One of the cultural dilemmas that we have here in DC is the lack of venues that cater to fringe and left-field acts. Often times small pockets of people gather to turn group houses, community centers and even coffee shops into outlets for these types of bands.
In the Bloomingdale neighborhood of northwest DC, Big Bear Cafe has been featuring after hours shows for quite some time now. Owners Lana Labermeier and Stuart Davenport have allowed one of their employees, Collin Crowe (of Sentai, Gestures and Buildings) to become what Crowe calls the “Minister of Cultural and Musical Affairs” for Big Bear Cafe.
Though the label is a bit tongue-in-cheek, Labermeier has intended to expand the cafe’s cultural involvement. In addition to hosting shows, Big Bear Cafe has also been displaying art by local artists. There is a sense of community when these events occur. However, their efforts are not without obstacle: Due to noise ordinance constraints, they do have to start and end early, and of course, there is no alcohol allowed.
Regardless, the people who come not only donate money for the travelling bands, but they always end up helping with clean-up afterwards. Labermeier said, “It’s really cool that everyone always helps out and doesn’t make too much noise. If it ever gets to a point where it’s hard to handle, then we might think about stopping.”
We’re no strangers to the shop, having featured their shows on AON before. We had a chance to chat with Justin Myers (Gestures, Sentai, Hand Fed Babies) and Rebecca Mills (Gestures, Caution Curves) during the show to get their view on the incestous nature of DIY bands in DC and the benefit of small performance spaces.