Jay Moon, member of the hip-hop collective Keep Moving Forward (KMF). (Vanessa Leroy)
Opinion

Is there still a place for the ‘third place’?

In order to survive in 21st century America, you need a place to sleep and a means of income. That's two distinct places to be at any given time (or at least it was before the pandemic). However, to go beyond survival and actually enjoy being alive, you need a third place.

The "third place" is a concept coined in 1989 by sociologist Ray Oldenburg that outlines the social necessity of a distinct space to socialize and be part of a community. Third places are your neighborhood barber shops, bodegas, churches, and bookstores. The show "Cheers"? That's a show about a third place.

Community-building is an organic process, where spontaneity and freedom, mingled with goodwill and structural support, can coalesce into something magical. 

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Auditorium as well"), and he noted that some solutions can come from the ground up, rather than the top down. For instance, he said, venues could start by splitting ticket sales with performers; alternatively, artists could keep ticket sales and the venue could keep food and drink profits.

"I do think that if promoters have better prices to work with, or better circumstances to work with, that they'd be able to make things better for the artist as well," he said. "I'm not thinking that everyone's out to get the artists all the time."

As professional musicians, Moon and the rest of Keep Moving Forward (KMF) have been forced to get creative in the days of COVID-19, and they've learned that if a third place is not provided to them, they must fashion their own. 

Since the pandemic wreaked its havoc, KMF has been putting on an event series called "Backyard Boogies," where fans and friends can watch the collective and its associated acts perform in a safe, clean, outdoor environment. 

While the Backyard Boogies allow the city's hip-hop scene a lifeline, they remain an out-of-pocket cost for Moon and the rest of the collective, who decline to charge their audience entrance fees. 

"We didn't do any cover charges; we charged for food and that was it," he said. "And we did pretty good because, at the same time, it wasn't a high cost for that."

Why go to all the trouble? There are myriad reasons to keep a scene alive, but for Lynners like Moon, the reasons are obvious ― and ingrained in the landscape.

"The world knows of this small place for many unique things, but when you're trying to break out as a musician from here, it's different than shoes or building airplanes or stuff in the military," he said. "But when you're the change you want to see in the world, it becomes more of a reality to other people."

To Moon, the best thing offered by these creative third places is an opportunity for community youth to find a way forward, "getting them excited and inspired, and trying to get out to do more things besides falling into violence in the streets or drugs."

Still, he acknowledged that the responsibility of maintaining creative third places goes beyond music industry insiders; rather, they rest with cities and towns that wish to keep their culture alive. 

Ultimately, if conglomerates like Live Nation have turned a blind eye to small, independent concert venues, then the cities that lay claim to them have to take up their cause instead. They have to want to see them thrive. There has to be an interest in growth and a desire to protect.

"I think there's a lot of good opportunities in Lynn right now, that's how people get off the streets," said Moon. "But I think that this is something that we're missing ― home for musicians. And what I mean by that is the venues, the studios, the support from the city."

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