Thoughts on the Fresno Indie Scene: A Night with Light Thieves and Achievement House
The Music Scene in most American towns is something constantly evolving. Not only is the evolution of music and genres continuing to shape and lead culture but local factors also have a huge effect. Local bands, venues, gathering places, and residents themselves all move, change, die, survive, grow old or worse yet, get married. Many Cities have had their glory years but right now in Fresno, things feel like they are coming together.
I felt something special recently as a sauntered up Fulton and into our very own pedestrian mall. I had few exceptions and though shows had been getting more dynamic I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. As I got deeper into our mall, I started to hear horns and see a crowd. There was an impromptu dance concert
happening in the middle of the Fulton Mall. A girl was singing dance-able funk songs into a megaphone in front of a six piece band of horns and percussion. The band raged on in front of a swath of move-busting hipsters in front of a new bicycle themed beer and coffee house in a downtown that is secretly teaming with life.
The venue was packed and I began to swill beer, good beer, local beer brewed right down the street. I saw thirty people I knew and more that I recognized and another thirty strangers all ready to see good music and support something that no one really understood, in place most people in this City forgot existed. The energy was strong and it wasn’t only that I was getting drunk; it was the feeling that things were right in our little world.
The band Light Thieves came on the stage. Their music is really good. They play slightly trippy, loud, rhythmic, beautiful noise. The singing, by design, is hardly audible, the sound is undeniably raw but the maturity of their music is irrefutable. None of these Light Thieves are in their first band and all of them are accomplished in the music scene. They have only had a handful of shows and have already gained a good market share of buzz in Fresno's burgeoning indie scene. They put on a powerful show and it ended leaving me enough time to wait out the hordes bunched into the bar and get another drink.
The show itself featured Achievement House as the headlining act. They are launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to record a gold record. Their music is wonderfully catchy; the kind of music you find yourself singing along to before you notice you don't know the words. They play sometimes soulful and sometimes playful indie pop that can make you happy one minute and next it can make your god damn bones shake. As far as the "get stuck in your head" factor, they are up there with the best in the Valley.
I digress, my intention wasn't to write a review about music, it was to tell a story about a scene…
We were all drunk when the show ended. The barrage of bloggers and podcasters and photographers were getting interviews and snapping photos. We walked outside on to the pedestrian mall that is known for being desolate but now was flush with life. Then, I was informed that Light Thieves were going to play an encore. Not in this venue but in an alley behind the Broadway Art Studios, just few blocks away.
We laughed and stumbled our way one block down and one block over into an alley with tall buildings on either side, covered in wonderfully complex and provoking murals surrounding me on every side. It was summer, it was midnight, and it was so pleasantly warm outside you could puke with joy.
Without even knowing if we were there, some people rolled up an industrial garage door and just like that the show started again. Everyone was so happy, people were dancing, laughing, creating, being, enjoying, contributing - This was something so perfect. This was that moment I wish I could show all my friends in the Bay Area or Brooklyn that roll their eyes when I want to summer in Fresno. This is that moment that would have justified all those times I told so many people that Fresno wasn't that bad, this would have impressed some of the most discerning Hawthorne District hipsters and made me glow with pride.
This was it, this was the heart of Fresno's indie music scene thumping in the streets. It is evolving, it is getting smarter, it is getting stronger, and hopefully it will continue to thrive and survive. This was one small experience on a night that featured DOZENS of musicians, artists, venues, genres and thousands of revelers contributing to a scene just by being there and participating. We are all part of a movement in Fresno that is greater than the sum of its parts. This movement is effecting public policy and development. When no one thought downtown would survive, the contingent of artists and musicians and forward thinkers, and people that like to just be and have fun took it over.
People will catch on and things will grow but what is going on now is something to be proud of. We are changing things, even if it is just by standing around and breathing it in.