Let me preface this post by admitting that I am a very sentimental person. I cry at movies, I am touched when customers tell me their stories at work, and I get emotionally attached to music. I care a lot about the people in my life, and the things we experience together, and the places we’ve been, and the fruits of the achievements I’ve worked for on my own, and so on and so forth. So, when I got online yesterday to write a post about Bright Eyes’ new album and saw that it would be the 100th IndieCollege.com item, I felt that our centenary post could not be frivoled away on Conor Oberst (though, he also has a place in my heart). Instead, I would like to share some thoughts with whomever thankfully takes the time to read our site.
About three years ago, I was going through a pretty disorderly and seemingly purposeless period. It had not been long since I moved away from my fairly sheltered suburban upbringing in the Twin Cities of Minnesota to an apartment in San Diego with my childhood cohort. We were both dealing with heartbreak, various tough decisions, struggles to balance our new lives with school and work, and consequential bouts of going out a little too much. After some troubling medical news, I got a traveling itch, and suddenly wanted very badly to get away from basically every responsiblity that I held. Desires and opportunity gelled when an old and dear friend offered me a seat to tag along on his band’s tour. I pitched a piece to a small ‘zine about what it’s like to be a completely independent, self-funded band on a cross-country jaunt, and a few weeks later I was off to Chicago to join the band (formerly Where Astronauts Go To Hide, currently Holyoke). I won’t say that it was the most fun I ever had, because I learned quickly that I could not run away from my issues easily. However, we had some interesting experiences and met some genuinely amazing, giving people and I got to see many states I otherwise likely would have never visited.
One of the cities our traveling trio landed in was Salt Lake City, UT. Like in all of the other towns, frontman Joshua signed off the set with a plea for a city guide and a floor to sleep on for the night. That night the response came from the then sound guy and manager at The Outer Rim, James Gentry (Indie College’s Creative Director and Designer Extraordinaire). James is one of those people that you just immediately like. He was (and is) so warm and witty, and we were lucky to get to have dinner in the city with him and some of his best friends. He set up some makeshift sleeping arrangements for us at his apartment, but I always had trouble falling asleep at the various strangers’ places we’d been crashing. I stayed up for quite a while after my companions fell asleep, watching “The Office” with James and his friends and talking about ourselves. I am going to impart some information that hopefully won’t embarrass James, but I was kind of smitten with him from the first time we met. We exchanged phone numbers and spent a lot of time having lengthy text-message conversations the rest of the tour, and would go on to form a wonderful friendship by phone and email that we retain to this day despite only physically seeing eachother an estimated total of less than 48 hours over the last three years.
Anyways, the point of this is not to openly confess that I used to have a crush on James – the point is to thank him. I wasn’t doing anything that I felt passionate about at that time. I was having no luck at all finding a music magazine or blog to contribute to, and I had started to seriously doubt all of my dreams and aspirations. James found out that I liked to write and felt strongly about indie music, and he asked me if I wanted to write for the blog he had just started – IndieCollege.com. It was basically just a few short posts by himself and a friend or two at that point, but I was so excited. From the very beginning, James gave me complete creative freedom to do whatever I wanted, and last year when he told me he wanted to get serious about the site and asked me to be the Editor in Chief, I was ecstatic. Since then the site has evolved and changed completely from what it once was, and being a part of it has been so fun and such an honor. Let me tell you guys something else: I don’t make a dime off of Indie College (or TRACER, or Radio Free Chicago). I do it purely because I love music, I love art, I love to write, and I LOVE helping musicians and artists get the attention that they deserve. The feeling I get everytime I am able to publish another post on the site is indescribable – but if I had to try, I would say that it is a very giddy and probably kind of dorky elation.
The story behind how Indie College came to be what you see today is a meaningful representation of what the indie community is all about. We are all struggling – most of us don’t have fame, or money, and we soldier on with our magazines/bands/blogs/record labels/etc. simply because we love what we do. And, whenever possible, we help each other grasp opportunities like James did for me. Take for instance the amazing site www.IndieGoGo.com. Through donations solicited by IndieGoGo, artists like Morgan Green get help paying their art school tuition, and bands like Agent Ribbons get to tour Europe with the comfort of knowing they will have a place to sleep at night. Strangers who are likely barely scraping by themselves help to raise thousands of dollars to see other artists achieve their dreams. Another example is a different chance meeting from that very same summer tour. When we got to Kansas, the venue we were supposed to play at was boarded up. Josh and his guest cellist Valerie pulled out their instruments and started practicing in the parking lot, feeling pretty beaten down by the stress of the tour. Out of nowhere, Brad appeared. The most I can tell you about Brad is that he was enigmatic, and a little eccentric. He told us that the venue owner had passed away just days before, and his sister had locked the place up indefinitely. Brad had no idea who we were, and he didn’t owe us anything. However, he invited us into his home, and he used every connection he had in Wichita to find the band somewhere else to play – and then he called up all of his friends to go to the show. It was probably the best turnout of the entire tour. He just wanted to help the band play. And that is what it is all about.
Whether you are an artist we feature or a reader, I hope you can all tell the passion that James and I have for Indie College. We thank you for your support, and I hope you will continue to read, and start interacting with us on Facebook and Twitter (because we need your suggestions and artist submissions!) over the coming year. I hope to increase our volume of posts about indie artists and introduce some new music review contributors, as well as get started with our Design section and unveil a whole area for DIY projects! I’m so pleased that we’ve reached 100 posts, and I can’t wait to post hundreds more.