Through a series of maybe not-so-unfortunate events, I was a teenage jam band scenester, which, when properly italicized and luridly capitalized, sounds like a sordid music-crit version of a '50s exploitation paperback. But the truth is, I wasn't seduced by drugs, sex, or anything else until college.
|The Ominous Seapods.|
There was a thriving local ska circuit on Long Island, where I grew up, and I went to a clutch of gigs at church rec centers and the occasional all-ages night hosted by the local metal club, The Roxy. But ska didn't offer what I wanted. Richard Brooks, the leader of local heroes the Scofflaws, was a bus driver at our high school, and I appreciated his obvious punkness. But getting out of my hometown was a priority. Despite being a b-side collecting fan of Nirvana and, through them, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, and a few others, underground music in 1993 paradoxically seemed like something that you saw on television, not participated in yourself.
The jam band world was the first music community I had access to. As a suburban computer kid, I got online as quickly as I could, and found that Deadheads had the pre-WWW 1993-era internet well-colonized. I eventually made my way to Larry Bloch's Wetlands Preserve, the magically handmade club in pre-gentrified TriBeCa where somehow my pitiful fake high school ID that said I was 18 got me in the door. Not that I was trying to drink; I was there for the music, maaaaaaaaan. The idea of improvisationsomething "new" every timewas throughly mindblowing to me, and the Grateful Dead seemed far more approachable (and fun) than, say, Miles Davis. But, inside Wetlands, I found a pretty complete world. There was a VW bus parked by the door, housing an environmental activism center (like, actual hang-off-buildings/throw-blood-on-fur-wearers activists); a wrap-around mural of a pastoral festival scene; hippie-built nooks; black lights; and a benevolently foreboding basement lounge. There was also a radically open-minded booking policy that included hardcore matinees, Allen Ginsberg readings, grrl-folk (including Ani DiFranco's first NYC appearance), and lots other surprises. Of course, I knew none of that then.More »