I'm a student at Duke and am writing a paper about the indie rock
scene in the Triangle, with a particular focus on Durham identity. I
was hoping I could maybe spark a little conversation or a little
interest to email back and forth about what it means to be a member of
the community, either as a fan, a band member, an info center,
whatever the case may be.
I'm interested in exploring what exactly it means to be a "Durham
band" since the proliferation of so many groups claiming this lately,
as well as what it means to be part of the Durham scene, and how (or
if) this differs from say, being part of the Raleigh scene or the
Chapel Hill scene (and being a Raleigh band or CH band). I wonder
what *you* think of when you think of Durham (and be completely
honest) or if you ever think of it at all. Why does Durham have tee
shirts and no other town does? What's the pride all about?
I'll keep an eye out and hope I get some replies.
So if you're trendspotting, the trend started at least a half-dozen
years ago, and it's called "musicians like cheap housing."
As for the question about t-shirts, well, I guess you just haven't seen
the Carrboro t-shirts, or the OCSC t-shirts. Given the longstanding
basketball/rock connection in Chapel Hill, I'd say any UNC
basketball-related t-shirt would probably count for Chapel Hill.
Are you asking "why does Durham have such uncanny self-esteem-boosting
T-shirts?" Because the answer to that is pretty much "James & Michelle
Lee," and if you start asking "why James & Michelle Lee," I'm not sure
that there's an answer for that. Other than, getting back to point A,
musicians like cheap housing. Where else could they afford to operate
such a sprawling enterprise as 305 South?
There are other folks whose outsized level of involvement/boosterism
sort of singlehandedly makes Durham seem more "together" or "organized"
or "scene-like" [than it actually is]: Melissa Thomas at 307 Knox, and
certainly Chaz. Shannon Morrow moved back to Durham from Chicago (though
before she moved to Chicago, she was living in Carrboro, so there ya go)
& started the Scene of the Crime Rovers.
What do all *these* people have in common? Maybe that they like the idea
of being able to get something done more or less singlehandedly, or with
a small group of co-conspirators. Durham seems like a tabula rasa,
culture-wise, at least to youngish white-ish indie-rockers. Check out
that article in the Indy from a couple of weeks ago about the NCCU jazz
program & you'll see that Durham isn't really such a clean slate, but
when it comes to youth culture, all it takes is a fallow period of a
couple of years to wipe everything pretty clean.
Maybe another thing they have in common is the good old fashioned
punkrock ideal that community is a good thing, and that building
community is an end unto itself. Obviously there are some folks who have
slightly different ideas (i.e. the Troika folks who like to salt the
festival lineup with a few out-of-towners), but even they do what they
do by and large for the sake of the community, rather than out of some
quest for larger fame/fortune.
But then I think you'd have to go all the way to Charlotte to really
find anybody who was desperately seeking fame via indie-rock. Oh, well,
I guess there are those guys from Raleigh who bought a tour bus to live
in while they wait for their ship to come in, Airiel Down, but they're
an aberration even for Raleigh.
The thing about people who like the idea of a close-knit community, is
that they tend to seek out other people who also like that idea. Couple
that with real estate that's cheap enough for peeps to be able to afford
to open something like BCHQ . . .
I hope you don't have some thesis in mind regarding sharp distinctions
between the various towns, or anything like adversarial relationships
between the towns, the clubs, or the bands. Periodically people try to
advance some notion that there is some level of competition or
something, but if there is, it's isolated almost entirely to the annual
WXDU/WXYC kickball game. There may be the occasional crackpot who sees
things as a zero-sum game where somebody's gotta lose, but I would
strongly caution you against extrapolating from them to anything bigger.
Or before you do, talk to Chaz & ask him how many Raleigh bands have
played his store and/or Bull City HQ. Or talk to DJ Stevo at WKNC & ask
him how he feels about bands from Durham & Chapel Hill. That dude loves
*everybody* & he works his butt off to prove it.
Anyway. The more I think about it, the more I come back to point A:
cheap real estate makes for countercultural magic. This is not a new
Nor, for that matter, is the converse, which is that expensive real
estate can kill the countercultural magic. Just look at Raleigh. Goodbye
Kings, goodbye Bickett Gallery.
> -- ch-scene: the list that mirrors alt.music.chapel-hill --
-- ch-scene: the list that mirrors alt.music.chapel-hill --
Which reminds me, does anyone know if Bickett's getting torn down, or
simply sold? Or is it for sale, without a buyer yet? How much?
I suppose I could ask Molly herself, but I never see her outside the
On a side note: one of my favorite political hardcore bands, Born Against,
have a youtube clip from a Durham show in 1992 or so. I don't know the
circumstances for why they played there, but I can't picture them anywhere
else in the Triangle. Was anyone there?
