Diatribe Of The Day: Don’t Blame The Hipsters, or Why Atlanta Pwns Omaha

Last week’s cover story for Creative Loafing was entitled Damn hipsters: Is Atlanta falling prey to its indie cachet? I’m about to quote half that article so get ready. The thesis may seem hard to get at between the product placement tie-ins and glaring contradictions, but the argument goes like this:

Other cities have had cohesive music scenes shape a large part of their identity…But Atlanta seems to lack the sense of cohesion around which a defining scene can be built…Atlanta hasn’t typically lent itself to being easily packaged and sold. The various music scenes here, like the lay of the land, are a tangled mass of inroads woven together without rhyme or reason.

Now someone like me may read that and think, yeah, that’s pretty awesome isn’t it? Our city is too unique and diverse to get tied down to a single adjective. But, Creative Loafing sees this as a bad thing. In fact, it is the single biggest problem for the Atlanta scene to them. This isn’t the first time they have railed on this subject, and this isn’t the first time I’ve strongly disagreed. So let’s break this down:

Too often, bands from Atlanta have to find success elsewhere before getting the recognition they deserve in their own back yard. It’s a phenomenon that’s plagued Atlanta musicians for far too long.

First, over-generalizing bands leaving to go to New York as ambiguously “elsewhere” is misleading. Every single city in this country has artists leave and move to New York. That is not at all an Atlanta phenomenon. No one is leaving Atlanta and moving to Omaha to get big.

Second, maybe in the last millennium ATLiens had to dip out to get recognized, but as far as this decade goes, it is simply not true that an Atlanta band has to go elsewhere to get big. But don’t take my word for it, just ask the author of this article:

But in today’s fast-paced, blog-eat-blog world, bands like the Black Lips, Deerhunter, and Gentleman Jesse and His Men have proven that you don’t have to move away; the cool hunters will come to you.

Um, ok, that sort of takes a lot out of your own argument. So, the problem isn’t that bands have to move away to get big. Maybe the problem is that Atlanta fans don’t know who’s cool until some big label signs an act. Again, I don’t think Atlanta is the only city that has a Manchester Orchestra, but let’s examine this argument:

And it seems to suggest that the city just doesn’t care about its local independent rock bands. At least, not until Pitchfork, Vice or some other outside bastion of hipster culture tells us that they’re the best thing smoking.

I’m going to come back to that quote again, but let’s look at the evidence for this theory. The author name checks Snowden and The Hiss to back up his argument. First, The Hiss are an awful, terrible band. I’m sorry, there is no getting around how bad this band is. That is the reason “there was no ground support on their home turf”. This isn’t an indictment against Atlanta’s music fans, it is an accolade for their taste. Also, Atlanta isn’t even The Hiss‘ home turf. They are a Florida band, and they sucked so bad down there they had to move away to try to get a fan base. If you don’t believe me, ask Wikipedia:

Adrian Barrera and Todd Galpin set their sights on Georgia after a lackluster music career in their homestate of Florida.

Puh-lease. And Snowden are about the best example in this city of the scene coming together to support a band into blowing up. I remember back in the day when there were barrages of myspace messages and emails telling everyone to go to key Snowden shows to help them get signed to a big label. Everyone in the city came out to those shows and helped get them signed to Jade Tree. Of course, being a fabulous band didn’t hurt them either, but to characterize Snowden as a band that people in this city didn’t like until they got big is just simply false. Maybe Mr. Wikipedia has something to say about it?

Snowden self released The Snowden EP, which was received with immense local success.

For those of you unfamiliar with the chronology, the EP comes out a year before they get signed. Then there is a little ditty about Mastodon, nicely tied in as a Scion Fest teaser, but it goes back to disproving the lack of cohesion problem:

But soon after Mastodon was nominated for a Grammy in 2007, a newfound buzz enveloped the scene, giving a boost to long-standing acts such as Athens’ reincarnated Harvey Milk, and emerging metal bands Zoroaster and Withered.

On a small scale, this seems to be exactly what the author wants. I mean no one was looking around Seattle until Nirvana broke through first, and then bands with similar sounds got a boost. There is a Georgia/southern Metal sound that most of the bands at Scion represent, and they are all getting attention because of that musical cohesion. Their success is not getting dampened at all by the fact that there are so many other viable scenes in this city.

