"For people like you and me, that see the DIY cultural work as a form of political or proto-political organizing, maximum geographic reach is a crucial step towards maximum impact," Kevin Erickson of the All Ages Movement Project told me. "It's just so crucially important, politically, that people have access to these ideas and sounds, not just in the cool cities, the blue states, the college towns."
Kevin compared Total Bummer to the What The Heck Fest, a festival he was involved in organizing when he living in Anacortes, Washington.
"It sounds similar to what you're talking about, in that it was really small-scale and community-oriented, primarily around celebrating that community, rather than around corporate sponsorship," said Erickson. "And that's a place with, like, seven pristine lakes on an island, and everyone was going swimming between bands, and it totally had that summer-camp vibe."
According to Erickson, the value of micro-fests like What The Heck and Total Bummer are part of a larger movement toward localism: "The whole idea of the international pop underground that was big in the '90s was to have this big network of local, geographically disparate scenes all producing their own insights, and then networking to share those insights with the rest of the country — and doing that on a human scale, a scale that is not mediated by any kind of gatekeepers, but through more organic means and relationships and zines and touring."
But as independent culture has gotten bigger, some of those insights have been lost.
"Now you can have a really great festival that has a bunch of high-profile independent artists," said Erickson. "But it doesn't accomplish a whole lot for the whole world if every 17-year-old in every small town across the country is listening to the same 30 bands they found out about on Pitchfork or Stereogum or something. It's important that the local infrastructure exist."
Liz Pelly can be reached at email@example.com.