by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Launch Pad & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & wo months ago, beloved Inlander contributor Cortney Harding called to ask if I knew anyone with a spare floor in Seattle. She was set to give a lecture at Experience Music Project on The Rocket, a prophetic Seattle music rag. The paper was a 20-year tastemaker, trumpeting bands like Modest Mouse years before most people had ever heard them. That got me thinking. What role do we play? What role should we be playing?
Nationally, alt publications like The Inlander are vital to scene building, but everyone does it differently. Big papers in huge scenes tend to be dismissive of bad music and rather cynical in general. Small papers in tiny, nascent scenes tend to faun over even the crap. Being a biggish paper in a smallish but quickly growing scene, neither solution fits perfectly. The weirdness of Spokane's scene is seen in the diversity of ways people are trying to cover it. Sidekick writes about everything in town informatively, but with little criticism. 7 wants to be the paper/blog/podcast of 18- to 35-year-olds (again, with little criticism). The Word, once a snarky, shit-talking 'zine, has become an esoteric ride through the mind of its editor, James Pants. One scene, four ways of tackling it.
The Rocket's plan of attack, for what it's worth, was honest criticism that tended to focus on good local bands, ignoring ones that weren't ready. That's more or less what we've tried to do since our January redesign. We think it's important to make value calls. That usually means deciding not to cover bad bands. Sometimes, though, it means asking groups we have hope for to step up and innovate. This often pisses people off (last week's Ying Yang review got people heated), but good art can't exist in a vacuum. The process of creation, discussion and revision is vital.
That goes for us too. An excerpt from Cortney's essay is on page 48. While reading, think about how art, journalism and criticism create healthy, productive scenes. Think about how you'd want it done. Then let us know.