Even now, over four years later, it’s hard to say exactly what I expected of the so-called “Georgetown Music Scene” when I first arrived on campus in 2006. Readers familiar with D.C.’s illustrious hardcore punk history understand the sort of fantastical possibilities that one can dream up: perhaps a homegrown, vibrant collection of bands that plays often and supports one another, or maybe even a student body that pays more attention to its musicians than to its football team—a fair expectation at Georgetown. The first student-organized music event I attended on campus—a concert put on by WGTB in Bulldog Alley that was attended by a paltry 10 to 15 people—was a harbinger of the truth: the “Georgetown Music Scene” exists vividly in daydreams, but remains, in actuality, spotty at best.
Let me be specific. I’m not talking about the Jazz Band, the Marching Band, the Chimes, or even Cabaret. I’m referring to a student-run, do-it-yourself, we-write-and-perform-our-own-songs sort of “scene.” The kind that offers shows on weekends and dreams of putting on more in between. One that has its resource-oriented stars and leaders aligned in a neat row. You know, the kind we don’t have at Georgetown.
I think a natural reaction to this discovery—and one of the most popular knee-jerk reactions on the Hilltop—is to blame the University. The most glaring issue my freshman year was that there was no reliable location for aspiring student bands to practice. That problem was quickly resolved when the Guild of Bands, an organization with access to a practice space in the basement in New North, was created in the spring of 2006. In one fell swoop, the University not only gave these bands a place to practice, but a sure-fire way to meet other musicians around campus. And its worked incredibly well—the Guild of Bands grows in size each semester.
Beyond practice space, some maintain that a lack of venues kills the scene—yet another fallacy. We have Bulldog Alley, Alumni Lounge, Walsh Blackbox, Red Square, and Gaston Hall, not to mention more interesting locales like the LXR Rooftop or the steps of White Gravenor. In reality, there are few convenient places to play at Georgetown, but there are so many potential venues that it basically mitigates the point. It just takes an open mind and a bit of creativity.
The real Achilles heel of the “Georgetown Music Scene” isn’t a lack of decent bands, places to play, or even a stratified audience. It’s a leadership vacuum—there are too few students who are willing to shoulder the burdens of logistical organization. When attempted by a small contingency of students, putting on a show can be a ton of work: not only do you need to prepare your songs and play well, but you also need to promote the event, transport equipment, set everything up, avoid pissing anyone off, thank everyone for coming, take everything down, and then summon the will to do it all over again a few weeks later. Even at a pace of playing, say, one show per month, it can be an intimidating amount of effort, especially if it involves borrowing equipment or trying to convince your friends to come see you play yet again.
Georgetown simply lacks an industrious middle-man or woman—someone who wants to set up shows day-in-and-day-out, run sound checks, and chase down bands with no compensation besides the basic satisfaction that accompanies hard work and the opportunity to enjoy student-produced music. The “scene” desperately needs its own Bill Graham or a Todd P—a role Georgetown musicians, myself included, have failed to fill. It may just be laziness or pessimism, but unless Georgetown student bands figure out a way to share organizational responsibilities more efficiently, the scene will continue to wait for is logistical messiah.
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