By late 2006 and early 2007, Wham City had started to reach critical mass at the Copy Cat. More and more people showed up at their events, and enough indie publications were writing about Wham City's work to earn them some minor renown. It became nearly impossible for them to hold small-scale, intimate events because the word always seemed to get out, and too many people would crash the party. In June of 2007, their landlord declined to renew their lease.
"We were too big for our britches," said Wham City member Adam Endres. "We were getting press and throwing these big festivals. It was impossible to throw an underground show anymore."
Whartscape morphed into a weekend-long outdoor festival. This past year, about 3,000 people requested tickets for each day, more than Whartscape could accommodate. And Deacon wants the festival to be open to as many people as possible.
"I don't want it to be kept secret, or just for the community that already knows about it," Deacon said. "What makes it exciting is people finding out about it and having it change the way they think and the way they act. It's not fun to preach to the choir."
Next year, Deacon said they can't justify scheduling Whartscape on the same weekend as Artscape unless the two festivals merge.
"It doesn't make any sense for us," Deacon said. We gain nothing for doing it during Artscape."
Members of Wham City plan to meet with Artscape officials in the coming weeks about expanding the festival to include Whartscape. But that might not be a possibility, said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts, which helps promote Artscape.
"The economic forecast not being good, we're looking how to reduce, not expand, next year," Gilmore said. "That doesn't mean the footprint won't include the expansion area we did last year, but we will have to make some cuts in programming and expenses."
But Wham City's biggest challenge has been finding a new home. Wham City members found a space on Calvert Street and sank $15,000 into renovating it, only to find it wasn't zoned for live entertainment. They also ran up against resistance at community board meetings, where a couple residents adamantly opposed Wham City's plans.
"You've got to get all that support built up and start approaching people in advance," said Dale Hargrave, a board member on the Greenmount West Community Association.
"Everybody needs to be on the same sheet of music, and I don't think they were," he said. "They were real nice folks, and we tried to accommodate them the best we could. I think there were mistakes made on all sides."
Wham City abandoned the plan to renovate the Calvert Street building, and resumed their search for a suitable warehouse. They got a minor break when Zodiac Restaurant in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District closed and owner Joy Martin offered the space to them. At about 150 capacity, it's too small for a lot of their events, but will be a good home for more intimate nights, Endres said. He's in charge of booking Zodiac, and plans on starting up comedy nights, theater performances and lectures there.
"It's a step in the right direction," Endres said. "We still want a warehouse space. We definitely need a place for bigger shows."
While Wham City is on the hunt for a new home, they're going to continue to do all they can to help connect and cultivate Baltimore's music scene, Deacon said. The Baltimore Round Robin Tour appears to have left a lasting impressing on its lineup. Band members who were relative strangers before the tour are now good friends. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, all of the musicians from the tour who were still in town sat down for a big Thanksgiving dinner. And a number of these musicians formed a new group (tentatively titled the Baltimore Humans) who will meet on a regular basis and share their ideas.
"By the time we got back, I felt like I was part of Wham City," said Carly Ptak, a member of the experimental music duo Nautical Almanac. "It definitely created a bond."
Considering how important Wham City has been to Baltimore's arts and music scene in the past several years, Serpick hopes Baltimore can rally behind them.
"This is part of our identity," Serpick said. "I hope people realize what a treasure they have here - people from outside of the city who have come here and made a home here and have brought so much attention, so much interest in the city."
if you go
The Baltimore Round Robin Tour comes to Sonar, 407 E. Saratoga St., Thursday and Friday. Called "Eyes Night," Thursday features performances by mellower bands such as Beach House, Jana Hunter and Nautical Almanac. Friday night (known as "Feet Night") features performances by Dan Deacon, Double Dagger, Blood Baby and more. Tickets are $8 per night or $15 for both. Call 410-783-7888 or go to sonarbaltimore.com.