Welp, it’s my first Thursday without The Other Paper. You won’t find it on newsstands, and you won’t find online, either. So for posterity, I’m posting the goodbye column I wrote for the final issue here:
In the last few years, many record labels have finally embraced the ideal
way for a guy like me to purchase music. I don’t care about CDs. Downloading is more convenient, and I just end up ripping CDs to my computer. But I do miss that artwork. I miss encountering music in an experiential, tangible way. So I buy vinyl, and new vinyl often comes with a download code. It’s the best of both worlds. I can take the music with me anywhere I go, but I can also grab that unwieldy, 12-inch plastic disc, stare at the big pictures and drop the needle.
Sometimes, though, I buy the vinyl after I’ve already bought the download or received it free from a PR flack. (I don’t BitTorrent, so free music is the principal perk of this music-writing gig.) Then I’m stuck with a download code for an album I already bought and now own in two formats (admittedly, not a terrible problem to have). So I take this code, usually printed on a slip of paper the size of a business card, and tuck it into my wallet. And I wait. At some point, I inevitably run into someone who I think would like this album if only he/she had a chance to hear it.
There’s a glut of music out there just a click away. Often it takes a recommendation from someone you know to pull the trigger. I’ve always thought of my contributions to The Other Paper in a similar way. Same goes for my posts on Donewaiting.com, a 10-year-old music blog that
will also say goodbye in a couple of weeks. They’ve been a way for me to say, “Hey, this music makes me feel something. Maybe it’ll have a similar effect on you.”
The analogy breaks down eventually, of course. Cheerleading has its place in print, but if all you do is cheerlead, eventually no one will trust your opinion because, well, you sound like a stupid cheerleader. TOP album and concert reviews required a critical voice, which sometimes entailed finding creative ways to say, “This album sucks,” or, “This show sucked.” At times, it has meant saying those things about bands I otherwise like—or, even worse, people I like (and whom I might see at a show over the weekend). I never took that responsibility lightly, but I tried not to pull punches, either. That doesn’t help anyone. I also aimed to avoid cheap shots and mean-spirited attacks, though I’m sure a few crept in over the years.
TOP also helped me realize what I truly love as a writer. When the paper’s founding editor, Danny Russell, gave me a shot at writing about music, I had no idea what I was doing. I’m forever indebted to Danny for letting me stumble along until I got a feel for this. Like any writer, I’m still stumbling to some extent, but TOP helped me discover that I love telling stories. A good review should tell a story in some way, but the feature stories are what I remember most fondly.
I loved telling the story of the Gibson Bros. and how their one-off reunion
show at the Columbus Music Co-op’s 2010 Parking Lot Blowout came about.
I loved writing a profile of Ron House—an assignment I gave myself
just to see if I could do it justice. I thought if I could accurately and compellingly convey who Ron House is, how he has influenced Columbus and what his future holds, then I could boldly tackle whatever feature I wanted to tackle, no matter how daunting.
I loved telling the story of long-forgotten Georgia songwriter Larry Jon
Wilson, who was resurrected by the Black Swans’ Jerry DeCicca for a self-titled record on Drag City. Wilson died only a year after the release.
The longer I wrote for TOP, the more I wrote about music made in
Columbus. The well is so deep, and it’s only getting deeper. I’ll admit to a few bouts of localitis over the years; the daily emails from “up and coming” local bands touting their “unique blend of psycho-surf and dub-folk and a high-octane stage show not to be missed!” periodically wore me down. But eventually, I took a hammer to that shell of cynicism and came back around.
I’m indebted to TOP’s final editor, Eric Lyttle, and arts editor Richard
Ades for giving me guidance and free rein on so many stories. I was never micromanaged or stripped of a voice. On several occasions, Eric’s instructions simply were, “Start working on it, let me know when it’s done and we’ll put it on the cover.”
It’s tough saying goodbye to The Other Paper. Donewaiting, too. But the
end of an era isn’t the same as a muzzle. So, bands and readers, keep me in the loop: joel[dot]oliphint[at]gmail.com. And if you haven’t heard the new Dolfish record, come find me at a show. I’ve got a card for you.