Thursday, April 19

Debating the Reno Music Scene

I have recently met Kelly in the blogosphere, we met on the Son Volt message board, talked a bit about music, and about possibly crossing paths at a local show. She commented on my blog today that she had referenced me in an article she wrote for

I am delighted that my post of a local billboard ( has sparked this debate! I wrote this in response to Kelly's article. Please feel free to chime in with what you think about what either I or Kelly have said!

I read your article, and in the spirit of debate have opted to respond to some of the issues you raise.

Firstly, we could debate the merit of the Reno music scene based on a variety of criteria: genre, ticket prices, venues, variety, and of course age groups amongst them. Since you decided to stage your disagreement with my post based on age, I will focus my response to your article on age as well. I feel it was erroneous on your part to assume that you knew my age group, in fact I am merely five years your junior. That would put us in approximately the same age group, would it not? The fact that you would assume that I am significantly younger seems a bit dismissive, and is illustrative of a major problem with the Reno music scene. I am 34, but younger at heart. I have a decent job, no children, and I go to shows for pleasure and compelling entertainment. There is nothing else quite like the experience of live music, connecting with the band and the crowd, and sharing a one-night-only live musical experience. I may seem like a youngster to you because I devote a portion of my time to posting to my on-line music blog. I started a music blog as a way to share my musical adventures with friends (some of whom do not get to go to as many shows as I do), and additionally, to be active in the on-line music bloging community.

I realize that my one post stating that “the Reno music scene blows” is a broad generalization that can easily be taken out of context, and thus used as a point of argument by anyone that may disagree. It was posted as a bit of a parody of these lame looking giant artist heads that were popping up on billboards all over town. One other artist head that I wanted to get a photo of but didn’t was Peter Cetera. He looked so airbrushed and soft. Ha! It made my stomach turn a bit. Anyway, my original idea was to take more photos of the billboards around town, and post them more often showing the limits of what acts are being marketed and to whom. However, something happened from the time I took that first photo and now - Reno has booked some really great shows! Currently, there are so many good bands coming to town that I have to choose some over others due to conflicting dates. Thus, I have hesitated to post more billboard photos because I am currently overwhelmed with great shows to attend here in town! It happens once in a while, we get a wave of really great bands that come through town. However, I have been living here and attending shows regularly for 20 years, and I will still stand by my assessment that the Reno music scene is lacking. I realize we aren’t as big as Sacramento or San Francisco, but we are a decent sized city. We are directly between Salt Lake and S.F. We are on the way, but most of the time we are just passed through by touring bands.

I agree with you that is bringing some great acts to Reno. I have attended several events myself in past years, Ani DiFranco at the Hawkins Amphitheatre being the first one that comes to mind. However, my friends and I paid almost $60 a piece for those tickets. I can see Ani in Sacramento or Berkeley for $35. I would gladly go to see Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman or Robert Earle Keen, but why should I see them in Reno when I can see them for about half the cost in another town two or four hours away? (Gas prices are another rant all together!) Ticket prices are a major part of the reason I feel the Reno music scene blows, but as I said above I will base this statement mainly on age categorization as you have done with yours.

The acts you mention in your article are tremendous talents, but they are geared to an older demographic, say 35-45. What about the age bracket right beneath that? The one we were participants in not too long ago? The bands you mention are musicians that are heard on the local radio station known as “The X.” The X is a great community-oriented radio station that markets to the 35-45 year-old crowd. I listen to the X on occasion, and they do a great job of bringing artists they play to town. Then, there is the station for the younger demographic, KRZQ. They market to the 15-25 year-old crowd, and they too do a great job of bringing the bands they spin to town. For example, they have brought My Chemical Romance, AFI, Angels and Airwaves, etc, to the Reno area. These artists fall a bit too far outside of my interest range. Despite these musical offerings I find there is something missing right in between the two groups catered to by these radio stations. I feel like I best fit in this medial category. I love and respect the music of Emmylou Harris, Robert Earl Keen, David Byrne, etc, but I also want to see some other acts that get my blood pumping a little faster, something new and exciting like Son Volt, The Twilight Singers, Wilco, The Editors, Interpol, Radiohead, Of Montreal, Silversun Pickups, The Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, and TV on the Radio. Let’s just take a show that is coming to the area as an example. Montbleu wants $65, not including ticket vendor fees to see the Killers in May. $65!! I think I paid $17.50 to see them a few years ago. Yes, they have grown in popularity, but $65?!? Wow!

