Our Band Could Be Your Band How the Brooklynization of culture killed regional music scenes

What is it, then, between us?

What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?

Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not.

—Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

On July 5, 1997, my band El Guapo played a show in Danville, Va. This was our first show as a touring band—the first time we would play an unfamiliar city and sleep somewhere other than one of our parents’ houses. I was 20 years old.

From our drummer’s family homestead in Elkins, W.Va., we drove five hours over the Appalachian Mountains to Danville, a third-tier, postindustrial city rusting on the banks of the Dan River. The show was in a dilapidated, indoor skatepark in an empty warehouse district in a part of town where no one walked the streets. We arrived early and, without access to cellular technology, kept feeding quarters into a pay phone, trying to locate the promoter and access the venue. When he finally arrived, we learned that no local groups were playing—death for a touring band—and that the P.A. system was broken. Thus, we played an instrumental set on a stage built into the middle of a half-pipe for the promoter and two or three kids who skated around us as we performed. We made something like $12.

After the show, we met the promoter, a punk enthusiast in his mid-20s, and his teenage girlfriend at a Waffle House. The promoter, who traveled by bicycle, said wild dogs had attacked him on the way to the restaurant. Packs of feral canines, he claimed, roamed Danville’s vacant streets. (Our guitarist later confirmed that he heard the dogs howling. I dispute this.) He also claimed to have secured a seat on Danville’s city council—a seat for which, presumably, no other civic-minded Virginian had bothered to campaign.


A few minutes after the check was paid, it became clear that our band had nowhere to sleep and, moreover, no sleeping bags. The promoter offered his place. We accepted, and soon found ourselves on the top floor of a warehouse in what might generously be called a loft where cat litter crunched underfoot. Too many lightbulbs were red.

The band played rock-paper-scissors to decide who would sleep where. I won and, despite a well-documented allergy, ended up on a couch coated with cat hair. My bandmates slept on the floor in their clothes, having declined sheets stained with cat urine. Our guitarist later woke up with a beer top pressed into his chest. Unable to sleep, we left at 8 a.m. for our next show in North Carolina without saying goodbye. That show would be just as bad.

We had gone over the mountain, and we hadn’t liked what we’d found.

With Pussy Riot behind bars, I do not relate a 15-year-old anecdote to glorify the insignificant struggles of my punk youth. Nor do I wish to indict the Clinton-era Danville punk scene. I found the few people I met there hospitable, if unusual.

I resurrect Danville because going over the mountain is important. As alien as Danville was to a young musician from an expensive East Coast university, I needed that city because it was foreign—terra incognita where people related to music in ways that I did not. Unlike other places where I’ve brought my music—Bloomington, Ind., or Austin, Texas, or Lille, France—I didn’t like much about Danville, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from Danville, or that I wouldn’t go back.

Before I was even aware of their worth, places like Danville helped me measure my music against someone else’s. Even today, I can reject what’s useless and steal what’s worthwhile. A regional music scene—hereafter, “RMS”—furthers art in the same way that, say, Wisconsin furthered progressive politics under Gov. and Sen. Robert La Follette in the early 20th century. RMSes generate ideas. They lend music character.

RMSes differentiate Hill Country blues from Delta blues and New York hardcore from Orange County hardcore from harDCore. RMSes draw lines between KRS-One and MC Shan, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, Merseybeat and The Kinks, Satie and Wagner. RMSes are why I would almost never play a show that wasn’t all ages in D.C., but would only play Joe’s Bar in Marfa, Texas. RMSes make you think differently.

Like accents, RMSes are disappearing. Sure, record stores and record labels are dead or living on borrowed time. Sure, smart clubowners can’t afford to book a show for an unknown, out-of-town band instead of an ’80s dance party.

But money’s not the problem—or, at least, not the only problem. RMSes are disappearing because everyone is starting to sound like everyone else.

Let’s talk about Brooklyn. Brooklyn is a place where artists gather. There are galleries, and loft parties, and record stores. A dude who presses vinyl lives there. So does a dude who makes stickers and a woman who books a venue. Because there’s an infrastructure that supports getting shit done, people do shit, and a lot of the shit they do is cool. Someone is a recording engineer. Someone is a graffiti artist. Someone has a blog. There’s a lot of energy, and a lot of people to know. Information—“Know a cheap place to print posters?” or “Who can play the tambourine in my Jefferson Airplane cover band?”—is the coin of the realm.

It’s great.

But Brooklyn has a downside. Those who abandon their RMS to come to Brooklyn risk co-option by an aesthetic Borg. Things get mushy. There’s too much input, and there’s not a lot that’s not known. Somebody’s band sounds like Howlin’ Wolf and ESG and Gang of Four, but also sounds like REO Speedwagon and Glenn Branca and The Pointer Sisters. There aren’t many secrets. There are no mountains to go over.

Do not confuse Brooklyn with, well, Brooklyn—the New York borough that sits about 230 miles from Washington on the southwest end of Long Island over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge off of I-278. There are many Brooklyns. Los Angeles is Brooklyn. Chicago is Brooklyn. Berlin and London are Brooklyn. Babylon was the Brooklyn of the ancient world. In the 1990s, Seattle was Brooklyn. Young Chinese punks challenging Communism risk prison to make Beijing the Brooklyn of tomorrow.

Some Brooklyns aren’t even places. MySpace is Brooklyn. YouTube is Brooklyn. Facebook is Brooklyn. Spotify and iTunes are perversely, horribly, unapologetically, maddeningly Brooklyn.

I’m against it.

On general principle and for the good of all, I stopped writing music criticism for money almost a decade ago. I now reluctantly climb back into the ring to write about one of the greatest bands of the 21st century: The Gossip.

The Gossip formed in Olympia, Wash., in 1999, but its founders are from Searcy, Ark. According to famously large singer Beth Ditto, Searcy was no picnic. “There’s nothing like being called a ‘fat faggot,’ being fag-bashed, fearing for your life every day, and being ostracized as a young kid to set you up for negativity in adulthood,” she told the Vancouver Sun in 2009. “Being fat and being poor and growing up with so many kids, it wasn’t like my parents encouraged me to use my imagination. I just didn’t have a choice.”

Though I toured with The Gossip in 2003, I don’t know them well—I’ve only met them, long ago. Nor have I been to Searcy, Ark. Nor am I a time traveler. Maybe The Gossip’s surprising, heartfelt, disarming, exhilarating, totally unexpected queer blues punk could exist without Ditto’s Southern Baptist roots and the Searcy RMS. Searcy: a town of fewer than 25,000 souls less than 150 miles from Clarksdale, Miss.—John Lee Hooker’s hometown—and a two-hour drive from Memphis.

Early Gossip recordings reflect the trio’s native environs. Even with a four-string guitar and a drummer that lagged a bit live, the band was lethal. On 2003’s Movement, the band somehow sounds like a better version of Muddy Waters and a better version of Black Flag. Times change. On this year’s A Joyful Noise, The Gossip often sounds like Ke$ha.

Please understand that I’m not slagging what I consider to be an incredible group. Smart musicians evolve or die—the audience is irrelevant, or should be. But when a band from Arkansas starts making wan disco, homegrown character is, consciously or unconsciously, traded for an entrée to the global marketplace. The landscape flattens.

The Gossip is in a Brooklyn state of mind.

It’s an oft-told Beatles chestnut: As a teenager, Paul McCartney had to get on a bus to learn a guitar chord. Here’s the Walrus in an authorized 1997 biography:

We literally once went across town for a chord, B7. We all knew E, A, but the last one of the sequence is B7, and it’s a very tricky one. But there was a guy that knew it, so we all got on the bus and went to his house. “Hear tell there’s a soothsayer on the hill who knows this great chord, B7!” We all sat round like little disciples, strum strum. “How’s he doing it?” And we learned it.

I won’t fetishize post-World War II Liverpool. There may have been racism, or smog. I doubt there were avocados or unsweetened flax milk. Certainly, the future Wings frontman couldn’t grab his laptop and casually type “B7” into Wikipedia in the comfort of his bedroom. Certainly, he couldn’t sample a better guitarist playing B7 using GarageBand, Audacity, Reason, or ProTools.

McCartney had to rely on his RMS. He learned to play left-handed. He was in a skiffle band. He hustled. As De La Soul once put it, stakes was high.

Were stakes this high for Flo Rida when his production team created “Whistle,” a song about blowjobs that somehow sounds like Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks,” and Black Eyed Peas’ “Just Can’t Get Enough,” and The Scorpions’ “Winds of Change?” Were they this high for Lou Reed and Metallica when they whimsically, inexplicably made Lulu? Are they this high for Nintendocore artists, or Kelly Clarkson, or Wugazi?

If they are, I can’t hear it. This music—this pastiche—doesn’t have an address. It’s all Brooklyn, the inoffensive, mix ’n’ match, international sound of internationality.

How did Brooklyn happen? Many schools of thought help explain the power of Brooklyn to seduce, mystify, and derail talented artists. These include, but are not limited to, Hegel’s “Other,” Marxism, Guy Debord’s society of the spectacle, post-colonial theory, gentrification, third-wave feminism, and Baudrillard’s whole spiel.

But it’s more efficient to refer to Ian Svenonius’s 2006 book The Psychic Soviet, an overlooked work of genius which I fear is fully understood and appreciated only by its author—the former frontman of Nation of Ulysses and The Make-Up and singer for Chain and the Gang—and me. Anyone thinking about The Psychic Soviet probably thinks it’s just a pisstake by a wild-haired punk singer who wears tight pants. For my part, I ponder this little pink pocket manual quite a bit.

