Category Archives: stomp and stammer

The case for Stomp and Stammer

I’ve often said that Stomp and Stammer ought to be examined in a laboratory as an unlikely example of a print media entity that somehow thrives in a digital media world.

Now, that examination could include its unfortunate self-destruction — which, at this writing, is ongoing and may be irreversible.

Jeff Clark - from Creative Loafing

Jeff Clark – photo from Creative Loafing

Stomp and Stammer is a modest Atlanta music magazine edited by Jeff Clark.  Clark wrote something very dumb and insensitive in his January 2014 issue.  Somebody took a photo of it — in the print edition, of course — and posted it on Tumblr.  The ensuing social media shitstorm was breathtaking.

The January issue included a 2013 review, and Clark wrote (or as editor, approved) the following:

  • Most Overdone Memorial: The ongoing posthumous deification of Ria Pell. She was a nice woman who opened a restaurant that helped revitalize a stretch of Memorial Drive. She was also unhealthy and met with an early death. Had she not been lesbian, had she been a straight woman or man we would have seen but a fraction of the reaction. Instead, she was unrealistically elevated into something she wasn’t: a symbolic figure.”

Yeesh.  Talk about tone deaf, ill-advised and wrongheaded.  This was the kind of aggrieved-white-guy crapola that made radio talk show host Neal Boortz a gazillionaire.  But while Boortz courted an audience of old, angry white folks, those aren’t Clark’s readers.

The S&S article that started the boycott (click to enlarge)

The S&S article that started the boycott (click to enlarge)

The folks who continue to mourn Ria Pell’s death — intown, diverse, gay-friendly — are the people who read S&S, patronize its advertisers and patronize the businesses that distribute the magazine.  They got very, very angry.  I don’t blame them.

They created a Facebook page.  They began contacting S&S’s advertisers, some of whom announced they’d pulled their February ads.  They began contacting the businesses that distribute S&S — or simply visited the businesses and swiped the pile of January issues that typically sit near the door.

They want to destroy S&S.  I’m here to argue that S&S shouldn’t be destroyed.

S&S has a right-wing tilt that automatically alienates much of its audience.  Its film critic, David T. Lindsey, routinely and happily goes into homophobic / angry-white-man territory.  I read Lindsey’s stuff knowing it’ll often test my gag reflex.

But politics is only a subtext.  As a music magazine, S&S has thrived because it’s smart and clever.  It’s mostly well-written.  It’s exceptionally well edited — you never see a typo or mangled prose in its copy.  And it’s fun — even when it’s infuriating.

It’s also overwhelmingly positive.  I don’t know of a piece of local media that promotes Atlanta and Georgia music as singlemindedly as S&S.

echo_signOne of S&S’s virtues has been its willingness to piss people off.  As editor of the magazine, Clark wrote critically about Atlanta music institutions like the Star Bar, the (defunct) Echo Lounge and Criminal Records.  They all advertised in S&S.

Clark’s editorial decisions to take on his own advertisers took guts and gave S&S journalistic credibility.  (I’m not here to fact-check those pieces.)  Niche magazines struggling to survive typically find a way to sidestep such conflicts – by shading the truth or ignoring important subjects.  Clark deserves credit for his willingness to occasionally risk his own advertising revenue in pursuit of the truth.

Some folks have suggested that if S&S disappeared, a replacement magazine or site would fill the void.  But it’s unlikely a startup would take the journalistic risks that Clark is willing to take.

Clark also writes brief yet hilarious critiques of (what he considers to be) crappy music and musicians.  In the context of each issue of S&S, they are isolated bits of vinegar in an otherwise upbeat salad of music news.  He has clobbered friends of mine, and perhaps yours too.  Yet these vignettes are the guilty pleasure that often drive his readers to pick up the magazine.

They also built years of individual resentments, which coalesced last week.

S&S is a free magazine. The two things that made S&S financially viable — adequate advertising and low-cost distribution — are now under attack.  It only takes a few determined individuals to make the magazine disappear from the coffee shops, bars and record stores that distribute it.  If the magazine can’t be found, then there is no magazine.

The same day the shitstorm started, Clark wrote an apology on his Facebook page.  It appeared heartfelt.  It also appeared to driven to save his magazine.  I see no dishonor in that; clearly, the angry mob got his attention.  The apology blunted some of the the anger, but much of it remains.  That, too, is understandable.

On the anti-S&S Facebook group, there were ‘way too many people who posted stuff about physically harming Clark.  Like Clark’s post, those comments were (at best) crude and insensitive.

