Taking a LEAP into The Dunes

Howard Liebers (MarbleRoad Founder), Jonny Grave (Bluesman), Patrick Hawkins (of Benny), and Linsay Deming (Singer/Songwriter)

Performing for a cause is different than the average concert; there’s a certain appeal philanthropy brings to a musical experience. Musicians can’t be stereotyped as self-promotional or egoistical; instead, they’re lending their voices as a catalyst for change, creating new pools of potential fans and interested attendees. The LEAP Sessions event this Wednesday, Feb. 29th, presented in partnership with Listen Local First (LLF), sheds light on the relationship between philanthropy and music. No, it doesn’t have the publicity of Bono and the ONE Campaign, but it’s a microcosm for the power of 21st century art and advocacy.

Howard Liebers, founder of MarbleRoad, followed the typical path of many DC transplants: college, then an entry level position at a non-profit, and ultimately a director level position working in health policy with the DC Primary Care Association. As a young professional in DC, Howard was a driven 9-5er, using his free time to map his love for indie pop culture around the city. But, unlike most DC dwellers in their early 20’s, who are slowly making their way out of the Adam’s Morgan bar crawl, Howard was unexpectedly faced with the death of one of his closest friends, Craig Nolan. Prior to Craig’s death, Howard didn’t know anything about “rare diseases”, but after Craig’s tragic experience with a rare cancer, a type of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Howard became passionate about learning more about this issue – what qualified, who’s affected, and how society addresses these health issues. What he discovered was extremely disheartening.

Firstly, it’s difficult to be diagnosed correctly if you have a rare disease because of the disconnect between primary healthcare physicians and rare disease specialists. Rare disease researchers are often siloed within their own specialties with limited patient interaction. The general knowledge base of primary care physicians often cause rare diseases to go undiagnosed and subsequently untreated. Additionally, since rare diseases in the US are defined as diseases affecting less than 200,000 people, there is little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research. Treatments are often extremely expensive and unaffordable.

In 2010, Howard Liebers incorporated the organization MarbleRoad here in DC, and saw an opportunity to integrate his love for indie culture with his newfound passion for rare diseases. MarbleRoad utilizes a campaign called IndieMatch to raise funds to support its mission. The IndieMatch strategy seeks to develop strategic partnerships between independent artists and musicians to support philanthropic opportunities. Using this model, MarbleRoad launched a kickoff event on Make a Difference Day in 2010, held in Alexandria, VA, featuring donated artwork by David Foox, Meredith Towsand, Elizabeth Jameson, Regina Hooliday, and Vesna Jovanoic, and Julie Gideon-Smith. In 2011, MarbleRoad hosted the Flammable Heart Exhibition  during National Health Center Week, displaying collections of artwork at the Lyons Wier Gallery in New York City, in partnership with Lutheran Family Health Centers, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Brooklyn. Money raised for the organization goes towards subsidizing rare disease treatments and bridging the communication gap between rare disease specialists and primary care physicians.

Fast forward to 2012 – MarbleRoad’s third event, but the first ever “LEAP Session”.  By now, it’s not difficult to see why MarbleRoad and Listen Local First have partnered for this debut. In contrast with previous MarbleRoad events, LEAP Sessions brings together indie musicians (not artists). Yet, the IndieMatch concept still holds strong. As an advocate of the local music scene, LLF is bringing together some of DC’s best artists and bands, and introducing some new acts to the excitement of the DC music marketplace: Nelly Kate (Richmond), Linsay Deming (DC), SoftSpot (Brooklyn), Caged Animals (Brooklyn), Benny (DC), and Jonny Grave & The Tombstones (DC). Together, IndieMatch and Listen Local First will be able to connect individuals through music and philanthropy by showcasing local talent and raising awareness for rare diseases.

