Feed the Scene is the original "Band & Breakfast" started by Charm City resident Rachel Taft. Taft is the founder and essentially the one-woman show behind the organization that feeds and houses bands touring through Baltimore, all completely free of charge. Her house features a hostel-like bunk bedroom and depending on the night, you can find her serving up everything from bacon wrapped scallops to herb roasted frenched racks of lamb (recipe below!) to vegan friendly spicy citrus asparagus. Punknews contributing editor Kira Wisniewski spoke to Rachel about her organization, what she does and how she's doing her part as the "Jewish mother of punk rock."
Tell us a little history of Feed The Scene.
Feed the Scene started in August of 2011, in a happy and sad kind of way. The reason I was able to do it and the reason it came into existence is that my mother passed away almost four years ago.
Iâm sorry for your loss.
You know, the world sucks sometimes, but you deal with… When she did pass away, she left me some money. I was obviously not ready when she passed away; it was very sudden and we arenât exactly sure what happened, but she died in like thirty seconds. We were not expecting it at all. So I listened to a lot of music at that time and a lot of people wrote a lot of music that really helped me deal with her passing. I got to a point where I realized that I wanted to use that money to help people spread their music further. Because thereâs someone somewhere that needs to hear it. If you can go one city further away than what you were planning on – because you can stay here and get a decent meal and not have to spend money – then thatâs one city further that youâre going to get to go to. Maybe where someone who wasnât even going to go to the show to see you, but maybe needed to hear a song that you sang that night. Or maybe youâll randomly become their favorite band ever that they never knew about.
For instance, I have on my Red City Radio hoodie right now. I met them randomly at Fest last year when I was handing out free dessert. We had seen them at the Paper + Plastick after party and then found out that they were like three doors down in the hotel and we ended up hanging out after the after party. Fast forward to now and I just brought them dessert again down in Richmond because they are some of my favorite guys. I didnât know any of their music up until that moment at Fest and now, some of their songs I listen to practically every day. They have this lyric "The system was not designed for us" and I love that because I made up this job; itâs not a real job. I guess it is to a certain extent but it reminds me that you donât have to be corporate -- or if you are, that doesnât mean itâs bad – but Iâm doing something that the system wasnât quite ready for and still doesnât know how to classify.
What would you say Feed the Sceneâs mission statement is?
To help DIY musicians by providing a clean, safe space for them to sleep and a good home-cooked meal while on the road… I think that sums it up. We are like the girlfriend experience of hookers; except I'm like a stand-in mom. [Laughs.]
I realized that it was something that was needed. People need a safe place to stay when they donât know anybody in a city. From what people tell me, itâs fairly hard to get booked in Baltimore and a lot of people donât know people in Baltimore to stay with. I now know enough people that people know that Iâm generally a safe bet. Like, "Rachel isnât going to steal your stuff or watch you while you sleep or anything crazy." [Laughs.] Some band actually told me a story that they woke up and the person they were staying with was watching them sleep.
Who was the first band to come through?
The first band was the Dopamines. I emailed them over Facebook and they were like "You want to feed us? Like at your house?" And I was like "Yeah, I do!" They were really confused. I told them, "I know Vinnie. Go ahead and call your guy at Paper + Plastick and tell him Rachel wants to make you dinner and heâll tell you Iâm not a crazy person." They verified that I wasnât trying to rape them all over dinner.
Do you remember what you made them?
I think I made them bacon wrapped lamb chops with potatoes and wilted garlic spinach. We started pretty extravagant because we had a lot of money rolling around and now I definitely have to pull it back a bit. We still make a nice home cooked meal, but what we have for dinner now depends on what Safeway has on sale or what Costco has a special on. I feed a lot of people and it all adds up.
Tell us more about how you learned to cook.
I have no formal culinary training at all. My mother actually taught me how to cook through the internet when I was in college. My sophomore year, I had friends that moved off campus while my roommate from college and I were still living in a dorm. My mom used to send me really simple recipes. So, every Sunday we would go over to my friend's place that was off campus and I would cook there and try not to screw it up! I learned very fast not to put two trays on the same level of the oven because no air circulation happens and you will burn the bottoms of everything. It was a trial and error process. When I got my own place for the last few years of school, it became a fairly regular thing, where I would make something for dinner that my mother sent me the recipe for and anywhere from five to a dozen people would come over. Weâd eat dinner and watch a movie while drinking a box of wine.
Do you have a go-to recipe?
There are some things I make on a very regular basis just because theyâre quick. Now that Iâm working there are some things that are faster to make than others and I know how to make them without having to look at anything. Also, since I have so many types of eaters that come through – even within the same band there will be vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters – so I generally I try to make all the side dishes vegan. Iâll just switch out the protein for who can eat what. It doesnât make sense to make 17 versions of everything, but obviously I want every person to eat dinner because itâs no fun if you get here and everyone else is eating and you canât.
What are some of those go-to quick and easy things?
I make a parmesan polenta for when everyone can at least eat dairy. I do a spicy citrus asparagus which is vegan so everyone can eat that. Rosemary roasted potatoes is another vegan side. I have an eleven dijon marinade that I put on pork loin or pork chops or whatever is on sale at the grocery store. And I have an automatic marinader, so I can press a little button and marinate the meat like itâs been marinating for three hours instantly.
What is that - an automatic marinader?
Itâs a machine that you put all the meat and marinade in there and then it vacuum seals so it opens up all the pores in the meat and it goes in very quickly. Best $25 I ever spent, thank you Woot.com.
