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Bomb Garden 

by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Downsizing

There's at least one person in this world who wishes Stone Temple Pilots (STP) could still sell out the Gorge. He sent me an angry letter.

Joel Hartse's Download Festival article (Aug. 23 issue, page 35) ignited a rage in dude that had been smoldering beneath the ashes of a generation of bands, of a beloved natural amphitheater and, to my mind at least, of an entire era of Western civilization.

In hosting events like the Download Fest, the Gorge -- once a sanctified place where people could go listen to the world's biggest bands in one of the world's most pristine locations with thousands of their closest, drunkest friends -- had been desecrated by 50-band festivals, the letter writer complained. Once Madonna with Child; now a pimple-faced baby-sitter to dozens of screaming, small-time bands.

Can't disagree. He blamed promoters, though, and the Gorge's owners. He even blamed bands, for not being as good as they used to be, and for selling out.

Personally, I blame technology.

It's a futurist clich & eacute;, but the Internet has democratized the spread of information, put millions of musicians (and artists generally) at our fingertips and in our earbuds. It's given us choice. We're no longer passive information absorbers. Labels and traditional media outlets can't channel our devotion (and money) the way they once did.

A consequence of this environment is that fish don't grow as big as STP (or Pearl Jam, or Dave Matthews) anymore. Were the band coming up now, a good number of people who heard STP on the radio but only kinda liked them would have done a little digging and discovered bands that, while not as popular, fit their musical tastes better. Then, come concert season, those people might have elected to not pay $80 for a two-hour car ride and grass seats. They might have stayed in town and caught the bar gig Mr. Bungle was playing.

The game's changed. The world's more open. People are more nimble. We've seen it in the decline of huge labels and now we're seeing it in the decline of huge venues. Sitting through untold bands playing their hearts out in brimming basements, I gotta say the change feels good.
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