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Real estate moguls aren’t the only ones who care about D.C.’s mushrooming jungle of condo complexes. Local musicians write songs in the shadow of towering cranes, scramble for dwindling practice spaces and performance venues, and cast a critical gaze on the changing culture of their hometown.
So what do D.C. bands think of the city’s condo craze? The consensus, unsurprisingly, reads grim.
Paperhaus At the suggestion of a friend, Paperhaus guitarist Eduardo Rivera looked into the history of the 121-year-old Cairo condo complex in Dupont, which once hosted extravagant parties: Rumor has it, one featured 1,000 singing canaries. Rivera folded the story of an alleged murder of the building’s painter into “Cairo,” the first single from Paperhaus’ most recent album.
Coup Sauvage & the Snips “Show the urban pioneers in your ‘transitioning’ neighborhood how you really feel about their condos—all without saying a word,” Coup Sauvage & the Snips’ online merch store advises. This T-shirt’s anti-gentrification spin on an Audre Lorde quote also comes in a version that swaps “condos” for “small plates.”
Jack on Fire The rabble-rousing electro-punk band, whose repertoire includes a 42-second tongue-twister that repeats the word “condos” 16 times in a row, designed a Shepard Fairey-esque sticker mocking Mayor Muriel Bowser’s connections to developers. Bowser’s nixing of the contemporary art space that was set to take over the historic Franklin School building (in favor of a luxury hotel or, uh, condos) was the last straw, the band says. Wonder if Herroner’s seen the sticker outside the Wilson Building.
Chain & the Gang Ian Svenonius’ experiment in rock ‘n’ roll nihilism reaches a fever pitch in “Devitalize,” Chain & the Gang’s fantasy of a decrepit urban landscape that makes upper-middle-class residents shake in their Tory Burches. “I wanna… bring down real estate/Make produce second rate,” Svenonius snarls in the track’s video over images of new construction going up (and blowing up) and a sign for the Yards, a luxury megacomplex/microneighborhood with high-priced lofts.
Oddisee “Gentrification,” a track from the Diamond District rapper’s Foot in the Door album, explores the migration of black families from D.C. to its surrounding suburbs as rents rise. “My city don’t look the same/What a shame, it’s tragic,” he spits. “Urban decay making way for Ikeas, luxury lofts/Replacing what I see as a history lost.”
Puff Pieces In a statement on Puff Pieces’ website, the band lays out its condo-incompatible mission: “Based on their… long-term involvement in D.C.’s punk and noise scenes, Puff Pieces strives to destroy the bland hegemony of their city’s condo-crazed culture with a mix of melody and nervous dissonance.” Preach.