In a piece called “Seinfeld Syndrome”—an essay that explains how the success of shows such as Seinfeld, Sex in the City, and The Sopranos helped gentrify New York—Svenonius writes:

The city was reborn as the super mall, its allure augmented by its storied history, born of the diversity which would be abolished. Cheap white labor, in the form of aspiring artists, could be lured via this history, mythologized in books which marketed the city through the very idiosyncratic or marginal character its advertisers had helped to systematically exterminate.

 The city’s new privileged inhabitants would wear their city’s outlaw image as a badge of honor and even venerate it with fervor, fiercely proud of a history they had never experienced, let alone contributed to—like suburbanites living on a civil war battlefield and boasting about Pickett’s charge.

Whether they were “new privileged inhabitants” or “cheap white labor,” I wonder whether many of my peers fell for Brooklyn via the process Svenonius outlines, abandoning the scene they had helped build for an imagined other. Artists wanted to live in the city of Pollock, Warhol, and Basquiat; writers wanted to live in the city of Kerouac and Thomas Wolfe; bands wanted to live in the city of Suicide, ESG, and Talking Heads. And the musicians, once they got there, started sounding more like Suicide, ESG, and Talking Heads.

Can you blame them? Who wants to live in the city of John Quincy Adams?

Whether Svenonius is right or not, in the early 2000s, Brooklyn—in both its psychic and physical forms—devastated the Washington RMS. A partial list of D.C. bands who lost members or former members to Brooklyn includes El Guapo (my band), Supersystem (my band), Antelope (my band), Edie Sedgwick (my band), Orthrelm, Measles Mumps Rubella, Quix*o*tic, Fugazi, Black Eyes, Q and Not U, Dame Fate, No Lie Relaxer, The Crainium, The Long Goodbye, Cold Cold Hearts, Bratmobile, Partyline, and Trans Am. At its creative peak, The Rapture imported half its members from D.C. Ted Leo—a former Washingtonian—stole an ex-member of The Make-Up and a member of French Toast. New York also spirited away a Black Cat booker and at least one popular recording engineer.

That’s just our little indie-rock world.

Though it once loomed large across the nation, the Washington RMS isn’t big. It’s not a national scene. And no RMS can lose this many people—literally dozens of musicians, promoters, flyer-makers, T-shirt silkscreeners, sound guys, record company and record store employees, and showgoers—to a Brooklyn and expect to remain relevant.

Fucking Brooklyn. I would have moved there too, but was unwilling to abandon my piano.

I am not from Brooklyn. I’ve recorded records there, but never lived there. I was born in Philadelphia in 1977.

Now “the sixth borough,” Philadelphia was an unenviable place to be from for teenagers interested in alternative music in the 1990s—though, it must be noted, it wasn’t as bad as Searcy. It was The Dead Milkmen, G. Love & Special Sauce, and The Roots against the world. A record store in my hometown that should have survived to be put out of business by iTunes went bust before the end of the Clinton administration instead.

In Philadelphia, input was limited. I remember a time when I owned two tapes: U2’s Rattle and Hum and Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits. If I wanted to dust off the record player, my mother had scratchy copies of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and Led Zeppelin IV. Born in the U.S.A. was in heavy rotation. So was a weird 1960s mix featuring “The Monster Mash.” When a friend introduced me to The Dead Kennedys, it was good luck. When I heard Fugazi, it was a miracle.

Was it my duty to stay in Philadelphia instead of moving to the District? Is Washington my Brooklyn? Faithful to my RMS, should I have started a funky, live hip-hop group, or joined the Mummers, or listened exclusively to Sun Ra’s Arkestra? Should I be hanging out with Kurt Vile?

What this essay is not saying: People should only play and listen to music native to their RMS. Los Angeles rappers should sound like Tupac. New Orleanians should rush to join second lines. Go to Wilson High? Start a straightedge band. Live in Ward 8? Play conga at the go-go.

This isn’t the Soviet Union. When desperate people start talking about the need to “support the scene,” you know the scene is dead.

What this essay is saying: In Brooklyn, there is too much input.

What this essay is saying: If music wasn’t better before Brooklyn, it was, at least, weirder.

What this essay is saying: In Brooklyn, music comes too cheap. (Please note: “too cheap” doesn’t refer to price.)

What this essay is saying: When you’re a young musician, it’s better to start with just “The Monster Mash” than with every song ever recorded.

What this essay is saying: A melting pot is not an aesthetic. Neither is a salad bar.

What this essay is saying: There is a tidal wave of generic, mushy, apolitical, featureless, Brooklynish music infiltrating the world’s stereos.

What this essay is saying: Beware what you put on your iPod.

It might not be dangerous.

Our Readers Say

So until recently, people never moved to new cities to pursue their music career before?

Plus, all the DC bands that are still around and have a dinstinctly DC sound (Give and the Fordists come to mind right off the bat).
this article is pretty much on point and quite good but you need to replace the word "brooklyn" with the word "internet" everywhere it appears.

the "DC scene blaming brooklyn for all it's woes" storyline may get a good rise out of CP readership but it is tired and sad and makes DC look pathetic.
i think this was a great article with a very interesting perspective. it also bothers me that more and more we can travel to other places only to hear the same sounds, eat the same foods, see the same clothes. we need more RMS everywhere in our lives.

things that come too easy just water everything down.
Yes I have been thinking about the Brooklynization of music for a long time. But I think there is a difference between Brooklyn today and Seattle or Babylon of yesterday -- maybe you can say that things are way more Brooklynized than ever, thanks to the internet acting as a weird centrifuge and accelerator.

Brooklynization on the current scale is maybe just a side effect of Pitchforkization and a world with infinite free music.
see also: the decline in local newspapers, alternative newspapers, etc, etc.
Instead of whining about what's happening / not happening in Brooklyn, maybe DC bands needs to get back to making music. Too much many wannabes living in 1995 in this town.
I don't disagree with you that there are concerning things in music, but, two things: a) this article has been written in many forms, about the concerning trend of all bands following various trends over the years; there are still inventive bands coming out; and b) those same Beatles proceeded to build a sound ripping off what was coming out of the USA, and ripped off many other contemporary bands along the way. They just did it the best.
More thoughts -- those kids who have access to computer recording programs now are just as much struggling for input. Yes, you can Google "side chain compression" for example, but no video will tell you how to use it. Whether or not you like that specific example, point is, the Beatles had to go home and still spend time with themselves learning how to APPLY that B7 chord, and they did it by first learning how to rip people off. I think those kids having access to studio production technology at a young age is just going to lead to the next wave of geniuses down the road.

Specifically within DC, I know a lot of musicians were living here because it was affordable. Many of those people who went to New York, wanted to be part of the vibe, but, some left because the scene here was becoming unsustainable. This article is, in a way, the antithesis those articles about all the trendy bars sprouting up on U St. Now, a lot went to Brooklyn, but a lot also left DC, NOT for New York, because Brooklyn is fucking expensive! A lot of people in Philly, artists included, don't give a fuck about New York. The Brooklyn indie rock image is a whole aesthetic, a lifestyle (often associated with "hipsters") that needs to go out of style, just like politically active early 90s punk bands once thrived. There's always a government to protest; but who is writing protest songs right now? Scenes need leaders; DC needs a new Ian MacKaye, not necessarily in terms of creativity, but in terms of his ability to lead people, not just who were living here, but who wanted to move here, to be near him.
Getting real tired of Washingtonians complaining about New York (all 5 boroughs). You guys either need to get over the past or get back to making music and being such small-towners. No wonder Pitchfork won't take DC seriously. Bunch of old men talking about "back in my day" in some useless talking head documentary about hardcore or young people who lack the talent or the drive to focus on being creative and promoting their music to the best of their ability.
"Brooklynization on the current scale is maybe just a side effect of Pitchforkization and a world with infinite free music."

Instead of whining about his stunted understanding of what's happening / not happening in the article, maybe Mike Yates should read the whole thing and see some of the bands in DC he's obviously been missing.
A fantastic and at times maddening article here. Occasionally effusively and self-conciously intellectual and self-reverential (you have a couple hypotheses, it seems), but that's just my taste.

I agree with much of what you said here. Your conclusion about needing only the Monster Mash... You probably know this, but Miles Davis agreed with you, too. He spoke about how when many of the greatest names in jazz - people who would revolutionize that music, like Charlie Parker - were coming up, there were only a handful of records to listen to anyway. Legendary jazz drummer Mel Lewis had two records as a kid, but he also dispelled the notion of RMS' having excessive importance (ludicrously, considering how regional influences shaped music so strongly before recording technology became widespread). In the end, though, to him it was about how they played not where they were from.

I'm the same age as you and have spent many years particularly in the early- and mid- 00s involved in the music scene in DC. I think it's romantic to imagine some cohesion or collective shared soulful experience, but the District is just not built that way! It's too spread out, too transient, too inaccessible, too self-concious. You need Danville: a small isolated stagnant population, fewer places to play, less distractions. But they have the internet in Danville, too, i fear! So, really, you need Danville in 1997. Ah, well...

Anyway, I enjoyed your essay. Thanks for this!

The thing that killed the music scene is the fading interest in alcohol and drugs. You need a music scene so people can find you.

The other thing is that with Hendrix, Nirvana, Shakira, Satriani, etc--What else is there to be said? There is no space for profound music, especially when it is harder to be profound. Blandly polished music is all that sells now on mass markets.

