Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Role of "Bad Music" and My Latest Hate Mail

Anybody who has anything to say, and does so publicly, will get hate mail. In my case it's hate blog comments, but it works the same way. I just got one inspired by my review of the Locash Cowboys set opening for Cross Canadian Ragweed. It made me think.

I think I understand how hate mail works. A person is angered by something but they can't do anything about it--another person's opinion, for example. They also can't picture discussing the matter with whomever set them off.

This is why the nexus of music and politics generates so much hate mail. Just ask The Dixie Chicks.

Writers of hate mail have one thing exactly right. The reason the angry person can't picture discussing the matter is that there truly is nothing to discuss. Music and politics (and religion) have so much to do with identity that rational thought and forthright conversation can slip away very quickly.

Emotion takes over. End of conversation.

None of that is news. What was thought provoking about the hate mail I just got was not the ad hominem abuse or that the sender may not have read much of my review, or didn't spell check. Those things are all pretty standard. Most people don't put a lot of thought into their hate mail. They get mad, rip through writing the message and shoot it off before they cool down enough to think better of it.

What struck me was the pointlessness. Here is a person who is probably only a casual fan of this band, but identifies with them. I criticized the band and because they identify with the band they felt criticized. Fair enough. Somebody bashes a band I like I may have some feelings about that.

Still, if some act I dig is doing something lame that I didn't notice, I want to know...although not for the reasons you might expect.

The ultimate pointlessness, the real reason this person was wasting his or her breath, is that I wasn't talking to them. I wasn't talking to the fans. I was talking to artists. My problem is with artists who disrespect their audience. If the audience still enjoys the show, fine. Good for them.

It isn't about being right or what you like. It's about making more and better music and, as Henry Rollins says, what you give your audience.

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