Localized Experiences of Indie-Rock Concerts in the Triangle Area of North Carolina
THIS SECTION IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION
This project examines the indie-rock music scene of North Carolina’s triangle area and indie-rock concert-goers living in the Triangle area, including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and surrounding areas. It seeks to contextualize data drawn from the music scene and other demographics by answering the following questions through ethnographic research:
- What is it about the Triangle Area in North Carolina that makes it noticeably more active than major cities considered to be greater cultural centers?
- How is the vibrant indie-rock music scene in the Triangle area of North Carolina constructed and how is it experienced by local music fans?
The central thesis of the project is that the Triangle area is uniquely positioned within the larger indie-rock culture group, which serves the community, as well as local music fans who are granted the benefits of a vibrant indie-rock music scene. While there are components that serve as an extension or index of the larger sub-culture of indie-rock, there are also elements that are specific to the area. These similarities and differences can be distinguished in the careful observation of indie-rock concert-goers who frequent local venues and attend shows. Furthermore, the unique position and cultural expressions, including the area’s geographical location and the character and history of its venues, impacts the relationship between musician and audience and, by extension, the experience of both during local indie-rock shows.
The research was conducted in the Triangle area of North Carolina at various venues and music festivals, including the Cat’s Cradle in the city of Carrboro, the Local 506 and Neptune’s Parlour in Raleigh, as well as the Carrboro Music Festival in downtown Carrboro. The author purchased tickets or got into free events to watch and experience the concerts as part of the audience. As such, the methods utilized in this research largely consisted of participant-observation at indie-rock concert events in the Triangle area.
There was also a virtual field site component regarding the indie-rock Raleigh group located at meetup.com, as well as their group profile on facebook.com. The group is a genre-specific meet-up group in the triangle area created in order to organize social meet-ups for local indie-rock music fans at concerts and music sharing events. The author posted on the group discussion boards identifying himself as a researcher interested in meeting up and discussing the local music scene and member’s experiences at indie-rock shows. He also posted events and shows as a host in order to initiate group gatherings at concerts.
The author met up with several group members that responded to the event invites on two occasions, both times identifying himself as a researcher interested in discussing relevant topics. The first occasion was a formal interview that occurred at the Southern Rail Restaurant and Bar during the Carrboro Music Festival in Carrboro and included a regular concert-goer named Michael, who is originally from Boston Massachusetts but has lived in the area for 5 to 6 years and is a frequent indie-rock concert goer. The purpose of the interview was to assess what his experience has been of the local music scene in the Triangle area as well as to learn how he would describe the various differences and interactions that he has witnessed compared to Boston and while attending the shows of other genres of music. The second occasion was an informal interview that included two girls in their mid-twenties who also ended up both being relatively new to the area. The purpose of that event was to determine how they as newcomers felt about the area’s local music scene and to compare it to their previous experiences. However, the primary role in the social setting was as an event host or group member there to socialize and enjoy the experience of the concert.
A number of informal interviews were conducted in the form of casual conversations with indie-rock concert goers and musicians as the occasions arose during events in order to validate my observations and to provide important opportunities to gather data not considered as part of the original research. On one occasion, the author came to a music sharing event at Neptune’s Parlour in Raleigh that included 8-11 members of the Indie Rock Raleigh meetup group who gathered to listen to a collaborative music playlist that was created earlier over the sound system of the venue. During that time the author involved himself in casual group discussions. In total there was one formal interview conducted and six informal interviews, including the group discussion.
This project is organized into three thematic sections that will aid in the development and support of the thesis. The first part will situate the Triangle area’s music scene within the larger sub-culture of indie-rock by examining its geographical significance, as well as how its climate, community demographics, venue characteristics and local events serve to define its presence in that sub-culture. Finally, it will examine how both local and broader forms of promoting, collaborating, and nurturing oblige and enable the local music scene. The second part examines the perceived value of local venues to concert-goers and how each venue space impacts the experience of attending an indie-rock concert. The third section will directly discuss how indie-rock concert goers experience the entire concert as a single event. Their relationship with fellow concert-goers will be examined, including patterns of socialization. Finally, this section will situate local indie-rock concert goers as fans and discuss the various ways that their fandom is displayed.
Place – Situating the Triangle Area’s Music Scene
The Triangle area in North Carolina includes the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, as well as nearby and connected cities such as Cary, Carrboro, and Greensboro. It is located in the southeast region of the United States and advantageously situated between Nashville, Atlanta, Richmond, and Washington D.C. The geographical location advantageously situates the Triangle area between major cities of the east coast that are considered to be cultural centers.
Space – Perceived Value, Intimacy, Position and Their Connections
For local concert-goers, the historical and atmospheric character of venues serves to legitimize and situate the Triangle area’s’ music scene within the larger indie-rock subculture while also creating a local experience that’s unique for both musician and audience.
Expressions of Fandom and Solidarity
Despite the intimate setting, there is very little socialization beyond the groups that came together before, during, or after a show. The combined effect of a passion for the music combined with a casual reaction to cohorts and musicians results in a social dynamic in which the experience of the performance is greater than either a shared interest or felt adoration towards musicians. However, there are some exceptions to this dynamic in particular, and less common, kinds of fans, which offers them significant experiential advantages.