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The Huntsville Music Scene Would Like A Word

Let’s talk Huntsville music. About how this town maintains a music scene with talent rivaling anything you’ll find in larger cities, but the full glory of this talent is currently just outside your field of vision.

We’re in such an important moment in the cultural life of our city that it’s time for an intervention, folks.

As an almost 50-year-old native son, my authority to be your therapist on this subject is based on my being a long-term participant within the Huntsville music community. I’ve played here since I was 13. I’ve cut tracks in local studios. I’ve crooned at your weddings and funerals. And I’m still playing gigs as much as life allows.

However, despite being an experienced local musician with an opinion, my experience is also limited to the small window of time from the mid-1980s to the present. Great music was being played in Huntsville a long time before me. I can only comment from my particular vantage point.

Whether you’re a recent transplant or your great-granddaddy knew John Hunt, you’ve no doubt been to a nearby brewery, coffee shop, or restaurant patio and enjoyed some local music - that solo acoustic guy that was so good you just assumed he was on loan from Nashville (he wasn’t). 

You’ve walked the streets of downtown at night and heard a band in the distance banging out songs from some rooftop or dusty stage. You experience local music all the time. It’s a huge part of the backdrop that makes this place such a livable city.

But are you seeing the bigger picture?

Before we dig into that, let’s switch gears and talk about a concept related to a city’s musical health. I refer to it as The Venue Ladder, and it’s the metaphorical steps taken by musicians in their pursuit to reach higher and higher quality gigs, exposure, and income in a given area. Every city has one.

For example, the magnificent new Orion Amphitheater or the VBC’s Mars Music Hall are clearly the top rungs of Huntsville’s Venue Ladder. Below these two, at debatable positions, are an array of event spaces, bars, breweries, restaurants, all the way down to your dive bars, which make up the vertical rungs. Theoretically, an aspiring local musician can start their career at the lowest rungs and climb as high as their talent and hard work can take them.

But the effectiveness of any city’s Venue Ladder is dependent on the appreciation and support of local music. A healthy music scene, where musicians can get regular work, and even (gasp) potentially make a living, is greatest when a Venue Ladder has many and varied rungs, top to bottom.

Over the years, we’ve lost some talent to other places because of lack of regular paying gigs at the lower levels of our Venue Ladder.

If you are a fan of music and a proud citizen of this growing, cool city, ask yourself what your role is within our Venue Ladder. You might prefer a cozy restaurant patio or the warm grass of Big Spring to a dive bar. No problem, but the thing is, all the rungs matter and should be supported.

That’s all you needed to know really. See? That wasn’t so bad. Thanks for coming to this intervention, friend. The best is yet to come.

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Let’s talk about how this town maintains a music scene with talent rivaling anything you’ll find in larger cities, but the full glory of this talent sits just outside of your field of vision.

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