Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Reply to Rich's "An Open Letter to Sub Verso and every little band in CT"


By way of Daniel from The Field Recordings:

(This reply will certainly be a mess because most of it is aimed for the Author of the article and some is aimed at the Figureheads at the blog)

I suppose this will have to be short as I haven't heard Sub Verso's record, nor has my band ever played with their band, ETC. But here are a couple things that struck me about the write-up: No one does this anymore. Interviews are meant as fluff & to push records, record reviews don't even bother describing what a record really sounds like, nor do reviewers ever come right out and say which songs they LOVE, ETC. And--here's my point, I think--the time of Grand Artistic Statements (or, The Time When Grand Artistic Statements Could Be Taken Seriously & Dangerously) in Rock'N'Roll (or anywhere else, for that matter) has been over for 30 years.

But the "Open Letter" is precisely that: a grand artistic statement. (I can only imagine how it's sitting with the guys in SV--I can only imagine how I'd feel if one of our albums was ever the Genesis for something like that) But nevertheless, THAT'S what's missing from post-Rolling Stone music journalism: Disappointment! Dejection! The Fan's pain at someone else's failure! That's what was all over Lester Bangs' writing--the Morals Game--and not in any healthy or holy sense, but in the way that every choice for a band, for an album, for a song was a choice between Truth & Lies, ETC. and the people who made the wrong choices & let him down seemed to injure him, and the resulting pieces weren't so much about the records he heard,but the records he COULD have heard.

So I think I've finally reached my point: What struck me about your article (and the blog publishing it) is how INJURED, how HONEST, & how UNFLINCHING it is. In this era of EVERYTHING IS MEANINGFUL (even Meaninglessness), it's becoming more & more rare for anyone to actually try and rally a group to some kind of Purpose--because to do that would be to reject SOMETHING, or ANYTHING. Unfortunately, no one has left a Comment on the post, so I have no idea how anyone is taking it. I don't know--the sheer Politics of printing something like this are staggering--and it brought to mind the negative show review published about Slam Donahue only to then invite them to play the ChiliFest... Are you guys afraid you'll get shunned one of these days? Do you care? Have you heard any kind of reply from Sub Verso?

Ah, Bravery! In this state where all our talent goes to New York! Where most of the people left don't seem to care! Where all the clubs smell like Estate Sales! Where all the bands keep to themselves! We at least have a website that takes us as a SCENE, as a THREAT, as a REALITY, and holds us accountable when we betray their support! THANK YOU!

The saddest part is that all Bangs' honesty got him killed by cough syrup in a crappy Chinatown apartment,

PS--Sorry, this thing kind of got away from me. I hope my Mess hasn't offended either of you.

A reply-

Running this site is kinda tricky considering that as much as I do my best to keep the peace, deep down I always want to go for the jugular. That Slam Donahue post was one of the best we've seen, and a huge thank you to both the "John" that posted the review (not John Hall, who runs CT Indie with me) and to Slam Donahue for being cool with it.

I'm not going to speak for Rich, but I can tell you he mulled over how to address that Sub Verso release quite a bit, and had plenty of arguments conversations about it before writing it.

I can talk about this site, though. Trying to keep enthusiasm and motivation as high as possible has come at the cost of dancing around mediocre bands and releases. Most anyone that has written for this site has gotten an email from me about the fact that our goal is to support our local music scene, not shit all over it.

I'm usually the last person to review releases because of this. Unless I have something good to say, mum's the word. I don't really know how I feel about that anymore. I mean, obviously there are ways to be critical without being a blatant douche pickle, right?

Up until now, I thought I was totally uncompromising about the necessity of communication. Actually, I have been, but I choose to focus on the positive. But there is a whole lot more to say about music than how great it is. I'm not saying I'm going to start tearing into everyone about how much they suck, but I definitely think it's time to take the lid off and say what needs to be said.



EliseGranata said...

I liked Rich's review a lot, but I don't agree with all of it or the reply here. I'm going to post my comment here since this is more of a conversation.

