When does our past hinder the musical present and future?
By Dan Tennyson
For many of us that grow up in the Minneapolis/St.Paul music scene. You’re whelped on the notion that so much is owed to bands such as The Replacements, Husker Du, Soul Asylum, Prince, the Suicide Commandos and so on. Should you engross yourself in the Twin Cities’ vibrant musical culture you can see very different things at very different venues every night of the week. Now, here’s your disclaimer: I plan to bring you on a trip to the boggy depths of my hypocrisy in this little essay.
To start off with I’m going to do an end around on Prince. Prince is a legend, Prince is universal. Prince is a planet unto himself. Ok, enough with the cosmic analogies. On with it.
It is true that during my formative years I derived great pleasure from parts of Mr. Westerburg, Mr. Pirner, and Mr. Mould/Mr. Hart’s catalogues. “Pleased to Meet Me”, “Candy Apple Grey” and “While You Were Out” specifically continue to be in semi-regular rotation. They had great musical influence on me as well, as on many from my g-g-generation and prior. High energy, well crafted, forward thinking alt-rock before alt-rock was a thing. And that was the way of things in the 90’s. You found bands through other bands you liked and made them a part of your life. Some of these bands had long been broken up by the time you found them but you enjoyed the recordings nevertheless. Sure, you’d always pine to see them live. Some times that magical dream would come true; sometimes you’d be left forever fantasising.
With the passage of time, things start to dry up. Musicians go in different directions, make creative choices that should not have been made, or simply find other interests that suit their time putting music on life’s back burner so to speak. All well and good. The theory that I would like to advance is this: when does coverage start having a negative affect? Meaning, can a scene grow if the media in said
scene continue to spend time and space on semi-active artists who are living off past success? Ah ha! You have found the fly in my scripted ointment. “Tell me sir, if local media spends too much time on these artists, why are YOU dedicating a Saturday morning to evoking their names?” Aren’t we the savvy reader? Consider my defense: are these conversations we really ever have?
With the space dedicated to the size, color, and shape of the aforementioned’s bowel movements, who gets left on the cutting room floor? To me, this question is imperative to the health of any progressing music scene. Now now, I understand this may be a slippery utopian slope to traverse. And there must be readership vis a vis healthy advertising money that is linked to these artists. Is a little bravery too much to ask? There are a multitude of artists in the Twin Cities that are every bit as competent as the Huskers, Replacements,
or Soul Asylum.
It is this blasphemer’s belief that the local media at large needs to make a more focused and furious effort to showcase these artists. Yes, and in genres across the board. Certain publicly funded radio station, I’m looking at you. Electronic pop is great and everything, but we get it already.
Now for brushing the mane on the flea bitten nag that is my high horse before I take her back to the stable and remove the bit from her frothing mouth. I can offer empathy to it being a terribly tedious fine line between being — ugh — “fair and balanced”, and pushing one’s own taste agenda on unsuspecting consumers of their media. We observers, participators, and supporters of our local culture should not be mocked when we feel exposure has become predictable and trite. Finding out about new music that you love, from the place you live, that is relevant and working is one of life’s grand treasures and should be regarded as such.
There are your oats Betsy. Sleep well old girl.