Garage bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and many punk bands incubated within 70's unemployment. Considering the weak economy now, hopefully there will be venues for good music when the cultural renaissance blossoms. Hopefully, there will be something profound to say.
What I've often said, and what I still believe, is that two things have badly damaged DC music. The first, as identified by Jim, is that the cost of living is out of control. In the early Dischord era, it was fairly cheap to live nearly anywhere in DC. Even in the early 90s, large swaths of the city and most of the closest suburbs were very cheap. What's cheap now? The most inaccessible parts of the city and suburbs, mostly. If you wanted to try to make a go of it today, why would you not live in, say, Baltimore? Vastly lower cost of living, very few factors driving cost of living up at anywhere near the rate in DC, and, probably directly related, a better support infrastructure for local music.

The second is what Justin talks about: this has improved recently, but for a period of perhaps five years after the dissolution of Q and Not U and D-Plan, (which was arguably the last time DC was nationally musically relevant), the music got VERY homogenized. I participated, I would know. We were all doing a version of something that came out of some large international city, a "Brooklyn" in Justin's parlance. I had, and have, hope that this is changing. But I don't think it'll ever be the same as it once was, which in my view is largely a function of the cost of living and resultant music infrastructure issues.
I like thinking about this stuff. Thanks for saying it in a way that didn't seem preachy or whiny (oh, and thanks for making great music)!
One last thing, and I promise I'm done -- you warn of the dangers of flocking to one city/sound, but isn't that exactly what people were doing in the early-90s's, abandoning their own regional music scenes, in order to come to DC to form Dischord-sounding bands? I'm not trying to slag, but, the point I've been trying to convey in all my comments, is that music will always be fine, will always evolve, will always recover. I do, however, largely feel that DC's problems are more about affordability. Shit, I've met kids who've moved here, and ask me where the practice spaces are, and have to break them the bad news that there aren't many. I know that has changed in the last couple years, but, a few years ago, there was a severe shortage, and that's a pretty major, often-overlooked thing to breeding a healthy local music scene, is a place where you can make your mistakes, loud, before taking it to the people.
This just in: New York continues to not give a flying fuck what DC thinks. Never did. Probably never will.
Can he be killed by wild dogs, man? Hell no!
Can he be killed by CP comments? Hell no!
Is he impressed by Brooklyn's "glory?" Hell no!
Did I enjoy this cover story? Hell yeah!

There is also a downside to the kind of relative insularity that DC had in the 80's and 90's: a hierarchy existed, bands that sucked creatively got free rides because they knew people, and it was hard for less-connected groups to break through that wall. My band -- one of those listed above as Brooklynizing in the 2000's -- had to go to New York in the mid '90s (back when there were clubs in Manhattan) to get decent shows. Bitter? Maybe, but it's hard not to note when your band is headlining in Chicago and NY but not your hometown. Just like The Gossip needed Olympia 'cause Searcy wasn't gonna provide it, we got all our initial support from out of town. Several absolutely amazing and unique acts came out of DC, but loads of very artistically questionable acts were also celebrated as being "part of the scene." That's also creatively bankrupt. That said, I really appreciate and agree with most of this article. Brooklyn (the ideal) sucks. DC-style cronyism was just part of building something unique.
This is why ICP is the most punk band around these days.
I wrote a response here: http://iamyourjoeyramone.com/2012/09/13/brooklyn/
People need to stop blaming the internet for things going on in music. And also, the real problem with Brooklyn? All these people from Ohio or wherever coming in and turning it into hipster Disneyland.
I would suggest the pesky Puritanical zeitgeist endemic to DC's scene since the mid 1980s and embodied in Dischord's generally PC straight-edge attitude, as a true killer. Without having a certain requisite stance towards strict social and musical phenomena, as a musician you couldn't get the scene's imprimatur, and thus any momentum with the audiences. Musicians suffered a litmus test here in DC during the Dischord years. (CityPaper wrote a cover article a few years ago about this, blaming Fugazi, having them dressed as Puritan pilgrims on the cover drawing). I recall 9353, Peach of Immortality, Chemlab, etc.,--bands too "bizarre" for DC in the 80s as prime examples. All of them moved from Washington after a few years.

This argument can be expanded to the tired old "New York vs anywhere else" fights that have been going on forever, of course, but the bottom line is that with that "be yourself cuz no-one's paying attention anonymity" of NY and Brooklyn, I believe one's creativity cannot fully flourish.
The simple fact is that Brooklyn is where the current alternative/indie/whatever sound originated. As the point was made in the comments above, Brooklyn is just what Seattle was in the early 90's. There is nothing to hate on Brooklyn about, if anything hate on the internet or Apple.

Also, the scenes that appear in an area are incredibly important to bands. Bands move to places that have strong scenes because they can play regularly and are supported by others. The scenes of DC and Brooklyn could not be further apart from each other in that respect.

Playing in D.C- During a show: silence, After a show: 'yeah, that was good.', Trying to book the next show: silence.

Playing in Brooklyn- During a show: cheers, After a show: 'you guys were awesome!', Trying to book the next show: 'Just let me know when you'll be back in town."

Where would you want play?
I really enjoyed reading this essay.
I have a fond memory of seeing el guapo (or maybe
you had changed your name by this point) in Fayetteville
Arkansas in 2002 or 2003. Fayetteville is no Searcy, but
the point about regional scenes producing sounds/outlooks
that are unique is well put. When I lived in Fayetteville,
a lot of the musicians really looked to NYC for guidance....
sometimes, it seemed, without recognizing the real genius
that was right there in the rolling green ozark foothills.
Great article, Justin. The metonymic use of Brooklyn seems to be bothering some, but whatever.

My stance on all of this and life in general is that no one should ever waste time trying to impress someone else or some vague idea of national press or whatever. Just do what you sincerely enjoy and believe in with the people you like and respect and do it enthusiastically and as well as you can. That's all that really matters, stop wasting your limited time on Earth trying to convince the world your cool.
apart from the ridiculous cost of living, the real trouble with DC is a lack of real criticism for bands. everyone's so desperate to have a scene that the music writers, fans, and people in bands dont give the sometimes necessary harsh feedback. most bands really suck. there are hundreds of shitty bands in brooklyn that you'll never hear from and thats probably a good thing. positivity is great but who is curating the dc scene? just having a band seems like its enough these days. in that kind of atmosphere a good music scene really cannot flourish.

semi-pro level music press trying to cover a mostly amateur level scene.

" No wonder Pitchfork won't take DC seriously" hahahahahahahahaha.... This what is considered to be an insult? Thank GOD Pitchfork doesn't take us seriously.
Food for thought: Detroit's "RMS" has persisted/survived over the past twenty years. Perhaps the same could be said for Portland, Oregon.
damn someone sounds like sour grapes.
Funny how everyone discovers that the decline of worldwide creativity occurred between their own teen years and mid-30s.
Someone from El Guapo recanting the stirring words of ol' uncle Ian S. Perhaps new and exciting things don't happen here (and elsewhere) because the myopic old guard refuses to let go.
Note to the editor:

Hey I couldn't be bothered to finish my thoughts on this article and I'm running out of room so I hope you don't mind if I finish this with just some stuff pasted from my outline at the end.
Living and surviving in New York, especially as a band is a very hard thing to do. That challenge might be the biggest mountain range out there to cross. Usually the "overnight successes" you read about on Pitchfork or other blogs have been working hard at it for years. People who don't live in New York only find out about them when the internet helps out. People are overwhelmed by new york every day and move back to cities that are easier for them to navigate. Bands that get attention in Brooklyn get it because reviewers live in New York and keep an eye out for new things, it's unfair to judge people for being ambitious and wanting to better their chances of being seen. And "how did brooklyn happen?" It didn't. New york did. A long time ago.
...and all of this is concurrent to the epidemic of people naming their kids "Brooklyn."
NY is super boring musically. DC has a lot more interesting things going on.
it could just be that people don't like mediocre music that doesn't have any additional angles. DC's po-faced yuppie take on meat-n-potatoes jams has been tiresome for a really long time. can't remember the last time real innovation came out of a DC group. el guapo was like a sad grown-up version of a popular high school band. until someone in DC decides to get with the vital (and thoroughly alive) underground and not just poorly ape exisiting capitalist trends, things will continue this way. also, it's worth mentioning that the author of this piece is incredibly wealthy, and therefore incapable of having much to say beyond writing songs about lindsey lohan whilst wearing a wig. why no one would care about such a thing is truly beyond me.
wanted to agree with this article, but it's such a mess of half-baked theories and old man grumpiness. If you've got to spell out what the article is saying at the end like that, you've failed miserably.
Justin would've been a great Mummer.
when this article is ripped off and rewritten by one of the various former-musicians turned journalist that moved to Brooklyn, it will be so much more coherent. and interesting. and professional. and post-punk/acid house/disco/electronica indie rock. and instead of dancing we will are cross our arms and stare at it.

what this comment is saying: I hope all the filmmakers don't leave their regional film scenes to move to Hollywood.

what this comment is saying: I hope all the southern rappers don't move to Atlanta.

what this comment is saying: I hope all of the investment bankers don't leave their regional financial scenes and move to new york to work on wall street and then move to brooklyn because then housing prices will go up and WHERE WILL THE EARTH'S MUSICIANS LIVE and what will happen to our country if all of the financial markets suddenly go Brooklyn too??
I lived in DC for 4 years, and now live in Brooklyn. Every time i go back to visit and see a show thats a local DC band it sounds like the same crappy DMB knock off mixed with some generic 'indie' riffs in it. I've heard some bands who come up from Richmond that are amazing, but it's very rare for anything good to come out of DC.