The first of many to come, these LEAP sessions will be held annually on the last day of February. (Rare Disease Day is always held on the last day of February – the fact that Feb. 29th only happens once every four years reflects the low incidence rate of rare diseases, hence the name – LEAP Sessions: a rare day for rare disease.) Deidree Bennett, Managing Director at the Dunes, shares her excitment:

“As managing director of the Dunes, and I’m looking forward to the LEAP
SESSIONS event on a very personal level; I suffer from a rare
hereditary form of Primary Lymphedema. Therefore it is my pleasure to
welcome MarbleRoad to help spread awareness about the more that 6,000 rare diseases in the U.S., and the people with them who need your
support. Here is my story.
I look forward to hearing your stories, and rocking out to Benny, Jonny Grave, and everyone else Wednesday night from 7:30 – 11:30 PM at The Dunes. Be a Rockstar!” http://leapsessions.eventbrite.com/


Waiting for the Bus Might Never Sound the Same Again

Hey locavores, check out some exciting news from LLF-partner and local singer songwriter René Moffatt!


On Monday, February 27th, DC-based singer-songwriter René Moffatt releases his first music video, Route 42, a song about the trials and tribulations of commuting via bus in the District.

The song, featured on Moffatt’s debut EP Here And Now Is Home was inspired by Moffatt’s daily commute through the heart of the city on the well-known Mt. Pleasant line primarily serviced by the 42 bus.

Over the last few years, Moffatt has spent countless hours waiting for this bus and decided to pen a song in tribute. Live performances of Route 42 have yielded a growing following for the song as listeners (and riders) empathize with this experience that so many District residents endure daily.

THE SONG: The hook-filled melody-driven acoustic homage follows the 42 bus through Farragut Square, Dupont Circle, ending in Mt. Pleasant where, in the video, a surprising twist of fate occurs. Moffat wrote the music and lyrics for Route 42 and the song was recorded and produced by prominent area producer Marco Delmar of Recording Arts.

THE VIDEO: The music video for Route 42 was partially funded in part by a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) and a successful Kickstarter Campaign. Produced by American University film graduate student Alex Bryant, the video was shot on locations throughout the District in mid September 2011.

THE WEBSITE: Moffatt designed and developed the42bus.com to host the video. The website is sponsored by local businesses in and around the 42 bus’ route.

LOCAL BUSINESS PARTICIPATION: During the week of February 27-March 4th, area businesses will be featuring promotional products inspired by the Route 42 music video.

Participating businesses and products include:
Tryst:  Route 42 Signature Cocktail for $4.20
The Diner: Route 42 Signature Cocktail for $4.20
Hello Cupcake:  Signature logo Route 42 Cupcake
Yola: Route 42 Latte
Flying Fish: Route 42 Rocky Road Bus Tire – (chocolate cake with caramel, dipped in chocolate with Rocky Road crumble)

Additional Promotional Sponsors include:

THE ARTIST: René Moffatt is a DC-based singer-songwriter who has lived and worked in the District for the past 6 years. Well-known in the local music community for writing memorable melodies and heartfelt lyrics, Moffatt has emerged as an accomplished songwriter in the greater DMV area. Moffatt recently received was recently awarded an Honorable Mention from the Songwriters Association of Washington for his song Demons On Your Sleeve and his debut recording Here And Now Is Home has been nominated for a 2012 Wammie  for best Contemporary in the Folk/Contemporary Recording category.

Moffatt, a native Texan, has lived, worked, and performed primarily on the East Coast for the past ten years.

Contact René: renemoffattmusic@gmail.com
Media: http://www.renemoffatt.com (for high resolution images, artist biography, and song/album downloads)

Route 42 Website: http://www.the42bus.com

Artist website: http://www.renemoffatt.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mynameisrene
Facebook Fanpage: http://www.fb.com/renemoffattmusic
iTunes: http://bit.ly/ReneMoffatt_iTunes

LLF Winners and Noms at the WAMMIES!

Listen Local First had an amazing showing at the WAMMIES this Sunday!  With 20 of our Featured Artists Nominated we were ecstatic.  When five artists won a total of seven awards we jumped for joy.  Congratulations to all the LLF Featured Artist Winners and Nominees this year!


