The plan keeps coming up again
I’ve been shooting a lot of film during quarantine. There’s something about the delayed-gratification and archaic processes of it that feel right as of late. Granted, there has not been much to shoot within the usual scope of my work. Live performances are obviously on hold for the foreseeable future, and documentary work around and about shows makes up the vast majority of what I do as a photographer. In the weeks immediately following the shutdown and my last gig (The Murder Capital’s very first U.S. show, the kickoff of an ill-fated tour), it was a struggle to make much of anything at all. I’d been scheduled to shoot Wire, Archers of Loaf and a sold-out Pronoun/Future Teens show at Great Scott that weekend, and suddenly those plans and weeks and months of others disappeared in smoke.
Curbing shows was the socially responsible thing to do in the midst of a rapidly evolving health crisis, but I’ve never had such an expanse of planned work evaporate in quite such rapid fashion. It was devastating in its own small way, paling in comparison to the widespread misery wrought by this pandemic, but devastating nonetheless to artists, fans, venue staff and people like me, for whom documenting live music is somewhere between a job, a hobby and life-consuming obsession.
Staying creative when your main creative outlet has been deemed a danger to public health until further notice is not something I thought I’d ever have to confront. This crisis has lots of that – things you never thought you’d have to consider in your day-to-day life. How worthwhile is the hourlong line to Trader Joe’s? How do I stop this face mask from fogging my glasses to the point of legal blindness? How do I stop inertia and fear from claiming the life of my favorite music venue?
Nearly 25,000 people have signed the petition to save Great Scott, and public outrage has aroused the interest of local officials, but where the chips will fall when the COVID smoke clears remains to be seen. For now, the club remains closed in both the everything-is-closed sense as well as the never-opening-its-doors-again one; a kind of twilight state between suspended animation and the infinite black where the bar taps and trademark checkerboard floor are still visible through the barred windows.
Trying to remain inspired or “productive” as a photographer during all this has me thinking a lot about the ways in which we passively take in our surroundings, and how a mandatory downsizing of our world can alter that perception. I’ve largely been photographing the same stretches of neighborhood over and over again for weeks – the distance from my house to my girlfriend’s, to the liquor store, to the takeout pizza chain I now patronize with alarming regularity – trying to wring something new from these familiar pathways.
I tried to do something similar in the roll of medium format dedicated to Great Scott you see here, partly documenting the memorials left outside and partly just taking in the space in a way I hadn’t before. It’s not too often that one takes the time to look at a venue the way a few folks did on the weekend of Great Scott’s officially-announced demise, gathering at a reasonable social distance on the Comm. Ave. sidewalk to drink a beer and publicly lament, or like I did a week later, quietly studying its exterior in late afternoon sunlight.
No one knows when live music will be back (like, for real back, not this dystopian 20% capacity plan), and thusly I have no idea when things could start to feel normal again around here. Noise Floor has been a primarily visual outlet for as long as I’ve taken it seriously, and in that regard there’s simply not much of anything music-related for me to make right now. But as I think about the principal I’ve been attempting to explore with the rolls and rolls of film I’ve shot around Allston these past couple months, I guess I have to apply it here too. This crisis is forcing us to reexamine every aspect of our lives, all the way down to our sparsely read micro-blogs.
Widespread media layoffs have emerged among the countless aftershocks of the COVID economic shakeup, and the already tenuous and problematic state of music journalism as a Career doesn’t look to be improving one bit in the near future. Even with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, that’s why I feel like independent, hyper-local outlets (yes, including this one) are worth preserving and reinventing right now. Turn your passion into your evenings-and-weekends gig, as The Onion foretold.
With that in mind, Noise Floor will – for the first time ever! – be running some stories from outside contributors in the near future, in addition to some more writing from me. Interviews? Guest playlists? Record reviews? All or none of these things. Let’s see where this goes.