I used to struggle a lot-- and still do-- with writing for Inkwell. In preparing for each issue, I had so much contact with each band member that I was terrified a negative review would seem like a personal slight. But the product of that was a rag of useless comments, pointing out whatever is obvious to anyone with ears.

Then I began talking to people about music frequently, which I believe is the biggest tool any musician or person interested in music can have. You get used to the language. The standards and the expectations. Anthony Fantano (The Needle Drop) turned me off at first with how critical his tone is in much of his reviews, but I began to realize how necessary that is. People aren't reading or listening because they want to hear the words on the page regurgitated back to them. They want to start a conversation with you.

My close friend Omeed Goodarzi (Midi & the Modern Dance) also said something that cleared my head when I was struggling over the review of their new record, Make it Easy on Yourself. He said that as a musician, someone who's the type Rich identified as "tortured," he wanted someone to listen to his work, process it, and make observations that he can't. Most of the time, they're too close to their album to be able to do that. And that's where the music critic comes in.

So is our role to also make grandiose statements about the scene each time? To assign a greater purpose to every effort? I don't know. I don't think so. Because Connecticut is as small and sometimes musically incestuous as it is, it's easy to connect everything to our larger community, but not necessarily constructive.

This is because there are very few bands who care about that. You can tell in their labels, the venue they play the most, their means of promotion, the shows they book themselves. A lot of bands keep it in the family, but many do not. And for bands like those, I hardly even feel like I'm reviewing a local and don't feel obligated to connect them to some larger scene they do not want to be in.

Unknown said...

Hey Rich P.,

You certainly got our attention and it's seems like you caught onto something that I haven't seen in any other reviews/responses to this EP. Among other things, we were very shaky about our vision for these songs, having the motivation to write but being very skeptical about who will actually listen to us, judging from a number of previous experiences we had with people who openly shit on us to our faces or cared very little for us. I suppose we all go through that, and the uncertainty of most of the band leaving for college for the first time out of state(which, I will be returning to CT for the next semester and so on). As we got to work recording in the studio, there was an feeling of "does this even matter?" going around, and I'm surprised someone picked up on that, that someone took the time to come to that idea and acted on it. Thank you, it means everything to us.

As for Sub Verso now, we've built up a confidence in ourselves, from our first winter tour, playing together constantly, and, speaking for myself, developed a sense of confident passion for what I do(verses a sense of skepticism of its value). I'm no crowd-pleaser, I'm not someone who draws a line on a panel and calls it art, being serious about it (I am an art school student, I couldn't tell you how many times I've been faced with the question "art or bullshit?", obviously, this is just an opinion I hold about quality in art and nothing more, but I do think something like that is quite amusing). I just do what I do and love what I do.

We wanted to let you know that we read this and greatly respect your concern and the time that you took to give us something much more than many have before. Thank you very much once again, I hope to run into you in person someday soon. Feel free to contact us, that goes for anyone who wishes to as well.


Ryan K. from Sub Verso.

"I have to say that we were still growing as a group when we writing most of WTH. We were questioning what we were as a band. What matter to us as a band but because of this effort, the first tour, recent shows, and our newbie band mate Jose, we have more passion then a lot of the other groups we've seen and played with. It's coming out of our shell. I love what I do in this band, I love music. but as a band we were still learning to love what we made together. we will always be in to some degree.
I really want to thank you for picking up on that. I really think that if our music can also start a open discussion on what should be done, then it became something more and for that, I am happy" - Brian Wojciech G.

DANIEL said...

TO EVERYONE, an apology: That "reply" of mine was an email I sent to the general CTIndie email account, only as an Interested Reader--and then it got put up pretty quickly, with an emphasis on Urgency. Had I had the time, I would have made clearer--I see it now--that I wish no ill-will or anything to Sub Verso. I was more aiming for the History of Music Journalism, and all the attendant motivations and perversions in the genre, ETC. ETC. ETC. So if there was confusion, or if it came off like I was attacking a fellow CT band, I'm terribly sorry.

And, to be briefer still, Dear Elise: When you say "I liked Rich's review a lot, but I don't agree with all of it or the reply here" are you meaning my reply or Jason's reply to mine? Just curious. Let's talk. Also, I like your magazine.


