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Sammy Roland: Raised By the Philly Music Scene.

March 19, 2014

SammyRolandOnline01Educated by Dom Angelella and inspired by Ruben Polo, young Sammy Roland is quietly making a name for himself in the Philly music scene.  The Cheltenham native is the frontman of Vivre Sa Vie. He now lives in Girard Hall, a warehouse/music space, with seven other people. He writes about arriving as a teenager (he’s now 21)  and learning from his mistakes.

I have been booking shows and bands in the Philadelphia music scene  and nearby areas since I was a ripe, young lad of 15.

The first band I was in was a prepubescent, mildly embarrassing (as all first bands are), pop-punk band called Dope Sick Girls. During that era, another bandmate and I would spend hours aimlessly emailing venues, booking agents, press contacts, record labels, party houses, older kids in the scene and every other imaginable (and unimaginable) contact. This was almost always to little or no avail.

While this haphazard way of putting ourselves out there was not always effective, it worked sometimes. And sometimes was good enough for us. We were only kids.

Eventually Dope Sick Girls split up into numerous bands and we all found our respective sounds and scenes (or so we thought). As separate entities, we all continued to spread out, finding gigs through word of mouth and through people we met at shows, parties, etc. Being from the suburbs just north of Philadelphia, all of us would routinely play shows at dives, 18+ venues and anywhere that would allow us even a few minutes of performance.

When I moved into the city, I found that the connections seemed to sprout up more than they ever had before simply from associating with new people who knew about newer sounds, looks, gear, bands, houses and anything at all.

Since I’ve made contact with the Philly music scene at its heart, I have beheld a sea of possibility.

My involvement in the music community underwent a massive transformation as I began utilizing connections with people met in person rather than those with whom my only correspondence had been the Internet or phone calls.

Being in the core of it all – where everything is happening – had the greatest impact on my learning and has continued to influence my understanding of both music and people. Working together with other people for the sake of a greater goal evokes a feeling of eternal connection to something important and larger than myself. It is this collective, work-together ethic that makes the underground Philly music scene so enchanting and great to be a part of.

My self-reliance has grown immensely and not due to some misplaced sense of importance but because I have seen how tenaciously and passionately others work. My experiences with people with mutual desires and passions have deeply affected my view of obligation to the scene and how one should go about being a part of it.

If anyone ever doubted the possibilities of interacting and working within a music scene of so many differing personalities, and developing these interactions into the production of great music and swooning feelings in the modern age, have them move to Philadelphia and they must surely change their minds.

Dom Angelella and DRGN KING provide an archetypal example of how to be a team player and help out the community, simply by pushing yourself and your friends toward the same level of awesome that you would wish to see in the world – or at least in a city like Philadelphia. Ruben Polo is another who books well-coordinated house shows throughout North, West and South Philly. These shows integrate bands that play well together and thus push the scene to riotous new heights on every possible occasion.

There is a special magic to house shows that propels the spirits of those present into a fiery teenage hell haze full of sex and sweat and intoxicants so that omnipotent inebriation seems to put the crowd into a place out of time, where the physicality of the moment supersedes all thought.

The last show I booked was at The Puke Palace on Sydenham Street in Templetown. The show featured Suburban Living from Virginia, Districts from Massachusetts, Let’s Go To Peru from Illinois and locals Dream Safari, Pill Friends and Pillow Fights.

The turnout was satisfactory for that of a Temple party full of ravenous youngsters but something about the blend was off and I thoughtlessly booked an imbalanced combination of locals and touring bands. This miscalculation led to more of a vomit-drenched cacophony than a show where bands could fully express themselves as the main attractions.

It is all too common for a college house party show in Philadelphia to take on the look of some demented carnival of debauchery (which, c’mon, has its merits too) rather than a place to see and appreciate the musical act for what it is. As much fun as there is to be had in going absolutely ape in a group of drunken kids, some musicians get kinda mad when no one wants to watch them over the punch-drunk sorority girl puking in the backyard.

Despite all of my immeasurable growth in the music scene, things like this still happen. I’m not going to say that some of the shows that I book or play are not going to turn into volcanoes bubbling with teen angst but the fact remains that these shows are done by us and, whether people appreciate them or not, they are ours.

People might turn their noses up at the raucous noises or the unruly teenagers but we will nonetheless continue whatever it is that we are doing, for the love of our friends and for the love of the music, if not out of spite for those who doubt us.

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