My favourite quotes are of course from the cherry-picked metal guy:

“People don’t go check out new shit.”

followed by

“I don’t ever go see anybody’s bands”

I’ll remember that next time I see your band on a bill.

So, the Atlanta scene sucks hard. What should we do about it? We should be more like Omaha!

For most of the 2000s, Omaha, Neb., of all places, became an indie-rock mecca.

I love this one. First, most of Omaha’s notable bands came from the ’90s. What premiere band came out of this decade in Omaha? Tilly and The Wall? I mean they are ok, but I’d take at least 25 ATL bands over them. And Omaha isn’t exactly a music mecca. One guy got really popular and helped all of his friends get big. That’s it. Take every modern band to come out of Omaha, and I still think you’d find 25 cities in the U.S. with better music, Atlanta included. I’ll take Bradford Cox over Conor Oberst any day of the week.

But seriously, I just don’t understand what the author wants. What is the prescription to the Atlanta scene? Hey you there, stop making creative, interesting art that is unlike anything else. Go find the most popular band in this city and rip them off. If enough people rip them off, then other people will think that band is even cooler. Hey you, stop listening to different types of music. Only listen to what I spoon feed you and only think things are cool if I tell you they are. Ok, back to this:

And it seems to suggest that the city just doesn’t care about its local independent rock bands. At least, not until Pitchfork, Vice or some other outside bastion of hipster culture tells us that they’re the best thing smoking.

Maybe the reason people are turning to other sources are from lack of better options. Instead of blaming the kids in the city for not falling in love with the limited bands you cover, maybe the problem is that you aren’t covering the right bands. Unless an act is hip-hop, has a Rob’s House 7″, or has bounced around in failed bands for years, CL completely ignores them. 75% of what i would consider the best bands in this city right now are rarely ever mentioned in CL. I mean Creative Loafing is the most popular and influential music-related publication in this city, and they are completely out of touch with what is going on. The whole We Fun crew are an essential part of Atlanta’s music scene, but Deerhunter, Black Lips, and Mastodon already blew up. They are national acts. They spend most of the year touring and recording in other places. They aren’t what is happening in the scene right now, they are what was happening in the scene 5 years ago. The young, new bands playing WonderRoot, DIY venues, and opening at the Drunken Unicorn are what is going on in this city right now. Maybe if you better utilized the one page of content per 20 pages of advertising, people wouldn’t have to turn to other sources. Maybe if instead of faxing the same, lame 7 questions to everyone you know, you could actually do some music journalism and go see some bands you aren’t friends with.

To be clear, my intentions are not simply to lash out at CL, but to try and offer constructive critism. Somebody has got to tell them they are sailing towards irrelevance. This epic quest to discover the elusive “Atlanta sound” has gotten it nowhere, so why not just cover the whole scene and see what happens. CL has way more clout than anyone in this town, and there are so many great things about this city’s music scene that go overlooked that deserve more hype. Maybe they will discover that all our scene needs is a spotlight on the right things to blow it up. Or maybe this whole popularity contest is just beside the point.

“When you’re caught up in it, it’s hard to have that third-eye perspective on what’s going on around you.”

See, we are not New York. We are not Seattle. We aren’t Omaha, and thank goodness. The fact that you can’t package this city into something easily marketable is exactly the way we should be marketing it. Our diversity is what sets us apart from everyone else. This city is mostly made up of people from other places. Everyone brings their styles, tastes and influences to this city, and all of them can find a niche here. If there was a music Olympics where each genre was an event, we’d be medaling in everything. The whole reason Vice is down here is because our music scene is so rich:

“I have spent a lot of time in Atlanta and you literally cannot spill a sweet tea and not have it splash on at least four guys who are in bands,”

People aren’t looking for the next big thing anymore, they are looking for the next 100 big things. Kids today don’t want to listen to the same bands, playing the same music. They want to hear something they haven’t heard before. Atlanta is blessed to have a cornucopia of artists in this city doing amazing things, but they are buried a little deeper than some want to dig.

The one voice of reason in the CL article comes from Anna Kramer and I’ll end this post with a little wisdom from her that hopefully CL will take to heart:

“”It makes it easier to create a fake sense of reality – like there is only one band that counts, and whatever someone else is doing doesn’t count,” says Kramer. “It’s not true. That can never be overemphasized.”

