It’s been nearly three weeks since I moved to Macon, and I haven’t updated my blog. It’s not that I haven’t been busy, I have seen a lot of good music , met some really great people, and worked with my beautiful fiance Loretta to make our little house on Corbin Avenue a home, but I’m still trying to figure out how to best transition tuneOUToptIN from a blog that covered certain aspects of the endlessly varied NYC arts and culture scene to one that reports on the vastly different, but no less interesting scene in Macon.
I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to immerse myself here, and I think I’ve learned a great deal. Lesson One: Macon is not New York. Duh, right? Believe it or not, I had immerse myself in order to understand this basic fact. Approaching Macon with a New York attitude is a recipe for burnout and disappointment.
Things happen here, but not as often and with nowhere near the fanfare of most New York events. You have to find them. It helps to know who to ask, and I was lucky to have already had some contacts before arriving in Macon. Foremost among them is Chris Horne, the husband of one of Loretta’s colleagues, but also a prominent journalist and life-long resident of Macon. Over lunch a few days after I arrived, Chris broke down the varied music scene, as well as the tumultuous politics of this steamy southern town.
After our lunch at The Rookery — a downtown bar that is also an informal concert venue — Chris and I walked down Cherry Street. I pointed to a row of boarded buildings and asked who owned them? Chris’ answer, in a nutshell, was that people owned them and just let them sit empty. Apparently it’s cheaper for absentee owners to simply write off empty buildings than to make the necessary improvements for tenants to move in. Of course, even if they did fix them up, it would probably be difficult for owners to find tenants. The current recession has hit Macon particularly hard, dealing a serious blow to an economy that has been on the brink for decades and a music scene that has been struggling to redefine itself after the glory days of the Little Richard, James Brown and the Allman Brothers.
All of the sudden, my New York approach was moot. The consecutive concerts I had seen the first weekend were the exception, not the rule. I wouldn’t be able to just head out on my bike and be sure to find something interesting. I would have to do research, meet people, and make sure that I didn’t miss something, as it might never happen again. The current Macon music and art scene is still in larval stage. As scary as that might be for a New York transplant looking to report and take part in the arts, it is also extremely exciting. How often does one get to be at the rebirth of scene?
Clark Bush is another important person I met during my first week in Macon, and is one of the creative forces behind the Macon revival. A lifelong Maconite, Clark is a sound engineer, musician, promoter and an organizer of Macon Noise, a nonprofit that promotes creative music in Macon. While admitting that it is not there yet, Clark has seen Macon change over the past few years into a place that artists choose to stay in, or even better, come back to after a time away.
Chris Horne has also seen the change, noting during our lunch that when he moved back to Macon in the early 2000’s after a few years in Nashville, there were literally three bands in Macon. These days it’s hard to keep track, as Bragg Jam, and numerous concerts at The 567 and old hangs like The Hummingbird attest to. Add to that the increasing diversity of styles — hip hop, rock, jazz, R&B, noise, punk, reggae and more — and you have a definite beginning.
So here I am. It’s a Sunday night in Macon, and I think I finally know the direction to go in. I hope you will follow me as I report on a scene in the making. It’s a world away from NYC, but I’m beginning to think that I could get used to that.