Washington DC may seem like a random place for me to be influenced by, but its music scene has had a huge impact on my taste and perception of music. Meeting Sean Borja when I first moved to Madison introduced me to the concept that there was so much good music being made that I didn’t know about, and that I could meet and interact with the people who made it on a personal level – in a way, the whole premise of this site and why I got into the music scene in Madison. Turns out Washington DC is a city that really embodies the Urban Agrarian concept – a strong local music scene that likes to do its thing in the many green spaces in the “Diamond” as the 10-square mile city proper is referred to.
With all this in mind, I was obviously down to take a road trip out there with one of my favorite DC natives, Austin Hays and our good friend Derek Punches. Though the 14-hour drive through the night might be brutal, a beautiful appalachian sunrise and strong coffee was enough to make it. Day one saw a lot of eating and resting, but by evening we were ready to go, and stopped in to a swanky home studio where Danny Saperstein was hard at work on the new Sad Bones album. The tracks were sounding great, and after some bada-bapas and watching of “The Real L Word” we went out for great pizza and beer at a ping-pong themed restaurant. Since it was Danny’s last night in DC before heading back to Gilford in North Carolina, we obviously had a big bonfire in his backyard, a staple of any DC trip. Guitars were out, and a Sad Bones set promised after some beers. While the fire was getting started, Sean coaxed Ian Jickling and Ian Soulheim, two of the guitarists from the infamous Marfa, to play a jam they wrote together simply referred to as “Two Ians”. Both are excellent composers, and their unique playing styles combine into a drunken duet dug up from years past.
All the excitement over this little performance got Emma Baker, 1/2 of the Sad Bones duo, riled up enough to get Danny to stop chatting and chilling long enough to start playing a set. Many of the attendants of the fire had seen a number of Sad Bones sets throughout the summer and continued on with their conversing as they played. Myself and a few other who hadn’t had the chance to catch them play lately sat in awe of the raw emotion put forth by the duo, with Sean adding in harmonies on some tunes. I managed to record part of the set decently, starting from when they played their beautiful cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Like a Summer Thursday”.
As we continued chilling in DC the next couple days, I was too busy swinging from ropes and chowing down to do too much filming. On our last day, Sean and Austin took me down to one of their favorite spots when they were younger, the so-called “Magical Bridge”. Here they played a couple tunes, which I documented and have compiled here.
Later that night after a delicious final dinner, we thought we were about to head back to Wisconsin when Sean received an unexpected text reading “please tell me you’re still in DC”. The sender was the infamous Owen Wuerker, Marfa’s songwriter and frequent collaborator with Austin and Sean. I had never had the pleasure of meeting him, and Austin and Sean hadn’t seen him all year. We postponed our departure in favor of some chilling with Owen. Despite returning from his Semester at Sea program that day, Owen was down to hang out and play some music with his old friends. We headed back to Sean’s and worked on packing up our stuff while Owen showed us some new tunes and jammed on old favorites. I got in one last segment right before we left of Owen, Austin, and Sean playing one of Austin’s tunes that he originally recorded with Owen, “Ringing Bells”.