When the social norm upsets you, it’s time to revolt. That’s what counterculture is all about. There’s a way of living and an attitude it totes that push a certain group of people, or multiple demographics, to feel at odds, as if they don’t belong or they’re actively being pushed down. As long as people are people, social norms, and the various forms of revolt, that grow in response to social norms will always exist. This much seems easy to understand, at the very least, especially in the wake of this new presidency.
Boston Magazine ran an article this week called “The Life and Death and Rebirth of Boston’s Counterculture” by Simon van Zuylen-Wood that’s about, in the author’s words, “how the city lost its underground cool—and might just get it back.”
You know where this is going.
There’re too many faulty points within “The Life and Death and Rebirth of Boston’s Counterculture” to form a proper response, so let’s just check off the biggies. Local radio is improving itself. Case in point: after-school non-profit Zumix getting a dial (94.9 FM!). Bands register out of town. Case in point: Pile, Speedy Ortiz, Michael Christmas, and more headlining shows around the US and UK. Cultural criticism is fading, of course, but that’s not symptomatic of Boston; that’s a symptom of American culture consumption at large—says the girl who’s counting down the days until Opening Day (mark April 3 on your calendars, y’all).
By far the biggest problem is the title and tone in general. Nothing says “counterculture” like highlighting music made by and for hetero white guys and then proceeding to interview a bunch of hetero white guys about that very matter. Their knowledge or relevancy isn’t under debate. It’s representation that matters, especially when arguing in favor of a type of culture that’s supposed to represent the other side, those cast in a shadow, those opposing the mainstream. Straight, white, old(er) men are the ones who get to be in the limelight and direct where its beam extends. It’s a long time until they’re not the ones in that position. As far forward as we’ve come, Boston (and America as a whole) still fall victim to this type of coverage. Don’t pretend that’s changed simply because of awareness.
So, instead of arguing in favor of the underground, let us steer you directly toward it. As the “one hobbled alt-weekly” our city’s got, that’s what we’re best at. In the past, we suggested you checked out acts like Palehound, Mal Devisa, and Cousin Stizz. Now, we’ve got equally talented musical acts rising from the basement scene to knock you off your feet.
Bad History Month and Dust From 1000 Years, local bands known for lo-fi self-deprecation and philosophy masked in ribald prose, play Great Scott this Sunday night. The following evening, a stacked bill of indie rock, oddball folk, and pointed rock play the same venue: Strange Mangers, Funeral Advantage, Lina Tullgren, Teenender, Champagne Charm. It’s a bill of varied genres, genders, and realms, proving our local scene not only keeps itself in motion, but its members support one another even if that makes its bubble a little less defined. Then there’s a teaser show for Coach Fest at the Middle East Upstairs on Sunday night, too, if you want to choose between which horde of local bands you like best. Oh, and remember the Lilypad? Club Passim? Midway Cafe? The dozens of treasures our city keeps open and running to represent the endless pool of talent that keeps blossoming each year here? They’ve got stellar shows this week, too. And if you’re still confused as to why the house show scene “died,” may we remind you that those holding DIY shows and underground venues work twice as hard now to keep them alive, diversified, and budding with talent because our precious city decided to double down on them.
Take the small space this note takes up as a sign. No, that piece isn’t worth a proper response. No, that piece isn’t worth your time. And no, an old white man telling you about the relevancy of counterculture—or even culture at large for that matter—is not the way to better understand a community. You know this. You read the Dig. But in case you need the reminder, here it is: Boston is a city that runs on cyclical demolition and rebirth. It’s a product of the average age, the average resident, and the average attention span. It’s normal to feel like gentrification and other factors are morphing Boston into an unrecognizable shape, because they are. But it’s important to recognize that change opens up new spaces for people to create their own work—be it music, film, art, or some weird fucking hybrid of the unmentioned—and it’s there, in these spaces, that counterculture rages on. We don’t have to pray it keeps itself alive. It already is, and it always will. That’s the very nature of counterculture.