Phoenix Most Ballot-Stuffed Bands! Revealed!

When I sprang forth from my mother’s new york city vagina a quarter of a century ago, i wanted one thing: to be President of my High School class.  Well, that dream never came to fruition since I dropped out after 10th grade, living instead off my great trust fund wealth that affords me my lonely and dusty but grandious mansion atop Portland’s West End.

Veering from this opening digression brings us to the Portland Phoenix Best Music Poll Awards, otherwise known as Portland’s annual musical popularity contest.  And you know what, it’d be easy to dismiss the whole thing as nothing more, but that’s not worthwhile.  In fact, the event itself, held Wednesday night at the Asylum, was conceptually pretty cool.  The who’s who showed and were in merry spirits, drinking merry spirits. Schmoozing abounded, the nominees and the non-nominated mingled alike with the local Mp3-J’s (formerly known as radio DJ’s) and behind the scenes doers and booers.

Some particular highlights of the show: the much-appreciated strip tease that seemed to be, well, just a blatant strip tease.  We couldn’t figure out why or what place it had at an awards show like that, but if you think anyone in the house was complaining, you best get back to Amish Country and churn some butter.  Another was when Spencer (whose School Spirit Mafia was impressively packed with harmonies, eye candy, and even an umpire) accepted the award for Rustic Overtones, even though the founding member no longer keys for the band. Also highlighting was Hatchetface (hadn’t heard of them) winning Best New Act as a write-in even though they are no longer a band!  Only in a small town!

Let’s take a quick look at the winners/losers (oftentimes the same!)

Dark kinghts (Best Album). Indie rockers talk the talk, but Ocean walked the rock, grabbing the best album, but not bothering to show up for the acceptance.  We agree it’s pretty cool that an album as un-radio friendly as is Pantheon of the Lesser took top album honors.

Double trouble (Best category-defying/indie outsider act + best female vocalist).  When was the last time a write-in won 1, much less 2, categories.  It’s an impressive feat, but you have to wonder if ballot stuffing played a part.  One vote each from their fans?  Could that possibly have beat other more mainstream (or at least nominated) names like Confusatron, Anna Lombard, Dilly Dilly…? No knock on these guys, but certainly raised parity eyebrows.

Lord of the dance (Best DJ/dance act). Uh, no opinion?

Triple entente (Best Heavy Music/ Metal act). Love the forced scowl in the picture in the Phoenix. Don’t recognize the name Ogre, but they’ve apparently been around for 10 years.  Ocean, the runner up, won best album.  Doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

A brilliant flame (Best folk act).  Doesn’t Jason Spooner just play covers?  This is precisely the kind of award winner that makes us say, oh, oh perhaps we were wrong, we should go to his website and listen.  So we will.  Later today.  Or tomorrow.

Wired for sounds (Best electronic act).  Admit again we didn’t know what Computer At Sea was/is/who? but we highly recommend reading Galen Richmond’s self-description of his set up in the Phoenix.  If that isn’t funny and awesome, then we’re friends with Honey Clouds’ fanbase.

Mixing it all up (best hip-hop act).  Ah, the White Heart guy!  We’re not a fan of the beard, but will check out the referenced “mix-tape.”

Stormy sailors (best indie act). If Fire on Fire is the band we saw a while ago then we are impressed and think they are a worthy best indie act, but we now are struggling to define “indie act”.  Though we haven’t seen their name around on the performance schedules, we’ll keep an eye out.  Honey Clouds finished 4th! And that’s fine, they’re a popular “indie rock” band for Christ sake, according to their fans, we just wish our indie bands in town upped their game.  What IS “indie” anyway? Doesn’t it just mean “independent?”

Near… and far (Best Jazz act).  Easily our favorite jazz act in town.  His smooth instrumentation and soulful bebopping is just unmatched.  Ok, we admit, we didn’t know there was a jazz scene in Portland.

By the horns (Best live act). Here we go! Rustic Overtones! Here’s one where we do not suspect ballot stuffing, just name familiarity.  This victory also screams: we need more new bands!  As Jeff Inglis writes in the intro, Rustic won awards in the very first Best Music Poll.  They are good, whether you like their type of music or not, but wouldn’t it be more exciting to crown a group or band that had fresh basil sprinkled in their dish? Let’s try not to embrace sterility, Portland!

Been + gone (best new act). Already mentioned them, but we adore that the best new act is a write-in.  Ouch, Spencer and School Spirit Mafia, who were asked to perform, finished a distant 4th.  We were impressed with their set, so maybe next time they’ll get some more ballot-stuffing friends.

