DIY or Die: Why DIY Matters Now More Than Ever

[Photo by West Smith]

I remember exactly how I fell in love with music as a child. With an unbiased opinion and eagerness to learn, I spent hours exploring the seemingly magical world that was my dad’s iTunes library. Scrolling through song titles and artists became mesmerizing as I added tracks to my greatest creation yet, “Julia’s Mix.” From “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd to “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer, this playlist was quite the unique assortment. However, nothing matched the spark I felt from continuous discovery and exploration of musical variety.

Although my love for Lynyrd Skynyrd quickly diminished, I have continued to lean on music as a safety net, a source of joy, and something I can belong to. As I entered middle school years, I began begging my parents to take me to various concerts. I had never felt something more electric than singing a song I loved along with others who loved it just as much.

As I grew older, I began exploring more tight-knit music communities. I have now come across life-long friends and amazing opportunities through genre communities and local music scenes. Some of the most special and meaningful nights of my life have happened in crowded houses or basements with a smile on my face watching artists perform. Though it may seem odd to some people, these environments are where I seem to feel most at-home and within myself.

DIY music and art spaces were not a common public topic until about three months ago, when a destructive fire broke out in a DIY music space in Oakland, California. With 36 deaths, this quickly gained national attention and fueled a critique of independent/DIY music and art spaces. Groups began voicing concern that these somewhat unregulated spaces were unacceptable arts venues and created safety hazards. As a result, DIY venues everywhere began closing their doors, including one of our very own Capitol Hill venues.

Although the closing of just a local DIY venue may not seem like a big deal, to those who consider these safe spaces, it can make a world of a difference. Of course safety is a priority, but unfortunately, not all publicized spaces give people a sense of acceptance or accessibility. We now enter a new era of political and social tension; one in which minorities are excluded and are told that their voices don’t matter. If DIY spaces mean this much to me as a quite privileged person, I have learned that they mean even more to those facing much greater oppression than I will ever understand. In an America that is turning people away with hate, it is our time to open doors to expression and art.

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Photo by Seth Halleran

Recently, I attended a house show here in Seattle with a few good friends of mine. In the middle of the set, the artist paused to speak to the crowded house. He expressed that, to be a fan of those songs, it probably meant we were all on the same page to an extent. He stood on a wobbly coffee table holding an acoustic guitar and told us that the community we’ve created as outcasts, as emotional thinkers, and as passionate beings was special and uniting. He even opened the floor for anyone to share thoughts, emotions, or questions with the rest of the house. These are the creative environments that provide people with the opportunities to feel lifted from their hardships. Through these spaces, people can scream, sing, dance, discuss, cry, laugh, and feel validation for their pure humanity.

Of course, this is not my only significant experience in DIY. I have seen the spark in people’s eyes when they perform, and the empowerment in their steps. I have connected with people and felt acceptance in my moments of loneliness. I recently heard someone say that “now, more than ever, is our time to create art.” If we wish to create and support each other’s voices, we have to fight for the spaces that grant us the opportunity to do so.

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Photo by West Smith

If you’re interested in further supporting Seattle DIY, feel free to explore Friends of Seattle DIY Appreciation Month, who just put on a series of benefit shows for the month of February. They have started a fund to financially support Seattle’s independent arts and music scene, with more detailed information accessible by demand.


JULIA SCHWAB | hi mom and dad | KXSU Music Reporter

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