On Apologies: Making Peace with Neko Case, Part II
Dec. 20, 2011
Months ago I published a rather critical review of a concert I attended in my much neglected blog. My intentions for the blog are for it to be as much a journal as anything and also a forum for items about which I feel particularly strong. This may not always be the case, but for the moment, it’s true enough.
That particular post percolated for months (yes, really) before I started writing. Once I started clicking the keys, I went through several drafts and periods of letting it rest. I wanted very much to capture precisely what I felt and meant without being too harsh or too soft, which I actually thought the piece achieved at the time.
I published the animal and tagged the subject in the interest of full disclosure.
That the subject, Neko Case, took the time to actually read it was quite a compliment. That she took the time to share it with her thousands of followers was simultaneously satisfying and horrifying. The backlash was immediate and a little nasty, which I expected. I went a few short rounds with a couple of particularly nasty respondents then let it go completely. (Pro tip: engaging in the comment section of a blog with rabid fans is the ultimate Danger Zone destination. Enter at your own peril.)
Fast forward four months and low and behold I meet someone who actually knows Ms. Case. They’re not “besties” or anything, but suffice it to say they’ve hung out and worked together on more than a few occasions. So I shared the post in question with him, thankful again that he took the time to read and consider it.
His reaction was complementary of the first few paragraphs and downright scathing of assumptions I made later, followed by rather insistent advice that I apologize.
At this point it bears repeating that I considered every word of that post carefully before publishing it. It is also noteworthy that I am both a musician with more than 100 paying gigs under my belt, a bigger than average fan of Ms. Case’s work, and worked as a booking agent for a stable of touring and recording artists for six months in 2005 during which I negotiated and executed scores, if not hundreds, of contracts.
Therein lies my quandary. Do I stand behind my statements or do I owe Ms. Case an apology? I feel like I’m wading into dangerous waters of integrity and morality here.
Although my assumptions about the production and booking arrangements were informed by experience, it is entirely true that I did not see the contract between the producer, the performer (or the booking agent) and the record company (if indeed the record company had a say in the concert contract, which I doubt, but could be true). I also believe it is true that the vast majority of touring artists, especially the backing band members, subsist on the razor thin margin of what they require to live combined with whatever value they assign to the satisfaction of loving what they do to eek out a living.
Ms. Case, in a tone that was quite frankly pissed in nature, replied that there was indeed a radius clause in the contract with the promoter that prevented an Atlanta play on the next night, an item that I identified as “bullsh*t.”
Ummm, yeah, oops.
Our mutual friend further suggested that my condemnation of the absence of a keyboard was equivalent to suggesting that the artist was basically stealing from the paying audience.
Ummm, uh oh.
“Don’t you think if she could afford to have a keyboard and someone to play it on tour she would,” Bob asked? “Don’t you think she probably said to herself, ‘God damn I wish we could have it! But if we add this, everyone’s pay decreases by [X] and that’s not acceptable based on what we’re projected to make,’?”
A fair point, especially if the collective performers’ pay rates are as skinny as they could be. Counterpoint: how much does it cost the producer to provide a keyboard and couldn’t the artist play the thing on the tunes that need it most without adding another member to the band?
I suppose there won’t be clear answers to any of this without dialogue with the artist, which would also require some detail that I’d bet my monthly bar tab she wouldn’t be particularly interested in sharing.
That said, I suppose an apology is in order for the following:
- The front of house sound engineer: “sophomoric” was too harsh a word. I’m sorry for that. You’ve got a tough job.
- Ms. Case: the audience is only one of what I’m certain are dozens of entities (not to mention the individuals that rely on those entities) to whom or for whom you feel responsible. I’m sure that’s quite the burden. I’m sorry for making statements based on questionable (and in some cases erroneous) assumptions that were hurtful.
I hope the artist will accept this fan and fellow musician’s apology. And tour with the Sadies soon. And stop in Atlanta.
P.S. Ms. Case, my neighbor Bob P. says, “Hello.”