Here is the rub - the Reno music scene blows for the 25-35 year old music lover. The younger 15-25 year-olds are getting pretty good representation, and the 35-45 year-olds are getting decent representation. What about the 25-35 year-olds? Myself or anyone with less of an entertainment budget frequently cannot afford to see their favorite acts at a casino prices, or casino run events center prices. For example, The Reno Events center has outlandish prices! I rarely choose to afford to see a show there. How is someone in college without a full time job going to be able to afford to go see Gwen Stefani and Lady Sovereign at the range of $49.50 to $99.50, and that does not even include fees? I have only seen one show there, Stevie Nicks, and that was because I won tickets from the aforementioned X. Otherwise, I would not have paid the amount of money they wanted because I can go see three shows in Sacramento for the price of the one here. That blows!

Regarding prices and variety of musical acts to see I stand by my post, the Reno music scene blows. Of course, this is just my opinion, but I know quite a few other people who agree.

I will say that things are getting better every day. Last year Sonic Youth, Ween, Modest Mouse, and Queens of the Stone Age all came to Reno, and with ticket prices averaging $25. Morrissey is playing at the end of the month, and tickets are pricey, but the size of the venue and the caliber of the artist justify the price. The Rapture is playing in town for $17.50! I have just shelled out casino prices to see Elvis Costello and the Indigo Girls. Things are looking up, but I am still going to be vocal and active about trying to bring more new and exciting acts to Reno, even if that means raising a few hairs on the back of people’s necks by boldly proclaiming that the Reno music scene blows! Even if the discussion begins in the form of flippant generalizations by a frustrated thirty-something there is room for discussion, debate, and improvement, don’t you think? You probably dismissed my opinions due to my use of slang language and generalization. I understand your response as valid to a degree, but you were overly hasty to make an incompletely informed judgment and dismissal of my opinion. I am very active in trying to do my part to improve the Reno music scene. I perpetually contact bands and their representatives to provide them with local contacts for booking shows in Reno venues. I used to volunteer three and four nights a week for an all-ages venue that has since closed down because I think that as many types of music as possible should be available for enjoyment of all despite age. I notice on your blog that mention your recent purchases of cds by Lily Allen, Son Volt, and The Arcade Fire. Wouldn’t it be great if these more current artists played Reno instead of or in addition to Peter Cetera and Travis Tritt? I know I would!


Christine said...

Bravo!! I wholeheartly agree with you and applaud your passion for bringing up this topic and sparking thought, which hopefully may also possibly lead to better, more affordable shows for Reno. if anyone can get the twilight singers here, I will gladly let the band stay at my place. =)

Ana Banana said...

I guess you told her! haha.

I like your style.I'm not very familiar with the music scene in Reno, nor here in SF, (I am probably in the 45 - and up age bracket, Dan Fogelberg, corny this musician and that of the early to mid 70's) but can relate to your sense of passion for representing a particular idea or sensibility. Good for you! Go girl!

cjsantos said...

I enjoyed this post, although I disagree with your demographics. The bands to listed as geared for the 15-25 year old crowd are not what I, as a 20 year old, an age that falls right in the middle of that range, am interested in. I understand you were making broad generalizations to make your point and weren't trying to necessarily be particular with your ages, but I say this to illustrate that the bands you listed as geared for your demographic (Wilco, Modest Mouse, Radiohead, etc.), have even larger audiences and markets in Reno. As I am about to move to the Reno area, it's good to know a bit about what musically is happening there. Feel free to email me if you'd care to discuss it further, or just let me know about a great show coming up.