As I was reading Our Band Could Be Your Life , I started realizing that I too had been part of the underground independent music scene without being the slightest bit aware of it, in at least three separate ways. I would like to discuss the ways in which I have been a part of the indie music scene and why that matters.
First, as an early teenager I participated at the tale end of the mixtape/tape station personal label phenomenon. I did so as both a consumer of the mixtapes of friends of mine as well as the creator of my own mixtapes mixing original humorous material with a baffling collection of songs. While involved in this particular scene I was unaware that there was a whole community about it. In fact, it was not until seeing the music video for a lovely song called “Mixtape” that I realized that my own involvement was not an uncommon thing for quirky and mildly creative young people of my generation. I was a part of an underground movement without being aware of it, before it became laughably easy and quick to record cds. To record a mixtape required moderate technical expertise, a fair amount of patience, and the ability to know just how much time you had left on each side of the track. To make cds in comparison is a vastly more straightforward and simple process. Perhaps something was gained in the technical difficulty of doing it on cassette tapes.
Second, during my time as an undergraduate I was a college DJ. It was a fun task—my interest being in finding obscure songs by popular bands that were as worthy (if not more so) than the singles everyone knew. I would play weird songs like Beck’s “The Boat is Full,” or songs with unprintable titles from bands like Nine Inch Nails, or melodic but obscure songs like Edwin McCain’s “Go Be Young.” It was a fun gig, and I greatly enjoyed it. Random musicians who had songs placed once on MTV2 late at night would come by unannounced to the recording studio and hand out promo cds, hoping to get some airplay on my show. I did not think of the job as anything powerful or grand, or fully realize that I was serving as an arbiter of taste. I simply enjoy good music and enjoy sharing it with others. There was no hidden agenda behind it at all. Come to think of it, I think most of my public creative endeavors—speaking, blogging, have simply been from a desire to share what I was thinking, reading, creating, enjoying, etc. with other people.
The third way I have been unwittingly a member of the indie scene is by my support for the bands of friends and acquaintances. I enjoy listening to new bands and musicians, buying their music, going to their gigs and cheering them on. It doesn’t matter whether the band is a classic rock cover band, or a Christian rock band, or a swamp rock band, or something prog, orchestral, singer-songwriter, techno, industrial. There is something quite fascinating about a live music performance where the audience and the band are at one, everyone dancing (even those who dance as poorly as me), singing along with the words, and feeling united by something bigger than any of them, connected by the same emotional wavelengths. It’s a powerful thing—whether you’re in a choir, an orchestra, or a rock and roll band. I’ve never been in a rock band myself, but I’ve known quite a few people who were very excellent rock musicians, and I have always done what I could to cheer them on up close and afar.
In all of these involvements, though, I have never really seen myself as part of a community. I just did them because that was who I was, and how I showed loyalty to friends and shared what I thought and felt to be worthwhile and meaningful. If you find something of worth, why keep it to yourself? I suppose that this mindset and perspective made me a part of a community without any awareness or intention. Often the actions we take put us into boxes and categories we scarcely realize even exist, over and over again. It would be nice to be more aware that there were others like myself, but how does one go about spreading awareness of one’s commitments, one’s habits, and one’s interests, or recognizing that others know, share those interests, and care about the greater sense of community. It’s always nice to know that one is a part of something bigger than yourself, even if you are merely marching to the beat of your own quirky drummer. It’s nice to know, at least, that one isn’t alone.