DC Punks Are Reuniting for a Festival

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The two-day “Reunion Summer” festival and picnic in July will feature both longtime and new bands.

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St. Stephen’s Church, which has long been a space for concerts and activism, will host the festival. Photograph by Ike Allen.

Veteran DC punk musician Amanda MacKaye was baptized at St. Stephen’s Church, and estimates she saw her first concert there when she was seven. But the event she’s helping organize there next month, Reunion Summer, isn’t about the past.

“I’m not a fan of nostalgia, so it’s not meant to be a nostalgic event at all,” MacKaye says. “But time has pushed people elsewhere in the country, their families have changed, and we’re in a space now where we’d like to be able to get people together more.”

Reunion Summer, a two-day festival with eight local bands, will be a celebration of DC punk and a kind of community reunion after pandemic isolation and a slow splintering of the punks who first coalesced around DIY venues in the 1980s. (The name is a tribute to the “Revolution Summer” of 1985.) Just as important, the festival will bring longtime bands together with younger musicians.

Shows will take place on two nights—Friday, July 28, and Saturday, July 29—and tickets cost $15 per day. The shows will benefit St. Stephen’s, the Columbia Heights church that has served as a space for community activism and punk shows for decades. A community picnic will take place at Fort Reno on Saturday before the show. True to the DC punk ethos, the shows and picnic will welcome all ages.

On Sunday, July 30, the day after the festival, MacKaye and her fellow organizer, Katy Otto, encourage attendees to join a group visit to the DC punk archive at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. (The archive is hosting its own free punk shows this summer on the MLK library roof).

MacKaye, who also organizes the Fort Reno summer concert series, defines punk broadly: “To be a punk band or DIY band in the DC area does not mean you’re playing what is traditionally thought of as hardcore music,” MacKaye says. “It really is about how you’re approaching the world, what your intentions are.”

On Friday, the lineup will feature DC punk quartet Bacchae, Alexandria indie-rock group Jackie and the Treehorns, riot grrrl-influenced veterans Princessed, and Prince George’s County pop-punk artist Breezy Supreme.

MacKaye, whose brothers are Ian and Alec MacKaye, will play with her band, Bed Maker, on the 29th. So will the longtime Morgantown, West Virginia, post-hardcore band Lincoln, reunited ’90s emo group Samuel S.C., and DC rock trio Continuals.

There are no headliners or top-billed bands, and MacKaye says she doesn’t want to share too many details about the music. “Just show up and check it out,” she says. “One of the beauties of live music up close and personal is: The live show is not the recording. You’re getting something unique. It’s something ephemeral, it’s never going to happen again.”

Ike Allen

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