Bed Maker, a band of D.C. punk veterans, play for city that shaped them

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Amanda MacKaye hadn’t been in a steady band for years when she joined Jeff Barsky, Arthur Noll and Vin Novara to form Bed Maker in 2019. Despite a lifetime in the D.C. punk scene, the Fort Reno concert series organizer had been hesitant about teaming up with friends in a musical endeavor. Her first band, Desiderata, had dissolved in the early ’90s amid the post-punk-grunge-indie-rock explosion, a time when she says tensions were elevated and the mood was “do or die.”

“A lot of things felt crushed under that,” she says. “I don’t want to do anything that’s going to crush my friendships. … It’s really hard to make friends when you’re not 18!”

Thankfully, age has come with wisdom, and the musical veterans who make up the band have figured out how to navigate friendship and musicianship. After repeatedly declining their invitation to play, MacKaye eventually got over her fears and her doubts over how her punk vocals and lack of formal training would mesh with the style of several accomplished musicians. But at their first practice together, the band wrote a song, and MacKaye was drawn to the energy of not just the music but the people.

“A lot of it has to do with being adults, having families and different things pulling at us,” she says. “It gave us parameters.”

Those strictures help shape vital tunes that bring together MacKaye’s strong-as-ever vocals, adventurous riffage from Barsky, and a locked-in rhythm section from Noll and Novara. Bed Maker’s sound will be familiar to generations of D.C.’s DIYers and Dischord heads. But to MacKaye, any idea of a “D.C. sound” is more personal than audible.

“To me, the D.C. sound is really about how you’re moving through the heart of the city, how you are building your community,” she says.

For Bed Maker, that means an interest in performing at nontraditional venues where sonic exploration is not only allowable but required. And in the storied D.C. tradition, the band has a commitment to only playing the types of all-ages shows that MacKaye and her collaborators grew up going to at long-gone venues like d.c. space.

“I wouldn’t be playing a show at 53 if I hadn’t gone when I was 9,” she explains. “I want that possibility of inspiration to exist, always.”

Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Rhizome, 6950 Maple St. NW. rhizomedc.org. $10-$15.

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