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PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!

ON THE COVER

CP: Tom Moon: rock critic, author, friend of Phawker, and once and future sax machine. Shaun Brady details Moon’s twin careers as rock scribe and jazz player and how moving back into one helped ease the pain of the end of the other.

For most writers, the business has been suffering a slow decline, akin to a withering, lengthy illness. But Moon spent three years away from the daily freelance grind while researching and writing 1000 Recordings prior to its 2008 release. When he returned to find several formerly reliable outlets suddenly unresponsive, it was as sudden as a heart attack.

“I was in this weird place of having been in an isolation chamber for the three years I was working on this book,” Moon http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5290/5373463256_d214063dc9_m.jpgsays. “I discovered at the end that the world changed completely and people who had been interested in and receptive to music ideas were suddenly saying, ‘We can’t use you anymore.’ These things happened one at a time, but I experienced them as a cluster because I was essentially coming back and starting from zero.”

Suddenly finding himself with a surfeit of time on his hands, Moon amped up his practice schedule from the two hours a week he’d maintained while deeply engaged in writing to a few hours a day. He also returned to the local jam session scene that he’d largely forgone since the birth of his daughter 12 years earlier, sitting in at Ortlieb’s until it closed last year and more recently at the newly thriving sessions at Time.

“When I would go while I was still working for the newspaper, people would know me that way and would always be like, ‘Give this guy a few mulligans because he’s a writer.’ Now, I was seeing people I hadn’t seen in years and saying, ‘I’m scrambling, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m lost in my life and I’m just trying to play music as a way to stay centered.’ Luckily, some of those folks were great musicians, who are much more interested in what we can make happen right now than in what you did before. So I learned a ton just going back and doing that, but it was pretty humbling.”

Though the piece starts out bemoaning both the state of music journalism and of the music industry at large, it moves into the making of Moon’s record, his camaraderie with musicians he once reviewed, and the sense of aesthetics shaped by listening actively as a journalist and passively as a… well, a guy spending lots of time in hotel lobbies and lounges. I started out feeling resistant to the topic — I know what a tough sell music journalism is, and I’ve made my peace with it — but I ended up really digging it. Good luck to Moon, and kudoes to Brady.

PW: There’s a lot of love to go around in this year’s Music Issue, and not only the brotherly kind. Ten Philly acts point to their favorite fellow performers, and each is headed with “love,” preceded by a relevant adjective. I had hoped to see “Normal Love” head a tribute to the spazz-rockers of the same name, and then I was confused to read a guy from a band called Watery Love offering respectful love. And then Kurt Vile’s piece is titled “Watery Love,” and it’s about the guy before him! Whoa, time out!

Richie Charles is a real wild card. Oh man, don’t get me started. We used to work at the same brewery, and I didn’t suspect a thing. But then we really hit it off. I found out that he ran his own label, Richie Records/TestosterTunes (which puts out http://media.philadelphiaweekly.com/designimages/p01cover011911small.jpgterrifyingly great shit!), played drums in a band that became my fave for a hot Philly minute (Clockcleaner), and then he goes off and decides to front his OWN punk band, Watery Love.

And let me tell you, it sure is one all-star cast: the man himself on guitar and vocals plus Max Miligramrespected record scholar/formerly of Violent Studentson rolling rock guitar. And to top it all off, the incredible drum stylings of the lovely Meg Baird. All my great friends!

By the way, this review is in no way biased. In fact, guess who tried out for the role of their first bass player? Me, that’s who! Guess who they think was the worst they’ve had so far? Ah, I can’t say, it’s just too painful!

Moving on … Soon after me, they hired Dan Dimaggio of Home Blitz fame, (check out their album, Out of Phase , on Richie Records) who understands playing punk rock more than others. Watery Love have been known to bash a face or two live. My favorite show was when they opened for me with the Violators at Kung Fu Necktie a-ways back. Oh jeez, what a night! Anyhow, you guys should really seek out their first 7″ on Richie Records: “Debut.” It actually does powerfully slay.

Okay, my head’s stopped spinning long enough to take in the range of diverse acts getting love on these pages: gospel, soul, prog-jazz, and one hip-hop artist who singles out… himself. We might be “tight-knit,” “more collaborative” and “less stressful,” as B-Mac’s intro states, but humble isn’t on that list. I guess it’s hard to be, with a scene like this bursting at the seams.

INSIDE THE BOOK

CP: Hats off to a Dragnet reference in an unlikely place: a restaurant review. See ya next week, Trophy Wife. Close weeding: A cleaner, safer Kensington in jeopardy. “One sharp pinch” for gun owners, one giant leap for safety in our time.

PW: Sharon van Etten… where have I heard that name before? Ethiopian food with “no pretense or unnecessary flourishes” and, thankfully, prose to match. Tough questions on handguns and mental health. Defending the guitar: without it, who will kill fascists?

WINNER: With so much space given over to putting music into words this week, I have to chuck all the music-writing cliches and “High Fidelity” quotes and go with my gut, even if it has shit for brains. (Dammit, I said no “High Fidelity” quotes.) Tom Moon’s tough self-assessments win the title for CP this week over the well-intentioned pats on the back for the current Philly music scene.

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