As Salem continues to grow and expand, our music scene is also starting to grow, and this is a very good thing. Scenes change and evolve all the time as new life is injected into the biome. It’s a part of what makes each town so unique and excellent. When we talk about the Salem Music Scene as a sum of its parts, there is more happening now than ever, and so much of it has been built upon the hard work of everyone who was courageous enough to put on a show and say, “here’s what we’re doing this week. Wanna join us?”
When any group of people get together to hang out, drama can build up and play out over time. The events that happen in public spaces where shows happen can become very heated. Energies are high, the dynamics of listening to music is creating a tension between people, and emotions always bubble over when we’re excited and having a good time. But this can manifest in unfortunate ways. “Being near drama – or any extreme emotions – definitely affects my experience at a show. I’m an emotional sponge,” said Summer Keightley, who is the chef at The Space and sees a lot of shows there, and she’s not alone. A number of people I spoke with said that when they are exposed to gossip, drama, or negative experiences at a show, it can ruin the evening. “Unfortunately negative energy is very powerful. One asshole causing a scene can often kill an amazing mood,” said Mustin Douch, who books music for The Fifty Pub & Grub.
We all are the participants in the same music scene, and we get to make a choice about the kind of scene we want to create, together. So far, the one I have experienced has been inclusive, creative, and willing to try new things in extremely open-minded ways. But many people who also go to shows have reported to me a number of experiences where “one asshole” is trying to bring everything down. It is up to us to model a kind of scene we want to participate in. On those nights when everything is in your favor, and everyone is having a good time, and the bands are smokin’ hot, there is a joy that is like nothing else.
I want every show in our scene to be like that.
It seems to me, to avoid the kinds of dramas that I have heard about, we need to double down on something that we can rally behind. Something that can unite us. In my mind, it was time for an old-fashioned manifesto. Something simple and direct seemed to be in order:
The Salem Music Scene Manifesto.
• We’re artists, not assholes. This guides us, above all else.
• In public, we prop up our scene, we don’t tear it down.
• We can have opinions, and we can be constructive. But in our scene, we support art, so we keep it civil.
• Even when we don’t like a song / album / band, we keep the discussion professional, and out of the personal.
• We work together to exclude assholes, fear, sexism, racism, and the kinds of negativity that breeds drama and gossip.
It might not be much, and perhaps I’m overly optimistic that people will blow this up and post it in their clubs. And maybe I overlooked something? Write me, and we’ll sort it out. But right now, I believe in this, and this is the attitude I bring to every show I attend, and every show I put on. And I think I think we can do this together, if only because it just makes good sense.
We live in a place with incredible venues, great bands, awesome studios and artists, and great material coming out of a city that I’m proud to call my home. Let’s find a way to curb the drama, the gossip, and the bullshit, and focus on what really matters: the fantastic music that unites us all.