“We want a scene where the music is free and the beer is not the life of the party…” screams Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace on song “Reinventing Axl Rose.”
It’s a punk cry to what is important in its respective music scene: honesty, emotion, and DIY ethics. It provides one answer of many possibilities to the question of what people look for in a local music scene.
In Chicago, people could debate endlessly about what is actually important. Someone who runs a DIY house will give a very different answer than a venue booker or promoter, which will then be different depending on the size of the spaces.
It can semi-safely be said that good music is what people look for in any music scene, but what else remains?
There are plenty of thriving scenes where the music may not objectively be great. There’s a known camaraderie amongst hardcore fans, many punk scenes value a strict DIY ethos, and the emo scene is one of the most inclusive and accepting out there.
Scenes provides networking opportunities for bands and artists. Many people don’t realize that scenes foster a community and require support from people who interact and exist within them. Artists might collaborate with bands for an album cover. Writers can interview bands, bookers, and DIY spaces to provide insight and spread news. Photographers are often at the forefront of shows to document a rising band and in turn have great material to showcase and add to a portfolio.
With the exception of some DIY spaces, drinking is of course a big part of the experience. Many bars and venues offer craft beer specials and cheaper cocktails for shows – the band brings people in, they stay for drinks; people come for cheap drinks, stay for the band. Craft beer culture is certainly associated with music culture and the overlap is beneficial to both.
Sometimes your friend drags you along to a show and it’s great. Sometimes a venue gets a good review or is highly rated on an internet poll. Then there’s always the scene that makes you feel like you belong. Maybe everyone has tattoos, likes the same kind of clothes, or believes in a straight-edge lifestyle.
At the end of the day though, music will remain the overarching theme that brings everyone together and gives them something to relate to.