If each of my Daily News bylines represented a year, that is.
Now that I’ve hit 100 stories (and counting), I find I’m introducing myself less and building an institutional knowledge that, with the departure of our last veteran reporter last month, is more important than ever.
Some of my most-praised writing so far came while I was in the woods celebrating the end of my first quarter-century. The story of a model airplane, a father and a daughter could have fallen flat, but I think I propped it up with What It’s Really About: Love.
And this month I’m helping keep the Friday Night Lights on by helping the sports desk withfootball coverage.
In other news, the new J Mascis album is great, I’m terrible at fantasy football, and the Avett Brothers put on a great show on the eve of my one-year anniversary with my wife — though Seattle’s The Head and the Heart did one better the week prior.
Of course I’m still working toward getting my byline on the cover of the Rolling Stone (see what I did there?) so I popped out a review of the ramblin’ Jonathan Warren and The Billy Goats for the Indy this week, alongside Bozeman, Mont.’s surprisingly solid Panther Car.
In other news, Americans are using the word “nil” with increasing frequency, though experts predict a drop-off by mid-July. Cheers.
I’ve been everywhere, it seems, meeting just about everyone I’ll need to know and seeing everything I need to see to cover Longview, Lower Columbia College and Wahkiakum County. I’ve got the stories to prove it, too.
My first cover story also became my first owned issue, and I even claim credit for the headline:
And don’t miss my favorite lead I’ve written so far: “Jesus came to town in a gray Honda Civic with Oregon plates.”
But I’m still a music man, too, so I got to write up the review for Missoula’s psych-pop “scuzz rock” quartet Skin Flowers.
And don’t miss photographer and close friend Tim Goessman’s 2011-2013 Missoula DIY reflections. He unveiled the little-before-seen archive of photos from the scene we were both very invested in, and the results are a good look at what makes it tick. Even got a shoutouton the Indy’s arts blog.
Off to a City Council meeting; is my tie on straight?
This week I was asked to churn out a quick review of Lavoy, the Spokane-via-Alaska synth pop group in Missoula tonight, and a complete reversal of that description in my general praise of British producer Burial. While the former had better criticism (at times I just wanted to help the band more than the reader), I had good fun in a few lines in the latter. Go forth and read Brooks!
On the Headwall front, Facebook has a new algorithm, and I think it targets scheduled posts, especially those with links. In other words, Facebook wants money for exposure. So if you’ve been missing my clever posts, blame Mr. Zuckerberg. I’ll be decoding the way into your feed all month. Or year, if I must.
Oh, and the newest issue is available online, in addition to an e-edition I’ve linked to in the cover below. Cheers.
… of which I’m feeling pretty on top for a newly minted quarter-century-year-old. Aside from seeing Alabama Shakes at Grand Targhee and Belle & Sebastian in SLC (photos below), I’ve received another birthday present of sorts: I’ve been made the online editor for Montana Headwall as well as its Facebook curator. (Notice the Facebook link, which I highly recommend you click and ‘like.’) The quarterly outdoors magazine publishes user-contributed trip and gear reports, which I’ll be in charge of making attractive and accessible. Not to mention I’ll be adding my own adventures to the mix, like last week’s discovery of the crazy amount of fish at Lake Hebgen near West Yellowstone. I’m excited, what can I say.
It’s been busy (overtime busy) at the Post Register as we transition to a new CMS and InDesign at the copy desk. It’s been nice teaching instead of being taught (Quark) for the past two weeks, as I know shortcuts and secrets that have aided the migration. I’ll be taking over the A section a few days this week as the assistant copy chief acquaints herself with the whole ordeal. Again, very exciting.
Fun stuff coming up at the Indy, but no spoilers just yet. Instead here is some work I’ve done recently and photos of the bands I had promised:
In hindsight I wish I had done some sort of reverse type, but font choice, not color, dominated my thought pattern. Might as well stick with one theme and show off my first sports page (again, playing with fonts):
And here is Stuart Murdoch of Scottish indie-pop kings Belle & Sebastian, followed by Brittany Howard and Co. of the super-soulful Alabama Shakes:
Or at least very close to it. And already I’m putting out A1s:
Pretty happy about that, as you can guess. Just a few more weeks refining my Quark skills before we switch to InDesign, where I should really shine (what with the 400-level course, 10-day intensive training and general usage).
Speaking of general usage, I updated my resumé, clips and my LinkedIn profile to better reflect, well, the last two months. They’ve been busy, what can I say (see below).
Another reason I named this post “The Middle” was to have some segue into my Jimmy Eat World review, though there wasn’t really a transition there anyway. A good band with a so-so album, a careful balance to strike.
Anyway, not to keep you too long, here’s a photo of Idaho Falls’ Whiskey Sasquatch from a few weeks ago. They play rockabilly this and rockabilly that and cover the Ramones multiple times a set, completely sincere.
