The Talented City Syndrome

It was love song night on the Wednesday before Valentine’s Day at Paddy Brannan’s Irish Pub on Second Street, with $100 on the line and the room packed with talent: Justin Gordon, Gene Burnett, opera-trained Sophia Palosaari, Kieran Devine and Frankie Hernandez to name a few. One great performance followed another. Somebody won, but, if life were fair, every one of these entertainers would have walked away with that prize.

What did we do to deserve such cultural wealth? As a market, we aren’t big enough to support so many accomplished artists in the style they deserve. Most of them need day jobs, like App Wizard or Director of International Student Life, to support their musical passions. Plus we have actors, painters, sculptors and lots of others in the same state of under-appreciation. (No disrespect to the Shakespeare Festival, successful galleries and other established institutions. I’m talking about the underclass here.)

So here we are: a Mecca of music, food (did I forget to mention the culinary arts?), wine (another blossoming genre) and creativity, waiting to be more discovered. You could think of Ashland as a mini New Orleans tucked away in the mountains of Southern Oregon. (Watch the HBO series “Treme.” You might notice some parallels, not including the flood.)

So what can we do to gain more cult-like status as a destination, like New Orleans? Here are some practical suggestions:

Lobby the Chamber of Commerce to make the Fourth of July less inhibited.
Back in the day, we had Art Cars and the Bad Film Society’s Attack of the Brain Suckers on the Boulevard celebrating Independence Day. There’s nothing wrong with Little League teams and gymnasts, but couldn’t we get more of our artistic community back into this event? Yes, they might turn out to be satirical and irreverent, but so is Ashland (at least in part).

Ask the Mayor to join you at a bar.
John Stromberg is a hard-working leader with important accomplishments (i.e. the Forest Resiliency Project) under his belt. But Ashland’s nightlife needs a higher political profile, and John should have more fun. (If you are feeling really daring, invite him to Club Greenie at Green Springs Inn on Tuesday or Saturday night. Or, if John is sorting out some crisis, just come on your own).

Hire a band for your next funeral.
Rather than a somber memorial service, wouldn’t you (or your survivors) prefer strutting down to Swing Tree Brewing Company with the Rock Hard Horns playing When the Saints Come Marching In. Think about it. Our musicians need the work.