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27 Responses to “Diatribe Of The Day: Don’t Blame The Hipsters, or Why Atlanta Pwns Omaha”
  1. Dominick Says: March 4th, 2009 at 7:47 am

    flawless victory

  2. Justin Says: March 4th, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I’ve read the CL article and I think they’re making the effect into the cause. If bands are becoming popular elsewhere before Atlanta hears about them, isn’t that the fault of the newspapers that should be promoting up and coming local music? This blog is the only place (that I know of) that highlights the best of local shows. Just printing a list of what bands are going to be in what clubs isn’t going to inspire anyone to attend. There are people that are crazy about music and will listen to tracks from everyone that’s playing this weekend to pick the best show. We’re not the majority though. Keep up the good work.

  3. chris Says: March 4th, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Crushingly accurate. Thank you.

  4. eric Says: March 4th, 2009 at 11:40 am

    YES INDEED! GREAT ARTICLE

  5. Anonymous Says: March 4th, 2009 at 11:46 am

    I agree with you Davy, the CL article was poorly written and came off as a puff piece meant to further promote bands that already have received attention from the mainstream press. And CL is slipping. Nonetheless, ATL doesn’t have a cohesive scene. You hear these real droney, shoegazey bands like All the Saints and then there super heavy, fast thrash metal bands all over the place (ie the Masquerade). Then some bands are just overrated, not really good musicians and just aren’t worth mentioning (The Selmanaires). Hardly anybody gives a shit about building a scene because we’re too busy trying to put ourselves on…too busy trying to get our own damn single on itunes and not promoting things as a whole.

  6. Mike Says: March 4th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Well said Davy. How bad does Chad Radford want to go write for VICE?

  7. chris Says: March 4th, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Ok. Been thinking about this all morning and now I’m getting pissed. You know what? Atlanta does have a world renown scene and it’s Hip Hop. That’s just that, no way around it. This city has owned that market world wide for far too long for Atlanta to be thought of as anything else.

    If the Loafing wants the rock scene here to be competitive then they should do their damn job and cover some fucking bands! How many times did Mastadon tour opening for Slayer before they ever saw the cover of the Loafing? I bet if a band from Omaha got their sticker on Slayer’s bus their local press would herald them as the second fucking coming.

    They have the audacity to say “we’re” the ones that show up late to the party? Eat a dick!

  8. Matt Says: March 4th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Couldn’t be more spot on. Only thing I might add is the diversity here in Atlanta is only to be expected of a city that has a tremendous music scene (like NY, Chicago, Boston, etc). Most major cities have music scenes as diverse as the tastes of the population. Bravo Ohmpark for pointing out what we’ve all known about CL. Shame on CL for ‘sailing into irrelevance.’

  9. Taylor Says: March 4th, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    “If the Loafing wants the rock scene here to be competitive then they should do their damn job and cover some fucking bands! ”

    On a grander scale of things, I feel what makes a scene “truly competitive” is not the art that it creates, but the revenue that it generates (and thats unfortunate). Seattle blew up after grunge bands started making millions for labels. The same thing occurred in San Francisco and Chicago several years prior with the blues, folk, and psychedelic scenes. There are amazing bands in plenty of cities worldwide, but it’s the ones that can generate the most money that are often credited as being the most legitimate and “hot” scenes. I feel that underground phenomenons are underground for a reason…they have not generated the necessary capital or crowds within music venues to turn heads. Many bands are dubbed the cool band of the moment simply because they’re bringing in 50-75 people every show and the bar sales on their performance nights are through the roof. Let’s be honest, who would really care about Jimi Hendrix if he performed his same act in Pohickey, Alaska in front of ten people every night?

  10. Lindsay Says: March 4th, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I read this earlier this morning, and I think I was one of the first, cause there were no comments when I read it. I’ve only lived here for about two years, and am still finding out about great bands. And I used to read CL, but stopped. I can’t say if that because I just never see it around anymore, or if its because it wasn’t doing anything for me. The reason I don’t read it anymore is a little bit of both reasons. I used to look for shows, but never saw anything interesting there.

    Anyway, great post!!

  11. matt Says: March 4th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    When I read that CL article I thought to myself, Ohmpark is going to blow this up!

