Observe the Revolving Door

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Posted November 21, 2007 by Hearsay in Music

Another year, another music editor for the Dallas Observer. Last week, Jonanna Widner was reportedly fired, making her the third Observer music chief in about as many years to go and the second, along with Sam Machkovech, to get a pink slip.

(The third, Sarah Hepola, simply left, according to local lore.) The post never used to be a revolving door. After Robert Wilonsky inaugurated the position that he held for years, Zac Crain came in and logged almost as many hours. Crain’s replacement, Machkovech, didn’t last very long, but he was around longer than either Hepola or Widner. Based on some online reports, Widner, who’d been recruited from a small alt-weekly in Santa Fe, had no idea she was on the chopping block.

One group, though, seems glad she’s gone: local music bloggers. Most of them have been calling for her head for years. Their argument was that she focused too much on touring shows – and touring bands – instead of local ones. For the record, I’ve always thought she was a supremely talented wordsmith. Yes, she may have wasted too many column inches on Big Ideas – I mean, what more can be said about Morrissey or prog-rock that hasn’t been said a zillion times before? But good, writerly craftsmen and -women are hard to find, and Widner was definitely good.

Regardless of the criticism levied against her, I highly doubt that Village Voice Media (né New Times) – the Observer’s parent company – fell on its mighty pen. I once worked for New Times, and I know that, while the honchos there can be many things – many, many colorful things – they are not prone to bend to community pressure, no matter how scant or rowdy. In any case, allow me to trot out my shopworn belief that alt-weekly readers aren’t interested in stories that can be found in either the daily newspaper or on a local blog, meaning that our readers want in-depth local stories.

Typically, daily papers write only about national artists, and bloggers are too understaffed to write anything meaningful about locals, leaving the field wide open for someone with his or her ear to the ground and the tools and the time – and salary and resources – to dig in. Local music bloggers and writers, start your resumés. … Typically, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest party night of the year, what with old friends and relatives from out of town deigning to visit and regale us yokels with fantastical, amazing stories about life beyond the 817.

Whatever. They’re all lying. Anyway, save some brain cells for Friday, when a few killer local shows are happening, including Chatterton at The Moon (2911 W. Berry St., 817-926-9600.). Singer-songwriter and frontman Kevin Aldridge has only recently begun treading the boards again and not too soon – I’ve been worried about him. The Moon, with its new, spacious stage and lofty bar counter, will prove to be an excellent setting for one of the hippest bands of thirtysomething Americana-rockers here or anyplace else, especially that Dreamland where our friends and relatives are allegedly celebrating their escape from Fort Worth every night. The Iliads and the cut*off are also on the bill. Visit www.myspace.com/chatterton.

Contact HearSay at hearsay@fwweekly.com.


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