I had been living in Brooklyn since 2002, and the local music scene in NYC was firing on all cylinders throughout those years. I took full advantage of it—it was a great time and place for any music fan to spend their 20s. The neighborhood, Williamsburg, was the hub of all this, with a million great bands and a ton of venues. Whether it was a local band playing a bar or fairly massive acts playing an outdoor venue in the warmer months, there was never a lack of options for seeing shows.
However, around 2010 or so it seems things slowly started to change. One by one, the smaller clubs I frequented started to close down, replaced by condos, or banks, or chain stores. The changes really accelerated around 2013 with a wave of clubs like Glasslands, 285 Kent, and Death by Audio all shuttering in quick succession, and while there were still some spots left, the casualties started piling up and it couldn’t honestly be called a neighborhood for live music anymore. It was part of the natural 10 to 15-year cycle that NYC has been going through for decades—my time here came just as the previous East Village/Lower East Side era was coming to a close and things were moving across the East River. Fast-forward another few years and it happened again, with the center of gravity moving east again, out of Williamsburg and into Bushwick.*
So I thought I was done, or that the scene I knew was done. I stopped going to shows and didn’t make the extra effort to head farther out to check out the new spots and new bands—an act of convenience and getting older more than anything else. But specifically, I took a break from going to smaller shows. Instead, for about five years I only went to big-ass stadium and arena concerts. The Stones. The improbable Guns N’ Roses “reunion.”** AC/DC.*** Bob Seger. You get the idea. I liked the absurdity of it, the spectacle. It was so different from all the shows I had been to for the past decade. It was maximized rock n’ roll; it could not get any bigger. Maybe it was that I could finally afford the ticket, the beer, and the T-shirt, but being able to see the songs I heard on the radio as a kid performed live just felt really good. Nostalgia is a motherfucker.
And it goes both ways. Sometime around 2016 I started checking out smaller shows again. There were some venues that had survived the wave of changes and become local institutions, like Union Pool. Or had carved out a niche to improbably become an institution, like Saint Vitus in neighboring Greenpoint. At the time, CREEM’s now VP of Content, Fred Pessaro, and I were working together at another company, and he was promoting shows on the side. He’d invite me to the ones he knew I’d like—the rock ’n’ roll shows with bands like Vanity, Hank Wood and the Hammerheads, Royal Headache, Giuda, Sheer Mag, the Marked Men, and Reigning Sound. A lot of these shows felt like the ones I had been going to 10 years prior and, unbeknownst to me at the time, would lead to both of us getting involved with CREEM.
In late 2019 Fred and I had been kicking around the idea of an NYC rock festival for younger bands. It seemed crazy that no one was doing anything in between small local shows with interesting artists and goofy big festivals with lowest-common-denominator acts. We had some conversations and were going to step on the gas, but 2020 put a stop to all that. We ended up thinking a magazine might be a more appropriate project for the time—and a way to alleviate the lockdown boredom of living in a city where live music had, for the most part, ceased to exist. We started talking with JJ Kramer about what he was doing with CREEM, and having seen the documentary, we all felt the timing might be right.
It sounded crazy to people we told about it; there was more than a healthy amount of skepticism, and justifiably so. Right before CREEM I was working in the food media world for a few years and had had just about enough of the “chefs are the new rock stars” thing, which, in hindsight, was always pretty corny. I was itching to get out. A musician friend of mine, upon hearing about the CREEM project we were trying to get off the ground, half-jokingly informed me, “Dude, you’re going in the wrong direction. Stay in food, people will always have to eat.” He was right, of course, but it felt like the pendulum was swinging a bit. Sure, the headliners at festivals were still artists I couldn’t stomach, but there were also acts like Idles, Viagra Boys, and Amyl and the Sniffers at those same festivals, and they all seemed to be gaining momentum and on tour playing rooms bigger than would have been expected for bands like that in recent memory. It was cool to see. And it didn’t feel like a flash in the pan or trend. But as a business venture? Definitely not without risk. 2022 is the right time to launch a print magazine? 2022 is a great year to bet on rock music? Yeah, it sounded crazy to anyone with a passing knowledge of either of those things. Possibly dumb, definitely risky, but absolutely fun. We knew the only way to mitigate that risk would be to build CREEM with a team of people who actually care—everyone who has a hand in the mag is a rock n’ roll fan first and foremost. Giving a shit about what you do actually makes a difference.
So here we are, three issues in. It feels good. I hope you like it as much as we do, whether it makes you nostalgic for an era you lived in or an era you missed—or just excited for the present and future. It’s why we all listen to music and go to shows: to see and hear something we’ve loved forever, and to have our minds blown by something new. I think you’ll get both of those things in this and future issues.
Oh, and keep an eye out for CREEM events in 2023, we promise the beer won’t be too overpriced.
* If you want to dive absurdly deep on this, check out the “Complete History of Williamsburg" episodes of the Listening to Fletcher C Johnson podcast.
** No Izzy, no GN’R.
*** Well, Axl/DC.