Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

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pahouk
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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby pahouk » Fri Oct 22, 2010 3:28 pm

I have to admit I've been thinking a little about this article since it came out, mostly because it seemed to confirm some things I've been wondering lately. The first time I saw TLW was in 2008, so I'm fairly late to the game. At that first show I was grateful that John took time to talk to everyone after the show, oldtimers and first timers like me. Now that I've been seeing them for awhile I've been wondering if I'm imposing on John's good nature by stopping by after the show. Also, like Adam, I've wondered if I should be letting those who haven't had a chance to talk to the band to have their turn. For now I guess I've settled on saying a quick hello, but only if there aren't too many people waiting. I'm hoping that's an acceptable balance between wanting to keep in contact with the band and being an excessive drain on their time.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby John » Sun Oct 24, 2010 2:33 am

The thing that precipitated me writing about superfans--beyond the primary reason of needing to get back into the swing of writing a weekly column and having forgotten completely how to do it--was an email I got from a gal in Seattle who was deeply devastated that a band she'd been championing had recently started being courted by the major labels and had gone from being super nice and accommodating to her to being, according to her, standoffish and cold. I knew the band she was talking about (they were Long Winters fans and had geeked out at me many times after shows) and I knew that they were young enough and the attention they were getting was so over-blown there was no way they weren't going to get a little big-headed. But I also knew, from personal experience, that my friend's reaction might ALSO have been a little bit "emo". I mean, she was one of the first people to over-hype this band, and I said to her a few months ago, "Hey, cool it, these kids are too young for you to be telling them they're the future of rock music". So now the kids actually start to believe they're the future of rock music, what do you expect?

Anyway, my first draft of the article was very general, trying to address this super-emotional issue in words that weren't going to hurt anyone's feelings. I was PARTICULARLY conscious of not wanting to appear to be ungrateful, or to seem like I felt like interactions with people who love my creative work was burdensome. I believe I was successful in NOT giving that impression, but that defensive reaction is almost impossible to avoid when addressing the concept of fandom DIRECTLY to fans. See my paragraph above. I expected that the comments section of the Weekly would have a few sour-grapes comments to the effect that "Oh, big rock star, having fans is soooo hard on him." But I certainly didn't expect it from anyone here. And I never would have wanted to put Mike McCusker or Liesbeth or any of you into a position where you felt you needed to define yourself or defend yourself.

So anyway, my editor at the Weekly, bless his heart, said, "It's great John, but can you add a more personal element? Can you talk about your experiences with your own fans?" He wanted me to add more anecdotes, to sex it up, and I sighed and said "sure", even though I didn't want to. And the reason that I didn't want to is that, far more than most of my peers, I KNOW you guys. Those of you who have stuck around with us through all the years are friends, and I don't really want to talk about the nuances of those relationships--each one different--in the context of some kind of "superfan" generalization.

But, of course, I've had plenty of fan interactions that you guys are only dimly aware of. The last time we played in Antwerp a 16 year old girl stood at the barricade after the show and shrieked my name, SHRIEKED IT, until her FATHER (poor guy) dragged her away, because I'd taken the time to talk to her in Utrecht and Rotterdam I now couldn't be found and brought forth. And let's not get on the topic of the few Long Winters fans we all know who have gone off the rails on this very message board. But there have also been people on this very board who five or six years ago might have seemed to be the ultimate superfans who are now gone, and I took the time with them after shows too and it didn't always go so well. Sometimes they wanted too much, or they misread signs, or they thought the songs were about things they aren't about. I know a thing or two about superfans, and not all of my fan interactions have been as positive as the ones with Adam, or Liesbeth, or Moni, or Pat or the dozen or so other people who still post here. So I added some anecdotes, tried to sex the article up a little bit, "Oh, yeah, this one time, we crashed at this house in Memphis, and, man, you should have seen it..."

Except that shit is boring, too. Those are the kind of stories that bands share with each other in dressing rooms when they're just getting to know each other. It's a kind of proving yourself, of everybody pissing on the same fire hydrant. And I was conscious, again, of this audience, here, and feeling like I needed to make some references to all the invaluable support we've gotten from fans, all the help and encouragement. So then the article took another turn, with me inserting shout-outs and references to people I loved and appreciated into an article that started out being about a local girl who needed to take a chill-pill about some local band that was getting too big, too fast.

