Fredericksburg’s central location makes it hard for the small Virginia city to carve out its own musical identity. But a recent show gave hopeful hints of a vital new scene coming together.
For years, Fredericksburg has struggled to distinguish itself in the underground music scene. A relatively small city stuck halfway between Richmond and DC, shows in Fredericksburg tend to occur either under the auspices of Mary Washington University or in houses. But a recent show at Fredericksburg’s 718 Venue combining local Fredericksburg bands with top Richmond talent showed that the city’s music fans are hungry for more.
The show earlier this month featured Richmond bands Plastic Nancy and Camp Howard, along with Fredericksburg’s Doe Deer and Lake Alden. Teens and twenty something packed the venue, enjoying the excellent sounds offered by all of the bands involved.
“This was such a solid line-up, and it’s amazing that there could be such great bands playing together,” said Sam Schneider, singer and guitarist of Plastic Nancy. “It’s a rare occurrence.”
The 718 doesn’t usually play host to live music; most of the time, it’s used for wedding receptions, business gatherings and the like. However, these kinds of concerts may be happening more often. King George’s Lake Alden set up the concert with the 718, introducing a new type of event to the location and putting a new space on local music fans’ radar.
“I heard this was one of the first shows ever done here like this,” said Doe Deer guitarist Matt Leibowitz. “I really didn’t know what to expect from this place, but it was really fun.”
Those who attended the show were just as pleasantly surprised by the venue. The performances took place in an elegant space with paintings along the brick walls and beautiful hardwood floors lined with white trim.
“I love the artsiness about it, the paintings on the walls,” said Schneider. “It’s like an art gallery.”
Nonetheless, the venue came alive with rocking vibrations as the band’s played and people began dancing like the venue was made for it. However, the energy level hadn’t yet peaked as Doe Deer took the stage, and lead singer Nabeel Mirza knew exactly what to do.
“It’s my thing — when I see people aren’t moving enough I try to get them to do it,” said Mirza, who began Doe Deer’s set by throwing himself into the crowd of swaying bodies. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Oftentimes people are just like ‘get off me.’ I’m just having fun!”
Once he got people moving they couldn’t stop, and when Plastic Nancy began their set afterward with a call for the pit to open, people ran to the middle as fast as they could.
“I’m so glad people moved around and were dancing,” said Schneider. “What it really comes down to is just a beautiful time.”
For Fredericksburg’s fans of underground punk and indie music, seeing favorite bands play usually means traveling to Richmond or DC. This makes it tough for the city to establish a local scene of its own, as Fredericksburg’s fans and bands have no way of picking each other out of a much larger crowd of Richmond or DC locals.
However, as the city’s bands start to outgrow house shows and look for opportunities to reach more potential fans in the area, the need to create a more tightly-knit scene closer to home is growing. For a venue like The 718 to open their doors to the local scene is definitely a step in the right direction.
“I’m glad people showed up, it makes me really happy,” said Schneider. “Last time I played here, I played at [music store] Picker’s Supply. There were like 30 people. It wasn’t bad, but this was so much more. It makes you feel like, ‘Hey, maybe something’s actually going on here.’”
“Fredericksburg has a scene,” Plastic Nancy drummer Brian Albertson chimed in. “It ain’t no dead zone!”
Schneider voiced his agreement. “If the opportunity comes, we’ll definitely be coming back.”
Photos by Alicen Hackney