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Ben E. Kessler Headshot

See and Be Scene

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I generally tune a band out when they announce where they're from. My skepticism and generally judgmental attitude preclude me from believing that you're actually "from New York." Maybe you're born and raised in Bronxville or Binghamton, but I just refuse to believe that each and every member of the band came of age in Manhattan.

This is not to say I don't appreciate legitimate hometown pride or greatly respect a band's drive or flight from a far away land. In fact, the latter will almost guarantee a purchase from the merchandise table. Instead of concerning myself anymore with the legitimacy of hometown by self-identification, I instead wonder if it matters.

My opinion is formed only by my own experiences as a fan. Generally, I lack any and all creativity. I don't know what's it's like to be an artist and be inspired by a contemporary, let alone a neighbor.

That being said, I try not to underestimate the value of a creative environment. So let's get to what I am saying, rather than what I'm not: There are no more music scenes and yet, this is the best time to be alive and a music fan. Sure it would be more than nice to be in San Francisco in the '60s, New York in the '70s, or D.C. in the '80s, for that matter. But with each refute of my claim comes a qualifier in the form of a location.

So you are given the power to leap into the life one a person coming of age in that decade, but what if the powers that be deliver you unto Middle America? You are stuck flipping through the pages of Creem and Rolling Stone, saving up for a bus ticket, which may only get you as far the nearest record store clear across town.

Make that same trip in 2011. Connect to the internet download music, order music, check tour dates. As artists begin to rely less and less on music sales and more on ticket and merchandise purchases, fans benefit. I never said it was a good time to be in a band. It may be the worst. The boundaries, however, have been eliminated. It doesn't matter where you're from.

I think it could be argued that the last globally recognized music scene was Manchester, England in the mid-to-late 1990s. There, competition and camaraderie challenged and spurred musical exploration. It was the same in Seattle, Athens, New York, San Francisco, and D.C.

They weren't always friends, but they always made each other better. Geographic similarities were perhaps the least important factor in all of it. Eddie came from San Diego and Janis from Port Arthur, T.X. They traveled to where they could have meaningful conversations about life generally, art specifically, and music most importantly. These people found each other and we supported their efforts financially.

So, instead of being known by where we are from, we make ourselves matter by what we consume. We should support bands that we like. By that I mean buying tickets to their shows, their music, and assorted ephemera when the spirit moves us.

We're going to rely on you, the artists, to find other creative people to foster innovative sounds. And I pledge that I'll buy your stuff. But don't expect preferential treatment, because of where you're from. The scene is dead. Long live the scene.

But while you're at it, support Listen Local First. It's a good start, but don't stop there.