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.”
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.
“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.”