(above : most certainly not Jess Williamson)
The other day I weighed in on the subject of next Thursday night’s Austin Music Blogger Awards, an event I expressed zero enthusiasm for given the narrow range of nominees and a number of omissions that were nothing short of jaw-dropping. I also mentioned I’d been invited to vote for the winners, and declined, citing a colossal conflict of interest (ie. the entertainment branch of Cumbucket Media having released records by Sweet Talk and OBN III’s).
Nathan Lankford of Austin Town Hall — one of the participating/organizing bloggers for the Awards, and the person who invited me to vote — offered a lengthy rebuttal yesterday. You’re welcome to read the entire thing here, but I’d like to respond to several of his points below :
1) “I see this event as the Golden Globes to the Austin Music Awards, who would obviously be the Oscars.”
Great. If Jess Williamson doesn’t mind being likened to Pia Zadora, who am I to complain?
2) “The labels, be it 12XU or Modern Outsider or Punctum, all work hard to give a voice to Austin musicians, and thus have a right, and almost an obligation to be involved in the voting process. Should one decline, that’s respected; that’s a personal choice. But, to criticize the event after you declined to be involved seems, frankly, childish and counterproductive.”
OK, for starters, who in their right mind puts any credence in an awards show in which the winners are determined by the record labels? And why shouldn’t I criticize the event? There’s no information on the AMBA invites or p.r. manifestos about how these nominees were chosen, nor were the public told that record labels could vote for their own artists. Surely that’s of public interest.
2) “While I respect the work of Mr. Cosloy, I find his comments damaging to the greater Austin community, which he clearly seems indifferent towards. Yes, Beerland is a great venue. I hit up shows there at least twice a month, and the staff/crowd has always been accommodating. Now, is it the best venue in town? I’m not so sure. The sound isn’t always on point, and it seems, that supported by Mr. Cosloy, the venue has an entitlement towards being its own special club. It also has the tendency to only feature one genre of music, and that in and of itself is great, but not something that ultimately warrants a Best Venue nod.”
Sorry, who is this “greater Austin community” that I’m supposedly indifferent towards? Which venues and/or genres have I discriminated against? Obviously Mr. Lankford has a great background in what constitutes decent club sound, but if that’s justification for Beerland not being considered one of the city’s top 5 live music venues, it’s impossible to reconcile how Cheer Up Charlie’s or Red 7 were recognized.
“(Beerland) also has the tendency to only feature one genre of music.” Even if that were true (and it isn’t even close to being true), one can perhaps presume Nathan and his colleagues at the other participating blogs have no qualms about reinforcing cultural and institutional biases against these genre(s), despite a professed desire to support “the whole music scene”.
3) What I can’t forgive are his condescending comments towards the other artists involved, like Jess Williamson and American Sharks. Some would think that because Gerard has put out Pavement, and other acts that are well-regarded, that he has the right to his voice, and so he does, but to do it in a demeaning manner indicates a man dying to save his image; it’s about him, it’s not about Austin and the music scene. And therein lies his faults; he’s apparently not concerned with the whole music scene, just those acts and venues he’s interested in. How does that benefit Austin? How does that show the diversity of what’s musically going on in this town? It doesn’t. If anything, it’s an elitist myopic attitude that sets Austin back, trying to make it some secret club that only those in the know are able to participate in because the rest of us have “no fucking idea what’s going on.” Sorry guys, but that’s bullshit, and to let that attitude go unchecked only empowers this man to continue promoting that attitude throughout the city.
Oh for fuck’s sake. THAT’s the best you can do? Listen pal, if Jess Williamson and American Sharks can play publicly and have others sing their praises, surely they can handle one guy suggesting that perhaps they’re not that awesome. Actually, in the case of American Sharks, my “condescending” remark was limited to suggesting anyone who thought they were a more interesting band than Spray Paint needed their head examined (and I’m happy to recommend a specialist anytime you’re ready). If that’s the worst thing ever said about the former, they’ll be living a pretty charmed life. I mean, you could perhaps explain where the shame is in being a less interesting band than Spray Paint, because that’s pretty much every other band in Austin.
As for the rest of this bizarre defense….Pavement…who fucking cares? Dude, that was a thousand years ago! I’ve lived here for almost a decade — not nearly as long as others, but certainly long enough that hopefully no one is awed by my association w/ indie rock starlets of the 1990’s. I mean, they shouldn’t be — it’s not relevant to the discussion and in this case it hardly frames yourself as “mr. community” by comparison.
But guess what — I’m NOT concerned with “the whole music scene” and I never claimed to be (and I’d rather read a music blog with a real POV about stuff they’re excited by than one that portends to represent a wider pseudo-community). A cursory scan of all the shit I’ve been involved in or tried to support may or may not illustrate that my handle on “the diversity of what’s musically going on in this town” is no more or less myopic than that of ATH (I’d wager less). The difference being that I don’t claim to represent anyone other than myself, and cheerleading for generic garbage simply because it’s from Austin does zilch to elevate the culture or community. “A secret club that only those in the know are able to participate in”? Look, I promise you, no secret handshake is required to go and see bands that aren’t trying to emulate Imagine Dragons. This allegedly secret club has no issue tolerating a middle aged man who spends half the night checking basketball scores on his cell phone (ie. me) — you’ll have no problem fitting right in.
