Thursday, January 10, 2013
Groupthink, the Mohawk Place, and a New Start-up Mentality
A lot of sentiment has gone into writing about the Mohawk Place closing-- but this piece isn't about sentiment. It isn't about two or three 'epic' stories they somehow end up circling back to me: how my band played there, how I saw indie microcelebs there, or got shit-faced drunk and made an ass out of myself.
This isn't about placing myself in the pantheon of Mohawk legends past-- its about the future.
In a town that seems self-obsessed with its own history-- writing about the future will come as shocking, or even offensive to some. Mohawk Place, especially most recently, is part-and-parcel with Buffalo's backward-looking mentality.
The bar is an extension of the greater music culture in Buffalo. Taking a deep dive into the local papers, blogs, and band websites will fill your head with a laundry list of rock-and-roll namechecking and a retelling of the gospel of rock and roll. Of course local musicians, scenesters, and music bloggers should embrace the past-- but many of them use it as an exclusionary device, making their tent smaller and filling it with the familiar and the non-challenging.
Grumblings within the music community have persisted throughout the years over this orthodox groupthink that derides nonconformists as outsiders-- regardless of their creative output or approach. In fact, several bands that saw themselves as reactions to this local groupthink found success outside the area, including the Tyrades and Bloody Hollies.
Many of these same critical musicians cite Mohawk Place as ground zero for the rock-and-roll orthodoxy that holds sway over the Buffalo music scene. Critics say their exclusionary local booking policy rewards unoriginality-- picking winners and losers based on adherence to a strict doctrine.
For this reason, the closing of the old bar could be seen not as a tragedy, but as opportunity. Shaking off the shackles of a static infrastructure could shift the emphasis away from groupthink and towards meritocracy. New venues will have the opportunity to establish themselves based on the ability to curate an aesthetic and musical talent on a nightly basis.
Buffalo needs to embrace a start-up mentality-- one that rewards effort and creativity. The local scene needs to become an incubator for good ideas, regardless of where the come from: classic rock, indie, punk, dance, hip-hop...
Closing the doors at 47 East Mohawk Street could just be the first step towards changing a conservative culture that has yet to bring results.
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