Beginning Thursday and running through Sunday, the first In It Together Fest will comprise shows by local and touring bands, art displays and dance performances throughout the city's surprisingly vast constellation of underground venues. On the bill are bands such as Teen Mom, Shark Week and Paperhaus.
"Hey, cool. Where are these shows?," you might ask. And that's where things get hairy.
In It Together Fest's organizers aren't saying.
"Our official policy on that is, don't publish anybody's address unless they have done it on their own promotional materials," says Mike O’Brien, one of the festival's organizers. The 17 venues taking part in In It Together -- venues such as Hole in the Sky, the Dougout and the Communiverse -- don't all want to be found.
O'Brien organizes art shows at Hole in the Sky, a Northeast group house that's among the better-known DIY spaces. Hole in the Sky posts its location on its Facebook page, as does Union Arts, a blank slate of a building on New York Avenue. Others, such as Bardo and the Pinch, are licensed bars. But other venues, such as Ezra Mae's and the Dougout, aren't exactly prolific on social media. Some maintain a low profile because they operate without licenses or in buildings that most of us would recognize pretty easily as group houses.They don't want to get busted, says O'Brien, which is a real concern. So the festival chose to publish none of the addresses, leaving it to the truly dedicated arts fan to find his or her own way. "Every single venue is promoting their own shows individually ... We basically just put on the name of the place, the name of the bands or the explanation of what's going on at their spot," says O'Brien.
You can find some of the locations on the site Homestage DC, but whether to post the addresses of D.C.'s DIY venues is a polarizing topic, one that pits claims of necessity against the argument that the secrecy is actually its own kind of velvet rope. (The debate, if you're curious, is currently playing out in the comments section of a recent City Paper story about one such venue).
So In It Together Fest settled on a map that's neither drawn to scale nor labeled with street names. "The map is plotted in such a general fashion that you don't exactly know where the places are," O'Brien concedes, sounding somewhat sympathetic. "Our idea is, if all you have is the map to go off of, and you know when a thing is, show up in the general area, walk around or bike around till you see a bunch of punks, and go over and hang out with them," he adds with a laugh.
The point of In It Together was to help the venues as they develop a community among themselves. "We're doing it so we can work together and as a result get to know each other more, and bridge gaps between the microscenes that exist within D.C.," O’Brien says.
Choosing to allow the venues to decide how much they'll share with potential concertgoers is in keeping with the festival's vision, which is to encourage venues to maintain their individuality and "book what they'd typically do already, but try to do it all in the same weekend," says O'Brien. Much of the music, he says, will be rock.
There are some shows that will be a bit easier to find than others, including Saturday's big showcase, with bands, lectures and punk rock flea-market-style vendors at St. Stephen's Church at 16th and Newton streets NW. Admission to the shows will vary; it will be $10 to get into Saturday's show at St. Stephen's Church. Other shows will collect donations, which will serve to pay bands and raise money and awareness for causes such as Positive Force and Casa Ruby.