New Year's Resolution: Take Some Musical Chances, Phoenix
Is it possible to have a New Years Resolution for a whole city? Not sure, but I have one. One for Phoenicians one and all, myself included. So here goes: Let's take some musical risks, Phoenix. Let's look for opportunities to try new things. No sticking to known quantities.
We want to help. There is a lot we try to accomplish with our pieces. We want to criticize intelligently, we want to give context. But a lot of the time, we want to introduce. If any piece I write on a band I believe in earns them even one new listener, I consider it a success. But you don't have to depend on us, or other music journalism outlets for that matter, to find out about new things. There are pitfalls to that.
-13 Phoenix Bands You Need to Know in 2013
-10 Favorite Local Hip-Hop Tracks of 2012
-12 Favorite Local EDM Mixes of 2012
-The Top 10 Phoenix Albums of 2012
-Top 10 Reissues and Compilations of 2012
-Jason P. Woodbury's 10 Best Things I Heard in 2012
Every publication has its biases. You can see a really good example this by looking at how similar the Best of 2012 lists of individual writers are on Pitchfork. We are pretty diverse here at the New Times, but we realistically can't cover everything in our write-ups. Finding exciting new music takes initiative, not just the right bookmarks in your browser.
What's great is that this is easy to do in Phoenix. There's a solid infrastructure of bands, venues, and interested people in this town. There are tons of publicly available resources, including this blog and others, that can help you find out about things, but you can find low-key stuff -- like the hardcore shows I go to that happen in warehouse spaces and living rooms -- by picking up a fliers at local record stores and coffee shops. (That's right --offline! But internet-lurking helps, too.) Don't let anyone's cryptic posturing fool you: Nothing will be secret in 2013.
You may have some anxieties about certain issues. Let's resolve them. A common concern is that you're wasting -- or at least gambling -- your money by going into show not knowing exactly what you're getting. Understand that most bands, the kind not trading in any sort of hype, are probably playing shows with covers of less than $ 10, the average being around $6 or $7. The only time it nears or exceeds $10 is when some misguided promoter tries to book an ill-conceived mini-fest with like 8 touring bands no one has ever heard of that no one is willing to pay $10 to see. (This might sound like an underhanded criticism of the recent Sonoran Pop Festival but it isn't; that was good, even if it was basically a rave where no one danced.)
I could explain the value of $6 or $7 in movie tickets, tanks of gas, or McDoubles, but I think there is an understanding that it's not that much to shell out for a night's leisure. If you discover your new favorite band, it will feel like a bargain, if you don't, you didn't lose much. Also, there are many events that happen in this town regularly with absolutely no cover, thus making the financial concern mostly irrelevant.
Another common concern of the risk-taking show-goer is the social element of local music events; dealing with new crowds of people. A lot of people I know who are less immersed in a certain subculture have inferiority complexes around those they think exude a kind of cooler-than-thou attitude. They usually use the term "hipster," but I'd rather not worry about the troubled semantics of that word when applied to snooty people outside of indie rock. I am not a clinical psychologist, so I can't claim that this is foolproof, but I have a thought exercise I recommend to anyone who has is afflicted with this social malady. It involves visualizing people you think are cooler than you in terms of musical taste singing and dancing alone in their room to whatever you think is antithetical to their played up obscurantism. Like the kind of dancing the character Carlton does to Tom Jones' music on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The reality is actually more like that than you think. When you look at the crowd at a show, you are looking at people who at some point in their lives went through a ska phase, bought a Korn CD, got a Jawbreaker tattoo, pretended to like Vivian Girls, or participated in any other number of embarrassing musical decisions. These experiments in genre and style form the foundation of who they are today. It is important to realize that, deep down, everyone is kind of tasteless. Use this knowledge to either relate to people or disregard their opinions as you try to find things that you personally enjoy.