GET SCHOOLED: The C Word
Yes, this is a post about community.
I know, I know. That word gets thrown around a lot, doesn’t it? It probably means something different for everyone, but the core idea is that it’s generally built on a common thread between people, whether that’s location, a way of living and thinking, or simply a shared interest or hobby.
Unfortunately, the word community gets used in some pretty different ways, a lot of which is honestly kind of icky.
Now, because I’m not a professional writer (lol big shock), I’m gonna link to an interesting piece I found on Medium by someone named @pforti. Their argument is that the modern definition of the word “community” should be centered around the relationships between people with the shared interest, not just the shared interest itself.
I actually really back that thought process, so I wanted to write about a few examples of music communities in our corner of the world that are being done right.
WASHED UP EMO / EMO NIGHT NYC
Naturally I thought about my friends at Washed Up Emo and Emo Night NYC, who are celebrating their 8th year as a free monthly DJ night later this month. More info on that here.
If you’re not familiar, Washed Up Emo is a website/podcast/so much more, created by Tom Mullen. Eight years ago, Tom and his longtime friend Brian Pacris hosted and DJ-ed their first emo night together, Do You Know Who You Are, and now it’s the longest-running of its kind in the entire country.
To this day, Tom and Brian continue to be the go-to advocates for emo, regardless of all the other DJ nights that have popped up since. I don’t think any of that would be possible if it weren’t for their relationship with one another as friends, but also their shared love and respect for any and all appreciators of the genre.
Talking with Tom and Brian about their 8 years dj-ing together, I learned some awesome stories about the community they’ve built around it, as well as the emo community as a whole. For example, a couple of Brian’s friends actually went to Emo Night NYC for their first date, and recently returned as newlyweds, celebrating the night of their wedding in the same place they first met years ago. Cute!
Of course, there’s also Tom and Brian’s unabashed love and consistent appreciation for the band American Football, who will release their third LP next month. In fact, when I asked Tom if he had to assign one song to represent Emo Night NYC and the WUE community, he didn’t hesitate for a second.
It makes sense. Aside from the fact that the song ("Never Meant") is absolutely required listening within the greater emo canon, American Football's story is one that proves the power of this community around the genre as a whole.
“The song and band weren’t really celebrated when it came out,” Tom explains. “But then buzz starting growing, and new school kids loved it. Then the damn band comes back together! And writes new music! We love that about this scene and about the band.”
I also started to think back on some of the bands I’ve worked with over the last couple of years, and the natural community that formed around all of them.
The friendships between the bands on the label and some of us on staff were absolute, 100% real. The bands all toured together, pretty much consistently (and whether or not they were the ones booking the tours), so those relationships were real, too. Even fans became equal participants; local fans benefitted from several events held at the office that allowed them closer access to their favorite bands and artists, while global fans also got a chance to participate with live streams and YouTube updates from each event.
All those real, genuine relationships and bonds over our shared love of this music led to a seriously special time. I always think about the song “You In Weird Cities” by Jeff Rosenstock –– he literally names off several of his friends’ names in the first verse, some of whom were in bands on the label, too.
The phrase “when I listen to your records, it’s like I’m hanging out with you” resonates to such a deeply real place for a lot of fans like me, too; I can interpret that as a way to feel closer and more connected to my favorite artists, and also I can relate to the sentiment of having people you care about really far away.
Also, a major shout out to the whole team for dreaming up the All City! All Ages! record release day for We Cool?. Five shows, all five boroughs of NYC, all on the same day. March 8, 2015. It’s all documented in the video but damn, I am so proud to have had a part in this. Obviously, I’m biased but I think it’s one of the coolest displays of an artist-centered community ever!
Actually, a good amount of the bands we ended up signing over those five years came from an incredible independent force, Asian Man Records, including Jeff.
Based in his parents’ garage, Mike Park has operated Asian Man since 1991. The best thing about Mike and Asian Man is that you know he does it solely for his love of the music, and nothing else. It’s inspiringly real, and I think that’s why such a solid community of like-minded people has formed around him. Even as a fan, you feel more like his friend. And that’s a pretty special thing.
MY FORMATIVE YEARS
On a more personal level, community is something I’m almost always seeking out. Much like a lot of people, I never feel like I fit in and never have. But I remember what it felt like when I first got into bands like Taking Back Sunday, Motion City Soundtrack, Coheed & Cambria, Yellowcard, Northstar, Bayside, My Chemical Romance, etc. It wasn’t like I saw myself on those stages; the scene’s lack of diversity has clearly been a problem for a VERY long time. It was more about what they were saying, and how they were saying it.
For some reason, listening to those early records and seeing those bands live… I just felt like I belonged. Digging deeper into emo and pop punk’s formative years and records only amplified my love for it all. I was a teenager full of angst so that probably explains most of this, but I was also a young woman with deep, deep emotions and absolutely no clue what to do with them. Listening to these kinds of bands, I felt right at home.
The Warped Tour defined my summers for a while there, and I’ll never forget sobbing in the bathroom at school when my mom wouldn’t let me drive to Lowell, MA in a snowstorm for Taste Of Chaos 2005. I also remember driving nearly 4 hours round trip in college several times to go see bands like Daphne Loves Derby play at a random DIY space on the CT/NY border. I can’t remember the name of that spot for the life of me, but it was awesome to see something like that even existed.
(Also, shout out to Daphne Loves Derby. I wish I could’ve had the chance to work on a record like this. Still so good.)
So I’ve continued to chase that feeling, and now I’ve turned it into a career!
I know for a fact that I would not be here writing this if it weren’t for this community in the first place. Turns out a lot of those formative bands and situations weren’t very healthy environments for a teenage girl, but back then, whether I was standing in a crowd at a show screaming my lungs out or holed up in my bedroom singing along to those songs, this community made me feel understood, and it still does today.
And wow, I just realized how long this post is! Thankfully I’m not a student or professional writer and this is just a blog on my personal website sooooooooo I can end it however I please. It doesn’t have to call back to the intro or anything, because no one is grading this paper, baby!
Until next time!