MESH HAPPENS

A Point-ed exchange with KPNT program director Allan Fee

The confusion, and the ongoing dilemma in this kind of discussion, is that the critic and the commercial radio jockey are arguing apples and oranges. Case in point: I wouldn't consider the bands Fee mentions — Alice in Chains, Soundgarden — to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever, though I'm always giddy when someone plays Nirvana. One is arguing for quality — an elusive and slippery term (though I am right, of course) — whereas the other is arguing that quantity — high Arbitron numbers — equals quality. When one of the idiots on The Point morning show was talking to local band Mesh a few weeks ago about my comment in the paper that they were Matchbox 20 sound-alikes, he expressed confusion as to why that would be a bad thing — the band must be good, because they've sold 10 million records. Guess what? An artist can still suck even if they sell 100 million records (see Garth Brooks).

When a band decides to appear on a radio-station promotional tool, which is what ultimately Pointessential 6 is, they're plugging into a mentality they wouldn't plug into if they were appearing on, say, a Way Out Club compilation; they're knowingly participating in a money game and the requisite baggage that accompanies it. There's a philosophical difference between the corporate "charity" aspect of The Point's compilations and the dedicated, heartfelt passion of such a collection coming out of the scene itself. The context for appreciating such a device is different; the intentions are different and, regardless of whether it's intended, the way one hears the music is different. Bands are no longer "contributing a cut to a local-music compilation." They're helping promote the music on a commercial radio station; they're overtly supporting the philosophy that relies on "focus groups," "demographics" and Arbitron ratings. Word of advice: Be wary of the intentions of anyone who refers to the St. Louis music community as a "market."

Fee, though, sees it differently: "If Donald Trump donates $1 million to build a children's hospital for a tax write-off, is he a problem? You may say — half may say — "Gee, it's a tax write-off, and it helped him make more money.' I come from the school of thought that here's a guy who built a children's hospital, and everybody wins. And how many people are building children's hospitals for people? He had the means to do it, so he did it. And we're in a situation here where it's a win-win for everybody. We think we give a lot to promote local music, we spend a lot of money to do that, and we're also a business that has to generate money to do that. If McDonald's is going to sell Big Macs for $1 and donate 10 cents to charity — they make 90 percent of the money but they're donating to charity — good for them. By the way, we do make charitable contributions for a lot of these projects. We're a business that's giving back to a community."

Sarah Carmody
KPNT's Allan Fee: "Here we throw 39 bands on a disc, and really try and get a good cross section of the market, and give people a chance, and give back ó we get criticized for that, too."

And any radio station that compares itself to Donald Trump and McDonald's when talking about music isn't speaking the same language I am; it's that simple.

Asked how many of the 39 bands on Pointessential 6 are in regular rotation, Fee is direct and unapologetic: "Right now we've taken a couple singles that we've decided to focus on — and that's a trick question and you may debate me on this — but, in particular, your favorite band, Mesh. There's a song that certainly has a good radio feel to it. And the Die Symphony does also. They're credible radio singles. And, again, if one of us is Republican and one of us Democrat, we can agree to disagree on certain things; you probably don't like Creed's "One' as a song. You were probably over it 2,000 spins ago. But, again, it's drawing an audience. We put some focus on Mesh — they've got a chance to get some record deals, so we're spending a lot of time to help that band out. Die Symphony — same goes for them. And those are bands, by the way, that are committed to becoming full-blown bands, and they want record deals. They've really gotten involved, and they've really tried to learn the process, and we feel like we're giving back."

Yes, we're speaking two different languages. Unlike Fee, I don't associate being a "full-blown band" with the desire to get a major-label record deal. Nor do I think that appearing on Pointessential 6 is an inherently dirty thing. It is, alas, one of the only ways many of these bands will be heard by a larger audience. And for that, the series should be praised. But not blindly, and not out of charity.

Randall Roberts' new show on KDHX (88.1 FM),Sovereign Glory!, makes its debut from 8-10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19. Point listeners will hate it.

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