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Letterbox Version 

The readers set pen to paper

The Radar Station mailroom was filled with letters of outrage regarding last week's "A Year in a Day" appraisal of the St. Louis music scene. A few of these letters raised very good points, and we felt compelled to reprint them, along with responses:

I read "A Year in a Day," (and) I am perplexed as to why you neglected an entire scene. This year, St. Louis singer/songwriters released three compilation CDs and several solo projects, but there was not one mention of us. We are trying so hard to develop a scene and be very St. Loucentric, with national dreams, in the process. However, if our hometown doesn't support us and take us seriously, how can we possibly go national? You continually neglect us. Shit, you can tell the world that we suck and you hate our clichéd music, but please acknowledge our existence. -- S. Eric Ketzer

We got a half-dozen letters from members of little scenes we ignored: The metalheads were seething that we didn't acknowledge their contributions to St. Louis culture (and Pop's Nightclub on the East Side noted that we failed to acknowledge them as a club that supports local rock music -- they do, and, regrettably, we omitted them); the New Age thugs threatened to zap us with bad karma; and failure to note the bagpipers' thriving post-jig movement incensed them as well.

That said, the singer/songwriter community surely warranted acknowledgment as an active scene contributing to the St. Louis music culture. That and $1.50 will buy you a coffee at Pony Espresso.

I think Starnineteen did a fairly good job of getting into the national spotlight during the past nine months with their favorable write-ups in Billboard magazine and the industry hype that followed. I'm proud to be from St. Louis and feel as though I'm a scene veteran. I've seen a lot of things happen. I have a pretty good handle on who's full of crap, who's full of themselves and who is or could be genius. There's great history here ... and I'm only a part of it since 1990. Anyway, just thought I'd toot my horn, because, in a weird way, I feel I'm all of the above. Regards, Calvin Flash

The rockers were the most upset by what Radar Station wrote last week, because we leveled some serious criticism. Know that we did this because of any of the local scenes, this is the one we have had the most emotional investment in over the years and it's the one that continually frustrates us. It doesn't frustrate us because we think it sucks; on the contrary, it frustrates us because we know it doesn't, and, as we said last week, the good bands, with the right organization and a record label, could be recognized nationally, had they their shit together. Yes, some don't care to do anything other than make good music. But that doesn't mean that they don't deserve to have the opportunity to make good music for a national audience to hear.

Starnineteen do have their shit together. Others tour and work to get their music to crowds outside of St. Louis. We tossed off the names of bands we admire, lumping them together as though they were all guilty of some egregious offense. They were not guilty of anything other than living in a city that lacks a few music fanatics interested in and knowledgeable of the world of both St. Louis rock and independent labels.

As one not directly engaged in providing its musical content, I was amused, in a small way, by Randall Roberts' gibe that "Noisypaper [sic] ... has never said one critical word about any band it covers." The provocation seems fairly transparent, even juvenile, and certainly warrants no spirited rebuttal. Still, inasmuch as he couldn't even bother to properly transcribe the title of the periodical he was slighting, one can only hope that Roberts, as the RFT's relentlessly world-weary music editor, listens with more acuity than he appears to read or write. -- Bryan A. Hollerbach, Associate Editor, NoisyPaper

We said NoisyPaper was kind to the musicians it covers, often kind to the point of blandness, and Mr. Hollerbach's letter mentions two words that seldom arise when one finishes an issue of NoisyPaper: "spirited rebuttal." Its features and reviews, however well written and informative, consistently fail to ruffle even the most delicate feathers, so one exits a feature without any feeling that anything they've written warrants any sort of spirited rebuttal. Lacking an edge, their features end up seeming patronizing, especially when we get the sense that they're fawning over an artist whose music they don't even like (the cover story on Sarah Cloud comes to mind).

But as St. Louis music freaks, we absolutely love that NoisyPaper exists, and though we're often juvenile and always transparent (because we try to be honest), suggesting that some sort of ulterior motive lay behind our criticism is just plain wrong: It was an honest assessment of a good thing that could stand to be a lot more exciting.

Oh, and as for the main criticism you lobbed at us: So we failed to capitalize a "P." Big whoop. Sue us.

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