When last week I posted on Facebook about my return to the Folio Weekly fold — this time as a columnist rather than an editor — ripples of panic and jubilation simultaneously spread throughout my vast social networking universe. That’s only a slight exaggeration.
For 17 years, from 1995-2012, I held various positions at Folio Weekly, beginning as Calendar Editor, working through the Arts & Entertainment Editor’s chair and ending as Managing Editor. All the while, I wrote extensively about the Northeast Florida music and arts scene, and in so doing, gained a reputation for being an unyielding — and not-so-polite — critic. For my honesty, I was rewarded with threats of violence at my home (not unusual for a journalist), received a number of angry letters to the editor and lost a few “friends.” I was even invited to engage in fisticuffs by one Fred Durst. The Limp Bizkit frontman and I had breakfast instead, and he turned out to be far less dickish than one might imagine. (The encounter was documented in a Folio Weekly cover story long ago.)
And there was one face-to-face incident, a moment that still mystifies me.
Having been a working musician since I was a teenager, I supplemented my income while working at Folio Weekly by performing in local clubs as a member of various bands, which put me in direct contact with the people and places about which I was writing — a wonderful but apparently dangerous bonus. A couple of years ago, after having left Folio Weekly for a dotcom job that quickly collapsed into my current position as freelance full-time musician and music teacher, I found myself staring into the eyes of a very drunk, very pissed-off local singer-songwriter.
I was leaving a gig at around 2 a.m., drum cases in hand, when said songwriter approached me. Pinning me between two cars, he fumed about how I had panned his album in these pages — five years previous. Yes, he held on to the rage for five years, and now he was in my grill, preparing to kick my ass if I didn’t, in his words, get down on my knees and apologize to him.
After about a half-hour of endless insults and threats — during which, oddly enough, I never put down my cases — somehow I talked him down. He apologized, mentioned something about how sick he was and that he’d coupled cough medicine with alcohol. Then he invited me to his home studio to listen to his new material. I respectfully declined, my face fully intact.
The recent reaction on Facebook is a reflection of what I consider to be many wonderful years of writing about music and art here in Northeast Florida. Some comments were humorous recollections of the things I’d written about local releases — some flattering, some less so. Others were forecasts of what was to come, replete with fear statements (“No, I’m not going to let you tear my life’s work apart”), warnings (“The risk involved is frightening”) and what I consider to be praise (“You are a brutal fuck, John”).
So let’s consider this an introduction of sorts — or re-introduction, if you will. I encourage everyone to submit CDs for review, upcoming show dates and events, and anything unusual you see going on that might warrant inclusion here. Don’t bother turning me on to the mainstream; there’s enough coverage of that already. And that’s a sure-fire way to stoke my ire.
Send your info to firstname.lastname@example.org — at your own peril.