My enterprise story about Fort Wayne’s EDM scene is now posted on the Journal Gazette’s website. I’ll probably update this post later with a few thoughts on the reporting and editing process (Spoiler Alert: This is not the original story I submitted.).
UPDATE, 4:06 p.m. Sunday: The journalistic We typically discuss this abstract concept of “color” with a hearty reverence. I aimed for that exact ambition and ended up with a 2,500-word rainbow that had to be eventually reduced to a 1,200-word swatch. Throughout the editing cycle, one of the most illustrative sources was cut, the narrative arc was reshuffled and the story’s entire structure was visibly altered. Needless to say, I even advocated for an extended version to be at least posted online.
I can’t conclude that I’m entirely satisfied with the final product. My preferred draft rests somewhere between the original mammoth and today’s published iteration — a 1,500-word tablet inscription that I’m locking in a golden vault and burying in my backyard. But I suppose that’s just the feisty nature of the beast from whose unforgiving belly any journalist operates.
And now due shouts to everyone who made this enterprise story possible, whether they wanted to or not: Kersten Scanlon, Jimmy Winget, Tommy Wagner, Eric Davis, Greg Normil, Josh Elias, Brice Densmore, Turtle Matt, Jeff Goldman, Grant Harris, Mason Gransmiller, Chris Vanderpool, Kyle Geiger, Adam Molski, Ash Morimanno, Chris Mooney, Nate Sanders, Dom Sower, Krissy Schwartz, Brad Brown and Alex Shin.
A few dispatches from thy hurried self on the precipice of that awkward period of social isolation after Everyone Else departs for Bloomington and, well, Bloomington:
I have accepted a two-week extension on my summer internship with the Journal Gazette, which will now conclude around Sept. 11. My latest stories are being continually added to the Summer 2011 page in the left sidebar.
My enterprise story, initially teased on this very blog, will now be printed in Sunday’s paper after some delayworthy revisions.
I have been selected as the City desk editor for The Daily Northwestern Fall Quarter editorial board. Expect more high-stakes liquor license battles and more modestly, a touch of humanity in the typically humanity-aversive Evanston news cycle.
A high school buddy, the marvellously college-bound Joe Hanauer, and I are starting a Grantland-esque blog for spontaneous commentary throughout this upcoming school year. Three months from now, I will probably violently cringe at my one-time usage of “Grantland-esque.” My first post, about J. Cole’s exasperating search for that perfect debut single, should be finished within the next few days.
UPDATE, 12:26 a.m. Aug. 24: And my first post for One General Consensus is live. More to come in the irresistible way of hyper-novelty soundboards. You’ll understand one day.
As the insurmountable hype lurched toward a fever pitch — scratch that, a vertiginous episode — earlier this summer, there emerged a harrowing consideration for “Watch the Throne.” The growing concern was not necessarily whether the Jay-Z-Kanye West joint venture would painfully flop but whether it was torpedoing toward inevitable implosion. No album borne of any musical genre has elicited such irrepressible anticipation in recent memory, a designation most artists would interpret as a generous compliment. But not these two particular auteurs — if we can finally consent what The Throne produces is artistically transcendent, at least relative to their industry peers.
Buoying audience cravings has become a delicate science for rap’s undisputed tastemakers. The grueling lead-up to “Watch the Throne”‘s Aug. 8 digital release is decisively emblematic: Potential singles were nixed, entire albums were tossed and unleash dates were obscurely peddled. For even the more passive observers, the drawn-out process was outright enervating. For the artists’ diehard faithful, it was like hopelessly chugging an empty CamelBak, beseeching an invisible savior for at least sustainable hydration in each gasp of vacant oxygen.
Then perhaps it’s momentarily appropriate to label “Watch the Throne” a “Chinese Democracy”-esque achievement and invoke Chuck Klosterman’s cunning abstract of the Guns N’ Roses situation:
Reviewing Chinese Democracy is not like reviewing music. It’s more like reviewing a unicorn. Should I primarily be blown away that it exists at all? Am I supposed to compare it to conventional horses? To a rhinoceros?
Of course, it may be recklessly naive to draw the parallel between a classic rock band’s long-awaited return (15 years, to be exact) and, well, a frenzied product of the toddler-sized rap blog era. But it’s a contemporary example worth noting, if not for its historical merit, then for its convenient applicability.
Like “Chinese Democracy,” one must ponder the lurking possibility of a seemingly invincible endeavor bursting under the weight of its own quixotic preconceptions. The Throne did nothing to combat such an Achilles’s heel, announcing a grandiose tour before the album release as if the disc were a preordained nativity. All while the fanciful expectations throttled onward, our sage emcees puffed Cubans in the captain’s lounge instead of flailing their arms in alarming terror on the poop deck. What else could we expect from a self-proclaimed inventor of swag (patent pending) and his moderation-blind sidekick?
Does “Watch the Throne” tragically collide with this prognosticated iceberg? No. In fact, it barely clips the Titanic kryptonite. No life vests required. Yet it erratically veers and careens on occasion, and if you were cozily seated on board this familiar passenger liner I’ve rhetorically constructed, your water glass may wobble.
