DC ROCK LIVE is 5 years old. What started as an experiment in continuing a nearly 40 year love affair with music has become more established than I ever could have guessed. After some involvement with the music business over 25 years ago, this was my way to dive back in. It was simply an experiment in seeing how new media techniques worked as well as allowing me to try my hand at non-business writing for the first time since I did fanzines so long ago. I also wanted to keep a track record of the live shows I was seeing to communicate with my music buddies scattered about the globe. There have been a host of surprises along the way and ultimately it has been a blast. But 5 years is a long time, as my body constantly reminds me. I will be considering various changes to my modus operandi as I go forward, with everything on the table such as plowing on with the usual busy schedule, to getting more writers on board, or to the complete shutdown of the site.
But to help me with this decision, I will flesh out five positive factors that keep me going strong, along with five negative factors that will either get me to cut back or quit completely.
FIVE POSITIVES from Five Years of DC ROCK LIVE.
1. Live music is a joy, so why not write about it? Although I do a lot of album reviews and will continue to do so for a long time, there is an explosive charge from a live show that is easier and more fun to write about than the more clinical review of an album. A live show is a snap shot in time of bands simply trying to have fun themselves by playing their music to people, be it a dozen or thousands. The atmosphere is highly positive most nights and even mediocre music can resonate majestically in the right environment. I enjoy documenting an event when I feel it succeeds.
2. Local music is exciting and it is important to remind people of that. Although I certainly will embrace seeing bands that are spending the big dollars to tour, I always want to see the local openers as well as going to shows fully comprised of local bands. I have always struggled the mindset of being the 1,200th person in the 9:30 Club seeing some perfectly likable band for $30 or $40 as compared versus being that 15th or 30th person to see three bands at the Velvet Lounge for $8. And in my experience, you will often get more exciting music at the lower priced show. I want to play a part in reminding people to be adventurous towards the unknown band. They just might be headlining the 9:30 Club in a few years. For instance, the first time I saw Husker Du, they played to eight people.
3. It has been a great experience assisting local bands and vibrant touring bands coming to town in the desire to share their music to people that will enjoy it. One of the stupidest things that happened to me during the formative years of the blog, was not anticipating how many up and coming bands would be pleased with getting coverage and would get to know me. This led to all the basic networking within the local scene and beyond that I don't need to explain further. The stupid part was me forgetting that this would be an obvious result of the blog, as it was such an essential part of the late 1970s punk scene that I was a part of in Dayton, Ohio and beyond. The business has changed a lot since then, but the basics of networking remain the same and it is fun to be a small part of it all.
4. Seeing art created is a pleasure. It may be small 'a' art or be a rock solid capital 'A' artistic experience, but either way, I will always be a part of mankind's forays into artistic expression. I have always enjoyed movies, theater, almost all styles of music, literature and will continue to do so to the end of my days. Spending time on the creation side is important as well and I hope to expand my boundaries more and more.
5. Uncovering historical connections and learning more about musicians is what makes it fun for me. Even if I never wrote a word, I enjoy fitting sounds, songs, and styles into my musical history which covers the early 1960s through the late 1980s in depth. It impresses me seeing young musicians getting into bands who I personally knew and saw many times, when today's crop of musicians had not even been born. Also, the blog has given me the chance to interview some very interesting bands and artists which has been terrific fun. I would do more of this, but transcribing is the most annoying part of my work. But when I space it out well enough, it is especially invigorating for me.
FIVE NEGATIVES from Five Years of DC ROCK LIVE.
1. The live setting causes increasing pain for me. I have had serious back problems and sciatica for almost 15 years now. The standing and hard seating at a majority of clubs takes its toll more and more, especially now that I am the ripe old age of 54. This is a young person's game for many reasons and physical pain reminds me of this every single day to varying degrees.
2. If you have read me regularly you know how tired I get of noisy crowds. I am glad that I have found others that agree with this, but the problem remains. Enthusiastic talk about the music is fine and yes, there is a bar and a merch table going, so there will be area noise that I am willing to accept. Yet I will never get used to the people that pay cover fees to have inane conversations with people, many of who they see regularly anyway. It is quite varied depending on the club or the bands playing, but it gets progressively worse and worse. I am not ready to fully retire to the Hamilton with comfortable seating and a nightly announcement to shut the hell up for the benefit of your neighbors and the artists, but there are nights I wish that DJ/announcer was there at the other club shows I attend. I am a firm believer in the need to protect and respect your environment in the broadest possible sense.
3. Doing 150 to 200 shows a year is a bit overwhelming. Really? How shocking, eh. The worst of it is when the music all starts sounding the same to me or I just start lazily clustering it together whether it makes sense or not. Some nights this mental exhaustion is more of a concern for me than the physical pain is on another night.
4. I don't have the desire to keep up with new musical trends. I will see the bands, but I do not see the linkages with the present and recent past as opposed to the longer historical view. This has its place, but ultimately becomes less meaningful over time. And even though I review over 300 albums a year, I do not have or am willing to take the time to hear many of the bigger artists. I went through four major magazine/webzine lists of top 50 albums from 2012 and found I had not heard more than two records on any of the lists all the way through.
5. I don't like losing the passion for seeing live music. Early on in this blog, I would comb the club calendars to find shows to do. Now, with bands, labels, and publicity agents sending me 20-40 emails a day, my calendar is loaded and I comb it in hopes of finding days off. I still don't want too many free evenings either, but I have to find the balance where there is a pleasure that builds to the point of going out for the evening. That does not happen as much as it used to.
But the positives still outweigh the negatives and even when that day comes that I know I should stop, I will do so with no regrets of investing the time I have on this project. And I see on my calendar that I have a show tonight and one tomorrow, both of which I am looking forward to very much. I hope I see a lot of people joining me.