Has any good music ever come from the capital?
April 21, 2006 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Have any really famous bands or even solo artists (of any genre) come from the Washington D.C. area (including Maryland and Virginia suburbs)? My friend and I were able to think of successful or even good and successful musicians from most every major city in the country except the DC area.....

We know the place is a white collar mecca and the government center and everything....but music arises everywhere, right?
posted by skepticallypleased to Media & Arts (74 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
yeah, uh, Thievery Corporation, right?
posted by joeblough at 7:47 PM on April 21, 2006


Minor Threat/Fugazi
posted by box at 7:49 PM on April 21, 2006


Bad Brains, too
posted by box at 7:49 PM on April 21, 2006


huh, i didnt know that about fugazi. interesting.

i guess i did know that Consolidated is not Fugazi. They are way harder than Consolidated :)
posted by joeblough at 7:54 PM on April 21, 2006


Deep Dish.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 7:56 PM on April 21, 2006


Henry Rollins...
posted by starman at 8:04 PM on April 21, 2006


Henry Rollins; Dismemberment Plan
posted by milkrate at 8:05 PM on April 21, 2006


D.C. is the cradle of US Hardcore.

See also: Dischord, (List of Dischord Records Bands)
posted by cadastral at 8:06 PM on April 21, 2006


guess the ansewer is, YES
posted by edgeways at 8:07 PM on April 21, 2006


Dave Grohl's from the DC area.
posted by jrossi4r at 8:10 PM on April 21, 2006


second the hardcore stuff, especially Bad Brains, Minor Threat.

John Fahey is from Takoma Park, MD

DC's known for an entire genre - go go music

Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana fame) is from Alexandria VA and was in Scream (on Dischord.) He has a house here still.
posted by drobot at 8:14 PM on April 21, 2006


They're not all really famous, but here's the AMG list of artists from DC.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 8:15 PM on April 21, 2006


Me'Shell Ndegeocello was raised in Virginia and began gigging in D.C. in her teens.
posted by vespertine at 8:17 PM on April 21, 2006


Hello, Nation of Ulysses!
posted by pullayup at 8:17 PM on April 21, 2006


What Chicago and New Orleans are to the blues; what the Bronx and Brooklyn are to rap; what Detroit is to soul--such is Washington D.C. to hardcore.
posted by maxreax at 8:18 PM on April 21, 2006


Not to derail, but while DC's contribution to hardcore is no doubt important, LA, New York, Detroit, Boston, Chicago were all pretty important too.
posted by drobot at 8:24 PM on April 21, 2006


Duke Ellington was born in DC.
posted by drobot at 8:28 PM on April 21, 2006


Michael Fath
posted by webtom at 8:32 PM on April 21, 2006


Not to derail, but while DC's contribution to hardcore is no doubt important, LA, New York, Detroit, Boston, Chicago were all pretty important too.

And, of course, NEW FUCKING JERSEY.
posted by maxreax at 8:34 PM on April 21, 2006


Tori Amos grew up outside DC in Northern VA, I think.

Many of the Teenbeat bands were from the DC area like Unrest, Tuscadero, etc. (most are listed in Espy Gillespie's link to AMG)

The Make Up! made it onto the AMG list but NoU didn't? weird.

Bob Mould (of Sugar/Husker Du) lives and makes music in DC these days.

DrRobot, Grohl and his dad(?) own/run Black Cat, I hear.

Interesting question, skepticallypleased. A lot of bands from all over the US move to NYC and LA and live there for a while before becoming famous and then they claim to be from NYC or LA but aren't really. I'm sure more bands/musicians have roots in DC than are listed in the AMG for WashDC.
posted by shoepal at 8:36 PM on April 21, 2006


Ok Henry Rollins is a big name and I'll give you Ndegeocello and Grohl (and thats an iffy because 90% of people are going to associate Seattle to him). The rest I've never heard of and I think of myself as at least a bit savvy about at least different types of musicians (albeit not about from where they originate).

Its more than I could quickly think of....which brings me to more points:

1. How in the world did a place that has carpeted subways become the center of US hardcore? (and we can debate whether or not harcore is really a popular genre in the first place).

2. Very few of the names mentioned seem to really sing about DC or evoke it in some sense....why is that?
posted by skepticallypleased at 8:38 PM on April 21, 2006


maxreax - yeah! I love Jersey Hardcore :)

I'm not sure about his dad, but Grohl owns the Black Cat with the dude from Grey Matter (and others?) I don't think Grohl has much to do with day-to-day operations, but I don't know for sure.
posted by drobot at 8:42 PM on April 21, 2006


A lot of these people are from Virginia (i.e. suburbs), not DC proper.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 8:45 PM on April 21, 2006


BTW, Tori Amos is from Baltimore, not DC.
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:48 PM on April 21, 2006


I'll take a stab at the hardcore issue. I'm guessing the proximity to politics and the machine + angry youth (children of the whitebread mecca of public servants) = hardcore.

