From the outside looking in, Baltimore is at a musical high point that is nothing less than triumphant. Throw a dart at a magazine rack and you'll find a woefully misinformed out-of-state writer extolling our city as the promised land of American pop music or, well, at least the "best scene." Baltimore isn't a self-congratulatory city, though--you don't catch folks patting themselves on the back or clambering for the Baltimore "rock star" throne. (Save for Blaqstarr, but we're not gonna argue.) But it's still easy to focus on whatever is in the spotlight at the moment.
This year's Big Music Issue doesn't have a stated or overt theme, but reading through the four pieces that follow, it's clear that their concern is with the fringes--the subsurface changes and adaptations that support a music community. Raven Baker examines the recent demise of many of Washington's underground and illegal warehouse venues, and what that means for Baltimore now, while offering hints of a cautionary tale for the underground venues here that fostered many of our most revered performers. Michael Byrne presents a collection of three oral histories from some of Baltimore's after-hours nightlife elders, all of whom have watched the club scene change generational hands over the past decade, leaving the culture in the hands of a younger demographic. Al Shipley documents the passing over of urban radio to the internet in reaction to the shuttering and mainstreaming of terrestrial radio. Finally, Robbie Whelan heads to the furthest fringe in search of what should be a booming Latin music community, growing in correlation to an expanding population. Instead, he finds a music culture drifting and shrinking in the wake of the death of its biggest booster. These aren't the stories carpetbagging Baltimore boosters are liable to tell, but they make up the cultural fabric that supports the ones they eventually will.