Last night in Cincinnati we played an awesome art/alt space. It stands in a classic post industrial abandonded neighborhood where liquor stores and lotto tickets are seemingly the only items available for sale. The Cinci locals (kids from the University of Cincinnati and other adults) come to support the movement and get beyond the gloom and doom of recession, swine flu and whatever other fear of the moment is happening. And the cops stay away as there's practically no one in the neighborhood to patrol.
The space is called the Bunk. The art on the walls gets lit up between bands so you don't miss it. Video is projected behind the performers. People boogie between bands. There's a ton of room and a ton of energy. You can drink and smoke whatever you want inside and it's such a good time, much like the Market Hotel or Secret Project Robot in Brooklyn. There's no authority, just a troop of organizers who everyone respects and supports with their presence and cash. It's a community joint--a reaction to bar culture, suburbia, corporate oppression, racism and authority--and it's a productive party...man.
Here's their mission statement:
"In an attempt to curb all of those who loathe loving the city of Cin; we’ve started a spot to help prolong creativity, passion, and all things passable under the moniker of “ART”. So come and get crunk where its Bunk."
One member of the hip hop duo who played before us, Evolve, took off all his clothes at the end of their set to give the audience a pep talk about quitting their job or dropping out of school if they're not happy doing either. He was all about now-being in the moment-and he meant it so much that he took off his clothes to prove it. I'm not really into dudes getting naked on stage but his inspirational words seemed to feed off his nudity so it made sense. So then we went on.
It sounded really pumpin with bass frequencies bouncing softly off the wood floor. The crowd got more and more into it with each song. By the end Anna, Bill and myself were all covered in loads of sweat and so was everyone up front. There was mega energy flowing and it reminded me how awesome traveling and playing music is. All that mattered in that room was the moment we had together. We entered a new community and it was super boss to make a room full of people feel good. And outside the vibe was pretty ghetto but inside there was a lot of joy and life. That's the transcendant power of These Are Powers.
Our host Chris, a college freshman who organized the show, brought us back to his house and we talked about Cincinnati and how it became what it is. Outside of it being the product of white flight and industrial decline, it's a pretty racist town, maybe because it was the final stop on the Underground Railroad. Recently, the KKK was planning a march downtown but the city was afraid of another race-riot like the one it experienced in 2001. So Cincinnati has some problems but it's mostly rooted in poverty and lack of education.
When I first went through downtown Cinci in the mid 90's it was super poor. It's still as poor as any neighborhood I've ever seen. But it's going to change and the Bunk is the catalyst.
It's good to see the college kids creating activity in order to make the situation in their town better. The kids who run The Bunk are the same ones who grew up in the suburbs and have seen how bleak a perfectly manicured life can be. They understand that the death of dumb America is up to them. And they also understand that art injects life into abandoned communities, especially one like downtown Cinci. Here's to them.