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DC Soundclash: Gigs

We like to think that at Soundclash you get that elusive combination of a bunch of people who really, truly love the music (and know a hell of a lot about it), but who also know how to present it to all-comers. It's about the magic that happened in Jamaica during an incredible furtive and creative period in that little island's history. And it doesn't all sound the same, though frequently it sounds just plain wonderful. If you missed our June 2007, Fifth Anniversary Jubilation, we hope you come by in the future. As the Jamaican saying goes, 'we've got music like dirt.'  Which means a lot!

The Kaiser

Soundclash: Jamaican Golden Oldies
June 24 at 10 pm
Marx Cafe 3203 Mt. Pleasant St., NWDC
No Cover
Check the 5.31 mix

So let's just get a basic fact out of the way. Yes, all reggae sounds the same and we only play Bob Marley at Soundclash, because what's the point of playing the hundreds of thousands of other incredibly unique and utterly charming records. By other artists. You see our conundrum? So... this is Soundclash. A monthly DJ night at Marx Cafe (in the heart of Mt. Pleasant, Washington, DC), always on the last friday of the month. Book it. 
And so what happened was four guys contrived to bump into each other in and around DC in 2002, each with their own little obsession for the Jamaican vibe of the 1960's, '70's, '80s and beyond. One dude spoke up saying 'mek we do a likkle ting.'  That 'likkle ting' was to be a mock-up of a Jamaican-styled Sound System "Clash". It's when competing outdoor soundsystems essentially have a throw-down to see who's got the greater 'sound.' In our case it was DJ for DJ, tune-for-tune, in a challenge for musical superiority (and hopefully an invitation to return by long-time and former – and infamous – Marx Cafe owner Mark Peters). Those early Soundclashes were a revelation to all of us, and perhaps to DC itself. Our talents as promoters (haranguers, really), combined with the flyers of DJ Sammy Gong and the unrivalled "free" printing services secured by DJ El Paso, soon had us plastered everywhere. After several months' worth of super, over-crowded Clashes, the Washington Post then rolled by, and lo-and-behold you had myself, Sammy Gong and Alex Hacker (see Taking the Piss) all in the Weekend section. We were stars. Blush.
These days three of the four original upsetters remain – Sammy Gong, Rice & Peas and myself. El Paso went and got something in Las Vegas. We hear he still has it. Around 2004 or so we came upon Baltimore's finest, Bobby Babylon, and we've never looked back. Like with the other nights at Marx Cafe, Soundclash has also had frequent guest deejays, too many to list. But we thank them all.


Taking The Piss: Indie & Jangle Pop
19 June at 10 pm
Marx Cafe 3203 Mt. Pleasant St., NWDC
No Cover
Check the latest mix
So, a quick googling of this eyebrow-raising phrase doesn't – alas – refer (yet) to DC's finest DJ night of indie/jangle pop. Instead you get an etymological explanation that points to an English heritage, and that, in the early days of our little DJ night at Marx Cafe, was exactly the idea. To play indie-pop, jangly guitar-pop, psychedelic pop, etc., originating entirely in the British Isles - that was the mission. That constricting but interesting idea for the "Pisser" came from "founding figures" Alex Hacker & Damien Taylor (both of DC psych/indie-pop stalwarts The Sounds of Kaleidoscope fame). There was also some English bloke on the scene too, but he's long since departed and just about completely forgotten – sorry mate.
If memory serves me right, I recall Alex telling me "Well, Damien totally broke that rule last month, so I'm going to play some Flying Nun stuff from New Zealand this week." And that's when my radar went off and I decided I wanted in on the action. That was around September 2002 and here we are in 2007. 
When I moved to DC in August 1990, it's fair to say that this city had perhaps the most vital and thriving indie-pop scene around. Labels like Slumberland and Teenbeat were at their peak (with bands like Velocity Girl, the Ropers, Unrest and many many more), great record stores serviced the scene (Vinyl Ink, where Stereolab played one day), and there was no shortage of venues. It's easy to inflate it all, because in the end it was still a small group of people playing for an only slightly larger group of fans. But DC has a history with this music and the Pisser, to this day, revels in it. And rightly so, because this a music played by people who reject much of what is palpably awful and affected in the larger market arena.

For the last 3-plus years or so, Taking the Piss has been myself and Les, aka The Pinstriped Rebel, just about the best indie-pop DJ imaginable (yes, she's that good). DJ Foxy Boy (Ara Hacopian) was a long-time excellent cohort as well and he still bandies about on occasion. Guest deejays over the years are too numerous to mention, but just about all the illuminati of DC's pop/indie scene have guested and will continue to do so. In fact, every month features at least one guest DJ.

So what gets played at the Pisser? In August 2004, I described the night this way: "DC's most genuine attempt at a night of guarded musical innocence as only young people in and out of love can convey. Such is the world of indie guitar pop." 

The "jangle" reference that gets thrown about is from an old Byrds song in the 60s (the 'jingle jangle of the guitar') and everything follows from that – the post-punk/DIY efforts of the late 70's/early 80s, the C-86 offshoots from the mid-80s, the developing US "pop underground" of Olympia, Wash., and beyond and all the many inspired scenes all over the world. You want band names? To make my life easier these days I simply say the wonderful world of pop before, during, and after Belle & Sebastian. There, reference points. Best I can do. My Bloody Valentine. Wedding Present. Go do your research, it's all there. Of course I'll throw in a bunch of Fall, so forget what I just said… Either way, come to the Pisser on the second-to-last Friday of each month where you'll meet the nicest people in DC.

The Kaiser


The Champion Superior Soundsystem
April 23 at 10 pm
Marx Cafe 3203 Mt. Pleasant St., NWDC
No Cover
Check out the 7.17 mix

The Champion Superior Soundsystem was born on the side of a box of produce in a Korean grocery store in Santa Clara, Calif., and brought east where it has grown into a fine young sibling to Clash and Piss.

The Soundsytem focuses on very little, preferring to paint in broad swaths of sonic entreats to the dancefloor. The Soundsystem mixes the old with the new and the familiar with the obscure. With the Soundsystem, you get more for your no cover; you get variety and diversity. Funk? Sure. Brazilian? Yep. Hip-hop? Got it. Boogaloo? Hell yeah. Reggae? Of course. Space Kraut Afro? I can't see why not.

And there's more … so much more. We've got everything from Stromba, David Holmes, Black Heat, Jorge Ben, Willie Colon and Sly Stone – and that's just the tip of the asskicking.

Come on out on Aug. 17 and let DJs Braulio Agnese, Dave from Atlantis and me show you what a good time with great music really is. You won't be disappointed, we promise.

Sammy Gong

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