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> On a side note: one of my favorite political
> hardcore bands, Born Against,
> have a youtube clip from a Durham show in 1992 or
> so. I don't know the
> circumstances for why they played there, but I can't
> picture them anywhere
> else in the Triangle. Was anyone there?
I was perplexed by this, but I did some digging and
found that, unfortunately, that Durham was Durham,
England. See #153:
Frankly, in their lifetime, I couldn't imagine Born
Against playing anywhere in the Triangle. Maybe
Greensboro, and Winston-Salem is close enough, but
twice in Charlotte?
But yes, maybe the "feel" of Durham as more "gritty" (that term comes up
a lot, from all sides) is appealing. Or maybe it's just that the
inexpensive housing, due to the vicissitudes of urban un/development, is
in closer proximity to interesting stuff, whether it be downtown, or the
Roxboro taqueria belt, or just interesting old architecture.
I certainly feel more "at home" in Durham (I should mention that I don't
live there, though I've done a radio show there for ~12 years, many of
my friends live there, and I'm likely moving there next year . . . I
currently live in Chatham County, which is a whole other discussion)
than in the other towns around. Chapel Hill/Carrboro seems too evenly
divided between rich people and college students; Raleigh feels more
like Charlotte every day, sadly. People in Durham feel more like people.
I guess I'd get back to what I said earlier, about it being kind of a
tabula rasa, but I'll phrase it differently: Durham feels kind of
"anything-goes," but in a positive sense. Not wild west like Deadwood
(although there's a running "cocksucker!" gag among certain Durham
bands), but like this sense of untapped possibility. I think in order
for that to pay off, there has to be a critical mass of people willing
to say "yes! thank you for trying whatever crazy experiment you're
trying!" and I would argue that this critical mass of freaks has only
recently (past 3-5 years) grown to the point that it has become clearly
visible to non-Durhamites.
So, say, 10 years ago, Jim Kellough could open his Modern Museum in a
basement off Foster Street, and have some amazing installation-art
shows, and get a steady stream of Durhamites stopping by, but that
stream might only add up to maybe 100 people seeing the show over the
course of a few weeks. He was cool with that, the artists were cool with
that. But (despite an Indy arts award), the ripples didn't necessarily
travel that far out into the Triangle (or even into Durham-at-large).
Contrast that with the crazy overflow crowds at the Rousse installations
So what is it about Durham that makes people so willing to come out for
the weird/interesting stuff? I kind of feel like it has been this slow
process of self-selection over the past dozen years, as layer upon layer
of adventurous people moved to Durham & it thus became slightly more
attractive to each additional layer.
The DDI and the American Tobacco people like to congratulate themselves
on all their hard work & all the money they've invested to accelerate
this process, but the attractiveness of Durham to the true "creative
class" (as vs. the faux creative class of advertising executives--sorry,
Kevin) began before DDI came on the scene, and I don't think it has
really been positively impacted (at least not directly) by all the new
See also: the article in the Indy by Kate Dobbs Ariail a couple of
months ago, about Scientific Properties & the redevelopment of one of
the oldschool downtown Durham "creative class" buildings, leaving some
of the earlier generation of Durham pioneers kinda out in the cold.
(I read something disturbing the other day: is it true that one of the
Scientific Properties principals developed some mini mansions on the
site of the bulldozed Catalano House?)
As re: your other points, regarding gender/politics/etc . . . I dunno,
Internationalist & the Weaver Street Crowd are pretty hard to ignore
when you're in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, at least if you're a member of
their potential constituency, so I don't know that Durham has anything
over them in terms of visibility per se.
Which isn't to cast Durham as at all lacking in that area, although the
current crop of commie bookstores & collaboratives in Durham are mostly
mere pups compared to the 26-year-old Internationalist.
But that may be part of the point, if I can be allowed to come back &
belabor what has become my core idea one more time: Durham seems like
more of a fertile ground for DIY, maybe *because* there is the
perception that (a) it hasn't already been done [better] by a bunch of
rich assholes in tie-dye driving volvos who'd be more than happy to tell
you what a shitty job you're doing, and (b) there are people who will
come out & support what you're doing.
Note bene, however, that one of the oldest examples of left-wing DIY
cooperative whatever-ness in Durham, the Durham Food Co-op, is in the
midst of an awful internal struggle that has basically pitted one group
(the ones who want to run it like a business, in the sense of not being
horribly in debt, but also in the sense of a level of
efficiency/organization that really offends some people) against another
group of folks who still want to think of it as a co-op in all
connotations of the term, good and bad.
