e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


good rock and roll will save us all

Many have probably heard the NPR story this a.m. about Detroit's pop music scene and the failure of the city to "capitalize" on the Motown legacy, the city's role in birthing punk rock and techno, and so forth.

Story here. Well worth listening.

Of course pop music geeks tend to be highly suspicious of stories that use hype to tie music to a place. The "Liverpool sound" in the 60s. The "Seattle sound" in the 90s. Those narratives always over-simplify in order to craft a comforting, easy, or attractive narrative.

I guess that's why the angle of this NPR story is interesting. Martha Reeves et al make a compelling point about the city's failure to capitalize, although that narrative (or way of framing the narrative) is equally troubling...the drive to "capitalize" is why Black Bottom was destroyed, no? Still, the whole question about why "music tourism" (is that a thing?) can't be part of Detroit's fabric--like New Orleans--is an interesting one. Being able to access shows by the bands like The Dirtbombs was a part of me being excited to move back to Detroit.

Hyping arts and entertainment as panaceas for troubled economic areas is an old, old, old thing. It's a part of the rhetoric of both "de-industrialized" places I've called home--Youngstown and Detroit--where you get hype about a new sports stadium or some such thing as being the magic bullet. Rachel Nagy from the Detroit Cobras does a nice job of critiquing this in the NPR story, saying something to the effect of "they've been promising the re-birth of Detroit for years...but the music thrives in troubled environment. We can play as loud as we want." Amen, sister.

No comments: