Normals, take a break; Musics, listen up:
Did you hear? The Portland Phoenix announced its Portland Music Awards on Monday and everyone collectively lost their shit. Gripes about not being nominated, gripes about other people not being nominated disguised as “altruism” in order to just air grievances, saying that the awards are bullshit and that they don’t matter but PLEASE VOTE ANYWAY, I mean just being fucking dicks, generally.
Look, there is one thing that we can all agree on, and that is that Rustic Overtones, Spencer Albee, The Ghost of Paul Revere, Spose, The Mallett Brothers, Weakened Friends and Samuel James are the artists who are most likely to win any of these awards, because they’re the only bands that people who aren’t ‘on the scene’ know. The people who leave the house for live music two times a year for Beatles Night or for a New Year show or whatever, they know these bands/artists. The people who read the Phoenix.
We all know that nobody listens to fucking music anymore, and when they do, it’s whatever album they loved when they were like 22 years old, because most people seem to developmentally stop using their capacity for music newness around that age. Unless you keep those muscles sharp, unless you exercise your ability to hear new things, you stagnate.
But there’s a message here, and I need to talk about it with you: we all need to be seen, we all have a need to be acknowledged and told that we are valid, that the things we do have meaning and have an impact. That is a universal truth, a core tenet of what it means to be a human being. I mean I feel you, you know? I want those things too.
Love them or hate them, Rustic Overtones, Spencer Albee, The Ghost of Paul Revere, Spose, The Mallett Brothers, Weakened Friends and Samuel James have worked their fucking asses off, every day and every night, for years, to get where they are. I can already hear you joking about how Portland is small potatoes and who cares, etc. But anyone making snarky jokes like that has never been humbled by giving themselves over to the character-building work of creating a draw and a name, even in a small city like ours. It’s complicated, political, expensive, fickle, emotionally demanding work. And a lot of the time, you can try and try and try and it still doesn’t work.
But while deftness with self promotion, years of non-stop work and some kind of funding (from themselves or elsewhere) often intersect with being a compelling, talented and skilled artist, correlation does not imply causation. What I’m saying is that if you feel like your art is less valid because you can’t get people out to your show or you weren’t nominated for an award, you’re wrong. Your art IS valid, it IS important, and it IS NEEDED.
Now, I’m not saying that your art is necessarily great right now, though - I’ve made awful things in my life that I tried to pass off as good art. I mean Jesus H., you should read my shitty poetry from when I was 21. It’s AWFUL and I’ve destroyed all of it, and I thank my fucking lucky stars that the Internet didn’t archive shit like that forever back when I was writing like that. Just thinking about it right now gives me the cringies. Crazy embarrassing. Shit, as a visual artist, I had a hippie phase where I made a lot of millefiori beaded necklaces and like, tiny fruit beads and shit. Gross! Why?
Here’s why: because I was developing my voice. You guys never saw my very first music blog (“The Kenny Bloggins Family Meat and Candy Jam,” R.I.P. you Prince of Maine, you King of New England). It wasn’t very good, but it was something. And then I just reworked, and worked some more, then reworked that. I lost faith. I was ignored and nobody cared if I wrote a single word or not. I took breaks. I came back to it. I kept trying.
And then my mom died and I didn’t do anything. I grieved and thought my life was over. I thought that I would never have real community again, I thought I would never do anything that had an impact on anyone. I lost touch with any kind of creative endeavor. I did drugs, I got drunk, I cried, I slept and wasted years. I became envious of anyone doing art and making it happen for themselves, I got bitter and withdrawn. And then... I got over it.
And the fact is, even though I work hard to write good content and make good art, I don’t think most of the shit I put out is all that great. At my art installation on Sunday, a woman openly laughed, loudly, in my face at a really vulnerable moment when I was letting a lot of emotion show. OUCHIE. I had a former friend recently tell me that a lot of my blog posts “don’t land.” There was an intense emotional impact on me when I heard that, I felt bad about it, but also - he was right, and I have to be able to admit that. A lot of my blog posts are bullshit. I AGREE. But it’s a discipline and I just have to keep going, even when what I make is terrible, boring or insignificant. Even when people leave nasty comments or take issue with what I have to say, or don’t read it at all, which is mostly what happens.
Did any of you even read Nick’s introduction to the awards? It was right up there at the top. He literally says that he wishes it weren’t a contest, that the intention of the awards is to shine a light on the music being made here in Portland, and that they focused on artists that were very active in 2017. In Portland. Active in Portland. Because the Phoenix is focused on Portland.
It’s like this, let’s use a very personal metaphor. I am almost always single, with relatively short periods of time when I’m engaged with a partner on any kind of significant level. For years, and across all of the people and places I’ve been, my best friends have told me that I encounter difficulties with meeting people to date because I’m complicated, strange, intensely focused on my own goals, unsettlingly obsessed with death, I’m intimidatingly smart, I literally have no idea how to make small talk, I have a big mannish nose and my body is big and tall (HUSKY MEANS FAAAAATTTTTTT), and I’m fiercely self-protective.
In other words, I’m not for everyone. I’m not easy to understand or relate to. I take hard work, and most people really don’t want to do any hard work.
And I think music - any kind of art, really - is often the same way. If you are a visual artist in Maine and you don’t paint lighthouses or make rustic pottery, good luck getting into a mainstream gallery. If you are a dancer who doesn’t fit the narrow and basically-impossible-to-achieve-without-the-right-DNA body archetype, you’re probably not getting a solo in the Portland Ballet. And if you’re a musician whose music isn’t easily categorized or already comfortable to people by virtue of conforming to a set of tropes with which Americans are already familiar, it is so, so hard to get anyone to give you any credence. Without the right motivation, nobody wants to do that work.
