Beer and Pavement


Posted in Manifesto by SM on January 19, 2010

DIY. Do it yourself.

This is a sentiment that has had a long, slow growth over the past couple of decades. While mainly a hippie thing in the sixties and early seventies, punks (and not just the mohawked, rocker types) have adopted the DIY ethic as their own. Creating their own music, style and politic.

DIY has manifested itself in nearly every industry or craft. It’s spread beyond economies and has seeped into our daily lives. We build meat cart beds, sew our own clothes, build our own web presence without giving any real money to giant corporations making these products for us. Sure, the end results are often rough around the edges, but that’s what gives our things, our lives character.

In no other industry or craft has DIY had a greater effect than indie rock and craft beer.

Yesterday’s garage band playing the prom is today’s Lollapalooza headliner. These bands have moved from cheap cassette tapes of their songs to small runs of 7″ vinyl to full albums available online and created on their MacBooks. They didn’t like what the mass producers were mass producing, so they made their own. Some of it good, a lot of it unlistenable, but all of it original.

Take Pavement, for example. A couple of college kids from Stockton, CA decide they want to record some songs and put it to vinyl. A scary hippie with a makeshift recording studio and an uncanny ability to not keep a beat helps them out and you have Slay Tracks. The rest is history. Had SM and Spiral Stairs (pseudonyms) never worked up the nerve to record their own songs, Pitchfork would have nothing to pine over this year.

And Pavement is just a small piece of the indie-DIY puzzle. They sounded like they were doing it themselves (good thing). I haven’t even mentioned Sonic Youth making their own path through the major labels when so many 80’s indie bands had failed. Those old codgers even rebuild their own instruments. Folks at Merge (as well as countless other indies) started a record label just to release records by themselves and their friends. Indie rock is littered with DIY success stories.

Beer had a similar rise. About the same time punk rock was blowing up – making way for the hardcore and indie movements – Jimmy Carter signed a bill into law declaring homebrewing legal. No other development has had more of an impact on the beer market than this one bill. Soon after, a dude named Maytag brewed some steam beers in San Francisco and another guy started a brewery in Chico, CA. Charlie Papazian founded the Association of Brewers. It all took off from there.

It’s this DIY attitude that provides all the innovation for both of these trades to flourish. In the midst of these economically hard times, indie labels and craft brewers are a few of the folks still making money. Major labels have been losing money for almost two decades. The big mega-breweries are experiencing something they never thought breweries would feel: a pinch from a down economy. Folks are willing to pay good money for quality music on vinyl or extremely hoppy imperial IPA’s or sour beers brewed in wine barrels.

Instead of waiting for someone to make something they liked, these indie rockers and craft brewers did it for themselves. And they’re finding that other people wanted the same things they did. So, they’re able to make a living doing what they love.

Even I’ve done some things for myself. I can’t play an instrument and I didn’t have the capital to front a label, but I’ve done what I can to promote and support these DIY bands. Even better, I’ve taken up homebrewing in the last year. Three out of four batches made it to bottles. The first was drinkable; the second was a huge success; and the third gets better every time I try it. These things and various DIY projects litter my life with meaning and accomplishment.

By trade, I’m a teacher. There is maybe no other profession that uses DIY as much as teaching in public schools. There is often nothing in the way of appropriate materials available on a daily basis. We make our own. Now with all this Web 2.0 stuff, we really make our own all over the place.

The point of celebrating the DIY ethic is to call attention to the capabilities we all hold inside. We can do and make whatever we want or need. There is no more waiting for governmental or private enterprises to make what we want. We have to do it for ourselves.

So, build your meat cart bed. Learn to knit. Take a guitar lesson. Plant a garden. Do it for yourself. Don’t wait for someone else. “Yes we can” was not just a campaign slogan. Believe in it. Believe that you can do it for yourself.

This is just the first in a series on my manifesto for life. I feel most strongly about DIY. You should too. Let me know what you plan to do or are doing that fits the DIY lifestyle.

(*Note: This is not some lame-ass hipster, holier-than-thou diatribe. You should really give this a try.)

2 Responses

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  1. doublewordscore said, on January 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    My DIY resolution this year (and probably next) is making a book. If Dan Brown can do it…

  2. partoftheprecipitate said, on January 21, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    I have a lot of DI(my) goals this year as well. I took up knitting for the hell of it, I’m already a super-canner. I’d like to learn to play an instrument and I’m hoping to improve some gardening beds. It seems like it’s so late in my life to get back into these very basic things that my parents knew and did. It just wasn’t a priority until now.

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