Former Chicago Sun-Times rock writer Jim DeRogatis attended the latter panel, and was unimpressed by Weingarten, whose work he dismissed as “verging on annoying gimmickry.” Weingarten noted this on his Twitter account, “In other news: One of my absolute favorite music crits called me ‘annoying’ in the Chicago Sun-Times . . . #killyridols?”
“I mean, what annoys me most is that it comes from Jim—a rock writer who I totally respect and adore,” he told me later in an e-mail. “Like, duh, no shit, I’m gimmicky. I mean I basically took something I loved doing—writing about bands—and put it in a fun concept that non-nerds could enjoy. But the thing is, I never dumbed down my writing or compromised my integrity.”
When he finally makes it to Cheer Up Charlie’s, a cinderblock building on Sixth Street, Quasi is still playing. “Oh, God, what number am I on?” Weingarten asks, to no one in particular. He pulls out a Flip camera and hurriedly makes his way toward the stage. As part of his deal with Rollingstone.com, he is expected to videotape each band he sees from two different angles. “I gotta get the camera out fast,” he explains. “If I don’t ‘get’ the band, I don’t get to use the review.”
It takes him about ten minutes to ‘get’ Quasi. (“#SXSW 37)QUASI: Sam Coomes seems really psyched to play a sunny, gravelly field on a rickety stage. Maybe he hasn’t done it in a while?”) He heads out while they’re still playing, stopping on the sidewalk to greet an acquaintance. This happens often; SXSW is something of a yearly reunion for America’s music critics. “Yo, Julian!” Weingarten exclaims. The two men slap hands.
“What’s up, man?” Julian asks.
“I gotta walk.”
After a brief stop to hear a Spanish quartet called Delorean (“#SXSW 38)DELOREAN: Fluffy, intimate, bass-bursting glo-punk party in secluded field within throwing distance of a mile-long FADER Fort line”), he stumbles upon a venue called The Music Gym & Lounge, a small bar just east of the highway. An obscure Seattle rap group called Shabazz Palaces is playing a sparsely attended set on the outdoor patio, and for the first time since we met, Weingarten seems surprised by what he’s hearing. “Is that a kalimba?” he asks, referring to the wooden thumb piano being played by percussionist Tendai “Baba” Maraire. He bobs his head and grins broadly as he videotapes the group. “This is fantastic!” he says.
There are no more than twenty people at the show. At least half of them are music critics, most of whom seem to know or recognize Weingarten. A bunch of young music writers from Seattle gather around him to introduce themselves as the band finishes up. “I really enjoyed that,” one says, talking about the 1000TimesYes project.
“What part?” asks Weingarten.
“The part where you debased yourself for a year on Twitter,” says another, smiling.
Although he enjoys being recognized, he is somewhat bemused by the attention. “In the grand scheme of things, I still feel like a fucking nobody,” he says. Earlier that day, he ran into Chuck Eddy, a former music editor at The Village Voice, who praised Weingarten’s tweets. Weingarten is an unabashed Eddy fan—“When the recent Pazz and Jop issue came out, his essay rose above anything in a way that made me worry about the younger generation. Will we ever be able to write that way?”—and he seemed pleased by the words of support. “ ‘It’s good to be known for something,’ he told me,” Weingarten says.