Let me say this: I've been nothing but disappointed with the majority of New York's "official" music and party scene. It's filled with pretension, manipulation, greed, and ego. Gone are the days (if they ever even existed) when the majority of the events going down were produced out of a true self-less love of community and art -- where a message was inseparable from a way of intentionally striving to live.
We, for one, take pride in the fact that we are a part of producing Live From Planet Earth (link) and that it remains a free event that doesn't charge people to come see music, nor are there ANY politics involved in who is invited to perform. We've been known to turn down certain arrangements because the politics of venues and door charges are just too complex.
Sadly, that vibe is not returned, as some musicians have business managers that think their artists are too good to perform at a free community-based show. And, of course, there are artists themselves who think this way -- acting like celebrities before they've been able to pay a month's rent using revenue from their art. Still, often times, it's not even the artists' or the managers' fault -- however much I may personally dislike and distrust middle-management in the arts. More often than not it is the promoters that are the cancer in a city's cultural scene. The gatekeepers who use their connections to make money and censor (or expose) artists at their will. The folks with no allegiance to any community, cause, or locale -- willing to abandon any of these for more financially lucrative venues and arrangements.
So how do we break this extremely unhealthy (and boring) phenomenon? In my opinion the key tool must be "FREE". Free everything -- or as much as possible. But free, as in really free. Not free as in corporate-sponsored, but free as in community-sponsored. Corporate sponsorship is a poor excuse for one's inability to get one's community to invest in one's project. The missing ingredient in acquiring community-sponsorship is, most-often, patience.
Take the money out of the picture and you take the incentive for manipulation and power politics out of the picture. Then, you can start from the ground-up, to rebuild a space (or spaces) where people CAN give money if they want, to support art they appreciate, but also where everyone knows the primary reason for the event is the art and the community, first and foremost.
Of course, doing this takes a certain amount of CONTENTEDNESS (extremely lacking in our hipster-minded generation whose consumption of everything tomorrow is based on an infinite discontent with what we have today) because a party planner (or team) would have to be okay with the idea that every party need not make money, and need not be under their control or marketing strategy.
What happened to the guerrilla (punk/rebel) aesthetic that included, but transcended, art, and applied to the business of art as well? Where "how" you did something was just as important as "what" you actually did, and your art was judged as such? With this afro-capitalist generation it's like as long as the words that are coming out of my mouth are "rebellious" sounding, I can be handling my business in whatever exploitative and egotistical way I want, and no one will challenge me.
That said, I'm glad to see this guy Joe Ahearn trying to pump the guerrilla aesthetic back into NYC. I'm with him.
(NY Mag) Promoting the Guerrilla Gig: Joe Ahearn thinks most New York concerts are overproduced and exclusive. So he hosts his own shows—all ages, in strange places—about three times a week.
I put on shows in weird, underground spaces. I can’t offer bands fancy sound equipment, but I give them freedom, which is more elusive. All this stuff that people think is necessary for a performance space, like lighting rigs or fog machines, is bullshit. None of it is important. A venue shouldn’t be just a conveyor belt for acts, but that’s the way the bar and music industry is set up. It’s also considered justifiable not to let young people into shows, which is really sad.
But put a band anywhere, and all sorts of surprising things happen. I’ve done shows in concrete basements, Mexican restaurants, pool halls, coffee shops, rooftops, and a tortilla factory. Recently, I’ve been doing a series on subway cars—the J, A, and 7—centered around this band called the Eskalators. The fifteen of them spread out through the whole car. You’re just dancing next to the flute player, the violin player, or the trumpet player; people are crowd-surfing and having a total blast. The train’s also full of normal people, who I would think are also having a blast. One guy on the 7 train asked a player for his trumpet. He did a solo during the song and then got off at the next stop.
There are good shows, and then there are shows that suck for whatever reason. Even with just a concrete room, there is so much shit that can go wrong. Everything in my life is partly broken, so that’s one thing. In fact, it’s always a surprise when shows don’t totally fall apart. One of the first shows I did was on a rooftop in Crown Heights. It had been pouring rain as we were building the stage, and it was still pouring when all the bands started showing up. We had an awesome metal afro-Indian fusion band, and a band dressed as lifeguards, and an indie-rock-pop thing called Medics. I talked to my friend Phil about whether or not to go through with the show, and we were like, we got this far, let’s just do it and see what happens.
The rain stopped right when the doors opened, which was fucking amazing. But then the giant plastic tarp we built blew over five minutes before the show started, so we started taking out keys and punching air holes. Then, in the middle of a song in the Medics set, the power went out. No one knew what was going on. I ran through the crowd and crawled under the stage to check the plugs. The drummer was doing this drumroll thing right over my head, and I was the one who put the wood together, so I knew that this wasn’t the best part of the stage to be under. I was freaking out that he might fall through the stage and I would die and no one would even know I was under there.
I found the thing that was unplugged and plugged it in. The great thing about electrical disasters at shows is that there’s always this moment when you plug back in and every-thing makes this crazy feedback noise, all at the same time. The sound went on and the lights went on and they all started playing again. Best moment ever. (source)
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