Mike Benedict 
Member since Dec 7, 2016


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Re: “Stop Blaming Artists and Musicians for the Ghost Ship Fire. Blame People In Power Who Screwed Up.

I'm sorry but this is bullshit. It's a bloody tragedy that so many had to die unnecessarily and it's insulting to the dead to try to shift blame from those that put them in danger to "the system" or the shadowy "they" or "them". I was in several art/music scenes on the west coast since I was 16 and I played at a ton of alternative spaces, specifically in the east bay. We played at places that didn't have liquor licenses or cabaret licenses but I was young and dumb. We played this one place with sketchy electrical and I was shocked repeatedly, maybe it was that event that changed my mind at 19 but we never played anywhere that had questionable electrical circuits, this include legit clubs that pushed outlets as well. We checked out the places we were going to play or our friends played. Some were dangerous and sketchy and we never returned, some were spaces where they we trying to do something for the community of artist or musicians but had the common sense to have fire extinguishers, cleared exits and at least one that was clearly marked.

The ones that treated their space as a legit space were safe. The ones that treated their space as their own little scene or a drug dive or flophouse ended up being just that. This idyllic view of these places is naive and honestly complete crap. Gentrification and the housing crisis didn't stop them from doing the right thing. Being poor isn't a shield to hide behind that exonerates you from responsibility for your guests. The owner here was legendary for being horrible to renters, everyone knew it! When any of us attempted to talk about it, shade was always thrown our way. We werent keeping it real and we were now old and out of touch. Fuck that!

I did art and music since moving to LA at 17 and I had to pay bills like rent and gear, how I did it was working. Actually working! We worked temp jobs, shit jobs but we had to keep the roof over us and our practice space. Yeah, I had lean times where we illegally lived in our practice space for 2 months, but we knew we were pushing our luck. Anyone can call themselves an artist and a great many in the bay area confuse being a shifty bum and being an artist, others think because they were born in the area they have a deep rooted punk ethos. I'm sorry to burst your punk ethic but it's bullshit. You actually have to produce art to be an artist or be included in the scene, you have to actually do something not just hang out or do drugs, or be a hanger on. So many here in the Bay Area think attending a camp at Burning Man or going to a DIY warehouse show when they were kids equates to artistry, you made a fuzzy fur coat, that doesn't make you a fashion designer. Being a fanboy for a band doesnt make you a genius musician.

Yes, there are artists that do awesome work at Burning Man and throughout the year here in the bay, but they work their asses off. They are also intelligent, empathetic people that put others first and their studios are safe. I understand why you want to work a day job as little as possible because I did but I had to. I understand not fitting into the neat box of the square world but I had to in order to keep a home, keep food in belly and strings on my guitar. It's expensive here, I have had to leave twice because of employment/housing issues but I had more sense then put myself into dangerous situations just because I wanted to dodge responsibilities.

You may find this blunt, but it's the truth I witnessed in LA, Portland, Seattle and here. There's always someone trying to nudge a dodgy situation so they don't have to do the right thing and they do it in the name of the all holy scene. This poor artist con is a fantasy. Trying to paint this as "artist' vs gentrification is a smokescreen. People's family and friends died because Ion and Allison and everyone that lived there couldn't think about basic safety issues. That's the hard facts here, anything else is sticking your head in the sand. This happened in what was my front lawn. I lived across the street from this for two years and like Don Quixote tried to get the City of Oakland to take notice of what was happening there. Many of the direct neighbors tried. Unsafe is unsafe.

Posted by Mike Benedict on 12/07/2016 at 1:12 PM

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