We all are underpaid
Oh but we love it anyway
I'm looking forward to it, yeah I'm looking forward to it
-- Witches, "Big Rivers"
This year I had a surprisingly great New Year's Eve; I managed to actually relax and have fun, and so I woke up feeling PUMPED on New Year's Day, even though I spent it by myself, because I was excited to not be overwhelmed by anxiety. The next day, I woke up feeling even MORE PUMPED because I had plans to go hang with a friend and work on plans for a zine we're writing together.
And then the day after that I woke up feeling sick. My allergies flared and my sinuses promptly developed an infection. I was in bed for a week and a half, and it really tested my ability to 'keep it posi in the new year' or whatever. Ten days of not being able to really do anything but watch dvds gave me a lot of time to think on what I really want to be doing. After a few days, I wondered if I really have the energy and the will to maintain this blog.
Documenting local and underground communities of musicians and artists is important to me, and it needs to be done. The unfortunate reality is that this endeavor, especially when done through blogging, is endless and mostly (though not entirely) thankless work. It's deceptively time-consuming, and it's typically unpaid. It's kind of undervalued, considering how much skill, discipline, and self-motivation it requires.
It's not about the money though. It's just that it takes so much energy and time that after a certain point, you're tired, your focus feels fuzzy because you're distracted by real life shit like grief and illness and mental health issues or whatever, and it feels like you're spending more time writing about 'the scene', and worrying about your writing, than actually participating in it or enjoying it. And at that point, you ask yourself, "Why? Really, why am I doing this?"
If you get to the point where you're actually asking that question though, the universe is bound to give you an answer, some weird deus ex machina-style sign from 'above'. Unlikely though it sounds, I got mine in New Jersey.
On Saturday the 14th I braved the low temperatures, my own post-illness low energy, and my anxiety about walking alone after nightfall in an unfamiliar town and took two trains to New Brunswick. I went to The Alamo to see Lost Weekend and Curmudgeon, two bands that have really helped me to maintain my interest in local diy punk. My gut instinct said that it would be worth it and I listened.
I'm glad that I did. Getting the hell out of New York and out of my comfort zone was good for me. Going to a diy basement venue, meeting new people, and seeing new bands was really exciting. Söft Döv, Lost Weekend, and Curmudgeon all played fantastic sets. I was having a really great time until Draize's set began and the moshing -- and by moshing, I mean dudes two and three times my size grabbing each other by the back of the neck and literally throwing each other across a very small, low-ceilinged (…it was a basement, after all) room, with zero regard for any of the other people in attendance -- got out of hand.
When some dude threw me into the wall I moved to the back of the room. When I got an elbow in the chest even while hiding out there, I left. I went upstairs feeling shaky. A weird little funnel cloud of resentment and unreasonable embarrassment started to swirl around the spot where that random elbow had connected with my sternum. I almost walked right out and headed to the train station.
But first I ran into Lost Weekend's bass player and lead vocalist, Jess, in the house's living room. When she asked me how I was doing, I blurted out that I'd been having a great time until I was nearly moshed to death. Much to my relief, Jess responded with a sympathetic eye roll. "That shit is so boring," she sighed. I sat down next to her on the couch, and a long conversation about the need for safe(r) spaces at shows, inclusivity, and activism ensued.
Being able to talk about the total bro-tastrophe in the basement, and how it made me feel completely unsafe and utterly alone in that feeling, made me feel significantly better. Talking after that about local bands, future projects, feminist organizing, and strategies for combatting show violence helped assuage how powerless and panicked I'd felt.
It was a relatively casual conversation, but it was more than just a couple of girls chatting. Jess validated and defused my negative feelings, carework that I appreciate whether it was intentional or not, and after that we were able to move our discussion away from the dudebros who constantly dominate any and all conversations going on in 'punk' and talk about what we want to work on, that change that we would like to see and help make happen in our communities.
Which, of course, is more or less the point of this blog. At home and recovering the following day, it occurred to me that this is more or less what I do in this space: I try to say something honest and productive about negative or harmful things that are happening in my community, and draw attention to bands and organizations that are trying to do something about these damaging practices.
I was really lucky that there was someone at that show who I could talk to. Not everyone who feels unsafe and literally marginalized at a show has someone they can express those feelings to. Not everyone feels comfortable speaking up in a situation like that, especially if they feel like they don't have any allies.
I can try to be that ally in this space. I can't go to every show that happens and coach every nervous or lonely-seeming individual I come across, but I can try to do something similar-ish through this blog. I can try to talk about these issues and how to confront them, and create a space where conversations the one I had with Jess can start to happen. It's not an easy job and it never has been, but for the first time in what feels like ages, I'm excited to do it, and I'm even kind of looking forward to it.