Nearing liftoff (Best Local Act + Best Male Vocalist). Oh come on.  Come on.  Everybody scream it together: come on.  Really? The best? Still? With that saxomophone? Huh? What are we missing? Most uninspired. Blandest. Most familiar. Those, but not Best Local Act. Our favorite part though is the tag line: “With good reason, Pete Kilpatrick is going places.” When? He’s been “going places” for 8 years.  Going where? To JavaNet? Which places? SuperCuts down by the Mall?

Flower children (Best pop-rock act).  As cheesy as we find the band’s mantra to apparently be “to make peace, love, and harmony,” Dominic and the Lucid are a pretty good local band.  Whoever wrote the description of them in the Phoenix clearly doesn’t know them, as they just quoted Sam Pfeifle’s internal review and ends with a Portland Point favorite: meaningless cliched words (“sonic aesthetic that sounds perfect for these sunny summer days”).  We’ve happened upon them over the years and were never blown away but never offended.  That’s about highest level of praise we allow ourselves here…

Sweet nectar (best punk act). Covered in Bees is an awesome band name.  We love the 4th place finish of the RattleSnakes.

King of the hill (best R&B/soul/blues act). Cover bands rule!

Coming for you (Best Rock Act).  “Our readers are nothing if not loyal.” Say no more!

Honesty (best roots act). “Who is Travis Kline?” Actually, based on the review, we’ll go check ’em out after Jason Spooner.

A fitting tribute (Best World Music act). We’ve heard the Kino Proby hype and will be at the next show, which is…? Funny that the best band plays once a year and the runner up, and usual winner, plays at least once a month.  Just goes to show, “best” doesn’t mean “most often.” This was another over-looked point in the Honey Clouds review, that there’s something to be said for not playing a show every week.  Funny acceptable speech too, calling themselves the Best in the World and rambling until getting the hook.  We appreciated that.

Cry me a river (Biggest Babish Act). Mike C from the RattleSnakes gets the honors after his scowling comments to our last 3 posts, mostly spending a lot of time ranting about how this blog is a waste of time, and then justifying his band’s sloppiness by saying they were performing with a new member (not a good idea) but then also saying it was tight and then saying they used to not be tight and it was only sloppy because we’re not familiar with the songs.  Tightness is not about song structure, it’s about the musicians performing well together.  So, the take away is that negative feedback can either be shouted down and pouted about, or learned from.  Even if the negative feedback is written in an abusive, over-the-top manner, might as well learn from it, or cry about it and demand for vengence! Reveal yourself, Batman, so I can throw acid in your beautiful, beautiful face!  I shall not listen to your criticism unless i know who you are! And that benefits……… nobody!

Published in: on June 4, 2009 at 2:20 pm  Comments (23)  
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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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Here we G(en)O(‘s) again

Fuck. usually one to abstain from profanity, i feel obligated to utter such uncivilities. i beg you to pardon my Freedom.

It’s Wednesday, and with Wednesday comes another delightful issue of every indie rocker’s favorite rag, The Portland Phoenix! What tidings do you bring us, O Phoenix, revealer of all that we should know? Much. Well, this post is not intended to slight the Phoenix, we’ll leave that to some other posts. But, we were titillated when we saw word of a Phantom Buffalo show this Friday (speaking of, PB, how come this is the first we’re hearing of it? where’s the PRO-MO?)

In 8 Days A Week (trying to find a link to that article is like trying to find an affordable beer you want at Novare Res – you know it’s there, well, you think it’s there, but you just can’t find it, and you know it’s not your own fault), Chris Gray mentions the indie rock show at Geno’s and says “call for cover.” Call for cover? In 2008? To quote myself, “fuck.” Or more specifically, “fuck that.” To the internet! You Portland Point fans know we just love to find shit on the internet! Alas, it is with a heavy and deflated heart I must report, Geno’s does not have a website. A myspace, yes, but a website? Like a proper night club? No. Is the ‘cover’ information anywhere on the internet to be found? No. So I literally would have to call to get the information. But I’m not going to. I’ll get an intern here at the Point to do it. And tell me the odds he or she will get a receptive, friendly voice on the other end of the line? Who knows, because we don’t even have a phone in the office here because it’s 2008. We have high speed internet access. Lord, why isn’t that enough?

Published in: on September 3, 2008 at 11:20 pm  Comments (2)  
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