On the chance I happen to be in one of the 14 remaining record stores in the US, I am always immensely intrigued by the section of records marked “local.” The reason being that for what would seem to be a rather brainless description of what one would find therein, it is, in many ways, as befuddling and incoherent as, say, James Brown’s appearance on Sonya Live (note: I was going to say “as befuddling and incoherent as Shane McGowan reading the Gettysburg Address while eating an Ultimate Angus sandwich from Arby’s,” but that made my head twitch and vibrate as if it were going to explode a la David Cronenberg’s Scanners).
Besides LOCAL*, almost all other delineations of sections in a music store are based on the concept of genres (jazz, blues, country, glow bounce, dream slam, def zef, ya’ll-ternative, rastabilly, etc.) and not geography. Indeed, you could anomalously point out that perfectionistic assholes will say they sometimes get World music sub-divisions like “Brazil” or “Africa” or “Indonesia” (or other countries who have won Grammys in the tribal chanting category), but this is mostly due to the laziness of snivelly-ass record store clerks who think music from the third world tends to be “kind of same-y.”
Anyway, the point is: What does “local” really mean? It surely doesn’t mean “This is the section of the store for all artists from the general geographic region within a reasonable radius of where you happen to be standing at this very moment.” You surely won’t find the Stooges in the “local” section of a record store in Ann Arbor or, say, Dylan records intermingling with other Duluth start-up bands. What I have discerned is that your local section in a music store basically means, “This is where we put shitty, amateurish bands who happen to be from this city and who are nice and probably shop at the store, and, so… well, fuck it, we’ll let them bring in a few of their crappy CDs in order to give the store the appearance of being ‘community-oriented’ and ‘supportive of the local scene,’ but, hey, just make sure they don’t take up any prime real estate in the store—preferably put ’em back over there by the unsold Kozik toys.”
Where the idea came from that everyone has a God-given right to pick up an instrument and make some noxiously novice noise on it, I have no idea. Maybe it was Pete Seeger, who, if he really had a hammer, should have smashed the banjos of every hack-ass Kingston Trio rip-off band who got booked to play protest songs at their local college’s SDS rally. The fact of the matter is that we have to end the onslaught of any future half-assed, limp-dicked “local” music. We simply can’t trust you to have even a modicum of common sense anymore about seemingly blatantly obvious concepts like talent or originality. Therefore we must institute a Styx / “Kilroy Was Here” style anti-music goon squad to stop you from playing with your shitty band. But until we have assembled our team of post-apocalyptic Judge Dread-style music-destroying marauders, here are a few telltale giveaways, or possibly symptoms, that you might be playing music that should be rather unfortunately filed in the local section.
*You play in town 15-25 times a year. (Do you think your friends are going to buy multiple copies of your record?)
*You have 2-3 kids and a mortgage, but think you've still got a chance at "the music thing."
*Also, you call playing in a band "doing the music thing."
*You play in a cover band to support your original band, because, hey, at least you're playing music.
*Your liner notes contain a “thank you” section for each individual member.
*You are the first of three bands on a Tuesday night, but feel a need to play for 65 minutes (no one wants to hear your shallow, much less deep, cuts, asshole!) .
*You have to cancel a show because one of the members is going to the beach that weekend.
*You have at least one fat member.
*You are white but still claim to be playing jazz or the blues.
*The person who is recording your record is referred to as a buddy.
*You play video games more than you actually play your instrument.
*Your "manager" also has the title of girlfriend.
*Ninety percent of your musical performances have taken place in the county of your birth.
*You work at a music store so you can "get good deals” and keep up with “new stuff.”
*You ask people to sign a mailing list that is in the back.
*All your gear is stuff that can be ordered from a Musician's Friend catalog or bought at a Guitar Center.
*You have your own band's sticker on your car.
*Your website claims you were voted best at something in a local paper's reader's poll.
*You use the terms "getting signed" or "shopping around" in reference to soliciting your music.
*A third of the audience you are playing for on any specific night are blood relatives.
*You have at least one member over 40 who wears a Hawaiian shirt to let you know that they're "ready to throw down."
*You are putting together a project specifically to open up for some band you like who is coming into town to play.
*You have some t-shirts being made that you often describe as "pretty rad."
*Your floor tom arrives to the club via the passenger seat of your car.
*Your press photo looks like Little Caesars just closed and someone snapped a employee group shot with a camera phone.
*You hand-deliver your CD to the local weekly .
*And of course, the deathblow… you were on a CD, bill, or radio show called "Locals Only."
*Note: The best way to not have your band included in the local genre section is to actually be a good band.