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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is "Brooklynization" Killing Regional Music Scenes? Not This One

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM

"What this essay is saying: There is a tidal wave of generic, mushy, apolitical, featureless, Brooklynish music infiltrating the world's stereos. "

Over at Washington City Paper, Justin Moyer makes a rather roundabout case that "Brooklynization" -- the centralization of bands, media/blogs, labels, vinyl pressing plants, artists, corporate outposts, etc. -- is killing the patchwork of regional music scenes across the U.S.

From his own personal experience, the author names more than a dozen bands from his local scene (Washington, D.C.) that split up or moved in the early 2000s as their members hightailed it for NYC. He bemoans the "Brooklyn state of mind," which he blames for homogenizing the sounds of bands all across the country, citing the example of the Gossip: "When a band from Arkansas starts making wan disco, homegrown character is, consciously or unconsciously, traded for an entrée to the global marketplace," Moyer writes. "The landscape flattens. The Gossip is in a Brooklyn state of mind."

We're certainly no stranger to some level Brooklynization here in the Bay Area -- see our recent jokes about why so many local bands move there. (And note that Weekend, the latest successful indie rock outfit to move, will play its last Oakland show this Saturday at the Uptown.)

But the Bay Area scene seems less like a pool being drained by Brooklyn/NYC and more like a carnival mirror's warped reflection of it on the opposite coast -- similar, but also very much still its own.

Sure, there are unimaginative artists popping up here, and ripping off whatever new "it" indie band is on Captured Tracks or Mexican Summer, like there are everywhere. But there's also a lot of weird, cool, homegrown shit that isn't like what you'd find in Brooklyn (even if they like it there, too):

We've got the city's thriving garage/psych/dino-rawk scene, which is known and loved around the world. We've got the interesting post-hyphy era of Bay Area hip-hop, where practitioners of backpack rap and synthy R&B and street bangers are still putting out more mixtapes and YouTube videos than we can keep up with. (Some of which are quite good.) Hell, we've got the cottage industry and freakery factory that is Lil B.

There are the oddball electro-pop artists like James and Evander and Yalls over in the East Bay, too, and the fact that the weirdest newcomer in recent memory to rocket to the top of the music-crit food chain -- tUnE-yArDs -- is based right in Oakland.

Back in the city, we find the voracious, skilled experimentation of the Jazz Mafia and the Classical Revolution folks. (Read our recent cover story on them!)

We've got a host of shadowy local artists like oOoOO mining a strain of eerie music that borrows from industrial, thug rap, and electronica. And although it seems like we're always worshipping whatever "underground New York DJ" is playing in S.F. this weekend, our own dance-party products, like the Icee Hot crew -- who are starting their own label -- the Dirtybird crew, and the Nor-Cal outpost of the left-field hip-hop/bass/beat folks like DJ Dials are holding it down just fine. Oh, and Oakland Faders, anyone?

That's just a cursory, back-of-the-envelope roundup of the musical movements happening here. There are many, many more.

Moyer has a point that the centralization of this kind of culture is going to lead to some homogenization. "Brooklyn" has become a kind of shorthand that anyone involved in music culture (or food culture) understands. But it's not the only place where interesting musical things are happening -- and neither is the Bay Area. Local scenes like ours are still thriving, despite the magnetism of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Sure, the Bay Area will lose the occasional artist to NYC. But any look at a local concert calendar will tell you that the "tidal wave of generic, mushy, apolitical, featureless, Brooklynish music" hasn't drowned the Bay Area yet.

[Our Band Could Be Your Band: How the Brooklynization of culture killed regional music scenes]

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Ian S. Port @iPORT, and like us at

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