When the good times fade away, check ’em out online. By Nick Pittman

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

rock-hand-collage-2If you remember the 1990s, chances are you weren’t there. If you remember Lafayette’s rock scene during the ’90s, chances are you logged on to Louisiana Music Archive … and you count a ragged Urbo Sleeks T-shirt as a prized possession.

If there’s one thing about Lafayette’s rock scene is that it breeds nostalgia. Musicians and fans who frequented venues like Caffe Cottage, The Rinky Dink or the Renaissance wax poetically about the bands of yesteryear. It might have something to do with how youth is so tightly bound to music. Or, maybe it relies on the fleetingness of the scene. Local bands possess a shelf life that makes a mosquito seem like Father Time. The Archive, located at louisianamusicarchive.org, extends that shelf life like salt on pork.

“All we ever really wanted to do was to make sure none of our favorite bands get forgotten and to provide a source to listen to and enjoy music from bands we loved who may not have made it big but were still extremely talented,” says Brett Livaudais, creator of the Archive.

In the early 2000s, Livaudais, a web developer formerly with Firefly Digital but now living in California, played in Lafayette bands Odd Arnie and Tamerlane. In 2011, while catching up with Matt Ison — who he met through music — they decided to create the Archive. “We both thought it would be a great idea to have one website where we could go listen to all of the local bands we used to go watch every weekend,” says Livaudais.

Livaudais launched the site and a Facebook group. Within a week, 30 bands joined the Archive.

In the past, fans attempted to preserve their memories of the scene before it faded away like reel-to-reel tape. However, it was limited. Sites, such as LAPUNX.org and Lafayette Local Entertainment, profiled and cataloged recordings but eventually disappeared into the domain of 404 errors.

Allen Clements is one Lafayette expatriate who actively posts comments to the site. Before moving to Pennsylvania, Clements was a staple of the scene. On the Archive he is represented in four bands, most notably in Victim of Modern Age, an indie rock outfit that landed a record deal and toured before pulling the Lafayette-band vanishing act.

“Distribution was always the hardest part about making music and Brett took technology and fixed the problem. Louisiana is really just often overlooked,” says Clements. “So, it’s really nice to at least have a little corner, a little database of the talented stuff from my hometown, my friends, with which to surprise folks up north.”

What sets the Archive apart is the mix of old flyers and the plethora of videos and MP3s, with most bands offering songs to download. Checking out a flyer from a show at where MILF is misspelled is one thing, adding a song from the set to your iPod is another entirely. More than an audio/visual delight, the Archive puts fans and former band members in touch via comments on each page. Bios trace the accomplishments of local bands from Jim Henson-squashing FraggleBlast to members of Attractive & Popular starting Little Rock’s Valley of the Vapors Festival.

Looking through the flyers — some date back to Lafayette days with a (318) area code — the scene evolves before your eyes. Venues come and go (and come back again). Artwork evolves from Mystic Fix’s magic marker creations to the slick sci-fi Photoshop skills of the Transmission. Noisy punk falls to Nu metal. Indie rock and instrumental progressive metal have their day. Names like Bimora, Ahab! and The Object at The End of History pop right off the screen, conjuring tales from gigs, house shows and the storage sheds where many bands practiced.  

“I know as a musician, I was extremely proud of the music I made, and I was extremely impressed by a lot of my friends who were making music and this feeling seems to be pretty widespread among musicians, as well,” says  Livaudais. “When I tell a musician what we do, they’re always extremely happy to contribute. It’s easy for me to get people involved because the Louisiana scene was so close.”

Though it boasts bands from across the state, it is far from complete. At only 44-plus Lafayette bands it is only a glimpse of the last 20 years of rock in the Hub City. In the past two decades, this has been a home to hundreds of bands that aren’t represented on the page. Frigg A-Go-Go isn’t there, neither are MattRock & The PowerBox or Urbo Sleeks. Likely, that will change.

Says Clements, “There were so many bands and honestly, you could probably do three degrees of separation between every musician in the state just based on what bands they were in with different people. The nostalgia comes from a sense of family, the same nostalgia you experience walking by the house you grew up in.”

Nick Pittman is a freelance journalist who is probably streaming The Object at The End of History right now.

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