On Durham and identity
nospam at spacelabstudio.com
Thu Apr 5 10:37:05 EDT 2007
Y'all are forgetting jobs. The fact that Durham is in the Triangle
makes it situated better economically, than say, Greensboro. The
confluence of tech industry and several major universities in the area
means more and better day jobs for smarter and more creative people and
more people with money to burn in an arts scene. While the entire
Triangle enjoys this aspect, Durham happens to have the cheapest housing
costs of the cities that can easily take advantage of the Triangle
economic and cultural climate, so it's a natural place for a budding
arts scene. Don't worry, though, a thriving arts scene is just the
first step in the gentrification that will eventually price the arts
scene back out of existence. Enjoy it while you can, and be glad the
process seems to be progressing at a fairly slow pace for the moment.
Once Grady moves in, we'll have another 5 years at best. ;)
>Ross's point about cheap rent (and, I would add, empty buildings) is
>unmistakably true, but it isn't the whole reason. Cheap rent is why
>this scene is growing in Durham as opposed to Chapel Hill, but it is
>not the only ingredient necessary to start a good scene (I mean, rent
>is pretty cheap in Greensboro too, right?). I think in a large part
>that the rise of the Durham scene is due to a number of dedicated
>individuals actively trying to foster a scene here. I could be wrong,
>but I think that one of the differences between the music scene in
>Durham and, say, Chapel Hill is that when a musician in Durham goes
>through the cost/benefit decision of any given action, they take into
>account not only what is good for their band but what is good for the
>music scene itself. I'm not saying that everyone in Durham thinks
>this way, but enough people do to make a difference. In Chapel Hill
>the music scene is so firmly established that most people never think
>about what they need to do to improve/grow that scene (I know I didn't
>when I lived there), but in Durham the scene is so young that there
>are a lot of people who are invested in coaxing it along and helping
>it mature. For example, the shows at BCHQ are free to attend. This
>is in part because we don't want to exclude those who can't afford to
>pay and because we don't want to be all business-like about it (the
>hippie motivation), but it is also because free shows foster a music
>scene. The bands that play here know that they're not going home with
>a ton of money and we know that we're going to have to scramble a bit
>to cover rent, but it's ok because we all really care about seeing
>this community take off. And of course, that leads back to Ross's
>point about cheap rent enabling artistic expression. There are also a
>lot of community minded people in bands who are willing to help each
>other out as much as they can. In Chapel Hill it sometimes feels like
>it's every band for themselves (with notable exceptions), but I've
>seen bands help each other out in Durham more times than I can count.
>Beloved Binge goes on the radio and talks more about their friends'
>bands and the Durham scene than their own music.
>I think you were right to say that Joe and Jo's was the unofficial
>home/birthplace of what is happening in Durham. It was another
>example where free shows (and cheap beer/wonderful staff/outside
>seating) built a steady crowd of musicians and music fans who were
>there every night. The energy that was evident at Joe and Jo's is a
>part of why people became so involved in turning this into a scene.
>It is a self perpetuating thing. You feel the energy and it energizes
>you to contribute. In that sense, a lot of what is going on in Durham
>might be coincidental; a lot of small ventures and decisions that all
>come along at just the right time to fuel the next one (Joe and Jo's,
>Chaz's, Troika, 305 South, 307 Knox, etc, plus all of the bands that
>have sprung up around them). I think you are wrong though to include
>Joe and Jo's in the list of places that have folded in Durham. Joe
>and Jo's didn't go under, it got sold. I've never looked at their
>expense reports, but I got the impression that they were a very
>profitable venture up until the night that the doors closed.
