In the summer of 2006, I lucked into a journalism job fresh out of Ohio University. Not just any journalism job, either: writing about music and other forms of culture in my hometown. I was stoked.
In retrospect, it makes sense. I was familiar to the company, having interned at The Dispatch, whose parent company had just purchased Alive. And I was at least a little familiar with the Columbus music scene, having spent the previous year studying up on it in an attempt to get attention for my now-defunct college band. Most of that research was via the DoneWaiting message board and MySpace, which, wow, I came on staff at Alive at a time when MySpace was still the predominant outlet for bands to promote themselves online.
I don’t know about you, but I was feeling 22: convinced the people around me were making some of the best music in the world, convinced I would chronicle those musicians as they took over said world. Columbus Discount Records was going to be the most influential label in America, and The Lindsay was going to become an indie rock darling, and Envelope was going to be a breakout rap star. The songs and performers that were all the rage in Columbus dives were about to spill out into the world at large.
None of that happened, unless you count Times New Viking’s rise to 15 exceptionally minute minutes of Pitchfork “Best New Music” fame. I did write about all of those artists, though, and many more where they came from. I spent the past seven years doing my best to keep track of the sounds broadcasting out of this city and the performers passing through.
That’s not all. This job took me to the champagne-soaked locker room where the Columbus Crew celebrated its MLS Cup victory and to an afternoon chat with Urban Meyer at the ’Shoe. I got paid to take the temperature of beer then drink it. I encountered all kinds of filmmakers, visual artists and entrepreneurs.
But as time passed, music became the focus, from covering festivals (Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, SXSW) to interviewing heroes (James Murphy is very friendly, Isaac Brock not so much). I also got to watch the Columbus music scene turn over almost entirely. It’s crazy how many venues, bands and fads come and go over the course of seven years.
In recent years, this Sensory Overload column has become my lens for all that change as I reviewed live performances by a different Columbus musician every week. It was usually my favorite assignment to write, although thanks to my sketchy iPhone photography skills, it was also usually my least favorite to look at.
I can’t even begin to tally up the number of words I’ve turned in, or to assess “what it all means.” Sometimes I totally nailed it. Other times I was typing out my ass. Readers were sure to let me know about both instances, whether via kind tweets or that one time Carabar’s Ron Barker cornered me to chew me out about running my review of The Lindsay’s debut album online instead of in print. Frankly, he was right — that record deserved every platform it could get — although these days I feel like people would be more upset if we put a story in print but not online.
Speaking of the internet: I’m leaving Alive to become Senior Writer for Stereogum, which began as one of the original MP3 blogs and has evolved into one of the internet’s greatest sources for music news and commentary. Even better, they’re letting me stay in Columbus to do it, so I’ll still see y’all around. I’m moving from one dream job to another without moving at all.
Before I go, a few lessons from my tenure here: Don’t support something just because it’s local; support it because it’s good. If bands want to “make it,” getting comfy in their local music scene isn’t the way to do it. Don’t try to be everything to everyone, but build points of contact outside your usual circles. Interact with people in real life, not just on the internet. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but work hard and try to treat people with respect, even when they don’t reciprocate. Know the difference between upholding beloved traditions and doing things the same old way just because. Don’t just drift through life; make something cool happen! Lastly, never, ever apologize for having an opinion, and consider yourself lucky if you have a megaphone to shout it through. I should know.