Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Recession Related Activities in Philadelphia Pt. 2

1. Visit Chris’s Jazz Café and Ortlieb’s.

What does jazz music have to do with a recession? Let me explain: In the period between 1945-1960, jazz clubs flourished throughout Philadelphia. On Columbia Avenue in North Philly (now Cecil B. Moore), there was a club on every block between 2nd and 33rd street. In fact, the stretch was once called ‘Black Broadway’ (DC residents might recognize that nickname; it belonged to U Street as well). There were also jazz clubs throughout South Street and Bainbridge, as well as West Philly.

Starting in the mid-1950s, middle-class black and white families moved out to the suburbs. Real estate speculators cut the houses into sections to accommodate lower income residents. As a result, less property taxes were paid, which meant worse schools, less businesses, and more poorly maintained neighborhoods. Crime increased, which was met with a corresponding police presence. A riot occurred in 1964 on Columbia Ave due to racial tensions between black residents and the police. As a result of this riot, as well as most riots that occurred throughout major cities in the 60s, urban neighborhoods went into steep decline (the riots of course were the end, not the means). Neighborhood jazz music as we knew it ceased to exist.

Possibly a better explanation for all of this is that jazz music was hard as shit to play, and new styles of music weren’t. The sub-genres of be-bop, hard bop and modal were intellectual genres (the previous swing era wasn’t), and required a lot of dexterity. Conversely at the time, R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll required less skill.

Jazz is known as folk music, which I don’t argue with, but it’s got be the most ridiculously difficult folk music in history. You don’t see fifty year old white fathers playing jazz at some reunion barbeque, like you would with blues music. As a result, jazz is deadest of dead American folk genres. It is no longer playable or economically viable. It has receded into memory due to a combination of urban decline and public indifference.

Some hippie might want to chime in and yell “but Scott! Soulive! The Bad Plus!” Soulive is funk wrapped up in bullshit, and nobody cares about the Bad Plus. In fact, I’m probably just objecting to myself here.

So, go ahead and see live jazz at one of the two venues left in Philly. You will find out that instrumental soloing isn’t the worst thing in history, which you’ve been brought up to believe. Than again, I can’t blame you, because if you had to listen to the same jam bands I was subjected to growing up, you too would want to install a 3-5 year minimum sentence for playing out of pocket.

2. Visit South Jersey

All the families who moved out of Philadelphia because the schools sucked, but couldn’t afford Doylestown, moved here. I’ve never really stepped foot in South Jersey except to buy weed in a strip mall parking lot, but people have told me that it’s completely irredeemable. South Jersey has the highest percentage of sub-prime lenders in the Philadelphia area. Combine that with rising fuel prices, and that area is going to resemble Road Warrior in a couple of years, just like many exurban neighborhoods across the country. The endless strip malls are going to be abandoned, and perhaps replaced with open air drug bazaars (you see my usage of ‘bazaar’? Why is it always ‘market’ and never ‘bazaar’? We wouldn’t need to fight the War on Drugs if we just called every drug corner a ‘bazaar’ and North Philly ‘little Istanbul’).

3. Atlantic City

The Tom Coughlin Giants have never covered at home against a team with a .500 record or above. Bet your remaining money on that.

4. Stetson Hat Company and Schmidts Brewing Company in Fishtown

Whole city communities used to be supported by manufacturing jobs. Both of these factories re-located to some useless Texas town years ago, probably to enjoy lower taxes. As a result, the surrounding neighborhoods went into decline. As we know, things go in cycles; it will eventually cost an arm and a leg to transport products across the country, and at that point these companies will wish they never re-located from the city.

Ultimately, this is the optimistic note I want to leave you all on. Our recession will hopefully move people back into a system self-sustaining cities with their own manufacturing bases. Our generation has already shown that they are sick of the suburbs and respect city life. The rest of the country will follow suit, and we’ll be living in a utopia of flying hydrogen cars, Facebook thought police, and forty-foot wide lazer-beam shooting big sunglasses. Hurrah!


Ryan said...

Scott is broughtin' the knowledge on a Thursday

Lindsay said...

Seriously. Someone did his homework. Good work, Scott.