D.C. punk scene preserved by library, bolstered by local blog

Media Credit: Photo Courtesy of Alex Schelldorf

Baby Bry Bry will be one of several punk bands to play at a benefit show for the D.C. Punk Archive.

The fossils of local punk concerts are not preserved by sand, dirt or pressure. Instead, they are carefully archived and digitized by librarians.

The D.C. Public Library is partnering with D.C. Music Download, a blog that serves as a forum for the local music community, for a shared mission to archive the rich history of punk rock in the city. Stephanie Williams, founder of D.C. Music Download, is leading the effort to have both groups work together to document the city’s music scene.

“You see [concerts] and [then they’re] gone. Same with concert photos and flyers – they go away once the show’s over. It was great to hear that there was an entity out there that was documenting all that,” Williams said.

When it was founded in 2012, D.C. Music Download served as a blog where Williams could upload her personal podcasts. But it changed direction when Williams said she realized local music coverage in D.C. newspapers was lacking.

“I was surprised at how many bands I discovered while I was going to a show, but there wasn’t any coverage about them at all in our local papers,” Williams said. “I thought that was kind of sad. I wished there was a platform [where] we could highlight these bands and profile them.”

D.C. Music Download then functioned as a casual blog, with Williams and a few writers producing reviews of old albums and highlighting up-and-coming artists in D.C.

The blog grew in popularity within the year and turned into a professional music platform. Last year, D.C. Music Download revamped its website to be more user-friendly and hired a full staff of writers, photographers and videographers.

While the blog serves as a modernized archive for District fans, the D.C. Punk Archive is a repository for memorabilia like setlists, show flyers and photos.

The library accepts donations of keepsakes like zines, books, records, cassettes, CDs, DVDs, videos, live recordings, posters, letters, tickets and buttons.

“We’d eventually like this initiative to expand to other genres and time periods of D.C. music and find ways to collaborate with other repositories such as GWU, UMD and UDC, and link to their local music collections,” said Michele Casto, special collections librarian for the D.C. Punk Archive.

The D.C. Punk Archive is looking to benefit from an event hosted by D.C. Public Library and D.C. Music Download next month. The partnership is rooted in a shared effort to chronicle past and present-day music.

Psychedelic rock band Paperhaus, whose members are native to the District, will headline the event. Three other local bands will share the spotlight with D.C.’s top music photographers at the 9:30 Club on Feb. 7.

In-house donations, plus $1 from each ticket sale, will go to the D.C. Punk Archive to help fund its latest endeavor: an online portal that allows public access to its digitized collections. Their collaboration with D.C. Music Download will be their largest benefit to date.

“This funding will allow us to create a discovery layer that presents the music content in a way that provides context, weaves together descriptive, audio and visual content to tell the stories of local music, and acts as a point of entry into the larger collections housed in the system,” Casto said.

Loud Boyz, Baby Bry Bry and the Apologists will also play at the event, with DJ Ayescold spinning between sets. Though the artists are not primarily punk, organizers say the cause is relevant to all genres in the local scene.

The photo gallery will include four of the city’s prominent music photographers for one day on makeshift displays, including photographs by Matthew Brazier and Michael Andrade, whose work was recently exhibited in the Coupe.

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