In a cover essay for this week’s Washington City Paper, “Our Band Could Be Your Band,” writer and Edie Sedgwick front man Justin Moyer eulogizes the existence of regional music scenes and their importance in helping advance music and challenge the norms within each community’s ascribed aesthetic. The culprit responsible for upending these distinct and vital is none other than Brooklyn, or rather the concept of Brooklyn as a gathering place for creative types that could be any number of locales or even URLs. For Moyer, Brooklyn is representative of the homogenization of once-unique sounds and the creation of a singular sound and style that can be applied to anywhere around the world; in effect, “Brooklynization” is his specific term for globalization through the lens of music.
There are plenty of places like Brooklyn outside of New York City’s five boroughs—and that’s part of the problem. Moyer asserts that Brooklyn is a place beloved for being a cultural center, so people flock there in droves, end up sharing creative sensibilities, and ultimately end up churning out music that sounds exactly like every other band in the same Zip code. People end up creating and consuming music that blends into everything else, the sonic equivalent of eating nothing but buckets grey paste for every meal, a diet that can technically provide someone with all the necessary nutrients to survive but not much else. It results in a collective musical blend that may be relatively pleasing and appealing but lacking flavor, and perhaps explains why “indie” has become a catchall term for any and all new bands that use guitars and don’t sound like Nickelback.
In the article’s introduction Moyer argues for the importance of regional music scenes with an anecdote about playing his first out of town show in Danville, Virginia, a rather horrific experience that nonetheless challenged his perception of how and why people listen to music. I find it hard to disagree with certain points Moyer makes about regional music scenes. (Full disclosure: I contribute to the City Paper and back in college I booked one of Moyer’s bands, Antelope, to play a gig at my own version of a regional music scene, a coffee house in a castle at Brandeis University. Yes, a castle.) And yet I believe that the Brooklynization of culture is partially responsible for keeping regional music scenes alive, or it’s at least helpful in keeping these communities thriving in their own way.