by Dan Bolles
Greetings, Solid State!
There's a new deli in Burlington and I ain't talkin' about Sadie Katz — which, if you haven't been, totally rocks. One word: latkes. One more: mmmm . . . man, I'm hungry.
The deli I'm referring to is of the online variety and aims to serve up healthy servings of local music coverage. Originally based in NYC, The Deli Magazine has branches in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville and now, curiously, the 802. If the decision by a publication that historically focuses on major music markets to set up shop in a Lilliputian city such as Burlington seems odd to you, you're not alone. I'm not quite sure I get it either. But The Deli is here, perhaps to stay. I, for one, say "welcome to Burlington."
As the Music Editor for a competing publication, the knee-jerk reaction — and perhaps the reaction you folks might expect from me — would be to slam the website and dismiss it. But I prefer to take an alternate view of the new e-rag.
One of the enduring lessons I took from working for Magic Hat is that competition is not only healthy, but vital to the success and survival of almost any endeavor. MH founder Alan Newman is often asked if he views the high volume of competing VT and regional microbreweries as a threat. His answer is always the same: no. Newman's philosophy is that having more options creates more overall interest in craft brewing and, ultimately, more interest in Magic Hat. Given the fact that MH just bought Seattle's Pyramid Brewing Co. to become the third largest craft brewery in the country, he might have been on to something.
The Vermont music scene is larger and more diverse than it's ever been and coverage is essentially limited to three outlets: Seven Days, State Of Mind and The Burlington Free Press — I certainly don't mean to overlook the notable contributions of our state's various music blogs. But for the purposes of this conversation, I'm sticking with the professional media.
With so much music being created and so few outlets to report it, inevitably and regrettably, some stuff falls though the cracks. To be honest, there is probably room for another music publication in Vermont. And if The Deli does its job well, it can help kindle more interest in Vermont music, which in turn kindles more interest in Vermont music coverage.
The late Nineties Burlington alt-rock scene is regarded by many to be the "heyday" of Vermont music. In many respects, it probably was — though I firmly believe we're on the brink of another. A big reason that era was so incredible and is remembered so fondly — aside from the unbelievable wealth of great bands — is that there were more outlets writing about Vermont music. To name a few, Seven Days, the BFP's "Scene & Heard" and the late, great Good Citizen Zine provided excellent coverage of the VT scene and were a key factor in sparking widespread interest.
As for The Deli itself, it's not bad. Perhaps a little jam-centric for my tastes — and the fact that Deli editor Adena Harford's boyfriend's band Silent Mind is prominently featured and hyperbolically reviewed seems a little suspect. But today is merely their soft launch and there's at least a skeleton for expanded coverage. I'll be curious to see how they do.
In the end, the focus for any local music publication should be just that, local music. Competition is great if it drives us to step up our game. Variety is even better. The more voices we have espousing the virtues of our homegrown music, the more ears the message will reach. Hopefully, that translates to more eyes perusing the pages of publications like Seven Days and, ultimately, more bodies in nightclubs to see local bands. A guy can hope, right?