And some other group of people who just wanna argue, apparently,
although I will confess I've avoided it entirely after hearing the
horror stories of a friend who used to work there.
I'd be interested to hear from all the Durham musicians who were Durham
musicians back before all this attention began.
p.s. I can picture hardcore, of one kind or another, happening all over
the Triangle . . . I've certainly seen it in house shows & small clubs
in all three towns at one time or another. Now you've got me missing the
Fallout Shelter again.
ALSO, WXYC has had TWO practices in preparation for the kickball game
and WXDU should be shaking in their boots. last years contentious
barely-a-victory by XDU will soon be forgotten.
> read more »
I guess beyond cheap housing (I've heard arguments that carrboro is
cheap enough, or comperably cheap and I don't really know the orange
county housing market) I wonder about the newer aspects of the "scene"
developed...I don't really know who was here before this new wave of
fairly young bands came in and commandeered the identity, but there
seems to be a gung ho "attitude" of Durham, sort of invested in
separationist politics, but more in the sense of there was no place
for us so we've made a place for ourselves. Whether or not that's
true is debatable (and in my work has been widely debated). When I
moved here in 2003, I was going to CH weekly because there was
"nothing to do" in Durham. Whether or not that was true, there was
nothing visible, barely any venues for music, and when I went out,
people seemed pretty down on Durham (the favorite joke being about
Welcome to Durham / getting shot / getting robbed) The other thing
I've thought about in regards to politics is the fact that Durham is
sort of the "poor" city....and the fact that people sort of bricolage
the poverty and the lovable loser mentality of the town, making their
own projects into the little engine that could...
Plus, Durham seems to have many more female movers and shakers, at
least visibly-- Mel thomas owns 307 Knox and does Troika, Michelle
Lee's Untidy Museum/Electric Blender are the real reason places like
ooh la latte and 305 south came to be, 3 of the 6 members of the board
of BCHQ are ladies...going back there was ladyslipper and Mr. lady.
Is this just coincidence? Is Durham as a town just woman friendlier?
I've made the argument that Durham is a "feminized" or "emasculated"
space because it has been robbed of its agency, lost its earning power
and is now basically being parceled off to the highest bidder.
I would argue, however, that the number of people willing to travel to
Durham for events is not nearly as high as people likely to go out to
Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Raleigh for events. As much as rent prices play
a role, you can't deny that Broad St cafe has gone under in many
incarnations, Joe & Jo's (arguably the birthplace of this new wave of
Durham collectives) went down, and without an intervention by the
DUU, The Coffeehouse would've folded too. Are people really coming
out to Durham? I never intended to say it was a "hot scene" but
people are trying to make something happen here and I wonder both how
it looks from the outside to musicians and listeners. I think the
sort of same 100 people phenomena is in full blast here, because it's
the same people at lots of the shows, with the exception maybe of Red
I guess I have been getting a lot of nebulous responses about the
"spirit" of durham, like Ross's statement
"Chapel Hill/Carrboro seems too evenly
divided between rich people and college students; Raleigh feels more
like Charlotte every day, sadly. People in Durham feel more like
I suppose that I am trying to put my finger on why it is that people
in Durham feel more like people / the Durham "scene" is so much more
supportive than others / it's "fresher" / it's really DIY / it's so
weird/interesting for people now.
Thanks already for your responses, if you've got any reply to these
(or the questions posed by Joel, thanks man!) that'd be great too.
I would probably prefer to argue that it doesn't & shouldn't require, in
the 21st century, the economic "emasculation" of a city in order for
women to assume a cultural leadership role. I think I'd prefer to make
the argument in favor of role models & a support structure--Ladyslipper
supports one kind of wimmins music scene, giving Durham a national
reputation as women- and queer-friendly (which it is, and not due to
Ladyslipper per se), which in turn acts as a factor when Kaia & Tammy
Rae Carland decide to move to Durham & start Mr. Lady, though it should
be pointed out that I saw Kaia more at the Lizard & Snake, both in Team
Dresch & solo, before they moved here, than I saw her in Durham, *and*
that Tammy Rae wound up teaching at UNC, not Duke, BUT they chose to
live & run the label in Durham . . .
So is that cheap housing again, or my clean slate argument again, or is
it your argument that Durham somehow allows women to do what they want?
Because I'd strongly argue that the women you mention were gonna do what
they want no matter where they lived, and it didn't require some
artificially uneven playing field to make that happen. If they chose
Durham because rent was cheap, or because there's this wide-open feeling
about it, or because there were role models/predecessors such as
Ladyslipper & Mr. Lady, then I guess I'd want to argue that that just
makes them rational actors.
