We all know that the garage is a place to store your car. Or, at the very least a place to store…stuff. However, garages have given society something much more than just storage space. For many decades, garages have served as a birthplace—not a birthplace for expecting mothers and fathers, but a birthplace for American movements. Among these many movements, there is one institution in particular that is so closely related to the garage that it was named for its association: The Garage Band. While the garage band isn’t anything new in America, there is one particular musical movement that really solidified the bond between these two seemingly unrelated things—The Grunge Movement.
Garages have probably served as meeting spaces for different groups since their inception, not unlike barns or other similar structures. Bands have probably utilized garages for practice as long as any other type of gathering, perhaps even playing to other gatherings in garages. However, the conceptual idea of what a garage band is didn’t really solidify into the American psyche until the late 1980s. There are many reasons for this, but suffice it to say: there was a perfect storm. Instruments were becoming cheaper from new mass manufacturing processes; loose laws and old buildings made venues cheap; the youth were anxious from the rapid decline of the economy; and they were tired of the sterile music being produced from the knee-jerk reaction of record companies responding to tape recorders.
These and many other factors worked into a cultural concoction that would become a movement defined through music. This movement borrowed from underground music like metal, punk, and psychedelic rock that wasn’t receiving any attention from record labels. The youth struggling with the poor economy identified with the musicians that seemed to share their fate and they would meet in dilapidated buildings, taking out their frustrations in a new form of dance known as “moshing.” This was the grunge movement.
The musicians of this movement had very little money and their equipment reflected this. However, instead of trying to fix their instruments, the static, feedback, and noise resulting from their subpar equipment became a trademark of their sound. Interestingly enough, this unique sound was also highly influenced by their close-quarters practice spaces. The loud noises would echo off of the cement walls, creating even more resonance of noise and feedback. Musicians may have called them practice spaces, but to everyone else in society, they were commonly known as…garages.
The grunge movement represents a pivotal moment in history because it was one of the only major instances where popular culture was being driven by something besides Hollywood. Musicians and artists the world over were packing up their meager belongings to head not for sunny southern California but instead rainy northwest Washington. As the early ‘90s counterculture found their meeting point and began their push into the mainstream, everyone wanted to be just like these struggling artists. Suddenly, ragged jeans, old flannel shirts, and long johns became proper attire for all occasions. Ironically, these were clothes that the Washington natives wore because of the weather, their low income, and their humble upbringings in poor logging towns. It seemed like the world really had gone crazy when major designers were selling their “grunge clothing” in stores like Nordstrom, but under the more palatable moniker of “alternative clothing.”
As these images solidified in the public eye, so did the notion of what exactly the “Alternative Garage Band” was. Lesser known bands like Tad, Mudhoney, and Sonic Youth would pave the way for giants like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and of course, the biggest of them all, Nirvana to launch into the limelight. Now, these bands and many of their founding members are household names, but they all had their humble starts in rooms with overhead doors. The musicians in these bands (almost) literally went from rags to riches in the course of a night. Rumor has it that Kurt Cobain didn’t know his album Nevermind had been #1 on the billboard charts for over a week because he had been evicted from his apartment and no one knew how to get a hold of him.
So, it is because of this unique and short-lived moment in time that we collectively have an idea of what the quintessential garage band is. It has almost become a rite of passage for middle-class America’s youth to join with their friends in mom’s garage and test the limits of patients with a volume knob. Here at A Plus Garage Door, our experienced staff might not be able to turn down the volume for you, but we urge you to remember that your kids are participating in an all-American tradition. If your kids have a band, then you’ll have to take that up with them, but if you need a repairs or a new garage door, don’t hesitate to give the professionals here at A Plus a call!