Last week, the new Dallas Observer music editor, Kiernan Maletsky, who just arrived to Dallas from St. Louis, wrote an article entitled, “What are Your Favorite Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton Bands and Venues?” In it, he made the following request:
Tell me what you’re up to or what your friends are up to or what you wish you and your friends were up to. Give me a few parties you think I should crash. Specifically, as the title of this here blog posts suggests, name me your favorite bands and venues anywhere in the vicinity, and I will make it a point to track them down in the coming weeks and monts [sic].
I’m a blank slate at this point. There is no particular scene or band or genre or anything I’m attached to…
At first, I was shocked that an editor, even a brand new one, would be willing to display such an open lack of knowledge of any kind regarding the North Texas scene. Had he not been briefed? The Observer has had quite a few music editors in the past decade or so, and even when they’re from out-of-town, that almost never stops them from showing up as an overnight authority. Sometimes that’s justified. Most of the time it’s not.
I then silently applauded Maletsky’s willingness to admit that the only thing he knows is that he doesn’t know anything about Dallas at all … yet. That’s both brave and admirable. He could have probably faked it, and probably gotten away with it. I’ve seen it work before. His lack of being “attached” to any scene, or band, or genre is enviable, though genres are generally universal at this point, as opposed to being region-specific.
Then a new problem makes itself apparent. If you leave the suggestions to the public, you’re at the mercy of those answers. It gets very People’s Choice Awards, or worse, “Reader’s Choice.” People don’t go to magazines and blogs for the voice of the people. “The People” choose El Fenix as their favorite Mexican restaurant, and Barnes and Noble as their favorite bookstore. In other words, screw “the people.”
Maletsky received 75 suggestions from the local music proletariat for his troubles. Not only were the answers predictable, they were so predictable, as to become bafflingly and counterintuitively unpredictable. “Anything Tim DeLaughter has his hands in,” goes one answer. Is it 1996? 2001? You almost have to love how perpetually opposed the North Texas music-loving public can be to change. It would almost be charming, were it not embarrassing instead.
The Granada is mentioned 18 times. Club Dada is mentioned 14 times. The Kessler, though one of our greatest rooms, but not exactly an everyday kind of local music hangout, is mentioned 14 times. Trees, 12. Did the readers of the Dallas Observer really think that the new editor wasn’t going to run across these places almost by default? Fort Worth’s usual gang of supporters, who always seem to mention the same paragraph’s worth of Fort Worth bands only, mention the Grotto six times. I wonder if the last editor made it to the Grotto even once, and that’s not a knock. Let’s be realistic here, though, Fort Worth. I’ve been to the Grotto. It’s fine. But is it really where someone in this iconic new position needs to immediately rush in order to learn about North Texas?
I was warned by a writer who I respect that to tell Mr. Maletsky where he should or should not go, would immediately render me obsolete. That I would immediately condemn myself as a voice of local music past were I to do so. Shudder. What a waking nightmare. So, I will not then, tell Mr. Maletsky where to go. Not only do I guard my secrets, but it would be unbecoming and smug to point my finger and tell the new guy what he has to do, in order to cut it in what has been described by outsiders as a “vicious” and “cannibalistic” journalistic environment.
On the other hand, I don’t see the harm in telling the new editor what he should not do. Don’t listen to your readers. The Dallas Obesrver was better than I remember it being in more than a decade in 2012, and it had little to do with the will of the people. They still showed up in droves to the Dallas Observer Music Awards, which speaks to the sustaining influence of the paper in music circles. In other words, you’ll have the hearts and minds either way. Please follow your vision, however much the public, myself, or anyone else disagrees. That will be far more enjoyable to read and beneficial to the community than another business-first editor who is cynically chasing what he thinks the people want. There is way too much of that in this town already.