This Little Underground

It's often said that Orlando is a transient city. And, indeed, we face that condition more than most. But, to some extent, that's true for any city of size. How that tidal cycle is offset – and what distinguishes cities of real identity and culture – has less to do with the stability of its citizenry than the force of soul and spirit that burns in the embers of its guts. That's the connective tissue that threads together yesterday, today and tomorrow. And the more powerful it is, the more institutional memory, depth and narrative we have. But cultivating that marrow requires tons of trench work. Even more, it takes some surprisingly huge balls that most just don't have.

The Deal

For a budding music scene like ours where there are tons of talented artists with big ideas, but where sometimes there seems like a lack of commensurate support or infrastructure, brain drain feels like a constantly circling wolf to the flock. The aspirational draw of the brighter lights of bigger cities is understandable. Of all people, I get it.

Although I've logged in the most time here in Orlando, mine is not the perspective of some stubborn, unseasoned local yokel. I've mostly lived in bigger cities, I've traveled the world, and I'm most comfortable in major metropolises. So, trust me when I tell you that there's a big fucking difference between what most people do when they flee to bigger cities and what we do here.

You can argue the difficulty of swimming in the big pond with the big fish all you want, but let's get one thing straight. Relatively speaking and with half a brain, it's easy to jump in and adapt to an established situation. The beat's already in place, but it comes from someone else's drum. That whole scene you've inherited is the work and cultural institution of generations of others, the pioneers. Most everybody else simply ends up being subsumed in a cushion of culture. And that's fine if prefab cultural comfort is really all you want – that's simply a matter of personal constitution.

But do not confuse this: The real brave new world is on the frontier, and the true labor of originality is the cutting of the thick, wild brush to lay down the trail and stake that seminal settlement. Creating something out of just the raw elements upon which everything meaningful is now possible, now that's the O.G. shit.

No, it's not for everyone. Because of the enormous toil it involves, I'm not slighting anyone in the least for not being up for it. Forging and furthering culture is a grind that requires stamina, patience and extraordinary force of will. It takes a visionary kind just to even conceive it, and a hardy, venturesome kind to brave it. And it's often a thankless crucible, though I work single-mindedly with every week's entry here to try and change that. But the indomitable, ride-or-die architects of culture here are the ones who are truly creating on a universal plane.

Look, talented people leave all the time. It sucks, sure. Every time someone valuable departs, I reflect and reappraise our collective net worth. But more and more, I'm resolved not to dwell on those individuals. I pat them on the back, thank them for their influence and wish them well. But never does the primacy of my drive to make things happen here even flicker. I have many citable, firsthand reasons to remain confident in the cause with the talent that's still here.

Excellence is the thing toward which all hungry artistic refugees flock. And invested, sustained and intelligent stewardship is precisely what makes a scene excellent. Want luminaries to stay – or even better, immigrate here? Then make this scene an inspiring, supportive and opportunity-rich place. And the outpost braves here on the front lines – the musicians, bookers, promoters, club owners, concertgoers – are the ones willing us there with what they do each night.

That's why, if you're among them, I look you square in the eye and salute. Most importantly, I stand with you. These are the most formative and pivotal years of this city's cultural development. And until we carve the road, no one can or will follow. So, ready your machetes, because today, we begin anew.


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