Over the River and Through the Woods: A Trip to See Dope Body and Roomrunner in Harford County
Abingdon is a speck of a town, nestled between Route 40 and Interstate 95 just beyond the banks of the Bush River in Harford County. It is close enough to these major thoroughfares and to the towns of Aberdeen and Bel Air to feel like the byproduct of suburban sprawl but desolate enough to look like it’s a rural outpost in the middle of nowhere. According to the Harford County Board of Elections, 56.15 percent of the voters who cast their ballots in the Abingdon Elementary School cafeteria this past presidential election favored the Romney-Ryan ticket.
I knew little of Abingdon before last weekend, but I knew enough about Harford County to sense the obvious, and likely intentional, juxtaposition of noisy Baltimore rock bands Dope Body and Roomrunner playing a show in this corner of the world. With that in mind, regular City Paper photographer J.M. Giordano and I went northeast on the night of Nov. 30 to see how it would play out.
As we turned off Route 40, about seven miles outside Aberdeen, and started navigating a small back road, past Buddy’s Auto and a dealership for Caterpillar heavy machinery, Giordano quipped that the bands would likely be playing behind chicken wire, a reference to one of the rough-and-tumble joints Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi played in The Blues Brothers. He was joking, of course, but the truth of it is we didn’t really know who would show up to this show and how they would react when they did. This was a Baltimore warehouse show set in the heart of Fox Nation, and unlike your standard DIY show around the city, the outcome of heading to Longshots Sports Bar and Grill — home, it’s worth noting, of the Camel Toe Patio — seemed entirely unpredictable.
Aside from that ostentatiously named patio, which is visually represented on the bar’s Facebook page with an illustration of a camel draping its leg over a clothed woman’s shoulder and covering her crotch with its hoof, there are three rooms in Longshots: a pool room, featuring two tables and walls covered in more than 30 different types of Coors Light signs; the bar area with a long rectangular bar and a few high tables with four bar stools each; and a large open room with a stage, yet another pool table, and an unused back bar. On the bar sat an officially licensed box for score submissions to the American Poolplayers Association; on the wall behind the bar was a miniature shrine dedicated to NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Seated in the bar area as Bel Air punk act Sea Patterns played in the adjoining room was a man in his early 70′s with slicked-back black hair and a gray suit. Was he enjoying the music? He waved off this idea and said, “I’ve heard better.” The dozen or so other folks sitting around the bar — the guy in his mid 40′s wearing a long-sleeve white shirt with Mr. Boh on it, the burly, bald, mustachioed man wearing a Ravens sweatshirt and nursing a Smirnoff Ice of his own volition, the woman in her late 30′s who was practically pouring out of her shirt, drawing the attention of several men — none of them seemed to mind. They were locked into their conversations or their drinks or their pool. Frankly, I don’t think our suited friend would have really complained had we not asked him.
The prospect of an oddball fish-out-of-water scenario, like the one in Blues Brothers, officially ceased when the area in front of the stage was overrun by a like-minded school of fish. They filled the room and packed tightly in front of the stage: teenagers, kids who’ve had to suffer through the “I don’t want you going to the city. It’s too dangerous” speech from their parents, kids who don’t have cars of their own, kids without a half decent music venue for miles and miles. They came because, for them, for their group, this was the coolest thing happening in Harford County. It was the coolest thing to happen there in some time.
And they treated it as such, recklessly and carelessly throwing their bodies about as Roomrunner sent out a blast of gnarling, screeching guitars. Conjure up any cliche about teenage angst you want, but as they pushed, shoved, and pogoed about the room, seeing them let everything loose looked volatile but felt thrilling. At one point a guy hopped on his buddy’s shoulders to furiously fling his fists towards the stage. He came perilously close to hitting his head on the fan above but did not seem to give one single fuck. A layer of condensation on the windows behind the stage continued to creep upward as the heat and energy rose.
The crowd was a little bit smaller but no less riotous for the contorted angular rock of Dope Body. At one point, singer Andrew Laumann, perhaps caught up in the moment, declared to the sweaty mass, “I’m self-proclaimed white trash!” It was meant to be a unifier, but it felt as much like a recognition of the obvious divide in Longshots. The kids didn’t identify with the people at the bar and the people at the bar didn’t identify with the kids. The two worlds brushed up against each other without seeming to notice. And if they did, they didn’t seem to care. Both were willing to leave well enough alone. Left to their own devices, the kids were able to shed all of the frustrations of living in Harford County, if only for a little bit. In that sense, the night, and the venue, were kind of perfect.