So I saw recently you posted that youâve feed 220 bands since August 2011 - which is pretty impressive - do you think that would have happened a year and a half ago?
No. I mean, I love it. It makes me happier than anything else has ever made me in my life. I very much like taking care of people and it allows me to have a more interesting interaction with the bands that come through. I get to actually sit down and have a family style dinner with them. Itâs not like youâre in a cafeteria or youâre in a fast food restaurant, we sit down and we talk. Recently we had Time Hitler and the Assholes from Space, and Iâm able to ask them in a casual setting, "Where did you get your band name?!"
You have mentioned earlier that people were a little skeptical of what you were trying to do at first, but thatâs obviously not the case now since youâre up in the 200s in under two years - how do you decide who can come to your "Band & Breakfast"?
Generally I still get bands through recommendations. There have only been one or two bands that have come through where I didnât know anyone or anyone who could vouch for them.
How does that work, how would a band get in touch if theyâre coming through Baltimore and you donât know them?
The best way is to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know when youâre coming through. Since I have more limited resources then I did before I canât take everyone - actually thatâs not true - I can house everyone, but Iâm having to look at my budget to see how many people I can feed a month now. We did a Kickstarter for the bunk beds, so I can definitely house everyone that comes through assuming that Iâm still living in this house! Itâs going to have to be first come, first served on the feeding aspect. The only time I really think Iâd say no thanks, is if I heard that a band was disrespectful or known for destroying places they stayed. I donât want to be taken for granted.
Of course, you have to be smart about it.
And most people that come through at this level are honestly just so grateful. Especially after we got the bunk beds in here. They arrive and theyâre like "I get my own bed?! This is ridiculous! And it has a mattress on it! Iâm not sleeping on the floor next to your seven dogs?! What is this!?" Itâs really wonderful and I havenât had any problems with anyone whoâs come through.
Who is Feed the Scene? Is it just you? Or are there helpers/volunteers?
Pretty much just me. I have friends that help. Joe Kuhlman is my main go-to for when we do catering. Honestly, almost every single one of my friends have helped at some point. I have a really great group of friends who will either help with everything from catering to bringing over a extra bag of rice that they might have one day.
I hate this, but just by being a female in a male-dominated scene, Iâm sure you come across this attitude of people thinking you have some ulterior motive.
People often wonder if Iâm doing this because Iâm trying to be a groupie. "You just want to get close to bands and sleep with guys in bands." And no, Iâm not. I mean, Iâm not going to say itâs never happened; sometimes someone will be just so adorable, but I have a boyfriend now so thatâs null and void. But itâs more of mothering thing for me. Iâve taken care of people my whole life. I fix tour vans, Iâve funded over 70 Kickstarters… itâs definitely more about taking care of people and getting to them know. Iâll be the Jewish mother of the punk scene until the day I die.
As you mentioned, this all started because of the money you inherited, but now how do you sustain? What are your other funding sources?
Well right now I donât have any. Iâm trying to figure that out. I have people who have offered their legal assistance to file for my 501(c)3 to become an official charity. And then I will be able to take tax-deductible donations. Thatâs the reason I havenât really been asking for donations other than the Kickstarter, because I donât want to have to approach people twice and I feel like without the 501(c)3 that I canât approach places like grocery stores or beer sponsors. Like I want to approach Natty Boh to sponsor my beer fridge. I have so many people that come through town that donât know that Natty Boh exists and thatâs generally what I have in the fridge downstairs because one of my generous, lovely friends had donated a case of it. Then people will drink it during dinner and will be like "Oh, Iâll go buy this at the bar tonight instead of a Miller Lite or something generic." Itâs marketing for them; I feel like it would be a good fit. I mean a 30-pack a month isnât going to kill their budget, but it would hopefully help the bands coming through. I would like to apply for grants. [Feed the Scene] is not sustainable just through me anymore.
What do you see for the future of Feed the Scene?
Eventually, Iâd really love to do this all over the country. I want to develop a website called "Indieground Railroad" made for people that put up bands all over the country. They can use the site to network and be able to contact each other for recommendations. Bands could also use the site to find people to put them up. I know there are some things that sort of do that, but not quite the way I want to have it done.
Even though your 501(c)3 status is in process, if someone wanted to donate or wanted to volunteer, could they?
Absolutely, I mean they would have to understand I couldnât give them a tax write-off, but even $5 helps. Recently I served 30 people for $70, so even $5 is a huge amount of money to me. A few times Iâve had a band stay here for longer than one day and two other bands stayed when they were recording. So theyâre doing laundry and then I also wash all the bedding each time a band stays, so the food donations are very helpful, but I also have a water and electric bill that does go up. But gift cards to places like Safeway and Costco are also very helpful.
To contact Rachel or send a donation to Feed The Scene email email@example.com .
Herb Roasted Frenched Racks
2 Racks of Lamb
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic – Crushed
1-2 tsp Coarse Ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1 handful chopped Flat Leaf Parsley
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp dried thyme
Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees
Combine olive oil, garlic, pepper, salt, parsley, rosemary and thyme in a bowl. Mix with your fingers until its completely coated with the oil. You may need to add more oil depending on how saturated it is. Rub the herb/oil mixture on the racks of lamb then put them in a ziplock back in the fridge and let them marinate for 2 hours. Put the racks of lamb in a baking dish or sheet then in the oven at 475 for 10 minutes. After the initial 10, turn the oven down to 375 for another 10 minutes. Then take the lamb out of the oven cover the pan with tin foil and let rest for another 10 minutes so the juices recirculate.