I started this blog on Jan. 2, 2004, dragged just as I was into most technology/internet things by Mr. Chair, curious yet not really sure what I wanted to do with a blog or exactly why I should have one. But I do remember distinctly my impetus at least on that first day was to "publish" my own personal list of the top albums of 2003, capped unsurprisingly by Calexico's excellent Feast of Wire. My initial subtitle for the blog - a pleasantly subversive chronicle of music, politics, humor, sports and beer - reflected some broader topics of conversation, but outside of a few anti-war and anti-Bush rants in 2004 some epicly pointless posts about burritos and some Go Wildcats! posts, I rarely wrote about anything but music.
It's hard think about the blog without thinking back to its early days, 2004 and 2005, and how vastly different my life was at the time. And while that's a ball of wax I'd rather not start unraveling now - or ever - it's worth saying that in writing that post about the best albums of 2003, I reflected that I probably missed a great deal of awesome music that year because I wasn't a professional music critic. Not that I was explicitly voicing an aspiration along those lines at the time, but it's a status I've been at for a few years. And I still miss out on a great deal of awesome music every year.
I'm closing down this blog now because it's as good a time as any, I suppose. The truth is it's had far more fallow years than ones of bounty. I don't see any reason to pull it down, but it doesn't seem right to let Catfish Vegas presents... wither on the vine without any sort of a eulogy.
The only really active stretch on this blog ran through about the first half of 2008 and then again as I began earning my living as a freelance writer in 2009. And in a lot of ways, this blog got me to where I am now as music writer. But in doing so, it's long since served its purpose. For years it's been evident that I can't manage to keep up writing on two different tracks.
Along the way, as I got more and more into music, music writing and the fantastic work I discovered on other blogs, I always kinda wished that Catfish Vegas presents... would become more prominent, not in a chasing-the-next-big-thing sort of way, but more like the connecting-with-readers way of the blogs I read and enjoyed the most, like the excellent Captain's Dead, Fuel Friends and Aquarium Drunkard, and Arizona's two best, So Much Silence and Ick Music, each one a unique and indispensable voice to me.
But while I found some fans and some great connections to not only other music bloggers, but artists and publicists, what I found most was a writing voice that enabled me to break out of what I had been doing as a daily newspaper reporter and begin writing about music for pay, something that's been a bit of a bumpy ride as far as finances go, but something I've worked harder and harder at along the way and an area in which I've been able to not only improve dramatically, but expand as a portfolio.
But let me reflect a bit more for the time being on the blog. Aside from writing and working on my own craft, I really enjoyed thinking of myself even a little bit as a voice that might reach people, people who'd look for what I say, check out the music I recommended, toss some favorites back. I liked being part of this online community of enthusiastic music lovers sharing what they love the best. That happens to some degree with what I do now, but it's not the same.
I also appreciated the direct connection with artists, many of whom were and are making outstanding music outside the confines of any pre-established industry structure. No one else exemplifies than factor - and especially it's lasting impact on me - than Sum, an MC and incredible songwriter who arrived in my world via an unsolicited email, saying that that at first glance, my blog seemed to deal mainly in folk and blues but that I was clearly a lover of good music in general and would I mind checking out his tunes? These days I doubt I'd even open that email, but damn if Sum hasn't been a favorite of mine for years now. Absolutely go check out his Dragon, Vol. 1 album, which he's offering as a free download here.
Once I started writing for the Tucson Weekly, I kept up the blog
because I liked the notion of being able to offer up new discoveries and
share excitement about bands without having to be so formal as to write
a full-fledged review. As I grew away from it, I held out some hope
that I'd continue blogging in some way. Perhaps I will one day, perhaps
on my own site or perhaps even here.
On that tip, go immediately and check out the Restorations and Resonars, two of the best bands I've discovered not just lately, but in years.
That surge in music blogs was a fascinating phenomenon, and one I'm glad to say I was a small part of. But the heyday is certainly long gone. Many of the best ones have become entities of their own that far surpass being just blogs. Quality and dedication truly won out. On the other end, democratizing the world of music writing and criticism undoubtedly devalued a good bit of it. And, like mine, most of those thousands of music blogs have simply faded away. I view my efforts as sort of a trip through the minor leagues, earning some experience and stats along the way that I was able to use to jump up a level. If I don't think in those terms, then I'm left with little than an endless stream of emails from music publicists and hopeful artists, no matter how long Catfish Vegas presents... sits silent.
I still check out the ones that I liked best. But while a blog is an enthusiastic thing to begin, it's an exhausting thing to keep up with. Who's out there in the wilderness listening? Does it matter? I never really found my own answer to those two questions and I feel much more comfortable writing for something I know will see some eyes, either in print or online.
Along the way, my own aspirations as a writer have changed drastically. That's a lesson in itself. I know that hard work, dedication and continual improvement efforts are worth far more than talent in this world, just as they are in music. I write every day. I write about music, about other things. I write for myself, knowing that those efforts can add up to something better, just as my blogging did.
So while I'm ending Catfish Vegas presents... at this point, find me at EricSwedlund.com. It's not always completely up to date, but I repost my published work there. And perhaps some blogging one day. Or fictional projects. Or whatever.
I started this blog off with a best-of and it's only fitting that my final posts today include another best of. And a mix. And this blogeulogy, another shout in the wilderness.