Friday, November 30, 2007

It'll make a pretty paperweight

Tomorrow night the 20th annual Boston Music Awards convenes tomorrow evening to, well, what exactly do they do? Globe critic Joan Anderman knocks the awards and the scene they represent around this morning, and I'm inclined to agree with most of her assessment. Her best line:

"(it is a) near-impossibility of building a world-class industry event in a town that calls itself the Hub but operates as an outpost."

I could spend ages elaborating on this assessment, because it's dead-on. There is a myopia that characterizes many elements of life in Boston, and while it can lend a quaint charm to our sports fans or how crowded the North End is on weekends, it can kill a music scene in no time flat.

There are vibrant scenes here, but they tend to be very self-contained- a great set of singer-songwriters that congregate around Club Passim and the Toad/Lizard Lounge pairing, a cool almost-seedy punk/bar band scene at O'Brien's and Middle East (We miss TT the Bear's badly), a little Afro-beat scene that has flourished at Matt Murphy's, a jazz scene based primarily around the schools- a blessing and a curse too big to get into here- and a small but strong hip-hop scene that survives where it can. But note that none of the venues that I mention (save the schools) are in Boston proper- the combination of high rent, Puritanical zoning and the early close of the Boston transit system make having a hopping live music club really tough. Is there a solution(s)? I'd love to know 'em. Maybe I'd gig more...

Back to the awards themselves- no one I've talked to seems to quite know how the whole thing works. Ric Stone, 1/4 of the Quartet of Happiness, nominated for "best jazz act", told me they're grateful for the (little bit of) attention it's brought, but has no idea how they were nominated. They're in with long-timers and badasses Dominique Eade, Club D'Elf, Jacques Chanier, a long-suffering and unappreciated local, the Blueprint Project, a cool project of Jared Sims and Eric Hofbauer, newcomer Leah Randazzo (who, I'd note, I've never, never heard of, and who lives on the other side of the state), and Hiromi, the John Mayer of this category. (She went to Berklee, hasn't lived here in years, and has no discernable connection to Boston beyond Berklee and some national pub) As Miles might say, "judge that, how the &$^# am I supposed to judge THAT?" Well, since voting was an online popularity contest, it doesn't really say much about the quality of the winner, only of their bots.

We also seem to have an innate ability to cannibalize what scene there is here... see this old post as an example. And this kind of nonsense happens all the time here. (sigh)

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