Summer in the Suburbs

Atlanta produces an incredible amount of music, movies, and news every day. Thanks to the people involved, Georgia’s creative industries like film, music, and arts and culture made $62.5 billion in total economic impact in 2015 alone. Life feels grander and fuller in the city, but surprisingly enough, a great deal of it starts in the suburbs.

A recent study by City Lab listed the top metro music indexes and noted some reasons people may move to the city. “They come to some places because there are lots of venues, clubs, conservatories, and recording studios, and they can make a living and stake out a career,” the article said.

Suburban places may have a few music venues where young people can see up and coming bands, but these bands are often overshadowed by the ones, I.T.P., in the perimeter, and from the city of Atlanta.  

Strides towards inclusivity are being made with the creation of recent musical shows and events in the suburbs such as “Hardcore Summer in the Suburbs”, a free event in Suwanee for kids who are unable to drive to the city. Last year’s lineup was mostly punk and hardcore, featuring notable Atlanta acts such as Abuse of Power and Slowfire Pistol as well as notable indie band Tenth Row.

“Hardcore Summer in the Suburbs” was met with great success, seen through its high turnout rate. With delicious smells lingering from Rosalia Parra’s tacos nearby, people packed into the small single level church to listen to music. With a raised step for a stage and only enough room to stand, people usually stayed outside in the summer air, socializing and chatting with other like-minded peers.

Although the show was held in Suwanee, people from all over Georgia were present. The Signal talked to a few of these attendees and local music fans about their relationships to the suburbs, and the impact it’s made on not only their music but the music around them.

Obi Ugonna, 21, grew up in Douglasville, a western suburb of Georgia. He was fortunate enough to have a venue close to him where he was able to receive exposure beyond his suburb.

“We used to have a place called The 7 Venue here. Many cool tours would come to that place and would sometimes leave me thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening five minutes from my house and not at the Masquerade or something,” Ugonna said.

He said it had a big impact on his life and his interest in music. Ugonna said, “My very first show was there and I credit my experiences at that venue for getting me more into music.”

Ugonna said shows like Summer in the Suburbs are important and reflect struggles that he had when he was younger, such as convincing his parents to let him go to a bigger city to see music (Atlanta). The introduction of shows such as Summer in the Suburbs was exciting for Ugonna because other kids were finally able to experience what he got to at his local Douglassville venue, the 7 Venue.

For Michael Gordon, 26, he had to escape his suburban town of Acworth to find live music he liked, but he still sees the importance of a show in the suburbs.

“There were a couple of smaller venues that had mostly local acts that would do horrible Blink 182 covers and scene bands, but I had to drive far for anything that was more my taste. The suburbs show was awesome! I saw a lot of younger kids there I don’t usually see, and we need that from time to time.”

Onyee Nwazue, 27, did not have a local venue experience that Obi did, but he goes to many local shows in Atlanta, regardless of genre. He sees the Suburb show as an important way to make friends.

“I think those shows are important because there are probably a lot of kids/people that would be involved in hardcore/punk/music scene but don’t know anyone else that is into the same thing/know where these shows happen,” Nwazue said.

Venues in the suburbs are vital catalysts enabling rich social networks to form within like social groups and perfect for budding musicians. From these humble beginnings, 30-45 minutes out of major cities, the next big things in music and entertainment are hanging around at the mall, about to go see a local show or go home and read up on some inspiring stuff they saw on the internet. The suburbs is where it starts, and the city is where it grows.