What is a scene? The common definitions are: 1. the place where some action or event occurs 2. any view or picture. 3. an incident or situation in real life. 4. an embarrassing outbreak or display of anger, strong feeling, or bad manners 5. a division of a play or of an act of a play, usually representing what passes between certain of the actors in one place. 6. a unit of action or a segment of a story in a play, motion picture, or television show. 7. the place in which the action of a play or part of a play is supposed to occur.
If you take any of those definitions and apply it to the idea of a “music scene”, it makes things seem incomplete and trivializes all the other unseen elements that play a role, however large or small, in the making of that particular scene. It places importance on one aspect of a larger world. For instance, let’s analyze the second definition which defines a scene as any view or picture.
Let’s say you’re looking at a picture of a family at a beach; a mother and father, a teenage son, and an adolescent girl. The mother and father are all smiles, the son looks angry, and the girl is crying. You can look at that picture and take it at face value, making your judgement on their emotional state by the expressions they show on their faces; the mother and father are just happy to be at the beach, the son is just being the typical brooding teenage boy, and the little girl is just being bratty. Yet outside of that picture the true reasons for the expressions are a little more complicated. The mother and father are happy because after months of endless toil at work they finally get to go on vacation. The son is angry because he misses his girlfriend at home and the little girl is crying because in the distance she sees someone accidentally trample on the sand castle that she spent all day working on.
The concept of supporting a local “music scene” is flawed. Supporting a singular scene means many other scenes are left out. To support a singular scene can cause resentment, anger, frustration, and overall it causes a community to be disjointed. I’ve seen it like that for years here in the desert until J Dee’s brought everyone together as a community. What is a community? A community is often defined as:
1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage. 2. a locality inhabited by such a group. 3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists 4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage
Over the past year and a half I noticed something about J Dee’s that wasn’t prevalent at other venues; all music scenes were welcome. There was no music scene put above another. J Dee’s housed metal, punk, hip hop, reggae, country, dance, rock, and everything in between. If you were in a band and you called Katy and asked for a show, you got a show if the date you were asking for was available. It was a gathering place for everyone in the music community. Through that indiscriminate style of booking, I saw a more contentedness music community. Everyone was getting their fair share of play time even the occasional tourist to the community. A good community welcomes its visitors with open arms and in return the visitors tell their respective communities good things about the place they just came from. Many touring bands came through J Dee’s and saw the passion the local music community had for new and exciting things. J Dee’s rapid growth was a testament to that. Yes, it was a dive bar but within that framework lied a larger open minded feeling. By the end of Chuck and Katy’s run at J Dee’s they were scheduled to have pretty big bands, some of which are supposed to play Coachella this year. Bands like Local Natives, Mutemath, Beach House, and Deerhunter contacted Katy directly to play shows while they were in town for Coachella. The Ghost Channel had Ty Segall, Charlie & the Moonhearts, and The So So Glos scheduled for March. Other bands scheduled to play there were the likes of The Growlers, Sleepy Sun, The Numerators, and Pocahaunted.
Another great thing that was a by product of the existence of J Dee’s having shows was that for the most part the idea of a certain band being a commodity of a certain promoter or venue had greatly diminished. In the past promoters and venues were very territorial with the bands that they booked. If a promoter booked a show that another promoter had booked before mud would be slung and feelings would get hurt. Now it’s not uncommon for bands to play for different promoters and venues and even booking shows themselves. Michael Durazo of Slipping Into Darkness had taken this into his own hands and even brought out The Entrance Band and My Pet Saddle. This kind of entrepreneurial spirit spread like wild fire. There were a lot of people throwing shows every weekend. You saw people out in Indio, Cathedral City, and Palm Desert throwing shows and generator parties. It was great to see the music community breathing again.
J Dee’s not only became a commune for bands but a place for fans of the music community as well. Going as far as letting the fans take part in the makeover of the background stage area. Curated by Cristopher Cichocki, he invited local artists and other people deeply vested, emotionally, to J Dee’s to put their thumbprint on a background that would become an ever evolving art piece. An art piece that would become the backdrop to many a memorable show documented in photo and video. One piece of footage that I am anxiously awaiting is the footage of The Chinese Stars show back in October of 2009. The documentarians that were there that night were a little skeptical of what would come of this show but in the end they said that the shows intensity lived up to or even surpassed the show that they had done a few night previous at The Smell, a legendary venue in Los Angeles of whom we, The Ghost Channel, admire greatly. That moment made my night. I feel that the backdrop of the stage at J Dee’s carries a sort of youthful energy that feeds the bands and the crowd alike.
When I was asked to do this article, Sarah posed the question “what did J Dee’s mean to the community?” to which I reply, it means the world. It opened a door of endless possibility to a music community otherwise lacking a place to really let go and express themselves. I know there are people who scoff at the level of sentimentality some people have towards J Dee’s and say things like “good riddance” or “oh well, time to move on”. They’re usually people who don’t understand that in order for a music community to flourish you need the right pieces in place. Not just bands and not just promoters. You need several different venues for bands to do what they love. Some music doesn’t work at certain venues. That’s just the nature of the beast.
I always saw the J Dee’s/Space 120 thing as the balance that the downtown Palm Springs area needed. Space 120 for it’s higher end, larger shows that catered to the mass audiences and J Dee’s was the place where smaller bands could come and play and not worry if the place was packed or if it was just a few people. Now that balance is tipped and and we’re left scratching our heads. Yes, the show will go on, but where?