The thing is, I don't think the article failed to incorporate all these ideas. It's not my most elegant writing, but considering that I barely remember how to write 900 words a week, it manages to get the ideas across. Whenever you address the concept of fandom to fans, the first reaction of most people is to say "Not me, that's not me, I don't do that." Which is fine. But I don't think there's any actual element of complaint or lack of appreciation from me in the piece. I'm trying to explain an idea which shouldn't come as a tremendous surprise to anyone, that being in a band is oftentimes hard work, and having made a commitment to be engaged with my audience compounds the work sometimes. That's my choice, and I think I'm clear that what I get out of the exchange makes the challenges more than worth it. And, honestly, it's not fair to say that it's the artist's responsibility to set, and be clear about, all the social limits he or she would like honored at any given moment. I mean, there's a way that artists do that, and it's called no access at any time. Plenty of artists do that, or limit their interactions to autograph sessions on the way to the van. But if you're interested in knowing your audience, in letting them know you, then the power to make all the decisions is no longer your arbitrary realm. You have to count on your fans to recognize when you appear too tired, when you appear skittish or frazzled, or when you're talking to A REALLY PRETTY GIRL RIGHT NOW AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS THING IN JUST A SECOND? I mean, it's a shared relationship, and some fans are more sensitive than others, frankly. For me to say, "I'm busy right now, talking to this pretty girl, can you wait until I'm finished please?" would be pedantic, would be offensive, and would introduce into the dialogue I'm trying to have (both with the pretty girl and the longtime fan) a paternalistic element I'm neither interested in projecting nor energetic enough after a show to muster.

So, publishing that article I knew it was a bit of a Frankenstein, and I knew it would generate some kind of discussion here. But I hoped foremost that this particular audience would recognize that, firstly, I would never make the messageboard community a topic of ridicule or mockery and that I am writing to an audience of Seattle housewives who are reading the paper at Starbucks waiting for their dog to get permed, or whatever. And second, as Sour29 so aptly conveys, when I'm on tour and come to Vienna, or Toronto, or Iowa City, or wherever, I KNOW YOU ARE THERE. I want to talk to you, too. And I'm also trying to put on a good show, manage my band, get to the next town, and deal with the fact that I have a terrible immune system, a deeply introverted nature that I mask with jocularity, 15 years of sobriety, and about five minutes to myself a day. I don't consider my interactions with my fans a burden, but that does not mean that I'm not shouldering any burdens. Not to mention the biggest one of all, the one that causes me to write songs in the first place, which is that I AM A DARK MOTHERFUCKER!

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby Liesbeth » Sun Oct 24, 2010 1:32 pm

And, honestly, it's not fair to say that it's the artist's responsibility to set, and be clear about, all the social limits he or she would like honored at any given moment.

I feel I should address this, since I was the one who raised that point. I can see that the way I phrased it may have sounded pedantic and putting the ball to much in the artist's court and I apologize if it did. What I meant to say is two things.
One is that it seems that bands (and by no means is this specifically about TLW at all) often don't really take much time to consider how they can deal with fans - both on the level of dealing with fans who want access of some sort and in dealing with fans who contribute to the band somehow. It just not something that seems to be important at first, when you're dealing with making music and getting it heard. But because it is never really a point of discussion and not very high on the list in 'the pop artist manual', as business get bigger, certain things seem to 'simply happen', when putting a little thought into it might have made them go easier. I don't assume this is an easy matter at all: on the Reverb website I mentioned that my husband once had a fan who had our phone number and at a certain point literally called every other day. Sure, it was darned annoying, but also something that we could have handled a lot better if we hadn't stuck our heads in the sand hoping it would just go away.
The second thing I meant to convey was some general advice about how an artist's communication can influence the balance. Again I wasn't specifically talking about TLW. I was writing this both from observation and from personal experience. I can point out the times where I too have overstayed an artist's welcome (yes, with TLW as well,sorry) and actually realized I was doing it, yet somehow couldn't stop myself from doing so. I could go into all the factors that spawn this kind of behavior, but the bottom-line is that this is what fans often do. So coming back to what John wrote, I wouldn't say it is the artist's 'responsibility' to be clear about all the limits. But since fan behaviour is the way it is, it might a good idea as an artist to be as clear as possible. Not much fun at all, I'm sure. And I appreciate that this is a real issue for any artist and I think that you're a good example of being able to find a way to keep the balance quite well.

John wrote: And I never would have wanted to put any of you into a position where you felt you needed to define yourself or defend yourself.

I've been thinking that what the response here perhaps shows, is that we did feel the need to define ourselves. Most of the time we are superfans on our own, and here is where we meet, so why not discuss our feelings about this matter here as well. In your article you raised some interesting points, that in my view at least, spawned an interesting and mature discussion. I for one didn't feel you made the messageboard community a topic of ridicule or mockery at all.

Hopefully this clarifies my story a bit.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby No You Are » Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:38 am

I tell ya what... I think the fact that we are able to have the Superfans and the Bands Who Love/Tolerate Them discussion here in a very adult way is pretty cool in itself. Nice to know that can actually happen on the internet.

