2010 in the Dayton music scene
By Kyle Melton
While much of the Miami Valley remains unaware of the Dayton indie music scene, 2010 showed some potential for reversing that trend in the coming years. On many levels the indie music community here in the Gem City presented itself collectively as a productive scene, issuing a number of releases that could easily hold their own amongst the glut of national indie releases.
Despite a surge in marketable product, the city’s status as a cultural outpost continued to hinder the ability of bands to achieve any degree of measurable success. The few bands that have ventured past the boundaries of this minor metropolis have seen opportunities multiply. As so many bands before can bear witness, to be a nationally recognized band from Dayton, you must leave Dayton and tour (just ask The Story Changes). While that maxim continues to hold true, for those still struggling for notice within the cozy confines of the Gem City, 2010 was a pretty good year …
LOCAL RELEASES: While there has been no shortage of incredible local releases coming out of Dayton over the past few years, 2010 saw a veritable deluge of quality discs in a variety of styles. As veterans such as Lab Partners, Human Reunion, 8-Bit Revival, My Latex Brain and Motel Beds all issued excellent discs that cemented their respective reputations, newcomers such as Roley Yuma, The Turkish Delights, Me & Mountains, Kuan and Andrew & the Pretty Punchers likewise presented albums that could easily stand their ground amongst national indie releases.
Although hardly still considered a “local” act, perhaps one of the most notable events to originate in Dayton in 2010 was the return of the “Classic” Guided By Voices lineup that initially reconvened at the behest of Matador Records for the 21st birthday party in Las Vegas in October. Although planned as a one-off performance, Robert Pollard & Co. made a full-blown tour of the reunion, subsequently playing sold-out venues across the country. While this may not translate into renewed interest in Dayton as a hotbed for emerging talent on the scale it did in the mid-90s, it certainly reminded much of the world that one of indie rock’s most beloved acts still calls Dayton home.
GETTING HEARD: In an era that finds the average listener getting inundated at an alarming rate with so much music and an equally alarming lack of gatekeepers, for musicians in an outpost such as Dayton, it’s more difficult than ever to attract a large following. With only a few local record stores offering support for local releases (Omega Music, Toxic Beauty in Yellow Springs, Disc Exchange and Game Swap), unless people come to see a band live, the odds of selling a record are slim. Juliet Fromholt at WYSO has taken up the task or providing opportunities on local airwaves to local bands on her weekly program, Kaleidoscope (every Wednesday 8 – 11 p.m.). While this provides an excellent outlet to reach wider audiences, local acts are still tragically off the radar for much of the citizenry of the Miami Valley.
IN MEMORIAM: Along with a number of new arrivals this year, Dayton also bid farewell to a number of old friends. At the beginning of the year, the DIY venue Dayton Dirt Collective closed its doors in January. Not long after, music-lovers saw the closing of a local institution, Gem City Records, in early February. While the former Gem City Records space was finally revived by the relocation of Omega Records in October, owner Gary Staiger passed away suddenly over the Thanksgiving holiday. In May, founding member of Sleepybird and Stivers adjunct art instructor Jason Dryden was found dead in his home. These institutions and individuals will be remembered fondly by the Dayton music community.
WHAT NEEDS TO GO: Here are a couple of things that seem to have become standard practice at shows that would best be left behind as we move into 2011…
… On more than one occasion, I’ve seen attendants of a given show evacuate the building as if it were on fire once their friend’s band had finished their set. In many cases, this has left other bands with virtually no audience. When attending a show at any venue in town, it’s simply an insult to the other bands to flee the room before they can even play a note. When you go to a show, make a point to at least LISTEN to the bands you didn’t specifically come to see. You might actually enjoy it….
… While it’s unlikely that people are ever going to leave their mobile devices behind when they go out, it gets somewhat depressing to look around the room at a show and see more than half the people consumed by their phone rather than the event at hand. A rock show is ultimately about some kind of interaction between a performer and an audience, so when most of the people in a room are disengaged, it’s unlikely that any of that rock n’ roll X-factor can be generated. Unless you’re letting your friends know what an awesome show they’re missing, you might wait until a set break to hop on your phone.
As we head into 2011, it seems to this humble observer that although Dayton will likely always be a place you have to leave in order to make waves nationally, it’s still not a bad place to call home for an aspiring musician.
Reach DCP freelance writer Kyle Melton at firstname.lastname@example.org.