Artist of the Year and Modern Rock Vocalist Award Winner Margot MacDonald - Photo: Stephen Gosling

Artist of the Year – Margot MacDonald

Reggae Vocalist – Gordon Daniels

Reggae Group – Lucky Dub

Reggae Recording – Mindset Lucky Dub

Modern Rock Vocalist – Margot MacDonald

Folk Contemporary Duo Group – The Sweater Set

Rapper – Christylez Bacon


Reggae Recording – See-i See-i

Modern Rock Group – More Humans, US Royalty

Modern Rock Records – Demon Station More Humans, Mirrors US Royalty

Pop Rock Group – Deleted Scenes, Vegas with Randolph

Pop Rock Recording – Young People’s Church of Air Deleted Scenes, Above the Blue Vegas with Randolph

New Artist of the Year – Paul Pfau and the Dimestore Band

Album of the Year – Mirrors US Royalty, One World Sovereignty Nappy Riddem

Songwriter of the Year – Margot MacDonald

Video of the Year – Neon Magazine Bosley

Record Company of the Year – Fort Knox Recordings

Producer of the Year – Oddisee

Electronica DJ – Will Eastman

Electronic Recording – One World Sovereignty Nappy Riddem

Folk Contemporary Vocalist – Maureen Andary of The Sweater Set

Folk Contemporary Recording – Goldmine The Sweater Set, Here and Now is Home Rene Moffat

Jazz Duo/Group – The Funk Art

Jazz Recording – Memoir Among Brothers Jolley Bros

Rapper – Kokayi, Oddisee

Rap/Hip Hop Recording – Rock Creek Park Oddisee

Sockets Records: Making DC Music Just a Little Bit Weirder Since 2004

by Steph Mitesser, LLF contributor and blogger at Rhythm Without Representation

If you analyze what influences a city’s artistic growth, you’ll inevitably discover the reasons are numerous, inextricably intertwined, unpredictable, and somewhat random. An A + B = C formula for an excellent local music scene will never emerge, but certain factors always come into play—i.e., creative people, enticing venues, etc. A less visible factor, however, is effective channels for local musicians to produce, distribute, and promote their music.

In DC, those channels strengthened significantly as a result of Sockets Records, a label founded by DJ/ local music maven Sean Peoples. Sean and his cohorts have established a community of talented artists—many of them friends—who create some of the most exciting and innovative music to come out of the District in recent years.

So how did it happen? How did Peoples take a humble CD-R-pressing operation to a real-deal label in just seven years? Well, an insatiable appetite for music, an expert pulse on all things creative in DC, and just enough insomnia to fuel the inevitably sleepless life required to balance it all…those all help.

Peoples founded Sockets in 2004 as an offshoot of his weekly radio program, and his proactivity couldn’t have come at a better time. The city struggled to recover from the break ups of some crucial hometown acts like Q and Not U and Black Eyes; weird music surely existed, but it needed a bit of cultivating and a lot of exposure. “Bands were breaking up, bands that had a lot of young people following them,” Sean recalls. “That really dealt a blow. I was doing anything I could to make some noise during an otherwise quiet time.”

And noisy it grew. Under the pseudonym DJ DLX, Sean began pressing CD-Rs of his favorite local artists, with a heavy focus on all things experimental and underground. In 2005, Sockets released its first official compilations, Audiozines 1 & 2, and held its first live showcases.

Despite this initial momentum, the label wasn’t immune from the ebbs and flows of DC music, and Sean hit the pause button on Sockets for a full year in 2008.

When the label returned in 2009, it returned to a changing city and a rapidly evolving musical landscape; Sean and his friends were ready to capitalize on both. Thus, some changes were in order: the label began to produce CDs and vinyl LPs instead of CD-Rs, and they used a blog to promote new acts that were coming on board and generating buzz, such as DC punk outfit Imperial China.

Sean also joined forces with a friend in New York to represent Fly Girlz, a project involving middle school girls from rough Brooklyn neighborhoods rapping over remixes from underground DJs. Unsurprisingly, the resulting tunes turned some heads.

