Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nuclear War

While watching the trendy Dayton Flyers fall from the ranks of the unbeaten this evening, I checked out Pitchfork for the first time this week and read the predictably uneven review of the predictably uneven Grampall Jookabox album. This review unexpectedly led to a savvy quick marketing scheme by label Asthmatic Kitty, and sparked a (relatively) thoughtful discussion on Musical Family Tree on the merits of the review, and of Pitchfork's review system as a whole. As I read the Pitchfork review, framed in the author's context of being a Hoosier himself, this final passage seemed most irritating (even more so than a normal P4k missive):

Ropechain isn't going to displace Margot & the Nuclear So-and-Sos as the standard-bearers for Indie-ana any time soon (though please, someone hurry up and do it), but the album can stake a claim to represent that ever-underrepresented subculture that the nineteenth state owns as well as the other 49: Fidgety suburban druggies.

Swish. Why just review the album itself when you can also take a pot-shot at a completely unrelated band?

Perhaps my sentimentality gets the best of me at times - this can happen when you live in a state preparing to send it's second straight governor to jail. But I don't get the point of ripping on a hometown band for no apparent reason in a review of someone else's album. Perhaps it has to do with where I now live. One of the biggest surprises I've found since moving to Chicago is that while this city obviously is a destination spot for national touring bands, the local band scene in Chicago is not supported anywhere near the extent that the same scene is appreciated in Indianapolis. Maybe that's a direct result of national bands being much more readily available, but as a whole, there's very little enthusiasm for local bands playing live within Chicago. Neither does there seem to be the same sense of camaraderie among bands supporting each other that is evident in Indy. This mentality no doubt further colors my disdain for watching a hometown band get thrown under the bus.

But the fun doesn't end there. The discussion continued on the reviewer's personal blog, where the comments section included this highly dubious claim:

I've talked to more people around Indy and Bloomington that resent them [Margot] than like them, that's for sure.
If true, then the people you've talked to are assholes. I know many people in Indy who find the band to not particularly be their cup of tea, but even those who don't necessarily like the band's music think it's cool that a band from Indy is making a name for itself. Who from Indianapolis wouldn't have been excited to see the Melody Inn t-shirt or shout out to Marmoset on national television? Shit man, I'm happy just hearing Conan say the word "Indianapolis." The very few people I know who actually resent them (I can think of 2 people total) are jealous musicians or wannabes, upset that they haven't gotten the well-deserved breaks Margot has.

That notion is crystallized further later in the comments:

it's easiest to understand where i'm coming from if you're from indianapolis, have been attending shows in the area for about half your life, have seen hundreds of great bands come and go, and still, the only band ever mentioned is the one which gets popular because they sound like arcade fire and cop a wes anderson reference. it's frustrating, and a lot of people i talk to admit it. i don't hate that band, and i don't want to bully them out of existence. i'm just expressing frustration, again from an "insider" perspective, that it's got to be *them.* point granted, though. i know it seems shitty.
Welcome to the real world, friend. I fit every one of your listed stipulations there, and yes, until the day I die, my inner 14-year-old will be outraged that SuperFatFlyBoy never went on to headline Lollapalooza. We've all seen bands galore that deserve that big break but never quite get it because in the end, success is a lottery. Most bands will never get that notoriety, but this bullshit about "that band doesn't deserve it" is a joke. Should more bands from Indy have broken through? Of course they should have. But trying your best to throw rocks at the one band who is doing things the right way while finding a measured amount of success is lazy and more than a little disappointing. This is not a band who has earned notoriety through easily optioning their songs to air on "The Hills" or "Grey's Anatomy." This is not a band that has shamed it's hometown the way Nickelback has shamed all of Canada. This is a band that has consistently praised other local acts in interviews and on stage, much more than they've needed to.

Luckily, the majority of people supporting music in Indianapolis aren't doing so while talking with others about how much they hate one band in particular. Most fall in line with Dodge, praising the local acts that more people should know about, and simultaneously refusing to take cheap shots at one of the successes of a scene that means a lot to many people. This my friends, is true Hoosier hospitality.

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