Friday, December 19, 2008

You might say Stockton's music scene has had a plethora of problems

"Every time anybody wants to do something for the Stockton music scene, it gets bashed into the ground."
-Daniel Gutierrez of Hey Manna! December issue 209Vibe

For the longest time Stockton seems to have been battling a force trying to suppress the music scene. An El Guapo if you will. Sometimes El Guapo is a complicated permit process. Sometimes El Guapo is old people living across the street with a lot of free time and a quick dialing finger. A while ago El Guapo was disorganization throughout the entire scene. There was no real place you could go to look up and advertise shows. The most advertisement a band would get for their shows would be word of mouth and flyers. Ian Hill slayed that El Guapo. And for that I will be forever grateful.

OK, maybe "slayed" is too strong of a word (is slayed even a word? Slew maybe?). You can't kill El Guapo, you can only hope to keep him at bay. For a little over a year, 209Vibe did their best to fight El Guapo. Unfortunately this week 209Vibe succumbed to it's own El Guapo, the economy.

The economy is El Guapo for a lot of things right now. It's the Guapo that has a stranglehold on the entire nation, especially here in the valley. Multiple venues have closed, Modestoview shut down, and now we can add 209Vibe to the roll call. "Obviously, the economy sucks, and everyone's struggling," said 209Vibe editor emeritus Ian Hill via e-mail. (Oh, did we forget to mention we got real quotes? Just like real journalists.) "It's difficult to start any business in this atmosphere, no matter what the potential," he continued. "We had hoped to see more revenue growth from 209Vibe - when it did not happen, we had to close shop."

The economy wasn't the only El Guapo 209Vibe had to fight. While other sections done by the Record come as inserts with the paper (TimeOut, Elegant Lifestyles), 209Vibe had it's own distribution run which was erratic at best. Quick, name a place where you know you can definitely find a copy of the print edition of 209Vibe. Can't think of one? Say hello to El Guapo.

The name was also a small Guapo that dogged 209Vibe, for us at least. The "Vibe" part always made us think they were headed to some weak rave with glowsticks and shit. Plus we've always kind of hated referring to an area by their area code. It's not original, every rapper ever seems to be doing it now. Plus, it's usually used to signify hometown pride. Something that not a lot of people have around here. Local apathy was also 209Vibe's El Guapo. Hell, it's our El Guapo. That's kind of why we liked 209Vibe, we were fighting a common enemy.

Look, we know when boiled down to the bare essentials 209Vibe was just a scene mag. But for being just a scene mag it accomplished a lot in it's year-plus existence. "I think we did a lot of good for local music and entertainment in the past year," Hill opined. "People began to see that there was more to do in Stockton than have dinner at Olive Garden and check out the new Martin Lawrence flick. And they were introduced to talented artists in their community." After wondering when Stockton opened up an Olive Garden, we have to agree with him. The local music scene has seen unprecedented growth in the past year, culminating (for us at least) with the opening of the Plea for Peace Center on downtown's east side. Considering the Center was the cover story for December's 209Vibe, it's safe to say 209Vibe helped a bit.

Of course now the it's gone, the obvious question is what's next? Who will help us fight El Guapo? Unfortunately, that answer isn't immediately clear. Something that is clear is something 209Vibe taught us (and something Ian just said in the previous quote), Stockton has a fucking talented group of artists. "That talent, really, is what's most important," Hill continued. "209Vibe's existence was a result of that talent - we didn't create the local music scene, we just covered it. We'll continue to have scene even though coverage of it is going to decrease."

The scene will always be around, but with what strength is unknown. 209Vibe played a large part in helping promote the local arts scene. Whether it was giving bands exposure they otherwise wouldn't have, sponsoring shows directly, or giving area residents under the age of 35 a paper directed towards them for once. There are other places to fill the void in 209Vibe's absence. Middagh's Stockton Rocks! MySpace is highly recommended. Middagh's been fighting El Guapo for the better part of 2 decades. Most recently that fight has included opening and running the Plea for Peace Center. The Stockton Rocks! MySpace is a list of shows Middagh books (for the uninitiated, everybody's favorite peroxide gargler books a decent chunk of the shows in Stockton) plus shows he would personally go to. In the shutdown announcement on Hill says he'll try and maintain the 209Vibe MySpace (now called 209Music) (Update: Now it's called " is still here!" why must you confuse us so?!) as a place to post local events. So while the arts scene may not get as much coverage as it once did, there are still a few places to go to advertise/look up shows.

That really only leaves one question. What about Ian Hill? The economy has his journalism especially hard this year. There aren't exactly too many spare newspaper jobs lying around. So what's going to happen to the man that fought El Guapo and lived to tell about it? "I'll continue to work at The Record in another capacity that will be announced very soon," said Hill, "and I'll keep doing what I can to provide local musicians with coverage and exposure."

The fight against El Guapo will never be over. Even if we do defeat him in one form, he always comes back in another. We lost a bit of firepower over the last week, but in the end I think we'll be ok. We'll just have to shoulder some of the organizational process ourselves and slowly continue the fight to gain respect in the art community. It won't be easy, we may not have the best weapons to fight El Guapo anymore. But all we can do is keep sewing, sewing like the wind.

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