In the 1990s, kids in Baltimore often looked up to musicians—like the DIY punk bands of Dischord Records and Go-Go artists like Chuck Brown—from neighboring Washington, D.C. However, that’s not so much the case anymore. Look at Baltimore artists today—a confident approach toward performance and creativity is more of a stamp of a Baltimore musician than any specific genre would be. And that’s not a vague compliment, either. Charm City’s often been isolated from the national music scene, as Dan Deacon mentions in the video above, meaning artists had to create their own community. The fortunate aspect of being relatively disconnected from the mainstream is that there aren’t any judgments to be had when making music. Artists take risks that they wouldn’t otherwise, and rely on each other to build their own destiny. Icons from earlier generations like David Byrne, Frank Zappa, and Ric Ocasek of The Cars all embodied this sentiment. What’s more is that savant filmmaker John Waters hails from Baltimore, and the best TV show ever, The Wire (I’ll fight the person who says otherwise), is nothing if not about Baltimore and its reflection of the human condition. Tori Amos and Sisqó are also from Baltimore, meaning both “Caught A Lite Sneeze” and “The Thong Song” were indirectly or maybe directly influenced by this fair city on the Chesapeake.
In the past decade Baltimore has seen a boon in national appreciation of its bands and artists. Animal Collective blew up, and their influence is still resonating in today’s popular indie and electronic music. Beach House led the way for oh-so-many dream poppers (Teen Dream is still one of the best records of the 2000s). Spank Rock reintroduced Baltimore clubs to the hip-hop conversation, upping the party level a whole lot more. There’s almost too much weird rock and punk-influenced art-rock to shake a stick at: Matmos (also featured in the video above), Ed Schrader's Music Beat (regular touring partner of Future Islands, above), and Roomrunner and Dope Body all leave lasting impressions. All in all, Baltimore makes for a killer music scene that continues to grow in excitingly unexpected ways, doing it for itself more than anyone else.