  12. Mike Says: March 4th, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Rodney Carmichael has nothing to bring to the table editor-wise. But I’ll have to say, neither does the average Atlantan. Most of the scene is out to be seen, thus the popularity of retarded-ass dance nights at horrible fucking bars(The Graveyard) in which people thrust themselves in front of cameras and act as adolescent as possible in order to be noticed. These kids never wanted to discover anything new. They want to be told what to do. The are mindless drones, thus the explosion of Nu-rave. You have to be a coke-head to appreciate that shit for more than three songs. If I really wanted to write a thesis paper right now, I would get in to the influence of Myspace and Facebook on the music scene…as well as blogs and all other new media. But it would be pointless, because some jack-ass would just post an anonymous comment calling me a hater.

    -Atlantan

  13. Jonathan P Says: March 4th, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks for writing this. After I read the article I thought about posting a .comment (ugh) over at CL but I’m glad I waited as you’ve summed things up better than I had planned. The incredibly lackluster depth of Cl’s music coverage is the real shame here, not lack of local support for bands. As much as I like the Black Lips and Deerhunter, CL’s excessive coverage has been a drag. Especially considering there are tons of other deserving bands that get a small paragraph in the show listings if they’re lucky.

    And another thing: what exactly is the New York or L.A. scene anyways? That’s right a collection of many fragmented subscenes. We should be proud our music offerings are as diverse, and have so much depth. As said in the comments above, if there is one unifying “scene” atlanta is known for it’s hip hop (or really rap, I guess.)

    That’s all. You’re right on target. Keep up the good work

  14. puertorricandan Says: March 5th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Fuck yeah – get em Davy

  15. Ohmpark Rips Creative Loafing a New One For Being Hopelessly Confused « dubLaboratory Says: March 5th, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    [...] Diatribe Of The Day: Don’t Blame The Hipsters, or Why Atlanta Pwns Omaha [...]

  16. T From ATL Says: March 5th, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    THIS IS THE ARTICLE THAT SHOULD HAVE RAN ON CL LAST WEEK! You have summed up the Atlanta indie scene perfectly.

    I posted the following on CL’s comments page, and thought I’d share it here as well:

    The state of rock/indie in Atlanta can be boiled down to three things:

    1: For those of you coming back from a time machine or have lost your hearing, Atlanta is not a rock city. Atlanta is a HIP-HOP City. Period. Any other form of music is going to have a tough road to hoe here. Rap pays the bills and draws the fans, record labels, and buzz here. Not to say that there isn’t room for other genres, but they have to be exceptional and interesting to draw attention, which leads me to my second point:

    2: Most of the bands here SUCK ASS, with a capital S. I listen to the mp3s of bands that CL bigs up from time to time and most of them sound like Tech kids killing time until lunch or graduation, whichever comes first. Until we get some serious PROFESSIONAL musicians here, expect more articles about the same thing a year from now.

    3: While I respect Slayer Dude for his honesty about what he expects from a crowd, his attitude is the main thing wrong with up and coming bands here or anywhere else. It is not up to ME to seek YOU out. I’m busy. I have a life and other shit to do. It is up to YOU to seek ME out and give me a reason to keep seeing you.

    The sooner the indie/hipster/rock scene comes to terms with these facts, the sooner the healing can begin.

  17. Brandon Says: March 5th, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Well stated. I love concerts in Atlanta. Posting the band listings in the back of your magazine does not count as covering the “scene” in Atlanta. I know people who drive for hours to see shows in Atlanta (and not at Phillips Arena). I’ve been going to shows since high school and Atlanta is Stacked with talent. Perhaps the CL should go see some shows (wait, come to think of it, why don’t I ever see them out at shows listening to the music they claim I don’t go see?)

  18. Phoebe Cates Says: March 5th, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I thought the Creative Loafing article was (correctly) implying that the bands don’t support each other, not Atlanta music fans in general. As a member of an Atlanta band, I go to a lot of local shows where my band isn’t playing, but probably not as many as, say, Michael Stipe or Fred Schneider went to, during the Athens hey-day. (Not comparing myself to those people, of course, just using them as an example.)

    When the members of Atlanta bands actually go to see other Atlanta bands, then we’ll see some real “scene” unity. The Rob’s House/Die Slaughterhouse/Douchemaster people have this down. You always see those folks out at each others shows.

  19. wesleywhatwhat Says: March 6th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    lol.

    soooo true.

