In Which We Make Auburn Weird

Album review: Gnu’s Room Christmas (feat. Adventure the Great, Low June, The Hedgerow Folk, Dave Potts, Ellington Way, Lydia Cash and David Mueller, and Teacup and the Monster)

In even my most gleaming reviews of Auburn as a freshman, I always added in the same breath: plus-Atlanta-is-right-there-whenever-we-want-to-see-some-good-music. Like a tic, I would explain away the pitiful showing of local artists in Auburn as the symptom of a self sustaining college town.

Flash forward two years and I’m listening to the Gnu’s Room Christmas album, a compilation of carols covered exclusively by local acts. All seven artists have a decidedly sweet, folk-fueled take on these familiar tunes. Listening to the sampler, I really feel like the community-centered aspect has shaped the music of local talent in a way that is completely unique to Auburn. So, while it’s easy for our reaction to be relief, I think it should be an emotion closer to awe, like the way you might feel after successfully stacking a card tower or constructing a gingerbread house out of mostly frosting.

The challenge for these bands was not to break into Auburn’s music culture but to create one. They had to make a way for themselves communally before they could make a way for themselves individually. This shared struggle not only created a tight community of both musicians and music-lovers, but it defined the way we value music here. Whether you’re listening to soaring harmonies under strings of Christmas lights or packed tight at a house show, there’s a sense of ownership. It’s the basics of supply and demand: this experience exists simultaneously because we sought out beauty and because our friends provided it.

By some standards of comparison, Auburn has a long way to go in matching the artistic proliferation of an Atlanta or an Athens. But my argument is this: Auburn has not make it possible to do anything half-heartedly. Encouraging local talent, patronizing local venues, and applauding local bands was a deliberate, not incidental, show of support. Ours is a proven loyalty. What you hear when you listen to the sampler is the heart that has made it possible.

Sounds like: bare wreaths made of rosemary, gifts wrapped with brown paper and twine, the Christmas celebration that you host in late November (before everyone has left for break) with an endless supply of hot tea and new traditions, a slightly misshapen but otherwise structurally sound scarf you tried to knit yourself.