Punk. Grindcore. Alt-country. These are among the most prevalent genres of music showcased in Gainesville, and some are looking for an alternative to the “alternative rock” scene.
Enter Christopher Miller. The booking agent at the Laboratory café in midtown is doing all he can to counter what he calls the “guitar hegemony” gripping Gainesville. If your band doesn’t fit into one of the previously mentioned music genres, Miller said, they will not get to play.
“I don’t hate rock. I just feel it’s over-represented,” Miller said “There’s far too much of it.”
Working at the Lab is Miller’s second chance at giving underrepresented music, particularly electronic music, a chance to be heard. His original project, Electronic SubSouth (ESS), has been scaled down from its original, ambitious attempt at reprogramming the venues’ mindset toward electronic.
The entrance to The Laboratory. Photo by Wade Millward.
Miller does not want “underrepresented” confused with “underground,” though. He rejects the latter term, saying it is “total bullshit” and has been commoditized by its overuse.
“I want everything to be overground,” Miller said. “I want everything to be accessible. I want the general masses to like it.”
While Miller is once again able to support the electronic scene, having a grounded venue to work with has come with new challenges. For ESS, Miller only curated shows once a month, but now he books shows three times a week for the Lab.
However, Miller has helped craft the venue into one that caters to the listeners. Because he has no ties to any labels or booker associations, Miller said he can make the Lab appeal more to patrons by adding the personable element he finds lacking in the other venues around Gainesville.
“I’m not a musician,” Miller said. “My stake is that, as an audience member, I try to think in terms of what I’d want.”
More reserved than when he started ESS in 2004, Miller still has no problems sharing his thoughts on the practices of the other venues. He is critical of their business-oriented models, which he says focuses on how large of a crowd they can draw.
Miller also faults the venues with being unfriendly toward audiences. He complains that the smokiness in Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub is unbearable and derides the Atlantic as a “hipster bar,” less of a music venue and more a “scene” for people to join. Miller recalls how Common Grounds, now the location of Double Down Live, used to bang pots and pans with a spoon to chase patrons out after closing.
And Miller is not completely critical. He recognizes the annoyance complaints about the Lab’s constantly running black lights, and he praises the 1982 and BackStage Lounge bars for their “perfect” acoustics, which allow for sound low enough for audience members to talk to their neighbors but loud enough to blanket the conversation for listeners.
Other venues, on the other hand, over-amplify rock bands, who already play as loud as they can, Miller said.
“Why should you have to wear ear buds for a show,” he said.
This is part one of a three part series.
Click here for part 2.
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