It takes years and years of hard work on the daily to get anyone to notice you if you’re a musician. Nobody cares how long you spent working out every detail of a song; they’re not in your head. Nobody will care that YOU CARE so deeply about your music unless you share it, widely, repeatedly, and with great force, in new and exciting ways, and you have to be totally ok with people hating what you do, or worse - not giving a shit at all. You have to believe in yourself and your purpose. You have to know that what you’re doing is for you before everything else.
If you don’t believe in yourself, why are you making music in the first place? If it isn’t for YOU first and foremost, if you require approval to make it work, why do you do it?
This is why I have such respect for Spencer Albee and find the title of his album so hilarious: Relentlessly Yours. I mean, truly, he gets it. He gets what it takes to be the guy everyone nominates and everyone goes to see. Being absolutely fucking relentless. That’s it. He nailed it. Spencer knows that for the sake of his art, it doesn’t matter if everyone likes you. Be the guy who is relentless, and it won’t matter; they’ll come to see you and nominate you for shit anyway.
Are you relentless? Do you work all the time? Is every waking thought about your music and how to make it better, how to get it heard? Have you built your life around being an artist, and around how to be a better artist every day? When you’re not working on your art, are you crawling out of your skin to get back to it? Be honest with yourself before you snark out on facebook about feeling snubbed.
Were there some oversights on that nominations list? Maybe? I don’t know though, I mean I saw names on there like 32French, Hannah Daman, Joel Thetford, Five of the Eyes, Forget Forget, Jeff Beam, Lisa/Liza, Ben Shorr, a ton more who I won’t list for brevity’s sake, but I mean you guys - I am here on the front lines, I look at music listings EVERY DAY. And these fucking people? They worked their fucking asses off this year. They really tried and put every effort into doing their art, tolerated the naysayers and the indifference, and just pushed through.
My only gripe with the Phoenix’s awards would be that I’d like to see them add a “workhorse” category - the Kate Beevers and Dan Capaldis and Dustin Sauciers of our city, the people who enrich this music community from the inside, who can do anything, who add their incredible artistry to other people's’ albums on the daily and just push, push, push, behind the scenes, relentlessly. These are the John Paul Joneses of Portland, Maine - incredible session players, composers and arrangers who make this scene better.
I mean I guess I’m just disappointed. Do you hate this community? Who told you that you’re supposed to be the most important person in a room at any given time? That’s not how life is. A little humility right now would suit everyone in this scene, because all of this resentment and infighting? It’s not a good look for us. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, all of this negative energy will get us nowhere, fast.
And, you know, I don’t think anyone took a minute to fucking thank Nick for bringing the awards back in the first place. I founded this blog because the Phoenix had like zero music content worth a shit, and it didn’t do justice to the art being made here. And so now you have an editor who’s taking the time to honor you and your community and you fucking shit all over it just because you’re not the center of attention. Grow the fuck up. You know how you feel resentment because nobody knows how hard you work on your music? Newsflash: writing and organizing an awards show doesn’t just pour out of your asshole like the post-bender diarrhea you had at work this morning. It takes *GASP* a lot of hard work and time. He did that for you. Fucking say "thank you for all your hard work, Nick," and be gracious like a real grown up. Where in the fuck are your manners?
No, really, where the FUCK ARE YOUR MANNERS?
Someone bring me my fainting couch, I’ve got a case of the Can’t Even With Any Of This Shit Anymores.
Look, I’m going to leave you with this. I see you, and I value your art, whether it’s the first shitty thing you ever made or you’re writing perfect pop tunes. Life is so hard, you’ve been through so much, and we need each other now more than ever. Please try to find some love and grace in your heart to show up for your community. That’s what life is for, not to wither away alone in bitterness and anger. And you can always talk to me. I’m serious about that. Message me or walk up to me if you see me around, I will always support you in your artistic endeavors. I’m not joking when I tell you guys I love you and I care about you. That’s real. Take it to the bank, I’ve got the receipts.
Friday November 10
SPACE Gallery hosts a fundraiser and act of solidarity for Puerto Rico with some of our area’s best: Kafari, AFRiCAN Dundada, Lisa Liza, Lina Tullgren and Milo.
Ronnie Earl and the Broacasters are at OLS.
Hella Good Tacos, local taco scourge and purveyors of general lunchtime confusion host a punk show with Thee Icepicks, Time out Timmy, No Good and Hopeless Losers.
Nice Life, The English Muffins and Safe/Word are at the Apohadion.
Rigor Samsa, FonFon Ru and Computer at Sea are at Bayside Bowl.
A Perfect Circle is at the Civic Center.
Pardon Me, Doug is at PHOME.
Carbon Leaf and Will Evans are at PCMH.
Liz Hogg, Random Ideas, The Asthmatic and Black Mica are at Geno’s.
‘Saturday November 11
Mark Tipton and Triage are at the Apohadion.
Recycled Percussion are at Aura.
Chris Ross and the North, Bootstrap Cannonball and Joel Thetford are at PHOME.
Hip Hops 6 is over at Oxbow with Pharoahe Monch and DJ Boogie Blind.
Flask celebrates a decade of being a part of the west end with their 10 year anniversary party.
LSP and The Gravity Sessions are at Apohadion.
Riverton Diesel, Battery Steele and Retro Grave are at Geno’s.
Five of the Eyes, Added Color and QUAD are at Empire.