And so I suppose what I'm saying is that if that's part of your angle,
then a more interesting question might be: why are most of the venues in
Raleigh & Chapel Hill run by dudes? If Durham is only anomalous via its
non-fucked-up-ness, then is it anomalous at all?
I've been going to shows in Durham since I moved to the Triangle in
1992, and the funny thing about Durham is that while there are never
very *many* places to play, there's always somewhere to play. My vague
recollection goes kind of like this: Under The
Street->Coffeehouse->Captured Live->umm, Coffeehouse again->The
Basement->yes, Coffeehouse again->Ooh La Latte->Coffeehouse->305
South/Joe & Jo's->Coffeehouse->Chaz's->Broad Street->BCHQ->Coffeehouse,
if'n they start booking more than 1 show every 2 weeks.
Re: Coffeehouse "almost going under" and the Union bailout or whatever:
The Duke Coffeehouse is a member of the Duke University Union. Sometimes
it winds up with management that is more or less effective than other
times, and sometimes Union management or staff higher-ups gotta do some
nudging back onto the right track. This is sort of to be expected,
particularly for a student-run venue where the students have as much
leeway as they do there. I sorta feel like if they aren't sinking too
much money into booking shows that aren't gonna make it back, then they
aren't living up to their full potential, but maybe that's just me.
Oh, and since this can't be repeated enough times: Joe & Jo's closed/was
sold due to a big change in Joanne's personal life, not due to economic
Trying to hit other points piecemeal: Carrboro living ain't cheap. If
one were so inclined, back before the last of them sold, one could buy a
1/4-acre vacant lot in Carrboro for around $130,000.
I don't think people in Durham care about whether people from other
towns go to shows there. Certainly recent iterations of Coffeehouse
management have done a fairly ass-poor job of promoting shows outside of
a small chunk of East Campus/9th Street. Before Joe & Jo's closed it was
a constant struggle for me to get word about shows there more than a day
or so in advance. James & Michelle are also pretty slack in this regard.
If you can put your finger on some inherent Durham thing that makes this
true, then go for it. I've always wondered.
If you want to talk about the reasons why people might drive from Durham
to Chapel Hill or Raleigh to see a show, then I think they're probably
1) people in Durham really like their friends' bands, and are willing to
drive to see them play.
2) Frank Heath pretty much has right of first refusal to a huge
percentage of touring shows that people might want to see, and he puts
them in the Cradle first, [lately] Local 506 second, and various other
venues (none in Durham, but the occasional seated show at the Carolina)
It's a safe bet that for the foreseeable future, peeps won't be driving
to Raleigh to see shows nearly as often.
I guess what I'm saying in this regard is that people may be driving
from Durham to Chapel Hill more than vice-versa, but it's because
they're going to see their friends' bands, or to see out-of-town bands.
The secret here is that the average Chapel Hill band, by itself, doesn't
draw all that well in Chapel Hill *or* in Durham. Chapel Hill's music
venues are not, by and large, being maintained as viable businesses due
to the strength of the local music scene. They're making money on
touring bands, or on non-rock events.
So people from Durham can feel bad, if they want to, if they throw a big
show of all local bands & nobody from Chapel Hill shows up. But if they
threw the same show in Chapel Hill, not that many more people would show
And as for Raleigh, well, nobody drives I-40 at night, in either direction.
You talk about the same-100-people phenomenon; cut that number to 30 and
you've described the average Chapel Hill locals-only show.
You are completely correct that a lot of Durham bands are [justifiably]
proud of being from Durham. I think that as much as anything, it's sort
of a historical echo from the time when Chapel Hill was nationally known
as the indie-rock capital of the world [for about five minutes]. Bands
from Durham who tried to leave the city limits had to decide whether &
how often they wanted to have the conversation that began with "we're
from Durham," veered into NC geography, and ended with "fuckit, we're
from Chapel Hill."
Like I may have said before, I'd hesitate before reading too much into
that. There is certainly an "underdog" spirit, to the extent that such a
spirit is (a) fun, (b) kinda ironic, and (c) constructive. With the
exception of a couple of possible sour-grapes-ers, I'd say that in my
experience, the vast majority of Durham bands say it with pride, but
without a lot of negative baggage. It's underdoggy because it's *fun* to
be underdoggy, not traumatic.
Getting to your core question, of why Durham feels more supportive, or
whatever else: read the article in the Indy about Kings. Talk to DJ
Stevo at WKNC. You can't really make an argument about the music
community in Durham being more supportive than the community in Raleigh.
Is it a little weird that there isn't more overlap between the two?
Maybe, but then again maybe not. 25-30 minutes is a long time to spend
in the car at 1:00 a.m.
