Hello! It’s been a minute. I took a break from this newsletter because I felt like there were other projects that deserved my attention more. Writing about music, for me, just didn’t seem as urgent after George Floyd’s death. I had to sit down and think about how I could make anti-racist action a more present part of my daily life, and this newsletter just ended up being what I had to cut to make room for more consistent action. Which is fine, because I think that many people were having their own personal reckoning too and didn’t have the mental space to spare on my lil newsletter anyways. But now I hope that I’ll have more time to dedicate to this newsletter because of my other bit of news: September 10 was my last day as the editorial intern at AdHoc.
It’s sad to close the chapter on what was nine months of my life, but I’m glad to have worked with such a talented and passionate group of people. I wrote over thirty articles as an intern at AdHoc—that’s a lot! Below you’ll find a selection of the articles I’m most proud of, as well as some notes about them. If you stick it out to the end, you’ll find out why I included this screenshot of a comment section.
This Report Surveyed 300 People About Their Experiences Working In the Music Industry—and the Results Are Grim
This one was fascinating because it backed up what people had been saying about the music industry with some data. I’m pretty sure I’ve cited it in at least two other articles because all of the numbers here give some much-needed context into the state of the music industry. If you’ve been watching the conversations the music industry has been having since the start of the pandemic (streaming, diversity, lack of institutional support for artists, etc) they mostly echo what is mentioned in this report.
I wish that this article got more traction not just for my own satisfaction but also because there’s a bit in here where Florence says that someone commented under one of Dry Cleaning’s videos saying they sound too much like Sonic Youth, only for someone to reply that you can never sound too much like Sonic Youth. Anyways, I have no idea why I never looked it up before now, but the exchange actually exists!
I’m always amazed at how much time artists will give me. I think the most I’ve gotten is two hours (sorry), and this interview with Madison Velding-VanDam from The Wants probably edged close to that personal best. After what I’m sure was an hour of questioning, Madison, fellow AdHoc intern Niko Van Eimeren, and I made the short trek to Domino Park for a photoshoot. The park helped inspire the intro—the container installation was a welcome surprise.
I try not to gush, but I was very excited to interview Raveena. Her music had played a very big role in a lot of close friends’ lives (my twin cried at her show, which might be less of an anomaly for Raveena shows now that I think about it) and I personally find it very healing to listen to. I feel like I caught her at a very transitional moment, so it was interesting to hear more about where she imagined going in the future.
I can’t describe to you how surreal it felt to be writing this piece. It’s surreal to even think about my mindset back when this piece was published. It was only three days after Mayor de Blasio had officially closed live music venues in New York City, and only two weeks after SXSW had been suddenly canceled. Everything escalated so quickly after that.
There's a part where I write “the CDC recommends that events of 50 people or more be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks, far longer than any current closure period”…which is wild to think about. It’s almost comical looking back and thinking 8 weeks was a long time…we’re about six months in now. Something that still sticks with me from this article was this quote from Deeper’s Drew McBride & Kevin Fairbairn:
“This upcoming Fall and Winter will be hyper-competitive for booking shows—there are only so many venues in a given city any night when scheduling a tour. If a venue previously would take a risk on an up-and-coming act for a night, they will now opt for more of a sure thing. The ecosystem for up-and-coming bands will be hurting for a long time to come.” (emphasis mine)
I feel a bit bad for saying that writing isn’t inherently revolutionary. Because I do think that articles like this help, and I think a lot of the community-oriented articles I wrote for AdHoc did make a difference. Re-reading it reminds me of how quick artists were to embrace the live-stream format, and while some of it is dated (*cough* Bernie for Prez *cough*) I feel like a lot of this is applicable even today.
This piece was meant to celebrate the last five years of The Hum in anticipation of the next five, but with the announcement that The Hum would be ending, it feels a bit more like a peek into an alternate reality of what could have been. The pandemic really threw a wrench in what would have been an amazing five-year anniversary party. I’m sad that the energy Rachael had won’t find expression through The Hum anymore, but glad that I was able to write about such a pivotal concert series in New York City.
It was actually kind of refreshing hearing how artists were reacting to life in quarantine, and realizing that everyone isn’t just going through the same thing but also reacting to it in similar ways. People found ways to cope, whether that be by thrusting yourself into work, enjoying your newly freed time, or gaining some perspective in the face of a looming global catastrophe.
I don’t know if you know this but I’ve actually interview Juan twice! This album is quite a jump in sound for Juan (one that was definitely foreshadowed in his Tall Juan Plays Cumbia EP). This was my first time premiering an album, and I actually really enjoyed all of the research that went into this article. Plus I didn’t expect to learn that the song “White Castle” was inspired by Juan’s trip to the cheap and greasy fast-food joint on Valentine’s Day—and it’s very pleasing to me Juan thinks there is something distinctly Spanish-sounding about this delightful little American chain. Besides that, I like the album itself and have a particular fondness of the lyric “How good it would be to be a song,” a thought I’ve definitely had on a late April night. It’s also worth mentioning that Juan had talked about being ready to be more political in his music, and I’m interested to see what that looks like in the pandemic era.
