I moved from Cleveland to Columbus in 2002 for grad school…and to play music. I’d always felt more kinship to the musicians I knew down here, many of them transplants from nearby Delaware, than the folks I knew up north. The Cleveland “scene,” for bands at least, was dominated by industrial and metal; down here, it felt wide open, and that magical Venn diagram where folk and country overlapped with punk and rock seemed like my sweet spot. It was broader than cowpunk and not nearly as polite as “Americana.” Over the years I learned a little something about Columbus’ musical history, and that’s what I wanted to put into my essay for The Columbus Anthology, recently published by Ohio State University Press and Belt Publishing.
This is a terrific book packed with essays and poetry by some of Columbus’ best writers: Hanif Abdurraqib, Scott Woods, Maggie Smith, Ruth Awad, Bela Koe-Krompecher, Meryl Williams, Stacy Jane Grover, Will Evans, Jeremy Glazier, Rose M. Smith, and three of my CCAD colleagues past and present, professor emeritus Charlene Fix, Hannah Stephenson, and Adam Gellings. We were guided by editor Amanda Page. (Alive did a nice feature on her just the other day.)
I’m humbled to part of this. You can buy the dang thing here, and buy it you should.
So my ramblings are called “Flat City Nights,” and that title’s a whole story, but long-to-short, I was going to write a book about Columbus’ musical history from 1975-ish to the present with that title. Didn’t pan out. But from the months of research and interviews I did, there were, and remain, some good shards. Knowing that Bela Koe-Krompecher, the proprietor of Anyway Records, was going to write about the 1990s and Columbus’ brush with being the “next Seattle,” I decided to take the long view and pontificate, as I’m bound to do, about the character of Columbus music versus the eternal, capitalist, tourism-board urge for a sound bite-elevator pitch about the work people do and the fun they have and the risks they take, i.e., a “scene,” or a “sound.”
If I were to pull out a quote from my essay to sum this shit up, it would be this:
“There is no Columbus sound. There’s a city, and the city you hear depends on the musicians you’re listening to.”
I tried to fit in as many folks as I could, because when I think of our city, what I see and hear is a montage that keeps getting bigger. Each of them make their own city in their music, negotiating with what is and dreaming of what could be.