When Ian Mackaye and his Teen Idles released “Dischord #1”(“Minor Disturbance”) in 1980, the heart of one of the nation’s most revered music scenes skipped a beat and went into overdrive. Youth out of step with the world and seeing red led a renaissance of resistance, with Dischord Records the vanguard of Beltway beat making. Since then, Fugazi’s “Repeater” has become just that, and Minor Threat is now no threat at all.
But it would be criminal to accuse the District of lying fallow for the past 28 years, and that’s why WVAU has decided it’s time for a little Capitol Punishment. The station’s free concert series kicks off this Saturday in the Kay Basement with Bellman Barker, New Rock Church of Fire and True Womanhood who will provide a new sound to AU’s campus.
“We feel like there is a type of band that SUB would not be bringing in, and I think that there is an audience at AU that wants to see those bands, but there’s nobody on campus that’s really serving to bring them in,” WVAU program director Farley Miller said of the station’s endeavor. “D.C.‘s always had a huge - an awesome - music scene, and I think it’s important for us to use the resources that we have to keep it going.”
For some students, D.C.‘s legendary, if underground, scene was the tipping point in deciding what college to attend. But once on campus, adjusting to a new social climate and environment, trying to break into that bubble can feel as though one’s screaming at a wall.
“I know that when I [first] got [to AU], I didn’t know anything about the [local] music scene and it was kind of difficult to find stuff out, just because there wasn’t a lot of stuff happening on campus,” Miller said. “If I was a student coming here now, the fact that this campus radio station is throwing local shows with some of the best unsigned bands in D.C., that really gives you an in.”
WVAU wants to do more than point students in the right direction, said WVAU General Manager Lindsay Zoladz.
“Our hope in putting these concerts on is to unite those two communities and have some sort of overlapping community where AU is thought of as a cool place to play for these bands [and] the AU community is paying attention to the bands we’re bringing and getting excited about them,” she said.
With the first show’s line-up, WVAU is giving students a lot to be excited about. Bellman Barker rock the twee out of Belle and Sebastian comparisons, New Rock Church of Fire promise a fog machine and shtick up their sleeves and no wavers True Womanhood are D.C.‘s answer to Sonic Youth.
“Their music is really bizarre,” Miller said of Womanhood. “My favorite song that they did sounded great because they had this sort of dialogue between two, just hanging, flat pieces of metal that they were banging with hammers.”
If experimental instrumentation doesn’t seem to mesh with indie pop and post-punk rock, then WVAU have done their job. As Miller and Zoladz explained, they want Capitol Punishment to embrace as much of the D.C. music scene - and AU students’ favorite musical genres - as possible.
“True Womanhood is definitely the most out-there band [on the bill],” Miller said. “[But with] Bellman Barker and New Rock Church of Fire, if you like rock ‘n’ roll, if you like Spoon or if you like the Shins, [you] will like this music.”
Both Miller and Zoladz are adamant that if students attend the show Saturday night, they will leave Kay with enthusiasm for a local arbiter of a beloved genre, or an appreciation of a completely new one. Either way, attendees are sure to discover a D.C., and perhaps even an AU, they never knew existed.
“I think [this concert series] will be a good opportunity for people to find that community that they’ve been looking for,” Zoladz said. “For freshmen especially, this is a terrific opportunity to come out and meet people that are passionate about music.”
Engaging the campus community is WVAU’s main priority. But luring AU’s music fans into the Kay Basement with a sonic free-for-all is but one of the ways the station is reaching out to students. In addition to re-launching its Web site and creating a new logo, WVAU now broadcasts 24/7, something the station has never done before. Still, the medium is the message, and that the cozy Kay Basement plays host to WVAU’s grand gesture proves the station’s aim is true.
“All my time in high school was spent going to shows in people’s basements, and it’s the most fun, I think, because you get to know the most people,” Miller said. “[In Kay,] the band is playing on flat ground with the audience and everybody can get in really close and it’s just sort of a more social, communal, intimate kind of show than any of the things that are happening in the Tavern or Bender. And it’s free, too.”
WVAU presents Capitol Punishment on Sept. 6. Doors open 7:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Save the date - Capitol Punishment continues with concerts on Oct. 4, Nov. 1 and Nov. 22.