After the "Farewell, I'm moving on"column, which is generally mawkish and self-indulgent (though I tried my best to make my last effort for the Sun-Times something else), one of my least favorite screeds is the "Hello, welcome to my new column" column, which not only seems equally self-indulgent, but ultimately pointless. Really, now, Mr. Columnist/Blogger, just get on with it and give us the goods! Or, as I tell the students in my "Reviewing the Arts" classes at Columbia College, "Don't tell me, show me." Nevertheless, through several weeks of mulling over what my first entry in this new space should be, I couldn't come up with anything that worked better than, "Hello, welcome to my new blog." In fact, it seemed downright rude not to say that. Therefore: Welcome. Glad you found me again. Bookmark me and come back often!
Since my dear friend and once-again colleague Rob Feder announced that I was leaving the newspaper gig I held for 15 years to join the Columbia faculty full-time and to blog beside him and the other stellar talents on this site, the question I've been asked most often is, "What are you going to do for Vocalo.org that you couldn't/didn't do for the newspaper?" Honestly: Absolutely nothing. This simply is the place I feel best doing it. So here is what you will find in this space:
Setting aside the debate about the word "album" -- short answer: No, it's not outdated in the digital age, not when the vast majority of artists still choose to present their new music as a fixed collection arranged in a particular order documenting a certain creative time and place in their lives, like photos in a photo album -- let me note that more than most of my fellow Vocalo bloggers, the music beat is a national/international/universal one. Great music knows no boundaries -- South Side, West Side, North Side, or otherwise -- and I'll take the same approach to examining albums of particular artistic merit or news value here that my co-host Greg Kot and I take on "Sound Opinions. That having been said"¦
When it comes to diving into music news, unless I have particular insights into a bigger national story, I'm going to spend most of my time reporting the stories that will have the biggest local impact. Having spent the first two and a half decades of my life just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, lived in Minneapolis at two different times for two years each go-round, and traveled to almost every major city in the U.S. and Canada as a journalist, tourist, or punk-rock drummer, I maintain that Chicago is the most vital, vibrant, diverse, and welcoming music scene in North America. Nevertheless, it is a community under siege, from forces both far-flung (the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger, federal efforts to crack down on Internet radio and file-sharing, skyrocketing ticket prices, etc.) and homegrown (and shame on you, Mr. Mayor, for constantly prodding small club owners and independent concert promoters with the proverbial rifle and bayonet, championing instead a big-bucks, corporate, tourist-centric vision of how Chicago should get its music -- and yeah, I'm looking at you, Lollapalooza). Somebody needs to work this beat, and I'll do my best.
Also on the local tip, and because at a time when it's easier than at any point in human history to make your music instantly accessible to anyone and everyone, it's harder than ever to be heard amid the overwhelming clatter of all that digital noise. I first started reviewing cassettes by local up-and-comers from the Chicago club scene in the early '90s in a column my editors called "Demo-Listen," a lousy name only slightly less crappy than the one chosen for the column's last incarnation, "Demo2DeRo." I'm all ears if anyone can suggest a better title, but meanwhile, I'm just as eager to get submissions from bands -- though I'd prefer it if you save yourself the trouble and expense of mailing me a shiny plastic disc (which also is environmentally unfriendly). On the other hand, PLEASE don't email me music files: They fill up and then crash the inbox. My preferred method: a short email to firstname.lastname@example.org about who you are and where I can go online to hear your tunes -- MySpace, Facebook, the band's Web site, or all of the above.
Because in these tough economic times, we more than ever deserve to be rewarded with a truly extraordinary, spiritually transcendent experience whenever we shell out our hard-earned concert-going dollars. And because Chicago remains the live music capitol of the U.S. And finally"¦.
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So, now that that's out of the way, I promise to get down to it in earnest and pretty much daily from now on. But one last thing, in honor of this new gig, my second act in Chicago music journalism: a list of some of my favorite "second acts" throughout rock history. I'd love to hear your choices in the comments section below, though I'm not counting a great band followed by a great solo career, 'cause that's really too easy and a different list. I'm talking one killer group, and then another.
(Not overlooked, just not equally brilliant: Bob Mould, Husker Du and Sugar; Dave Grohl, Nirvana and Foo Fighters; Dean Wareham, Galaxie 500/Luna"¦)