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April 26, 2008

Why Baltimore won Best Scene

I've had a couple of people ask me why, all of the sudden, Baltimore is getting props in Rolling Stone and Blender.

Well, there's more than one reason.

But I think the best way I can explain it is to break it into chunks and then tie the chunks together.

Here goes ... 

A few years ago, most of the arts and music students behind Wham City moved down here from Suny Purchase College because Baltimore was cheap, unpretentious and weird.

At the same time, the Darkroom Productions duo was making the first Hamsterdam album, which would spawn two more and a soundtrack to The Wire.

Meanwhile, the rock group Cinder Road, pop rockers All Time Low and the jam band The Bridge were (separately) recording and touring their butts off across the country.

And, Beach House and Wye Oak were making moody, hypnotic music that local artists and hipsters latched onto.

Each of these musical groups made one important decision:

Instead of moving to other cities where they might find better connections and bigger audiences, they opted to stay here in Baltimore.

They bet that they were good enough to bring attention here instead of looking for attention by leaving Baltimore.

And, just as importantly, venues like Floristree, the Lo-Fi Social Club, The 8x10, The Talking Head, G-Spot and Metro Gallery were there to help introduce these groups to larger audiences.

Their gamble paid off.

Baltimore artists from a bunch of different genres are getting recognition for the music they're making.

If you don't live here and just picked up a copy of Rolling Stone, it looks like all of the sudden, Baltimore has a scene.

But if live here, you know we've had one growing for a while now and it's finally starting to blossom.

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:26 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Local music


This is all well and good, but when has there *not* been something of a thriving Baltimore scene? I'm dating myself, but when I was young, groups like The All Mighty Senators, 10 Times Big, East is East, Honor Among Thieves and plenty more were hopping. Child's Play and Kix had some metal devotees. Bootcamp and the Ravyns were ok for some people. New Potato Caboose was a pretty good jam band. And there were lots of lesser bands that didn't last long but played some good shows here and there - I can't remember the Annapolis bands by name, but there was no shortage of them.

Yeah, I think you're more or less spot on about the cumulative effect of most of those things. I would say that the 3 biggest factors that made just the word "Baltimore" and the concept of the city hip on the internet and certain tastemaking circles are: The Wire, Wham City and Baltimore club music.

Darkroom and the rappers on the Wire soundtrack were doing their thing for years, it just took that project to give them a hook for national coverage. The whole aesthetic and sense of humor of Wham City has been pervasive in Baltimore's indie scene for nearly a decade, Dan Deacon was just the first artist to represent it on a large scale to the Pitchfork/Stereogum audience.

And club music has been kind of a cool thing for a long time, maybe not as hip as it was a couple years ago but still something that gets a lot of interest out of town. Of course there's a lot of cool stuff going on here that hasn't been included in a lot of these trend pieces, but hopefully other artists will benefit from the buzz (or make it on their own, without just riding the Baltimore hype bandwagon ).

Check the October 2008 issue of Blender. The Baltimore music scene is getting a whole lot of love.

Checked online, but they haven't posted the link to the article yet.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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