On the Internet
So, I moved to a new city recently. The last three places I worked in Colorado all went out of business last year, which seemed an ill omen. Also, the "economic downturn" wholly killed a Denver/Boulder music scene that was never all that robust to begin with. All the bands I used to make a point of driving into the city to see, like CAT-A-TAC, Everything Absent or Distorted, the Hot IQ's, and many others, split up. I couldn't even find a halfway decent band to join myself, after months of trying. So I packed the records, the cat, and the girlfriend in a U-Haul and find myself now some 1,000 miles south-southeast in Central Texas. I like it. Haven't gotten a job yet, but at least there have been plenty for which to apply. And everything's cheaper here (save car insurance) -- groceries, gas, rent, movies, shows. That last thing is a big deal. Boulder's indigenous combination of engineers and upper-class college students, two groups with lowbrow entertainment tastes and way too much disposable income, had driven the prices of even indifferent concert bills up to $25, $30 a pop. And God help you if you want a beer once you get there.
Price isn't the issue here. There's five-dollar shows and free shows every night, weekends even. The surplus of bands and clubs here means there's a number of pretty decent venues (from the look of things) that charge a token cover or nothing. If you're not in the least discerning, you can park by the river downtown and just walk around waiting to hear something catchy. But I'd like to accomplish a little more than heckling bar bands for playing "Feelin' Alright" or silently counting the time it takes the average weekend-warrior blues trio to reach their fourth chord of the evening.
So how do you find local shows worth attending? Since we settled on Austin as our new homebase about six weeks ago, I've been trying in vain to find local music coverage on the web that's both reliable and well-written. Clearly I'm not the only person who has sensed a void, as a daunting number of blog projects started and abandoned litter the link tables I hit. Austin Sound is updated fairly regularly and has led to me discover more interesting local bands (Invincible Czars, Band of Heathens, Haunting Oboe Music) than any other. But the writing quality is not great, the interviewers persistently ask stupid and ignorant questions (which in turn causes the bands being interviewed to give unserious answers), and the album reviews constantly say more about the writer than the band. This reviewer, for one, hates that style. There's also a fixation on music that's more weird than good, which I suppose is all down to taste. And their show reviews are simply terrible, slavish fanboy tripe.
The Austin Chronicle's Earache! blog does a disservice to its community by concentrating some 60-70% of its attention on big shows by out-of-town artists, probably because the Chronicle has enough pull to get its writers into the big shows for free. You'd think Austin's alternative newspaper would have better local coverage than Denver's, but you'd think wrong. Then again Denver has a small enough scene that it's genuinely feasible for Westword to review every local CD it gets and go to see every area band that agitates for it enough; the Chronicle would have to have 40 music writers to accomplish that.
Then pickings get slim, fast: Side One Track One has a great name and a great concept if it would stick to it, but it doesn't; like a lot of blogs it's been totally destroyed by YouTube. Every post is two sentences and then a video clip. I watch too much TV on television already; I don't want to watch more TV on the Internet, particularly crappy-sounding digital music clips. Austinist is pretentious, has an ugly design that hurts my eyes, and also spends way too much time parroting the outside hype of non-local bands that don't need any more exposure. Covert Curiosity is barely even a blog, just a bunch of ads for festivals and albums. Doesn't anybody have an opinion any more? Or do these kids all just buy whatever Pitchfork tells them?