The Scene Is Bullshit
I know my blog’s been super-dormant aside from the mass Star Trek Voyager reblogging sprees I tend to go on (A million apologies for my obnoxiousness, but then again not really) but as I feel the winds of my creative impulses changing, I think I’m going to actually start to write/blog more. I mean, nothing too serious but things worth writing about.
You’re free to agree, disagree, remain indifferent…Either way, I think it’d be cool if you guys (my 90+ followers) could offer some/any insight. I think it’s important to care about something in this day and age and why not have an opinion? You really have nothing to lose. I’m not gonna be an asshole about it as long as you’re not an asshole about it. People tend to really tend to get sensitive about those kinds of things, but my bottom line here is to just encourage conversation because social media these days can be wasted on stupid bullshit (i.e. giving me your daily schedule rundown via Facebook statuses, watching you pathetically live tweet <insert television show here>, Instagramming your breakfast, or posting Star Trek pictures on Tumblr).
A Couple Things:
1) If my text posts are gonna bother your normal Tumblr news feed flow with usual pictures of cats, puppies, and intricate cake designs that look like the house from Pixar’s ‘Up’, just unfollow me. I won’t take offense. I’ve done it to others when I can’t stand the content and/or quantity of what they post. Whoops.
2) These posts are from my perspective as a 22-year-old, female, almost college-grad, opinionated individual from New Jersey. You may feel differently about what I post here but hey! Why not tell me how and why? No one here is ‘right’. It’s just what we make out of what we’ve seen and done and how we’ve processed it through our heads.
3) There are probably so many grammatical and punctuation errors in what I’ve written thus far (and there are probably more to come). And I actually DON’T mind if you correct me and school me on it (but hey! Be nice). I do strive to be correct but it doesn’t always work out the way I want it to. Take it from that song “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies: “Sometimes I try to do things but it just doesn’t work out the way I want it to, and I get real frustrated and then like I try hard to do it, and I like, take my time but it just doesn’t work out the way I want it to. It’s like, I concentrate on it real hard, but it just doesn’t work out”. Yeah – like that.
When I was about 13 or 14 years old, I’d have one of my parents drive me to the Lyndhurst or Kearny Knights of Columbus to see a show. Bloomfield Ave Café in Montclair was also a favorite hang out spot of mine. I even played two shows there (when I was in a band called Vreeland) back when the scene was falling apart. But before that, I got a real kick out of my High School Battle of the Bands. See, in Nutley around 2004-2005 bands like Cameron, Gone ‘Til Monday, We Found Jimmy Hoffa… That was our Nutley scene, man! And it meant the biggest deal to me. As a teenager beginning my journey of figuring myself out along with the uncertainty it brings, I looked up to those guys so much; They were a part of something bigger than themselves. And they wrote great songs! I still have a CDR with all these Cameron songs on it that I still listen to sometimes. I remember going to a GTM show at some Knights of Columbus and the door charge was $10 and I only had $5. Chun, (the lead singer and guitarist of GTM at the time) was collecting the money at the door and I told him my predicament. He took it and said, “Don’t worry about it” and let me in. For some reason, I never forgot that. It really left an impression on me. When I think back on it, that small instance is a window into how supportive the scene was of each other - fans and musicians alike. It seems so unlikely that something like that would happen like that today. Couple dollars short and wanna come in to see the show? No money, no entry – No mercy!
At BAC I remember seeing bands there like Two Night Stand, Self Against City, Even the Odds, and Hometown Anthem along with many others. I also remember playing a show there (probably in 2006) with two ska bands: 10 Cents Short and Legitimate Business (who actually had a song on the newer Tony Hawk video game at the time and I thought it was the coolest thing ever that we were playing with them). I remember making $11 dollars that night and being super proud of my accomplishment. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re probably right - This is nostalgic ground I’m stomping on right now. But it is relevant, at least to me. Because during this time when I was on top of the world about my double-digit earnings, this thriving scene was on the decline.
When I would go to these shows, I remember mostly going alone and then meeting up with my friends there. But it was never to be cool. It was never to brag that you went. It was never about any of those things. It was about the music. And yeah, maybe it had a little to do with the fact that some of the guys were cute. But to me, that never overshadowed why I really wanted to be there. I enjoyed being among everyone, singing along, moving your body, stamping and feeling the bass vibrate from underneath your foot, clapping your hands…There has always been something empowering about community.
The closest I’ve ever felt to how I did then was on June 11, 2011 when Saves the Day co-headlined with The Get Up Kids at Starland Ballroom. There was just something electric in the air that night. When we were all singing along to “Hold” like it was the last thing we’d ever do…I still get emotional thinking about it.
