Credit: Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

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Dave Mann’s story feels too weird to be instructive. Back in March, the indie rocker went to the South by Southwest music festival, was blown away by its latticework of free satellite events, and resolved to bring the concept to the District. Three months, many press releases, and hundreds of exclamation points later, he did it: June’s Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie Music Festival featured 125 bands performing in six venues, most of them low-profile Ethiopian restaurants. A second festival followed in October, with more venues, more performances, and a bit more quality control. With its barely curated, hyper-democratic ethos, STPP is local indie rock’s version of Artomatic, minus the possibility of getting paid. It might be the festival we deserve. D.C.’s indie-rock scene is crowded but uncompetitive, and only a handful of acts make music full-time. You can’t fault Mann for his enthusiasm, and you can’t fault the mostly part-time scene for being willing to play for free in the vague hopes of gaining “exposure.”  But next time, it’d be OK if bands ended their set by passing around a hat.