Thursday, June 08, 2006

Someone Send A Message Out to Justice

Greetings and salutations.

The plan was to do a show review this week. Really. I had a few relaxing days over the holiday weekend, caught a couple of shows, and came back to the keyboard armed and ready. But my readers had something else in mind. You see, in the time since I’ve transformed myself into this ghostly entity, my willingness to spew anonymous venom toward the music scene has earned me an unofficial title. So unofficial, in fact, that I can’t even begin to give it a proper name. But I get mail each week from people who look to me as some kind of spokesperson, and I always find it fascinating. Seemingly free to say what I please, I get requests to comment on all kinds of issues, big and small. Rather than sacrifice my journalistic integrity and climb up on a soapbox, I’m content to let most of these petty things flow by, reserving my opinionated snipes for the musically inept. This time, though…

One of the most talked about and hotly contested pieces of drama to hit our little scene, the ABC’s actions against Smith Mountain Lake’s popular venue Mango’s have drawn fire since they were made public shortly before Memorial Day. Raiding the bar and arresting intoxicated patrons, the ABC’s undercover-yet-overeager mouthpiece went on to blame local band the Worx as the cause for the havoc. Many, including the erstwhile Band Girl, have openly criticized the board’s decision and subsequent media action, considering it further evidence of our out-of-touch bureaucracy hard at work. Whether or not such an establishment exists is irrelevant at the moment – that these types of actions have a lasting impact on every gigging band in the region is, however. And you wondered what this had to do with you…

The truth is that this is the sort of thing that shapes our musical landscape, and I point to it in direct response to every message I’ve gotten that has asked me how Roanoke got in the shape it is in. Musicians complain to me because there aren’t enough venues in town. Shooters took a major hit when they got busted and lost their license. Fortunately new ownership kept the venue alive, but the witch hunts are an erosion. Let me say what everyone is thinking. The board’s rules are broken on a weekly basis in just about each and every licensed bar in the city. Go look in Cornerstone. Or the Village Grille. Or Awful Arthur’s. Or Schooners. You will find someone who’s had too much to drink, and depending on the night, you can usually find quite a few. Do you really expect us to believe that you’re serious about enforcement? Or is it just political grandstanding for the community, and an opportunity outside of taxation to soak extra money out of local businesses? The board’s actions are the direct result of economics, not real problem-solving. Think about the disarray you would create if you fined every downtown bar until they went out of business. On the other hand, I’m sure the tax and commercial revenue from the complaining residents on the lake more than offset the loss of Mango’s. Get the picture?

Take the Worx out of the equation. Allowing an agent to make public statements drawing such a correlation demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about the nature and causes of the problem(s) their rulings are intended to address. No more or less offensive than any other run-of-the-mill bar band that works the circuit around here, the observations were unnecessary, unfounded, and more reflective of a personal bias than anything based in fact – something the agent’s wife tried to backpedal out of during the K92 broadcast. Obviously the band is willing to string itself up for the chance to gain exposure through martyrdom, but the board was clearly looking for someone to make an example of, and they were fortunate enough to fit the stereotype.

In contrast to their raucous party atmosphere, events perceived as “cultured” (like a Wine Festival, for example) persist as acceptable ways for adults to drink and socialize. And yet when the Square Society holds an event, despite the pretense of being upscale, it could be likened to a frat party in that the same fundamental things are going on. Granted, I’ve yet to see a black tie keg stand or the Editor of CITY magazine jumping out a window, but be honest. The objectives of single males (i.e. looking to leave with something they didn’t have when they got there) are a constant. The objectives of working adults looking to forget about their daily pressures are a constant. We all gather in different ways, but we do it for the same reason: hoping that we’ll get juiced up enough to make some bad decisions. Cheers!

So before my mouth starts earning me enemies, I’ve one more piece of business to address before I go: Band Fight! There’s been some confusion since my initial announcement, but let me clear it up. This is NOT a battle based on musical talent, creativity, originality, or entertainment prowess. It’s about determining who would win if these bands fought each other, to the death, in no-holds-barred street fights.

The Discordian Society vs. The Worx: Despite having more members and meaner guys, the Worx suffered a first round elimination after the resourceful TDS converted a “recreational water-powered smoke cooling device” into an explosive, cutting down everyone but the keyboardist, who’s been surviving similar attacks since the 60’s. Outnumbered and outgunned, he made a hasty retreat before he could be finished off. The Discordian Society wins.

Fire at Will vs. Savior Bullets: Equally matched, this encounter quickly degenerated into a gun battle. Unfortunately for Fire at Will, they lived up to their namesake, running out of ammo 30 seconds into the fight. Charging over the trash cans with foam forming at his mouth, Savior Bullets’ lead singer fired 4 shots and the battle was over. Savior Bullets wins.

Make sure to write in and vote for the winners of next week’s battles:
Illbotz vs. Aggressor State
Dark Ruin vs. Crobar Cane

Biting social commentary, impolite putdowns, and gratuitous band-on-band violence. Make sure they spell my name right on the Pulitzer. Until next we meet…

- The Phantom