A Growing and Incomplete Playlist of Frederick Local (and Regional) Artists/Bands

So…D’y’all Like Local Music?

I have no doubt that the few people who have discovered this blog since we launched it less than a year ago are already familiar with The Thing - a one-day, multi-venue music festival featuring and highlighting local musical talent - that will be going down Saturday October 6th.

The Thing.jpg

This will be our first Thing (though we recall hearing about it last year, but feel like we were out of town the weekend it went down). So it should go without saying, being huge fans of local music, that we’re pretty pumped about it.

In fact, the Thing reminds us a little of the humble beginnings of Fayetteville, Arkansas’ Block Street Block Party, which started as a small, kid-friendly festival along Block Street, with games, local artisan vendors, food trucks, local music, and lotsa booze (as Block Street was home to several local watering holes in our college town).

So the idea of hopping around from venue to venue has appeal. In our minds, we’re thinking this might be something akin to a SUUUUPER scaled-down South by Southwest, but with hometown appeal like the Block Street Block Party.

ANYWAY…

We’ve been doing our homework since launching The Strangers Almanac keenly taking notes on the Frederick music scene’s offerings. Recently, we decided to take playbook page from this one dude in Richmond VA who created a Spotify Playlist of local and regional Richmond punk/rock/indie bands that helped us learn the lay of the scene right after we moved there. It was a great resource during our short tenure in the River City.

Not long after moving to Fredrick, we became aware of The Frederick Playlist’s coverage of local music, and their role in bringing us The Thing…but we have yet to find a place where you can get a cache of local artists’ recorded output - including those performing at the Thing. The closest we got was this rad google sheet of local artists that was curated by Middle Kid’s Zack Willis.

That all said, we started with Zak’s list and began to cobble together a running playlist that not only includes some of our favorite local indie bands (i.e., Cheshi, Middle Kid, Jim Shorts, Flooring, Gloop, Mess, Mr. Husband, Cosmic Halitosis, J-Berd, Michael Nau, Double Motorcycle, Miss Lonelyheart, and Although), but also recently updated it to include some of the folks who will be performing at the Thing.

Ergo, if you’re anything like us, and simply seeing the name of a band only whets your appetite, then hopefully you’ll get some more gravy for your biscuits by listening to our berth of local talent through this playlist.

We’ve turned the “comments” on for this post, so please, let us know which local/regional Frederick artists who have a record on Spotify we are missing!

See y’all at the thing!







Frederick Double-Header: Ghost Baby/Cheshi @ Area 31 and Mr. Husband @ Cafe Nola Saturday Sept. 15, 2018

Yeah…we’re posting this WAY after the fact, but…

Frederick!!

Man…we’re getting there.

For all of the hemming and hawing we’ve done here at the Stranger’s Almanac about needing to breather some life into “the scene” (assuming one exists in Frederick), Saturday September 15th was evidence that we’re getting there.

Because…if you have to decide which show to catch on a given night because two stellar shows are occurring at the same time - that is a GOOD thing.

Saturday brought us a cavalcade of local music scene juggernauts: Ghost Baby (the solo project of Olivia Solomon, of Austin and Oliva fame) and Ashli Cheshire, (of Cheshi fame) teaming up to play a quiet but heavy show at Area 31. Afterward/during, the purveyors of wonderment and friendship, Mr. Husband, were also booked to close down Cafe Nola on the same night - with starting set times about an hour apart. We decided to catch the beginning of the Ghost Baby and Cheshi (solo) show before popping over to Nola to catch Mr. Husband and their brand of jangle pop.

Ghost Baby & Cheshi @ Area 31

Y’all. Ghost Baby’s set was harmony central. But before we get into that, let’s rap a sec about Area 31

From the website: “Area 31 is a space that will evolve with the artists and patrons who participate. Not only is it home to a collection of filmmakers, editors, artists, Frederick’s 72 Film Fest, Archai Media, and and atrhouse theater, the space is available for rent and is host to unique events and seminars. We are here to make it easier for others to create more of whatever drives them.

Cool.

We’ve not yet witnessed any of the other shows at this space, but we’re gonna keep our eyes peeled. However, we would be remiss if we did not note that the price tag associated with renting the space seems a bit prohibitive. If we are reading the pricing accurately, it cost $750 to put on this show. - meaning you would need to get 75 bodies in the room at $10/per to break even.

