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In the 18 months Todd Hyman’s Carpark Records has existed in D.C., the label has built a reputation for diligently documenting one of the nation’s most vibrant and creative independent music scenes. Unfortunately for the collective ego of District-area bands, that scene belongs to Baltimore.
Since founding the label in 1999 while living in New York City, Hyman has worked with bands from cities across the United States, including Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco—as well as from Canada, New Zealand, and Japan. Currently, six of Carpark’s active bands are from Baltimore. Nowhere on the label’s roster, however, will you find an act from the District.
Yet Hyman, 33, insists he isn’t snubbing D.C.’s music scene. “It wasn’t an intentional, conscious decision on my part,” he says. “I’m not trying to piss anyone off.”
Hyman, who travels from his Chevy Chase home to Baltimore for shows “once a week or so,” cites Charm City’s burgeoning experimental music scene as the driving force behind the change in direction his label has taken since he moved from New York. “Carpark initially was kind of like an electronic label, and over the years I’ve tried to mix that up,” he says. “I’m tired with the electronic tag…I came to realize that you can only do so well putting out a record by someone who stares at a laptop.” As a result, Carpark has taken a turn for the more accessible—recent releases include full-lengths by whimsical guitar duo Ecstatic Sunshine and tropical pop group Beach House, both of which will perform this weekend as part of a two-day Carpark Records showcase. Ecstatic Sunshine will be joined by drone-and-vocal ensemble Lexie Mountain and Cache Cache (at 9 p.m. Friday, March 2, at 611 Florida Ave. NW); Beach House performs with lo-fi dance composer Dan Deacon, electronic noise quartet Wzt Hearts, and Ponytail (at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Warehouse Next Door, 1021 7th St. NW).
For some of the acts on this weekend’s bills, such as Ecstatic Sunshine, the trip to the District will be their first. “The cities are so close together, and a lot of these bands we’re working with haven’t even played D.C.—and they’ve been playing around for a couple of years,” Hyman says. For him, the feeling of unfamiliarity isn’t much different. Even after living in the area for a year and a half, he says he still feels like newbie. “I’m still kind of feeling things out,” he says.
But he has been quick to pick up on the feeling of animosity between the two cities’ music scenes. “I always hear about this rivalry between D.C. and Baltimore,” he says, before quickly noting, “I’m not really involved in that.” If anything, Hyman hopes that the showcase will provide him with an opportunity to network with similarly minded musicians in his new hometown. “I don’t want to be a D.C. label putting out Baltimore music,” he says. “I’d love to work with D.C. bands. I just haven’t found any that I really like yet.”