Tuesday, April 11, 2006

We'll miss you, Gemma!

I just read this morning that one of the few music/pop culture writers/critics in the local MSM that I can read without throwing up is leaving, and I'm seriously bummed about that.

We'll miss you, too, Gemma. We'll miss you every time we go to see a concert or show and pick up the paper the next morning, wishing it was you who wrote the review, and not some blowhard who wants to impress us all with his knowledge of obscure references. (Seriously, can anybody read one of Jon Gilbertson's reviews without putting your fist through the paper and going "OK, OK, Jon, we KNOW you know who Lou Reed is and the Velvet Underground's impact on alternative culture already. Now, could you PLEASE spend a paragraph or two talking about the artist at hand?!?!?! At least when Tianen drops a name or two its like a friend referencing a common bond, but when Gilbertson does it, its so clearly to show off that He's More In Tune Than You. Go back to Milk Magazine and be self-important there, buddy.)

When Lisa D'Acquisto, one of, at the time, the last music writers who knew how to describe something without referencing something equally obscure left Milwaukee for Seattle (none of the larger media in town had the sense to publish her), I was just as bummed out, but then the Journal-Sentinel hired Tarlach who clearly knew her underground and pop culture, and knew how to write it for a mainstream audience. What a breath of fresh air she was! And over the years, she became the preferred reviewer in our house. She analyzed the shows fairly, but with the eye of a fan, and let us know in advance when her personal feelings might be clouding her judgement. Like when Joe Strummer passed on, and she shared with us the time she managed to get backstage as a teenage fan to meet him, happy and honored to be in the same room with somebody whose music shaped her life. That's the kind of person we want to bring us our concerts, not somebody who's too jaded to care anymore.

Not that Tarlach was all happy flowers and sunshine. I still forward her piece on battling cancer to friends, with her "I am not a pink person" declaration, reminding people that taking on breast cancer isn't all about new age music, pink ribbons and smiling oncologists. (Although I could picture Tarlach in pink -- a New York Dolls pink t-shirt, but that's about it.) She wrote about what it takes to beat it, something that only a person like her could write.

So, we'll miss you too, Gemma. As someone who spent some time on the East Coast, loved it, but jumped at the chance to head back home, I totally understand. You gave us 8 fine years here -- thanks. Here's to hoping they find somebody of your caliber to replace you.

Hey, at least Blaine Schultz is still around Milwaukee, writing for the alternative rags. Schultz so clearly loves the music that he can analyze it with critical eye, but a loving, constructive critical eye, a balance most musicians attempt but fail at. They're either too nice, or bitter failures who can't find beauty in anything anymore. Schultz is neither: he tells it straight like the Neil Young fan that he is. He kind of looks like Neil Young these days, and reading him gives you that feeling that you'd get if Neil Young were a rock critic. (Full disclosure: Schultz is a friend of our family's, and he's written positive things about both mine and my husband's bands, and our friends' bands, and our friends' friends' bands, and he lent me his band, the Aimless Blades, for me to front for the time I appeared at Trash Fest as "Patti Nicole Smith" and I must say, they rocked. You didn't even have to teach them "Land" or "Dancing Barefoot." They just knew how the boy looked at Johnny.) Hey, Tina Maples (remember her? I miss her byline too, but these days she's just editing) -- give Blaine Schultz a call. Heck, give ME a call! On second thought, don't. Yet. I'm not ready for the pay cut.

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