Friday, July 9, 2010

Criticism from all angles

Posted By on Fri, Jul 9, 2010 at 3:52 PM

It's funny, I've been in this job for three years and yet I still get phone calls and e-mails and other feedback from people that makes me wonder — are people really reading the paper anymore?

One of the first things I did when I started this job back in 2007 was to establish "La Vida Local" — a weekly feature in the paper that has local news, local event previews or local CD reviews. However, rarely does a month go by when someone wants me to know that I'm not doing anything for local music. When I mention La Vida Local, they don't know what I'm talking about. I can mention the three CD compilations we've put out that have now featured a total of 42 local bands, but they usually haven't heard of those either. (We're currently seeking submissions for the fourth one, by the way.)

One of the first stories I wrote for the paper was on a local band, Soulganic. I received a large amount of feedback on that one from people shocked that a local band of any kind was featured in Creative Loafing. It didn't stop there. Since then, I've written major feature articles on more than 15 local bands, in addition to regular columns by "El Diablo" that were constantly sharing information about the local music scene.

But people will still say I'm not doing enough for the local music scene... Well, what are we missing? Let us know. Send an e-mail to me or comment here and let me know about bands I should be checking out. If you're in a band, send me your CD or invite me out to a show.

I'm just one man... a person who believes in the power of diverse coverage. I have been to more than 50 concerts this year in an effort to expose my own ears, and readers, to as much as I possibly can. I've been to see Phish, the Country Throwdown Tour, Jucifer, Levon Helm, Korn, Carolina Chocolate Drops, VV Brown, Alice in Chains, OK Go, Jeff Coffin, Black Lips, George Clinton, Cage the Elephant, Black Eyed Peas and Surfer Blood, among countless others. Not diverse enough for you?

I've received criticism from fellow critics who feel that my coverage is not "alternative." Alternative to what? If you look at music as a whole these days, everything is alternative. Does that word even have a meaning anymore?

I'm not sure how many other music writers or editors out there will tell you that they listen to every single CD that hits their desk. Sure, I may listen to just 30 seconds, as often as the entire thing, but I listen to at least part of every one of them. I never know when I'll hear something amazing as easily as I'll hear something horrific.

For me, as a writer, I am also in search of the stories behind the music as much as the music itself. While I think you should check out a particular band, sometimes the story behind the music is just as interesting and worth sharing.

Someone once criticized that I featured Jewel in the paper. Here's an artist that was an accomplished folk singer, unfortunately tried to release a pop album and was then trying to establish a new career in country. How many other artists have changed genres or thought about it and was there something they could learn from Jewel's transformation?

The band Buckcherry is known for singing raucous songs about drinking and sex, but that's only if you listen to the radio. As a story I wrote back in 2008 showed, that is just one small facet of the band's music that happens to be the only thing that most people know about them. (I'm not too sure why someone chose to bring this story up this month, roughly two years after it was published, but that's besides the point.)

I also wrote about Kid Rock once. Why? Taken at face value, people love to hate him, so I figured I'd do an interview and ask him about that. On another level, it's hard to deny that the guy is a great entertainer and multi-instrumentalist who, during live shows, plays guitar, drums, bass and gets behind the DJ turntables. Again - there's a story behind the music.

I've been critical of Adam Lambert and other American Idol contestants, much to the dismay of his/their fans. I don't just say Lambert is annoying, I will say why I think he is annoying, or why I think his performances are more memorable than his music. On the other hand, I once wrote about North Carolina's Chris Daughtry about how he's gone from performing open mic nights at local bars to performing arena shows. Just about every musician out there hopes to go from the local open mic to a career on the national stage.

It always amazes me that people will pick out one story from hundreds and say I have no credibility or that we don't cover anything worthwhile, etc. A reader will complain I don't cover local music, but it's covered every week, and more. A fellow critic will call my coverage irrelevant, but then we'll feature the same bands the next week or month.

I look at it as this — it's all about sharing information. There are few music fans these days who only like one type of music. I'm not just going to cover shoegazing indie rock or death metal or new country or instrumental jazz or dirty blues or whatever else is around. To me, a successful music scene is all about the sum of its parts — every part of it, local, regional and national — whether it be via reviews or stories.

Like music itself, there's usually more to the story than what's on the outside if you give it a chance or second glance.

No word of a critic should be taken as gospel, for it's all based in opinion and personal point of reference. If I don't like a particular band, I'll give reason and try to let you know why I think that way - same if I like a band or artist. I know of other critics who assume that if you don't like a band/ or do like a particular band, you lose all credibility. It's a shame they aren't more open-minded to so much good music that's around them.

You can also look at music through the eyes of critics like cilantro - to some people, a particular band is delicious and they can't get enough of it; to others it tastes like soap and they can't spit it out fast enough. It doesn't mean one is right or one is wrong, it just means that everyone has a different pallet and you need to take opinions as information to formulate your own ideas and thoughts.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and as stated earlier, I can't possibly hear every band that performs in town, so let us know who we're missing or who we should check out. I'll do my best to give it a listen.

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