And I meant adult as in mature, not "Bow Chicka Bow Bow".

That conversation is for Cattywampus.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby Moni » Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:30 am

John wrote: You have to count on your fans to recognize when you appear too tired, when you appear skittish or frazzled, or when you're talking to A REALLY PRETTY GIRL RIGHT NOW AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS THING IN JUST A SECOND?


You are absolutely right, and many times it's obvious, but some other times, it's not so obvious, or people might misjudge a situation. And in those cases, a friendly No would be better than a Yes if you don't really mean it. In my experience, Americans give you that "Yes, but what I actually really mean is NO" a lot more often than Europeans, because they seem to be more concerned about appearing polite to everyone else around them.
Being the completely insecure dork that I am, I always appreciate it when people are being honest with me, so I don't have to second-guess myself that much. But then of course on the other hand, no one should have to adapt his behaviour just because they are dealing with an insecure dork. Oh well.

So, how's that for emo horseshit? Right.

Anyway, I never thought you were out to ridicule or mock anyone in your article, either.
Also, "I am a dark motherfucker" sounds like a nice epitaph.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby No You Are » Mon Oct 25, 2010 1:12 pm

Moni wrote:Also, "I am a dark motherfucker" sounds like a nice epitaph.


I was thinking autobiography. Or maybe solo album.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby sour29 » Mon Oct 25, 2010 7:01 pm

Or a t-shirt.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby pahouk » Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:55 am

This week's article, about rock crowds, is up: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2 ... ock_sh.php. I have to admit the types of people he mentioned sound awfully familiar. I think he needed to include a discussion of guys (and it is usually guys) who find it necessary to point to the stage very enthusiastically throughout the show. We all know where the band is.

I do have mixed feelings about his last paragraph. As a (very) short girl I do appreciate when tall guys try not to stand in front of me but I feel bad when they move to the back and leave their short girlfriends up front. I figure that finding a place where I can see is my problem (which is why I always show up excessively early to shows). On the other hand I've had people show up late and try and shove their way in front of me. They quickly find out that what I lack in height I make up for in stubbornness and they will not be getting in front of me. (Sometimes it requires the usage of elbows to make my point.)

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly

Postby Moni » Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:16 am

John wrote:I've learned that I need to keep busy. I mean, busy writing, rather than constantly agreeing to be the lame, "celebrity" judge or host or guest of somebody else's pet project.


It looks like John's going to be very busy with the writing-thing over the next few weeks:
http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2 ... rb_edi.php
http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2 ... st_edi.php

(yes I am wondering how this is going to slow down/speed up the process of finishing *that* album, but I will do so quietly)

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby sour29 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 7:13 am


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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby pahouk » Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:04 pm

This week's article is up: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2 ... hey_ju.php.

I'm always curious about how some bands seem to pull it together and become "professionals" and some bands never seem to get past the talented amateur stage. Most of the bands I've seen that either couldn't or wouldn't get their act together seem to fade away. It's sad because some of those bands seemed to have some potential. I've also seen bands at the other end of the spectrum. They've done this same exact show so many times they could do it in their sleep. You know, the "Hello, (fill in city name here)" kind of bands. Even when the show is good it's somehow not quite satisfying.

I've always thought TLW shows strike a nice balance between the two. I'm not sure who these people are that think the shows aren't serious enough but I'm glad John didn't listen to them. The band seems to have fun playing (or at least they're good at faking it) but they aren't sloppy.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby pahouk » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:09 pm

This week's column is up: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2 ... alists.php. Also there's a short article about Five Finger Death Punch's cover of Bad Company: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2 ... ompany.php. I have to admit when John tweeted about this last week I looked up the video, thinking that I would be amused. Actually I found the combination of the excessively macho war footage with the song lyrics disturbing. When Bad Company sang the song it was just kind of posturing. The thought of a bunch of soldiers in Afghanistan gleefully singing about being Bad Company was upsetting (and I'm by no means a pacifist). I hate when bands ruin songs I like.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby Moni » Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:37 am

New one!
http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2 ... hows_c.php
Someone in the comment section posted an article related to the topic: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/art ... le1722525/
A very interesting read as well.

pahouk wrote:I've always thought TLW shows strike a nice balance between the two. I'm not sure who these people are that think the shows aren't serious enough but I'm glad John didn't listen to them. The band seems to have fun playing (or at least they're good at faking it) but they aren't sloppy.


My thoughts exactly. I can remember only very few shows where there were moments I wished the band/singer would cut the bullshit and get on with the music; there were certainly more where I felt the band was rushing through their set without ever really trying to connect with the audience.
Why music business-type people would complain that John is not being serious enough in his shows is beyond me.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby Liesbeth » Thu Nov 25, 2010 11:07 am

Chucked Profit is a brilliant title for this great piece. Also loved the recent music and drugs article, another great analysis. John's nailing 'em, imho.