As for Chapel Hill, well, I think we've written a book on a.m.c-h over
the past few years about "the kids" and whether or not they're going to
shows more or less than they used to, and etc. I think Will makes a good
point when he talks about the weight of history in Chapel Hill being a
hard thing to struggle against. Durham, despite being a far more
historic city in toto, doesn't really keep its rocknroll artifacts
around in plain sight.
I suppose I'd suggest that the people who'd be most interesting to talk
to are those people who were living in/near Chapel Hill in the 90s who
have since moved to Durham, particularly those (Anne Gomez!) who have
been in bands in both Durham and Chapel Hill since the late 80s.
And I suppose I would also suggest that there is something inherently a
lot more fun/exciting about DIY than there is about calling up Glenn
Boothe 18 times to try to get a show at Local 506, then shlepping all
your gear over there & playing a show to a roomful of people who spend
all the time standing in the back talking, regardless of whether you're
from Durham or from Chapel Hill. So if the only kinds of shows in Durham
are DIY shows, more or less, then yeah, I guess people are going to be
So I suppose what I'm finally getting at is that I think Durham is sort
of benefitting from this long slow aggregation (that I spoke of in my
other email) of culture-minded people, some of whom moved there from out
of town & were full of energy & excitement about starting something new,
and some of whom moved there from Chapel Hill or Raleigh because they
were tired of renting crappy houses & going to smoky late-night shows &
were ready to settle down a little. And when those two groups collided
with the other X-factors we've talked about (cheap real estate being one
of them), what you wound up with was a lot of fun, slack pick-up bands
who were as likely to play a mid-evening show at Joe & Jo's because (a)
they could get to bed before 3:00 a.m. and (b) they could drag their
friends out & they'd be able to eat & drink & talk in relative comfort.
And since so many of these people were great musicians who'd been in
bands for years, even their slack pick-up bands (like, say, America's
Next Top Models) were hella fun.
I think Durham would be a lot more boring & a lot less vibrant if there
were actual rockclubs there, with smoking, and late start times, and
actual business people worried about making rent solely on the basis of
rock music & beer, and all the things that I hate about rockclubs. I
hope that we learn at some point that Durham has evolved *beyond* that,
rather than being at some early-evolutionary stage *before* that.
If there were *true* barriers in the way of Durham indie rock--if the
cops were cracking skulls outside of shows, a la LA in the early 80s, or
if they were busting every single house show with a huge show of force,
a la Greenville NC circa right-about-fucking-now--then would everybody
in Durham be as breathlessly excited as they are right now? Probably
not. Would they pull together to make something happen anyway? That's a
good question. Durham? Bendy?
Not only do I do this, I bring a posse. See you folks at Antibalas, if'n I
don't get in a car wreck on the way to the show again.
> I think Durham would be a lot more boring & a lot less vibrant if there
> were actual rockclubs there, with smoking, and late start times, and
> actual business people worried about making rent solely on the basis of
> rock music & beer, and all the things that I hate about rockclubs. I
> hope that we learn at some point that Durham has evolved *beyond* that,
> rather than being at some early-evolutionary stage *before* that.
This has got to be my favorite part of the entire discussion. Right here.
Anyone who runs (or who has inclinations to run) a performance space should
tape this to their head, printed backwards, so they can read it in the
mirror every morning. If the doors open at 8:30 don't make me wait two
hours in a place with a lot of smoke and no seating before a single note is
My big hesitancy to over credit the women's issue in Durham comes at
worrying that you would count out the contributions of women in the
rest of the area, though it might be in different forms than just
running a rock club. It seems like a lot of triangle writing about
music in the 90s seemed to be done by women, local label staffing, and
then there's OCSC that supports local musicians in an alternative way
However the biggest reason I broke out of lurkerdom to join this
conversation is to say that if that rumor about the Catalano property
is true I'm going to cry. Here's a capture from October on Google
Maps http://flickr.com/photos/ihavegotthestyle/272989292/. Google
Maps still shows the same satellite shot today
I guess if I had to guess what a developer would have put there,
that's what I would have guessed, but I wish they could have been more
creative. Durham! Let that be a lesson to you! Don't be like
> On 2007-04-05, grady <gr...@ibiblio.org> wrote:
>> And as for Raleigh, well, nobody drives I-40 at night, in either direction.
I think you were right to say that Joe and Jo's was the unofficial
home/birthplace of what is happening in Durham. It was another
example where free shows (and cheap beer/wonderful staff/outside
seating) built a steady crowd of musicians and music fans who were
there every night. The energy that was evident at Joe and Jo's is a
part of why people became so involved in turning this into a scene.
