The Music Scene
Published: September 4, 2013
It’s been five years since Rolling Stone crowned Baltimore the best music scene in America. Since then, plenty of bands have gotten more national press, others have broken up, and many more have formed. The plaudits and coverage from music mags and tastemaker blogs might not be at the same level as it was back then, but very little about what made this city’s scene great has changed. Rents are still affordable, making it possible for musicians to live and work without starving. Though a long list of warehouse venues have grinded to a halt, Baltimore’s DIY spaces still serve as incubators for talent. In five years’ time, new above-ground clubs have sprung up to fill the void and operate alongside institutions such as the Ottobar and Sidebar.
Each week, City Paper painstakingly details the best upcoming shows in the Short List, chronicles different parts of the scene in our genre boxes, and profiles the best bands Baltimore has to offer. We certainly encourage you to head to the nearest yellow box for all of that, but in the meantime, here’s a primer:
Artists To Know
Ami Dang: A hypnotic combination of electronic beats and world music, Dang’s music has been heralded by none other than elfin Canadian indie sensation Grimes.
Beach House: Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s dreamy pop tunes have become one of the scene’s biggest exports, and it’s not hard to see why.
Caleb Stine: The country/folk songwriter is a Baltimore staple.
Dan Deacon: As one of the city’s best-known acts, Deacon is popular enough to tour around the world. But he is just as quick to serve as the local scene’s biggest advocate and perform his bouncy electronic music on behalf of a great cause.
DDm: The whip-smart MC’s mix of sharp lyrics and club-inspired beats have made him a rising star in the local hip-hop scene.
Dope Body: Art-punk done right: raw, abrasive, loud. Few bands have improved over the last couple of years as much as Dope Body.
Ed Schrader’s Music Beat: Baltimore’s favorite talk-show host, comedian, and pasta chef also fronts one of the best post-punk acts in town.
ellen cherry: A singer-songwriter with a sugary-sweet voice and the writing chops to match.
Future Islands: Danceable synth-pop with a lot of heart, delivered by one of the most compelling frontmen around.
Horse Lords: Long, instrumental krautrock-inspired songs with deep grooves.
J. Roddy Walston and the Business: A roadhouse-rock throwback with a big future that includes a new release due out on ATO Records.
Lafayette Gilchrist: The veteran jazz pianist is as vital and active as ever, with three albums set to come out this year alone.
Matmos: Originally from San Francisco, this duo draws from all manner of materials and thematic inspiration to create kaleidoscopic noise music.
Murder Mark: The DJ and producer has become one of the standard-bearers of the city’s signature club sound.
Roomrunner: A loud, heavy wall of guitars that assaults the eardrums and feels like nirvana.
Rye Rye: After years of waiting, the club-rap powerhouse finally released her debut, Go! Pop! Bang!, last year, giving the rest of the world a taste of her infectious tracks.
TT the Artist: Another rapper whose beats have a heavy club footprint, TT ranges from sex-filled party ragers to social commentary.
Wye Oak: Though only a two-piece, Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack pack a punch in their well-oiled loud-quiet-loud sound.
Places to Hear
10 E. Cross St., (410) 625-2000, the8x10.com
Set amongst one of the city’s most popular drinking destinations, this club offers plenty for fans of jam bands, folk, and rock.
An die Musik
409 N. Charles St., (410) 385-2638, andiemusiklive.org
Outfitted with wonderful acoustics and incredibly comfortable chairs, this club is one of the best spots for jazz in town, and it also books classical, modern-classical, and folk acts.
124 Market Place, baltimoresoundstage.com
A regular stop for hip-hop and EDM acts of some stature, if that’s your thing. Also manages to mix in a random singer-songwriter/rock-type from time to time.
20 S. Caton Ave., (410) 566-7086, catoncastle.com
If you’re aiming for that authentic jazz club experience, look no further.
Charm City Art Space
1731 Maryland Ave., ccspace.org
A local punk institution that has been doing DIY the right way for over a decade.
1 W. Eager St., (410) 547-0069, clubhippo.com
One of the city’s premier gay clubs also plays host to some of the best DJ nights and dance parties.
2101 Maryland Ave., (410) 630-4353
With neon paintings, strobe lights, and Korean karaoke videos on in the background, this is one of the weirder spots on town. Also one of the best. Hosts everything from metal to DJ nights.
15 W. Eager St., (410) 244-0405, edenslounge.com; 917 Cathedral St., (410) 244-5122
These are actually two separate venues owned by the same people, and both host their fair share of DJ nights and dance parties.
830 Guilford Ave., (410) 207-9832, the5seasons.com
One of the best spots for local hip-hop with open-mic nights, rap battles, DJs.