From my perspective, if you really want to know what the problem is with DC, people never come out of there shells in DC. No one ever tries to do something completely new, totally different, something people might really hate. DC bands play it safe, which is all well and good if you have rent to pay, DC people (by large) rarely try anything different, and who cares, because the crowd doesn't respond anyway (good or bad). But, its bands that are pushing the envelope that get noticed, thats why you see people from Richmond, Florida, Brooklyn, California, hell even NEBRASKA & OKLAHOMA before getting signed before anyone from DC.
As a young man I loathed what was on the radio... The local music scene wasn't really want excited me, and I listened to LP's of bands from Toronto, Vancouver, and many more from European countries. The bands I joined were influenced by music and musician's from the other side of the world. When we played live we played our music and some covers from these bands... We were weird... but our RMS seemed to accept that. I'm certain we were just seen as the weird group that does that weird music, not the 4/4 rock n' roll you get drunk to.

#17 really got me chuckling.
Dangerous. Just what I needed..
DC did itself in.

The scene outside of the biggies was to introverted, only helping friends promote themselves and not the new and unproven (BUT GOOD) bands

There was an attitude of "if you didnt tour, your werent good"

nice article

For those who actually live in NYC, the idea of "Brooklynization" is pretty dumb considering all of these people are primarily located in Williansburg/Greenpoint and from other places around the country/world.

Brooklyn is NYC's biggest borough, with amazing non-douchey facets and vast, untouched by hipster areas. So please be more specific. And dont lump the rest of us in with the beardo idiot crowd.
The Gossip, The Make-up, The Rapture may not be Brooklyn Bands, but they sure looked & sounded like the Faggy, self important shit that comes out of a place like Brooklyn. If they wore suits, dyed hair-mops black & tried to go from octave chords & screaming, to "Soul", then they were prob an embarrasssing spectacle to all but the thick-rimmed, skinny nerds they were appealing to. G vs B & shudder to think did move to NY & stopped making interesting music, but I don't think Brooklyn was to blame- they were just biding time before getting into Movies & TV commercials- The final destination of the Music Nerd. After 1986, DC's music scene became like a little Brooklyn anyway. I know Branch Manager & Cicus Lupus & a couple other good bands were around, but for the most part it was Nerdy, Skinny, balding, grad-scool, frowning, can't quite tune the guitar bullshit-
This is literally the worst article I've ever read.
I mean who cares if the Brooklyn aesthetic has become so prevalent? All that matters is whether the music is good or not. Seems like someone only appreciates local music on a very superficial level when you whine about not having a "scene" to call your own and no commentary on the actual quality of the music output.
This has been an interesting read but one I have very little agreement with. First of all, let me start by saying I'm not from the area so the specifics of the demise of your RMS and its perceived "Brooklyn" are not relevant to me. That being said the author portends to speak of a greater tragedy beyond these perimeters and I have to wholeheartedly disagree.

I see music roughly 6 nights a week. Although there are definitely bands/genres that I see more than others, I have tastes that span just about every genre and so get a pretty diverse range of music. Various bands touring through either catch my attention or open for other bands that I'm seeing that open up a decent window to what is coming out of other scenes around the country as well (both small and huge). Frankly the diversity is absolutely incredible. In our scene alone there is a veritable explosion of new bands across the spectrum. Yes... many of them are not that unique flower but they don't last long (or go make money playing in the suburbs) that is nothing new. I am constantly being exposed to new music that is anywhere from exploratory to genre defining. I feel blessed to be in a music community that can show this kind of diversity within a smallish city but the music that crosses through shows great growth elsewhere as well.

You can't fault any musician for incorporating their experiences into their work. Their musical experiences, the bands they've heard and loved or hated, are no different than their childhood or other experiences in shaping the sound they will create. The most original, completely revolutionary, sound you hear at close examination maybe with the help of the artist can be found to have traces of themselves and all they've seen and heard. You fault bands for all being a synthesis while we live in a universe defined by synthesis. If everyone from your area moved to another area and turned into that flavor of vanilla so be it... let them go. Then just as a forest fire gives way to bountiful new growth such will the creative talent that remains be able to grow and flourish and show you that they are vibrant as ever.

I've seen a number of comments showing signs of this already... people talking about great music you apparently can't see whilst gazing away at your Brooklyn. People describing a diverse city that has WAY more to offer than you give it credit for. Open your eyes and ears... go to a new club you don't go to regularly... walk through neighborhoods and listen for the rumble of bass coming from a basement... that is your beautiful RMS that is wondering where you went maybe looking for a crowd to nurture them and let their individually shaped collection of experiences show you something new.

Minneapolis, MN
One really important factor in the health of regional music scenes is media ownership. Consolidated media ownership has been terrible for local music everywhere in the country. Clear Channel has been methodically homogenizing playlists for several decades now, and we're feeling the consequences of that on the grassroots level.
it's almost as if nobody read the essay before they commented.
Thanks for writing this. I love music "think pieces."

But as others have noted, the real driver here is the Internet, and Brooklyn is that central real-life hub. Kind of like how NYC, in general, has always been portrayed in media as "the center" of what's happening. News is to TV is to Manhattan, as music is to the internet is to Brooklyn. In a sense.

with the burgeoning H st nightlife I think we can expect to see great things to come in the form of a world class prep school a capella scene for DC.

There are still a few cities with regional scenes like Athens, Chapel Hill and mostly smaller college towns but there aren't many left but its mostly due to the internet, commercial radio but also to some extent Brooklynization. Music is NY has never been as important as they would have you believe though.
What this essay is saying: I don't like Animal Collective.

I appreciate the thought that went into the piece, but the centralization and homogeneity of commercial radio could also easily be a boogieman. And for decades, bands have moved to NY or LA in hopes of hitting it big. If your success is measured by the size of your audience, then the simple strategy seems to be to go where the people are as well as where the industry is based. DC and its surroundings was home to a fertile label scene as well:Dischord, Teenbeat, Simple Machines, Slumberland, Desoto, etc. Slumberland moved to the Bay Area while the rest aren't putting out new records. Things change and it takes a whole lot more than a Brooklyn to change them, even if your notion of Brooklyn is a boogieman with many faces. When I started Absolutely Kosher, I'd planned a comp of local bands called There Is No San Francisco Scene. In a lot of ways, my ironic title was right on the nose. 75% of the bands broke up or moved before we finished it. There's always a struggle to have an explanation for evolution and change, but that's just the nature of all things. People get older and their priorities change. With all due respect to named parties, there's only one Ian Svenonius and there's a reason his own movement has been well-documented. Tim Green moved here and he's making music that has little to do with either NOA or what else was happening here when he arrived (or even beforehand). What New York represents for most is possibility and opportunity. I'm just not sure how much Suicide or Warhol have to do with it, or Akron, OH would become a huge destination for musicians.
the whole point of this article was to drive traffic to this website which it did. it is all about the clicks not about the content
there's not a single band that sounds like Suicide in Brooklyn. Please tell me where this band is so I can go to their shows.
As others have rightly noted, this article is actually entirely about the internet. There would have been a lot more (and better and relevant) source material if it knew that. Instead it's just a few hundred words of whine and ramble that miss the point that's well worth debating. Too bad.

Personal note: I had a bad band in Boston. I came to New York--Brooklyn, specifically. I've had bad bands here too. Now, it's just that no one gives a shit. There's your difference.
Cool article. I largely agree. However, I feel that it's worth pointing out that:

#1a, Los Angeles has the best, most diverse, deepest music scene in the country. It's harder to plug into the scene(s) here than it is in other places, but once you do, the musical offerings sometimes seem infinite. And #1b, bands here most definitely DO NOT all sound the same, or even remotely similar.

#2. Pretty much anyone who wants to can afford to live here. (Which is a big part of why LA has overtaken NYC, DC, San Francisco, etc.)
i loved this article.

I had a similar reaction reading Just Kids, by patty smith,

and I understand the "mood" you are trying to break out of. and I agree with you.

what struck me about patty smith's book had more to do with how they (patty smith and maplethorpe) moved in together. they had a couple of albums, a coffee table book and that was about it for entertainment. so they just listened to those 2 records over and over again while they made art all night long...

I was commenting on how this is impossibly dead now. how anyone who would move to NYC to make art would have at least a mac, and maybe an iPad, they would have hundreds of thousands of mp3s and of course an internet connection.
probably an iphone or the like, with which to do a lot of "liking"

this is no "brooklyn" phenomenon any more than a "montreal" or a "paris" phenonmenon. so for me I get it, it's a post-post-post-rock thing, or something like that. it's the current western human condition.

although a lot of people have posted on how this makes no difference, and I agree: you can still trudge away at creating no matter even if you *do* use garage band. one would just have to push it.

there is an illusion that somehow being able to look it up makes it happen. and i know, I have fallen for it at times, when sampling or getting field recordings started to be about rummaging through freesound.org a day before a show.

somehow now we need to push ourselves to create the pressure.

Maybe you would like this Tacoma, Washington band called "Not From Brooklyn"! We have lost a bunch of talent to Bkln too. http://www.facebook.com/notfrombrooklyn
H St is the worst.

