One of the most under documented and yet incredibly important parts of the underground music scene are obscure little all ages and high school friendly venues. Usually they are run by someone in their mid 20s and they often play host to countless peoples first bands and helps them with their underage members who stop them from being able to go beyond. America is not a place that is often very kind to the young artist but these venues are able to give us all of the freedom that we need to explore our art, start a scene and slowly begin to realize where we can come in and what we can do to help our scene to expand and, at the end of the day, become a larger part of what we are all working towards as we drive around the country time and time again in shitty vans, engaging in the simple suffering that our love of DIY leaves us to. I’ve been having flashbacks to my own favorite youth crew venue and wanted to take some time to look at them and how they can help your band.
Now I want to clarify up top the difference between a youth venue and a DIY venue – because there is a notable difference that you need to confront. A DIY venue is typically run by crazy crust punks, is in a shitty part of town and is probably super illegal. Odds are a few people live there and that only serves to add to the charm. A lot of these traits are shared with youth venues, but be aware that these places generally cater to a slightly older demographic. The defining traits of youth venues are that they tend to be a little more official, making the high school kids who attends parents a little more comfortable with their kids going. It’s also usually run, like I said, by someone in their mid 20s with a good understanding of business. They probably went to college, played in bands and are usually capable of making a positive impression on the kids parents. That’s why a lot of times these take place in more established businesses – it makes things run a lot more smoothly.
The big thing to remember with these sorts of places is the emphasis on equality and DIY principles. These spaces are frequently driven by the concept that an 16 year old can start booking the next Modern Baseball. They focus on leftist politics, creating a community of disenfranchised high school kids, and working together to make things better. In other words they capture all of the things that I love writing about. Of course there are a lot of limitations because the people doing this are in fucking high school or college a lot of the time. They don’t know shit about shit, and that’s fine. We don’t need to attack them for that. We simply need to be aware that if you get booked with a slightly higher than normal guarantee and end up getting fucked out of your money you shouldn’t be upset. Remember these are the formative grounds for our kids and we want them to be able to learn in a positive way that brings everyone up.
Now for these reasons we find that these youth venues are frequently a little sketchy to book and I totally get why some people might not be totally comfortable playing them. The sound systems aren’t always the best and sometimes you have to deal with simply atrocious opening bands breaking out the same fucking tired covers or bands who simply don’t fit in your genre at all. That’s just how these things go and you need to accept that if you’re going to play youth venues. By the same token realize that you can really inspire some kids with what you’re doing. If you reach out to them and give them a chance sometimes they will impress you and in many cases you can view working with them as a long term investment. Maybe they suck as a promoter now and can’t get anything good done, but who knows? Down the line they might end up being a monster of a industry guy who won’t forget the kindness you showed them.
I think my favorite part of a lot of these venues is how they are such a place of ‘first’ for so many of the bands and people involved. Countless of these spots see first shows, first joints and first loves. You watch high schoolers start smoking menthols non stop so that the older kids think they are cool, you see 21 year old excitedly buying handles of liquor and then chugging them in what they think is a discrete fashion, and then puking in the alley the bands are supposed to load in from. This is one of my favorite parts of this whole thing – the sort of innocence that you have before shit gets rough and you spend your 20s in the back of a van, fighting off hangovers and screaming at the sheer suffering that you are crushed under. So we have the youth venues to introduce us to the beautiful and young lust of the scene and to entrance us with all that this music can allegedly provide, before crushing our wallets into simple oblivion.
So I encourage you to embrace youth venues. Maybe don’t bank your personal future on them but realize that they represent the future of our scene. All of your favorite bands from the next five years are germinating in these places right now, building on old formulas and hinting at so much more to come. Independent music is something that takes a long time to come to fruition so it makes sense that the people doing it in high school now are the ones who are going to be able to find some sort of future in it down the line. Sure most of it is nihilistic, cutesy and kind of silly – but don’t you want to join me and just do your best in order to believe?
Independent Music Promotions’ (www.independentmusicpromotions.com) revolutionary music PR campaigns are the most effective in the industry. Submit your music to us today.