A Festival That Celebrates D.C. Music — And Not Just Out Of Local Pride

By Ally Schweitzer

Music that's not just local-good, but all-around good: That's the wheelhouse of the Magnificent Intentions Music Festival.
Music that's not just local-good, but all-around good: That's the wheelhouse of the Magnificent Intentions Music Festival.

To Ryan Walker, there’s something unsavory about the term “local music.”

“It has a sort of negative connotation — of amateur bar bands,” says the leader of Virginia indie-rock troupe The Beanstalk Library. He doesn’t think the term represents the high-quality music coming out of the D.C. region.

So when Walker talks about the Magnificent Intentions Music Festival — a two-day concert he and bandmate Brian Pagels host in Arlington and D.C. this weekend — he calls the lineup “D.C.-area,” not “local.” He contends that people here shouldn’t care about these performers because they’re local — they should care because they’re good.

“We realized that there were a lot of bands and acts in the D.C. area that were making really good-quality, original music that’s largely not known outside of the area,” says Walker, 36. “We wanted to put on a festival that puts a spotlight on all that.” 

Now in its second year, the Magnificent Intentions festival takes its name from Charles Dickens’ famous quip that D.C. is a “city of magnificent intentions.” Walker says the moniker refers to something he considers scarce in the regional music scene: big dreams.

“One of the things I noticed growing up… is it didn’t seem very much of a hallmark for [D.C.-area] bands to have ambition,” says Walker, who lives in Arlington. “There are a few exceptions, but I’ve noticed a lot of bands… start to get some buzz outside the area, and then they break up.”

Or local artists who want to go national — like dream-pop duo GEMS and rappers Logic and GoldLink — simply move elsewhere.

When it kicks off Friday evening at IOTA Club & Cafe in Arlington, the Magnificent Intentions festival will host about five hours of music that Walker considers not just local-good, but all-around good. Fairfax singer-songwriter Jacqueline Pie Francis opens the bill, followed by several rock bands with promise, including rough-edged groups Short Lives and Spirit Plots and pop rockers Lighting Fires.

Saturday’s lineup at DC9 skews even poppier, with sets from producer Louis Weeks, the jaunty Title Tracks and polished rockers Middle Distance Runner, among others. (The El Mansouris had to cancel.)

“If you’re into what’s going on on a national level musically, these are things that are not of lesser quality than that,” Walker says. “In some cases, these are acts for whom ambition is not a bad word.”

The Magnificent Intentions Music Festival takes place Dec. 4 at IOTA Club & Cafe and Dec. 5 at DC9. Photo by Flickr user John Athayde used under a Creative Commons license.

  • City Music Deal (TM)

    This is conflation of what local music means since in every other area of the US save the DMV ` it’s what Music Cities are banking upon to set them apart of say living in Arlington VA . BTW this false claim is it’s what hurts acts here as there is a lack of developing our music scene as Austin, Boston, Memphis and Seattle and BTW none of them are ashamed to say local music and you don’t hear any artists saying they have to move.

    Don’t take our word for it there’s a whole MusicCitiesConvention.com (just hosted in DC) that proves this point wrong with data not feelings.

    PS you don’t have to move out of DC you need to get a distribution deal that get’s your music out of DC into the digital physical global marketplace which is what the DCMusicDeal.com.

    PS if local is so back why is Boston and the District for that matter putting local music into our local libraries.

    PSS WAMU how about all of us stopping supporting local radio and just support radio station in other communities.

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