The Great Scapescape
A big celebration of Baltimore culture
Published: August 29, 2012
Scapescape might not get all the attention of the city’s other, well-known “scape” fest. But that’s about to change this year. Held in Station North as part of the arts district’s 10th anniversary, the four-day festival has grown intensely ambitious. Held in conjunction with the closing of the Station North Salon Show—which features over 400 works of art—Scapescape is hosting what might seem like every band in Baltimore this year, including Labtekwon (see Music Feature, page 16), DDm, Celebration, Lafayette Gilchrist, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Wye Oak, and dozens of others. We caught up with Dave Underhill, one of Scapescape’s organizers, to talk about the festival’s humble (by comparison) beginnings, its move up to Station North, and a big surprise awaiting music fans.
City Paper: To start at the beginning, tell us a little bit about how Scapescape came to be?
Dave Underhill: The G-Spot was on the brink of closing, and the founder was a friend of mine and he wanted to organize a blowout to send it off in style, and he asked my old band the Suits to play the show and also our friends We Used to Be Family, who are now defunct. I said, ‘you know, why don’t I just help you organize the whole thing,’ and Dan Deacon happened to be there that night, along with Brandon Arinoldo from Sri Aurobindo and Ed Harris from Big in Japan. We sort of asked all of them if they wanted to do a show with us and they were all into it, and now it’s this.
CP: It’s huge this year. How did it change and go from there?
DU: It hasn’t changed from our original intention. It’s just grown bigger. The whole intention all along is to provide a showcase for a cross section of Baltimore’s music, as well as providing a platform for a lot of local artists to exhibit their work. A big celebration of Baltimore culture. I think we still achieve that, just on a bigger scale. There’s a lot of stuff we couldn’t really include that we wanted to. But it was a really big undertaking. We hope next year to expand to a larger incorporation of Baltimore culture.
CP: What were some of the things you wanted to include but couldn’t?
DU: We wanted to include some live theater, but didn’t really have a chance to flesh that out. We hope to get to that next year. We had also kicked around doing some film exhibiting, but we didn’t get to that. We did get to work [in] Akimbo, which is a dancing group, and we did get to work in a comedy night with local stand-up [acts], performing on Saturday night at the Windup Space.
CP: This year there are a ton of bands—
DU: We have 80 bands.
CP: And some of the biggest bands in town too. The sheer organizational aspect must have been insane.
DU: Well, they call it “Smaltimore” and we’re all sort of friends and know each other in some way, and if not, we’re a friend of a friend. I don’t think it was too hard to get bands to want to do something like this. But it was really hard to get all the bands together on this one weekend and there are some bands who just couldn’t do it because they have other obligations. We’re sorry not to get them, but we hope to next year.
CP: And you’re partnered with Station North [Arts and Entertainment District] now? Is that what prompted the move up there?
DU: What happened with the Station North thing is that, as with all things Scapescape, we were sitting around drinking one night, me and Adam Smith, who is another organizer of the festival, with James Swainbank—an artist who sort of runs the Salon Show in Station North, which we’re the closing reception for, this giant art show. James Swainbank tipped me off that they were looking for a special Final Friday event to go with the huge scale of this art show. And we were already looking to move to Station North after the closing of the G-Spot, and we had no place for it, and we’re friends with Sarah [Werner of Metro Gallery] and Russell [de Ocampo of the Windup Space], so we figured we’d just get with Metro Gallery and Windup Space. But Ben Stone with Station North Entertainment, who runs the Salon Show, was really into what we’re doing and thought we’d be good partners, and so we were able to secure some funding from Station North and the National Endowment for the Arts. The William G. Baker[, Jr.] Memorial Fund plus Friends Records have done a lot to help us out as well. Friends is helping us organize and has been a huge help.
CP: And are Windup and Metro the only two venues?
DU: On Saturday there’s a stage on Lafayette, and there’s a stage in the parking lot by Metro Gallery all four days. On Sunday it’s a single stage by itself. That’s our main stage, where Wye Oak, Celebration, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, and Lafayette Gilchrist and the New Volcanoes will play. There are also a number of different art galleries peppered around the neighborhood that are part of the Salon Show, including Windup, Joe Squared, Metro, and Load of Fun, Liam Flynn’s, and the Charles Theatre.
CP: With all of these different kinds of bands like, say, Gilchrist and Wye Oak, among those you mentioned, there are some bands that aren’t usually sharing a bill the rest of the year. Are there any combinations that will be surprising to people?
DU: I don’t know how much I can say about this. But there will be a moment of surprise during the show where you will see a bunch of musicians play together who haven’t played together before. It is a special thing. But it is sort of a secret.
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