It is a self perpetuating thing. You feel the energy and it energizes
you to contribute. In that sense, a lot of what is going on in Durham
might be coincidental; a lot of small ventures and decisions that all
come along at just the right time to fuel the next one (Joe and Jo's,
Chaz's, Troika, 305 South, 307 Knox, etc, plus all of the bands that
have sprung up around them). I think you are wrong though to include
Joe and Jo's in the list of places that have folded in Durham. Joe
and Jo's didn't go under, it got sold. I've never looked at their
expense reports, but I got the impression that they were a very
profitable venture up until the night that the doors closed.
Another factor that has fueled the growth of Durham has been the
proximity of already established music scenes in Raleigh and Chapel
Hill. Without those pools to feed from, there would not be enough
variety and energy to keep this community on its feet. The
neighboring towns have also allowed a number of bands to grow and be
ready to call themselves "Durham bands" before there was a scene in
place, so that when the clubs started opening, there were big hometown
acts ready to go. It seems like there were a lot of situations and
people who had to be in the right place at the right time for all of
this to come together. A mixture of cheap rent and dedicated people
in a place where there was not an already entrenched counter-culture
has created what is here now. A lot of the shows are attended by the
same core group of people, but that group continues to grow and more
and more townies and students have been showing up (Troika, the
Antifolk Fest, that Red Collar show at Broad Street). That was
something that we've been talking about for a while: how to get more
than just the musicians interested in what is going on here. My hope
has been that if the musicians continue to support each other, then
eventually it will catch on and everyone else will get involved too.
It's starting to look like that exact thing is happening.
ps - I meant no disrespect to Greensboro at the beginning of this
post. I think Greensboro is a rad place and there are some lovely
people out there who are working really hard to grow the music scene
in that city as well.
But I say: (a) it filled the niche at exactly the time that the niche
needed to be filled, and (b) that membership is still good, y'all:
haven't you gotten your money's worth by now?
> I've been going to shows in Durham since I moved to the Triangle in
> 1992, and the funny thing about Durham is that while there are never
> very *many* places to play, there's always somewhere to play. My vague
> recollection goes kind of like this: Under The
> Street->Coffeehouse->Captured Live->umm, Coffeehouse again->The
> Basement->yes, Coffeehouse again->Ooh La Latte->Coffeehouse->305
> South/Joe & Jo's->Coffeehouse->Chaz's->Broad Street->BCHQ->Coffeehouse,
> if'n they start booking more than 1 show every 2 weeks.
-- ch-scene: the list that mirrors alt.music.chapel-hill --
Check out The New Demos from, A Remote Luxury!
And the flipside of this is that the Durham community rewards that urge
to do more, because the results/feedback are immediate & largely positive.
> In Chapel Hill it sometimes feels like
> it's every band for themselves (with notable exceptions), but I've
> seen bands help each other out in Durham more times than I can count.
I dunno, I think people in bands in Chapel Hill go see each other play;
not as much as Durhamites do, but I guess the phrase "every band for
themselves" has a negative/competitive connotation. I'd probably want to
say instead "Chapel Hill bands are full of drunks & stoners who can't
really get it together enough to pay attention to other people." But
that would be mean, so I won't say it, I'll just keep thinking it to myself.
The word itself, "scene," is starting to make me queasy.
> I could be wrong,
> but I think that one of the differences between the music scene in
> Durham and, say, Chapel Hill is that when a musician in Durham goes
> through the cost/benefit decision of any given action, they take into
> account not only what is good for their band but what is good for the
> music scene itself.
-- ch-scene: the list that mirrors alt.music.chapel-hill --
We feel like we're kind of priced out of suitable spaces in Chapel Hill,
plus the food in Durham is better, and, as I've said, so many of my
friends live in Durham. (now if only Durham had a Sandwhich or a Driade,
I'd never even look back . . . )
But I'll freely admit that we're a couple of DINKs who work IT jobs &
can thus afford housing in a price range above that which yr average
indie-rocker can. I look at the American Tobacco Phase XXX plans, and
the soon-to-be-revealed Greenfire Plan For Downtown (ain't it creepy
that, since they bought up all of downtown, they now get to "reveal" the
future of Downtown Durham sometime this spring?), and yeah, I wonder how
long affordability can hold out.
Although if you compare the projected growth rates of Raleigh/Wake
County (from 700,000 to 1.4 million over the next 25 years) and Durham
County (something on the order of 250,000->350,000), and the amount of
land/housing stock in Durham, I'd still argue that Durham is in a better
position to retain a greater percentage of these positive factors than
the other corners of the Triangle are.