Come on, Frederick. Not sure that is making it “easier for other to create more of what drives them” … but we’ll reserve our thoughts on this for another post.

Not there were 75 bodies in the room on this particular night (the cover was $10), so we’re dubious about this show ‘breaking even’ - but if it didn’t, that’s a damn shame. Because it was special.

Despite the above dig on rental pricing, Area 31 is a great venue. No stage, but there is a makeshift bar as you enter, and the room where the music took place was sizable - and could be a full-legit music venue if there was a dedicated stage and PA. On the adjacent wall to the area where the ‘stage’ was set, there was a large screen on which a black and white film of landscapes pictured upside down was displayed - soliciting more than one joke about Stranger Things.

Full disclosure: this image was stolen from Ghost Baby’s Insta or Facebook, or Myspace page…so photo credit goes to the person who took it.

Full disclosure: this image was stolen from Ghost Baby’s Insta or Facebook, or Myspace page…so photo credit goes to the person who took it.

All that aside, the space really was #RadAF. Olivia and Ashli spent some time decorating the “stage” area with LED candles, and crazy taxidermied lamps of some weird shit involving deer hooves and lots of floral-y stuff. It was incredibly fitting for the atmospheric sounds that were about to fill the room.

As noted, Ghost Baby is the solo project of Olivia Solomon. She’s been active on SoundCloud posting her own music (and some covers) for about 5 months. It is hard to pin-down her sound with a simple ‘Recommended If You Like’ (RIYL), but on this particular evening, Ghost Baby upped the ante by inviting Ashli Cheshire to the set sing harmony and play some lead guitar.

Holy shit.

There were moments of the set where Olivia and Ash singing together sounded like Neko Case (and we feel confident in that assessment having recently seen Neko Case in Harrisburg, PA). Given, the only time we’ve seen Ash play was a solo set in Baltimore at the Ottobar opening for Frederick locals Jim Shorts, it was nice to see this artist in a different context - in this case, adding additional layers of sound and soaring vocal harmonies to this set of Ghost Baby songs [after a year of living in Frederick, we’ve yet to catch a full-band Cheshi show (which will be rectified when they play The Thing this fall)].

Ghost Baby y Cheshi

Everything about this set clicked. From the bizarre, yet kinda rad “stage” to the overall vibe of the crowd and the room - which meshed well with the songs themselves. Ghost Baby’s sound is ethereal. Though, perhaps ‘haunting’ is the better adjective here. The crowd was engaged and quiet (which has not been our experience when attending shows of this ilk while living elsewhere). Despite the skeletal setup of two electric guitars, two amps, and two microphones, these two artists painted every wall with a pretty lush sound. Olivia was plugged into an “organ”-like effect that created a layered, swelling sound with each strum. Her guitar laid a droning landscape that allowed hers and Ashli’s vocals (and their lead guitar) to soar above.

It was gorgeous.

Here, have yourself a listen:


Ghost Baby’s set seemed to end just as soon as it had begun. reluctantly, we bid farewell to Area 31 for the embrace of Cafe Nola and the trio from out of the 4th Dimension, Mr. Husband. Again, all apologies to Cheshi for missing their solo set, but to atone for these sins, we’re gonna be front and center for y’all at the Thing!

Mr. Husband at Cafe Nola

Mr. Husband Nola 9-15.png

If you’ve never seen Mr. Husband before…well…we’ll just say you’re missing a wild ride. Mr. Husband’s sets are just bananas. Before a note of music is struck, you more than likely notice frontman Kinny Husband’s ‘getup‘, which , we should note, has been the same for every show we’ve been privy to attending. From the ground up: black Vans, black denim jeans, dark indigo denim jacket (buttoned-closed) over a white turtle neck, bright-colored faux Ray-Ban shades, and a red, white, and blue bandanna holding back a massive, long, black wig of hair. In fact, he looks a lot like the dude in the photo to the right.

Durning the set, there are lots of references to friendship, wonderment, the 4th Dimension, and just how good each song has been to Kinny and the boys.

If you’re thinking " Come ON, Stranger!! Bands who rely on gimmicks do so because they’re otherwise boring.”

Yeah. No.

