An acquaintance of mine recently lamented Tom Gabel's having become a "slimy class traitor". Mr Gabel is the singer songwriter at the fore of Against Me!, an angsty punk band whose lyrics I had been posting on twitter, hoping to make positive associations with my own upcoming tours and Mr Gabel's vision of a DIY music scene:
We want a band that plays loud and hard every night and doesn't care how many people are counted at the door. They would travel one million miles and ask for nothing but a plate of food and a place to rest... Everyone will leave with the memory there was no place else in the world and this was where they always belonged... Our arena just basements and bookstores across an underground America... Just give me a scene where the music is free and the beer is not the life of the party... We'll do it all because we have to, not because we know why. Beyond gender, race, and class we can find what really holds us back.
(from Reinventing Axl Rose)
I first heard these lyrics in high school. They were pregnant with meaning for high school kids in Miami who had little of a local all-ages music scene to speak of. As member of a teenaged punk band, I knew that if we wanted to witness this kind of musical culture in our city, we would have to create it ourselves, as per Gabel's prescriptions:
1) A do-it-yourself (DIY) ethic
2) Occupying underground venues
3) Playing for free if necessary
4) Emphasizing equality, tolerance, participation, and cooperation
I devoted my time, thought, and energy to contributing to this scene. I played in a band, booked and promoted shows, engaged the virtual conversation; and I had a blast all the while.
Now this was all fine and good when I was living at home with my parents, without bills to pay, without a care in the world. But would this praxis carry on through college or into "adulthood"?
For Gabel, the answer was sadly "no", leaving many folks like myself and my acquaintance feeling betrayed and disillusioned. The title of Against Me!s most recent hit, "I Was a Teenage Anarchist," says it all, even suggesting the adolescence of such a worldview. Gabel was 21 years old when Reinventing was first released.
I am now 26 years old myself, leaving tomorrow night on my third DIY tour since last summer. It will be the first of back-to-back tours I've scheduled through the end of 2010.
Why do I yet cling to dreams of my youth? Why do I yet participate in a DIY scene? Why do I play free shows and limit myself to bookstores and basements?
In short, I still believe that such a world is possible - one in which people support each other with no strings attached, give and receive generously, and do so regardless of the Others' gender, race, age, class, religion, philosophy, nationality, lifestyle, diet, etc...
This is the kind of world I hope to have a part in creating. I started a month ago with Really Really FREE Guitar Lessons in NYC. Tomorrow night, I will continue with FREE all-ages shows all around the southeastern US. If you live in FL, GA, LA, TN, AL, NC, or SC there's a good chance I'm coming to a city near you by the end of 2010! If you don't, I invite you to join me in creating this kind of world anyway. Perhaps I'll be headed your way next year =)
If you want to support this effort, please contribute here:
There are just 36 hours left!
Thanks for reading, hope to see you soon.