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My bleary New Year’s Eve stupor has completed its arc and I’m seeing as clearly as a hornet now. And just ’cos we’re peering into the promising rays of a new year, it doesn’t mean everything’s golden around here. You don’t look to this column for candy-coating and I’m not gonna start feeding it to you now.

The Deal

We all agree that we want a good scene and that requires, at minimum, two key things. The first is good shows and the second is enthusiastic attendance. The flooded bank of gratifying concert memories I have from this past year alone attest to the richness of talent on this city’s stages, which means the clubs and promoters are doing their part. Many of these moments were even provided by acts of budding national – and sometimes international – reputation. But I can’t tell you how many times I attended great performances in desolate rooms. So guess which side of the equation is faltering?

Be thankful that our clubs and promoters are taking chances and trying to stay ahead of the curve by booking bands the mainstream hasn’t already subsumed. Haven’t heard of a band on the calendar? Well, there’s this little thing called THE INTERNET that can cure your musical ignorance. Easy-peasy, believe me. A bit of homework will yield huge dividends and major bragging rights. So instead of pining for your scene to catch up to (insert hip city here), perhaps it is you who needs to catch up to your own scene.

Seriously, what’s with this Mariana Trench of an inferiority complex that we can’t seem to shake? I’m fed up with the “scenesters” around here who rag on and on about Orlando not being as cool as this scene or that. They go under the guise of being hipper-than-thou but their aloofness only shields the fact that they’re followers. To them, I say fuck off and migrate to your utopia of prepackaged hipsterdom already. All that takes is a modicum of taste, no passion or commitment. These aren’t the kinds of people an ambitious scene needs. Sure, they’ll march lockstep once the work’s done but they’ll never do anything substantive to forge this cause. Any artist can tell you that making something real is difficult. What Orlando needs to do is get behind its visionaries and pioneers. I know more than a few in the 407 and these bitches ain’t it.

Be yourself, free yourself

Being a big scene and being a meaningful scene are not the same thing. The former is about consuming, while the latter is creating. We already have the numbers to be a big scene. But if we really want something that matters, we have to incubate and foster a truly organic local scene, one that is uniquely of this context. Sure, there are plenty of other fashionable places doing admirable things, but to brainlessly emulate anything is pathetic. If we become a shadow of another city, however good that scene is, it still pales in comparison to originality. And the only way we’re ever gonna be genuine is to exist for our own sake and on our own terms. We prove ourselves by finding ourselves.

That’s where my firsthand notes can confirm the good news. Despite widespread apathy, I know that a positive local pulse persists because I see it every day in the number and fervor of ideas bandied about the music community. However, here’s where the caveat comes in: Nothing squashes the momentum of optimism quicker than lack of support. So if the scene starts to suck, it’s your fault too.

Every place with enough heat to be dubbed “cool” has a running tradition of good indigenous music – duh. But the subtext to the story is that they also have a longstanding practice of supporting their own bands. We have the quality. Look no further than this page most weeks for proof of that. The support, well, that’s the iffy part. We tend to neglect our homegrown talent by underestimating the power of our presence at local shows. Without both, we’ll never move to the next level. I’ve said it before but I don’t think it sunk in: Attendance is activism.

It’s a new year and the slate is clean. So, people, what’s it gonna be?

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