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2003 - So Long, Suckers!

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Time to kick another year to the curb, friends, and hope the next one brings that winning lotto ticket. We hear Fiji's nice all the damn time. This year was, around here anyway, another example of just how deep the music talent pool is these days, locally and otherwise...and how inane the notion that some Classic Rock dinosaurs-past is the musical yardstick by which to measure anything -- except maybe the past. So, with no further ado, some highlights and low points from the year gone by...

Tim Davis' Rants and Raves

The Biting the Hand That Feeds You Award: To the RIAA, for suing 13-year-olds for deigning to like the swill you shove down their throats enough to want to download it onto their computers. May you find a career in a cleaner industry -- like pornography, for instance -- whenever your current one crumbles like the Berlin Wall (and it will, and soon).

The Coming Up Heads Award: 50 Cent: How come talented people like Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Scott LaRock and Jam Master Jay get "offed" and this idiot survives being shot nine times? And why is everybody afraid to say that he's a mediocre rapper, at best, surviving almost solely on the talents of Dr. Dre and other high-dollar producers? You afraid "Fi'ty" might come pop ya?

The Just Because You're a Major Label Rap Act Doesn't Mean You Have To Suck Award -- OutKast: Maybe the best band in America, and they even live on different coasts. And go figure -- they're talented as shit, have gone multi-platinum, and still do whatever the hell they want to do. In the staid world of major label hip hop, they are no less striking and inventive than The Beatles. If people would follow their lead, perhaps major-label rap would actually be "keeping it real." Also, big ups to Missy Elliott, the genre's clown princess.

Best National Trend: Singer/songwriters. Granted, most of the big-label troubadours (John Mayer/Michelle Branch, et al.) still leave something to be desired, but it's nice to know said artists are at least trying to pen their own stuff (or so we're told). Sucks for critics like the majority at Rolling Stone, though, as it leaves them no room but to blame bad albums on the artist themselves, thus possibly ruining their chances of featuring said artist on the cover (scantily clad, of course).

Local Music It Was a Very Good Year -- Or, Random Wishes for Charlotte Music in 2004 All Crammed Together in a Larry King-like "Three Dot" Style Column: That the Neighborhood Theatre is able to start bringing in top-notch acts like similar-sized clubs in Carrboro (Cat's Cradle) and Asheville (The Orange Peel)...That someone will put out a record by Todd Busch. It doesn't have to be on a national level, even. I have about five or six "records" by Busch, and they're some of the more interesting ones in my collection. Too bad most of his fans don't get the same chance...ditto Benji Hughes, though word has it some material may surface soon...That the venerable Double Door Inn is able to find a successful mix of the traditional (touring blues artists) and new (local and regional rock and Americana acts). If they never hosted another show they'd still be legendary, but here's hoping their (double) doors keep swinging for decades to come...That a club like The Room will pull off some of the off-kilter experimental booking that the late, great Fat City was so famous for...That the talented kids that make up the burgeoning hardcore/punk scene in this town continue to refuse to take "no" for an answer. Don't worry about what the older scenesters might think of you -- most of them wish they had your live draw...That ANTiSEEN continues to lay down the stomp for another 20 years...That folks like Trilogy Productions and Tracie Nasta and Scott McCannell and Mike Mitschele and Dave Massi and Gregg McCraw continue their imaginative booking. It really is the first step in "training" a conservative city like ours...That The Avett Brothers continue to pack "em in both in town and abroad. Their brand of throw-down bluegrass (call it Honky Stomp) is one of the few truly original things Charlotte has supported in quite some time...That Cougar Camp studio is able to find its niche in the local recording/sound manufacturing community, and help a few talented folks find their own sound in a comfortable, experiment-friendly environment...That my internet experimental radio show, free:form, will finally get off the ground (special thanks to Andrew Webster for the assist) That Tonic continues to provide a flashy alternative to the pub-rock circuit...That certain members of the Raleigh/Chapel Hill music nexus not only quit bashing Charlotte on websites like guitartown.org, but further realize that our local music scene far and away kicks the Triangle's ass -- in any genre (see the Complex Radio compilation, for starters)... And, finally, that any band wishing to be written about in CL sends a CD or links to some MP3s (hell, we'll settle for a tape), a picture, and a short little bio and list of band members to the address at the front of the paper. We sincerely look forward to slinging some ink your way. Well, most of you, anyway.