  20. carded, not a minor Says: March 7th, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    i think it goes beyond bands supporting bands (although i do strongly agree with that) it’s about press helping out the scene.
    we all know who the “big name” bands are, they don’t need as much coverage as a band that is starting to draw well in ATL. write about that band! help them get exposure, help start a scene! because they obviously are hard at work, trying to make something happen.

    do a simple “band of the month”. there are a million bands in ATL, i know. but help bands get atleast get some name recognition if nothing else.

    also, venues promoting the “HUGE TOURING ACT THAT EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS” and then doesn’t promote the local shows…that my friends is killing the ATL scene as well. promote local music!!!

    to all fans of music, after you see a local show. if a band caught and kept your interest, tell 5 people to check out that band.

    all of this boils down to “word of mouth”, that’s it. that simple.

  21. Rick Says: March 9th, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    I think it just boils down quality bands. The Black Lips have hit the bigtime and no one is really filling their shows. The old shows at Dotties/Lennys used to be rife with excitement and danger.. i don’t get that feeling with any of the new breed, plus the metal here SUX.

  22. Roger who Pwns Omaha Says: March 12th, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Dear Davey. You come across like a sniveling little bitch with this rant. What’s your point?! You just bitch to hear yourself bitch. PS Snowden sucks very badly, almost as much as the Hiss.

  23. Not Richard but... Says: March 12th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Really? You felt so compelled by CL’s article that you just had to blow up on your little blog and expose the atrocities in the story?

    I almost read this whole thing but I stopped when I realized that it was just some hipster blogger pissing himself. I agree with Roger in that the Hiss do/did suck, even more than Snowden but not as much as you.

  24. alr-ight Says: March 12th, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    No one has mentioned the sad fact that there is little sense of underground music history, practiced by music writers here, into which up and coming bands can be placed. Chad should be able to provide some of this as he’s actually aware of what has happened in this town before, say, 1990. Davy, you’re obviously excused. This historical context contributes to a sense of definition when refering to a “scene”. Additionally, one must constantly peer to the fringes and margins for scene context. This can’t be emphasized enough, especially due to the fact that EVERY band wants to lay claim to being “edgey” but in fact %98 of them are completely fucking safe, including most of the acts you rave about Mr. Minor.

  25. john Says: November 4th, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I really like the article. I am in a band Hip to death which hipsters will die someday thankfully. When when have a show CL never posts it anywhere, I wonder why probably because our name is very relevent to the scene. I think even if we came up with the catchiest and hipest song in the universe that Cl or anyone in the csene would care because we don’t kiss anyones ass. We are open to friendship bands and publicist but we are not going to suck there dick to get ahead of this so scene/game play here in atlanta. This is Hate city from what i have experienced being in a couple bands here the last 5 years. Oh we play at Star bar tommorrow night November 5th if you are down.

    john

  26. john Says: November 4th, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Lots of spelling errors on last post sorry revision is here….

    I really like the article. I am in a band called Hip to death which means hipsters will die someday thankfully. When we have a show CL never posts it anywhere, I wonder why, probably because our name is very relevent to the scene. I think even if we came up with the catchiest and hipest song in the universe that Cl or anyone in the scene would not care because we don’t kiss anyones ass. We are open to friendship with bands and publicist but we are not going to suck there dick to get ahead of this so called scene/game play here in atlanta. This is Hate city from what i have experienced being in a couple bands here the last 5 years. Oh we play at Star bar tommorrow night November 5th if you are down.

    john

  27. Nadia Says: August 27th, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Holy shit. Davy, you are my hero. For several reasons:
    1. OhmPark is the best Atlanta music news resource out there. Hands down. You practice what you preach in the above article. The coverage is not based on favoritism or popularity and it certainly attempts to highlight the breadth of Atlanta music. There is no other source that does that for Atlanta. And trust me, I’ve been examining them for some time.
    2. In this post, you have exemplified my every thought in written word. It affirms that maybe I’m not just crazy. Creative Loafing and aforementioned CL writer have puzzled me greatly with their choice of coverage of Atlanta music. My conclusions are the same as yours. Celebrate the diversity. Recognize the breadth of extremely hard-working talent that surrounds out. Remove tunnel vision.
    3. You’re a great writer. :)

    I think a major part of the problem with getting people interested and involved in Atlanta music is the music journalism. People go to Creative Loafing, because it has the widest audience. They read about the same bands week after week, maybe they check out the music, and then it’s over. They didn’t like that sound. So, that’s the end of what the local scene can offer that music lover looking for their new favorite band. If there was more widespread coverage, people would be more likely to find their niche of sound. Because it most certainly is offered by a band in Atlanta.

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