Roll Down Your Windows
Baltimore musicians make a playlist of their personal local summer jams
Music seems to get louder in the summer, especially in Baltimore, if only to distract from the oppressive humidity. And whether you share your favorite summer jam with the whole neighborhood or keep it your own private pleasure might all depend on whether you've got good air conditioning to blast in the car or have to roll down your windows. When we informally surveyed a number of local musicians on what hometown songs are or have been their summer jams, their picks frequently tended toward the more personal and obscure. And while there are certain songs that might evoke a hot, sweaty time and place for a large number of Baltimoreans--say, Kix's "Girl Money" at Hammerjacks circa 1991, or Rod Lee's "Dance My Pain Away" at the Paradox circa 2005--these more subjective memories tell their own, equally important stories about what a city chooses to listen to when it's too hot to move, or too hot to do anything but dance.
Adam Hopkins of Out of Your Head Collective: During the late '90s, I was in a band with Small Intestine [club] owner Ben Valis, and he'd have shows four or five times a week during the summer. For me, there were two must-see bands whenever they played the Small Intestine--the Dismemberment Plan from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore's own Rhinovirus, who were absolutely terrifying to see live. It's funny to look back, because my now good friend Russell de Ocampo was the scariest person in the world to me during those shows. He always sat at his keyboards wearing a weird mask and would pick one person in the audience to creepily stare at for the entire set. When we became friends two years ago, I couldn't believe it was the same guy that I was too scared to talk to as a high school kid. I remember clearly one sweltering hot show, midsummer, with the front door open and surrounded by good friends, and everyone in the packed house was screaming "Run, run, run . . . run, run, run . . . run, run from your life, she said" at the top of their lungs. At that moment, it was the greatest show I'd ever been to, and in high school that was a pretty big deal.
David Manchester of Kadman: When a lot of people think of summer, they think of sunny days, hot afternoons, time at the beach, etc. I'm a fan of summer nights--sitting outside, being mellow under the stars, and unwinding after the humidity has subsided. So, for me, summer songs were always quieter and more mellow. Recently, a song I've kept on rotation that makes me think of those quiet summer nights is Wye Oak's "Regret," though when it entered my playlist it was [when they were known as] Monarch. Lilting guitars, harmonica, tinkling piano, and soft vocals all say, "Come hang out by the camp fire and have a beer."
Jon Ehrens of the Art Department: "Summer Fun, Summer Bums" is as summer-y as it gets! I dare any song to be more summer-y than this one!
E Major, rapper: This song stood out so much to me right away, because at the time I hadn't heard of any other rap group from Baltimore that had their music on vinyl. DJ Impulse and I have known each other since the early '90s, and he made a mixtape with a bunch of other really great hip-hop from the time for us to listen to, and he started it off with Annexx Click's "Bring It On." I played that tape all summer, and that song really stuck with me. K-Mack was the MC on it, and a lot his lines were so visual to me, they stayed in my head well into the school year. The song samples Bill Withers' "Just the Two of Us," way before Will Smith did, and for me, that basis had stuck a great, light summertime vibe to it. The boom-bap drums that are so indicative of that era come crashing in, and K-Mack charges through talking about puffin' L's and letting his Guess Jeans sag, and it was just the perfect mix of grit and smooth-out soul. For the rest of my life, whenever I hear that song, I'll be transported back to that summer of '95.
DJ Booman of the Doo Dew Kidz: This song dropped, I believe, around '96-'97, and that summer was so classic, because the Baltimore hip-hop scene was booming. Several groups had pressed vinyl and were doing shows together, and my own group Amp Boogie and Trauma were traveling outside of the city getting exposure. The LMS song hit so crazy, because that beat was undeniable, and no group I know of has used the sample since then. This record stood out to me so much, because I had the original sample and overlooked it, and I remember wishing I had done that beat.
Shaka Pitts, rapper: I heard that song while I was at Shake and Bake skating rink last summer. It came on, and I instantly felt like skating more energetically. It has a real get-up-and-do-something feel.
PenDragon, rapper: I like the look and feel of night. Riding around Baltimore at night with the windows down and music up high is a great feeling. I have told [the Get 'Em Mamis] and will tell anybody else, "Alpines Kickin'" is my shit! That shit just makes you feel like you're in slow motion and everything around you is flying by, but you're in your zone so it doesn't even matter.
Kane Mayfield, rapper: When I saw Brown F.I.S.H. at Joe Squared in February, this song made the entire club feel like it was the middle of summer. When I hear Jahiti start singing "Fishbowl," I feel like I'm running through a green meadow.
Nick Often and Greg Ward of Rapdragons: All those songs from The Modern Tribe sound classic, but this track is really striking--always building, but just in time. The musicians are as selective as the best storytellers, and nobody with a beating heart could resist Katrina Ford's warm invocation of the happiest tragedy that befalls true romantics. Along with the beautiful girls accompanying us on the Charles Theatre roof last August, while Beach House and Celebration got gorgeous outdoors, "Heartbreak" will always remind us of that magical, only sometimes attainable, summer ideal.
Andy Shankman of Jumpcuts: Sri Aurobindo are a psych-rock band, but this song is a pretty blatant British '60s mod thing. It's summery, and that means something only because the English have the worst weather, and when they have summer they really savor and relish it.
Cameron Blake of the Cameron Blake Band: My first summer in Baltimore was "The Summer of Lady Day." I was reading her autobiography at the time, and I took many long walks from my apartment in Mount Vernon to all of her old haunts--the former red-light district around Caroline Street, the site of the Royal Theatre on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the home of her adolescence in Fells Point. One morning, I remember walking by her house on Durham Street listening to "I'm a Fool to Want You" from her final recorded album, Lady in Satin. Like a scene from a movie, her crackling, fragile voice was accompanied by the sounds of a sobbing baby and the canned laughter of The Price Is Right wafting through open windows. The ghost of Billie was alive that summer, and it could still chill even the hottest day.Summer Jams by Baltimore City Paper
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