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Raising Up

Far-flung band seeks stage time at D.C.-area venues.

When Nathan Robinson, lead singer of indie folk band Raise Up Roof Beams, moved back to the Fairfax area, the challenges of reestablishing a band with an already strong reputation in Harrisburg, Pa. quickly became apparent.

As a brand new band back in 2004, Raise Up Roof Beams spent a lot of time sending out demos, begging coffee shops and venues to let them play for free and seeking out press for reviews. Transferring their art from a familiar local to a larger area means starting over.

The rustic rockers are adjusting. "There is more opportunity in Northern Virginia and D.C. to play in legitimate venues," said Robinson. "Pitching art to people is a soul-crushing experience when you spend a lot of effort and time making it, and you know they’ll most likely write you off as ‘just another band.’ You have to adapt [to a new location] and acknowledge the tradeoffs."

Of their self-governing beginnings, Robinson said, "We were just making noise and yelling and hoping people would listen at that point. We’ve grown in size and honed our sound to a more mature and full structure over time."

Fine-tuning is nothing new for the rootsy performers. Each of the collaborators resides in different places and lives separate lives. A former resident of Fairfax, Chantilly and Arlington, Robinson attended The Fair Oaks Academy through high school. He works in politics and is pursuing a master’s degree in philosophy. Percussionist Harrison Gordner resides in Rochester, N.Y. and teaches and performs in drum lines, percussion ensembles, and orchestras. Justin Arawjo (mandolin, accordion, banjo) owns Communitea Graphics, a screen-printing business, weaves baskets, and plays with a duo back in Pennsylvania. Bassist Kelly Musser produces solo work in Chicago, while pianist Alan Carroll plays with Philadelphia-based The Green Trees Band and works in graphic design.

"We’re all separate in our everyday lives," said Robinson, "but we have a ridiculous amount of fun together, and try to help as many people out along the way as possible. That is rule number one, and we’ve never broken it. Music is such a unifying and gratifying thing, and it’s beautiful to see how it affects people." The group has met regularly, for local performances, and Robinson is also pursuing solo area shows.

"I love rock and roll, and I have some ideas for bands that I would like to explore later in my life," said Robinson. "I’m writing those ideas down and saving them for my mid-life crisis. I will not be buying a Porsche. I will be starting a completely face-melting rock band."