The Get Down
701 S. Bond St., (443) 708-3564, getdownbaltimore.com
A fancy nightclub where you can go for a dance party soundtracked by the latest variation of EDM burning up the charts.
The Golden West
1105 W. 36th St., (410) 889-8891, goldenwestcafe.com
Once the tables and chairs at this Southwestern restaurant are put up, the space plays host to everything from dance parties to metal bands to national indie up-and-comers. Be sure to grab the tater tots while the kitchen is still open.
133 W. North Ave., (410) 545-0444, joesquared.com
One of the best pizza places in the city also doubles as a space for blues, folk, jazz, and more. Can’t beat that.
Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
1212 Cathedral St., (410) 783-8000, bsomusic.org
Primarily, this modernist hall serves as the home of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Marin Alsop. Occasionally, a big-name act, often a comedian, will come through.
Lyric Opera House
140 W. Mount Royal Ave., (410) 900-1150, lyricoperahouse.com
Operas aren’t as common as they once were, but this stately space, which recently underwent an extensive renovation, features plenty of big-name musical acts from across the genre spectrum.
Merriweather Post Pavilion
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, (410) 715-5550, merriweathermusic.com
The large outdoor amphitheater draws some of the biggest touring acts around and plays host to two excellent festivals, Sweetlife and the Virgin Free Fest.
The Metro Gallery
1700 N. Charles St., (410) 244-0899, themetrogallery.net
One of the cooler spaces in Baltimore, the Metro books its fare share of indie acts both big and small.
2549 N. Howard St., (410) 662-0069, theottobar.com
It’s grimy. It’s dark. It’s filled with old stickers and flyers. It’s everything you’d want in a rock club. The Ottobar is the gold standard and books many of the best shows in the city.
1310 Russell St., thedox.com
The créme de la créme of dance clubs and the best spot to hear the city’s distinctive Baltimore Club music until the wee hours of the morning.
Pier Six Concert Pavilion
731 Eastern Ave., (410) 783-4189, piersixpavilion.com
This outdoor venue books plenty of mainstream acts and aging rock legends who have seemingly been touring forever, but few things beat a show with a harbor breeze.
Rams Head Live
20 Market Place, (410) 244-1131, ramsheadlive.com
Though it has kind of a Frankenstein layout, Rams Head manages to book lots of bigger acts, such as Crystal Castles and Dawes, which graciously spares Baltimoreans a long drive to the 9:30 Club in D.C.
930 N. Charles St., (410) 547-0149, 930redmaple.com
Home to one of the sleekest rooms in town and a DJ on the decks just about every night of the week.
Red Room at Normal’s Books and Records
425 E. 31st St., (410) 243-6888, redroom.org
One of the original homes to the city’s weird music scene still has some of the best noise and improvisational offerings.
218 E. Lexington St., (410) 659-4130, sidebartavern.com
A basement bar for all things punk, metal, and all other types of heavy music.
The Windup Space
12 W. North Ave., thewindupspace.com
Perhaps the most flexible venue in town, the Windup adapts like a chameleon to host movie nights, happy hours, experimental jazz, ping-pong, and indie rock.
Places to Buy
3616 Falls Road, located in the back of Atomic Books
With Atomic Books (co-owned by erstwhile City Paper contributor Benn Ray)—the store with which Celebrated Summer shares a space—expecting to expand, this must-stop shop for punk, metal, hardcore, and indie is only going to get bigger and better, which is an embarrassment of riches.
Dimensions in Music
233 Park Ave., (410) 752-7121
Home to one of the deepest supplies of hip-hop, jazz, soul, R&B, and just about everything else.
1709 Aliceanna St., (410) 276-5455, elsuprimo.com
If you are looking for vinyl and have plenty of time to spend digging through crates, look no further.
Normal’s Books and Records
425 E. 31st St., (410) 243-6888,
Featuring a wide variety of used titles?jazz, rock, indie, experimental, and plenty of local music?at reasonable prices, this shop will have you reaching for your wallet without even thinking about it.
1635 Lancaster St., (443) 844-5896, ownguru.com
Another great shop for the vinyl collector willing to sort through stacks of records.
The Sound Garden
1616 Thames St., (410) 563-9011, cdjoint.com
With the resurgence of vinyl chugging along, the Sound Garden, the biggest and, many say, best local record shop has expanded its vinyl offerings to go along with its aisles and aisles of CDs and DVDs. It’s no wonder the place is always so crowded.
The True Vine Record Shop
3544 Hickory Ave., (410) 235-4500, thetruevinerecordshop.com
The True Vine consistently ends up on lists for the best record stores in the country, and it’s not because the overwhelming size of the stock. But you’ll find plenty of weirder, harder-to-find titles that no other place in the city has.
> Email Brandon Weigel