The Portland *Point*, as worded by one of you the people

This was just posted as a response to the Honey Clouds review.

We thought it was deserving of its own post because it was a well-worded, could-be-description of this site.

“Hi, Graeme…

My name is Erik Howell and I agree w/ the bulk of your post. I did not see the HC headlining show that  PP’s review of has been such a point of contention. I’ll also qualify this by saying that I interact w/ Trey (the HC’s auteur) at Buckdancer’s regularly, and he’s a hell of a nice guy, and a hugely talented musician.

However, I don’t think that this town’s scene is so weak that it can’t stand some *eloquently phrased,* yes, *anonymous* snark from some bloggers. If you want to keep a local music scene honest, you have to submit yourself to acknowledging the shrill of the malcontents. If their ideas seem are so poorly worded, or even eloquent bullshit, no one who matters will heed them and they’ll fade away.

I think we have to admit, however, that if one doesn’t attach their name to an otherwise cogent criticism, it’s not out of cowardice, it’s out of wanting to continue to render such opinions w/out being ostracized by…let’s admit it…a fairly *insular* music scene.

To deem their opinions irrelevant because they don’t readily name themselves is to insist that  only those who dare speak up are those who can be assured that their acceptance w/in the music community will ensure against any backlash against them if they criticize it. That leads to a kind of imbreeding that squanders any growth…a bunch of “yes” people telling each other how killer each other’s set was.

Let’s believe enough in our scene to tolerate…no, *welcome* the fringe opinions…and not invalidate them because they don’t have a name attached that we can heckle on the street. I believe in the secret ballot, and as long as the Web is kept free and anyone w/ a differing opinion can make his/her opinion known, tagging their name onto it or not,  anonymous shouldn’t be bullied into revealing themselves or keeping their, yes, *relevant* opinions to themselves.”

Ed note: we like the use of **’s.  We will be sure to consider them for future posts if we deem anything worthy of being posted about.

Published in: on August 3, 2009 at 10:23 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Local Music section of the Portland Phoenix

One of the points of the Portland Point is to give a little kick in the buttocks of those responsible for giving our local musicians a kick in the buttocks.  The primary outlet for music reviews in this town is our fault-laden rag The Portland Phoenix.  Though there are others, notably the Bollard, which give the most candid (and therefore accurate) reviews we’ve seen in this Port City town.

The Local Music page always has four sections: album reviews, Music Seen, Sibilance, and of course the Bull Moose top 10.

The albums are all reviewed by Sam Pfeifle, and no matter how much you like his writing or don’t, it’s never a good idea for there to be just one staff reviewer.  It’d be like having one branch of government.  One mail man for the whole city.  One coffee shop in the center of the Old Port.  One bordering state.  So without delving into the reviews themselves, we’re off to a bad start.  We didn’t vote for Sam’s opinion (regardless of what it is) to be the one guiding voice.  But that’s the management of the Phoenix’s perogative.  So now let’s dig.  The biggest problem with Mr. Pfeifle’s reviews is there’s too much back story before you get to the actual album, and too much technical talk about mixes and effects, not enough about the music itself, like, is the music GOOD??  Look at this week’s Spark the Rescue review.  We start to hear about the album in Paragraph #6.  The first 5 discuss StR’s past, and even the fact that 9 of the 12 songs on the disc aren’t even new.  You can tell Sam is involved in Portland’s behind-the-scenes (he is Secretary of the Portland Music Foundation), because before we even hear about the music we hear about the businessy back end of the band, the stuff we the listener don’t want to know about, like the “cultivation of fans.”  Fans probably don’t like to be considered just a number to be prodded into the sty.  When do we get to read about the disc?  Ok, in Para6 we get some album creds (featuring Jon Wyman, who else?), some name dropping of who these guys have worked with in the past, oh there it is: “giant sound.”  Tucked neatly into the bottom left-hand corner of the page.  We get the bulk of the actual review in the two paragraphs that start with “If anything,…”  But Sam fails to delve into the feel, the mood, the backing emotions perhaps.  He gives a very general description of overall feel (“chock full of tunes about love”) and then delves into what we think is the most boring tool of reviewing: then the guitars come in, then the vocals, then there’s like lots of voices together, oh i can hear a keyboard!  He’s just describing the song like a sportscaster.  It’s too technical, mentioning “Auto-Tune” which we’d guess the bulk of StR’s fans – or Phoenix readers – may not even understand.  With all the references to “If you’ve grown up with the band” or “For those of you who’ve heard the first version” or “blast from the past,” we’re left wondering if the album, and its review, are meant to be for the general public, or just friends and family of those who grew up in Portland.

