Wednesday, June 20

Spin at Bonnaroo

I almost never write reactive pieces, but I gotta do this.

I got frustrated with them a couple weeks ago when they said Black Lips and The Selmanaires are Athens bands. No, they're not. I chalked it up to confusion when their writer incorrectly reported songs White Stripes played at Bonnaroo. But further reading has me even more befuddled.

According to the writers at Spin, it seems every performance at Bonnaroo was the bestest thing ever. Are they incapable of objectivity or decent music criticism? I know I'm only an amateur at such things, and claim nothing more. I'm a social scientist who maintains this goofy blog on the side. I realize that I can fall into fanboy mode when discussing some bands, an affliction that is admittedly far too common among we music bloggers. But really, shouldn't professional music writers be capable of leveling criticism at some band at a four-day festival? I didn't follow their Coachella or SXSW reporting, so I have no idea if this has been a persistent issue. Did they just assign writers to cover artists whose posters are tacked to the ceiling above their beds? I suppose not, or the fact-checking would have been better.

You can read a selection of Spin's reporting from Bonnaroo on their site.

On The Police:
...the fact the Police, a group of three strong-headed individuals who vowed never to regroup after their 1986 breakup, was on stage, in the middle of farmland Tennessee, was simply enough. Hands down my favorite gig at Bonnaroo. Say what you will about reunions. This one ruled.

A band showing up is not enough. And although it was good, I can't imagine saying that set "ruled." They played a nice set with some pretty hit-or-miss improvisation and production values well below those of the other headliners. I'd put it in the top one-third of shows I saw at Bonnaroo, but that's about it.

On Tool:
...shrieking album-worthy recreations of classic tunes such as "Ænema" and "Stinkfist" as well as new tunes [emphasis added - Rich] like "Lateralus," "Schism," and a handful from the band's latest record, 2006's 10,000 Days.

Um, "Lateralus" and "Schism" were released in May 2001. You know how I know that? I've had that CD since its release, and I just spent five seconds on Google. "New"? No.

On Wilco:
The band, taking the main stage amidst a ravenous, packed audience...

Patently false. One of the more sedate crowds I saw at the festival, and definitely the smallest at the main stage. Not sure what the author saw from his "backstage perch" but that wasn't it.

On Sam Roberts Band
Perhaps best of all, it was clear that the band was having just as much, if not more, fun than anyone. As the set closed with the ten minute epic "Mind Flood, " it was apparent that we had all just witnessed an indisputably Bonnaroo worthy performance.

Unbelievable. Least original or interesting band I saw all weekend. I'd agree the band was having more fun than I was, absolutely. The "indisputable" claim is absolute hogwash. I teach my students not to use such absolutes in their writing; you'd think professional scribes would know better.

I know it's easy to pick on Spin and their ilk, so I won't dwell on this any further. But really, what a horrid excuse for music journalism. By the way, starting an article by bragging about your level of access and love for your subject doesn't really add much.


Blogger jonderneathica said...

Go get 'em, Rich!

9:29 AM

Blogger Sara said...

Nicely done.

10:01 AM

Blogger jam said...

Ever since they fired Sia Michel the magazine has sucked and continues to go downhill.

10:35 AM

Blogger Paul said...

I didn't think people still read Spin.

10:53 AM

Blogger Rich said...

Let me be clear -- I actually don't believe that Spin is absolutely without merit. But whatever editorial decision allowed their Bonnaroo coverage to resemble Livejournal entries was a poor one, and quite disappointing.

11:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's the best criticism you could come up with? Pathetic.

Go find something worthwhile to complain about - not simply your dislikes of Sam Roberts or disagreement with the assessment of the Wilco crowd

12:28 PM

Blogger Rich said...

that's the best criticism you could come up with? Pathetic.

Maybe so, maybe not. But in the few minutes I took to write this they were the first things that came to mind.

Go find something worthwhile to complain about - not simply your dislikes of Sam Roberts or disagreement with the assessment of the Wilco crowd

I didn't complain about my dislike of Sam Roberts. I complained about saying their performance was "indisputably Bonnaroo worthy." Because I dispute that. The thing with the Wilco crowd was symptomatic of the larger problem with the coverage, in that it's full of gushing praise and exaggerations. Seems very unprofessional to me. You're welcome to disagree, but I expect something else.

1:04 PM

Blogger Christopher said...

Ah, nothing eats at me more than a dissenter who posts as 'anonymous.'