4) Austin’s not a punk rock town, or a hip-hop town, or anything in particular; it’s an amalgam of styles and people; it’s a fucking city, and one that I love. We should be proud of the fact that there’s so many different sounds you many not realize are coming out of this city. That’s how art works. People create, others react, thus creating new art. None of us have the right to look down upon other acts simply because we don’t like what they’re doing. Yes, have your opinion, but to go about it in a manner that disregards the hard work of others in this city is unacceptable, and personally, makes me wish people with this attitude would just leave.
N – you’re dead fucking wrong. All of us have the right to criticize a band. Unless you’re a blithering idiot with no critical faculties whatsoever, you’ve probably done so yourself at one time or another. Yes, I’m sure many of the bands I personally cannot stand have worked very hard, and while I would not willingly go out of my way to listen to Black Books (again), I fully support their right to play, get paid, pursue their dream, etc. But their record isn’t even in the same stratosphere as Marriage’s. Apples and oranges, I know, but you’re the ones calling the event “The Austin Music Blogger Awards”, when “The Austin Music Blogger Awards For Upwardly Mobile Bands Who Aspire To 101X Airplay” would be a far more appropriate title.
5) I know this seems long-winded, and possibly a bit scrambled.
Finally, something we can agree upon!
6) My main point is to point out that despite its faults, which I think we’d all acknowledge, the Austin Music Blogger Awards is a chance for the bloggers and the bands to give something back to the community that supports them. Your band or venue didn’t make the cut? I’m sorry, but take it as a challenge. Take it as an opportunity to work harder. Don’t sit behind your computer and complain because that makes you a coward, or even a bully. You’re no better than anyone in this town.
hooooohaaaaahoooohaaaa. THANK YOU SO VERY FUCKING MUCH for giving bloggers and bands a chance to give back! Funny, until now, I thought the sorry motherfuckers who were putting on shows with interesting/varied bills, giving bands a place to rehearse for free, actually paying for records, paying to get in, etc. were “giving back”. But no, they’re not doing nearly as much and need to try harder. Also good to know the bands that “didn’t make the cut” need to make a greater effort to get on the collective radar of the Austin Music Blogger Awards rather than following the lead of what folks like Spray Paint, Impalers, Breakout, Marriage, Church Shoes and others have been doing (ie. making real records on their own dime, touring around the country if not the world). I’m sure they’ll all add that to their to-do lists.
I fail to see how pointing out the staggering (you might even say musically bigoted) omissions in the Austin Music Blogger Awards’ lists of nominees or shedding light on a shadowy voting process that makes olympic figure skating judging seem legit by comparison qualifies me as a coward or a bully. Where I come from (ie. Planet Write About Stuff You Care About), that’s what a blog is intended for.
“Don’t sit behind a computer and complain?” Putting aside for a moment I do a few other things besides merely complain (mock, degrade, ridicule and pile-drive for starters), generally, journalists, critics, analysts, etc. ply their trade from behind computers. If Lankford has managed his particular brand of self-expression without the benefit of a computer (and the relative safety, of say, not telling Mark Kozelek to his face that his latest epic was only deemed worthy of a C-minus), it’s news to me.
I mean, really, how is my taking issue with the AMBA’s appreciably different from Lankford publicly critiquing Beerland’s sound? Other than only one of us knowing what we’re talking about, of course. Is the constructive, positive-minded longtime supporter of Austin music offering to visit Beerland and provide a wealth of engineering tips? Can he perhaps suggest which individual bands the club has unfairly shunned, which musical genres the booking committee has ignored? Neither of those things could be compared to sitting behind a computer, I’m sure you’d agree.
“You’re no better than anyone in this town.”
If you’ve got some sort of insecurity thing you need to work out in a public forum, that’s cool. I mean, I get nostalgic for LiveJournal too, sometimes. But I don’t recall ever saying or acting like I was better than anyone else. I did state rather plainly that I thought one specific band was much, much better than another specific band. Because I actually respect the intelligence of this blog’s readers and that of many Austin musicians / record hounds / people who can sleep w/out a nitelite, I refuse to acknowledge that’s tantamount to bullying.
7) “Maybe next year we’ll even have a special category for the Beerland Award or the Music Curmudgeon Award. Hope Mr. Cosloy will vote for those.”
It’s slightly amazing that someone passing themselves off as some sort of music blogger/journalist/critic you name it considers actual criticism-of-bands a curmudgeon-y quality, but by all means, keep dodging the issue. Whenever you’d like to explain how American Sharks are more interesting than Spray Paint, at least one member of this beautiful music community can’t wait to be schooled.