Since my arrival in Potsdam nearly three years ago, the "Potsdam music scene" had been a sort of running gag. "What music scene?" someone would always interject.
Suddenly, refusing to settle for what little we have here, a few people have taken matters into their own hands. There's no denying that things have gotten better little by little. Hurley's has changed hands several times. Both the demeanor and quality have drastically improved under the guidance of current Hurley's chair Ben O'Brien Smith. Show attendance is stunning every time. The on-campus venue has brought in acts of ever-increasing quality. Downtown, La Casbah has also played a huge role in reviving live music. Lastly, the school radio station, 90.3 FM WAIH, has brought musicians into the studio to perform on air at every available opportunity. This has made the long drive seem a little more worthwhile to out-of-town musicians. All of the people involved in those efforts deserve our thanks. Because of them, our scene is flourishing and sometimes even boasts multiple shows on the same night. Although double booking isn't ideal, I could never have imagined that we would have so many options.
Freshman business major Brian Bond deserves major props for the show he put together last week at Backstreets. What I experienced on Thursday night at Backstreets was not all that different from a dingy New Brunswick punk house basement show. It brought together people of different interests with a solid lineup. There was dancing, socializing and most importantly, amazing music. Local acts Keeping Wyatt and Greene Reveal (Watertown) drew the crowd anxious to hear familiar acts. The Knockdown (Oneonta) subsequently wowed the crowd with tight harmonies and a solid punk rock sound. I think that the raw punk show and community feel reminded a lot of people of their hometown scenes.
For those looking to help the scene, there are a few places to start. First, pair touring acts with local ones. Touring acts that don't have a name here might have trouble drawing a crowd no matter how good they are. Secondly, use your resources. Money can be an issue, but if the musicians are flexible, there are plenty of opportunities around town and on campus. Lastly, advertise the hell out of your events. Attendance and overall interest will keep musicians coming back and even spreading the word about how great our small town really is.
I'm surely not the only one completely blown away by the transformation that has happened within the scene during the past year. Maybe all we needed were some positive-minded people and fresh blood. The collective effort to bring a scene of such magnitude to Potsdam is admirable. The more we continue to put our hearts into it, the better it will get.