As to singing about DC or evoking it, that's probably better left to GoGo and ChuckBrown.
posted by shoepal at 8:49 PM on April 21, 2006


skepticallypleased - I think a carpeted metro is exactly what makes kids play angry music. Hardcore's pretty political, too - makes sense that DC would foster some angry kids. A lot of it has to do with the Bad Brains who influenced a lot of musicians, including Minor Threat. Dischord records is/was also a very influential record label that has done a pretty good job of documenting a particular facet of DC music.

As for not having heard of a lot of these musicians, I think it's a matter of what you like - I think John Fahey, at least in his genre, is huge. And go go music and hardcore are very important, in my opinion.

As for not invoking DC, it depends on your perspective on DC - I'd say go go gets pretty close.
posted by drobot at 8:51 PM on April 21, 2006


(ditto shoepal)
posted by drobot at 8:51 PM on April 21, 2006


For more GoGo check this thread in the blue.
posted by shoepal at 8:54 PM on April 21, 2006


Oh, and as to the "white collar mecca" comment, DC was/is known as Chocolate City and the majority of residents were not white in the 70s+80s. With all the gentrification the balance may have shifted recently, though I doubt it.
posted by shoepal at 9:03 PM on April 21, 2006


Shoepal's question of what is organicity in music is also on point -- I was thinking along the lines of granting place to musicians if they sing about the place, met there, bring about its attitude, or have been there long enough to claim it as their own....
posted by skepticallypleased at 9:09 PM on April 21, 2006


Yup -- I was also careful not to include Baltimore -- it has enough from just Oldies music to exclude it from the question.
posted by skepticallypleased at 9:11 PM on April 21, 2006


Oh, and as to the "white collar mecca" comment, DC was/is known as Chocolate City and the majority of residents were not white in the 70s+80s. With all the gentrification the balance may have shifted recently, though I doubt it.

D.C. is still about 70 percent black. It is, on the whole, a poor city with struggling public schools and lots and lots of crime even though it is way expensive to live in the good neighborhoods. The good neighborhoods also have their share of crime.
posted by Airhen at 9:32 PM on April 21, 2006


You asked about songs featuring DC -- one, albeit not from any of the bands mentioned, is "Washington DC" by The Magnetic Fields. Not themselves/himself from DC, mind you.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:49 PM on April 21, 2006


Minor Threat and Fugazi are most definitely influential, but i'm not sure anyone would consider them "really famous" in the popular music sense.
posted by radioamy at 9:58 PM on April 21, 2006


skepticallypleased, if you've never heard of Duke Ellington that's much to your shame. He's one of the great musical figures of the 20th century.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:07 PM on April 21, 2006


My girlfriend informs me that Eddie From Ohio is actually from Virginia.
posted by drstein at 10:09 PM on April 21, 2006


Eddie From Ohio, who despite their name are actually from Virginia (Vienna, actually, which is technically the suburbs but it has a Metro stop so it's not that far out) have a national following, although they may not be "really famous." They are fond of saying that they were lucky enough to "come from a place that most people want to leave." They are an independent band.

And seconding drobot and shoepal-- DC is the hotspot for Go-Go music (although it was kind of being called Junkyard, after the Junkyard Band, by my generation).

(on preview, I am drstein's girlfriend. he just types faster than me.)
posted by sarahnade at 10:22 PM on April 21, 2006


David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker lives in Richmond, VA.
posted by Devils Slide at 10:40 PM on April 21, 2006


How in the world did a place that has carpeted subways become the center of US hardcore?

I don't know how old you are but I'm early 30s and all my friends who grew up in or near DC described it as a shit hole back in the late 80s, early 90s. A shit hole with a ton of good bands and a good local scene. Fugazi etc. spring to mind immediately (damn you DC for giving us the precursor to emo, btw) but there are others, mostly mentioned above.

I don't think I'd count David Lowery as a DC resident as Camper Van Beethoven were a Santa Cruz band.
posted by fshgrl at 10:48 PM on April 21, 2006


Marvin Gaye grew up and got started in the district, and Roberta Flack grew up across the river in Arlington and got started in DC, but the DC music scene for most genres is such that it was/is beneficial to relocate to LA, NY, Nashville, Motown, and even New Orleans, Memphis, or Chicago if you want to be a big star.