Wilson Center RIP
If the Olympics were a city, they might be DC. It's a town everyone patronizes but easily forgets, and whose culture is mish-mash of museums and old trends, and people wearing the same outfits at the same events. To compete with NYC is laughable, but nor should anyone be trying to. NYC is NYC.

As a couple other posters addressed, the main issue here is cost of living. If practice spaces and housing were more affordable, DC would have a better scene. But this problem seems to be getting worse in DC proper, and won't change anytime soon, so even some of us who are still plugging away at the scene here will be forced to move or stop doing it.

Otherwise, it's the same as any other city, and was never supposed to be a big cultural resource. Don't capitol/government cities often have mediocre cultural export? Think Annapolis, Harrisburg, Albany, Ottowa, etc.

Also, WCP editorials and articles on music seem to often target the same genres and milieu and talk about the scene here in contrast to Pitchfork and NYC a whole lot. If you ask me, it makes way more sense to gain a following (or live) in the surrounding scenes (RVA/Bmore/Philly) than care about NYC.
"It used to be so much better" -privileged white male
So who are these bands in DC that sound like they're from Brooklyn?

Also what is this Brooklyn sound that the whole world is apparently aping, because even though I live in Brooklyn I don't know what it is. Does every band in DC now sound like TV on the Radio? Or do they sound like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings? Or do they sound like MEN, the ex-Le Tigre band, not to be confused with another Brooklyn band called, The Men. Jeez, great band names people.

See if this article was a little more specific I might be able to get behind it. If for instance it was about how several cities now have their own version of the Vivian Girls, and the Vivian Girls are only so-so to begin with so there shouldn't be ten versions of that band in ten different cities - then I'd could understand where the author of the article is coming from.

I will say this though, this article reminded me of a time in the early 90's when this country (and to some extent the world at large) was littered with bands that sounded more than a little like Fugazi, Rites of Spring, Nation of Ulysses and nearby Maryland band Moss Icon. Hell, these bands didn't just sound like they were DC bands, they LOOKED liked DC bands. Everything from their record artwork, down to their gas station jackets, and black rimmed glasses screamed, "We love Dischord Records!" At some point these bands became known as emo bands. Then cut to the 21st century and emo is everywhere. So if you ask me there's more room to argue that local scenes have been DCified rather than Brooklynized.
Dischord still releases new bands including Edie Sedgwick, The Evens, Medications to Cory's point and there are a dozen labels at least doing interesting things in DC including Cricket Cemetery, Sockets, Lovitt, Windian, etc. Although the scene might not seem to have as much going on, there is a lot actually going on that maybe is just too underground for these old folks bitching to follow.
please change the name of this article to "The Internet Ruined Music for Me and I Blamed it on Brooklyn"
Good article Justin (have played with you a few times over the years)
Although I'd blame Pitchfork for taking the weird out of indie-music.
Lots of folks try and have a smooth sound and are rewarded with good ratings and album sales.
I grew up in NY, but left because rents were high and apartments small. Moved to Portland, OR. It's a great city, but it suffers the same issue as Brooklyn. Not much for bands supporting other bands/weird bands. Lots of kids trying to be cool.
Seems Olympia might still have that. But it's also a naive way of thinking. When there are so many bands, people aren't just friends/supportive because you are in a band. It's like making friends with a stranger just because you both play guitar.
Why did the City Paper publish this guy's Dear Diary letters?
Thank you for writing this article. I enjoyed it very much.
Do any of y'all even go to punk or DIY shows in DC? Or are even aware that they have been plentiful for the last 10 years, or that there have been before dozens, if not hundreds of young bands with, at least marginally, individual sounds and have worked their asses off making shows and scenes and records and culture happen outside of DC's older, elitist and, in some ways, broken infrastructure. This isn't even counting other cities and towns and suburbs all across the mid-atlantic that have had the same things going on and have been sharing with DC's underground. There will always be weird teenagers and there will always be cool stuff happening. Just because it isn't being thrown in your face and because college students that want to be a part of something are moving to other cities doesn't mean it still isn't happening. You're just not paying attention.
I think at least one member of the d-plan moved to brooklyn as well.
Everybody arguing about New York and DC in the comments needs to chill. This article is not about cities. It's not even about the internet. We are talking about filtration. In all aspects of our lives we are getting bombarded with input. Learning how to effectively sort through the bullshit in a Google search is thing kind of skill we should be teaching kids in school. Musicians and artists are maybe even more at risk of dilution. The internet is our friend. If used correctly, you can find like minded folks, find a niche, and mine for inspiration.

Also, please stop spreading the idiotic theory that DC is too expensive for art. Plenty of parts of the city are cheap. They may not be considered safe or convenient, but neither was 1970's Lower East Side...or Brooklyn.
Having liced in DC and played a little in the "RMS" there(and yes I'm now in Brooklyn), I agree with a lot of stuff in this article, but...seriously, I think the numerous DC musicians leaving DC has more to do with changes in that city than the allure of Brooklyn. Housing in DC got really expensive in the 2000s and finding a practice space became increasingly difficult as the rapid gentrification of the city turned every industrial or warehouse space into a high rise condo.
I'm glad you liced in DC, so you have a frame of reference.

But why move all the way to Brooklyn (where the warehouses turn to condos) when you could have just moved to Anacostia?

It's hard for music to be dangerous if musicians aren't dangerous...or even willing to be slightly uncomfortable.
There is a serious lack of infrastructure for local bands in DC. Rent in this city sucks. As an artist it is hard to find a place you can live AND/or where your band can practice. If you can afford a practice space, good luck finding one. Most places bands can play are bars (not all of them all ages). There are booking agents who really don't seem to care about local bands (or even music so it seems). They will only throw a local band on a bill so that a flavor of the month band has someone to open for them. There is very few places to book DIY shows. The places that do allow DIY shows shut down very quickly because there would be four or five consecutive poorly attended shows at the same spot in short period of time. Neighbors don't want constant noise (with out any kind of heads up), several days a week. Restaurants aren't going to keep wanting to host shows for free if a bunch of people show up and no one buys any of their food or drinks.

As 71 said. There will always be weird teenagers, and there will always be cool stuff happening. The is good stuff happening if you pay attention.
This is rubbish. I live in Brooklyn, and I am not from here. I have lived here for 15 years. I am in a band. This band plays three maybe four shows in the tri-state area per year, the other fifty-odd shows it plays are elsewhere. These places all have at least one venue that can be depended upon to pull *at minimum* fifty people on any given night to see my crappy band. I meet many of the people in attendance, and most of them are as happy to live where they do and to take part as we are to visit. DC can be counted among these places.

Other people are not ruining things for you. The onus is on you to find your people, make it fun and make it count.
Look, I don't love the current "Brooklyn sound" either, but this article is baloney with a capital B.

First, the so-called "Brooklynization" of music is absolutely NO different from every other popular trend that took over new music for a few years since rock began. Remember that time in your idealized 1990s when every single band had to sound like Seattle grunge for a few years? Those times in the 80s when every single band was doing the Dischord hardcore thing? How about earlier in the 80s when every single band was playing British-style synth pop? Not to mention back in the 60s when whole bunches of bands in Britain were just noodling around with blues ganked from the American South? What usually happens is a few bands with lasting quality bubble up out of these trends, the rest of the bands eventually go away and the trend changes. "Brooklyn sound" is no different, except maybe that you might hear more of it because it's become cheaper to make a recording and slap it up on the Internet. Big deal.

Second - if you don't like the prevailing sound, there's absolutely no reason why YOU shouldn't play, or listen to, something else. Music listeners, especially young music listeners, tend to listen to whatever's trendy because that's the music of their young life at the moment. There will always be a handful listening to or playing something that's outside the trendy norm, and nine times out of ten those are the folks who end up doing or enjoying or supporting music as a part of their life for a long time, not just as background noise at a party. Again, big deal! As a side note, the old "lack of scene support" is the biggest crutch/ excuse in the history of rock. Every city whines about it and yet in every city you can find local bands (amazingly, many of them sound nothing like Brooklyn bands) that play originals and have a pretty big draw of regular followers, enough to make a decent showing at a small club. I know this because I travel a lot for work and go to local shows in a lot of cities.

Third - the whole tone of this article does smack of whiny-DC-vs.-NYC. Let's face it - setting local rap and the old Dischord scene aside, people in DC tend to have other interests (like politics and law) and often other options (like going to an out-of-state college) besides hanging around the city playing music. Contrast that with your average decaying rust belt or rural area where intelligent young people tend to come from less educated, less well-off backgrounds and are driven to a creative outlet by sheer boredom...big difference. Again, I know this because I've lived in two of these decaying cities, visited many others, also lived in DC and spent a lot of time in NYC.

Bottom line, quit blaming trends or Brooklyn for stuff and quit worrying about what other people are playing or listening to and go do what you want and listen to what you want and play what you want, and most of all quit idealizing some past era because you just sound like those old fogies in The Big Chill dancing to their Motown.
Really. Great. Writing. This article brought up a lot of emotions for me. Being a once musician who left a RMS (Detroit) for Brooklyn (the real place) I honestly relate to everything Justin is saying. When I moved here it was seeking more support for my personal work, which is primarily visual art and design. I spent a year depressed because it the NYC I had romanticized had been bleached, scrubbed and candy coated to the point of non-existence. I experimented with joining bands here, but its not the same. I think the what was missing for me at least was the lack of relationships. In Detroit I was in bands with my friends, my good friends. We played whenever we wanted, we shared bands, shared practice spaces, put out each others records, etc. Here you need to rent rehearsal spaces the size of closets, share with a bunch of people you don't know or ever see and fight for precious time with the never slowing rat wheel of NYC. I stopped playing music because of this. It just wasn't worth it to play with acquaintances, wonder if the bass player would show up or not and watch band members leave for other cities before you finished writing a single song.