Then we have Music Seen (the pun is obvious but perfectly and appropriately so).  Hey, at least the Phoenix gives voice to an array of writers.  But more often than not, these articles feel like we’re witnessing the writer’s chance to brag about having seen some show, or knowing some band personally.  Usually the reviews start with lots of “I” statements, ex: “I went to the show expecting…” or “When I heard so and so was…”.  In the issue at hand, Chad Chamberlain breaks from the norm and actually paints a fairly vivid picture of what Seymour sounded and looked like.  Then shatters the dream by focusing on his own personal view for the 2nd paragraph.  Are reviews not supposed to be unbiased, we ask rhetorically?  If Chad had indeed listened to that song on MySpace 10 times (and how is that part of describing the Seymour show?), how can he be expected to give us, the non-attendee, a fair and balanced opinion? Obviously he’s a fan.  And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s misleading in the form of a review.  It’d be almost as bad as writing a review of your own band, which anyone would agree would be lacking the requisite detachment.  Chad ends the Seymour review with an awkward, rambling, cliche (“bittersweet wintertime solace”??)  Are we in high school creative writing class?  Please let that question remain rhetorical, we don’t want to know the answer.

In years of reading the Phoenix, we still can’t figure out what the point of the Sibilance section is.  It’s always a smattering of name dropping the same names that are always in that section in a transparent attempt to aggrandize said people.  That’s okay, no beef on that, it just screams: “hey!!! we live in a tiny town!!! don’t forget it!”

The Top 10 Local CDs is always fun, see if any new names are there and count the number of appearances by Dead Season and Bob Marley.  Mostly around the holidays, Marley has about half of them.  This week it’s a refreshing potpourri of a whole 8 distinct acts in the top 10.  Think about that for a second.

Published in: on May 1, 2009 at 10:32 am  Comments (1)  
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Late Nights, Hungry Bellies, Still Hungry Bellies

Anyone interested in a late night snack, and you ain’t talking about the ageless rotating hot dog at 7-11? Anyone? No, me neither. Thank goodness, because the options are stark. However, I did find myself at Becky’s late night window recently. The memory is hazy, but I distinctly recall standing in the back, perusing a list of familiar foods, telling the gentleman within “double bacon cheeseburger”, and devouring it like I’m at a company-funded lobster bake. Thank you, Becky’s Diner. Other than that, what do we have? Denny’s I’m ruling out not only because I’d have to drive there, also not only because it’s a chain (buy local of course), but also because box-eggs with paste tasting potatoes and disastrous service is not what I’m thinking of at 2 am.

I was reading the framed Phoenix article about Hot Suppa at the restaurant and was surprised to hear that the original business plan was to first take over its predecessor and then to expand to include a dinner menu and then even… and then even… yes – to be open late or all night. The article was dated from December 2005, and needless to say, the goal has yet to be achieved. We can still hope – that would be a perfect late night spot. Of course, let me caveat by fully recognizing that with a population hovering at 65,000, we can’t possibly have a sustainable demand for a 24 hour diner. I can only imagine this fact of logic has contributed to the shoving aside of this intriguing idea.

Probably our best bet is to plan ahead and have the eggs and bacon waiting for us at home. You know, someone should open a late night breakfast sandwich place out of their kitchen, laws be damned. You’d make a killing. No, a better idea: breakfast sandwich cart. In the Old Port. I’m happy to share the idea, so that someone else does it – I will benefit appetitely, if not financially.

One last thought, the reopening of the Miss Portland among the eyesore construction on Marginal Way is a much welcomed bit of news. Let’s join in prayer that it will be all-night. Why do I know it will close at 10?

Published in: on August 18, 2008 at 3:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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