Toni Braxton (Maryland suburbs) still gets homegirl coverage in local media. Mary Chapin Carpenter (who was based here at the beginning and hit-song portion of her career and beyond - almost 20 years) had several songs on her earliest albums that specifically referenced Virginia and Maryland. Eddie from Ohio, who also write most of the songs they perform, have songs that reference the area. I'm still bitter the stupid Commonwealth rejected the EFO song "Old Dominion" for consideration as the new and still unselected state anthem. That would have been an anthem to be proud of.

The other one I didn't see mentioned was Eva Cassidy, who grew up and lived in the DC area until her death. Like EFO, Jelly Roll Morton, and Chuck Brown (with whom she did an album), she was an independent, and based here for her entire career. Of course, she's better known in England than the US.
posted by julen at 11:03 PM on April 21, 2006


Well, I wanted to be cool and mention Bad Brains, but apparently I'm too late for that...so I'll be lame and mention Good Charlotte...they in fact wrote a song about it. "Walkin' on the streets of DC on the East Coast - where I live. you say what's the problem? what's with this angry kid?"

I'm just going to bite my tongue about hardcore not being a 'popular genre'.
posted by nadawi at 11:09 PM on April 21, 2006


Emmylou Harris is from D.C.
posted by Scram at 11:20 PM on April 21, 2006


I don't think I'd count David Lowery as a DC resident as Camper Van Beethoven were a Santa Cruz band.

Yeah, I was reaching. CVB was obviously a California band, but I attribute Cracker's twang to Lowery moving to Virginia.
posted by Devils Slide at 11:29 PM on April 21, 2006


I don't think any of the artists involved are actually from DC, but the Postal Service's song The District Sleeps Alone Tonight is actually about DC, which I think is even more rare.
posted by toddshot at 11:38 PM on April 21, 2006


hilarious, nadawi. I was going to mention Good Charlotte. They are from Waldorf, MD (outside the beltway) and lived and played for a while in Annapolis, a bedroom community of DC.

julen, nice mention of Roberta Flack. Scram, I had no idea about Emmylou!

And lest we forget, P-Funk's album Chocolate City is about DC and features monuments on the cover.

Hardcore and a Funk tribute. Ellington and Mackaye/Dischord. Rollins and Go-Go/Junkyard. Thievery Corporation and Bad Brains. Not a bad showing.

DC is also home to the 9:30 club, which supposedly outsells all other clubs in the US. (according to pollstar)

"Since moving to its current location, the 9:30 has been awarded Nightclub of the Year honors four times by Pollstar, the concert industry trade journal. And for most of that time, it has also been Pollstar's top ticket-selling club"
posted by shoepal at 12:19 AM on April 22, 2006


Q and Not U and Shudder to Think. Although I am not entirely sure on the latter. Dismemberment Plan (already mentioned) has multiple songs that reference DC.
posted by Falconetti at 12:40 AM on April 22, 2006


Zappa is from Baltimore. Does that count?
posted by fixedgear at 3:30 AM on April 22, 2006


I knew I'd think of a few more after some sleep :) Rockabilly legends: Robert Gordon is from DC and Link Wray spent a good portion of his musical career in DC, as well.

And yes, Falconetti - Shudder to Think's best years (IMO) were spent in DC before relocating to NYC.
posted by drobot at 5:32 AM on April 22, 2006


No-one has mentioned the great Jim Morrison (Doors) or Frankie Lymon (of and the Teenagers).
posted by TheRaven at 5:44 AM on April 22, 2006


Wikipedia uses category pages for subjects like this; so, Music of Washington, D.C., and of Maryland and Virginia, are all subsets of the category Music of the United States.
posted by cgc373 at 5:50 AM on April 22, 2006


Damn -- ok Gaye, Ellington, Flack, Braxton, Rollins are really enough......I stand corrected.

I guess you never really hear of them being presented as "DC area" musicians.

But, yes, in this sense the question is answered. Thanks all. I knew a place having that many people and some unique cultural aspects would produce something. And this whole hardcore thing is an intriguing phenomenon yet.
posted by skepticallypleased at 6:03 AM on April 22, 2006


I don't know why you won't list dischord records and Fugazi, way more influential than Henry Rollins or Toni Braxton. What's more, they definitely were always presented as DC area musicians.
posted by malphigian at 7:32 AM on April 22, 2006


Nobody has mentioned Ted Leo or Chisel yet. I think he is a transplant FROM NYC which is rare since it usually works the other way. Also, not to pick nits with shoepal above, but Annapolis is not a "bedroom community" of DC. It's the capital of Maryland and about 30 miles from the city.
posted by fancypants at 7:36 AM on April 22, 2006


They got the name Eddie from Ohio from Hartness, whose girlfriend started calling him "Eddie from Ohio" after eD fROMOHIO, a member of the now-defunct group fIREHOSE.
The 9:30 Club used to be at 930 F Street, hence the name.

