Little Rock powered through icy roads last Friday night to check out the Arkansas Times Musician Showcase at The Rev Room in the River Market. I was among those brave souls, although truth be told, this is the first time I’ve been out to this particular event in a few years. Regardless, I was happy to see a decent amount of people out supporting local artists.
I love music, and I love live shows, and there were a lot of things I loved about the showcase this year.
I loved that Open Fields got creative with the synthesizer and exhibited a sexy four-part harmony. I loved Ghost Bones’ solemn rhythm section and their skill-honed mysterious, offbeat mood. I loved the groove that Becoming Elephants threw into the show with their ethereal instrumentals that were highlighted by soaring saxophone solos. I loved the major energy that American Lions brought to the stage, courtesy of their lead guitarist. I loved the serious Southern Rock Enchiridion brought, playing a steady, all-around good show.
These were the things I loved, however, there are some other things that I think we as a community of live-music lovers have honestly let slip below the bar.
First of all, it seems to me that the event is having an identity crisis. Are we watching a showcase or battle of the bands? I know Little Rock and the greater Arkansas area has more to offer than one or two genres of music. Where is the hip-hop, the folk, and country music?
Don’t tell me these bands don’t exist, because they do, and I’m sure they’d help make a more well-rounded lineup, if that is what the Times means by showcase. Unfortunately, as it stands, we get something a little less than that, which brings me to my next point.
Voting. Is it in the hands of the judges, the audience, or some combination of the two? How does it work exactly, because there aren’t any rules or regulations listed anywhere that I could find.
The way things are going, it seems as though the Times is content to host a glorified popularity contest. Fan voting encourages bands to usher in their audience, only to have them stay for their set, vote, and abandon the dance floor completely, a sad sight to see in a city that prides itself on community, not competition. I realize that not everyone is going to like every band but I feel like the revolving door should be the exception, not the rule.
The show was good, but I think there are ways we as a music community could make it great. We are a city full of talent, it’s just a matter of getting all varieties of it on the bill. We have some of the best local venues and stages and some of the best local musicians. Next time I’d like to see even more people out at The Rev Room. What’s stopping us? It’s time to get a conversation going, time to support our talent so they don’t leave us for other cities and areas more willing to give lesser known bands and musicians a chance.
Let’s get the conversation started, and with that I ask, what do local bands think, what does the music community think, and what does Little Rock at large think?
We’re all ears.