City Paper is not for tourists
Collin Crowe is a lucky guy. He got to turn the lights out on 13 years of D.C. indie rock and punk history.
Crowe, 26, the guitarist for Buildings, was among the final tenants of Kansas House, a tiny single-family home on the corner of N. Kansas Street and Wilson Boulevard that was among Arlington’s last underground art spaces.
Over the years dozens of musicians lived there, generations of bands practiced there, and countless concerts were hosted in the house’s cramped, increasingly grimy living room.
But Crowe’s place in D.C. punk lore comes at a cost.
In mid-October the landlord sold the property to a Northern Virginia–based development company and told the tenants they had one month to find new accommodations. Graciously, she agreed to pay back everybody’s security deposit, so long as Crowe and his remaining housemates emptied the house, including the basement.
It was a messy place, the basement in particular. An astute punk-rock archaeologist could probably have found junk down there dating all the way back to the early ’90s.
The dust and mold “probably took a couple of years out of my life,” Crowe says. “There was old furniture, old clothes, some Savage Boys and Girls seven-inches.” And a few saucier items, too. “Actually, I found a nude Polaroid of some people.”
Every burgeoning arts scene needs a safe, cheap, and relatively carefree place in which to set up shop. Baltimore had its bottle cap factories. Brooklyn had its loft spaces. D.C. had the close-in ’burbs.
The ’80s and ’90s were a golden era for the D.C. music and arts community. But many of those artists lived in places like Arlington and Silver Spring. Because they were cheaper. Because you were less likely to get your face punched in. Because you could play loud music all night.
DIY record labels like Teenbeat, Dischord, and Simple Machines, as well as activist groups like Positive Force, cleverly repurposed Arlington’s middle-class workforce housing, then available as cheap, safe rentals, into small businesses, design studios, and rehearsal rooms.
Now that Kansas House is kaput, that time is effectively over. Those houses have been repurposed again, this time by developers who have built condominiums, restaurants, and shopping centers.
Here’s a look back at a time when driving over Key Bridge could get you more than a plate of tapas. When it was a place where you could live cheap, play loud, and, evidently, take naked Polaroids of yourself without shame. A look back at when Arlington was punk.
Positive Force House