Brushback said...

Ha ha, that'll teach you to ever e-mail these guys.

EliseGranata said...

Dan-- your reply. Jason was pretty neutral and I think I made my contentions clear.

To continue, especially after the great reply Ryan and Brian made, I think it was self-defeating to single out Sub Verso in this argument. This is a band who plays houses and small local venues, is more than eager to send out copies of their record to in-state critics and are generally pretty involved in the state's scene. For now, I believe that to be enough. We need something consistent and in-our-face, and talent will probably follow (as it has with SV).

However, that does not have to be a priority with locals. There are bands like Fugue (Trumbull/Easton, extremely well groomed experimental) who ache over every song and bands like the Guru (Woodbury) who just want to have fun. Who cares? They get on bills, they bring heads to venues, they develop on their own time. But at least they're there.

Because honestly, we don't have enough to work with at this point to split hairs. This review wasn't "honest" or "unflinching," but it did create a lot of garbage on the internet surrounding a band who clearly gave enough of a shit to record a record, press and promote it to get their music out there.

And please don't be so quick to assign cowardice and apathy to the Connecticut scene. You clearly haven't been to a diverse amount of shows here. It's a fucking attitude like that which is poisonous in a community that just needs some damn blind support sometimes.

CT Indie said...

ha, yeah, let this be a warning to all: never send us any emails.

It's easy to overgeneralize when you get really jacked up about stuff. I do it all the time. I posted Daniel's response because I wanted to. No need to apologize, Dan. No matter how anyone feels about the posts, as long as a big boot is stomping down on the head of indifference, we're doing just fine.

Brushback said...

I think when Elise wrote "don't be so quick to assign cowardice and apathy to the Connecticut scene...", she was speaking to Rich and not Dan here, right? Boy, am I lost.

CT Indie said...

I think it was the "Ah, Bravery!" paragraph in Dan's response, maybe? I understood that more as despite how awkward CT's music scene may have been over the years, or is now, this website could give a rats ass about that, and tries to give voice to whatever for better or worse.

EliseGranata said...

It was the "Ah, Bravery!" paragraph. Though it is referring to the site and also Rich's letter, I think it's a part of the big misunderstanding about Connecticut that leads to attacking the good guys in the community (namely "Sub Verso and every little band in CT").

Anonymous said...

What are you guys defending? I've been to enough CT shows in the past 4 years to tell you the standard of musicality is in the toilet.
Bands who'd never have had the guts to step foot out of the garage 15 years ago are standing on stages & sending out noise pollutants to an unsuspecting group of people made up of bartenders, doormen, bouncers & the odd straggler. Most of the crowd is made up of the other bands playing that night. And if there is a crowd present, most run out of the place before the 2nd assault, I mean the 2nd band starts playing.

I have 1 piece of advice for all bands out there that are putting in the effort & trying to make something real: For any gig at a CT club - - Make sure you are 1st or 2nd on stage or you'll be playing to the 2 or 3 people who work at the club.

CT Indie said...

That's not something that's a problem only in Connecticut. I can personally attest to that. Gotta love those odd stragglers, though.

Brushback said...

People who say "this scene sucks" or "the bands around here all suck" are just going to the wrong shows and seeing the wrong bands. There's a whole lot of really good stuff out there, it only seems that some people have a lot harder time finding it.

If you're gonna walk into an over-21 club on a weeknight based on something you read in the friggin' Advocate, and then find only three people in attendance and say "this whole scene sucks", maybe it doesn't suck, you're just on the wrong side of town.

Anonymous said...

Is there a post on any of your blogs of places to go for live music? I'm interested in seeing if they're places I know.

EliseGranata said...

A lot of the good stuff are at house shows, and you'll find a good listing here: http://www.ctska.com/yabb/index.php/board,20.0.html

Also The Space, Heirloom Arts Theatre, Lily's Pad (Toad's Place), Daniel Street...most of those are where Manic Productions puts on shows. Then there's the Wallingford American Legion, Unitarian Universalist Church (Stratford), and some other random VFWs.

Anonymous said...

haha i used to babysit someone in fugue!