You go to shows to get laid. You go to shows to get drunk. You go to shows to hang out with your friends. You go to shows to seek out your tribe, or support your girlfriend or boyfriend or co-worker who is in a band, or because you heard that the band is a lot like one of the other, bigger bands you really like. You go to shows because there’s nothing else to do that night.
You realize that Orlando’s underground music scene (aka the “young” bands, the “cool” bands, the “living-and-breathing-modern-music” bands) is actually quite impressive. Amazing, even. You realize that, right here in your backyard, for five bucks a show, is a vast array of musicians with unique approaches to their art and that the vitality and energy of this scene – and the visions of its most honest and valuable practitioners – rival that of the scenes in “real” cities that get all the attention. You realize also that there is no “scene,” but that there are several scenes filled with young, cool bands, and that the fluidity between them is remarkable and beautiful.
You go to a show at House of Blues or Hard Rock Live or the Beacham to see one of your favorite hot new national acts. You gaze out at the crowd of 2,000 like-minded people who similarly paid $20 or $30 or $50 to be there, and you wonder why you never see these people at Will’s Pub or Backbooth or Peacock or the Venue or Stardust or any of the other places that offer equally wonderful and innovative local music on a regular basis. You become determined to get all these people – who are clearly music fans – engaged with the vital music scene that’s right under their nose. You start a blog. You help promote shows. You book some shows. You start a podcast. You get a show on WPRK. You endlessly flyer and flyer and flyer some more. You start a Facebook group. You start another blog. You annoy your friends and co-workers and significant other.
Your efforts are unsuccessful. You realize that there are only, really, about 1,000 non-musicians in Central Florida who truly care about “local” music, and of that 1,000, only about 10 percent are regular, enthusiastic participants. Everyone else? The only music they will give a chance must be given the stamp of approval by an external source. So you try to trick them. You start mixing and matching bills with bands of different genres, you start promoting novelty shows. Drink specials, food trucks, DJ nights, art shows … anything to get live local music in front of people who otherwise wouldn’t care. You put together a coalition of like-minded souls to figure out how the scene can better support itself. You consider renting a warehouse to do all-ages shows. You start another blog, but this time it’s different because it’s on Tumblr.
5 Discovery of the Ancients
You pop into Will’s for a beer and accidentally catch a set by the J.C.’s or the Ludes or Terri Binion or one of the other bands comprised mainly of “old” (read “over 30”) Orlando musicians who made their mark before you arrived. You stop eye-rolling long enough to look out onto this crowd (which is often quite large!) and see a throng of dedicated music fans totally into the show … a show which just so happens to completely rule. You realize there’s an entire scene that runs parallel to your 25-and-under scene, and it’s a scene that values not only creativity and artistry but also longevity and fraternity. It’s a scene that is warm and welcoming and, even if occasionally revanchist, it’s one that is self-sustaining. You want your scene to be this scene; you want this scene to be your scene. You may spend a lost weekend at Antemesaris. You may even repeat steps 2-4. You will probably start another blog.
You realize you can do one of two things. You can either decide that banging your head against the wall of low-attendance, low-attention shows isn’t worth the hassle and stop trying to help, stop caring what’s going on, stop going to shows. Or you can be content – happy, even – that you are part of the group of 100 or 200 people who keep your city’s cultural engine humming. You rearrange and reorient your efforts so you don’t go broke (or at least completely broke), you continue to book/promote/play/support shows often, you go out and see at least one new local band a month, you always pay the cover, you buy a T-shirt every now and then. Most importantly, you bite your tongue every time you feel the words “If only Orlando were more like …” (or, worse yet, “It was better when …”) begin to form on your lips. Because you don’t live there or then; you live here and now, and what you’ve got is great.