On Durham and identity
grady at ibiblio.org
Wed Apr 4 15:35:30 EDT 2007
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.
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.
betsyshane at gmail.com wrote:
> Hey Alt.music.CH
> 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.
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