What Are We Doing?
When Chris Horne ran for city council a few years ago, I felt a tide turning. He challenged all of us to be the change we wanted to see. As a result of his run, I realized that I couldn’t just sit around any more. I had to start getting involved. Not just writing about the great stuff going on in town but also helping the great things going on in town come into bloom. Maybe I wanted to put my name on history, but mostly, I wanted to see what we were doing from the inside to see what we all could do from the outside.
It goes without saying that we need to be involved. If someone could find the magic formula for making people come out to things, that person could grow rich working for all of these organizations that want your $5 to $50,000 (whatever bracket you fall into). But there is not magic formula. People labor under the impression that there is nothing to do in Macon so therefore they don’t seek it out. People labor under the concept that there is a “cool” way to be – informed by peers, magazines, television programs and commercials, etc. While this last isn’t particularly a Macon problem, it is one that strongly affects the people who want to do things in Macon. And forget about our racial and class-ist backwardness. More on that later.
I have been downtown since 1996, but I missed out on the Black Card parties. I have a black card. I went to basically the last Black Card party. I hear everyone I hang out with reminisce about the days of the Black Card parties, and I hate I missed out. But at the time I was married and didn’t live downtown. Now I’m downtown and not married, but many of the black card party-ers have had life changes that keep them in. And the ones who don’t, who still go out, are just doing it out of habit and are growing bored.
So what do you do? The people who are trying to do something can’t get people to come out and the people who go out can’t find something to do.
I’m friends with a guy named Shawty Slim. I remember watching him play at some bar (not downtown) where I was the only person dancing. He was good. I remember the first time I heard him mix Michael McDonald with Warren G & Nate Dogg. I only went out of my way to this club for Slim and Fourth, but after that night, I knew that if they were partying, I would be there.
Today, I saw this from Slim:
Dear Middle Ga,
As a DJ I have noticed that the party scene around here is broken. It seems that a lot of people who go out don’t really enjoy it anymore. They seem to just do it out of “habit”. Over the last few weeks I have been randomly popping up at parties around town and one thing I have noticed is this: the djs & the people aren’t in sync anymore. I have seen some of the best DJs in the area play the hottest songs in the world……and the crowd is “too cool” to move. Then they have to resort to playing “the obvious” song .. i.e. .. “The Wobble” (which is a good song for what it is, but when it’s the only thing that makes ppl move, this is a SERIOUS problem).
What happened? I know there is a group of multi-genre music loving party people around here. I used to see half of them at all of my parties before I left for the tour life. I have made it my personal goal to find this group and bring them back to the dance floor.
With all of this said, I have devised a plan to DJ as much as I can again in the city….just like it used to be. I know my schedule is hectic w/ being on the road, but I have ask two of my great DJ friends to help me out: DJ Fubu & DJ KD.
If you love music of all types and you aren’t too cool to have the time of your life, then I invite you to join us as we take back the nights.
If you are the type of person that spends 90% of your time in the club just people watching of playing with your phone in the middle of the dance floor, then please stay away.
If all you want to do is wobble & line dance ……. ALL fucking night, please stay away.
If you just want to hear the same 30 songs they play on the radio all night, then you are welcomed to sit in your car.
If hearing 2 Chainz into Red Hot Chilli Peppers into Outkast confuses you, then please stay in your home.
If you are ready to take back the night and go on a musical journey with a group of DJs who are extremely passionate about the tunes they spin, then please stay tuned…..because there is something coming.
-Shirod “Shawty Slim” Cooley
At the same time, my friend Floco Torres said something similar:
As the guy that wrote Cherry Street, did a TED talk that’s been played all over the world & is an active positive member of the community. I love what the city has done for me & all the beautiful ppl Ive met BUT….. With all that I’m here to say I’m officially stating PUBLICLY that Im frustrated as hell w/ the city of Macon Georgia. Maybe it’s just me & it’s awesome for everyone else. As a creative for a LIVING, (like many others I know here) it seems almost impossible to sustain yourself & move to a higher level in this town. If this pisses you off then GOOD. Stop inviting me to your bullshit meetings & lets roll up our sleeves & fuck some shit up. Fuck your popularity contests & all that. I’m not going to stop trying to do awesome stuff here but I think I have the right to say this. Many want to say this but won’t. That’s fine, call me whatever you want. I was told I have a gift for calling ppl out on their shit so I’m just using my powers for good. Sincerely, the muuuuuuuufuckin BAD GUY.