It just hit me that Juan said his exploration of African music “all started when I realized that Tango music was created by Africans.” Looking back on it, this statement is a bit odd because he had just done a cumbia album, and cumbia has African origins too. Regret not teasing that out earlier!
Also P.S. this article got cited in Juan’s Pitchfork Review, proof that someone besides my editor reads what I write (I’m joking, I’m joking.)
I like this article but I’m also self-aware enough to poke fun at the opening. I’ll often joke that if you read an interview I did you can often tell what I’m reading/watching from the intro alone and this article is a perfect example of me doing this. I had just watched Saturday Night Fever for the first time for a class and I simply couldn’t help myself. My professor was also a big disco fan. I wonder what he’d think of this album? Also sorry completely unrelated, this tweet:
Also, funnily enough, I think a lot of people imagine disco as a genre-oriented towards escape, but Gentle Grip—in Sam York’s own words—is about the “moral gymnastics of existing as a human in modern society”.
When I tell you that narrowing this list down was hard, I mean it. It was cool to feature up-and-coming talent in New York, especially because they all make very different kinds of music. I briefly referenced the predatory contracts that Black artists have to deal with, a topic that’s hit the news again thanks to Kanye posting his contract online.
I feel like doing the research for this article showed me how much I take New York City’s music ecosystem for granted (even more than the pandemic showed me). When you’re deep in an Iowan venue’s Facebook events page or prowling the internet for local coverage on Alaskan bands, you start to realize that finding music is incredibly easy in New York. There were some especially hard states for this list, but a good rule of thumb is that if it’s not coastal or on the continent then you’re going to have a hard time seeking out a music community online without any former knowledge of the scene. We were originally aiming to feature only musicians with music on Bandcamp—to coincide with Bandcamp Friday—but it just wasn’t feasible! The hardest part about writing this was deciding who to write about out of all the artists we found from each state. I think we decided on smaller artists that we hadn’t covered before (although I’d love to do another edition where we can spotlight a new round of artists).
I contributed to this piece along with a number of my fellow interns and AdHoc staff members. This might sound weird, but I was very relieved to find the people I worked with so responsive and attentive to the urgency of the moment. There are a ton of really useful resources here for allies, but the section I’m most proud of lists a number of different free/discounted resources for Black people during this intensely traumatic time. I hope that people bookmark it and return to it regularly, so that anti-racist work remains a part of our daily lives long after the news stops covering the protests.
I touched upon this a little bit on Twitter, but prior to publication, I had spent the past few months contributing to larger articles or creating resource pages. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to write something longer like this, not just because I was quote-unquote out of practice, but because the pandemic had sapped most of my motivation and passion. Not to be a downer, just being very honest about how this pandemic has really challenged me. Anyways, about the article: it was really great to hear the perspective of both for-profit venues and non-profit venues. Most of all, it was a bit heartwarming to hear venues say that their live-streaming endeavors (in part) came out of a sense of community and trying to support people whose livelihoods depended on venues being up and running.
Okay, bless up Elise for answering every single question I asked—we even went on a tangent about Elise’s academic interest in how war affects human life. This was another one of those interviews where the amount of time I was given was very generous, so there was a lot of stuff that got left out. Anyways, remember how I said my intros reflect what I’m consuming? Well, at the time I was reading Emergent Strategy. adrienne maree brown is deeply influenced by Octavia Butler and sci-fi, so when Elise mentioned that she had just finished Parable of the Sower and was a fan of speculative fiction, I sort of just ran with it.
Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure Elise mentioning that she was planning an Insomniac cover album was the first time she spoke about the project on record. I don’t know if it’s still happening, but the album’s anniversary (and Elise’s birthday) is on October 10th so we’ll see!
There’s some beautiful insight from Laraaji on inner joy and peace in this article. I actually don’t have much to say about this because I’d rather that you spent the time reading the interview with Laraaji. But to whet your appetite, here’s a quote that I loved: “I have the right to be joyful. It is legitimate joy. It is eternally my right to access my infinite bliss wherever I am.”
Again, I want to say how grateful I am for my time at AdHoc. It was my first real music writing opportunity, and I’ve learned so much from the experience. It’s really hard to overstate how amazing everyone at AdHoc is and how truly passionate they are about music and the people who make it. If you’ve ever been to an AdHoc show—they always book acts you’ll want to know in a few months—or met any of the staff, then you’d know this already. Please consider donating to their Employee Relief Fund and supporting NYC Nightlife United. Live music just wouldn’t be the same without the people behind AdHoc.
Even though I no longer intern at AdHoc, I still plan on contributing! I actually just had an interview with A.F. Cortes, the director of Brooklyn is Burning, go up. Might talk about that more next time.
As always I hope you’re doing well! I won’t make any promises but I’m excited to be writing this again, even if sporadically. Until next time.