This past March, Pigeons and Planes writer Matt Caldwell put out a piece called “Trapped in the Bubble: The Problem With The DMV’s Music Scene.” Excerpt:
“Simply put, there is no sense of community in the DMV. An area which is responsible for housing and nurturing acts like Pharrell, Duke Ellington, Missy Elliot, Marvin Gaye, Dave Matthews Band, Timbaland, Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, D’Angelo, Dave Grohl, and Chris Brown (to name but a few) has no infrastructure in place to foster in the next wave of talent. Paranoia has set in. Rarely do artists share resources or combine their strengths to propel one another to a larger audience.”
While some valid points are brought up about the state of D.C. area rap music, the DMV’s electronic music scene is exploding with new infrastructure, young talent, and a sense of collaboration and community.
Pigeons and Planes: “Simply put, there is no sense of community in the DMV. Rarely do artists share resources or combine their strengths to propel one another to a larger audience.”
But this couldn’t be more of the opposite for DC’s budding electronic scene, thanks to the recent infusion of youth and collaboration. It all started with college students creating music in their dorm rooms, forming collectives to promote each others music and gain exposure from local blogs. Often times, this has led to playing at local venues with marketing help from local promoters. and even playing at big festivals supported by local companies. The best example of this phenomenon is the DC born “Moving Castle” Collective.
“Moving Castle” all started with a single studio session. Blaise Railey, head of the promotion group Closed Sessions, gathered a number of DC producers together for a studio session including Lindsay Lowend, Royal, Manilla Killa and Hunt For the Breeze. From there, Hunt For The Breeze and Manilla Killa hit it off which led to Manilla Killa introducing AObeats, and AObeats introducing Robokid, who had the desire to start a collective. Moving Castle had officially been born.
DC Nightlife first got a taste of the Moving Castle squad as part of the Closed Sessions at Backbar (under 9:30 Club) and Flash. More recently, the group recently played a showcase at U Street Music Hall (a collaboration between Closed Sessions and Nu Androids). To top it all off, DC based DJ, Keylow, connected Moving Castle with local music startup, Musx, which led to the startup hosting the first ever Moving Castle showcase at Austin’s SXSW this past March.
People say the D.C. music scene is waning, but between our friends like Closed Sessions, Keylow and the other groups and venues we continue to have opportunities to expand our audience. The internet thing is going great, but the D.C. scene gave us the opportunity to bring it to real life – these venues and promotion groups are trying to bring fresh talent week in and week out.
— Moving Castle
Pigeons and Planes: “No infrastructure in place to foster in the next wave of talent.”
Rivaling this statement, many see DC as home to a number of top notch promo groups, music startups, music blogs, venues and festivals that are fostering in the next wave of talent.
Promotional groups include Closed Session and DCtoBC, to name a couple. Closed Session promotes some of the best future bass and R&B. What started as a rotating house party has sprouted into a community of DJ’s, producers, and guest bartenders; first being held at Flash before transitioning to U Street Music Hall. DCtoBC is a promo group always looking to showcase the best local talent. They host DC’s huge annual festival, Trillectro, as well as countless shows throughout the year.
Musx is a DC based music start up. They recently launched their mobile app, which allows you to share and discover YouTube and SoundCloud songs with your friends — think Instagram for music. DC talent, such as Keylow and Moving Castle, are frequently highlighted in the app’s featured section alongside bigger artists and blogs such as Passion Pit and ourselves. Many in DC are utilizing this platform to share new music and concert information with fellow DC music fans, which has created an active music community for DC fans, artists, blogs, promoters, and venues to connect. In addition to their app, they continually host events to highlight local artists.
DC is also home to 7 of the top ranked music venues in the world. What makes these venues even more of an influence in the scene are their willingness to collaborate to host and promote big name shows and look to local talent for support. Flash, Closed Sessions, and Nu Androids collaborate frequently. Promotion groups and venues actively recruit new talent to open their shows. In fact, Flash and U Street Music Hall have their booking emails listed and encourage DJ’s to send in their mixes — something not often found with top electronic music venues. IMP Presents is the biggest promotion company in town and operating owners of 9:30 Club and Merriweather Post Pavillion. They often additionally host shows at U Street Music Hall and Echostage, and vice versa.
DC Festivals have also begun to prosper, bringing in big names, not exclusive to electronic music, while having local artists support them. Sweetlife is perhaps their most prominent, attracting artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Calvin Harris. Local DJ Keylow was announced as the first act of their DJ-only 9:32 stage sponsored by IMP Presents. Landmark Festival is the newest addition to the DC festival lineup and is already slated to becoming one of the largest annual festivals in the US with talent like Drake, Alt-J, and The Strokes on the books for this year. Other festivals include but are not limted to Trillectro, who are known to bring a heavy electronic focus to their lineup, and Broccoli City Festival.
Some of DC’s noteworthy blogs include All Things Go, Listen Local First, Brightest Young Things, DC Music Download, and newdust. All Things Go often hosts popular shows and actively support local musicians. Listen Local First is an organization that focuses on creating collaborations between local musicians and businesses in order to create additional venues for local music exploration.
“The DC area has always had a bubbling creative dance music culture, it just didn’t have the eyes on it. It’s the documentarians, the photographers and videographers, the writers and community organizers, and of course those of the culture that have helped bring much needed attention to what’s been brewing musically. We’re just happy to be a part of it and to help raise awareness. We’ve seen tremendous growth in the EDM scene from people who care the culture and it’s authenticity. Venues like Echostage, Flash, U Street Music Hall, have all helped create a scene for our city’s talents to exist within — building spaces that cater specifically to the sound, production and culture of the music. Huge brands like Glow, All Things Go, Paperhaus and so many more continue to add their own flavor to the city. It’s an exciting time for DC right now and we’ll continue to do our part in pushing the culture forward.”
— Quinn Coleman, Trillectro Co-Founder
If you’re looking to get a taste of what’s hot in the DC music scene right now, then don’t miss tonight’s show at U Street Music Hall with Pomo and Falcons alongside support from Gravez, Keylow, Lean Quatifah, and JR Nelson. Musx and Closed Sessions are partnerting with U Street Music Hall, GW University Radio, and ourselves to host the show. RSVP to the show on FB here and click the poster below to cop your tickets, or click here.
Appendix: Other Notable Members of the DC Music Community
- Top 20 club in the world
- Founded by Glow
- Warehouse Feel
- Top tier bookings across the electronic music spectrum
- Founded by DJ’s
- Voted top ten best dance club in the U.S. by Rolling Stone
- Wide variety of bookings across electronic music spectrum
- Ranked as Billboard’s #1 venue multiple times
- Top tier house bookings
- Incredible aesthetic
- Funktion 1 sound system
Collectives/Promotion Groups (cross collaboration is frequent):
- Started in DC, features a number of top tier producers from across the world
- Top URL Music Collective
- Skrillex/Mad Decent Approved
- Weekly dance party held at Flash
- Features the hottest talent in house music
- Collaborates most frequently with other groups
- Music collective featuring Lean Quatifah, Cautious Clay, Keylow and more
- Successful series of intimate underground shows in D.C. area
- Artists featured on Rooftops Horizon, Too Future, Half Bad
- Promotion group that owns Echostage and throws weekly parties at Ultrabar
- Features a variety of top tier EDM talent (ie. Tiesto, Madeon, Carnage, etc.)
- Co-organizers of Moonrise festival with Steez Promo
- Promotion group that throws electronic events across the DMV
- Features a variety of top tier bass music talent
- Co-organizers of Moonrise festival with Glow
[Original Image from Huffington Post]