Editorial #7 – Habitat loss in the Antigonish music scene

When you watch a video of a polar bear swimming miles and miles between ice sheets, looking for a place to rest in the rapidly warming Arctic, does your mind go to the Transatlantic Zodiac Band? Mine does, and here’s why.

The last four years have seen a massive loss of habitat for our local bands. In a town with four major bars, and even more all-ages venues, you would think there’s plenty of stage going around. But don’t be deceived by the mere presence of dimly-lit buildings that serve alcohol at night time – musicians are getting a little claustrophobic as fewer and fewer of those venues put on live shows, and fewer still on weekends.

Chuggles closed its doors to live music this past month. What was once a hub for northern Nova Scotia’s music scene, with Wintersleep, the Trews, Joel Plaskett, Jill Barber, Tom Fun Orchestra, Slowcoaster, and just about every other East Coast band worth mentioning having graced their humble stage, this is one canary in the coal mine that we had better listen to.

Piper’s Pub, aside from Wednesday’s open mic night, is firmly dedicated to the fine art of tuning their radio to top 40 hits stations until the lights come on. Count another strike against live music.

It’s not just Chuggles and the Pub, though. As any local musician will tell you, if it’s not Wonderwall, you will never hear a song played at the Inn by a StFX student. For some reason, the powers that be do not book live bands to the Inn unless a private group books the venue for a night and takes care of it themselves.

Who is to blame but ourselves? Stage real estate is dwindling, and it is definitely not for lack of local talent. Partly because of our music program, and partly from the small community flush with activity, Antigonish is stacked with great bands of every genre and always will be.

We as a community have failed our musicians. Through a lack of support for live music, we have told local venues that we don’t want it. It’s natural selection, and the fittest are surviving; to keep afloat in a town where people flock to Miley Cyrus and shrink from Moustache Pony, bars are forced to Party in the USA. The bars are not evil establishments run by stupid people, they are businesses catering to what the community is telling them they want.

Now that the U is taking the reins of the Inn, it’s time for us to start demanding some live music. We now have the ability to voice our opinion in two ways, both direct and indirect: if you want live music at our campus bar, tell the people who work for you. The U is an organization by, and, most importantly, for the students – tell them what you want.

The other way to make sure we see more bands and DJs making music up on our little Inn stage is to actually go see them. This is the most effective way to cast your vote – with your wallet and your dancing body, unless you dance like me. My dancing body generally counts as a point against, so I prefer to lounge and look really cool, which is another option for the rhythmically challenged.

Has the town that helped launch the Trews and Wintersleep really just lost the last of its venues? As of now, Antigonish has the reputation of being a town to skip on tour. Bands do not want to come here because pulling in a crowd is like pulling teeth. We have to show our support for the music scene, or we won’t have one.

Editorial #1 – The Antigonish Bubble and the Death of Student Activism

“If it didn’t work for the USSR, why would it work for Bishops?”

I was so proud of that slogan on my sign, and of being a part of a greater cause; that is, trying to prevent the amalgamation of Burke, Fraser and Plessis into one house back in my first year. About three hundred students showed up in their house shirts or painted with their house colours outside the Residence office. We hoisted signs and banners and chanted all afternoon, and to our everlasting pride, it worked.

Then, last year, the only other protest I have seen in three years: the president of TNT was removed for pissing off the wrong girl, and a couple hundred of her closest friends rallied to her aid in the form of a march protesting some aspects of the Community Code.

Notice a pattern? As long as the cause is close enough to home that it leaves the toilet seat up, our campus community is more than happy to throw down and hoist a placard. As long as the cause is completely non-polarizing, clear-cut, and requires no real discussion, St. FX students will chant themselves hoarse. We are simply perpetuating the image of modern students as mindless sheep who are here to drink, study and screw, then hit up mom and dad for a spring break trip to Cuba, without regard for broader matters.

What happened? Students used to be the leaders of social change. Student activism played a major part in the civil rights movement, gender and sexuality equality, raising consciousness about human rights abuses and unjust wars around the world, and debating policy here at home. Now the only thing that can light a fire under our asses is a bad judgment from the Res office.

This is not to say that no one is doing anything at this school to enact social change. There are a number of activist societies, such as the Aboriginal Society, the Amnesty International Society, and Breaking the Silence – and that’s not even getting past the B’s. Those societies and others further down the alphabet are run by energetic, passionate people who are doing their best to raise awareness and funds to fight for what they believe in. The problem isn’t a lack of causes; it’s a lack of people willing to get involved, make some time, and put themselves on the line.

I used to think of the Antigonish “bubble” phenomenon, in which St. FX students have no notion of the outside world for 8 months of the year, as a cute, harmless little quirk of going to school here. But the bubble is insidious. It represents complete detachment from what is important to the rest of the world; not just out of ignorance, but more from apathy and from sluggishness. The most urgent issue I heard last year from most students here was that drinks had gone up in price across the province.

There are a lot of ways to get involved. Join a society (society night is coming up this month), watch for flyers regarding speakers, conferences and discussions – no matter what side of the debate you find yourself on – and generally keep informed. As frosh, it is way too easy to slip inside the bubble and not emerge until you have your x-ring on. If you allow yourself to fall into complacency and lose touch with the world, you will be forgetting why you are really here and you could easily miss out on a huge part of university life.