Alex Platt, a research assistant for the Center for Communitarian Policy Studies at Gelman Library plays upright bass in the D.C.-based indie alt-country band Junior League, set to headline the Black Cat in an upcoming show Dec. 14.
According to the theory of communitarianism, if you build a society based only on individual rights, the end result will be a society riddled with problems. Thus, the emphasis of this political theory is on community – both the well-being of this community and the rights allotted to this community.
Platt attempted to explain communitarianism as a theoretical critique of classical liberalism that emphasizes “positive rights,” for example, the right to clean air or the right to education. But Platt makes no mention, though, of one’s right to bring a full string band to a farmers market. One then must safely assume that, for Platt and his bandmates, that sort of thing represented an implied power.
For this show, also featuring Olivia Mancini and the Housemates and Vandaveer, Platt and Junior League seem aptly prepared to give citizens of D.C. renewal of a “positive right,” potentially one that has failed to be realized since the 1980s: that is, the right to a worthwhile local scene.
.And justice for all. Seriously.
“D.C. is made fun of in a way because it does not really have a legacy of producing bands,” Platt said. “It seems like it’s a good place to be.”
Junior League is made up of Platt (bass), Lissy Rosemont (vocals and banjo), Dale Manning (mandolin and fiddle), Martin Thomas (harmonica). Eli Cohn (guitar) and Rob Blunt (drums).
Though the band is alt-country based, with influences ranging from bluegrass singer-songwriter Gillian Welch to Old Crow Medicine Show to classic rockers The Band, Platt explained that those attending Junior League shows are generally indie rock or pop fans.
“When you take away the drum set, we’re basically a string band, and that means we can just go without worrying about a microphone,” said Platt, who played with Junior League at farmers markets in Dupont and Mount Pleasant this summer.
But do not let this provincial, produce-friendly effort fool you: Junior League boasts more than smiles from market-goers who love fresh produce.
The band’s earned both local and national chops: gigs at both the Rock and Roll Hotel and The Black Cat and the recent culmination of a West Coast tour, plus completion of their first LP, “Oh Dear,” recorded at National Public Radio’s Washington studio, available on both their MySpace page and on music site Pandora.
“I think the band’s moving at a pretty accelerated rate,” he said.
Considering Junior League has existed for less than a year, few would disagree. The current line-up was set this past summer, after the band first began in February when Lissy Rosemont decided to start the project and other members of the band started joining to play folksy music.
Platt gives much of the credit for Junior League’s innovative promotion techniques to Rosemont, whose efforts got the band mention in area publications such as the Washington City Paper. But Platt’s sure to note that it’s not just promotion efforts, but Junior League’s sound that makes them distinct.
“Playing with a drum set and all acoustic instruments is difficult,” says Platt, who noted that interestingly enough, it was this that prompted Junior League to produce such deliberate arrangements, defining their tight, smooth composition. Tracks like “Chess Records” or “Charm” are built on gradual releases and string arrangements substantiated by Rosemont’s voice, influenced by bluegrass singer Alison Krauss.
Inevitably, for Junior League the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is to say that instrumental composition, inventive promotion and quality vocals exist for the sake of community: both for that of the band itself and for listeners. Seriously, “positive rights” never sounded so good.
Junior League will play at the Black Cat (1811 14th St. N.W.) Friday, Dec. 14. To listen the band, visit their MySpace at www.myspace.com/juniorleaguetunes or the band’s web site www.juniorleagueband.com.