February 1, 2013
Entering college, I had grand designs of becoming a rock critic.
I was going to be just like Lester Bangs, minus the Valium, booze and lackadaisical hygiene.
I would be a journalist, who, despite having attended a 98 Degrees concert at age 12 on his own volition, was educated in the rock ‘n’ roll canon back to its earliest Delta blues roots. Someone who curated a vinyl collection so diverse, a feature in the New Yorker would compare it to “a Smithsonian Museum for Human Emotion and Potential.”
My freshman year at Minnesota State, Mankato, while working for the A&E section of the school newspaper, I was assigned to review a Friday night show featuring four punk bands I had never heard of. Probably a bunch of wannabe hacks, I assumed. So, I skipped the show and gave my editor some lame 300-word album review instead. It was a pretty laid back gig for a young rock critic, but it only paid $8 per story.
Several years later, I found the crumpled up flyer I had been handed when I received the assignment:
Friday, Oct. 19, 2003
The Kato Ballroom Presents…
Motion City Soundtrack
Fall Out Boy
Yesterday, Fall Out Boy abruptly ended a five-year hiatus by simultaneously releasing a new single and music video, the latter featuring rapper 2 Chainz unleashing a flamethrower on a pile of Fall Out Boy instruments, merchandise and albums, as if to say, “This is a new Fall Out Boy.” (Fall Out Man?)
The comeback comes as a pleasant surprise for this former rock critic, the one who stuck his nose up to interviewing a band he would later love with an embarrassing level of commitment. In fact, I didn’t realize I had snubbed Fall Out Boy until I had already purchased three of their albums, paid to see them in concert and watched them earn a Grammy nomination. This was about the time they were collaborating with artists like Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West and John Mayer. Funny how things work.
I like to believe there is still a place in the world for meritocracy, especially in music, where the marketing machine is so well-oiled and effective. Fall Out Boy certainly benefited from that old machine, but they also took their licks by playing the Mankato, Minnesotas of the world and getting snubbed by young, pretentious rock critics.
It turns out I was the wannabe.