matty day | farewell | january 2017
It might be for months or it might be forever, but for now I will no longer be writing about local music or entertainment. For five years there's rarely been a month when I didn't get to tell someone's story. For a farewell, here's a slice of my own.
In early 2012 I'd just quit a job as an “editor” (enough quotation marks don't exist) but was still hoping to build a career off my English degree. My friend Pete Angilello suggested I reach out to the (now defunct) Green Bay edition of Scene Newspaper. The idea was, I'd start doing various bits of writing and make a portfolio, hopefully leading to a career, or maybe grad school. Editor Meghan Gitter was totally open to me contributing, and if I wrote something fast enough I could make it into the next issue. I knew exactly what to write about.
A trailer for a documentary on Green Bay's early punk scene had just made the rounds (“Green Blah,” will you ever see the light of day?) and it had a lot of us excited; a testament to the city's awesome music legacy was deserved, if not overdue. Part of the film's apparent approach to bolster the past, however, was to put down the present, a tactic I found unnecessary if not lazy. Turned out the interviewees' casual derision of modern GB provided a perfect first topic for my new column, if not a full-on mission: defending the Green Bay music scene!
As a member of the scene I sought to support I chose to write under a pseudonym to avoid accusations of self-servitude, though I still never wrote about my own bands. Really, my half-hearted effort to hide my identity only hurt my ability to promote the work — “Check out my new article!” is far superior to “Say, did you catch the new column from that anonymous local author?” So after a couple years, when I joined with then-new Frankly Green Bay, I ditched the bandanas n' shades.
A quick but necessary word on Frankly Green Bay. For all the services and value this monthly publication adds to Brown County and beyond, the magazine does not receive any public funding; it only exists thanks to the individuals and businesses that make it possible. I hope readers realize that, and can better appreciate the magazine because of it; take others' endeavors for granted at your own peril.
Perhaps that last line's a bit intense, but it gets to what my goal's been with writing here. The Internet has expanded all of our bases for comparison, so that a local band is, in a sense, in competition with all bands everywhere, from all recorded history. This means that anyone with web access can watch concert footage of, say, James Brown from fifty years ago, then go watch a local band and feel not at all impressed. Such accessibility can make it tougher to appreciate our peers' aspirations.
I'd never ask anyone to lower their standards — part of me blames low standards for our current lack of good popular music. But on a developmental level, insufficient local encouragement may also be to blame. To take new bands' efforts for granted is to wish death upon a music scene; even James Brown had to start somewhere.
Regardless of the reason — discouragement, lack of modern music heroes, creative brain death via smartphone — kids really don't start bands anymore. I recently learned my old high school, Green Bay Southwest, no longer hosts an annual Battle of the Bands. Now, some who are averse to competition may applaud that, although for most of my peers and me the event encouraged and healthily pushed us to improve as musicians. It's the sheer lack of young bands, however, that's led to the elimination of such events.
Well, for the aspiring musicians actually out there, I'll leave you with a few bits of advice:
1. You can choose to view your position as a rare young band in a couple of different ways:
A. That you're under increased pressure and scrutiny, with fewer peers to absorb the critical stares of a once proud, still good music scene. Or,
B. That you have an easier route to gaining local attention, less competition to open for touring bands, and lots of older people in the scene with empathy for your plight who want to help you. Which brings us to…
2. *IT NEVER HURTS TO ASK.* Really, this is D.I.Y. Rule #1. Especially when it comes to booking, but also for media coverage or anything else. Musicians who don't ask for help are either too shy, which they'll regret, or think they're above asking, which is ridiculous. Which is to say…
3. Aspire to value rather than success. Ever see a baby go from crawling to running? Better learn to walk first, or fall flat. Hard work and a bit of luck are a good recipe for success, where ultra-rare fame gained without hard work is a good recipe for malaise (no appreciation), manipulation (no conviction) and misery (no self-esteem/no sense of self gained from adversity).
4. Watch footage of James Brown from fifty years ago.
The fact that I'd even want this indulgent piece published tells me my hands should be banned from keyboards for a while. But, in a word, it's because of time.
A mere five years after starting a portfolio for a writing career, I've actually earned a chance to work as a ghostwriter for a local author's book. Great, yeah? But I'll also still work a full-time job, play in five or so bands and film a weekly Packers show, while holding it down as world's greatest husband and dad of two. Simply put, I can no longer carve out time to work on these articles.
It's still not an easy decision, especially because I would've liked to have written about Kurt Gunn's new album, the new recording studio that's opening in West De Pere, and, holy crap, the new Holly & the Nice Lions CD, which, enthusiasm unchecked, I want to say is the best rock 'n' roll album out of Green Bay since the Mystery Girls. It would've been great to interview some Green Bay bands I don't know much about, like Better Drunk, Sweetalk, Short Timers and Aronious, too.
But I'd like to thank Mr. Frank Hermans and my editor Andrew Kruse-Ross for affording me the avenue to write about all the bands, people, projects and topics that I did get to cover. Frank, thanks for adding so much to the community! And Andrew, thanks for everything you've taught me, all the deadline extensions and just for being a great friend.
To everyone else reading, please remember that we've got a lot going for us here and now. We've got Lyric Room, Gasoline, Frets, the Meyer and many more. We've got Tom Smith, Tom Johnson, BallZach and others. We've got Steel Bridge to the north, Mile of Music to the south and (*fingers crossed*) a rad new festival on its way here. We've got Rock N' Roll Land and Exclusive Company. We've got this magazine and Kendra Meinert at the Press-Gazette. We've got Bob Dylan's guitar tech. We've got absurdly talented artists. For goodness' sake, people, we've got Rev. Norb!
To nab a line from Benjamin Franklin, “It's yours…if you can keep it.” Support local music, arts and entertainment, or surrender to whatever the mainstream pipes in.
Get it on, Green Bay! Bang a gong, Brown County. Make it weird, Wisco. Book shows. Play shows. Go to shows. Create loud, pointless things. Create quiet, intimate things. Get in the gray area. Piss off a punk. Mock a square. Make a zine. Look at life through a million lenses — bonus points if most aren't political. Be curious, be open-minded, blow up your biases, drift, drive, design, dig, travel, talk, get the hell out of your comfort zone where real life happens, act, film, dance, mosh and drink deep from life's limitless (until it's not) cup.
Peace, love, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and free speech,
PS. Don't worry, it's not like I'm quitting Twitter (@PollutedMindset) yet, and you can still e-mail me (LemmyThru@gmail.com), and I may even start a blog on the website I've been squatting on (MatthewTDay.com). Thanks for reading!