IMG_0551.JPEG

Mr. Husband are tight. As two coats of paint. And their sound is completely dialed in (which is not easy to do in a room as echo-y as Nola). Also, for a three-piece, they bring a LOT of sound to the stage. There is something to be said about a good power trio who knows how to listen to each other when playing and know how to play to the room. Mr. Husband’s songs are dreamy, poppy tunes chock-full of arpeggioed guitar that allows the song’s melody to bounce right across the room and into your head - where it will live for a while (not a bad thing). The tunes are filled in by the rhythm section of ‘Bassin’ Jasen Reeder and Chris Morris on the drums. Reeder’s bass lines compliment the bounce of the melodies while still keeping the low groove. Oh, and that in-between song banter about friendship, wonderment and the 4th Domension? It works. There is nothing about the character of Mr. Kenneth Husband that doesn’t seem like he might not be an actual dude you know. He’s not too extreme. He’s not too boring. It’s, as the kids would say, ‘gold!’

We missed much of the opening solo Kinny set, but if the two songs we did catch were an indication of the whole thing (a couple fun old country covers), it’s a shame we missed it (but, you know, Ghost Baby and Cheshi, yo). This begs the question about Mr. Husband’s penchant for country AND western music. The note accompanying the pre-release of OCEAN PINES on Mr. Husband’s bandcamp page suggests that he is steeped in this genre, which is interesting as much of the available output has more of a poppy, almost Beach Boys quality to it (please note that this is a compliment). But hey, we’re no Stranger [pun intended] to country and western music ourselves. So Kinny…[call us].

Mr. Husband’s OCEAN PINES is due out October 26, 2018. You can pre-order via the bandcamp link above (which will get you the title track as an instant download). Really, really looking forward to this record, fellas.

Good on you, Frederick!

So, yeah. More nights of lots of good music, please.

In fact, since this show took place, there have been a steady stream of excellent shows around town (some which we here at the Rank Stranger missed in favor of seeing Dinosaur Jr. at the Black Cat in DC). But we’re DEFINITELY looking forward to the Thing. Indeed, we hope to have a post (or two) about it. Maybe it will shut us up about the perceived fledging music scene here in Frederick!

[fun fact: Mr. Husband must have heard us on Nola’s patio earlier in the night lamenting the lack of stages in Frederick that could lend to a stronger scene because he looked out from the stage and commented that “things seem pretty, pretty awesome” that Saturday night at Nola. We agree, Kinny…we just want a lot more of that very thing!]







The Charm and the Key: Mess, Violet Ripken, and Middle Kid @ Cafe Nola, Frederick, Maryland January 19, 2018

A Level 5 Charm Spell was Cast on Me...

To look around Cafe Nola Friday night, you would never have known that a federal government shutdown was looming - unless you you were hovering over my shoulder, watching me frantically tweet and re-tweet about it while guzzling decaffeinated peppermint tea at the bar (I drop booze, caffeine, and do the whole clean-eating thing every January and February - don't @me). Maybe we all knew, but chose to ignore it because Baltimore band Mess was owning up to their "Charm City" base and winning over the room with catchy, melodic, alt-indie-pop.

Alexa...we DO need a druid...

Alexa...we DO need a druid...

Don't get me wrong, I was paying attention to the music - the tweets happened in-between songs and sets...honest.

Caveat: I'm new to Frederick. I moved here in July of 2017, and have been quietly finding my bearings. I've found several good bars, the city is quite walk-able thanks to a great park system, and I have been getting involved in local politics...but I still hadn't quite tapped into the music scene in Frederick. Hell, I am not really sure there is one (and I noted as much in a lengthly post on the city's subreddit page).

Friday Night was a breath of fresh air, though. Two bands from Baltimore (or 'Bawmer' for the locals) - Mess and Violet Ripken - made their way from Charm City to join locals Middle Kid in the Key City at Cafe Nola for what ended up being a pretty stellar night of live music.

You Mean, Like, The Crescent City?!??

I got to Cafe Nola around 9:30, ordered a caffeine-free peppermint tea, found a seat at the bar and posted up for the evening. My Facebook communique with Middle Kid frontman Zack Willis noted that the music would start at 10:00 PM.