When you went to a Nutley BOTB or a Cameron show, Gone ‘Til Monday show, and ESPECIALLY a Hometown Anthem show there were always people in the crowd. There were always people to play to. Everyone was willing to pay to get in. It wasn’t even a question. They were super relevant. You had to see them. But then came time for college. Many of the guys went to different schools, which led to lineup changes, and eventually band breakups.
Around this time MySpace was taking off, iPods happened, and community evolved into something else entirely disconnected from the human (real life) social condition (Enter the takeover of social networking). I remember Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz having his label Fueled By Ramen / Decaydance or whatever the hell that was and signing all these bands like Paramore, The Hush Sound, and Gym Class Heroes among others. Then everyone became obsessed with that idea - That’s what the focus became: MySpace, MySpace, MySpace until somebody discovers you. Right?
I almost wish I could step into a time machine to peer inside once more at my white, 10GB iPod brick because I was all about MySpace then and had downloaded every single song I could get my hands on from a variety of self-discovered bands. Off the top of my head, bands like Lexington Down, Kill Your Ex, Class Clown, Don’t Die Cindy, Take the Crown, Single File, Houston Calls, Sexy Heroes in Transit (now Sexy Heroes), even Motion City Soundtrack and Saosin (when Anthony Green was still in it) were MySpace finds for me. There was something I loved about these homegrown bands that not many knew about, yet had a dedicated following.
Remember when bands like Bayside and Hawthorne Heights used to be on commercials on Fuse (when it was cool) to promote their new albums on Victory Records? Remember The Sleeping?! With that weird bunny logo or whatever it was. Bands got legitimate airplay then. There was actually a chance a band could get heard; I see that chance get slimmer and slimmer these days because of the democratization of the playing field now - Everyone and anyone can make a demo, release it, and play a show. Question is: Who’s really listening? And who really cares for that matter?
To be honest, when I playing in Vreeland not a lot of people came to our (very few) shows, aside from a couple of our friends. (We were only together for about a year and a half). Maybe it was because Jersey Shows (our booking organization at the time) was having us charge $8 a ticket (which even now doesn’t even seem worth it), maybe it was because no one really knew who we were, or maybe we really weren’t all that great. And I’ll tell you what – probably all of it is true. But we tried our hand at it, trying to write songs while expressing our opinions and talents. Unfortunately, we formed around that time when the Nutley scene became defunct. Shows became harder to find whether you were a fan or a musician. You didn’t hear about them anymore. And the bands that were playing them sucked and were not worth the now increased price of $10 to $15 ticket.
Today, Bloomfield Ave Café has been closed for years. It’s still vacant with a ‘For Rent’ sign in the window. Even with Facebook I NEVER hear about a show going on a KOC or an Elks Lodge. MAYBE I’ll hear about a stray VFW Post show along with shows being held at a variety of choice NJ indie venues, but who goes? Most especially, who goes if you don’t know the band? Who goes because of the music anymore? Isn’t that what a true, original, organic music scene is all about? I know I’d rather stay home and drink a beer while reading Joseph Campbell and listen to McCartney II on vinyl than drink a watered down Diet Coke and watch some horrible band plow through a painful 30 minute set. It doesn’t seem worth the agony or dragging me out of the comfort of my own home for that matter.
Bands now compete with several distractions, most of them technological. People have too much to do and not enough time in a day to do it all. You’re rarely bored enough to actually go discover something and give it a chance. That’s why everyone sticks to their own schedules and why budding scenes usually are shortlived. The other downside is now every band and musician have the same platform you do to deliver their music. Everyone has BandCamp, YouTube, Soundcloud, a CD, Facebook, Twitter, their “new hit single” on iTunes, you name it. Who has time to filter out all that shit if the most you’re concerned about is getting to the next level of Temple Run?
Within the realm of NJ, I unfortunately am too young to have gotten a chance to experience what I’ve heard of the legendary New Brunswick scene in the 90s, but what I have heard are just really heartwarming retellings of what was a strong community of bands that were friends and loved to play shows together. CBGB’s was a community. The Cavern in Liverpool was a community. 924 Gilman St in Berkeley, CA was a community. But where are the scenes now? Where have they gone? Because as far as I’m concerned, you can play in a New Brunswick basement all you want, but you’re just attempting to fill the shoes of the ghosts who have walked there before you.
Call me disillusioned, but what I see today is a bunch of desperate venues and booking agencies trying to make a buck and a bunch of band suckups and wannabes trying to get heard and falling on deaf ears. Trying to fill their venue was warm bodies, praying they’ll buy something, praying they’ll come back. Nothing’s in good faith anymore. Everyone’s fucking scared and nothing is genuine.
That’s why I say “The Scene is Bullshit” because it is - at least today. You call what you’re part of a scene? Show me the longevity. Show me the community. Show me it’s fucking worth getting out of my house to go see. Because if it’s not compelling, why is it even worth my time?