sucks, Baltimore Cool

In this week's Baltimore City Paper, Raven Baker gets to the bottom of the dueling music scenes in frienemy cities Baltimore and D.C. Baker's conclusion: Suck it D.C., Baltimore is totally stealing your game:

These days, though, it is Baltimore that burns bright. Much ink has been spilled in the past year or so, from obscure bloggers to national magazines such as Rolling Stone, geeking over local acts like Dan Deacon and Beach House, as well as the incubating city itself. While Washington made its name as an all-ages show city with a bent for benefit concerts, Baltimore's current heady allure of anything-goes experimentalism is often attributed to its diversity of venues, particularly the freak flag-flying warehouse party scene.

The bulk of the article focuses on the District's failings instead of Baltimore's successes. I wish Baker had gone a little deeper into the actual "underground" scene in Baltimore—there are freak flags flying over there!—but for the most part, we're expected to take her word for it. Snore.

BCP does offer up this awesome bonus: This shining beacon of deep of City Paper Best of D.C. favorite Chris Burns.

Photo by Laertes.

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  • Don

    agreed, nothing is more painful to sit through than someone from a smaller scene documenting that "they have a [blank] band/scene too" without admitting that their band and or scene is little more than some college kids aping the innovative bands from NY/London/Berlin/DC/etc.

    Hoe many times people talked up Reptilian Records as an equal to Yesterday and Today or Vinyl Ink, except whenever I'd show up the selection was just blue collar punk and alternative.

    I had friends in the Philadelphia hardcore days that would have eagerly put McRad or Electric Love Muffin as important as Minor Threat or Nation of Ulysses, except 20 years later it's pretty laughable. McRad.

    Reading into the article, however, it's not that DC has "priced itself out" of the underground music business (as if Manhattan didn't lose out to Brooklyn in 1999), but that the underground music business, thanks to kids outright stealing of music for the last 8 years, has no money behind it. It's not that real estate is "too expensive" it's that the warehouses aren't charging the $20 per head they need to and the bands aren't selling 2000 cds for $8 each to make the $16k necessary to buy that equipment. What Baltimore is experiencing seems like a band-aid on something that already failed, like East Germany buying up all of the streetcars from New York City in the 1950s and trying to use them into the 1980s while west germans drove BMWs. Hey, East Berlin shouts, we got all the cool trolley cars!

    Baltimore? You can have our trolley cars, it's ok.

  • Cherkis

    Im gonna disagree here. I think Baltimore's super cheap real estate market allows for bands to flourish, clubs to flourish without the pressure of having to sell booze, and small record stores to stay in business.

    Yeah, Vinyl Ink was awesome. But it's gone. The two best record stores in the region reside not in D.C. but Baltimore. That would be Sound Garden and True Vine. Though Red Onion is fast becoming something great. And Crooked Beat/Smash are reliable.

    I don't see Baltimore aping old music scenes--including D.C.'s. What Dan Deacon, Ponytail, Thank You, and others feel like: D.C. during one of its heyday periods. Feels like but not sounds like. Meaning a real sense of community. D.C.'s sense of community depends on where you fall on the love/hate Laurie Collins. Or like watching bands at a bar.

    Even bar shows don't attract a ton of people The recent No Age show drew about 100 people--that's what it looked like at least.

    I don't think illegal downloads are killing D.C.'s music scene.

  • Stone

    Baltimore a smaller scene? I doubt it...In addition to Beach House and Dan Deacon they have Spank Rock, Rye Rye, Diplo, etc who have made waves nationally and internationally. Name a recent DC act that gets the same recognition other than...let's say Wale.

    I think that article is pretty much spot on. As some one who has tried to book and promote shows in this city, the lack of alternative venues and the straight monopoly on the limited places to play in this city forced me to give it up a couple of years ago. Couple that with the gentrification and the uptight attitudes of the show goers here.

    No only that but the local media in Baltimore (and Philly) is a hell of a lot more supportive than around here. When did the Washington City Paper actually feature anything positive on the DC Music Scene?? I thought so.

  • Cherkis

    I agree with your assessment of D.C. and B-More. But not CP! You should check out our music blog--it's all support!

  • Don

    I stand by my post as being far more accurate than Jason's.