News & Politics

What Makes Washington Rock?

When a fire at H Street’s Argonaut ended his DJ gig, Paul Vodra decided to start a Web platform.

Paul Vodra. Photograph by Erik Ueke.

Paul Vodra is a band geek. A Washington-band geek.

Vodra grew up in Falls Church playing drums and has always been in bands. He has DJ’d, both on the radio and in local clubs, as P.Vo, what he calls his “JLo name.” Now he has launched an Internet radio station dedicated to music from the area, called Hometown Sounds ( The project grew out of a 2009 DJ gig Vodra had at DC’s Argonaut at which he played only local music.

We talked to him about what makes Washington rock.

When did Hometown Sounds launch?

December 15. Right now I have it broken down into six genres—twang; rock; punk; urban, which is hip-hop; go-go; and lounge and dance. I equate those genres to places you can go in the area to hear music. Twang is Iota. Rock would be the Black Cat. Punk would be a church-basement show. Urban would be the Park at Fourteenth. Lounge would be Eighteenth Street Lounge. Dance would be U Street Music Hall.

I’m hoping this will evolve. There’s a big experimental-music scene in DC that goes under the banner of Sonic Circuits. I don’t have a ton of it now, but I’m hoping to pull together enough of it to at least do a weekly show.

What standout bands have you heard recently?

I’ve always enjoyed Title Tracks with John Davis. Some bands, like Title Tracks, you can really count on to be DC. A lot of other people aren’t here for the long term.

Is there a DC sound?

I don’t think there’s one thing dominating DC now. I think DC had a sound when Fugazi was around in the ’90s. They still cast a long shadow. There are so many bands where you can hear their influence—that Dischord sound.

Thievery Corporation is another band that’s influenced a lot of other local musicians, especially those on their label. They’re like one big family. They’re all guesting and doing vocals on each other’s albums.

People come here for their careers or politics, but all this local music is another way to discover how great the city they moved to is.

This article appears in the February 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.