The Redwood City Music Scene

This blog is all about the Redwood Music Scene. Despite being full of young people, people-who-play-music and the inevitable sub-section of young-people-who-play-music the fact of the matter is this: There isn’t one. But it doesn’t have to be that way and we can change it.

We – Please Do Not Fight – hosted the very first All Ages Open Mic Night at The Grind Coffee Bar in Redwood City, CA in conjunction with The Riekes Center For Human Enhancement. Aidan Young – the head of the Creative Arts department at Riekes and my good friend – said it best after the Open Mic was done: “This felt like a shot in the arm for the area”. Over 70 people of all ages showed up to a venue that could honestly only handle 40. There is an obvious demand in Redwood City, not only for local music events but simply, for things to do.

Before I go too much further I’m going to warn you – all ages events are something that I feel very passionate about. On top of that I was raised in Redwood City as an unschooler so when it comes to youth rights sometimes my face turns really red and I start waving my hands around. You’ll have to excuse me if I get too preachy all up in this blog – I’ll do my best!

So, things to do are in short supply, especially for young people! Sure, we can all sit and watch the same movie in a huge auditorium but there is something intrinsically different about an event like an Open Mic or a show or a dance party or what have you. At an Open Mic, people come together to see art created by the guy who lives down the street, not the big wig who sits behind a desk in Hollywood. When they applaud they’re applauding not for a giant IMAX movie screen but for a real-life flesh and blood person who receives the audience’s adulation right then and there and reacts accordingly. There is a sense of community and a sense of coming together to create something that is unique.

At least to Redwood City.

I kid – I knock on Redwood City but it’s really not a localized problem. All suburban areas suffer the same sad fate and often even the big cities face similar problems. The entire South Bay has notoriously been wrestling with the issue of all ages shows for a while now. For every new spot to play, it seems two new spots get shut down. Meanwhile, in San Francisco a battle rages on that threatens to put an end to all ages shows at incredible venues like Bottom of the Hill and The Great American Music hall.

So why all the hate for all ages music? This may seem over-the-top, but I think a lot of it comes down to fear. People like keeping kids in school. They like to enforce curfews. Especially in the suburbs it often seems like an event that could possibly allow teenagers to socialize or gather in a manner that is unsupervised is frowned upon. In Redwood City, the only ‘all ages’ space that is made available for people to hang out is the Century Theater and that is constantly patrolled by the majority of the cities police force who tend to bully the kids around. And you know what? When I am not shown respect and treated like an adult I tend to want to rebel too. I’m speaking in very broad terms here, so you’ll have to excuse me, but ‘young people’ have been so removed from normal society that ‘adults’ have no idea how to interact or relate to them. Likewise, young people feel little or no sense of ownership for the community around them.

So all ages events can be very powerful and very healthy – it is a way for people within a community to really come together. All ages doesn’t have to mean ‘for young people’ – it can mean just this: All Ages. I mean, let’s be honest, the only thing anyone in the suburbs over 21 does anyways is going to bars and drink. Or work. Or both. And honestly, that’s a drag so we need it too!

In an environment where all ages are treated equally, people finally start talking and people get inspired. Young people have a lot learn from older folks and likewise, older folks could seriously take a cue from young people. I don’t know any group more passionate, more driven and more willing to fight for a cause than the young people I am friends with. Given some direction that energy can achieve some pretty amazing things. And just like any group of people, you treat young people with respect and they will do the same in return. At least as much as any adult that I know, if not more.

Okay, so I lied. This blog wasn’t really about the Redwood City Music Scene. It wasn’t really about any music scene. Or even all ages events. It’s about an attitude, an attitude that you can help change. Whether you’re 12, 17, 27, 38 or 55 you can support all ages events. Support local music. Support local art. Support places for young people to gather and be a part of something. Support places for older people to go and do more than just have a beer.

Support something bigger than yourself.


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