Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tell Me What To Ask You

Greetings and salutations.

And to think I started this week unsure of what I was going to write about. It’s funny how much can change in just a few short days. With my schedule returning to normal, this was going to be another weekend review, chock full of my usual insight and oversights. But recent events demand that I open the mailbag early. It wasn’t planned, but people have been talking. The Phantom was listening…

Oh, and the names have been changed to protect the innocent [me].

“There sure seems to be a pattern to your reviews. You always go in expecting the worst, and then end up finding the best. Why not get a better attitude about this stuff?” - George C.

Expecting the worst is a character flaw I probably can’t fix without a few years of therapy, assuming I even wanted to do anything about it. It’s all about approaching each band objectively, and letting them “win” me over with whatever strengths they have. Besides, would you really want to see what I’d write if I thought someone did a bad job? I didn’t think so.

“Do you have a favorite venue in town for live music?”
– Martin L.

Not exactly. While I’m flattered by those of you who’ve written in and dubbed me some kind of musical authority, most people who ask me this assume I can point them to the “happening” places. I have no idea what a trend is, and probably wouldn’t recognize one if it ran up to me on the streets and pulled my pants down past my boxers. For the actual seekers of diverse entertainment, I suggest Shooters and/or the Coffee Pot. Both have created reputations for themselves in recent history by seriously broadening their style offerings, even opening their doors on “off” nights to less mainstream acts.

“Every time I read your blog, you’re on somebody’s case about SOMETHING. I wanna know what crawled up in your a** and died?” – Ben S.

In most cases, I wouldn’t actually dignify this with a response, especially since this is an excerpt from an entire letter’s worth of spite. Rather than ignoring this axe-grinder outright, though, I chose instead to print his letter, solely so that I may frame a particular rant. Thanks, guy.

Many of you saw the blog that circulated the local MySpace pages this weekend concerning events at Saturday’s Burning Bridges show. Their guitarist, Kenny Seay, made an exasperated post about a severe act of sabotage that could’ve potentially wrecked their second night. Instruments were messed with, knobs were moved, items seemingly stolen, and less-than-cordial graffiti found its way onto Seay’s stuff. And yet, I have something up my a** because I bust someone’s chops in an attempt to encourage people to step it up. Whoever it was picked on a cover band – because they play covers. It's such a trivial way to make a point that it's quite maddening. That’s not punk. That’s like pushing over a kid in a wheelchair. Good job.

That kind of behavior is a symptom of the self-inflated attitude I take so much pride in letting the air out of, and this will be no exception. In the days since, I’m sure they’ve high-five'd each other constantly in celebration of their ingenuity and become legends among their circle of equally pathetic friends. But unlike their heroes, they’ve no real trouble to see or message to send. The security at Valley View Mall is the only social oppression I think they’ve ever experienced, so their attempt at making a bold statement about their principles has ended up a laughable recital; the difference between Lincoln’s stirring speech to Gettysburg some 140 years ago and the one playing on repeat that comes out of his robot at Disney. I guess what I’m trying to say is, maybe something did crawl up my a** and die, but at least it wasn’t my own head.

“Just what are you trying to imply with the whole musicians unwilling to share the spotlight line? Not everybody in town is like that.” – Chris R.

Another question I see pretty frequently. While not everyone shares the family mentality (as we just discussed), Roanoke’s musicians are a pretty tight-knit group by comparison. It’s not uncommon for me to see bands out on their nights off, joining the party and showing support for other acts around town. No, not everyone literally hordes the spotlight. But what I’m really talking about here is a perception among the public that there are only a handful of talented bands in the area. Shining that spotlight past someone else’s tall shadow is really what I’m aiming for, but it’s just cooler to me to use the Knight Rider parody. Why? Because I can. Deal with it.

"You don’t seem to mind printing the mail from your readers, but I was wondering what kind of feedback you usually get from bands?" – Paris H.

That’s honestly something I’d never thought of until I got this letter, but you make an excellent point. Since I started the Phantom, most of the bands I’ve talked about have been pretty positive. Besides being smart enough to realize how tongue-in-cheek some of this stuff can be, they are able to laugh at themselves a bit and come across as genuinely grateful for the insight and inherent exposure. Several have written in and reported new faces in their crowds a week or two after I talk about them, and a few even repost or republish their “Phantom Review,” wearing it as some sort of badge. While there are a few acts who have said nothing, I tend to assume this is because they haven’t seen it, but it could also be that they didn’t want to acknowledge it. Not that I’d really lose sleep over something like that.

"This probably doesn’t count as a question, but I figure you’d be the guy who’d know. If all the bands in town got in a street fight, who would win?" – Howard C.

Wow. What a great thought. If we pitted 16 of Roanoke’s best in a tournament of death, who would come out on top? For once, I’m speechless. Fortunately, I have a few of those empty March Madness brackets sitting around, so we can solve this diplomatically. I want all my readers, bands and fans alike, to help me find a winner! In the next week, write in to nominate your favorite band, I’ll take the top 16, and then we’ll determine the match ups. Each week, as a small part of the regular column, we’ll size up each fight and let you vote, reality show style. The winner will get something cool. I have no idea what, but I’ve got some time to think about it. So stop what you’re doing right now and vote. Well, I mean, finish reading this and THEN go vote. Good.

What a week. Some great questions, some great answers (if I do say so myself), a new tournament, and I’ve got some cool news. The Phantom’s inaugural band interview will be taking place soon, and TK421 were chosen as my test case. Look for that in an upcoming column, and start thinking about who you’d like me to interview next…assuming I pull this off. What am I talking about? Of course I’ll pull this off. And you will enjoy it. I promise. Until next we meet…

- The Phantom