HAIL METZGER: The news of Michael Metzger's departure from The Weekly as Music Editor continues to reverberate through the local psyche. Metzger's four years of coverage will soon fade from memory; though, even with his most fierce detractors, after all, there'll soon be a new target for abuse.
I watched Metzger closely in his time at the helm, and saw first-hand the personal negativism hurled at him because of his job. Some of it was the expected petty stuff that goes with the territory: local musicians or club owners shaking his hand and smiling one minute, then waiting all of 30 seconds to sneer, laugh and cuss his name as he walked away. Being stabbed in the back is an everyday event for a music critic.
Some of it was more sinister. Vindictive knuckle-draggers continued until his last days here to anonymously harass him at home--one cowardly group even threatened a member of his family. He long ago learned to ignore the death threats left on his answering machine. Yes, death threats--to a local music writer!
Why have there been such extreme reactions to a weekly column about music, especially one as balanced and expertly written as Metzger's? It appears no motivation at all has been required for such personal attacks, only the fact that a local critic could be a convenient target. Some scenesters showed an alarming lack of tolerance towards what are merely his opinions concerning music.
I'll go out on a limb here: A music critic's informed opinion should never trigger any emotion near personal hate.
These attackers will be dismayed to hear they never broke Metzger's spirit. He's saddened that there are a few mean-spirited people in Tucson, disappointed that others seemed to have lost their perspective about music, but he knew these problems weren't his.
I don't mean to give the idea no one was in Metzger's corner. The vast majority of readers I talked with over the years were extremely pleased with Metzger and his music coverage. Those people simply don't speak up as often, or aren't as noticeable as the bozos who waste their time spreading malevolence.
Metzger displayed restraint, courage and professional vision throughout all four years of his reign. He handled all of the abuse with dignity and humor--something few writers, and certainly none of his attackers, would ever be able to muster under the same circumstances.
Michael Metzger didn't ask me to write these words--he's not a victim, and he doesn't need vindication from anyone. He hasn't been run out of town, he's left it on his own terms as a winner. He's a talented writer, a good person, and he's off to a better life writing for a national music magazine.
And he should be missed.
TEN MORE YEARS: On the other end of the emotional spectrum, I'd like to send congratulations to all at Club Congress following this past week's slew of quality shows. The week-long birthday party was a fitting celebration for the venerable downtown venue.
I have a slight working knowledge of the club, because I managed bookings there in the late 1980s. It's hard to believe now, but in 1986 it was a chore to get college-aged kids to come anywhere downtown, especially to what was perceived as an "arty little club." It seemed that a moat surrounded downtown--that people were afraid to drive under the Fourth and Sixth avenue underpasses to see what was on the other side.
We had few resources then to make Club Congress special. The stage was a makeshift scaffold, the room was small and not well designed, an antiquated and somewhat comical PA marred the club's sound--but we all tried, and eventually succeeded in getting people to show up.
C.C. has gone through major changes and vast improvements since I left, especially since Dan Vinik came on as club manager and director of events almost seven years ago. Vinik traces the club's success to "the incredible stew of different people we attract," and the perception they are "more tolerant of different people than most other places."
The quality of live performance bookings has also steadily increased, promotions have become clever and interesting, and the entire operation is now markedly more professional.
Some major physical evolutions also make Club Congress one of the most distinctive venues in Tucson. Over the years walls have been knocked out, the space slowly re-designed, lighting, video (and now an Internet web site) have been installed--and finally a more appropriate sound system is in place.
I'm amazed at the space now, and I tip my hat to the entire staff at Hotel Congress and Club Congress for pulling it all together.
LAST NOTES: Don Charles and Deb Gessner bring their Celtic harp, guitar, mandola and banjo to the Southwest Center For Music, 2175 N. Sixth Ave., on Thursday, November 2. Western songwriter Chuck Pyle is also on the bill, and tickets are available at the door. Lastly, "an evening of Irish music, song and dance" is in store with the appearance of Mick Moloney, Eileen Ivers and Tommy Sands this Friday, November 3, at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway. Call 327-4809 for ticket information.
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