And as far as art goes... I agree with the commenter who reference Just Kids. That book broke my heart, not only for the obvious reasons, but also because this place where i now live is nearly completely void of the magic that use to exist here. New York is no picnic. There are great, fun aspects to NYC and Brooklyn in particular but for the most part I often see it as a means to an end. I am not sure what that end is yet but part of me really wants to move back home.
A fun read, but I really disagree.

I grew up in the DC area and played music there in the pre-Internet era. There were tons of bands in DC and in various regional scenes that sounded like other bands. Even looked like other bands. That kind of mimicry seems to be natural phenomena. But sometimes something interesting comes out of it. You just have to wait and keep your ears open.

Now I live in Brooklyn and play music in the age of blogs and social media and web traffic stats. I can choose to get lost in a wave of generic-sounding Best New Music picks or get caught up in a Steve Albini vs. Amanda Palmer debate on Facebook if I want, but I don't have to. There is a lot of available input, for sure, but I control what I take in. A salad bar alone may not be an aesthetic, but the items I choose from it reflect my aesthetic. I don't just show up and shovel the entirety of it into my mouth.

Much like the conceptual Brooklyn, the actual Brooklyn is huge and there's a lot going on (and it gets as weird as you want). And much like its conceptual namesake, one of the interesting challenges is figuring out which neighborhood suits you best. The rest of it is a short subway ride away.
"Brooklynization" is so old, that its shocking _absence_ is what so impressed Charles Darwin at the Galapagos.

This just in: Tech makes travel and communication cheaper, and as tech progresses, more of it happens. Film at 11.
Mr. Moyer has selected Brooklyn as his symbol of homogenization in Rock Music, in the way that L.A. was ever the foil to my beloved Boston some years ago. I'd ascribe this trend to just plain technology, but fair enough. The Hip Place is just so *grating* to those watching from afar, especially to any self-respecting punk. But Mr. Moyer's complaint about "losing talent" to "Brooklyn" is absurd. Folks are naturally drawn to larger places and the wider opportunity they may offer...they shouldn't be maligned for this reasonable choice. Plus it gives you a free place for your provincial ass to crash when you are passing through town.
I have never been really involved in any music scene--so I can only say something about lamenting in general: it's a lost cause.

It is poetic to call some phenomenon that is sweeping the world and sucking the originality out of music "Brooklynization", a Brooklyn being a place that has all the riches so has none. But the problem isn't that these meccas cause the talent drain from other cities or "offer too much input" (that's ridiculous). It is also not that ease of access has made it too easy for latent talent to get the information it needs---it's really that the barrier to entry is now so low that ANYONE can call himself a musician or have a band or DJ or whatever without really working for it, and so a lot more crap hangs around long enough to book gigs at the Glasslands or whatever.

Artists who have something to say that's worth anything will find a way to do so, regardless of how much or how little access they have. Ironically, in this world of 2 seconds of fame, most of them will still languish in obscurity--among the hoards of poseurs.

So, talking the current condition of western civilization and all that insanity, this is how it be: we have broken through a new barrier of communication. We are in Guttenberg Beta. We are now drowning in information (and the ability to produce information) and are starting to realize that we have more information than real content. I have faith that we will figure a new relation to content, and all will be swell again. Sorry about your scene, Justin.
I fully understand what this article is saying, and I agree, no matter what shortcomings people perceive in the attempt at expressing it. One lesson I hope the author learned though is that you can never outmaneuver the nay-sayers no matter how many preliminary statements and explanations you throw up in anticipation of them.
One of the big reasons DC music scene had problems was due to a certain club that pushed stuff other than alcohol which led to most bands from the early eighties self destructing, thus the straightedge movement. Since most of the "punks" were spoiled rich kids this led to snobbery and worse since it was more about style than substance and simply copying the "real" punks with ntoable exceptions suck as the "bad brains" which forged something new, creative and different from what we were listening to on wgtb. Teenagers tended to be narrow, cliquish and know it alls as well and they just didn't get the idea, the philosophy or asthetic but they sure got the Doc Martins and the gear at Commander Salamander and that joint on M street near the Cellar Door.

BTW - I did the first local "punk music" but since it was electronic, it didn't count to the local scene. The people who dealt heroin and coke to the scene didn't like me much either and wouldn't book me. So, I am not in "Banned in DC" - because I was banned in dc. Not in the clique. Not desiring to be there either.

I too am from the Philadelphia scene of the 80's and 90's. I too stood to hear the Dead Milkmen at the Troc and Fugazi in Lancaster and I too traveled over "the mountain." Amazingly enough to Danville, Va. In fact I may be "the promoter" in your essay, but more likely I was the guy who unlocked the door for the band out front of a warehouse he rented with other punk supporters. At the time, there were several post- college guys who wanted to try to make a go at creating a scene in a very accurately described post-industrial warehouse section of town that truly no one had any business being in after dark. Some of the descriptions are quite accurate but there are a few parts that must have slipped my memory: being on city council, being attacked by dogs, having a girlfriend who ate at a Waffle House, riding a bike; in fact, I never would have even considered this to be about me except that I did live in a horrible loft.

I know the details of the introduction are minute in the overall purpose of the article. Minute to everyone except possibly the guys who tried to get something going in a small town and the guys who offered their home for a night to a band they never met or booked. I have never regretted letting bands crash at my houses over the years; I wore it as a badge of honor. The inhabitants of Danville and other small towns (yes, I played out too) tried to do their best with what space they had. I'm sorry it wasn't worthy of El Guapo. Sorry you didn't like our town and our hospitality wasn't enough for you. Although I truly don't remember you or your band and I no longer live in Danville, I feel a decade and a half later I must defend myself and Danville.

What is this response saying: don't help out unknown bands, don't put on shows, and certainly don't let bands with nowhere else to go stay in your home. They may get a modicum of fame and crap on you and your town fifteen years later.

theres still a viable dc indie scene. its called gogo. im beyond that though & waiting patiently for the silver spring indie scene to blow up, hopefully led by a cross dressing midget indian lesbian that plays afrobeat
It all sounds alike because few of these punk musicians have ever mastered their instruments. It all sucks because they sucked as musicians in the first place. No musical discipline equals no musicality!
How about actually learning your instrument and growing with it, instead of playing the same chords the other guys play only in a different order?( And then laying on the Pro Tools? Everybody does it, did it, whatever).

And I always thought hardcore and Fugazi-type shit was just that.
To quote Craig Finn- who, by the way, fronts a band that is as "Brooklyn" as they come, yet funnily enough SOUND like they're from Minneapolis- the kids at the shows had kids of their own. The only problem is there aren't too many more sing-along songs to be their scriptures. That's not Brooklyn's (I'm sorry- "Brooklyn's") fault.
Brooklyn isn't to blame---the internet is. The internet is a blender and we are dumping our culture into it. The internet is turning the richness of that culture--of society (the core of everything)--into tasteless puree that no one really enjoys. But I think it's just a phase we're going through. We'll adapt it to better serve us. Nothing to lose sleep over.
Guy has obviously never listened to Type O Negative
wow. you are a very good writer.
must be a shitty musician.

look bro, your arguement is that it is wrong have a scene. I know that isn't what you set out to do but you did. "brooklyn" or myspace or whatever you want to call it is a place where musicians pick up bits and peices of other bands to make themselves more artistic or just more financially secure.

you complain about "current" bands but man, they have always been around. you are just too focused to actually see out of your bubble.

on the short scale, the beatles in your story there, had to learn how to perform a chord to become better as a band... that means they learned another musician's way of doing it. the beatles were brooklynized for most of their careers.. infact that is how they got their careers.

so i guess you hate the beatles. dude, you are just a bitter musican. have a good day
Masturbatory pretension and flowery prose. My two least favorite things in the universe. Seriously, get over yourself. Things change. Music is music.
Regional music is dead? Go outside.
It's just off the grid and you can't always find it on the internet, which is more or less what you're bitching about. Just because you in particular can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there.
I live and play in Brooklyn and am an old man by "Brooklyn Music" standards. I often find it hard to book shows here and buddy up to the "Brooklyn scene". Not sure if its me being older and remembering my RMS in Texas or if things have really just gotten way out of hand in Brooklyn(or maybe I'mjust an old weirdo). Either way it does seem a bit Disneyland here at times and I'm going to do more touring and I hope to find some healthy RMS in the rest of America. Grass is always greener anyways. I say lets all just take it to the road like bands are supposed to do anyways.
With the Internet and technologies such as YouTube, I think the definition of a regional music scene is changed. Such a definition is wider in scope today. You hear rumblings of new sounds and styles all over the world. Today's generational music tastes and styles can no longer be framed around a region within a city...maybe the idea of an "RMS" has widen its' boundaries because of globalization.
YouTube, and other such social media sites have a hand in the expansion of what an "RMS" is today.

