If Baltimore’s underground music scene handed out a Most Valuable Player award, I’m sure Tim Kabara would perennially find himself on the short list to receive it. Tim, a tall, stoic 36-year-old, has been “hanging out” in the Baltimore music and arts scene for two decades, attending shows, writing reviews, crafting and disseminating mix tapes, performing in his own bands from time to time.
I know for me personally, Tim’s attendance at a show I’ve put together or am performing at is a legitimizing force. It’s as if the performance has been anthologized.
Tim now teaches full-time at a Xaverian Catholic high school, but still manages to make it out regularly to local events. He writes for Beatbots, a collectively run local music blog, and since November 2010, has contributed monthly music reviews to WYPR’s Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast.
Recently, I talked to Tim about Baltimore music and his participation in it.
Where did you grow up?
I am from East Baltimore, a neighborhood called Bayview, past Highlandtown on Eastern Avenue, last stop before the Baltimore County suburb of Dundalk (where I moved with my family and lived for a bit).
When did you become active in the music scene?
In the fall of 1992, I was a junior in high school. I befriended Anthony Malat, who kept insisting I see his new band. I did, in March of 1993, and all the years of seeking out the music I heard in my head was over. The band was Universal Order of Armageddon. Through them, I fell in with the Baltimore music and arts underground where I have remained ever since.
What have your own musical ventures consisted of?
In the late 20th/early 21st century, I was in several local groups. The first of note was Within, a group with Mike Apichella and Lisa Starace. Let’s say it was 1995. I was a replacement vocalist, recruited because I could scream like a wounded animal. When that group ended shortly after I joined, I formed the Unheard Ones (me on guitars and vocals) with Lisa (bass) and Eli Jones (drums). The Unheard Ones broke up in the middle 1990s.
Around the turn of the century, I formed The Legendary Champions with Chris James and Gary Barrett (who is still active in the scene in the group Gary B & The Notions). The Champions broke up in the early 2000s. I have also recorded and performed as a solo artist here and there under my own name and under other names. I stopped making music to focus on writing a few years ago after almost a decade of fruitlessly trying to start a new group, but I still contribute a track to the “Baltimas” compilation each year.
It seems to me that music is much more than a hobby for you — more like a vocation. Why is it important to you?
I think it became a reason to wake up in the morning and remains so. Through it, I get to be around interesting and exciting people with whom I feel a kinship. Maybe it is a “wave-length” thing? I have always felt most at home among artists and musicians who are often outsiders and outcasts in some way. I want to be someone who encourages this sort of envelope-pushing culture and, especially, to be welcoming to those new to it, whether they are just passing through or are “lifers” like myself. Next year, it will be 20 years of hanging out and going to events in Baltimore, and I consider it time well spent.
What have been the most fallow times for local music?
Fallow times occur when groups break up, seismic cultural shifts occur, when the Internet happens, when everybody leaves for college. My personal fallow years were 1998-1999 after the break-up of one of my groups (the Unheard Ones). I tried to become “normal” and I wasn’t very good at it, went through the painful transition from college life to “adult” life. During that time, other aspects of my life were great, but I discovered I was in this underground thing for life, for good or for bad.
How does being a teacher fit with your passion for youth culture?
It definitely keeps me current with music. The key is to respect them and to respect their viewpoint. Let them talk. Hear what they have to say. Never start a sentence with “What you kids don’t understand is that when I was younger…” Now, former students of mine are running around the underground and making great music. I am happy they joined us.
How has your relationship to music changed over the years?
I mentioned earlier the Internet happening. I have always been a buyer of music and a collector of physical objects. Now, I have a hard drive overflowing with songs. It is terrible and wonderful. I don’t think the old ways were better (buying a physical “record” from a store), but I am from them and prefer them.
I have heard and seen more, so it is harder to impress me in a live setting, maybe. I try to stay attentive to the performance whenever I am at a show..
Any new bands that you are particularly interested in?
I am very excited about the Horse Lords. Outside of that, I try to remain open to what is happening, attending as many events as I can, making sure to break my patterns and go to things off my beaten path. I am interested, in general, in new bands.
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