Saturday, April 27, 2013
Jesse James Rides Again
The only thing worse than a starving artist is a crispy dead artist.
Today the Gazette picks up and runs with a story I broke over three weeks ago about an underground music venue in an old time traditional middle class neighborhood in South Amherst. The above-the-fold article is a cross between what traditional journalists would brand a "puff piece" and flat out girlish romanticism.
Because at no point does the lengthy article consider the major public safety concern about these pack them in underground late night commercial ventures: fire safety. In the past year Amherst has had two basement fires in student rental properties that violate zoning law with overcrowded illegal bedrooms.
Either of them could have been a tragic replay of February 17, 1991.
And these non profit commercial ventures, which can pack up to 250 people in a low ceiling basement designed for nothing but storage, could easily become a tragic replay of the Station Nightclub fire February 20, 2003.
Consider this quote from the Gazette: "It was a lot of fun. A packed, sweaty basement where it's hard to move around makes for the best shows." That's what they thought in Brazil, until ...
Coincidentally -- or maybe not -- last night around 11:00 PM Amherst Police cited for noise violations due to a band one of the houses mentioned in the lead paragraph: Babetown. Yes you would think a hip, young successful female reporter would you know, comment on that, but hey it's the Gazette.
And these particular bad boys are repeat offenders. Twice last month they were warned for noise, not to mention the tickets from last year.
A few weeks ago the boys at Dad City held a fundraiser concert at UMass to help cover the $1,800 in fines slapped on them by the Amherst Police. Which kind of underscores the solution to this "problem" of not having a place to stage these hip, underground concerts.
Or could it be that half the allure is simply that they are "underground"?
And why would a commercial above-ground business like Iron Horse want to open in Amherst if they have to compete with these undergound operations that charge little or nothing?
Kind of hard to compete with free, especially when your overhead costs for insurance, rent, advertising and the occasional inspection from Amherst Fire Department needs to be covered. Kind of like why print newspapers are on death row: they can't compete with free social media, blogs, and all-digital hyper-local news websites.
Rather than encouraging irresponsible behavior the Gazette needs to remember a simple journo prime directive, borrowed from the Hippocratic oath: Above all else, do no harm.