Last week I was supposedly “shit-talked” by a new local band that I booked for a show. I don’t know for sure because I was driving back from Boston in thick traffic with a dog that wouldn’t stop throwing up everywhere, making my three and a half hour trip nearly twice as long and resulting in me missing the entire show. I didn’t hear first or even secondhand who said what, just that I was torn apart for “how I was when I booked them”. My reaction to this? I laughed; this was something I’ve grown used to in the punk scene in Burlington, Vermont.
Our main punk venue, where I worked to book shows during the past four months, is one of the oldest all-ages and substance-free venues in the country. Kids take advantage of the non-existent age restrictions and see the few national acts play, but mostly go to watch their friends or play in local shows. It’s a diamond in the rough that gets trashed due to the drama that surrounds it, such as a depressed mid-thirties sociopath who is constantly in attendance with his eyes on the young girls of the scene as prey for him to emotionally and sexually abuse.
The larger music scene in Burlington is just as laughable, filled with consistent electronic dance music raves that sell out our larger venue during the school year since it’s the proper setting for a tab of molly and good vibes amongst college students. The occasional rock, punk or hardcore shows do come through, only to be filled with mid-twenties individuals who stand as still as statues or a mix of pop-punk and hardcore kids that are more hyped up to hurt each other than enjoy the music.
It takes a lot to live in a negative scene, and it takes more to make something positive out of it. Sure, there are the negatives that I referenced and I’ve come to terms with the fact that they won’t go away anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any positives to be found. We have an incredible non-profit called Big Heavy World that is designed to promote all music throughout the state with written interviews, a community radio station and music festivals, which I have been lucky enough to work for since February. There are dedicated basement venues, as well as Studio Kitchen, a recording studio that recently renovated their basement to create a medium-sized venue with a full bar that draws the more “underground” shows compared to the typical tours that come through. Of course the bands here are the heart of the push for greater change, some working together to expose the good that the punk scene can do to the larger masses. These efforts resulted in four local bands, such as the alt-punk group Better Things and the hardcore outfit As We Were, being personally selected to open for The Offspring on their Summer Nationals Tour.
I’ll be honest, I don’t get excited over tour announcements anymore because I know they will rarely come to my city, but the shows I do go to are some of the greatest experiences I could hope to have. We used to take what we got for granted and then it was gone, so now we’re learning to appreciate every event and opportunity that comes out way. More and more people are getting behind the concept for a change within our music community, by focusing less on the acts of drama that get in the way of the musical talent here in exchange for a laugh and a shrug. There are extremely excited and optimistic individuals who want nothing than for the greater scene to succeed, a force much greater than the few who choose to bring it down, and it’s not just limited to Burlington. This is all over the country and the world, whether your music scene is successful or in disarray. No matter what, positive actions can replace negative ones with enough effort. Being aware of them is just the first step.