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Zane's World: Crying Wolf

March 26, 2008, 12:00 am
As noted in this week's music section ("What's New Pussycat?,"), Meow Wolf, the nascent but already beloved art space and all-ages music***image2*** venue, has been denied a business license to operate at its Second Street location because it has an inadequate number of parking spaces for hosting live music shows.

According to a rant posted on MySpace.com by key Meow Wolf organizer Vince Kadlubek, titled "No More Music/Santa Fe is Fucked," this is yet another demonstration of the city government's "ageism" and essentially fascist maintenance of its tourism "money machine."

You see, the kids (whom Kadlubek describes as 20- and 30-somethings) are just trying to have some fun and get their creative expression on. But that fun interferes with the quaint and serene image that Santa Fe requires to suckle from the tourist teat. Meow Wolf and its peer organizations and audiences are the future and the lifeblood of this town-if they even bother to stick around after being treated this way-but the powers that be just don't care and are dead-set on crushing their spirit.

At the risk of ruining my cred with the underground youth music scene (hint: I don't have any), I have to say that Kadlubek's argument is contagiously tiresome enough to make the whole town as sleepy as he alleges it must be. My view will certainly disappoint the many people who sent me letters encouraging a firebrand campaign against this blatant oppression of youth and creativity. Nonetheless, it's just plain difficult to be moved by the non-plight of Meow Wolf and the resulting temper tantrum.

True, I've previously praised Meow Wolf in the arts and culture pages of SFR. I hope to do so again: The entrepreneurial spirit Kadlubek and his peers have demonstrated in protesting last year's park curfew debacle and in organizing art exhibitions and music performances is worthy of respect and admiration.

But if being denied a business license because of a regulatory technicality is enough to collapse your scene and generate incendiary letters and Internet diatribes about the oppressive nature of people who might be able to help you, well, maybe music promotion is the wrong business to be in.

Meow Wolf knew it needed additional parking and, in a sensible and neighborly way, approached the Dara Thai restaurant and asked for permission to use the restaurant lot for its late-night shows; the restaurant amicably agreed. But when Meow Wolf presented its reasonable solution to a city inspector, it was snagged on a fine point or two. First, shared parking, or offsite parking, is only technically allowed in the downtown Business Capital District because of increased density and less parking over all. Second, the city inspector threatened that a 10 pm sound ordinance would be enforced should the "kids" crank their caterwauling late into the night. Again, downtown is the only part of town where one can legally get a louder-than-ordained groove on after 40-, 50- and 60-somethings have presumably retired for the night. Kadlubek sensibly points out that this presents a difficult problem for a budding music scene. Downtown space is not affordable or available and other parts of town are difficult for legally setting up live venues. It is, indeed, a bit of the proverbial Catch 22.

But where Kadlubek sees a condemnable conspiracy, many people-even young, music-loving people-might see an opportunity to negotiate some positive change.

Kadlubek might be surprised that there are many people, including city employees, city councilors and entire city departments looking for ways to help prevent the attrition of youth from this community and to support dynamic, all-ages spaces and events in precisely the Meow Wolf vein. Such interfaces between youth activists and officialdom have not always worked in the past, but the avenues are open to people willing to continue to improve the process. In addition, there are a host of other entities concerned with senseless city policies regarding parking and zoning issues. If the Meow Wolf crew thinks regulations and zoning are screwed up for all-ages music venues, it should spend some time considering how bad it is for affordable housing, mixed-use infill, artist studios and low-dollar entrepreneurial start-ups. There are some powerful coalitions to bring to a table if one is willing to talk rather than tantrum.

The point is that while the music scene continues to struggle, many aspects of it have improved dramatically over the last few years. When organizations like Meow Wolf throw up their hands and cry wolf because of an ornery inspector, it only adds to the perception of struggle, rather than contributing to a transformative groundswell that benefits the scene as a whole.

Of course if Kadlubek and crew aren't ready to grow up and negotiate a situation that works, if they're too underground and do-it-yourself and youth-movement-house-concert rooted to kowtow to the establishment or work to change the rules, then what the hell are they doing bothering with a business license anyway?

Just tell the nice inspector that you're going to have quiet little art exhibition and pretend to be as confused as everyone else when the street is overrun with cars and the amps blow the windows out of the building. Either be a wolf that works to solve the problems of the pack, or be a wolf that's clever enough to know when to put on sheep's clothing. If those options fail, stop trying to be a wolf.


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