Most music festivals aim to wow potential attendees with top-bill talent, but Scapescape, now in its third year, is not most festivals.
"It sounds weird to say, but we want quantity over quality. We're looking for consistency throughout the day," said co-organizer Jimmy MacMillan.
In other words, the folks behind Scapescape hope to expose listeners to as many different acts — 115 in all, and only 10 that aren't locally based — as possible between this coming Friday and Sunday at various Station North locations, including the Crown, the Windup Space, the Metro Gallery and lots on North Charles Street and West North Avenue.
Scapescape founder Dave Underhill created the festival in 2011 after his friend, Reuben Kroiz, asked him to book a farewell concert for Hampden's the G-Spot, which Kroiz managed until it closed that fall. Underhill had wanted to create a festival that "brought disparate elements in Baltimore music together," and Kroiz's offer was the right opportunity at the time.
MacMillan says Scapescape's main goal remains the same: To bring together genres and communities that normally wouldn't interact. Judging from the lineup, Scapescape has succeeded once again, booking acts whose genres include multiple veins of rock (indie, garage, noise, experimental), underground rap, sitar-driven pop, Baltimore Club and more.
"It just gives everybody a chance to hang out," MacMillan said. "You get 100 bands together, and you figure, they spend a weekend together and they're going to exchange some ideas, like, 'You have a P.A.? We have a lighting system! Let's play.' I've seen it happen."
Scapescape's inclusive, community-building attitude fits nicely in the Station North arts district, and organizers say the nonprofit organization Station North Arts and Entertainment Inc. — and its executive director, Ben Stone, in particular — has embraced the festival completely.
"They've given us free rein of the area," MacMillan said. "They allow us the freedom to make noise and have the foot traffic."
While Scapescape sells local art and features theater acts at the Station North Chicken Box and Liam Flynn's Ale House, it is primarily about music.
It certainly isn't about money, he says, pointing out that organizers have never made a profit from Scapescape. MacMillan says Underhill spends two months after the festival tracking down bands with envelopes that have their cut from merchandise, tickets and alcohol sales inside.
"We do this because we enjoy the music community and we like to contribute to it in a way that isn't writing a check," said MacMillan.
Since this is Scapescape '13, here are 13 acts (all from Baltimore, unless otherwise noted) not to miss over Labor Day weekend.
• FRIDAY NIGHT
11:30 p.m.-midnight at the Crown, 1910 N. Charles St.
The poet/rapper's debut project, "Invictos," was named by Spin magazine — for good reason — as one of "rap's most slept-on releases of 2013's first quarter." Ali, who works closely with another Scapescape act in Schwarz, has won over many audiences with performances remarkable for his unhinged urgency. "Every time [I see him], my jaw is on the floor," said MacMillan.
10:45 p.m.-11:30 p.m. at the Metro Gallery, 1700 N. Charles St.
The sample-collagist born Matthew Papich released his well-received second album, "Moody Coup," earlier this year. He's received praise from tastemakers such as Pitchfork and the Fader, and his expressive, rhythmic compositions make it easy to hear why.
8 p.m.-9:15 p.m. at Main Lot, 1712 N. Charles St.
From a technical perspective, there may not be another Baltimore rapper improving at the rate of DDm, and Underhill agrees. "I'm not sure if we can consider DDm a sleeper pick anymore, but I just think he's an exceedingly talented MC, and he's going to be going places in the near future," he said.
TT the Artist
9:30 p.m.-10 p.m. at the Main Lot
When A-list producer, Major Lazer member and all-around booty-shaking music connoisseur Diplo needed a female voice for his 2013 song, "Dat a Freak," he called upon TT the Artist to set off the track. Her set, which will likely include songs she did with another Scapescape artist, Murder Mark, will be sweaty, infectious and unabashed fun.
12:15 a.m.-1 a.m. at the Crown
Before they were employees of the Crown, bartender Adam Lempel and manager Brendan Sullivan were Weekends, a noisy garage-rock duo with deceivingly complex songs. Scapescape will be the record release event of Weekends' third album, "New Humans."
• SATURDAY NIGHT
Midnight-1 a.m. at the Crown
Sensual, slow-drip R&B; duo Chiffon is made up of Chase O'Hara (who plays solo shows as Winks) and Amy Reid (formerly of InEveryRoom). Their songs have a mesmerizing quality that places heavy emphasis on the beat and feeling of the track.
8:45 p.m.-9:45 p.m. at the Crown
We haven't received a new album from singer and sitarist Amrita "Ami" Kaur Dang since 2011's "Hukam," but she's been busy nonetheless, most notably including a recent tour of Asia with critics' darling Grimes. Perhaps we'll hear new material from her next full-length, "Sun on Our Skins," Saturday night.
The Great American Canyon Band
8:30 p.m.-9:15 p.m. at the North Lot, 10 W. North Ave.
Praised by NPR and Stereogum, the husband-and-wife duo of Paul and Krystal Jean Masson quietly released "Lost at Sea" in April. With its channeling of Arcade Fire's early anthemic work and the naturalistic folk of Lost in the Trees, the four-track EP is one of the year's best releases by a Baltimore band.
6 p.m.-7 p.m. at the Main Lot
Earlier this year, MacMillan was on tour with the Snails (which features members of Future Islands and Lower Dens) and fell in love with the opening act, The Lollipops from Raleigh, N.C. "Every night there was an unbelievable amount of energy," MacMillan said. "It reminded me of that Baltimore attitude — leave it all out there."
7:15 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Crown
Underhill's pick of the weekend is the European duo of Sophia Hamadi and Rocio Ortiz, better known as Opale. "It's just very forward-thinking French electro-dream pop, for lack of a better way to describe it," Underhill said. "They have a good ear for tone and melody."
7:15 p.m.-8:15 p.m. at the Windup Space
As a classically trained pianist and teacher, he's Kevin Gift. But under the pseudonym Wendel Patrick, he puts elements of hip-hop, jazz, electronic music and more in a blender. The sophisticated, challenging results paint Patrick as an artist hard to pin down and impossible to ignore.
• SUNDAY NIGHT
11 p.m.-midnight at the Windup Space, 12 W. North Ave.
Led by former Double Dagger drummer Denny Bowen, the no-frills rock quartet released what is arguably the city's best album with May's "Ideal Cities." Expect amps turned up loud and any predictable Nirvana jokes to be laughed off by the band.
Midnight-1:30 a.m. at the Crown
If you've been to a few DIY shows around town in the past year, chances are you've seen this intricate instrumental quartet. Expect a more expansive set from the band, according to organizers, who asked the group to do something different for the festival. For example, there will be solo and duet sets within the band's 90 minutes on stage.
If you go
Scapescape '13 takes place Thursday (theater performances only) through Sunday at various Station North locations. A four-day ticket is $20, while single-day tickets are $10. Go to missiontix.com for tickets and scapescape.wordpress.com for further information.