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No Place to Play?

Ask anyone with the unenviable task of booking a do-it-yourself tour, and they’ll tell you that our city is one of the tougher scenes to accomplish even a marginally successful show. Sure, there’s the Black Cat and Galaxy Hut, among a handful of other worthy establishments, but recent years have found the District hurting for do-it-yourself-friendly venues.

That’s where the D.C. Show Collective stepped in last April. The Collective, which has been meeting monthly in various members’ houses, dedicates itself to finding a safe haven for smaller performances. “The point of the collective is to re-energize the DIY ethics of music and to establish a stronger network for obtaining smaller shows,” says member Amanda MacKaye. “It’s an important movement toward establishing the future of music.”

Alternative spaces like the Wilson Center, the Kansas Street House, Joe’s Movement Emporium, and a few others have proven to be epicenters of new interest in local independent music. Rescuing indie music from the clutches of bars, which are primarily driven by a need to make profits and stay in business, has been one of the collective’s core purposes. “Growing up, I always preferred house shows over club shows,” recalls member Elliott Caldwell. “It felt like more of a community thing.”

The loss of DIY spaces like the Happy Hardcore House and the Beehive in the mid-’90s left a huge void in the small-show circuit—something the collective is striving to fix. It holds workshops on how to run a PA system and how to run your own show successfully. But even within its ranks, collective members acknowledge that there’s a long way to go. “We need to do a better job of putting on shows for bands that we’ve never heard of,” Caldwell says. “I think it’d help to have a small house space to avoid the financial risk and [to] put together shows on a moment’s notice.”—John Davis