Best of Whartscape: Previewing Baltimore's biggest underground music festival
By David Malitz
Last night, the fifth and final edition of Baltimore’s Whartscape festival kicked off at the Charles Theatre. It’s a bummer to see the annual summer celebration of Charm City’s vibrant and overflowing underground music scene come to an end, but there’s no topping what curator Dan Deacon and his Wham City helpers have cooked up this year. More than 100 acts - a pretty even split between Baltimore and non-Baltimore artists - will perform at the DIY/volunteer-run festival. It’s a crash-course (often literally) in experimental, art-damaged awesomeness. There are dozens of acts worth seeing (check Baltimore-based blog Pasta Primavera and the Baltimore City Paper for more in-depth previews), but here’s a quick rundown of 10 that should be at the top of your list.
Best band: Double Dagger
When I think of the best shows I’ve ever seen, Double Dagger’s 2007 set at Whartscape ranks right up there. It was a perfect combination of a band and a scene hitting its peak at the same time and Double Dagger came through with an especially explosive performance during the city’s musical equivalent of the Super Bowl. Thing is, the vocals/bass/drums trio’s peak has lasted for another three years, and hit a new high on this year's “Masks” EP.
Best rapper with a motto worth living by: Lil B
Are you “based”? Everything this hyper-positive, absurdly-prolific and often simply absurd 20-year-old rapper does is about trying to stay “based.” Basically, forget the haters, put out a new mixtape every couple weeks and establish yourself as one of rap’s most bizarre and promising young stars.
"The Summer" - Lil B (NSFW)
Best band whose new album will definitely get a 9.0 or better from Pitchfork: No Age
The L.A. art-garage duo had a sizzling debut with 2007’s “Weirdo Rippers” and bested it with “Nouns” the next year. On the upcoming “Everything In Between,” No Age minimizes the static, maximizes the hooks and delivers one of the best rock albums of the year.
Best band that’s not actually all that weird: Lower Dens
The band's debut, “Twin-Hand Movement,” proves that Baltimore isn’t just home to spazzy, blippy, screechy, outsider music. Jana Hunter leads the group through folk songs that are lush and luxurious.
(After the jump, "The Wire," "Judge Judy" and "Duck Tales" ... what?)
Best band that you heard on “The Wire”: Get Em Mamis
The female rap duo enjoyed a breakthrough when its single “When You See Us” was featured on The Greatest TV Show Ever According to Everyone Who Ever Watched It. If only their biggest hit, “Cold Summer” (below) was a bit more accurate. It’s going to be 100 degrees in Baltimore all weekend.
Best reunion that will result in some injuries: Universal Order of Armageddon
The most shocking addition to this year’s lineup is the presence of U.O.A., the hugely influential Baltimore hardcore band that had a two-year run during which it became one of the most fierce and destructive bands around. It's going to get a touch insane when the band plays its first show in more than 15 years.
Best party band coming from D.C.: Nadastrom
Expect lots and lots of bass-rumbling from DJ duo Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom. And don’t be surprised to hear an old punk chestnut or two; the pair’s “Salad Days” mixtape is like a classic punk rock cheat-sheet.
Best band that appeared on "Judge Judy": Teeth Mountain
Earlier this year, that paragon of mid-day TV virtue, Judge Judy, heard a case in which one friend sued a former friend for killing her cat by throwing a TV at the poor feline. Members of percussive drone troupe Teeth Mountain were the plaintiffs for the completely fabricated story.
Best band we were legit into before everyone else: Wye Oak
We talked to the folk-shoegaze duo right when their debut album came out on Merge Records two and a half years ago and have been fans ever since. Check out the video we shot at the Black Cat last year.
Best side project named after a cartoon: Ducktails
Matthew Mondanile plays guitar for the dreamy, reverb-kings Real Estate and things get even more hazy with his solo project.
July 23, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories: Lists | Tags: Double Dagger, Ducktails, Get Em Mamis, Lil B, Lower Dens, Nadastrom, No Age, Teeth Mountain, Universal Order of Armageddon, Whartscape, Wye Oak
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