In his speech celebrating the E Street Band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April, bandleader Bruce Springsteen said something striking: "Real bands are made primarily from the neighborhood. From a real time and real place that exists for a little while, then changes and is gone forever. They’re made from the same circumstances, the same needs, the same hungers, culture."
In 2014, Springsteen's comment sounds like an anachronism. The Internet has been widely blamed for killing local music scenes, and there's much discussion about how rising rent prices in cities like New York and San Francisco are driving artists away from once-thriving, creative neighborhoods.
The E Street Band formed more than 40 years ago. And for every Bruce Springsteen in the world, there are countless not-famous musicians who start or join a band and then take on the difficult task of developing and maintaining it. Does this always happen organically, within a local music scene, among friends and acquaintances? No way.
I was lucky enough, in the ‘90s, to be at the center of a thriving local scene, where bands developed music naturally and haphazardly on a handful of local stages, nurtured by peers who were also in bands. Our local independent radio station gave as much airtime to our music as it did national and global acts. We rehearsed in living rooms, basements, garages, and warehouse spaces, and when we weren't performing, we attended one another's shows. Newspapers, magazines, and zines wrote stories about us. We signed with small record labels or started our own. We partied, danced, and helped each other get home at the end of the night, while wearing one another's band T-shirts. Through our shared times, we shared a common language and understanding.