Cafe Nola is a fine establishment. Much like such places in Virginia, from whence I just moved, places that serve alcohol must also serve food. The food at Nola is great. I've had several dishes there while trying to soak up the bourbon consumed at my weekly Drinking Liberally meetings held each Wednesday. One reason the meetings are held there is that for those abstaining from adult beverages, Nola also has a wide selection of coffee and teas available to patrons. In all, there's a lot of things going right for Nola...but it's not really a music venue. Indeed, some of what follows is not necessarily complaints...just, notes, if you will, for potential conversations in the future about how to make establishments that feature live music more closely resemble actual music venues (but again, more on that later)

There is a section of floor opposite the bar that is raised about four inches, and this is the "stage." It works in that it's tucked away from the main trafficked areas (i.e., the entrance and the bar), but the "stage" is so shallow that bands playing there set up in a line, that is, the drum kit is front-and-center, and each other musician lines up beside the drum kit on the left or right. From the player's perspective, this is a nightmare. It's difficult to watch/hear your fellow bandmates...and because of the shallow stage, monitor placement is, shall we say, less than ideal.

Uh, yeah...this is actually J Mascis' amp setup. Three Marshall "full stacks".

Uh, yeah...this is actually J Mascis' amp setup. Three Marshall "full stacks".

Also - it gets oppressively loud in the room (love you Etymotic, mean it!). And it is not like the bands are rolling in with three Marshall "full stacks" a'la J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. But even a power trio (Middle Kid) or four-piece band (Mess; Violet Ripken) are gonna blow the doors off the joint without much effort.

Further, the floor area is peppered with tables (after all, Nola is a restaurant). Indeed, some of the tables had been moved to clear the stage area and the floor directly in front of it. But the tables that remained had not been moved because they were bolted to the floor.

One positive of this setup is that it doesn't take much to make the room seem packed. And indeed, all of the tables were full and there were still folks standing near the front by the time Mess started playing...

What a Beautiful Mess.

According to their Bandcamp site, opening band Mess hails from Baltimore/Frederick (though introduced themselves as a Baltimore band). Unlike my usual routine before a show - I unfortunately did not look up all of the bands on the bill and preview their music. I have been jamming on the Middle Kid EP for a solid few weeks now and just didn't think to do so. So when the group kicked into "Lean" off their recently released TREE EP, I nearly did a spit take with my peppermint tea while spinning around to ensure I hadn't accidentally stepped into a T.A.R.D.I.S. and jumped with The Doctor back to the alternative rock halcyon days. Scanning the stage - flannel shirt? Check. Fender Jazzmaster guitar? Check! Doc Martens footwear?!? CHECK!

It's times like this that I am über thankful for things like Spotify and satellite radio, as they provide younger generations 24 hour instant access to arguably one of the more important eras of music over the past 50 years (again...don't @me). I have a feeling that the dudes in Mess - who are mayyybe mid- to late 20s - have several records in their collection with a 1991 to 1993 copyright date stamped on the back. I hear moments of Sunny Day Real Estate and Hum in their sound. This is all meant as a compliment. After a stellar one-two opening punch of "Lean" and "No Grovel About the Road" (I believe) off the EP, lead singer Erik greeted the crowd in a nervous/muted voice I am guessing was embellished for effect - because after these two songs, Mess had no reason to be shy.

We were treated to all the songs off the EP in what was an all too-short set. In between songs, Erik noted and thanked the other bands for inviting them to the bill and supporting them during the set, thanked the crowd and recognized/welcomed his parents sitting at the table stage center. Luckily for Mess, they now have at least one more fan than their moms and dads.

Their set was stellar. Lush with layered electric guitars that were just filthy with melody, strained/yearning vocals, and an incredibly right rhythm section. The crowd was attentive - likely because the band has a commanding presence. For any fan of that early 90s alt-rock sound, check out TREE on Bandcamp [or click the image above to listen on Spotify]. you'll probably dig it. If nothing else, enjoy the nostalgia.

You Mean, Like, The Iron' Man's Mother??

Violet Ripken WILDCARD.jpg

If you're a big fan of the Bawmer Oweeoes, then you probably recognize the name Violet Ripken as the mother of the greatest baseball player of all time: Cal Ripken Jr.

Yet the 1991 Golden Glove and MVP's mother was not hanging around Cafe Nola Friday night. Better yet, we got a female-fronted Baltimore thrash punk quartet with the same name. Where Mess brought melody and moderate rock tempos, Violet Ripken dialed the room up several notches with buzzsaw guitars, punching bass and drums, and operatic vocals from singer Melissa Weller's booming pipes.

