Picked to Click

The 11th Annual City Pages New Music Poll

"I love the whole notion of local music," writes City Pages contributor and admitted "old guy" Brad Zellar. "But there aren't enough people who are ranting and raving and kicking down doors to let me and all the other people on the sidelines know about all the great local music we're supposedly missing. God bless Jim Walsh, and Amy Carlson, and those beer-swilling gonzo nutballs at Pulse, but sorry, I'm not hearing a consensus, and absent a consensus I'm gonna go spend my money on that new Outkast or Giant Sand record."

He adds that he awaits this year's Picked to Click poll results, writing, "Maybe I'll find that consensus I've been looking for."

Well, we can always hope. Although scores of people we contacted for the 2001 poll, including Zellar, did the American thing and sat out the election, we still rounded up more ballots, named more "best new artists," and...ended up disagreeing more than ever. Fewer points were awarded to this year's poll toppers Faux Jean (43) than last year's Astronaut Wife (44) or 1999's Mason Jennings Band (57). So this isn't exactly what political-science wonks like to call a mandate.

Rather, local music is a rumor. And the poll is rumor amplified.

So why do we persist with what 400 Bar owner Bill Sullivan calls "yer beauty contest"? After all, you're presumably not the only reader skeptical of anything called "the best" (burned out on last week's City Pages?) and anything constituting a "poll" (it's the chad, isn't it?). Peruse all the Picked to Click ballots online (www.citypages.com) and you might reasonably conclude that our little participatory democracy makes Florida look like the Paris Commune. Where's the hip hop? Where are people of color? (Notice, too, that I assumed you'd be online.)

Cripes, I even personally know the singer and namesake of Faux Jean, which makes this forum feel not just cozy but a little humid. Not that you can accuse us of coddling the guy: Music editor Melissa Maerz forced poor Faux to justify his existence through a job application and busking test (see "Taking Care of Business," p. 15).

What Zellar craves, it seems, is some measure of what a tiny community of aficionados agrees with itself about. And plenty of people disagreed over the greats when they were "new"--think of the awful Bob Dylan (booed off the stage in Dinkytown) and the horrible Replacements (picked to clunk). Never mind that the Minnesota Music Academy seconded many of our pollsters' choices with Best New Band nominations, booking Faux Jean and others into a showcase at Monday's night's 21st Annual Minnesota Music Awards (see A List, p. 51 for details).

Yet, apologies aside, there is strength in our number-crunching: The ballots point to the ascent of the subterranean Dinkytowner Café, a sort of 21st Century Foxfire that serves as hangout and home gig for many of our poll's top bands. (We explore the phenomenon more thoroughly in "Don't Tell a Soul," p. 21--the curse be damned.) The joint has even made a public figure out of basement turntablist Andrew Broder, whose Cropduster and the Fog were voted fifth and fourth, respectively, in the poll (for more on Broder, see "Turn, Turn, Turn," p. 22).

Other rumors flew at lower altitudes: There's a new 21+ venue, Sursumcorda, at the Foxfire's old address. And remember Duluth? Scads of poll participants suddenly discovered the scene that mass culture forgot, voting for Jamie Ness, If Thousands, Gild, Giljunko, Black Eyed Snakes, and the Dames. And if the Cities can notice Duluth, it should be no shocker that word of Minneapolis has reached faraway Milwaukee.

A few weeks ago I was bumping Abstract Pack on a boombox in Madison, Wisconsin, fresh off an interview with Bobbito (see "Cold Play," p. 17), my attempt to compensate for hip-hop's poor showing in this year's Picked to Click.

As I blasted my radio, two rappers from the City of Brew, both in town for the second-annual "Hip Hop as a Movement" conference, flagged me down. "Yo, what are you playing?" asked the guy who called himself Brutal--"spelled Brutal," he clarified, "but pronounced 'bru-TAL.'"

Abstract Pack, from Minnesota, I said. (They placed fifth in 1999's Picked to Click poll, and 28th in 1995.) "You mean like Eyedea?" responded Brutal. He pointed to my Rhymesayers tee. "That kid was wearing the same shirt when he won the Blaze Battle on HBO."

Word gets around, as our paper's slogan says. Days earlier, Robert Christgau called from the Village Voice to check a fact about Atmosphere, Eyedea's crew. Turns out Der Dean of rock critics was turned on to the group by former City Pages music editor and Picked to Click pollster Jon Dolan. The moral: Like what you hear? Tell your friends.

--Peter S. Scholtes  

POLL WINNERS AND PUNDITRY: WHO WON AND WHY

HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:

We asked 63 music fans--esteemed record-store clerks, honored club employees, lowly writers--to come up with a Top Five list of favorite new local bands, solo artists, DJs, or what have you. They named more than 170 acts (a Picked to Click record) on ballots we tabulated by giving each No. 1 choice five points, each No. 2 choice four points, etc. Below are all the acts that collected more than five points, with comments about the Top Ten ranking acts from various participants. A shout of thanks to everyone who voted--see the full list at the end. And one last note: As it was when Jim Walsh founded it ten years ago, this poll is meant to be a fun and informative cheat sheet, not for use in wagering, status seeking, or negotiating major-label contracts.

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