The evolution of the DMV’s music scene over the last two decades is something to behold. The scene is no longer dominated by punk kids or go-go, though stalwarts from both are holding court. Soul, hip-hop, classical and crossover musicians are on the rise, ushering in the future and putting D.C. on the map. Read on for five behind-the-scenes spotlights of our top local picks, and 18 DMV musicians you’ve got to know.
Jacky Cougar, “the nom de rock” of Des Demonas’ frontman, is the D.C.-based band’s greatest embodiment. He’s unapologetically honest, self-aware — of both his and his band’s faults — complex and armed with a warm, magnetic, 6-foot, 5-inch personality to match his imposing stature.
Cougar admittedly suffers from imposter syndrome among his melodic brethren. Yet his presence and impressive knowledge proves he’s a true student of rock ‘n’ roll, and no one would question he’s a bonafide musician — even if he does.
Like the Kenyan-born Cougar, it’s clear Des Demonas’ sound is fluid — and they wouldn’t have it any other way. When pressed to categorize their sound and genre, Cougar lands somewhere on the spectrum of weird punk (think San Antonio-born Butthole Surfers), post-punk and rock n’ roll.
“My drummer says it’s like rock n’ roll, but some people say post-punk,” Cougar says. “I lean more toward my drummer — the punk part of it is because I can’t sing. So it’s a rock band with a punk singer.”
As Cougar describes it, the post-punk movement spurned a wave of non-traditional artists, including people of color and women eager to dive into the punk scene, emboldened by punk’s perceived rudimentary elements. These details fit Des Demonas’ peculiarity, almost ‘to a T.’
Des Demonas are the antithesis of legendary megabands like the Stones and Beatles, who deliver traditional, consistently on-key songs. Their songs are akin to chaotic creativity, where structure is a secondary concern to being immersed in a shared place of sudden innovation.
“There’s a moment where you don’t know what the song is and everybody’s just playing something,” Cougar says of their improvisational style of lyric and song production.
And with songs like “Cure For Love,” “Forest Fires” and Cougar’s favorite “The Ballad of Ike & Tina,” off their 2021 “Cure For Love” album, you can’t help but have your curiosity piqued.
For the full lineup of other local artists that should be on your radar, go here.
Follow Des Demonas on Instagram @desdemonasdc.
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