Having a band in the 70's,80's, and 90's relied heavily on touring and traditional advertising (flyers, posters, radio interviews, mag ads etc) social media has forever expanded the scope of what sounds and styles are available today. Could this have changed the Regional Music Scene?
"Brooklyn" and RMS could help their own(and each other) by going out to weeknight shows and maybe using the internet to check out the smaller unknown bands that do make the effort to tour and play. Ive been to lots of shows in Brooklyn and Manhattan during the week and maybe a handful of people come out. For such a "healthy scene" if you dont play a weekend hip spot or have a press agent good luck getting people to come out. Strange when you think how much attention Brooklyn/NYC gets. And how many people live here! I'm older then most the music fans(kids) living here and I still go out and try to find exciting new stuff! Oh well bitching only makes one feel better in the short term. Getting out there and playing,recording,starting labels,touring and doing your thing regardless is the only way to keep yourself happy(or less grumpy/angry/suicidal/homicidal)

I once tried to form a Steely Dan tribute/cover band, but I could not find musicians up to the challenge. All the really good players were already playing in jazz groups--especially the horn players. Most "rock" and r&b horn players said the charts were too difficult. Amazing. Also, no one wanted to be part of an ensemble, they all wanted to solo, all the time, especially the guitarists and sax players. Such assholes!

At least no one ever accused me of being from Brooklyn.
Oh PUHLEEZE. Music was so much better when the mob controlled all the jukeboxes (not to mention the joints) and Black folks and white ones couldn't dance to it together. Take off your tin foil hat, kiddo. You might catch the beams from a few other planets.
I just want to reiterate what someone said above, which is that an overwhelming majority of the commenters on this article either haven't read it or have shockingly poor reading comprehension.
Comment 24 has the gospel truth in it:
"Playing in D.C- During a show: silence, After a show: 'yeah, that was good.', Trying to book the next show: silence.

Playing in Brooklyn- During a show: cheers, After a show: 'you guys were awesome!', Trying to book the next show: 'Just let me know when you'll be back in town."

Where would you want play?"

I just looked at the shows list of my old band for reference here, it's pretty interesting. It took that band (from Baltimore, just 45 minutes north of you) 4 years to get on 4 shows in Washington, D.C. (and not for lack of trying or lack of having fans there). From the first time we played Brooklyn, we were back 3 more times in the span of 10 months.

To quote Glen Danzig: "You've got some fuckin' attitude."
For years that attitude gave you panache or some sorta cool air about you. The city held on to it for too long and look where that got you. Eventually more open minded people started booking and DC turned into a fun place to play semi-regularly, but it still feels way more guarded and closed off than Brooklyn.

Also "Hereafter, RMS" is possibly thee most stereotypical "I over-intellectualize every conversation DC" scenester cliché ever written. It perfectly encapsulates so many problems Baltimore people have had with DC for so long. "I'm going to write this heartfelt (I promise you it's heartfelt) story about music and it's evolution from my personal perspective...PS I'm going to write it in a way that sounds too much like a college paper through devices like this dehumanizing RMS that I totally don't see as making this sound cold and distant and totally out of touch. But damn, thanks to that detatchment, it sounds like I have a good degree and a solid job in my future."
Comment 23, not 24
Shadow Henderson: That's bullshit
Bleek: Why?
Shadow Henderson: It's all bullsh- Everything, everything you just said is bullshit!
Sorry Washington City Paper, but the times I've rolled through, the times I visited Baltimore, and time and time again..i've gotten nothing but hostility from you. I AGREE with supporting the regional music scene. But to BLAME Brooklyn for its demise is TOTALLY out of hand. Why don't you point the finger at the economy, the collective sweat of all of us having to pay off student loans, or maybe all of us having to work 3 jobs? etc. To simply blame and accuse music for NOT being weird enough anymore because of Brooklyn is outlandish and bullshit. You might as well point the finger at Berlin, London, Tokyo, Boston, SF, Seattle. And who the hell wrote this? OH YEAH, someone who probably couldn't hold his own chops in Brooklyn, Someone SO OBVIOUSLY THREATENED by the Big Apple. Someone who just can't call a spade a spade.

The argument made in this 'essay' IS THE WRONG argument. You Should not be talking about a PLACE or blaming a place. You should be creating a dialogue about WHY the RMS is in its demise (economics, education, political climate) SHAME ON THIS WRITER FOR doing something as piddly and po-dunk as blaming Brooklyn.

Why don't you WRITE ABOUT THE URGENCY OF NOW IN MUSIC instead of writing about "OH GEE, I HATE BROOKLYN."

DC>>>>>>> every other poor ass city
My gogo is perfectly fine.
Philly in the 90s ruled.
(originally posted on the Premiere Rock Forum at electrical audio dot com)

pretty silly. the guy is "against" brooklyn, but that's not to be confused with the literal brooklyn as he explains, but rather brooklyn as a metaphor for the world being more connected (related in part to migrations into urban spaces). as he sees it, this destroys the localized identity of music as "there are no more secrets," which is obviously crucial to someone like him who name-drops so many artists (some canonical, some obscure, it's boastful name-dropping either way throughout the whole piece) so as to show the amount of cultural "secrets" that [i]he's[/i] in on.

and a line like "things get mushy" is amusingly typical of someone so relentlessly vague about what he's really trying to get at.

perhaps the brooklyn luminary known as the notorious BIG was not adequately "localized" music, eh? you know, there are other people in brooklyn making music outside of the narrow and partially transplanted hipster world that he thinks encompasses the whole place. and also he falters too much on the presumption that people are here in brooklyn making music because we migrated here to bring our music here. i have a day job, yo. not that i don't like living in a place where there are other musicians and artists from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, places to play and see shows, out-of-town bands constantly streaming through to play, and studios everywhere. yeah, i like the connectivity that this guy so loathes. including the friggin internet, another scourge of his outlook.

if he hates the internet so much, why is he publishing this piece on the internet, rather than pamphleteering it to his own local music scene??

back to the article, i'll also say the fact that he compares brooklyn with chicago and LA shows how stupid he is. i don't know about chicago, but i know LA is nothing like brooklyn, what with the dictates of its financially-supercharged "entertainment industry," severe lack of public space artistic or otherwise, and "pay to play" for small musicians.

more silly and vague nostalgia from yet another a self-styled cultural know-it-all.

oh and how many of these fabled "graffiti artists" does he actually know? or does he just like looking at the stuff in the course of his perambulations?

also, to cite his line "regional music scenes are disappearing, like accents," that really encompasses his inane sense of nostalgia. i can only presume so much about him, but this article reads like the lamenting of someone who is pained by the disappearance of "accents," but who doesn't have his own accent to identify with, it's just that he'll miss talking to all those funny people with accents he used to come by.
As a lifelong New Yorker who is born here, The current state of Brooklyn is that it's a shithole. Either the hipsters are going to move out or one day people are gonna flip and start just killing them. But why would anyone want anything to do with Brooklyn in it's current fucked up form?

What a shithole it is now. Thank God hipsters are afraid of Queens. We beat them here.
Passionate commenters! Justin Moyer, the author of this essay, is doing a live chat on our Arts Desk blog tomorrow (Tuesday, Sept. 18) to discuss his argument. Deets here: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/artsdesk/music/2012/09/17/tuesday-chat-with-justin-moyer-about-the-brooklynization-of-music-and-the-death-of-regional-music-scenes/
How nice to feel so self-assured about oneself and so authoritative. I couldn't get past a half-skim of this article because of the arrogance exploding from it. Thanks for reminding me about all that is wrong with some dudes in the DC music scene. Oh wait, I meant you guys know everything about everything related to music and always have. My bad.
For all the talk of "Brooklynization", folks may be interested in looking into George Ritzer's theory about the "McDonaldization of Society". It delves deeper into many of the issues associated with the spread of the culture of consumption across the world.

Related key terms also worth looking into: glocalization/grobalization
I am not sure I understood the point of the article, or the point of the DC/NYC faux rivalry. I am not sure I understand about how much better music was better then or now, or how this music came first or this band moved from one city to another. It's all so very silly, if all of us could see how silly it really is. Useless. Just another reason to break up with the Internet. Go buy a record, spark one and let us all off the hook already.
It's true. You're not going to get much agreement re: the ill effects of the internet from people who spend a lot of time on the internet.

(that doesn't make you wrong)
Artists need an audience. It's what they live for. That's why they need to live in a dense place with a lot of input. The whole world is looking at "Brooklyn".
We just brought some great local bands together. There is a slew of great talent in the DMV who need the support and positivity of the local media, venues, and patrons. http://www.smithcommonsdc.com/index.php/events
Maybe if you learned how to write, you wouldn't have to explain what this essay is and isn't about at the end.
Really? Great work Dan, stellar stuff. You are so Brooklyn. You and the Internet were made for each other. Where are you registered?
This 'essay' is incredibly poorly thought out, poorly edited, and badly assembled. Besides the main points being hogwash, especially from the point of view of actual musicians (see Nate Dogg and Alex V, among others, above), who gave Justin Moyer the keys to the police state?
D.C.-specific issue (realizing fully that the article's scope is broader than D.C.): lack of sex appeal.
Forgive me for being a bit cruel in my response here, but:
1) I hate to see this, but I'm familiar with Justin's band Supersystem: besides being generally mediocre, it was an explicitly a "Brooklyn-style" 2000s "dance-punk" band (not that there's anything wrong with that).
2) But let's say it WAS very "DC"-type music (i.e. influenced by Ian Svenonious' various bands, Minor Threat, and Bad Brains) -- so what? DC music is ENDLESSLY self-mythologized -- I'd argue even MORE so than NYC punk bohemia, because the DC bands always have this pious patina of self-righteousness and pseudo-political nonsense. Which leads me to:
3) Justin makes a last minute point about "Brooklyn" music being "apolitical" i.e. as opposed to the deep political importance of the greats of the DC scene. For the last time, people: a) Minor Threat wrote "Guilty of Being White" and Ian still stands behind it has "anti-racist" and b) don't even get me started on gay-bashing Bad Brains. I'm not saying that these people can't be forgiven for this, or that we can't still appreciate their (admittedly overrated) music, but let's stop pretending that they are socially and politically laudable.
I think it's weird when people talk about this issue, because Punk itself was an exterminator of regional music scenes. Alienated kids who would have made bluegrass, blues, folk, whatever -- all turned to New York and London for answers. I get the point, though -- that the general movement away from face-to-face, tribal interaction brought upon by (mostly) telecommunications advances has had a deleterious effect on face-to-face, tribal music scenes.