But yeah, we'll see. Pls accept my apologies in advance for my own
contribution to the gentrification of downtown. Oh yeah, and nobody
better put in a fucking noisy late-night rockclub on my block, or I'll
be callin' the cops every night. Fuckin' punks!
Chris Rossi wrote:
> While the entire
> Triangle enjoys this aspect, Durham happens to have the cheapest housing
> costs of the cities that can easily take advantage of the Triangle
> economic and cultural climate, so it's a natural place for a budding
> arts scene. Don't worry, though, a thriving arts scene is just the
> first step in the gentrification that will eventually price the arts
> scene back out of existence. Enjoy it while you can, and be glad the
> process seems to be progressing at a fairly slow pace for the moment.
> Once Grady moves in, we'll have another 5 years at best. ;)
Once a downtown enters the nothing-but-wig-shops-and-law-offices state
it's pretty hard to crawl out of it, no matter how many galleries open.
Jo & Joe's, in retrospect, seems like it was the inevitable catalyst to
making the music scene gel in Durham- viable both as a lunch business
and a night spot, and it lasted long enough to have a "feel" as a music
spot. Not exactly sure what I mean by that. But I never got that from
the Basement or Ringside's stints as live venues.
Musically, I think drawing distinctions between the three points of the
Triangle is always a strain. Maybe outsiders will eventually focus on
Durham as the center of music from our region, but it's more similar to
the way NYC bands are from *Brooklyn* these days. It's not like a bunch
of native Brooklynites suddenly decided they really liked the Gang of
Four. We always identified Blackstrap a Durham band, but there was never
a time when all the members were living there.
> Umm, I think so many groups are self-identifying as Durham bands because
> their members live in Durham. Root cause: for some folks, it's the most
> affordable place to live, and for a lot of folks, it's the most
> desireable place to live. I stopped counting a long time ago the number
> of my friends who'd moved to Durham from the other points in the Triangle.
I don't really think Shayne was talking about artistic decisions,
although it is interesting how he's managed to incorporate singing saw &
trombone into his otherwise pretty much acoustic pop-punk band . . .
throwing a bone to the homies, eh?
I spent the first X years trying to defend the word "scene" as being
what you make of it, or at least being no worse than any other word, but
at some point it seemed better & more natural to use the word
"community," so c'mon, let's use it instead, until Duncan vomits & moves
to New Orleans, where it's literally every band for themselves.
"JBar, a partnership of Andrew Rothschild(a Durham, NC commercial
property developer and owner of Scientific Properties) and Jonathan
Bluestone(a Raleigh, NC homebuilder and owner of Bluestone Builders),
have since built three large houses on the property."
> However the biggest reason I broke out of lurkerdom to join this
> conversation is to say that if that rumor about the Catalano property
> is true I'm going to cry. Here's a capture from October on Google
> Maps http://flickr.com/photos/ihavegotthestyle/272989292/. Google
> Maps still shows the same satellite shot today
> I guess if I had to guess what a developer would have put there,
> that's what I would have guessed, but I wish they could have been more
> creative. Durham! Let that be a lesson to you! Don't be like
That's assuming one wants Durham to move beyond a
handful of venues that serve Durham almost
> -- ch-scene: the list that mirrors
> alt.music.chapel-hill --
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1) secretly arrange it so that the Cradle & 506 are both already booked
on the night when they want to come to town
2) get the Coffeehouse to agree to pay a guarantee that no other club
could afford to match
I'm not even really joking about either of those, nor am I joking when I
say that Frank Heath has right of first refusal for the vast majority of
midlevel touring acts. It's a known fact, and you can ask any clubowner
who has tried to compete in that space.
But this leads to your second point. I would argue, from my admittedly
somewhat skewed perspective, that anything that fuels a vibrant local
music scene is a good thing, and that a vibrant local music scene should
in fact be the end goal. In some towns, venues pay the bills with big
sellout out of town shows, and then contribute to the health of the
scene by hosting local shows that don't necessarily turn a profit.
Sometimes all they want is to break even on such shows, since that keeps
the bartender employed, and helps a little towards the rent, which is
the same amount whether you have 4 shows a month or 24 shows a month.
In other towns, the venues who wind up supporting local music are
restaurants, or pubs, or co-op spaces, or laundromats, or record stores,
or anyplace where having live music a few nights a week can help to
augment the income from other sources, attract more people to the core
business, or just generally make life a little more interesting.
I grew up in a town where it was much more the latter than the former,
and I've always been partial to the latter. I'm one of those socialist
goofs who believes that expecting an arts scene to be profitable on its
own kinda takes some of the fun out of it.
