Sunday, September 22, 2002

No Media Res(t) for the Weary Traveler II
When I get to a new town, I do several things. I map out the main post office, city hall, train or bus station, high school, police station, and main branch of the public library -- thinking that, if you hit at least several of these landmarks, you see most of the livable city. I also check the Yellow Pages for comic book stores, record shops, and book stores. I did all of this in Richmond. I also picked up as many free papers and alt.weeklies as possible.

In Richmond, there are three primary entertainment sections and alt. weeklies. While I didn't pay as much attention to other entertainment and shopping guides as I did when I visited Chicago, I did pick up several papers worth mentioning: the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Weekend section, Style Weekly, and Punchline.

First up, Weekend. This is your basic daily newspaper entertainment section. This edition is particularly worth your attention because it features an article by Kelly Gerow entitled "Just Push Play: For Many Richmond Bands, Home Really Is the Road." The article communicates the mixed message that

  • There is a Richmond music scene
  • Local bands are really only appreciated outside of the city

    Gerow highlights Engine Down (whose CD I picked up at Soundhole), Bats and Mice, Denali (whose CD I bought at Plan 9), Broken Hips, and Soft Complex. As I shopped for records, I got mixed reviews. One record store clerk (at Plan 9) said, "So, you raided the local section." And the owner of Soundhole, Greg, steered me away from the local section, saying that most of the bands were "dead issues" and that, if a record worthy of attention wasn't on sale on consignment -- which they wouldn't be in most cases, I was led to believe -- it'd be in the main racks. He also suggested that I listen to a handful of records -- of which I purchased several -- and then threw in several free local records and samplers. Hoorah, Soundhole. If you're local and you haven't gone, go go go!

    Then there's Style Weekly, which isn't associated with a local daily -- and which resonates more with the Chicago Reader than New City. Opening with an oddly placed front-of-book advertorial about an art nouveau exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the Weekly seems oddly upper crust -- more Mass. Ave than Davis Square. To its credit, the weekly does include a piece by Edwin Slipek that analyzes the architectural Renaissance slated for downtown. Considering the $105 million performing arts complex, Slipek looks at Richmond's urban development plans, placing them in a cultural and political context that draws on the use -- and misuse -- of several city blocks and properties in question. Given Slipek's active and forceful voice and perspective, he might well be a local writer to watch.

    Lastly, Punchline. With an Adam Kidder cover this week, this New City- and Weekly Dig-like weekly is what I'd read regularly if I lived here. Given, it's not that well written or designed, but Punchline seems to be the voice of young Richmond. It's got edgy commentary on sobriety, the lottery, and the fall TV season. The paper name drops Haruki Murakami and seems to have a stronger sense of local music, and includes the listings to back it up.

    Punchline also has a stronger sense of comics sensibility. Featuring work by George Tautkus, Tony Millionaire, Jen Sorenson, N.V. Dogma, and J.M. Coates, the paper indicates that it's plugged into the right artistic sockets, even if they don't power all of the weekly's editorial slots.
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