AMANDA MCKAYE DOESN’T have a title at Fort Reno, the long-running outdoor concert series that showcases up-and-coming local acts. Loosely put, she’s the organizer, which includes managing the band application process, booking lineups, raising funds and even maintaining the stage. As the series’ 2009 season goes into full swing, she reflects on a lifetime of shows, the difficult process of choosing bands and the diversity of the D.C. scene.
» EXPRESS: How did you get involved with Fort Reno?
» MCKAYE: I first started going to Fort Reno when I was in high school at Wilson — ’84 or ’85. Later on, in the ’90s, some of my friends were involved with doing shows there, and my bands would play there. I booked it for two years, and this is my second year running it by myself.
» EXPRESS: The 2009 schedule is a little shorter than previous years. What led to that decision?
» MCKAYE: The last three or four years, we’ve done pretty long seasons, and it’s been difficult for me and the volunteers, for the bands, the sound man, even the audience. So we’re trying a shorter season to see how that feels.
» EXPRESS: What are the criteria for choosing bands?
» MCKAYE: Basically, we define the bands that are eligible as those working to create music within the D.C. area, which is the Beltway. I try to keep an eye out for people who are young. I also want to support women who are playing music, particularly any young girls who are taking the plunge and picking up a guitar or playing keyboards or whatever. Because there’s just not enough of us.
» EXPRESS: Fort Reno is best known for punk, but there seems to be some diversity among the bands.
» MCKAYE: I’m open to all kinds of music; I’m not opposed to anything. There’s no punk-only rule. I love to hear the different music that people send to me. It’s invigorating to know that all this stuff is happening around here, and I try pretty hard to find a variety of styles of music with a certain thread in the players that will hearken back to a more punk ideal. I’m looking for bands that are playing music for the sake of playing music. They have a song inside them, and they need to get it out.
» Fort Reno, Chesapeake Street & Nebraska Avenue NW; Mon. & Thu., through July 30, 7:15 p.m., free. (Tenleytown)
Written by Express contributor Stephen M. Deuser
Photo courtesy Poor But Sexy/Jonathon L. Kang; FFfever/Roxanne Turpen; Benjy Ferree/Bryan Whitson