While the project diverged from Sockets’ exclusive DC focus, Sockets’ number one concern remains sound, not geography. “I just want to promote amazing music, and amazing music is being made everywhere,” Sean states simply. Not to mention that the buzz from Fly Girlz inevitably benefited each and every band on Sean’s label.

“It was an exciting time,” said Imperial China’s Brian Porter. “DC’s scene had always been a collaborative, tight-knit community, but now we were experiencing some healthy competition. I witnessed Hume, another Sockets band, playing some amazing music, and I thought, ‘Wow. I want to put out something like that.’ It’s inspiring.”

Another wave of momentum came with the success of DC-based hip-hop group Cornel West Theory, who had been part of Sockets since the Audiozines—and friends with Sean since their days at American University. The band’s first full-length album, 2009’s Second Rome, received plenty of both critical acclaim and commercial buzz, even leading to Chuck D of Public Enemy to dub Second Rome one of his favorite albums of the last five years.

This communal, DIY attitude of DC music completely infiltrates the label’s operations, and it inspires musicians and friends alike to get involved. Patrick Wixted, Peoples’ longtime friend and now partner at Sockets, lists this as his motivation for taking a leading role at the label.

However, perhaps an even greater indicator of Socket’s success comes when artists work with Sockets not solely because of an attachment to DC or friendship with the owners, but simply because it makes sense as a working musician.

Take, for instance, Deleted Scenes, arguably the most well-known group on Sockets’ label, currently rocking a 7.8-Pitchfork-rated album and a nationwide tour. The band released their first full-length album, 2009’s Birdseed Shirt, on a small Brooklyn-based label, but for their milestone 2011 album Young People’s Church of Air, they looked to the District—and not necessarily due to any sentimental attachment to their hometown.

“Sockets picked up steam around the same time we did as a band,” says Deleted Scenes’ bassist Matt Dowling. “Sure, it’s great that we can work with our buddies in DC and that we are fans of the other bands they represent. But ultimately, Sockets offers crucial resources for local musicians to widen their footprint; they have the plug ins to get our music out there, and that’s what musicians in DC need—exposure.”

Looking at Sockets in 2012, we see a local music initiative truly hitting their stride. With a bevy of fantastic local artists gaining steam under their watch, a successful artist showcase at Black Cat last week, and a hidden gem of an artist releasing an album with them this year  (Cigarette—check them out, you won’t be sorry), Sockets shows no signs of slowing down.

Owner Sean Peoples, whether through his label, his DJing, or his legendary party hosting (Fatback, anyone?), offers a fantastic example of how to move beyond appreciating local music to truly taking a personal stake in the success of local artists. Whatever success Sockets achieves, the label has proven it won’t lose sight of one simple, admirable goal: to help the DC community produce great music, and to help we, the fans, rock out to it.

Dig a bit deeper into Sockets’ artists with this Spotify playlist: Sockets Records, Past and Present. Please note that not every track was released on Sockets, nor could all Sockets-affiliated artists be included on the playlist (Spotify has its limits).

February DC Local Music Day, Live Panel Discussion & Music Showcase

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DC Local Music Day – Wednesday Feb 8th
The Sweater Sethttp://www.thesweaterset.com/
Cornel West Theoryhttp://thecornelwesttheory.com/
Lucky Dubhttp://luckydub.com/
The Jolley Brothershttp://natejolley.com/music
More Humanshttp://morehumans.bandcamp.com/

Please Visit – http://www.listenlocalfirst.com


Thursday February 9th at The Dunes (1402 Meridian Pl NW)

Co-Sponsored by:
DC Hip Hop Project
Capital Bop
Words Beats & Life
Think Local First DC


Black Broadway: The Roots of DC Hip Hop
Live DC Hip Hop Project Podcast recorded from The Dunes

Moderators: James Benson and Kokayi – DC Hip Hop Project

W. Ellington Felton – singer/songwriter/actor/poet
Luke Stewart – Editor of Capital Bop
Stacy Brooks – Blues Musician
DJ Alizay

LIVE SHOWCASE – 8:30 – 11:00pm

NAPPY RIDDEMhttp://fortknoxrecordings.com/artists/nappy-riddem/
CORNEL WEST THEORYhttp://thecornelwesttheory.com/
+Special Guests!!!