The Slickee Boys are from DC, too. You probably haven't heard of them, but you might've heard their song, "When I Go to the Beach." [mp3]
posted by kirkaracha at 7:38 AM on April 22, 2006


Braxton = Glen Burnie = Bal'more, hon'

not DC
posted by Mick at 8:07 AM on April 22, 2006


Glen Bernie.

My wife is gonna kill me.
posted by Mick at 8:07 AM on April 22, 2006


If you can handle an old '70s reference, the Grammy-winning one-hit Starland Vocal Band came out of DC.
posted by lhauser at 9:54 AM on April 22, 2006


I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that no one has mentioned those giants of rawk emmet swimming and their landmark megahit "Arlington."
posted by NortonDC at 10:05 AM on April 22, 2006


Nils Lofgren. Emmylou Harris.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:13 AM on April 22, 2006


Good Charlotte.. The guys are from Annapolis, the capital of MD and a suburb of the nation's capital.
posted by seinfeld at 1:15 PM on April 22, 2006


Minor Threat and Fugazi are most definitely influential, but i'm not sure anyone would consider them "really famous" in the popular music sense.

I'm honestly surprised at this sentiment. I was never really into them myself but always thought of them as big names. Plus, if you're thinking of "the scene" in a particular area, rather than just musicians who happen to be from there, I think hardcore's your best answer.

posted by mdn at 3:29 PM on April 22, 2006


In this context, we spell it harDCore.
posted by Rash at 8:54 PM on April 22, 2006


Didn't Mama Cass go to that same high school in Alexandria that Warren Beatty attended?

And speaking of the early '80s, such a shame the Urban Verbs didn't make it big, outside the Beltway.

And let's not forget jazz great Charlie Byrd. In the late 60s he had a music store in the suburbs where I had lessons.
posted by Rash at 9:04 PM on April 22, 2006


...but that was before we had the carpeted subway.

Would you call the Muppets art?
Jim Henson (as well as John Fahey) went to my inside-the-Beltway high school, Northwestern, in suburban Maryland.

A couple other musical DC talents who got larger-than-local media attention include Danny Gatton and "Boogie Till You Puke"s Root Boy Slim.
posted by Rash at 9:18 PM on April 22, 2006


Don't forget this guy.

posted by soiled cowboy at 10:01 PM on April 22, 2006


Pat McGee Band - Pat went to high school at Bishop O'Connell in Arlington, VA. And I'm not sure where they're originally from, but the guys in Vertical Horizon attended Georgetown.
posted by candyland at 10:05 PM on April 22, 2006


Jawbox
posted by DieHipsterDie at 7:26 AM on April 23, 2006


Any genre? what about Bluegrass? I grew up around DC and remember a lot of bluegrass activity in and around the city. Seems like it's still happening, too.
posted by anitar at 7:51 AM on April 23, 2006


Though not "really famous", The Apes and Q and not U have both gotten a decent amount of attention on the indie scene. But yeah, the Dischord stuff is definitely the best-known DC export.
posted by ubersturm at 1:56 PM on April 23, 2006


The guys are from Annapolis, the capital of MD and a suburb of the nation's capital.

Annapolis is a town/small city; it's not a suburb. The suburban Annapolis area is more connected to Baltimore than to DC. /localfilter
posted by desuetude at 6:17 AM on April 24, 2006


Fugazi is one of the most successful indie bands of the late 20th century. Not having heard of them does not make them any less influential or important.
posted by OmieWise at 6:18 AM on April 24, 2006


Annapolis is also the capital of Maryland. Although, since I grew up in DC, I tend to see all of MD as just another suburb.
posted by OmieWise at 6:19 AM on April 24, 2006


But you have to draw the line somewhere (I use the Beltway). "All of MD" includes Baltimore, and the very rural west of the state.

Correction: I'd like to change my mention of Warren Beatty (above) to Jim Morrison of The Doors.
posted by Rash at 10:26 AM on April 24, 2006


Actually, to take issue with fancypants and to some extent desuetude, Annapolis is very much a bedroom community of DC and has been for a couple of decades now. The volume of cars on Route 50 from Annapolis to DC on any given weekday will prove this statement. Given that Baltimore's economy pretty much sucked in the '80s and '90s, most of the folks in Annapolis worked in DC and many folks moved from DC to Annapolis for a better QoL.

And regarding Good Charlotte, they did indeed live in Annapolis before becoming rockstars, but they came from Waldorf, MD.

Thus spake the wayward Annapolitan.
posted by shoepal at 5:42 PM on April 24, 2006


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