Listening to D.C. With “Stop Smiling”
I’ve been a fan of Stop Smiling, the bimonthly out of Chicago with themed issues, multiple covers, a predilection for in-depth Q&A’s, and some of the cleanest art design around, for a while now. Their newest offering is juicy: “The DC Issue,” which looks at our nation’s capital. In addition to some political content (including an enjoyably sharp Q&A with Ana Marie Cox), the big stuff is the twin cover subjects, crime novelist George Pelecanos and The Wire‘s Anwan Glover (a.k.a. Big G of local go-go heroes the Backyard Band). Pelecanos, of course, was deeply involved in The Wire, but the best bits are about music. Take a look at Pelecanos’ roster of D.C.’s greatest acts:
Marvin Gaye. All the go-go bands, starting with Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers through Trouble Funk and Backyard Band, and newer ones like UCB. Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bad Brains, Slant 6, Circus Lupus, Nation of Ulysses. There are too many great punk bands to name. Jawbox. Tommy Keene. The Nighthawks. Root Boy Slim. Not to mention all the soul acts from the Sixties who lived and cut records here. And then you have to talk about the acts that were huge in DC, like Maze, the P-Funk axis, and Little Feat, who did not come from here, but were honorary Washingtonians.
There are other, more music-intensive pieces as well, but the way both Pelecanos and Glover discuss it in the context of their greater lives and works is the real takeaway here.
Note: I contributed an essay to Stop Smiling‘s “Ode to the Midwest” issue two years ago.