I don't know Pete Freedman
. I don't even know Wanz Dover
. And I Certainly don't know whether the two of them know each other, nor whether there is any problem between them personally, professionally or otherwise. But after reading Freedman's (the new Dallas Observer
music editor) take
on this year's Melodica Festival
, I feel like I've learned nothing about either one of them, and I fear that Dallas Observer readers who didn't make it out to the Melodica Festival learned very little from his discussion.
To begin, I think it should be said that bashing Wanz, Melodica, and the Dallas music scene is NOT necessarily a bad thing on its face. Freedman's decision to come to town and immediately take on a large sector of the local scene could reasonably be characterized as a courageous move, and having the guts to express a dissenting opinion that ruffles a lot of feathers is not something that should be discouraged at all. In fact, we started this blog for similar reasons: we thought the local scene needed a little kick in the ass back in January 2006, and as many of you know, we're no strangers to starting controversy either.
On the other hand, Freedman's article could probably be interpreted by some to be nothing more than a publicity stunt: a way for Freedman to get people talking about him, his writing, and what I'm sure he hopes will be a revitalized D.O. music section. Again, publicity stunts are usually just silly, and they often don't bother me that much per se. If Freedman was looking to start trouble for the sake of publicity, fine, let him. Worse crimes have been committed in this world, and sometimes a publicity stunt can ultimately contribute to the greater good if it helps to spread a message worth hearing.
So whether this was an honest expression of opinion or an example of sensational journalism for the sake of publicity, I'm not particularly concerned either way. No, the problem doesn't lie in the fact that Freedman didn't find Melodica to be all that important or particularly enjoyable, nor in the fact that he said so in print. The problem comes after reading his article, when you realize how lacking it is in any real substance or thoughtful expression.
From what I can gather, Freedman's main criticisms of the festival are that: a) Wanz is kind of an asshole; b) Wanz claims he will not put on another festival in the future, rendering the fest's impact minimal; c) Wanz invited only his friends to play; d) Wanz' friends were the only people who showed up to see the festival; e) Wanz was thanked too frequently throughout the event; f) no one was exposed to anything new via the Melodica Festival since only those who were already familiar with the music attended; g) the festival was too "left of center" to have a real impact.
Ok, lets just go through each one briefly:a) Wanz is an asshole:
Pete will probably make a lot of new friends in our comment section with this assertion, and in fairness, some of the things Wanz was quoted as saying DO make him sound like an asshole. However, the context within which he uttered the words quoted in the Observer story is unknown, and frankly, I don't see what Wanz Dover's personality has to do with the festival itself. Sure, Dover's band The Frenz played at the festival, but other than that, the man's personality really wasn't at issue throughout the weekend, and comments regarding his demeanor and intentions say nothing about the music, the setting, the impact, the finances or the overall result of Melodica, meaning that they really don't say anything of value at all, at least in this context.b) This might be the last Melodica put on by Wanz Dover:
Thats true, it might be. And if it is, then yes, it's long term impact MIGHT be less than if it occurred annually. But who knows what would happen at subsequent Melodica Festivals? And if Wanz had claimed that he was going to do a Melodica Festival next year and the year after, who's to say that it would actually happen? Wanz has expressed to me that he is unsure whether he will attempt another Melodica in Expo park, but Freedman would need a crystal ball to be able to predict the impact of hypothetical Melodicas in the future. Again, this criticism fails to address the reality of what happened at the festival, and merely speculates about what MIGHT happen if Wanz would publicly state his willingness to put on another festival next year. The stated conclusions of the argument aren't explained in sufficient detail, either, making it hard to take such criticism seriously.c) Wanz invited only his friends to play
: True, some of the members of some of bands that played the festival know Wanz in one capacity or another, but just how many know him and how well they know him is unknown. Shit, I don't even know. And how could Freedman? Based on what was written in the article, he took one statement Wanz made concerning inviting friends to play the festival and decided to run with it, assuming that everyone who played was a friend of Wanz Dover's and concluding that their performances somehow weren't as meaningful as a result. I can tell you from my experience that when Wanz allowed us to select a line up for the festival, he gave us a budget and complete freedom to pick the bands we wanted to play. Hardly any of them knew or even knew of Wanz before the festival. Freedman's argument here is based on blind assumption and still fails to point out why the topic is even relevant when discussing the impact of the festival.d) Only friends of Wanz attended the festival:
Freedman based this assumption on the fact that he didn't hear anyone ask who Wanz when bands were thanking him on stage. First of all, how often do people pay attention to onstage banter like that? And how can you tell how many people knew who Wanz was based on their lack of response to the thanks he was given? I know for a fact that the vast majority of my friends who attended the festival have NEVER met Wanz Dover, and many had never even heard of him. Again, this is blind assumption based on highly unscientific personal observation, and it doesn't appear that we can draw any conclusions from it.e) Wanz was thanked too frequently by the bands on stage:
Although this might have been a little annoying and repetitive, I have to ask: uh, so what? I don't see any relevance in this at all, and for the record, I didn't hear Wanz name mentioned once by a band on stage, and I was there all weekend.f) Everyone at the festival had already been exposed to the music being performed, thus rendering Melodica's impact minimal:
Again, how did Freedman come to this conclusion? Did he take a survey? If so, I'd like to see it. If not, then I don't see how this assumption can be considered in any way credible. There were hundreds of people in attendance this weekend, and how Freedman was able to discern all of their musical backgrounds is beyond me.g) The festival was too "left of center" to have an impact:
Well, like Freedman said, Expo Park was packed over the weekend, and there was an excitement in the air there that I haven't seen at any other time during my five years in Dallas. Too left of center? Well that is a highly subjective concept within this context, but even if we can't come up with a definition, we can at least look at the facts: hundreds of people came to Expo Park this weekend for a music festival centered around experimental and electronic acts in a town that is considered to be highly lacking in interest and participation in both areas. Clearly, some impact was had, and in the short term, the festival was at least moderately successful.
The truth is that the future impact of Melodica is unknown. However, the fact that legendary, internationally respected acts came to Dallas to play in front of packed audiences certainly has to be seen as an accomplishment of some kind, particularly in a town that doesn't have a good reputation for live music. Will Melodica change Dallas? Who knows, but probably not on its own. Is there a future for Melodica in Dallas? Again, we don't know. But what we do know is that the festival was probably more of a success than most imagined it would be, and Freedman's arguments to the contrary come across as baseless, irrelevant, speculative, and subjective. I'm all for dissent, and I do happen to enjoy talking shit and starting conversations and debates about local music, but a bit more substance and thought in Freedman's article would have gone a long way towards making this particular conversation a little more meaningful.