We are at the point where we want to take the city. We don’t want to do it through politics because we think politics suck. People say vote but that doesn’t seem to change anything. Here’s the new guy, same as the old guy. 49% of the population will always complain about the person in the big chair. Nothing is getting done. Even as we see great changes happening in Macon, we still see the hand of people who don’t think like we do influences the place we call home. The powers that be don’t support a creative community like we, as a creative community, want or need them to. Therefore we have to support ourselves. These are the things we have to remember:
1. The only way you will get an audience is if you keep doing something in spite of the obstacles, lack of attendance, and feeling of defeat. I took over Storytellers for Crossroads Writers and after two months of absolutely 0 people attending, I felt like a failure. But I was going to continue it even if no one ever showed up.
2. Luck has to be on your side. You have to find the right cheerleader, the right “cool” person, the right time of life, or the right small crowd for your thing to be a success. I gave a TEDxMacon talk and someone in the audience learned that I did an event called Storytellers and, being a teacher, gave extra credit to the students who came out to my event. Immediately after that TEDxMacon talk, I had the largest crowd that had ever been to a Storytellers and the next month, we told stories until well past time. If I hadn’t done Storytellers, I would never have auditioned for TEDxMacon and my efforts with the group might have died.
3. You have to know people. Not necessarily the powers that be, but someone who will be just as passionate about it, or willing to support your efforts. Sydney Chalfa was just as passionate about the art of telling stories as I was and she helped me gain an audience. And her encouragement helped me get a second wind.
4. You have to be passionate about what you’re doing and be willing to give it time. I can’t repeat the “willing to give it time” part enough. If you’re not passionate about it, no one will be. Whatever project you plan lives and dies on your passion. Slim is extremely passionate about DJing. I’ve watched him work it out. While he has a great deal of natural talent (he could probably put a set together in a matter of minutes since he’s been doing it so long), he still practices his craft and tries to get better. And we get to be a part of that. He is passionate about what he does, we feel it, and that’s why we go out to support him.
5. Know when to let it go. Sometimes you’re ahead of your time. Sometimes you’re behind the times. Slim is trying to find his crowd, the people who are willing to dance, sweat out their ‘dos, and make him feel their energy while he spins. If that crowd wasn’t here, he could walk away knowing that he tried. But you have to try. You can’t do it a few times and then give up. People in this city need time to figure out how they feel about something new. And yes, you’ll always have those friends who support you, but you have to understand they get tired because they don’t have the passion you have.
People still want to do something. We want a creative community, we want people to be interested in the cool things we’re doing. Not just a few days a year when the whole city can get together. We don’t want just the mainstream artists to get their due. We want the indie people, the people who may only have a few fans, whose works are not readily understood, and who aren’t instantly popular to feel like they are part of this creative class as well. If we love this place, whether it is Downtown Macon or the city of Macon as a whole, we have to be accepting of everyone who is trying. Mercer kids who come downtown regularly to hang out might start out douche-y, but downtown acceptance would go a long way towards making this community grow. We downtown inhabitants get caught up in keeping things the way we like them and forget that there was a time when we didn’t know everyone, didn’t know how this community operated, and could have been just as annoying (or just as young). It’s the same along racial lines. There are people saying negative things about the crowd at the daiquiri bar, which is black owned, but they have one of the best daiquiris, the Patron Margarita, out there. Stop being afraid of the opposite race, people, and get to know each other. If we’re hanging out downtown, we already have a few things in common: 1) we’re supporting our friends and the business owners of downtown Macon 2)We think there’s something to do in downtown Macon and 3) We’re not afraid to be down here. Get over yourselves and get to know one another.
Wow. This 2000 word rant is almost over. I’m not going to say let’s “start” supporting our artists. We do that. Let’s make ALL of our artists feel welcome. Let’s agree that we’re not going to like everything but also understand that there is an audience out there. It just might not be us. Let’s be okay with that. And if you have it in you to come dance the night away Friday night with Slim, or walk down a scenic street and listen to people who love words, or take part in the biggest art festival this city has ever seen, then please come out Friday and see what Downtown Macon is all about.