Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Don't You Listen to Local Music, You Idiot?

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge St. Louis' Foxing played a sold-out show at the Firebird this week. Where were you? - PHOTO BY THEO WELLING
  • Photo by Theo Welling
  • St. Louis' Foxing played a sold-out show at the Firebird this week. Where were you?

First off, I'd like to apologize for calling you an idiot. That was rude and completely uncalled for. It's just that this subject is a matter of some frustration for me.

Allow me to reintroduce myself for the newcomers: Hi, my name is Daniel Hill and I've been the music editor for the Riverfront Times for just shy of three years now. During this time I've edited many hundreds of stories and written a few less hundreds more, a lot of them focused solely on local musical acts. And I've noticed, throughout the course of this work, that a lot of you don't read them. You are much more interested when, for example, Justin Timberlake simply attends a Garth Brooks concert in our town. Hundreds of thousands of pageviews more interested, in fact.

Why? Both of those acts are fine. Better than fine, even. Superstars, whatever. There are rewards that come with being fans of their music, to be sure. But you know what's more rewarding? Becoming a super-fan of a relatively unknown local act.

Here are three reasons, off the top of my head:

1. There's no waiting for your favorite band to come to town — they already live here. 

2. You have an excellent chance of being able to actually meet the members of your favorite band. Just walk on up and say "hi."

3. If said band ever takes off on a national level, you get to be that person who brags constantly about it, shoving your friends' faces in your early fandom and obvious impeccable taste in music.

You see, every band is "local" to somewhere. Brooks, for example, started his career off by performing in the bars of his native Tulsa, Oklahoma, before inevitably the Nashville Music Machine came along and scooped him up. (Admittedly, Timberlake does not bear this thesis out, having been synthesized in a petri dish at one of our nation's boy-band laboratories, but the exception proves the rule.) And with the Internet, provincial preferences have nearly become a thing of the past. The concept of the "INSERT CITY NAME HERE sound" has been all but eradicated in a time when you can listen to — and as a musician, be influenced by — music from any place in the industrialized world with two clicks of a mouse (for free, mind you). Music has become a flat circle.

But even in this nationalized music scene, local fans still matter. Brooks would never have attracted the attention of entertainment attorney Rod Phelps in 1985 if there wasn't buzz about the young man's live shows. As it happened, Phelps traveled to Brooks' town based on that very hype, saw him perform in his home environment, and then promptly offered to produce his demo.

So when a city is bursting with musical talent — as is the case here in St. Louis — there is only one person to blame when those gifted acts fail to break free from the pack and hit the national scene. That person is you.

Now I know some of you are thinking, "Hey! I go to St. Louis shows all the time! I buy off the 'Locals Only' rack at Vintage Vinyl; I own several demo tapes I picked up at shows even though I don't have a functioning tape deck." Well, obviously, I'm not talking to you, you idiot. (I'm sorry I called you an idiot.)

It's the rest of you. The ones who can't name even five currently active local bands, the ones who still equate 21st-century St. Louis music solely with Nelly and nothing else. You are the problem. Because if you would support your local scene, we could have many more Nellys. (Nellies?) Success doesn't happen in a vacuum. Successful artists are carried to the top on the backs of their fans.

St. Louis' Foxing played a record release show for its latest, Dealer, at the Firebird this weekend. The show sold out quickly, with frustrated fans flocking to Facebook in the days prior in the hopes they could secure tickets. Behold:


This is because Foxing is an excellent band, you see, with no shortage of local support. That local support, and the band's hard work, has translated to national success, with everyone from Pitchfork to Alternative Press to Punknews shitting their collective pants over the new record. (Read more about Foxing tomorrow on the RFT Music blog or in this week's upcoming print edition — you'll spot the band on the cover.)

But there are so many more Foxings and Nellys in our city — you just gotta look. That's kinda why we're here. May I humbly suggest you start with our weekly Homespun column? Music scribe Christian Schaeffer has been tirelessly writing about St. Louis music in that space for eight years now. Many of those articles include streaming music from the bands discussed therein. We really couldn't make it much easier for you to get involved in the local scene than that — so easy, in fact, that you'd have to be an idiot to not get it.

But you're not an idiot. Are you?

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