Bim here, I was asked to write something for Willamette Week recently and to my surprise, here’s what plopped out:
All my life, Portland has been talking about how important all ages music is. Meanwhile, aside from some rare and short-lived exceptions to the rule, we’ve always decided to sell alcohol instead of having places for the next generation of music to cut their collective teeth alongside the last. Maybe it’s a vast conspiracy against the kids by the OLCC. More likely, it’s because Portlanders don’t like music as much as we like drinking, and we won’t admit it because we all want to seem smarter than that. I’ve heard the mantra: “don’t tread on me, OLCC” and I’ve even chanted it while doing my fair share of volunteering, sitting on non-profit boards, lobbying for changes to our legal framework in this area, and otherwise fitting the mold that hasn’t created any real change. It’s true, the OLCC is a state sanctioned mafia. Problem is, the distance between what society says it wants and what we actually want is the area where corruption feeds and festers. So corruption exists to the degree we allow it. When our stated goals and our daily choices are misaligned, shit gets complicated. For example, each time we try to marry art or any other important non-commerce part of our collective landscape with a commercial subsidizer—in the case of live music, alcohol. In the case of journalism, advertising. In the case of politics, entities who may as well be Mr. Monopoly—the social good ends up becoming degraded to the point where it’s so shitty that we can’t even remember the value it initially offered. Then the thing we tried to use to prop up the valuable thing becomes the thing we protect. We mistake the map for the territory. This is all so silly because if thinking people are in fact different than animals it’s due to our talent for map-making. So how do we imagine a new way forward? How can we see the ground again? In my opinion, and it is an opinion, we need to get off the map if we want to survey for a new way forward. Go underground, don’t tell, fail on our own terms and create things that are immune to capture by moneyed forces. This is what post-punk was doing—escaping a repeat of their anti-capitalist cultural output being used by corporations to sell clothes and a unrealistic image—when they made all that gloriously unmarketable and confusing music. Hold yourself to the highest standards and remember that if most people understand what you’re doing, and if you have permission, it is time to bury it alive.
Here’s what the paper actually ran: