Hearsay: Wednesday, November 14, 2002
Celebrity Boxing

There are so many things wrong with rock ’n’ roll, HearSay doesn’t know where to start. Crybaby musicians, greedy record labels, greasy program directors. It’s all pretty gross. The “local scene” shouldn’t be as disgusting (there’s not as much money involved), but sometimes non-name-brand musicians and the people who love them exhibit Big Time warts. Like this whole battle-of-the-bands mentality that undoubtedly pervades local scenes the nation over (HearSay only says “undoubtedly” because HearSay has not visited every single city in the states — only a few — but your columnist knows enough to realize that the Metroplex isn’t the world). In town, you can’t swing a shtick without hitting a battle-of-the-bands contest, usually sponsored by some guitar shop or the club wherever the action’s taking place. The funniest example occurs at the Dreamworld Music Complex in Arlington. There, it’s a faux battle-of-the-bands in which the band that sells the most advance tickets gets to headline and thusly be on stage at the time voting starts (at the end of the night). In this case, it’s not even the music that matters — it’s the free time musicians have to promote themselves before the gig.

But this shouldn’t shroud the biggest problem with battlin’ bands: Making music is not — should not be — a contact sport. Pitting musicians against each other only serves to reduce the role of the artist in society to that of a philistine. Good musicians, like all good artists, are supposed to be our shamans, the people we turn to for insight into this otherwise murky world. When they’re turned into gladiators, they lose a lot of their otherwise mystical allure — it’s as if in becoming overly self-conscious of their artistry while performing onstage in front of “discerning” judges, battlin’ bands let the mechanics of making music matter more than the intangibles of making music. HearSay understands that there is nowadays no such thing as a “pure” artist, a guy who puts a lot of time and effort into recording or making music for his own pleasure (which would kinda defeat the essence of art, anyway, if a song’s heard only by its maker — art is really a form of communication). But HearSay would rather local musicians kept their competitive urges to themselves.

Classy Lady

We’re sorry to report that Lady Pearl Johnson, the subject of our Oct. 24, 2002, cover story (“Boogie Chillun’ ”), died at home Monday from a heart attack. Guitarist Dave Millsap wrote on the North Texas Blues newsgroup that he’d heard from fellow musician Ray Sharpe, a frequent visitor to Pearl’s regular Sunday night Swing Club gig, that she’d complained on Sunday of pain in her foot and leg. Reached by phone, her daughter Kim Pierce said that at Pearl’s request her remains would be cremated. A small memorial service is planned. Pearl was a warm, earthy, loving person — she will be missed.

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