Members of the band Motel Portrait, performing at the Rathole in Frederick. From left to right are Logan Wilms, Garrett Handelman, Brian Burns. Photo taken by Logan McGrady

The Rathole: Frederick’s Safe Haven for Local Music

For music fans, aspiring musicians, or anyone looking for local talent, the DIY house venue “The Rathole” in Frederick, Maryland, is the place to be at. Late afternoon on Saturday March 5, The Rathole welcomed three acts. An eclectic lineup consisting of psychedelic rockers “Kitewave”, solo guitar instrumentalist Maru Martinez, and punk-rockers “Motel Portrait.”

Gathered up in the living room and packed in tightly, the bands and music metaphorically and physically rocked the house. One minute, the audience was mesmerized by the slow burning, hard-rocking yet gentle Kitewave. Next minute they would be entranced by the dizzying and technical abilities of Maru Martinez’s guitar playing. Then to round up the night, Motel Portrait brought the house down with their ragged and angst-ridden form of punk rock.

Speaking with Motel Portrait, which currently consists of guitarist and vocalist Logan Wilms, bassist Brian Burns, and drummer Garrett Handelman,  band members offered insight into their beliefs, artistry, and where they came from regarding their local music scenes. First and foremost, band members aren’t shy about where their politics lie.

“A lot of our songs don’t necessarily have straightforward political lyrics, but we definitely have an antifascist theme to both lyrical themes and what we post on social media.” says Wilms. Burns added, “We check all the boxes on the far left, I would say.” He followed this by jokingly mentioning how the group hasn’t caught the attention of the FBI yet.

Burns said, “We do share a lot of political messages bluntly in our stage shows.” Detailing how that night they planned to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine as a result of Russia’s invasion. That night the band would adorn their instruments in blue and yellow tape in the design of Ukraine’s flag.

Regarding their songwriting, Wilms went on to discuss what he thinks are the most important aspects of songwriting. He said “The thing I try to focus on with songwriting is really making it as directly emotional as I can. And try to put as much as you can in a single line or in a chord progression.” In regard to lyrics, he said “If you have a lot to say and say it in a short amount of time it really works well for most kinds of songwriting.”

Asking about the band’s local music scene gave a surprising answer. Handelman said “I’m in DC, Brian is in Baltimore, and Logan is in Frederick. We’ve got a bit of everything.” He went on to detail how the Frederick scene is more alternative music oriented while Baltimore and DC are more punk oriented, with the latter being a more organized and collected scene.

Handelman added that when it comes to playing shows that, “We go from playing in houses like [The Rathole], to community centers, to actual venues, and even doughnut shops.”

The band went on to lay out their plans for the year, their debut album has been fully written and almost fully demoed, they are hoping to release it sometime this year. They also have booked their first official tour for some time in May which will last until early July.

When it comes to the mission of the Rathole, two of its founders, Lauren and Abie (who also play guitar and drums in Kitewave respectively) say it is providing accessibility for bands to play shows. Lauren said “[we want] to have a place for people to play. To be an open place for people to have their first show or for touring bands to come through and just be there.”

Abie added, “Frederick has got its spots [for musicians], but they tend to come and go quite often. Which I’m sure we will as well, we’re only here for now.” When asked about their favorite show they’ve hosted so far, Lauren said “The Flooded show with Tony From Bowling, Giovannia Orsini, and The Inebriators. That was a really awesome show, that was the last show in February. The vibe was just right with that one.”

The Rathole as a whole is a work of love and an excellent example of the phrase “do it yourself.” It is for the people, and by the people. For the city of Frederick, it is one of only a few places where people can go to find local music.

Hopefully this may start a trend where local music in Frederick may start to flourish and take a more definite shape, where there are more bands and more opportunities for them to find places to play. Time will only tell, but let’s hope this will be the start to something bigger. All information relating to shows at The Rathole can be found on their Instagram page, at “rathole21.”

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