Look on the bright side, though. Niche scenes have exploded that would NEVER have found a sufficient audience congregated in one place in the 90's. There's a solid noise scene now. I don't think that could exist as an expression of a region, so the rules of "if this city doesn't like it, it can't exist here" no longer hold it back. It's an economy of scale thing.
there's totally still regional music scenes if you leave your computer and,um, actually go to shows to observe them first hand. i think it's important to take notice of shifting environmental factors with music, like i remember punk before mp3 and social networking or cd-rs even (or how discombobulated all ages punk shows were in my home city of philadelphia before stalag 13 took over as a central meeting ground, which then gave suburban kids a location consistent enough that they could begin mapping it out for each other on public transit), and maybe not as clearly or in the same way as someone who experienced revolution summer in dc, ect, but whatever. at the end of the the day it all marks generations. at the same time, i'm immediately wary of someone being so dismissive of anything that came after what he was immediately involved in/is familiar with. it's a tempting move and pitfall for an old timer and tends to get supported by music scene seniority, but it also reeks suspiciously of out of touch back-in-my-day type bullshit nostalgia.
All I see here is the same tired, elitist, narrow-minded complaint. Too many people are comfortable!

Seattle in the 90s came out of trashy backwoods rage. The blues came out of slavery and poverty (Big Jack Johnson, "I ain't deaf I ain't blind but I still have a hard time!") Early hip hop came out of observing severely messed up street life and racial discrimination. Dangerous music out of dangerous situations for living working artistic human beings.

Socio-economic class is, in an age where physical space is removed from distribution, where we see our regions divide. With that in mind, all I'm reading in this article is: Not enough people are miserable! Only miserable people make good music!
I was born and raised in DC, I was a teenager during DC's indie rock glory days, the early 90s. I remember seeing all the DC bands at the Black Cat. I honestly couldn't wait to get the hell out of DC. A lot of the reason why, is that I found the whole "DC scene" and the music associated with it exclusive, hetero normative, homogeneous, patriarchal, rigid, predictable and boring. I think what killed the DC scene more than Brooklyn was its own lack of inclusiveness and diversity and it's unwillingness to evolve.
That and, people get old. It's not so cute to be silkscreening the t shirts for the band at 40.
C'mon son. You stole Ryan Hicks from Bloomington in the same front-running DC manner for which you put Brooklyn on blast.

Back in 1995/96, DC was Brooklyn.

Don't confuse pretentious with dangerous.

Loved the article. Proper food for thought, at once accurate and missing out on another reality. There still are local scenes, but they are amorphous, delicate, and frankly, about less 'commercial' and intrinsically more adventurous music than the indie/hardcore/post whatever stuff referenced, which is smeared blandly over everywhere.
I really liked the article, and also some of the scathing comments against it. What i lament in the indie scene is lack of talent and substance. It seems to me to be all about style. And I think that is because we don't want to face what's really happening on the planet, and in our own hearts and lives. Real music makes us do that. Many bands today are thought cool because their sound and look is a comment on other sounds and looks. But do they really have something moving to say, lyrically or musically? Something that truly disturbs or uplifts us? Do they help the world forward? Do they have the kind of talent that makes your jaw drop and goosebumps appear on your skin? Do they make you laugh not because of their clever references, but because of an insanity or bizarreness akin to the best stand-up comics? Do their lyrics or melodies actually bring tears to your eyes? We have to start holding music to higher standards! If we did that in our own communities - refused to support shit just because it's "cool" or by our friends, but doesn't actually move us, and actually support stuff that does move us, then maybe our scenes would become vital again.
The author is a great writer. Thank you for the unique article content. I will continue to learn! Stay tuned for more content!
I left New Orleans in 1987 because more people liked my music better elsewhere than in my hometown. In New Orleans we were mostly taken for granted.

Musicians have been leaving their regional music scenes to go elsewhere for centuries.

Cultivating a regional music scene is a lot like trying to control the weather.
I've toured the country in the "Indie" scene and played my share of music fests (my disclaimer), and while this article isn't 100% to the point, it is very close. There were regional music scenes and now there is something of a homogenization per genre due to the easy spread of trends and also the rewarding of too many half-baked bands, that are here today gone tomorrow. What this has yielded is an indie scene with quite often the same sort of shelf life as the pop scene.

Doubtful? Take Clap-Your-Hands-Say-Yeah.

Blew up because of a blog. For a while a bunch of other indie bands tried to ape them. You have bands in Athens GA trying to be the National and (for a while there) every other crappy band in eyeliner I came across on tour was trying to be Interpol. And don't even get me started about the dozens of bands no where near NYC that are still aping the Strokes (to empty room, no less). Now every new band I meet here in the south has a sampler and is attempting to be Fun / STRFCKR. (and a couple got huge advances in the last couple of years so... rad for them! )

While this can be a drag for the mee-too ers' what this does aside from making people piss and moan about the old school days... is drain a local scene or a regional scene.

*Not due to people moving to the "Brooklyns" of the world... but moreover by making nothing from scratch. Copycatting doesn't yield new ideas as much as digging deep and being unique does. And when you have a bunch of mirrors facing each other ....
Very interesting article. I've felt that geographically, especially in the past year, Brooklyn NYC was the place to be for an artist, with the next place to be being The Internet (of course not geographically.) Now I see you're home could be just as important as the next big thing.

PS.. NYT brought me here.
Punk was cool because it involved independent thought and action
Brooklyn sucks because its full of pretentious poseurs
Hipster: (n.) One who appropriates symbols of nonconformity in order to make bland fashion statements
jesus h christ are there even words for how precious and trite this is. people are starving in china for chrissake
This reads like a frustrated diary entry

From a punk rocker no less! The ultimate "Brooklynization!" I understand romanticizing nascent local insular movements, but they inevitably spread if theyre good and become ingredients in the contemporary melting pot for what theyre worth.

Commenters sound like horrible miserable people though just mercilessly tearing him apart. He does deserve some constructive and negative feedback on this one, sounds like he took a toke and his mind travelled down this riff and he never took the time to question it.

I bet the commenters would all be nicer in person though. Hes used to playing shows and people are usually not like that in person except in cars so he hates the internet cause back in his day in the 80s and up to 95 or 2000 people had to be themselves in person and their ids werent constantly being expressed through the keyboard.

But yeh his theory is flawed. but everyone can identify with being dissatisfied by musical mush that has no edge or flavor. Its like bad food at an airport versus the little spot that just opened on the corner. Thats the gist of the article and everyones experienced that and its worth expressing and the article succeeds in that sense

I have to say though, cookie cutter music and an emphasis on genre over musicality is just as bad. Punk for the sake of punk is a lesser form of music if its inhibiting the artist (or lack thereof) from expressing himself or herself. But then an overemphasis on musicianship to the detriment of artistry is bad as well. It's a gyroscopic balancing act. Thats why its so hard to come up with some unified theory for your musical frustration, which is why this article may be a fool's errand...
I think it's a clear sign that an article is poorly-written when the author feels the need to TELL the reader "What this article is saying". Just SAY it, man. Let the writing speak for itself.
I think the second commenter really hit the nail on the head - replace "Brooklyn" with "the internet," and you've got yourself an article. Information spreads exponentially faster via the internet than any other method, and this is what is spreading styles and making music "too cheap."
music is fun. shut up.
Your last part was a mistake and you just come out as someone who couldn't cut it in a scene. The Philly indie rock and punk scenes in the 90s was pretty vibrant with a whole host of basement, warehouse, hall-for-hire and mainstream venues featuring out-of-town bands and local acts. You just had to expend a little bit of effort and bus fare to find good stuff.
Nashville is Brooklyn.
This is one way to look at it, another is to think for 2 seconds about the musical diversity that does exist even just in Brooklyn alone, and the reason RMS's existed is a bunch of followers in a particular area typically copying the popular sound of that region instead of necessarily doing something new and unique. Now as influence is so pervasive globally thanks to everyone being online 24-7 it is less necessary to be from an area with a "cool music scene", and people in the middle of nowhere can still participate in whatever miniscule global music "scene" they wish.

We are the same age and were in bands and touring at the same time in roughly the same areas and I relate to a lot of what you're saying, but I don't think it's Brooklyn (frankly LA has mostly been the center of music until recently when Brooklyn kind of moved past it ever so slightly at least for hipster bands), I think it obviously has more to do with the internet and the new dynamic of music than people moving to cool cities to get somewhere with music, which people have always done (yourself included as you say). But with the downsides of the modern dynamic of music and the internet come benefits. Not everyone can move to Brooklyn, but you really don't need to either.

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