Bring the Noise, Bring the ... Noise
When considering music genres associated with D.C., most people will either think of go-go, an almost entirely local sensation spearheaded by the likes of Chuck Brown, Troublefunk and E.U. in the early '80s, or the slashing, passionate indie rock favored by Fugazi and much of the Dischord Records stable. But D.C. is also a hotbed for another genre, one that simmers -- albeit quite loudly -- even further below the mainstream. That would be the unfortunately labeled "stoner rock," and if you've ever been curious as to what that means, well, this is the weekend to find out. The second annual 20 Buck Spin Festival, a three-evening event that encompasses performances Friday night at the Warehouse Next Door and Saturday and Sunday nights at DC9, brings more than a dozen loud, louder and loudest bands to the area.
"The D.C. area has been, and still is, one of the most fertile areas for progressive heavy music, from bluesy doom-rock to speed- and thrash-metal to straight-up hardcore," festival co-organizer Scott Verrastro of Clavius Productions said. 20 Buck Spin was named after a song by local doom legends Pentagram, who formed in Arlington in 1971 and are to the local heavy rock scene what Chuck Brown and Minor Threat/Fugazi were to their respective scenes. Drawing on influences from heavy British bands such as Hawkwind, Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer, Pentagram put a distinctly menacing take on the sound and has influenced countless bands over the last three decades. The influence is still heard today in popular local acts such as Dead Meadow and Wooly Mammoth.
Why is D.C. such a hub for "stoner rock" ("a fairly stupid term," Verrastro readily admits)? "It's hard to pinpoint exactly why, other than attributing it to being in such close proximity to national politics and the crime and poverty inherent in the D.C. geography, which lends itself well to the sense of dread and aggression found in metal," Verrastro says. Or perhaps it's the brutally humid summers that lead to the brutally heavy music. Whatever the reason, there is no question that there is a devoted, tight-knit community based around the music.
All variations of the heavy psych sound will be represented this weekend. Friday's show at the Warehouse with Unearthly Trance, Mouthus, Test-Site and Hyatari will focus on more progressive and abstract styles, for those that prefer a little artiness with their noise. Saturday's nine-act extravaganza at DC9 with Distant Sun, Unorthodox, Earthride, RPG and many more will cover traditional doom and sludge, meaning it will be heavy, thick, dirty and there will be plenty of hair a-flying. The most accessible evening will be Sunday's finale, headlined by Japanese quartet DMBQ. The group is legendary in the Tokyo rock underground and while it does embrace some very heavy and abstract sounds, there's also a raucous garage-blues energy that permeates many of the band's songs, bringing to mind American indie favorites of yesteryear such as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Mudhoney.
So for those looking for something different and, yes, a bit scary this Halloween weekend, 20 Buck Spin certainly fits the bill. You just might want to splurge $1 on earplugs first.
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