Monday, November 24, 2008

The Nonsense You Have to Put Up With

Robert Christgau once wrote that he did few interviews because none should have to put up with the shit you have to deal with to get and do the interviews. Unfortunately, that extends to many aspects of our jobs these days including trying to review albums that can only be heard at record-listening parties or in the label's offices, or even trying to see a concert.

Last night, I went to the New Orleans Arena to see Down open for Metallica at the invitation of Down's publicist. After the invitation was extended, though, communication fell off, then yesterday afternoon I learned that there weren't actually tickets for me, but if I went to the media entrance and called the road manager, he'd walk me in. That sounded dubious, but I went for it. I genuinely wanted to see Down, and I've never seen Metallica before, so whatthehell.

At the door, I called the road manager, got his voicemail, and never heard back from him. I called a friend/photographer who was already inside and she came out with someone - likely arena production staff, but maybe the guy I was supposed to find - and he literally walked us to the arena floor and said, "There you go." No wristband, no sticker, no laminate. He basically snuck us in. That was fine as long as being on the floor was the only place we wanted or needed to be, but when my friend needed to go to the washroom a few songs into Metallica, he was thrown out because he had nothing to indicate that he was in the show legitimately. That ended the night.

Bottom line - if a band wants press, it has to at least meet a minimum threshold of civility. It doesn't have to want press. I don't begrudge anybody who chooses a strategy that works around the press, but if you want coverage, you've got to try just a little.

The show: The Sword opened, were handicapped by working with a fraction of the PA, and sounded pretty by-the-numbers, with one song that held my attention. Dumb thing: playing without ever introducing themselves or songs so that people could buy or download something the next day. Metallica: Not very coherent (what little I saw). Opened with the opening tracks from Death Magnetic, then cut short a version of "For Whom the Bell Tolls." That was okay, but the first song featured a wild laser show. A song or so later, polished metal coffin/light banks lowered from the light rig, did nothing interesting, then returned to their positions. A song later, serious columns of flame (with no members onstage or anywhere near them) and mid-song, a row of flame columns down the center of the stage (with no one nearby save Lars Ulrich, and they stopped a safe distance from his kit). That's a lot of hamburger helper for a show, and any one of those special effects - the lasers or the pyro or the metal coffins - would have been better. I'm sure they all did cooler shit later, but I didn't get to hang around to find out. Down: They were good, but since they couldn't work up the energy to scrounge a sharpie and date stickers for us, I'm having a hard time finding the juice to say more.

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