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2016, like the last few years before it, has been a bountiful time for D.C. punk and its fans. With an increasing number of fests, innumerable new bands and a sometimes impossibly full calendar of shows, it’s difficult to condense the full output across a variety of scenes and subgenres into a digestible list. Nevertheless, here are some of the standout releases and moments from D.C.’s year in punk.
PoPville vs. Damaged City: The Comment ThreadWhile D.C. punks have been playing shows in churches in the Columbia Heights area for decades, one neighbor had enough and rushed the stage early in Day 2 of Damaged City to stop the fest. While the show went on, condo residents next door opened a new front on the neighborhood blog. The April 13 post’s comment thread naturally spiraled out of control as the wider community of aggrieved punks and irritated neighbors pitched their online battle. With Damaged City 2017 just announced, renewed rancor may not be far behind.
Puff Pieces, Bland in D.C.Covering everything from stifling gentrification to imperial decline, Puff Pieces’ thematic concerns have unfortunately only become more pertinent. Sparse but unsparing, Bland in D.C. follows in a proud and paranoid tradition of anxious, tightly-wound post-punk. It’s not hopeful stuff, but it’s the kind of scathing music—and critique—that’s bracing amidst the nonsense.
Pure Disgust, S/TOne of the flagship bands of the “New Wave of DC Hardcore,” Pure Disgust’s debut LP packed massive amounts of righteous anger and technical skill into 10 tracks over 20 minutes. With stomping songs taking cues from Oi and guitar heroics befitting the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Pure Disgust take on the state and society’s systematic assault on people of color. Unfortunately, this may well be the band’s final testament, as they announced their plans for a final show after some touring next year.
Bad Moves, S/TA D.C. DIY supergroup of sorts, Bad Moves features members of The Max Levine Ensemble, Art Sorority for Girls, and Hemlines. Making full use of their constituent talents, Bad Moves’ debut EP succeeds both as an ensemble and as a unique, cohesive effort. The four concise, rollicking tracks are sometimes bleak but always anthemic.
Cerebro, DemoFive minutes of scorching, bare-bones Spanish language hardcore from Daniel Peña and Brendan Reichardt.
Flasher, S/TThe trio, featuring members of Priests, Big Hush, and Bless, put out an impressive and polished debut EP this year. Over the course of seven tracks, Flasher pairs dreamy vocals with well-balanced touches from both brighter and darker ends of the post-punk spectrum. Introduced as a cassette release, Flasher’s self-titled is now available on a 12-inch record.
Kombat, S/T This seven-track cassette builds on the Midwestern-inspired hardcore of their demo tape to devastating effect. Bile-churning vocals, chorus-pedal guitar lines, and a barreling rhythm section that only slows just enough to reopen the pit.
Mission Creep, Demo Another great new post-punk recording, Mission Creep dial up the gothic melodrama. A release for fans of both gloomy synths and pogo beats.
Sem Hastro, Rancor A CidadeRaw, throat-shredding, elbow-throwing rage from the hardcore outfit that counts both D.C. and São Paulo as home.
Permacounterculture There are plenty of short-lived DIY spaces in a punk community, but few as delightfully weird as the wheatgrass nursery built inside the Hamiltonian art gallery this summer. Naoko Wowsugi, who teaches at American University, sought to harness the carbon dioxide output of crammed shows and flailing mosh pits to help grow wheatgrass, and in turn, fueled punk and hardcore bands and their fans.