We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Synthpunk has existed since punk emerged: Suicide, the Normal, Cabaret Voltaire, Devo, Throbbing Gristle, and many others applied the DIY ethos to electronica and created music that equaled—and often exceeded—the intensity and ingenuity of their guitar-wielding peers. Yet even 40 years after the fact, synth music and punk are often considered opposites, which is why Select D.C.’s Vanguard Festival still seems like a novel idea. The 14 acts on the bill all owe a debt to 1970s synthpunk, even if none of their music particularly sounds like it. Los Angeles composer John Wiese creates noisy soundworks that could fit on a Sonic Circuits bill, while locals Protect-U and DJ Jay Simon drop tracks that would get any dance floor bumping. Somewhere in the middle is D.C.’s Olivia Neutron-John (pictured), whose bedroom pop is about as tinny and cold as Earthen Sea (a new project from Jacob Long of Mi Ami) is wet and warm. Vanguard Fest’s experimental ethos supports synthpunk’s innovative spirit, but this afternoon’s line-up remains tied to the 21st century. The show begins at 4 p.m. at Union Arts DC, 411 New York Ave. NE. $15–$20. unionartsdc.com.