I really didn’t become very involved in my local music scene until I came to Ann Arbor. I’m not sure if my hometown just didn’t have much going on, or if I just wasn’t looking hard enough, but when I stumbled into my first basement show, I was sort of amazed at how different of an experience it was for me. Even crazier, I saw one of the guitarists from that show on a Bursley-Baits bus the next day.
For a second, I was sort of taken aback — why were they on the same bus as me? I didn’t see this person as a human on the same plane of existence as me. I seemed to forget that they were also students, probably stressed out by classes, running on not enough sleep and apparently taking Bursley-Baits everyday, just like everyone else. I saw their existence as beginning and ending on stage.
I think this is one of the things that’s really special about having a local music scene and being involved in it. At bigger concerts — ones not held in basements — there’s a huge disconnect between the musicians and the audience. You’ll see them come on stage, play their set and then walk off. After that, unless you stand out behind the venue circling their tour bus like a vulture, you probably won’t see them again until the next time you go to one of their shows. With DIY and local music in general, besides the fact that there’s typically no green room in a basement for artists to hide in, you’ll see these musicians everywhere you go. The artists on stage are the same people you’ll see in your classes, at parties and even on the bus.
For me, this has only made the music more special. Seeing people that are just like you, or that you may even have a relationship with, get on stage and pour themselves into the performance is an incredible experience that has absolutely changed the way I think about music. My freshman year, a band from Ann Arbor called Bonzo put out an album titled Stranger during my first fall break. I had seen the group perform once, and knew some of the members through random interactions with mutual friends at parties and shows. So, after seeing the album shared around Facebook, and even stumbling into their album release show, I decided to follow the Bandcamp link that would help change the way I view music making.
It wasn’t simply the fact that it was a good album that was right up my alley. It was the fact that it was all that and it was made by people that I knew. People that I had talked to and had experiences with prior to listening to their music. The huge shoegazy soundscapes felt even larger and even more impenetrable than they already were because I knew the people making them. It was cathartic for me, and being made by people that were in the same environment I was in, who were having similar, albeit nowhere near identical, experiences. With bigger name artists, there’s almost a whole mythology behind the music. That person could be at a completely different point in their life than I am, or could be a completely different person than I imagine them to be, making it difficult for me to relate or insert myself into their music. But with Stranger, this wasn’t the case.
Since then, I’ve encountered this same feeling on many separate occasions (and it’s pretty difficult not to when you live with five other incredibly creative and talented individuals). And maybe this stems a little bit from me being a bit of an emotional person, but I honestly think knowing the individuals behind the music is a quality about local music that truly makes it special. It not only humanizes it, but it also furthers the feeling of intimacy that DIY is known for.