The Duluth Scene

Local Music Scene

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

Many bands became upset that I tried to interject some thoughts into the hurting underground music scene. A few responses from a member of The Dames were: “ Duluth is not a happening scene, it never has been, and it never will be” and when dealing with entertaining a crowd he wrote, “I could give a f#@k about being entertained. I hate that s#!t, mostly.” When talking about Bluegrass music he said that, “only fags play bluegrass.”

The band Both asked me not to cover their band because I didn’t fully grasp their influences. This was due to me listing my personal favorite bands as The Doors, Beatles, Hendrix, and the Stones. I also reference rock bands that everyone knows in my articles. He felt it would do his band a disservice because I don’t listen to some underground bands he knows to do a comparison. The funny thing is that on the band’s web site in the bio section this was listed: “fave bands- Jawbox, Shuddertothink, Dismemberment Plan, Toadies, Zeppelin, old Metallica, Jimi, Beatles.” The last show listed on the band’s web site is almost two months ago with no new scheduled shows.

I offered an option to bands that they should take the free recordings many bars do of their shows and hand them out free to audiences at later held concerts. A pessimistic response from Mat of Words To A Film Score on my 6 step plan for getting music out there was this:

1. A band gives away free terrible quality soundboard c.d. at shows

2. 1/2 the people leave the beer soaked cds in the bar. The other half throw them in their car and forget about them.

3. Some time down the road, they find the c.d. and maybe pop it in.

4. They are blown away by how the vocals drowned out the guitar and bass. They can't help but notice that every time the drummer hits his crash cymbals everything distorts. They listen to the first 20 seconds of every track (usually saying it sucks) and take it out of their c.d. player.

5. They throw the c.d. away or put it in the stack of crappy cds they'll never listen to again.

6. There is no step 6. That's it. That's the end.

After weeks of going back and forth with Mat we agreed on one thing when I wrote, “(Originality) is why so much music sucks today. When you copy a band that was copying someone else you get a crappy version. You must respect the people who came up with Rock and Roll, and look for something authentic. Don't copy people or become a cover-band, but respect the people who got you here. I am sure many a punk band has liked the Beatles.” Mat returned with, “hot damn... you and I agree on something. not even "just agree"... I actually agree with you 110%. if it's possible to agree with you any more than 110%.”

Everything else we have disagreed on, except that the Twin-Ports nightlife needs a dose of pick me up. Most bands just wrote it off as being Duluth , and a member of The Dames said his band wasn’t respected until they made some noise in the cities. TBT have a huge crowd right now, and several other bands are building local audiences. With three college campuses in the area the music scene ofDuluth should be hopping. Where does everyone go for entertainment today?

If you are returning to Duluth and wanting to attend a local show remember that a few local bands don’t want to entertain you. They also want higher cover-charges to fund their instrument arsenals. They believe that you the listener should pony up more money to support them. There were things I heard that show why this scene is dying and another is rising. The days of Metallica and hard rock have eclipsed if looking at the current landscape is any indication. If TBT or White Iron Band pack the house these “underground” bands look at those people like they are stupid. Why don’t you the listener understand their music?

The Dames member also wrote, “you want to impress me? tell me something about Neu! or Dungen or Peter Tosh or Chavez or Leadbelly or Deerhoof or Hella. Tell me what your favorite Pavement song is. Tell me which band is better, Aamon Duul or Amon Duul II.” My job is not to impress people, I just try to be honest. Amon Duul was a German band in the late sixties influenced by acid-rock, and it would take forever to discuss the differences between one and two. One thing is that many reviewers compared Amon to THE GRATEFUL DEAD, PINK FLOYD, AND EVEN HENDRIX. Sure I can’t listen to every band in the world and have an opinion, who could? I give my honest opinion of bands from what I know. So if you can tell The Dames if Amon Duul or Amon Duul II is better than they are your band and you have gained their respect. If you can’t, then they don’t want anything to do with you. Even though in the next sentence he lists himself as a Beatles fanatic, and while bashing me for not knowing modern music he brings up an ancient obscure German band. Hey, let’s talk about Leadbelly and the cover that Nirvana plays on their Unplugged album. It all comes down to what is appealing to the listener. To list bands that are dated ruins an argument about if you don’t understand today’s music scene that you won’t understand The Dames music.

See, if it’s good music it’s good music… 9 times out of 10 if a band is really good they will sell a few records and not look at an audience as something so exclusive. We all like to be in an underground movement. I can slap a clubhouse up in my backyard and make odd prerequisites for entry, but would you wanna be in a club that is hypocritical and wants more of your money? Apparently some bands think that people out seeing live music are there to just get wasted, and if your aren’t into their music then it is you that are the problem. They make their music for themselves, so know that when attending. Other bands around town will entertain you and not ask for a resume of music knowledge to judge their music. As a critic I just look for what is good, and if some underground obscure band sucks and you copied their sound then you probably suck too.

One angry member of one of Mat’s bands chimed into the argument, “NO ONE GOES TO SHOWS! PERIOD! This area is so lazy when it comes to shows. Hell, I am a part of the music community... I helped start the MAC and gave a metric ton of time to the place, been in multiple bands and been playing shows around the area since 1998... Hell I was even fighting the very college radio station that I have come to love over the past 6 or 7 years, only to pretty much give them the finger and walk away... because they were barring my ability to play all local music during my shift... and I -rarely- go to local shows. Why? I don't know. I am lazy. Every now and then I'll go and check out a friends band play, or if someone I know comes into town (or that someone says is really good and I should see), then -maybe- I'll go.”

So maybe everyone is just lazy, including the last person? Maybe it is a case of no one working together (To be fair these three people here are in about 10 different bands individually )? My favorite band today is the White Stripes, and they seemed underground to me 3 or 4 years ago when I first bought a CD. There are some biggies like Sparta and Mars Volta who were once one band, but make up a huge following today. Those bands people know because they have some good tunes. Many bands just make excuses for not making it big. Some area musicians might not like this attitude, but we need to support all the local bands. These bands became upset when I offered some helpful hints about getting their music out there. They complain about what I say, but the last person really made sense to me. We are all lazy probably to some extent and could do more.