Howdy Faux Friends,
First, let me say that I love music critics. And I definitely don’t have a problem with them. I actually wrote some record reviews for the print zine The Squealer back in the 90s. I was freaking jazzed to see my name in print! As a writer, hanging out with writers putting out a zine, it felt kind of like drama club or being on the yearbook staff. I liked it. And I liked reading about music almost as much as the music itself. (Sounds kind of sick, I know.)
I still miss the weekly print edition of The Onion that came out on Thursdays in Minneapolis, just so I could sit on a park bench in the sun in front of Oxendale’s and read the record reviews in the A/V Club. Great writers were keeping me up to date on what the culture was oozing out to the people. (I can still do this on my phone, but you catch my drift.)
In the 90s, I used to sit in the Border’s Books at Calhoun Square for hours reading Q Magazine, NME, Mojo and all the others. Only now do I realize that the staff probably dreaded my arrival on weekend mornings. It was a retail environment, but it was kind of cozy being surrounded by strangers reading about Liz Phair with a blizzard raging outside on Hennepin. Occasionally I would purchase something.
Heck, I even subscribed to a newsletter dedicated to music journalism just this past week! (You should too!)
So when I put “My problem with Music Critics” in the title of this newsletter, what I’ve really tried to do was to lure you to this point where I can relate this perhaps humorous story about an experience that I had with a music critic that made me fear eternal banishment from the press when I jumped ship from the “critic” to the “musician” side of the relationship. Ahem.
So it was in the 7th Street Entry. It was Willie Wisely’s record release show for the album, She. That puts us at 1996. I’m just getting started out with my band Steel Shank at this time, and had spent some time in Willie’s basement trying to make demos on his 4-Track, so I knew him and my band got to play first of four for this special show. The Minneapolis music cognoscenti had come out to this show. There were journalists there from the City Pages, the Reader, the Strib and some others like CAKE and The Squealer.
As a new musician in town, coming from the Duluth scene, I wanted to get to know the critics so I could share my art with them and start building a press kit and then maybe get more gigs, eh?
So after the show, the label that had released the album had bought a ton of cupcakes adorned with butterfiles to celebrate Willie’s new CD, which has Willie and a butterfly on the cover. I was standing near the exit and having a conversation with a music critic for the Strib and one or two other people. The writer was holding and eating one of these cupcakes.
We were suddenly approached by a large and animated fellow who I mistook for an acquaintance of the writer, as he spoke so freely with the writer.
This large fellow demanded, “Who threw the cupcake?!”
I pointed at the writer and joked: “Hey, he’s the one with the cupcake,” thinking they might have a laugh about this.
At this moment, someone tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that I needed to go to office to get paid immediately. I excused myself and darted for the office where a scary man named Steve gave me a check for 75 bucks.
When I returned to the Entry five minutes later, I found the writer for the Strib covered in cupcake and trying so wring frosting from his long hair.
“Schindler! You just about got me killed by that dude!!” Naturally, he was agitated. I felt horrible.
“What? That guy wasn’t your friend?!” I asked. I thought everybody was friends at a Willie Wisely show in the Entry. Fxxking rube from Duluth, Minnesota, this one.
And so, since that day, anytime I get a little press, or a critic says something nice about the art that I’ve put into the world, I am grateful, because I was sure I’d be cursed after the cupcake incident.
Regarding the love affair with reverb…
As yet, no critics have written about my latest expression of a love affair with reverb.
My daughter, who is 8, told me to go easy on the reverb on the next one. Pinky Promise.
I released these demos without investing in marketing, which means I spent not a farthing to bend ears. And I hope your ears enjoyed being bent organically.
And to those of you who made purchases on Bandcamp, Thank You, you’re blowing my mind all the way back to the cupcake incident of 1996.
In the next installment, I’ll talk about how I inadvertently offended the founder of Pitchfork at a 12Rods House Party around the time of the cupcake incident. Actually, I might let that one lie…