To their credit, the administrators of the FB group deleted those comments and booted those people.  Presumably, those commenters went away quietly, without any threat to their freedom (like a felony charge of making terroristic threats) or their livelihood, which is what Clark faces now.

I’d like to be able to write a rousing defense of Clark, but I can’t.  (Clark is a friend of mine, but not a close friend.  Likewise, my wife and I have many friends who are members of the Boycott Stomp and Stammer FB group.) His insensitive remark is indefensible.  It wasn’t homophobic, but it was too close for comfort.

The January 2013 issue

The January 2013 issue

However, I would argue that S&S makes Atlanta a more interesting place.  If it goes away, let it go away because the free market deems it unworthy.

In the February issue of S&S, I’m guessing that Clark will elaborate on the apology.  He will probably give ample space to his detractors.

Here’s my respectfully-submitted suggestion to Clark’s critics:  Let the February issue of S&S get distributed unfettered.  That means, don’t swipe piles of it from distribution sites.  Read what he has to say.  Let the rest of us read it.  See how respectful he is of his critics.  Observe how much / how little advertising there is in it, the direct result of your campaign.

Then put it all in context by asking

  • Has S&S been a credible, interesting and entertaining publication for 17 years?
  • Does the anti-S&S Facebook group prove that some of Clark’s critics are equally capable of writing isolated idiotic crap?
  • Does Clark deserve any measure of credit for apologizing for what he called his “crude, hurtful, disrespectful and insensitive” piece?
  • Did any of the people threatening him apologize?
  • Has Clark given the shitstorm he caused appropriately respectful treatment?
  • Is the Ria Pell post, and other assorted gripes, worth the continued effort to extinguish S&S?
  • Is Atlanta better off with S&S, or without it?

Weigh all that.  Then make an intelligent decision — and not just an emotional one — on how much continued effort to put into the destruction of Stomp and Stammer.

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The aged, not-so-thin white duke

One cold night in 1974, my mother and I made a point of watching the Dick Cavett show.  I watched because I was a borderline obsessive fan of the guest, David Bowie.  Mom watched because she was up late and wanted to try to understand the guy behind the music that continually blasted from my stereo in the basement of our house.

David+Bowie+BowiiieeeMom had learned to dislike the repetitious blues riff that characterized “Jean Genie,” arguably the signature song of Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album.  But more than anything, she was amused that her mostly-normal teenage boy was drawn to this androgynous British weirdo.  So we settled in and watched.  It was the first extended interview I’d ever seen Bowie do.

To my surprise, Bowie had temporarily ditched rock n roll and had morphed into a coke-addled Philly soul singer, pushing a record he was about to release called Young Americans.   His fidgety, semi-responsive answers to Cavett’s questions were mostly puzzling and not the genius I’d expected.  He was a bit horrifying.  Mom found him utterly laughable.

And I thought:  When I’m in my fifties, I’m gonna march in a parade dressed as that guy.

Clark as Angus

Clark as Angus

Fast forward to October 19, 2013.  If you’re among the thousands of folks watching Atlanta’s most amusing annual parade, you’ll see this reporter in the Little 5 Points Halloween parade.  I’ll be dressed as David Bowie.  To the extent that the readership of this blog intersects with those attending the L5P Halloween festival, this is your heads up to come heckle me.

The hope is that you won’t be able to ID me, because I’ll be among an entire contingent of Bowies marching in the Stomp and Stammer float.  If you don’t know, Stomp and Stammer is the resilient local music magazine published and distributed monthly by Jeff Clark.  While the AJC and Creative Loafing have had issues that threatened their survival, S&S has kept delivering its modest, free monthly with no bankruptcy (to my knowledge) or layoffs (it’s Clark and some freelancers, best I can tell) or any moaning about how the internet has undermined print.  Despite the fact that I’ve never heard of most of the acts described in S&S, I read it every month just because it’s so damned amusing — and relentlessly upbeat and local.

Even when he’s clobbering an artist, Clark finds a bright side:

  • Wesley Cook must rank among the most unappetizing wussboy singer-songwriters I’ve heard in a while, like some diabolical combination of every college town frat bar scruffy-but-cute-dude-with-acoustic-guitar cliché on the planet. Heavy is the guy’s new six-song CD, and if you have a nice 19-year-old niece that’s outgrown the boy bands but finds actual rock ‘n’ roll too icky and unpleasant, here’s her fall semester orientation kit. He’s soooo deep and dreamy…but sensitive and approachable, too!
Whipping it

Whipping it

Another reason to love Stomp and Stammer:  For the past six years or so, Clark has assembled a float of his friends and other hangers-on to participate in the parade, more-or-less identically dressed.  First, it was the Ramones.  One year, it was Devo.  Another year, it was Angus Young, the shorts-and-tie wearing guitarist for AC/DC.