See also this column in this week's Indy:
Setting aside the fact that it's easier to make rent when you're doing
more than just selling beer & music for 5 hours a night, think about how
many different constituencies overlap & rub up against each other when
the rock music happens in a restaurant, or a store, or wherever else. In
a bike co-op, for example.
I guess this is a roundabout way of not getting around to arguing that
people should worry first about making music for themselves & for their
neighbors, and if folks from outta town want to make the trek over, then
that's nice, but it can't be relied upon nor worried about.
We crack wise sometimes about bands and their tours of the Triangle (Hem
of His Garment are in the middle of one of those right now), but isn't
that sort of the best of all possible worlds? You get the exotic
experience of traveling to another city to play in front of a crowd of
strangers who just stare at you, but you still get to go home & sleep in
your own bed.
James Hepler wrote:
> Seems more like a band that draws big but
> seldom plays the Triangle would have to choose Durham
> over Chapel Hill or Raleigh. The question becomes,
> how do you get THEM to choose Durham?
> That's assuming one wants Durham to move beyond a
> handful of venues that serve Durham almost
City of Durham : 201, 726 population, 1,976.4 people per square mile.
Town of Chapel Hill: 48,715 population, 2,466 people per square mile.
Free Republic of Carrboro: 16,782 population, 3,753.7 people per
Durham: Median income, household: $41,160; median income, family:
$51,162; median income, men: $35,202; median income, women: $30,359;
per capita income, city: $22,526. 15% of population below poverty
Chapel Hill: Median income, household: $39,140; median income,
family: $88, 200; median income, men: $50, 258; median income,
women: $32, 917; per capita income, town: $24,133; 21.6% of
population below poverty line.
Carrboro: Median income, household: $33,527; median income,
family: $47,330; median income, men: $30,099; median income,
women: $31,090; per capita income, town: $21,429; 19% of population
below poverty line.
What's remarkable isn't that Durham has a burgeoning and supportive
musical culture, but that we're talking about such a thing being
remarkable in a city of 201,000 people.
Still, during all of my years of listening to y'all talk about
building a musical and artistic community in various forms and in
various towns, it's occasionally occurred to me that it takes an
awful lot of energy and brainspace that might otherwise be spent
writing and practicing, and that viable artistic scenes seem to more
often arise around obsessives and cranks who make great art, who
tend to be jealous of their time, and who would have no problem
discovering influences and inspiration if they found themselves
living at the bottom of a well. I suppose I'm proposing a chicken or
egg problem with no answer; I just happen to follow the cranks and
hermits more closely than the ebb and flow of the scene.
What does Chapel Hill have that makes it special? It's a tiny college
town that *isn't* out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere. In larger cities
like Raleigh (or Durham, for that matter, given the comparative size of
Duke vs UNC or NCSU), the influence of the student population on the
overall culture is diluted.
But most small college towns are just that, small towns, whose only
reason for being is the college. Lot of transition, hard to keep
anything worthwhile going for a long time. Chapel Hill has that mix of
lots of students, plus jobs (in the Triangle as a whole) for the
students once they graduate.
Only for the past few years, a lot of those settling-down graduates have
gradually been drifting away from Chapel Hill, towards Chatham, or
Durham. There's a fun poll for us to conduct: Hey, Durham musicians,
where did you go to college?
Getting back to what Rossi said, I think what will be more interesting
even than watching the arts scene in Durham as Durham gentrifies, is
watching the arts scene in Chapel Hill as it struggles with its own
gentrification issues. Go check out this thread on orangepolitics.org
about Culture Shock: http://orangepolitics.org/2007/01/culture-shock/
(I don't mean Duncan, who posted a half-dozen times to that thread; I
mean the rest of y'all)
Seriously, though, it takes both. Put it this way: introverts *and*
extroverts. For every Shayne O'Neill, Durham still has a Dan Melchior:
Talk about a crank at the bottom of a well . . .
Duncan Murrell wrote:
> it's occasionally occurred to me that it takes an
> awful lot of energy and brainspace that might otherwise be spent
> writing and practicing, and that viable artistic scenes seem to more
> often arise around obsessives and cranks who make great art, who
> tend to be jealous of their time, and who would have no problem
> discovering influences and inspiration if they found themselves
> living at the bottom of a well. I suppose I'm proposing a chicken or
> egg problem with no answer; I just happen to follow the cranks and
> hermits more closely than the ebb and flow of the scene.
But in another way it *is* in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, which
plays a huge role. It's one of the artistic meccas of the Southeast.
For instance, a large factor in the shittiness of Boston's music scene
is the proximity to NYC, which is a much bigger and more attractive
magnet for the musically-inclined. The Triangle acts as the magnet
instead of being subject to a more dominant (if less proximate) arts