STATE OF THE BAY
Nostalgia can be poison though and I don’t want to live every day thinking about how much better shit was before I was even old enough to take part in anything. Also, inevitably it probably wasn’t as good as we imagine it. And it especially wasn’t good for some of the most marginalized people in society who are still being targeted *today* — I can only imagine how it would’ve been in an era before bigots were confronted about their ignorance in real time.
I consider myself an artist and so I admit that I view the Bay — and every city — through that lens. When I go to a new city, I imagine how it would be pursuing music in that city. Would I find more gigs? Would I get paid more?
When I’m in the Bay, I think about the ways the scene here helps me and how it hurts me.
What I can say without hesitation is that electronic music — that big ass umbrella term covering everything from massive jungle records to whatever Latin club permutations we deal with at AMOR DIGITAL — feels like it’s in a really beautiful place. Maybe I’ve been around creative spaces for long enough to let my guard down or I’ve been better about surrounding myself with genuinely cool people but there’s a sense of collaboration in the Bay’s electronic music scene right now that I really fuck with.
Between all of the Internet radio stations, all the party crews and everyone else creating something out of nothing, the Bay’s in a great place. It’s hard to see sometimes, especially as we collectively fight for the crumbs left behind in the shadow of tech conglomerates but that spirit of connectivity is still here. At least in the ~underground~
Sadly, it’s very easy to point out everything that really fucking sucks here too. In a few words, the rent is too damn high. And that’s across the board and affects us all in ways more profound than we might ever really fully grasp. Venues shut down, others are opened by people with tons of money who subject us to their music taste — typically really basic tech house from touring European DJs. And you can’t really blame them, at the end of the day they are running a business and if there are a sea of bubble jacket wearing mf’s willing to cash out on that, that’s what they’re gonna give. They have rent to pay too you know? But that dynamic exists in most cities.
What *is* severely lacking here are medium and small sized venues that actually care about the local scene in tangible ways.
And those spaces are feeling the squeeze because people are drinking less and there are fewer and fewer people going out on off-nights (And don’t even get me started on 2am last call). And then the cycle perpetuates itself until those spots either crash out or start turning into the annoying places they said they wouldn’t become.
In the wake of the Ghost Ship fire, truly DIY underground spaces are pushed to the legitimately most extreme margins and are under more scrutiny and surveillance than ever. That’s a real doom loop! I don’t give a FUCK about Nordstroms where the fuck can these truly innovative artists showcase their work for literally hundreds of young people in a way that is fun and sustainable?
They ask why youth depression is up and then outlaw listening to music outside or without a permit LOL having fun in a way our tech overlords can’t monetize or regulate? punishable by D34TH
What hurts the most though is that everyone leaves, eventually. In the Global South, when the most educated or talented people leave looking for opportunities in the Global North, they call that a ‘brain drain.’ Idk what you call the equivalent of that for dope artists uprooting to a new city in the US, but I feel it so deeply in the Bay Area. This has probably always been there -- that lil fog lingering around us in the Bay -- but it feels much more real now that I’m situated within the creative community here.
In the past three months, more than a handful of artists I truly admire have told me about plans to move somewhere else — typically New York and LA. Every time someone has told me, I’ve thought to myself “yeah that makes sense.” At the end of the day, if you’re an artist you want your stuff to be seen, you want to be fairly compensated, you wanna be inspired by what’s going on around you.
Maybe I’m cursed to be a romantic about the Bay Area but it’s hard for me to imagine not trying to make it work here. But at what cost?? So I empathize with everyone who leaves, I really do.
It’s really up to us to make something sustainable because our local governments have proven time and time again they’ll prioritize robot car company payouts to politicians over the culture being created right the fuck here.