Start With The Obvious

I recently saw Todd Henry speak at an awesome hybrid music/speaking event Kristian Andersen put on at the Speak Easy. Todd said many wise and wonderful things but one statement stood out and has continued to resonate with me:

"Start with the obvious and it will lead you to the obscure."

This really hit home with me, often I discard or discount the obvious, regarding it unworthy of consideration or inclusion. But, as we have all experienced in our own lives, what seems obvious to one person is not to another. Maybe we can blame Robert Frost for this. We are all looking for the "road less traveled." The reality is that those less traveled roads often connect to the highways.

Waiting on the obscure often leads to delays or nothing getting done. We must place a higher value on forward momentum than novelty.

Our desire to elevate our thinking and work is noble but to accomplish this we must shift our thinking and begin to regard that which is obvious as a portal. It is simply the first step that will lead to much deeper, less obvious revelations. It will lead us to the obscure. 

related: I recently worked on a weekend recording project that was influenced by Todd's "begin with obvious" thinking. I did the session with a group of guys I have worked with for years, even going back to high school. Often in the past we have gone out of our way to create music that was as unconventional, or weird, as possible. We didn't want to sound like anyone else, we wanted to be unique and obscure, original to the point of annoyance (according to my wife at least). For this session we framed everything around "commit". We committed ourselves quickly to the most obvious course of action- this song could use a vocal harmony, ok, let's do that! The result was 6 songs finished and mixed in one weekend. We all feel it is some of best music we have ever made (and my wife and kids like it which is nice). You can check it out here: The Pink Eagles on Sound Cloud or Musical Family Tree.

The Music Scene Is Broke

This past Saturday, October 12th, was the 6th annual Broad Ripple Music Fest. It was well organized and marketed. It had great music of many stripes and a nice variety of venues all in walking distance. In every way it was set up for success. Jack Shepler, who inherited the show from SmallBox, did a great job. But the turnout was lower than hoped and the cops shut down the outdoor tents at 10. It put a serious damper on what was still a great night of music. But it's pretty clear what's really going on...

Broad Ripple used to be the music scene, now it's Fountain Square. Makes sense really. It's too expensive for musicians to live in Broad Ripple. Really, that's the rub of it: musicians move into a neighborhood, make it cool and attract the yuppies who, with good intentions, improve the neighborhood and essentially evict the musicians with raised rents. So musicians are chased around town, never really building a solid scene. This is the story of Indianapolis' music scene- Indiana Ave, Broad Ripple and now Fountain Square, etc. And it's the same in many other cities. 

A vibrant music scene is a baseline item for young professionals. They look around the country, post college or in transition, and build a short list of "cool" cities. Try to find one "cool" city that doesn't have a great music scene- Austin, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, etc. I don't think it's a secret that Indy isn't on the "cool" list very often. That's the problem, and it's a real problem. We are missing out on the energy and vitality these people could be bringing to our city.

If we are serious about Indianapolis becoming a world class city then we need to fix the music scene. It needs a home- I suggest we create a Music District in Fountain Square. It needs venues of all flavors and stripes. It needs fans that support it. Most of all, it needs to be sustainable. Musicians need to be able to make, or augment, a reasonable living here. Until we stop chasing the music scene around town and give it our sustained support Indy will not earn a permanent spot on that short list of "cool" cities that attract transformative talent.