>Another factor that has fueled the growth of Durham has been the
>proximity of already established music scenes in Raleigh and Chapel
>Hill. Without those pools to feed from, there would not be enough
>variety and energy to keep this community on its feet. The
>neighboring towns have also allowed a number of bands to grow and be
>ready to call themselves "Durham bands" before there was a scene in
>place, so that when the clubs started opening, there were big hometown
>acts ready to go. It seems like there were a lot of situations and
>people who had to be in the right place at the right time for all of
>this to come together. A mixture of cheap rent and dedicated people
>in a place where there was not an already entrenched counter-culture
>has created what is here now. A lot of the shows are attended by the
>same core group of people, but that group continues to grow and more
>and more townies and students have been showing up (Troika, the
>Antifolk Fest, that Red Collar show at Broad Street). That was
>something that we've been talking about for a while: how to get more
>than just the musicians interested in what is going on here. My hope
>has been that if the musicians continue to support each other, then
>eventually it will catch on and everyone else will get involved too.
>It's starting to look like that exact thing is happening.
>ps - I meant no disrespect to Greensboro at the beginning of this
>post. I think Greensboro is a rad place and there are some lovely
>people out there who are working really hard to grow the music scene
>in that city as well.
>On Apr 4, 11:30 pm, "betsysh... at gmail.com" <betsysh... at gmail.com>
>>I guess beyond cheap housing (I've heard arguments that carrboro is
>>cheap enough, or comperably cheap and I don't really know the orange
>>county housing market) I wonder about the newer aspects of the "scene"
>>developed...I don't really know who was here before this new wave of
>>fairly young bands came in and commandeered the identity, but there
>>seems to be a gung ho "attitude" of Durham, sort of invested in
>>separationist politics, but more in the sense of there was no place
>>for us so we've made a place for ourselves. Whether or not that's
>>true is debatable (and in my work has been widely debated). When I
>>moved here in 2003, I was going to CH weekly because there was
>>"nothing to do" in Durham. Whether or not that was true, there was
>>nothing visible, barely any venues for music, and when I went out,
>>people seemed pretty down on Durham (the favorite joke being about
>>Welcome to Durham / getting shot / getting robbed) The other thing
>>I've thought about in regards to politics is the fact that Durham is
>>sort of the "poor" city....and the fact that people sort of bricolage
>>the poverty and the lovable loser mentality of the town, making their
>>own projects into the little engine that could...
>>Plus, Durham seems to have many more female movers and shakers, at
>>least visibly-- Mel thomas owns 307 Knox and does Troika, Michelle
>>Lee's Untidy Museum/Electric Blender are the real reason places like
>>ooh la latte and 305 south came to be, 3 of the 6 members of the board
>>of BCHQ are ladies...going back there was ladyslipper and Mr. lady.
>>Is this just coincidence? Is Durham as a town just woman friendlier?
>>I've made the argument that Durham is a "feminized" or "emasculated"
>>space because it has been robbed of its agency, lost its earning power
>>and is now basically being parceled off to the highest bidder.
>>I would argue, however, that the number of people willing to travel to
>>Durham for events is not nearly as high as people likely to go out to
>>Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Raleigh for events. As much as rent prices play
>>a role, you can't deny that Broad St cafe has gone under in many
>>incarnations, Joe & Jo's (arguably the birthplace of this new wave of
>>Durham collectives) went down, and without an intervention by the
>>DUU, The Coffeehouse would've folded too. Are people really coming
>>out to Durham? I never intended to say it was a "hot scene" but
>>people are trying to make something happen here and I wonder both how
>>it looks from the outside to musicians and listeners. I think the
>>sort of same 100 people phenomena is in full blast here, because it's
>>the same people at lots of the shows, with the exception maybe of Red
>>I guess I have been getting a lot of nebulous responses about the
>>"spirit" of durham, like Ross's statement
>>"Chapel Hill/Carrboro seems too evenly
>>divided between rich people and college students; Raleigh feels more
>>like Charlotte every day, sadly. People in Durham feel more like
>>I suppose that I am trying to put my finger on why it is that people
>>in Durham feel more like people / the Durham "scene" is so much more
>>supportive than others / it's "fresher" / it's really DIY / it's so
>>weird/interesting for people now.
>>Thanks already for your responses, if you've got any reply to these
>>(or the questions posed by Joel, thanks man!) that'd be great too.
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