Does Dayton Hold a Place for ALL Musicians?
By Kathleen Cahill
A true renaissance was once taking hold, creating magic in the air on the streets of Dayton. The cultural scene seemed to be thriving with art and music events held outside the realm of local bars. Just a few years ago, Dayton held a place for Matt Randolph and his musical production called Outside Residential. This was a time when people opened up their doors to musicians and art shows were held in homes and warehouses. At that time, Randolph would mainly play at art shows such as the Sideshow events and the Pearl, now Vex, when it would hold avant-garde art nights. Now, as our art and music venues are fading away and the bars as music venues grow, it leaves little room for the truly underground musicians such as Randolph in this town.
“My music is too strange for indie-rock, too digital for the noise scene and too odd for the electronic scene,” Randolph confessed. His music produces is what would fall under the umbrella term of experimental electronic music. He incorporates light sampling and bass guitar loops meshed together by simple drumbeats, occasional spoken singing and complex melodies. Unlike many of today’s electronic musicians, Randolph prefers to forgo a computer and instead uses a stereo digital four-track sampler, keyboard and bass guitar. His music lacks loud intense drumbeats that are the driving force for many electronic musicians. Randolph explained, “It’s not dance music, whereas most electronic music is made for dancing, mine is more about atmosphere.”
Providing the audience with a transcendental escape is the motive behind Randolph’s unearthly music. His spacey sounds and repetition of psychedelic melodies is what Randolph calls “daydream-inciting audibles.” To add to the spacey feel of the music, he incorporates visuals with his live sets. His passion for film and music comes to life on stage when his music becomes intertwined with his videos shown on a projector screen. The videos have become a staple for Randolph when performing, stating, “The video will always attract people, it’s like they get tricked into paying attention to both the video and music.”
In high school, Randolph, now 32, purchased his first bass guitar to try to emulate his favorite bassist and singer Les Claypool of Primas. But his history with music is more abstract than most other musicians. In the early stages of his music, he would record household appliances such as a blender or garbage disposal, and then use his drum machine and bass guitar on his four-track recorder to produce songs.
His music rivals that of other musical acts in his genre, such as the well-known experimental rock band Animal Collective. For Randolph, a Dayton resident, creating music is not about coming up with an idea or following song structures. Randolph describes, “It’s more about having an ear than to have an idea for a song. I play around with it until something sounds good to me.” Perfecting this ear did not happen overnight for Randolph, but is the product of years of experience.
Over the course of nine years, Randolph produced six albums. The most recent, titled “Coniferous,” came out at the beginning of this year and is a compilation of music from 2006-2009. Most of the music on “Coniferous” is what Randolph has been playing live under the name Outside Residential. A unique aspect of Randolph’s live set is that no two performances are ever the same because he is constantly perfecting. The music he produces overall is playful but still allows the listener to be relaxed. Randolph admits, “My music is not well-suited for the club or bar scene because it isn’t party music.”
When listening to his music, it is easy to image it being played in hip European-style coffee shops or live at an art gallery where the music can be appreciated. Although most bars in the Dayton area are not looking for ambient music to be played in their establishments, Randolph managed to play a total of 23 shows throughout 2010. Most were hosted at Oregon Express and open mic night at Blind Bob’s.
Even with the number of shows played, Randolph still faces discrimination against his music. Most area establishments want to provide a lively atmosphere with more mainstream music. By censoring what is played in bars, we are not exposing the public to the vast amount of underground music Dayton has to offer. Much of the problem stems from favoring which bands can pull in the most people. Randolph explained, “I think the music scene in Dayton has become more about the social scene. And I don’t participate in the social scene.”
Recently, it has become more apparent how important the small music and art venues were to the Dayton scene. They provided a haven for unique musicians not just in Dayton but the surrounding areas as well. The closing of places such as the Dayton Dirt Collective has left a definite mark in our community. Those spots once housed traveling musicians from all over the country and provided an outlet for those who were unable to be booked in local bars due to their strange genres or the fact that there was a minimal fan base. Now, because of the lack of these types of venues, Dayton will not continue to grow as a safe house for explorative musicians like Randolph. We may never become the culture mecca we had hoped for unless we allow thinking outside the box.
Reach DCP freelance writer Kathleen Cahill at firstname.lastname@example.org