I hear people talk shit about Portland’s music scene. Some people are busy reminiscing about the days of old and how much better it was in the hey day and if they do go to a show it’s a band that is still around. Other people are from somewhere else and talk about how ‘back home’ is better because of this and that and won’t go to a lot of shows because they’re busy stuffing their hands into their pockets and going “humph”.
This is what I want to say to you people.
The reason the music scene is the way it is is because you won’t take risks. Musical risks. Taking a chance on a show where none of your friends are going to be at and you don’t know the bands that are playing. Imagine showing up to a club and not seeing anyone you know and watching a band that you never heard? You might like the music. You might broaden your music horizon to include a new band or two.
I just watched the documentary on the X-Ray Café, and I was remembering showing up there with no idea who was going to play, if anyone I knew was going to be there and possibly not enjoying some music alone. Most of the time though, some band blew my mind and I couldn’t wait to be the guy to tell my friends about it. I would drag them down to the next show and proudly watch my friends enjoy it.
I work at a bar that does shows. It is hard to watch these great bands perform to ten people and then check Facebook to find out everyone is seeing some has been band play for the umpteenth time. Or talk to someone the next day and hear him or her say no one else was going, so they elected to stay home or go somewhere else.
Then a band that already has a following plays, and they play with the same bands that played with them before, and the room is packed. I know what you’ll say, that these bands are just better. That is not always the case, my argumentative reader; sometimes the popular bands are just popular because the people in the band are just popular.
Go to a 80s dance party and the room is filled. I don’t get it. Why would you want to keep hearing the same songs over and over again? I have music that I have liked for twenty plus years, but I also want to keep discovering new music.
Live music beats recorded music any day. I find that a lot of albums don’t capture the energy of a band’s live performance. Watching a band live is intimate and requires my participation. I’m fine not knowing the words. I’m fine with watching a band suck. I go to shows by myself because most of my friends don’t like new music.
To support a positive and fun music scene requires getting uncomfortable. Portland is not what Portland was in the 80s and 90s. I miss some things about that era, but the thing I most miss is people going to shows and being excited about hearing a band’s first show. Creating a creative blossoming music scene is supporting bands that are new and not bands that are old or popular. Being fixed on only a handful of local bands makes Portland stale and boring.
The other death of a good music scene is the bar scene. People over 21 are too scared of looking silly. So many times I have watched a band rock it hard while all these people stand perfectly still with beers in their hands and whispering things to each other. I have been to symphonies where the audience is livelier. Then I go to an all ages show and the kids are moving, filling the place up with good energy. Unfortunately, there isn’t a good way to make money on rock kids; so most bands play at bars. They play for a bunch of statues that are scared shitless of someone even noticing them.
You want to make Portland cool again? Go to shows. Want to make Portland better than wherever you came from? Go to shows. Want bands to take risks and be creative and give you something new and fresh? Go to shows. Want to sing along with every song and don’t want to hear anything new at all? Go to 80s dance parties with the rest of the suburban soccer moms having a girl’s night out.
This is my call of action to you, dear reader, once a week, go to a show where you don’t know any of the bands. If you go to a show where you know a band, show up early and hear all the bands. If you like a band that you never heard of before, tell your friends to see them next time. Share about it on the ole Facebook. Take some risk and help Portland become a better music city.