Backstage at the Black Cat Friday, Brad Samuels was breathing fire. The drummer for local band Anne Summers was preparing for the climax of the sixth “Popscene” event of the year—whereby Samuels and his bandmates are trying to shoulder their way into the D.C. music scene. Anne Summers, the antithesis of D.C. straight-edged indie rock, hopes to carve a niche for itself, other pop bands, and people who just want to drink, dance, and enjoy some tunes without making a new religion out of it. Samuels had been practicing all week for the night’s pyromaniacal flourish, dipping his sticks in lighter fluid, downing a painful mouthful of 151-proof rum, and making like Gene Simmons.

Popscene’s roots grew out of envy: Last winter, at a San Francisco club, Anne Summers members stood in awe of the Bay Area’s local pop music scene. “There were all these different bands and different styles playing the gigs,” singer-guitarist Andrew Pontano recalled, as if just back from Saturn. “Everybody was supportive of one another, and everybody was getting into it.” In April, Anne Summers began trying to re-create that scene here—with free champagne and after-hours DJs—meeting moderate success.

Samuels, Pontano, bass guitarist-vocalist Alec Boyajy, and guitarist/new guy Eric Benjamin recruit other East Coast bands they dig—Baltimore’s the Put-Outs, New Jersey’s Evelyn Forever, Richmond’s Spike the Dog—to “[try] to revive the early ’90s, when Velocity Girl was big and the D.C. music scene was in its heyday,” said Villa Rosie lyricist John L. Ward.

If Popscene doesn’t pan out in the long run, Samuels—who also tends bar in Georgetown—may want to think about taking that fire-breathing thing on the road: It drew huge props from the 300 who showed last Friday. “Pretty good” attendance, assessed the jaded, black-clad hand-stamper at the door, ensuring—as confirmed by the club’s owner, Dante Ferrando—that Popscene will be invited back some time soon.—Jake Tapper

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