Every night there are thousands of young people in Baltimore who venture out to the city’s hidden gems, such as The Compound. A reconverted warehouse a mile east of Penn station, this communal art and living space also contains an activities and storage space for Boone Street farm (whose address I am forbidden from disclosing). On Friday the 13th of February, a fundraiser was organized by the Urban farm, based a few minutes east of the location, with live music offered by Cole Tut (Acoustic/Folk) from Baltimore, Chain and The Gang (‘Crime Rock’) from D.C., as well as DJ performances by psychoelectropunk icon Dan Deacon.
Duo Cole Tut warmed up The Compound with mellow tunes produced by a ukulele player/singer and an accordion player. As a local emerging band, they were pleasantly greeted by the large audience of the venue, respectful of the duo’s slow and melancholic pieces, on a night that was promised to be anything but lethargic.
The Compound makes for an interesting space. It’s not a traditional concert hall, but a large room without a stage, surrounded by white walls covered by psychedelic graffiti, including a multicolored smiling skull, and mysterious humanoid figures among other things. The event was organized around providing funding for Boone Street Farm, an urban farm in East Baltimore started in 2010. According to founder Cheryl Carmona, the farm provides “a space for children to play, for neighbors to garden, local artists to create art, neighbors to gather, and more.” It grants the community free garden space to farm, which necessitates continuous funding to enact its various endeavors, which was the reason for the fundraiser.
While home cooked pizza was being sold to listeners, Chain and The Gang, a crime rock band from Washington D.C., began playing right after the acoustic duo. Immediately the mood of the night changed, with ‘crime’ rock consisting of heavy metal and hard rock played at a fast pace by musicians dressed with 1960s detective hats, suit and ties. The loud and energetic yells of the lead singer and the incessant and rapid distorted guitar solos prompted many spectators to start mosh pits, and at (risky) times, crowd surfing, which boosted the excited mood of the audience. Overall, Chain and The Gang channeled the audience’s inner hunger for adrenaline, with a rapid succession of distorted and well-executed pieces, making for a memorable performance.
Deacon’s electric music resulted in the shakiest part of the night, as the crowd was expecting him to play works from his new album, but something different happened. Deacon, the main reason that many had travelled to the semi-hidden venue, began his set by playing Last Nite by The Strokes, hinting an upbeat and quick-paced alternative/indie rock vibe of his playlist. Immediately after the first song, he began blasting European house/disco hits, surprising everyone, and taking the mic in his hands and yelling ‘I’m high!’ This statement was extremely comedic, but also resulted in a lack of original pieces being played, and an overall mediocre set. It was clear to the overexcited audience that Dan Deacon had agreed to perform simply to attract a large crowd to the fundraising event, which was extremely kind on his part, but moderately deceiving to 98% of the venue, which expected an actual performance and a previously prepared playlist from the artist.
Home cooked meals, pizza, drinks, great bands, and an extremely enthusiastic audience made up the night, but few attendees really knew what it was about. The promise of a Dan Deacon concert convinced spectators to buy into the fundraiser, and led ultimately to a great night in part of Baltimore they wouldn’t have ventured into before. Since this was a fundraiser for an urban farm, it seems an opportunity was lost to properly inform attendees about the cause they were supporting. There were no informational materials around to educate concertgoers about Boone Street Farm’s mission or how to support them. The idea of the winter fundraising event seemed great in practice, and definitely provided funding for the endeavors of the urban farm, but raised revenue through sensationalism caused by Deacon’s presence, without bothering to connect the audience to the actual goal of the fundraiser. All that said, the evening saw a diverse range of music, people and foods and proved The Compound to be a worthy space for a great evening in Baltimore.
About the author: Daniel Contaldo is a Baltimore based filmmaker, originally from Florence, Italy interested in arts events in Baltimore as well as film production and photography.