This very allegory breeds yet another implication: “Watch the Throne” is an unfulfilling disaster movie in that the disaster never explicitly happens. The proverbial chandelier shakes and rattles, and the whole album exudes this frantic riskiness, this untethered ambition, but it never unravels into unwonted oblivion.
And the casual listener will mostly appreciate the absence of an experimental critical mass. The weathered fans — and there’s a fixated plurality of them given the aforementioned production period — may be left a tad bit disillusioned, though. Therein lies the intrinsic ballsiness of teetering between mainstream sensibilities and some ambiguous import of wealth-on-wealth-on-wealth rap (yes, I know, the Hermes of verses). Compromising that core balance is not exactly a fatal shortcoming, but simply a signal of musical mortality. In fact, I’d be more prone to a negative perception of “Watch the Throne” if that core balance was invulnerable and each component rested perfectly supine and even-leveled in the scale pans.
There’s no express benefit of offering track-by-track reviews. Individual highlights have been hammered home by the various journalists who gained sacred access to the album’s listening sessions. However, I will emphasize one song and one song only, the bonus track diplomatically titled, “Illest Motherfucker Alive.”
It should be patently obvious at this point that “Watch the Throne” evokes few superlatives, let alone the surreal vagueness that is “illest.” Thus, the filthy-mouthed title embodies an overarching theme of this vexing, tormenting album: Even if our hip-hop disciples never quite climax the quixotic heights we have assembled for them, they at least meet us halfway. They may not be the illest motherfuckers alive, but they’re two of the iller motherfuckers alive, and that classification alone implies few viable rivals.
UPDATE, 3:12 p.m. Aug. 11: For reader reference only.
Got through that weekend like a subject and a predicate, tragically spare some footwear imbued with an ambiguous brown slush and khaki shorts mangled by projectile sweat, if it exists.
Obligatory festival imagery aside, this year’s Lolla probably heralded some painful realities for event organizers. I am by no vague measure a seasoned observer of the Grant Park block(s) party, which sputtered through its 20th anniversary with cresting attendance — 270,000 attendees over three days – but an equally simmering identity crisis. And yet there’s an instinctive itch to chronicle what could either be the eventual downspiral or self-alienating revival of Perry Farrell’s lakeside brainchild. Or lovechild, for the cynical allegories crowd.
Nowhere was Lollapalooza No. 20′s intrinsic dilemma more evident than at the Perry’s stage, a hangar-esque amalgamation of skull-blanking bass and freestyle debauchery. The Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot fittingly described it as “party central” of the entire festival and that label’s connotation is even more revealing: Perry’s was literally the enviable epicenter, while other stages, even the two mammoth north-south poles, assumed modest supporting roles.
My brief detour to the Playstation stage was starkly mature — cue subdued head-nodding and stationary, lifeless beer foam. Any Perry’s patron would have perplexingly balked. Where’s the perpetual canibis jet stream? What about the oddly discolored water bottles burrowed into backpack pits at the entry gates? And the prepubescent manhandlers in their amorphous blob of shameless PDA? Where are they?
That’s not to slyly imply the Perry’s atmosphere should be duplicated to instantly create a parkwide orgy. But its burgeoning dominance should be guaged heading forward and not just as a shallow signal that, hey, a lot of 18-to-24-year-olds prefer a shitfaced dubstep drop to some indie guitarist’s tasteful but totally-not-sexy solo.
The potential solution is a mere matter of stage scheduling, perhaps exemplified by Sunday night’s Deadmau5 festival closer. Under any presumptive scenario, the mouse-ears-bobbing deejay would have been a Perry’s staple, the type of rage-bait shiny-lighter that a Perry’s diehard could anticipate all day. However, Deadmau5 instead hovered over the Bud Light Stage — previous home of old crusties Ween and My Morning Jacket – as an unrelenting rain pounded into the MDMA-riddled audience. The end result was chicken soup for the sober mind: A mass migration of Perry’s would-be’ers, simply lured by a musically alike headliner who just happened to be on a different stage. Imagine. That.
OK, so maybe this revelation teeters on entry-level festival logic or even just a ubiquitous ”Field of Dreams” sound bite. Yet unless Lollapalooza bigwigs want Perry’s to swallow whole the surface appeal of everything surrounding it, there must be some confrontational foresight.
Don’t expand the Perry’s lineup or venue next summer, as has been frequently hinted throughout this weekend’s coverage. Reshuffle other stage schedules to accomodate such Perry’s shoo-ins as Skrillex and Pretty Lights — two crowd-commanding disciples as far as sea-of-people electronica goes. Maintain Perry’s niche credibility by booking proiminent but not widely accessible deejays. In summary: Defuse the dizzying crowd concentration, which for the record, is not necessarily the same as snuffing out that reckless, guiltless, morally bankrupt environment. That we still want.
UPDATE, 11:35 a.m. Aug. 9: Completed unrelated to the above comments, but here’s a preliminary link to my latest Flash project, which was actually delayed due to the Lollapaloozic weekend. So there.