About messing around at shows, I have to say that I can remember at least one LW show moment where the messing about came awefully close to 'hey, get your shit together'. I'm saying this as a generally very forgiving fan: I love the loose feel of LW shows and wouldn't have them all pretty and polished. One of the great things about TLW is that you'll never know exactly what you'll get. No offense to Nada Surf, for example, but I think on every show I"ve seen the past few years, great as they were, they've opened and closed with exactly the same songs...

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby sour29 » Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:06 am

Liesbeth wrote:No offense to Nada Surf, for example, but I think on every show I"ve seen the past few years, great as they were, they've opened and closed with exactly the same songs...

You know what? For the first handful of Nada Surf songs I went to, they were quite different and very enjoyable. Then they did exactly this. I knew not only what they were going to open with, but I could guess the order of at least five of the first six songs. Probably more. They did back to back shows in Chicago, and for the main set, played song-for-song in identical order, the same set, excepting a request I made earlier in the day. When they encore came, they blew me away with No Quick Fix -- but up until that point, I was yawning. It's not that I mind hearing the same old songs, but I *do* mind hearing them in the same old order. Something as simple as switching the order creates a whole new experience for the returning fan.

On the leg of this past tour, Nada Surf broke out 2 new songs from the cover album, and 2 older ones that I haven't heard in half a decade (which were a very welcome surprise!) and made the show that much more enjoyable. But yeah. Their setlists have gotten just a tad bit too predictable. I guess that's the price of being a long-term fan, though.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby Liesbeth » Sat Nov 27, 2010 7:27 am

but it must be so boring for a band themselves to always know what's coming next!

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby Unremarkable » Mon Nov 29, 2010 12:46 pm

Liesbeth wrote:but it must be so boring for a band themselves to always know what's coming next!


Unless there are a few songs in the set that they haven't played in 5+ years or so. Then it's like, "oh man, the super fans are going to freak when we play the opening chords of this one!" Or if there are some new songs they don't quite know how to play yet. I would imagine they get a lot of excitement from the anticipation of not knowing how the audience is going to react to some songs.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby sour29 » Mon Nov 29, 2010 8:40 pm

I get that there's a reason why a lot of songs get played in the same order frequently. Maybe they use the same guitars (or worse, the same tuning!), the same pedal settings, or the songs work better in tandem than they do separately, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating for the seasoned fan. It's hard to remember that every concert is SOMEONE'S first (insert band name here) concert, and they are really dying to hear that hit song, (insert hit song name here).

I made the mistake of going into my first Nada Surf concert only knowing Popular. I got lucky -- the band was so phenomenal that I didn't even CARE they didn't ever really play it back then. But sometimes, other bands AREN'T good enough to make the person who doesn't know the albums inside and out forget the band isn't playing all the hits in chronological order. It has to be tough to be a band and have to strike that balance. So, I get it. Doesn't mean I like it. Which is why the balance I always appreciate is, if you have to play the same songs, mix up the order as much as possible. And bring at least one new song with you every time you visit a town.

But yeah, I wonder what was going through Nada Surf's heads when they said, "Hey, why don't we play No Quick Fix?! Sure, that's a song that won't even be officially released in North America for another year, and even then, it will be as an MP3 download bonus for the limited edition vinyl boxset! But why not?!" I mean, out of all songs to break out, I'm shocked they went with one as relatively obscure as that one. I can't imagine there were more than a dozen people in the room who could name the song, and fully appreciate it from the opening chord. But it must have been an exciting song to play, and I hope they brought it to other towns on that tour.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby Squid » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:56 am

I'd volunteer that set lists most likely fall under all the same logistical restraints that came up with regard to fan interaction: timing, energy, mood, etc. The knowledge that you are a) trying to win over strangers and simultaneously not let down old fans and b) allegedly trying to shill new songs/new album. That's a tough balance. And if you wake up in Nebraska in a shitty mood, maybe you're not going to be as inclined to dig deep into your catalog as you might be otherwise.

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Re: Article by John in the Seattle Weekly Reverb Residency

Postby Moni » Fri Dec 17, 2010 1:52 am

Hmm, John's last 2 columns haven't posted/discussed here yet, which is a shame because the one from 3 weeks ago is really great in my not very humble opinion:
http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2 ... e_only.php
I think hands-on experience beats college education in A LOT of cases. Many fields of study seem to be mostly self-serving (esp. arts), all you can do with a degree is to become a college teacher yourself.



And here's the one from this week, on Phil Spector: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2 ... arn_fr.php


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