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I moved to Washington in March 1988 and have been immersed in its music scene since that first day, when I accidentally stumbled into d.c. space. I’ve seen hundreds of local and out-of-town bands in countless venues and find D.C. to have a very vibrant local scene. Unfortunately, I don’t think D.C.’s free weeklies (or the Washington Post, for that matter) truly reflect the diversity of the scene here. I must confess that I work for the Post (not in the Style section), but this is strictly a personal rant.
I’ve lived in Cleveland, Atlanta, London, and Los Angeles, all of which have much better-supported local music scenes than D.C.’s. There are a few reasons for this: These cities have college radio stationsthat actually can be heard within the city limitsthat play local bands regularly, and their free weeklies have much more of a local focus, profiling local bands, from various genres, regularly.
Other than the City Lights section and the occasional cover story (which I usually love), the typical Washington City Paper music coverage consists of reviews of maybe two or three major-label CDs. These are full-page reviews of one album! Although it’s great to know that your writers can riff on “what it all means,” I just want to know if the record rocks or if it sucks. I finish some of these reviews and have less of an idea of what the band sounds like than I did before I started. I do believe there is still a place for well-written music criticismit’s just that your reviews swallow up all your allotted space. If you guys divvied up your space better, you could cover more bands and styles. Maybe cut back to one in-depth review and save the other page for some quick picks or previews.
One reason I pick up your paper is to find out who’s coming to town and which bands I should check out. Unfortunately, I get more information from your ads than I do from your listings. Some of the Atlanta and L.A. papers give a blurb with each club and concert listing, thus giving people an idea of what kind of music is being offered. If a lesser-known out-of-town band or a local unknown isn’t one of your City Lights picks, there’s no way, save an Internet search, to even know what kind of music is being played.