This year, Clark put out a call for a team of Bowies.

Bowie had many personae.  It would make sense, of course, for me to dress as the elderly 66-year old Bowie, but that wouldn’t be any fun.  The Labyrinth Bowie, I suspect will be a popular choice.  I’ll be a classic red-mullet glam Bowie — doughy and jowly, of course, which I’m carefully building into the costume for comic effect.M_DavidBowie_071613

Nearly forty years since that Dick Cavett interview, and I still listen to Bowie.  (I’m married to a woman who maintains that he actually produced relevant music since his Scary Monsters record in 1980.  She too will march Saturday.)  Mom still makes fun of Bowie — and who can blame her?  It’s easy to do.

See you Saturday.  Unless it’s raining, then forget it.  I’m too old for that shit.

Alley Pat

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This media reach-around may set a personal record:  I’m blogging about a TV story about a film about an Atlanta radio personality.  The film is called Alley Pat:  The Music is Recorded.  The filmmaker is Tom Roche, a Crawford Communications postproduction wizard.  The TV story aired on WXIA Wednesday.

The story is about Alley Pat, a trailblazer who was at WERD-AM when it went on the air in October 1949.  WERD was America’s first black-owned radio station (though WDIA Memphis was the first formatted for an African American audience, it was owned by white folks).  Alley Pat was hilarious and hilariously inappropriate.   He gave his audience hell.  He also gave his sponsors hell, on the air.  “They loved it,” Patrick told me.  His fifty-plus years on radio apparently confirms that.

His eulogy of his best friend, Rev. Hosea Williams, was classic.  His best off-camera crack with me was:  “I told Hosea that if he ever quit drinking, he’d die.  And that’s what happened.”

Almost as interesting is the story of Roche,  and his fascination with Alley Pat as a young, white newcomer to Atlanta in the early 80s.  Roche writes an entertaining first-hand account in this month’s Stomp and Stammer.

  • The new documentary, Alley Pat: The Music is Recorded, had its simple beginnings as a shoebox full of old cassettes. When I came to town in 1983, I’d sit stuck in Atlanta traffic listening to Pat, then on WYZE 1380 AM, practically crying with laughter…  But I was frustrated that this brilliant, fun, raucously good radio was going out into the ether, and was gone forever. New to town, I was too broke to even buy blank tape to try to hold on to his shows. So I would go to the Peaches and Turtles 99-cent cassette bargain bins and try to find awful double length albums – Best of Pat Boone, say – for a buck to record over with Alley Pat’s insanity.

Roche has many claims to fame.   Among them:  He was the editor on Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the first in-house cartoon on Atlanta’s Cartoon Network.  You can see him below in the “Space Ghost Utility Research Kitchen.”

Though there’s no evidence of it here, Roche always claimed that I misspelled his name on the super in this 1997 story.

Alley Pat:  The Music is Recorded is a damned amusing look at an Atlanta original.   It’s playing at 7pm Saturday at the Landmark Midtown Art Theatre on Monroe Drive, across from Grady Stadium.

10 Atlanta media moments, 2009

In no particular order…

10.  WGCL’s drumbeat of “tough questions” over the Atlanta Water Department’s bizarro billing, and WGCL’s rise as an enterprising / investigative news organization.

9.  The AJC’s contraction, redesign and announced relocation to Dunwoody.

8.  Layoffs and pay cuts at WAGA and WXIA; furloughs at Gannett; and the combining of photog and helicopter resources.

7.  The AJC’s forced exile of Cynthia Tucker, its Pulitzer-winning columnist and editorial director, and its rightward editorial tilt.

6.  The local ascent of Twitter, especially during gasoline and flood crises.

5.  The sudden closing of Southern Voice, the bankruptcy throes of Creative Loafing, and the improbable continued success of Stomp and Stammer.

4.  Peach Pundit’s publication of a tell-all post about state pols that wouldn’t pass fact-checking muster in any mainstream media (and cries out for a libel suit or two, except that apparently nobody has chosen to challenge its veracity in court, so far…).

3.  WSB’s live truck accident, and Cox Inc.’s decision to pretend it’s not news.

2.  WXIA’s news director Ellen Crooke, defending her hypothesis that “TV news stinks” while consciously making WXIA  less reliant on traditional garden-variety non-news breaking “news.”

1.  Dale Russell’s seismic interview with Susan Richardson, which shook state government and toppled some of its leadership.