Recently a local writer wrote about how the web has taken away the thrill of discovering what was going to be played at a Bruce Springsteen show. I don't normally comment on other people's work, but I just found the idea behind this article so ridiculous that it deserved comment.
First of all, this article is anything but timely. It might have had some merit if it was written in the late 90s, during the first mainstream explosion of the Internet;It probably would have had more meaning if it was written in the late 80s when services like Compuserve, Prodigy, and AOL were bringing millions to the world of online communities; But in 2009, this article is ridiculously out of date. Hell, true Springsteen fans have probably known setlist after setlist for every show from the early eighties on. Fan magazines like Backstreets and Point Blank regularly filled in the details quite well. In fact, I remember going to the first official night of the Tunnel of Love show and knowing what to expect strictly from the grapevine - the Asbury Park grapevine that is. Around here, Springsteen spoilers have been an annual event in my life as consistent as bennies taking over the Jersey Shore come Memorial Day. The information is always out there and always has been out there, but if you don't want to know, nobody forces you to know.
Somehow, I get the feeling that there may be more to this article than meets the eye. The author previously wrote about the "fanatics" and "crazies" who gather outside Convention Hall in Asbury Park to catch a glimpse of Bruce and the band arriving for tour rehearsal. The article pointed out how the fans had their ears to the wall to hear whatever they could (which seems a bit extreme since it's not only quite easy to hear the shows from outside, but people generally can hear pretty well) and how the crowds all dragged out their cameras to snatch pictures of Bruce as if he was some sort of God.
Unfortunately, the point of that article got lost thanks to a series of "paparazzi-like" shots taken by the author. Somehow, the idea of poking fun at "crazies" gets lost when the author personally acts like a stalker as well. Of course, the author defended the work as "gonzo journalism" - something that made me laugh. Gonzo writers like Hunter Thompson rarely, if ever, had to explain what they were doing...
I think the initial 15 minutes of Internet fame that came from the paparazzi shots led the author to write the spoiler article. More than wanting to point out how wrong it is for fans to know the songs in advance, I think the writer was hoping to find another way to have people make the connection between the author, Bruce Springsteen, and Asbury Park. This person is obviously not the first to attempt to grab fame thanks to Bruce and Asbury and will undoubtedly not be the last. What's unfortunate is that this author is now seen by some as representing Asbury Park and its music scene. I call it unfortunate because the author's latest articles seem more like the work of an opportunist rather than a budding writer.
Some may say, "didn't you write a book on Bruce Springsteen and Asbury Park? Aren't you an opportunist too?" Well, yes and no. I purposely wrote a book unlike any other to come out before or since. Springsteen was part of the book (as he definitely should be part of any book detailing Asbury Park's rock and roll history) but the book went out of its way to show that Asbury Park's music heritage did not begin and end with Bruce Springsteen. The book contained chapters on some 40 plus artists from the sixties to the early 2000s. It was hardly just another book on Bruce or Asbury Park.
So, I think I have some credibility when I say I wasn't just another Springsteen opportunist.
I guess what bothers me the most is that some of the people who have been labeled as a member of the "crazies" have been among the strongest supporters of the Asbury Park music community for decades. They have been involved in tons and tons of charity events, written books, been part of documentaries, given tours, and basically helped keep the spirit of Asbury's music history alive.
In other words, they deserve better.
Maybe if this author had done more research or had been more involved in the local music scene, the person wouldn't have been so quick to make the jump between fans, fanatics, and "crazies." Not only do I disagree with the articles, but think the author would be much better off aiming for a career as a gossip hound on TMZ rather than a music journalist. Music should mean everything for a music journalist - so much so that we very easily could be seen as "crazies" to the outside world.
The day you try tearing down the idea that music could mean everything in the world to somebody is the day I think you cease to be a music journalist because you obviously aren't a believer. Maybe music can't change the world, but some of us still choose to believe. And I would never take that away from anyone.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.