A thing I didn’t expect to be writing 20 years ago

20 years ago (today!) I sent the following email to the ch-scene mailing list:

So, what’d you do over the holidays? Well, I made an alt.music.chapel-hill website: [ . . . ]

And, most fun, a page of picks for the week or two upcoming. This is in direct response to Alec Vance saying “so-and-so would never write that Rebar are playing this Friday.” So WE’RE going to write that. And since it is perhaps (a) impractical, due to UseNet, and (b) unfair, due to various factors, to make folks sift through dozens of posts looking for something to do, we’re gonna put it on the WWW.

That website I made was the first version of what shortly thereafter came to be known as trianglerock.com. No, I can’t believe I’ve been doing that website for that long either.

That initial website was all hand-coded HTML, and was hideously ugly. No, really:

(The current design was completed in like 2000, maybe 2001. I have literally barely touched the template since then.)

Anyway. The basic concept hasn’t changed: Show listings for the Triangle. Minus the blues lawyers, the cover bands, and the open-mic nights. My filter has gotten looser & tighter from time to time over the years, but overall the concept has been to hopefully only list shows that I at least wouldn’t walk out of in disgust.

When I started this project, my main inducement was the realization that I was occasionally missing great shows because I literally hadn’t known they were happening. In 1997, the primary method for show-promotion was flyers stapled onto those kiosks along Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. Very few of the local venues had websites, and in those pre-CMS days, updating a website with calendar entries was for the most part a manual endeavor.

So I would wander up & down Franklin Street, jotting down upcoming shows, and then go home & compile a list that I’d update every week or so.

Which is basically what I still do today, minus the walking. I still visit every venue website myself, copy/paste likely shows into a master list, and then input them into my custom CMS, which uses a database that has been accruing since January 1, 2000 — which is why I can, say, list off nearly every show the $2 Pistols have played locally in the past 16 years:

Band Name Show Date Venue
$2 Pistols 2012-06-03 Haw River Ballroom
$2 Pistols 2011-05-20 The Garage
$2 Pistols 2008-02-22 Broad Street Cafe
$2 Pistols 2008-02-08 Berkeley Cafe
$2 Pistols 2007-12-08 Local 506
$2 Pistols 2007-11-10 Hideaway BBQ
$2 Pistols 2007-09-29 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2007-02-23 Hideaway BBQ
$2 Pistols 2006-12-15 The Cave
$2 Pistols 2006-11-19 Bickett Gallery
$2 Pistols 2006-10-13 The Garage
$2 Pistols 2006-02-24 Local 506
$2 Pistols 2005-12-09 The Garage
$2 Pistols 2005-09-25 Lincoln Theater
$2 Pistols 2005-09-10 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2005-02-19 Ooh La Latte
$2 Pistols 2005-01-14 Raleigh Music Hall
$2 Pistols 2004-12-17 The Cave
$2 Pistols 2004-11-19 Local 506
$2 Pistols 2004-09-09 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2004-05-21 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2004-01-24 Go! Studios Rm. 4
$2 Pistols 2003-12-12 The Cave
$2 Pistols 2003-11-23 Retail
$2 Pistols 2003-07-12 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2003-06-27 Kings
$2 Pistols 2003-05-31 Go! Studios Rm. 4
$2 Pistols 2002-12-31 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2002-11-09 Kings
$2 Pistols 2002-09-06 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2002-07-19 The Basement
$2 Pistols 2002-01-11 Kings
$2 Pistols 2001-12-13 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2001-09-22 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2001-08-31 Fowler’s Gourmet
$2 Pistols 2001-07-06 Local 506
$2 Pistols 2001-06-16 Humble Pie
$2 Pistols 2001-05-19 Cat’s Cradle
$2 Pistols 2001-05-06 WXDU 88.7 FM
$2 Pistols 2001-02-17 Humble Pie
$2 Pistols 2001-01-27 Go! Studios Rm. 4
$2 Pistols 2000-03-24 Humble Pie

Good times.

Over the years I’ve added (and dropped) features; some are still there, zombie-like, having largely been untouched for a decade. Others are definitively gone. Still others, such as the daily tweets, have been hugely successful. Seriously, follow the site on Twitter. Over 3000 other people already do.

Why do I still do this, after [literally!] 20 years? Because nobody else is doing something quite like it. Sure, there are other sites with show listings — but they’re either too broad (like I said, I’m not here for cover bands & open mics, sorry) or too narrow.

Years ago I also ran, with some friends, a site called movieminder.com. It was movie listings for the Triangle. Super simple concept. Huge amounts of work involved (again, at the time, all the data entry was painfully manual). We killed that sucker without much hesitation once we realized that Google Movies did everything we did, but better & more accurately.

So this is my invitation to anyone interested: do what I’m doing with trianglerock.com, at least as well (or preferably better), and I’ll gladly retire. But I’m not holding my breath. This is a pretty niche market at this point.

One final note: for the first 20 years of its existence, my site was hosted — for free! — by the good people at ibiblio.org. That is no longer the case. After sticking with them through name changes, major hardware upgrades, intermittent periods of instability, etc, I finally bailed because I realized that I could no longer bear to be hosted on the same site that gives Eric Raymond a platform for his paranoid, anti-feminist, gun-nut rantings. So I left. No hard feelings.

A thing I didn’t expect to be writing 20 years ago

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