The answer used to be easy.
Once a month.
In my era of setting up shows, a band contacted to play would sometimes say
“Sorry. We’re trying to keep our Baltimore shows to once a month.”
And that answer was fine and good. It was either a) true, an accepted scene strategy to avoid overexposure or b) the band didn’t want to work with you/ play your Mom’s basement or collectively-run show space.
Either way, time to go back to your 1990s phone tree sheet and dial someone else up. Yes, we really did it that way.
Another answer might be that Baltimore bands should play Baltimore when they leave from tour and/or when they come back from tour.
Having seen my fair share of these sorts of shows, I prefer the former to the latter.
Folks all keyed up and practiced, ready to hit the road, songs still fresh but polished? Yes, please.
Folks back from the road, stumbling over the finish line, the band never wanting to hear or play those songs ever again, very excited to sleep in their own beds? Nah. I’ll still go, of course, but the triumphant return with a fiery set is the exception, not the norm.
Speaking of exceptions, we need to speak of Lungfish.
When I first started seeing them in the early 1990s, the band would play a short string of shows in the Delmarva area, all within driving distance from me.
Was it based on their schedule and availability? A chance to test out new material live before recording?
Wasn’t sure. Didn’t care.
I would go to every show I could, seeing a same cluster of folks evening after evening among each night’s more geographically close attendees.
It is the closest I have ever come to “following the Dead”, in a manner of speaking. No, I didn’t write Phish earlier. Lungfish. No relation.
Well, at least not one I am ready to admit.
Anyways, the sets would vary in intensity and vibe, each its own thing. Inevitably, I would run out of money or free evenings and have to miss one.
The cluster of folks would tell me: “Aw man… you shoulda been there! Best one! They were amazing! They even played (song they rarely play)!”
I could not tell if they were sincere or being sarcastic. The 1990s were like that.
So, as this question grows larger, with more opportunities for bands to play, more excellent new bands on the scene, another great venue returning with the spring, I would say, with 30 years of scene and show wisdom to back me up…
How many times should a Baltimore band play Baltimore?