For the record, I agree completely about the painful lack of objectivity in the mainstream music press. I think a lot of the problem comes from the fact that whenever there is a big event with lots of bands involved, contributing writers tend to only put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) with regard to bands they already like. Fanboyism takes over, and we're left with coverage that smacks of butt-kissing.

I'm certainly not suggesting that I'd prefer Jeff Clark style coverage where even the smallest misstep by a band becomes an opportunity for the writer to display his/her impeccable wit. But seriously, just as everything cannot suck nor can it all possibly 'rule.'

/my 2 cents

2:35 PM

Blogger Dan said...

I've read all your Bonnaroo reviews as well as your criticism of Spin's verbal reach-arounds of sub-par performances and have to say you are dead on. You must have missed the Hold Steady though, which was a show I had low expectations for that was a very pleasant surprise, probably in the second tier of performers after the Lips.

2:38 PM

Blogger Dan said...

Oh and by the way, the Wilco crowd was so comatose, Jeff Tweedy actually had to beg everyone to sing before playing Jesus, etc.

2:40 PM

Blogger Rich said...

Chris, I figured that was the case too re: fanboyism. That's part of the reason that I'm puzzled by some of the errors that made it to "print."

Ya Dan, I only caught one song by Hold Steady so I didn't feel like I saw enough to write anything. I'll admit I was in line for the porta-john at the time, so my mind wasn't so much on the band. ;)

2:46 PM

Blogger Stephe said...

By the wizzz, Spin has sucked since Guccione left.

2:58 PM

Blogger AmyMeacham said...

I'm glad I quit reading Spin a long time ago!
I actually once read a local magazine's raving coverage of a performance of a band who had canceled. (I know because I was there.) Who knows what to believe?

3:59 PM

Blogger Rich said...

Amy, that is HILARIOUS. Holy crap.

4:02 PM

Anonymous tim said...

My favorite Bonnaroo coverage (beside C&T's, of course) was John Roderick's blog at MSNBC. Excellent fanboy-free opinion.

Oh yeah, Spin sucks.

4:06 PM

Blogger Rich said...

Tim, totally agree. John Roderick's coverage was level-headed, thoughtful, and fun to read. I was actually looking for it again last night and couldn't find the page.

4:20 PM

Anonymous Matthew said...

G'Day Rich. Can I add a couple of things:

Firstly, your coverage of Bonnaroo was an awesome labour of love, and one of the reasons bloggers actually do get to criticise 'proper' journalists - everything a blogger does is out of love for music, not for the King's Shilling.

Secondly, excessive fawning is a bit of an issue in the music press. A friend of mine (a musician himself) summed it up very neatly: 'No-one wants to read a 3 out of 5 review.' The result: hyperbole or damnation which is no fucking use to anyone.

Thirdly, Monsieur 'Anonymous' made no actual arguments of substance, nor had the balls to leave his/her identity behind in order that they might stand by their opinions. Hence: fuck 'em.

Fourthly, a reviewer for one of the papers over here in Scotland once got nabbed doing the same thing Amy described: writing a damning review of a Meat Loaf gig at the Scottish Exhibition Centre that was actually cancelled. She was in the pub, plastered, and had no idea. Brilliant!

Erm, fifthly, don't read Spin, never have. I read C& f'n T and I love it. Excellent work old chap.

5:01 PM

Blogger The Falconer said...

I caught the final song of The Hold Steady and enjoyed what little I heard of that band.

5:22 PM

Blogger CassieFace said...

I feel like you're holding back a bit on this one. As an English major, I dig you rhetoric and I feel like we just hit the tip of the iceberg with Spin's lack of rhetoric and objectivity. I imagine the kid writing the Sam Roberts Band article began with, "Throughout history there have been many important events..." Perhaps Spin feels as though it's trying to embrace the positive vibe Bonnaroo is supposed to embody in their "criticism," but if Bonnaroo performances are indeed so epic, then shouldn't the criticism help define which performances are truly worthy of such praise? I mean, if some band makes it to Bonnaroo and then blow it or have an average show, I'd really want to know which ones are lame enough to blow a huge opportunity.

11:15 PM

Blogger CassieFace said...

Oh and JESUS H CHRIST about the Athens mix up. That pisses me right off. Get your facts straight, Spin!

11:17 PM

Blogger Rich said...

I feel like you're holding back a bit on this one.

I did leave out the profanity.

wokka wokka

11:18 PM

Blogger Sugarkane said...

I heart this article. Nice work.

10:13 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home