I would post some of Sam Wilson’s great photos, but go watch the video first and find the photos speckled throughout the best long read I’ve written. Don’t skimp on the other stories, especially Taylor Anderson’s Fort Belknap story with multimedia by Hunter D’Antuono (whom I’m trusting with my wedding photography). I’m happy to have come up with the title of the package that went out in print and online: Vast Expenses. Headline writing is good fun.
Meanwhile, in Idaho Falls: heat. The heat wave that is baking the southwest is definitely reaching its fiery fingers into the northern West. It’ll be in the 90s all week — what better time to be looking for a sea kayak on Craigslist. Also, here’s today’s West cover package:
I’ll be in Missoula on my first three-day weekend before working July 4 and after, just in time to catch this band I was lucky enough to review, Ivan & Alyosha. They sound like the subtle sadness of a gray Seattle day in a light folk rock way. Perfect.
Remember how I set that new goal for myself, “don’t compare reviewed artists to other artists?” Yeah, already broke that one in the first line of my review of Paper Bird. A rugged sort of pop grows in those Colorado hills, it seems. My review mentions the Avett Brothers, and no you will never stop hearing about them, especially with their just-scheduled stop at the Adams Center in Missoula. (!) Glorious.
Speaking of Missoula, I took a bit of a geographic and literary stretch with my new favorite headline on today’s West cover:
Fires are going to be pretty bad this summer (already are in parts of the West), made worse by the sequester’s effect on the Forest Service’s budget. Put out your fires, campers. Before you leave, the ashes should be cool enough to dip your, well, parts of your body you wouldn’t normally hold to a fire. It’s the climate, sure, but farmers here pay the same rate for water as the rest of us, which is leading me on an interesting data-collecting adventure… But more on that later, likely much later.
As for tonight off, time for some minor league baseball. The Idaho Falls Chukars, in my beloved Missoula Osprey’s Pioneer League, reportedly have a chance this year after missing the playoffs for six straight years. The Royals spread their rookies over three teams instead of the usual two, but a handshake apparently got I.F. a few top picks this year. But hey, I’m just in it for the hot dogs and beer. Or rather, hot dog and beers. Cheers.
Well, two weeks down and I must say I’m pretty thrilled about the diversity of work I get to do here in Idaho Falls. The copy desk is also the design desk, for the main sections anyway, and I’ve been thrown headlong into the daily deadline grind of turning out well designed and well edited pages. My first week’s work on The West, the B/regional section, culminates tomorrow with an early deadline and a lot less hand-holding. But I think I’ve caught up to the pica-specifics and headline styles:
So my first Sunday spread awaits, and boy am I glad to have glasses on my face and coffee at the ready, it’s time to move quickly (but accurately).
In other news I’m still freelancing for the Independent, as their album-reviewer-at-large, it seems. Any excuse to listen to new music I wouldn’t otherwise find, and this week I got lucky with the folk duo Tina and Her Pony and the down-the-middle indie pop group Generationals.
After at least 100 reviews in the weekly’s pages by now (or maybe almost 100) I feel my style has been refined and I can say what I mean without chunky language or misplaced metaphors. That said, I need to keep growing. While in Austin I had a short chat with Peter Mongillo, the American-Statesman’s music writer, and he said the challenge is to talk about music without talking about other bands. Which is sound advice — an easy review-killer is exclusionary or insider language. It’s sad but true: Not everyone knows who Weezer is. So I’ve tried following that advice myself, and while it opens up the crutch of labels and genres it’s also a chance to paint the picture an album does without hearing it yourself. Make sense? I’m working on it, stay tuned.
Finally, while east Idaho, and I.F. in particular, tend to lack the thriving youth culture that makes Missoula great, I’ve found breweries, an excellent greenbelt bike trail, a solid and nostalgia-inducing coffee shop and a natural foods store not far from my house. (What can I say, Missoula got to me.) Plus, a Pioneer League (minor-rookie) baseball team to cheer for when the Osprey aren’t in town whooping ’em. But don’t tell that to the sports desk.
Let me leave you with my foot in a sea kayak in the middle of Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park:
Not every review can be positive. Strike that—not every review should be positive. If journalism is meant to inform people’s decisions, as Eli Sanders put so simply in his Dean Stone Lecture on Thursday, then it needs to take the good with the bad (insert Facts of Life theme song). Arts/music journalism is no different. For local or touring bands, if something doesn’t sound right then someone needs to sound the alarm and point out that there are other shows more worthy of a five dollar bill on a night where a choice exists.
These reviews are a week old but I have more to share come Thursday, so to sate your appetite: The overzealously “outlaw” country group from Bozeman, The Moustache Bandits, and yet another release from the noisy psych-punks Thee Oh Sees. I don’t think I was mean; I just couldn’t resonate with the misogyny of Bozeman’s jokers or the California noise-for-the-sake-of-noise that’s getting all too prevalent (more on that Thursday).
Let me also point you toward something a little more uplifting: