There are some things that are hard to know unless you live them. Fortunately for the purposes of this writing, if you are not a teenager anymore it means you already were one once. Did it suck? Probably, at least sometimes, yes. It does not matter where in the world you lived as a human teen or how much money you had or anything like that. During teenage years, you are learning how to feel and learning how to be, and sometimes it is terribly inconvenient and painful. One would hope that this sort of transmogrification would continue throughout life-- not for some kind of masochistic pleasure but for the betterment of our selves. Despite great advancements in the realms of social networking technology, it is only an acutely developed sense of feelings that can truly and deeply connect us to one another. When we are learning how to feel the ever-changing shape of ourselves, we are also learning how to feel the shapes around us.
My name is Katie and I live in Washington, DC. I am a person who makes music, typically with other people. One way I do that right now is in a band called Priests. We will be traveling on tour around the U.S.A. for the first time this summer. That means we are traveling to different cities and playing our music in specific locations. Some of these locations are art galleries, some of them are outdoor places, I think we might be playing in a tattoo shop in Pittsburgh. It is important to me, and the other 3 members of my band, that we play our music in places where anyone who would like to attend the performance can do so. You may or may not know this, but a lot of the easiest places for bands to play their music right now are very exclusive in nature, meaning you have to be a certain kind of person to gain entrance to the venue. Often, you have to be the type of person who is old enough (21 years old) to consume alcohol. But, other times, maybe the show is taking place in a person's private residence. In that case, you might need to be a person who is friends with a resident of the venue. Maybe, maybe not.
If you are a person who is into rock and roll, or any type of music, you might also be a person who would appreciate the live experience of music as a performance happening in your reality. That is to say, you might love your records or mp3s, but maybe they leave you unsatisfied. Everything I have said so far is why I advocate for unmitigated community space. If you want to experience live music being performed, I think you should be able to. I do not want to pass through the channels of internet or office or dress code or hierarchy, I want to be in a room in physical space with you right now. I do not want this kind of space simply for "all-ages" or "all punx" or all "cool people in the know"; I want this space for all people who choose to use it. Maybe you are wondering: What exactly does she mean, "community space"? I simply mean a tangible place where people who want to be involved with things and each other together can be involved in things together, live and in person. This means they could play (or experience other people playing) music together. It means they could have meetings for their book group, or paint their nails and talk about stuff. Maybe they could make lasagna or figure out how to deface the Ronald Reagan statue at National Airport without getting caught (for official record: I have never, ever wondered about this).
So, "community space" does not simply mean "music venue for all-ages shows". Music is not the end in and of itself that is so important to me. In a different reality, it might have been paintings or Legos or homemade baseball cards. But cassettes, then CDs, then mp3s, then vinyl LPs are what capitalism's culture taught me to fetishize. There was a CD shop called "Harmony House" in the Costco strip mall near my childhood home, but I could only really buy a new CD every few weeks and they never had much stuff I wanted. When that place closed, I relied on television and Top 40 radio. At first I watched MTV close to my boombox because I thought if a Spice Girls video came on, it meant it might be on the radio soon, too. When I was old enough to know better, the internet opened its liberating arms and asked, Ever heard of Google? Now you can listen to anything you want. Well, maybe not anything (no Youtube till 2005, y'all). But, you can at least know about it. There was a lot of music I knew about for years before I actually got to hear it.
This is life in the suburbs. You live with other people but you live alone in your strange pursuits. Someone in Glasgow taught me about Pere Ubu, but I did not know if any real people knew about this band anymore. I heard there was a boy who liked The Smiths, but he went to the next high school over. Also, it was said that he maybe liked Oxycontin more than he liked The Smiths, and was reportedly difficult to talk to.
When I was 3 years old in daycare I heard The Beatles for the first time ("I Wanna Hold Your Hand") and everything became different (or maybe things got started for me, not much had happened yet to change). When I was 18 I left the suburbs. In the city I saw Ted Leo and The Pharmacists in a school cafeteria with other people who seemed to know who this band was. They were singing along. The next week I went to a "rock club" for the first time (The Black Cat in Washington, DC) and saw Mika Miko, Erase Errata and The Gossip, and it was sort of like the part in the book 1984 when the dark haired girl slips the note into Winston's hand and it says "I love you" and everything changes. This is the sort of thing you might dream about if you thought it was a possibility, but you never even knew to imagine it because you didn't know anyone who really liked music together in the same room in this way. You did not know this was a thing to even imagine.
This was the truth of things for me. Maybe this is unbelievable to you because you grew up loving music or other things with other people in the same room at the same time. But I grew up loving music in large part alone on my computer, or in headphones on my Walkman so my parents couldn't hear. I learned about things my friends liked and learned how to like them, too. But my great loves were solitary, and perhaps in some respects this is how it should be.
Regardless, I advocate for more community space. If all goes according to plan, Priests will play close to 40 shows around the country this summer, and only 2 of them will be in places where people will be turned away at the door because of their age (for official record we are very sorry about this, and are planning to play all-ages shows in these areas in the near future to make up for it).
Some examples of these awesome, all-ages, multi-purpose venues include Comet Ping Pong in DC, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church (also in DC, where Positive Force books shows), Lo & Behold Records and Books in Detroit, the Elks Lodge in Cambridge, and ADX in Portland.
I do not think my decision, and my band's decision, to perform in the most non-exclusive spaces available to us will magically sprout more of these spaces overnight, particularly in isolated areas. I certainly do not think bars or the Internet are objectively "bad", but I do think that live music and a shared sense of community should not be funneled exclusively through these channels. I would like people to consider creating more physical space not just for young people, but for all people. If we don't, bad things might happen. Have you ever seen "Over The Edge"? Maybe you will be locked in a school building while the wild teens of your town burn down cop cars and vandalize your home. Maybe, if you are a non-teen who can't experience community with other people, you will turn back INTO a wild teen who does these sorts of things. People have a breaking point, you know. Or, maybe everyone will just stay home and surf the internet. Maybe nothing good will ever happen in real life again.
But seriously. I really, really hope not.
Katie's band Priests play Ladyfest Philly on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.