Another short set, it sounded like the band rifled through all six songs on their WILDCARD EP plus a few more. Weller also noted that they were glad to be in Frederick as part of this bill. They were definitely a good fit in that both bands thus far had a punk/diy ethos, and it was a treat to get two different sounds.

No, Not the Aussie Three-Piece...They're Plural

Middle Kid YEAH SURE.jpg

Around midnight, Frederick-based power trio Middle Kid took the stage, lighting into two new songs not available on the 2016 YEAH SURE EP or the all acoustic WHINER. After greeting the crowd, front Middle Kid Zach Willis and band commenced with the YEAH SURE lead-off track "Shell" which, musically, sounds like something straight out of Chapel Hill indie stalwarts Superchunk's playbook. There is something to be said about songs that can see-saw two chords back and forth through the verse and chorus and still hold your attention. "Shell" is one of those songs. By the time the band hit the bridge, they were firing on all cylinders. Willis has a lively stage presence. Plenty of jumping around (and being that the band is a three piece, there was more room to do so) such that there were multiple times between songs where Willis had to reaffix his classes and beanie hat to his head. Following suit, the band delivered a short - but punchy and impactful set.

The new songs sounded like a sonic departure from what is available on YEAH SURE. I wouldn't be surprised if Willis had been listening heavily to WOWEE ZOWEE-era Pavement before penning them. Once again, meant as a compliment. To be more specific, the guitar lines on these new songs leaned more toward 'avant' than they did melodic. But that is just the opinion of one set of ears. Looking forward to hearing these songs as they gel. Regardless, I am happy to report that I have a new favorite band in Frederick...

If I Am A Stranger Now To You...I Will AlwayS Be...

This was a much-needed night of local/regional music for me. If you read the Reddit post I referenced above, you'll catch hints of my previous lives in Richmond, VA; Little Rock, AR; and Fayetteville, AR - all three places with strong music scenes - and in two of which where I was an active participant.

If you build it, they will come...

If you build it, they will come...

All of these cities had venues with stages. One benefit to playing in Arkansas is that bars are not required by law to serve food where alcohol was also served. So you could build a bar and a stage and you are golden. Virginia and Maryland have an arcane and bullshit puritanical law that doesn't allow for the construction of *just* a bar. So you're hamstrung into serving food at places that also serve alcohol.

That said, and I am completely spit-balling here, but I wonder if bar/restaurant owners in Frederick view live music as an auxiliary effort. As noted in the Reddit post, venues in Frederick don't really have "stages" - and those that do could possibly utilize their spaces better so that the stage area felt like a music venue.

I am beginning to hear whispers. And a recent one is that the owner of Cafe Nola recently bought the entire building that houses the establishment. That building has three floors. The whispers tell me that there may be plans to put a barcade in on the second floor. While barcades are fun, I can't help but think this is a mistake. Hear me out...

Turn the upstairs of Cafe Nola into a legit music venue with a stage and an upstairs bar. The upstairs bar does not have to be as stocked as the main restaurant bar downstairs. Put someone at the door to collect cover and slap wristbands on those who pay it; these folks can traverse up-and downstairs as they please. If you just want to come to Nola to hang and drink/eat sans music...then you can chill downstairs in the restaurant.

This only works if the music scene in Frederick comes together to help a place like Nola profit from such a venture. And that means putting on shows, then promoting the holy fuck out of those shows, ensuring folks come to the venue, and spend their money (on food, booze what have you). All sides of the music community (bands/artists, fans, and venue owners) need to come together on this. Nola could/would be the place where the "scene kids" (I don't mean that pejoratively) of the music community would hang out. They would see it as "their bar." Fans would hopefully follow suit - because if you have a vibrant music scene, it's kinda rad to run into artists and musicians you may have just seen on stage last week knocking back beers in the same place where you and your friends are hanging out. I've lived in places where this is the norm. Indeed, it is pretty rad.

Over the next few weeks and months, I hope to turn the above into a larger conversation with the music and venue communities. I don't yet know whether or not I will chronicle it here, because who the fuck am I? But there are several other well-established Frederick outfits that might be a more appropriate venue for this conversation (such as the Frederickland Blog, the Subversive Zine, or maybe the Western Machines Blog - which recently published a post sharing this sentiment).

Hopefully some local Frederick folk in the know will read this and reach out.

Til then...