2004 - What's Cookin', Good Lookin'?

John Schacht's Kudos & Kvetches

Mem-o-ries, Of the Way We Were (Locally Speaking) -- Clem Snide, Califone and Pyramid rocking the Visulite in front of a good-sized mid-week crowd and providing the perfect combination of music: locals Pyramid and Chicago's Califone offered experimental sets that swung wildly between cacophonous crescendos and subtle, thoughtful silences, beginnings and endings blurring into one long set; then the smart-asses from Clem Snide put on an old-fashioned drunken rock show (virtually forcing us to imbibe more) while singing of Enrique Iglesias' mole and Christina Aguilera's implants, sending all grinning ear-to-ear into the night...Philly's Marah, basically the brothers Bielanko, leaving it all on stage in front of about eight extremely appreciative people at The Room ... Lou Ford's July 4th farewell at the Penguin was a sad but familiar affair, fueled by fireworks, cold beer and years of wistful memories of the Edwards brothers' Southern cured-to-perfection harmonies...The Houston Brothers' CD release party at a steamy, packed Steeple, another set of local siblings -- along with The Avett Brothers -- picking up the torch for local bands...and so the endless cycle continues.

Trends That Didn't Suck: The mix of electronica gadgetry and beats with pure roots music. From artists as varied as the aforementioned Califone, R.L. Burnside, Wilco, Sparklehorse and a host of other national acts down to locals like Pyramid and the Houston Brothers, musicians are adding modern accents to their twang/blues/roots without becoming pretentious prog rockers in the process...The Neighborhood Theatre's new management mixing up the variety of acts playing the spruced-up venue -- by addition, not subtraction...The Visulite hosting a wide array or acts in a music fan-friendly environment...Lea Pritchard's innovative booking at the cozy Evening Muse in NoDa; where else could you see the down-home stomp of The Two Dollar Pistols and the ethereal Wales-based Dynamo Dresden in one week?... A tip-of-the-cap to The Room's Dave Massi, quite possibly the most conscientious soundman in town... Cheers, all...And, finally, a big fat "thank you" to the folks on the "Tell Us the Truth" tour, who, despite the possible consequences, brought the (bad) news about radio conglomeration to 11 major US cities. The irony is I've heard folks in the music business rip Billy Bragg, Steve Earle and Tom Morello for "politicizing the issue." Wake up and smell the monopolies, folks. Which leads us to...

Stupid Stuff That Should Stop: The continuing devolution of local radio, thanks almost exclusively to ClearChannel's homogenizing, Lowest Common Denominator programming. Five minutes of Classic Rock dinosaurs, "alternative" garbage, and jerk-off radio "personalities" will have you ripping that thing out of the dash faster than you can say "Bob Seger" or "JohnBoy and Wanker"...The largely one-way sniping between ex-talent Ryan Adams and, well, nearly every other rock act on earth; Adams' most recent tour through the Midwest brought a new nadir, with half his audiences throwing up their arms and leaving by the second half of his "act," which has turned into half (bad) Vegas act and half ode to Sid Vicious -- post overdose... At least the White Stripes' Jack White put his, um, fists where his mouth was -- not to mention Von Bondies' singer Jason Stollsteimer's nose and eye...Big-name indie bands skipping Charlotte and playing virtually every other less-populated city in the Carolinas instead. Tours that failed to stop here this year? Wilco, the Flaming Lips, Guided By Voices, My Morning Jacket (kudos to one venue for trying, at least).

Quote of the Year, or, The Danger of Idol Worship: Paul Westerberg on Westerberg-wannabe Ryan Adams: "I see his fuckin' haircut, I hear his fuckin' whine, I see his fake clothes, and then he opens his fuckin' mouth and all I want to do is smash the fucker's teeth down his throat."

Gone but not forgotten: Mongo Santamaria, Maurice Gibb, Johnny Paycheck, Howie Epstein (Tom Petty), Edwin Starr, Nina Simone, Noel Redding, June Carter-Cash, Johnny Cash, Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Knepper, Barry White, Herbie Mann, Skip Battin (Byrds bassist), Benny Carter, Compay Segundo, Celia Cruz, Sam Phillips, Warren Zevon, Robert Palmer, Elliot Smith, Bobby Hatfield, Wesley Webb "Speedy" West, Jeremy Michael Walters (Mars Volta) and way too many more...thanks for the music, the greatest gift of all.

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