Stir It Up: What are the Ingredients for Local Music?

Image Courtesy of Facebook.*

In our attempt to uncover what “local music” is, the subject of cover bands is undoubtedly a divisive issue. On the one hand, cover bands are local performers. They’re providing music for people in the area, satisfying a demand for raw moments of on-stage impulses and audience engagement. On the other hand, they’re exploring music rooted in a different time and place, using words and sounds from distant stories and experiences.

DC may have some music shortages, but cover bands are not one of them. White Ford Bronco, a 90’s cover band, has approximately 1900 Facebook “Likes” and over 470 Twitter followers. Yet, their musical inspiration doesn’t stem from a deep-seeded desire to make it in the music industry (on their info page, the “Record Label” field says Who’s going to sign a cover band?), it comes from “the critical parental advice of Danny Tanner and the food at the Max. And the Peach Pit. The cuckolding of 90210 and Melrose Place. The red one pieces and the authority of David Hasselhoff that looks over the Los Angeles County Beaches.”  For the DC community, White Ford Bronco serves as a medium to bring life back into polyester pantsuits and the Olsen twins. And, while the band members are all DC dwellers, with an allegiance to the DC music scene, the majority of their music (if any) is not. When almost every song performed can be searched and played within seconds, it’s evident that the cover band appeal comes from the performance, the individual musicians and the experience they cultivate locally.

In fact, it could be argued that cover bands exclusively serve the local community by reviving an era or genre in the most authentic form of localism possible – through their present audience. Human Country Jukebox, a country cover band, credits their appeal to the personal touch they incorporate into classic hits. Jack Gregori, Human Country Jukebox singer and guitarist, cautions against cover bands being “too authentic” and sounding too much like the original recording. “The crowd zoned out because you’ve heard that all before. I try to avoid that particularly as a cover band. You have to be feeling it, particularly playing a part – interacting with the crowd. Especially the back and forth connection you feel with people listening to you. With some cover bands, this doesn’t exist. Struck me as something to be avoided – you can be ‘too good’ – too precise.”

Image Courtesy of Facebook.*

As a cover band, you’re rarely aspiring for a musical breakthrough – you’re aspiring to engage and satisfy your audience through pre-existing content. Sean Pool, a local fan and music connoisseur, makes an interesting analogy: “Cover bands are definitely local. It’s like a micro-roaster – the coffee beans come from all over the world, but they roast them and serve them in-house.” The fact that they’re not writing music in DC or about DC doesn’t discount them as local musicians or performers. The value added to the music community illuminates that where a piece of music is written is not the only determinant of locality.

That said, the significance of original work cannot be understated. At Listen Local First, we exclusively feature musicians who produce and record their own work. Local music, music that is written and produced in a specific place, becomes an avenue to highlight local experiences, places, and circumstances within the universality of human understanding. Songwriting and musical production tap into deeper principles – those periods of understanding and empathy, jealously and despair, that “speak to the soul”.  DC activist Zach Zill discredits cover bands as local music, claiming that “local music is about the creation of culture that people in one small geographic area can share in common and relate to. Most cover bands don’t fit that criteria because they’re rehashing cultural reference points much larger than that.”

While cover bands are (arguably) created through their performance, songwriting and musical production compound many dimensions, exploring an inward sense of physical places and communities. John Evantin, a local singer/songwriter, differentiates local bands from local music:  “Physically speaking are cover bands local bands? Yes. Is the music they’re playing local music? I don’t know.”

So, what do you think? Do cover bands localize the voices of great musicians or is original songwriting a necessary ingredient in local music?

*White Ford Bronco Facebook Page and Human Country Jukebox Facebook Page