The Promise Ring and rock criticism

The Promise Ring and rock criticism

This post should come with a massive bias warning: I love the Promise Ring. I was a huge fan from start to finish, and I'm good friends with them to this day. I was, of course, excited to hear that they decided to reunite for one show as part of Flowerbooking's 15th anniversary party. In my mind, the shows (a "secret" warm-up gig took place in Milwaukee on Nov. 10) were the perfect punctuation mark for the band, which petered out in 2002 due to bad blood and fan indifference to a more complex and mature album, Wood/Water. Like I said, I'm biased. You can check out cmykyle.com for Onion Chicago City Editor Kyle Ryan's less-biased (but no less positive) take.

I'd like to think that if the show stunk, I would've known. But who knows? But by the same token, I wonder if the person who wrote the really negative Chicago Sun-Times review (headline: "Promise Ring's show a limp, unhappy try") would've hated it no matter what. It seems from the review (found here)that the writer already made up his or her mind (sorry Jamie, honest question) before walking through the door. Which is fine. (Well, not really, but it's hardly a pickable bone, even if true.) But we must've seen different shows, or at the very least expected far different things. Guitarist Jason Gnewikow was always a stoic stage presence; it was part of his charm, especially as a foil to Davey Von Bohlen's jumping and yelling. And when he jokes about a shitty live album, it's clearly that -- a joke. If the band actually were planning a live album and he made that joke, then call him a cynic. That the band actually played a show -- and so clearly, clearly had a great time doing it -- negates any perceived cynicism, at least in my biased mind.

But here's what gets me, as an editor: Factual errors. I'm kinda shocked that several things made it in the article. Wilco does not, and has never, recorded for Anti- Records. Jim Adkins added backing vocals to "Is This Thing On?" -- not "A Broken Tenor," which they didn't even play. A lesser point: The show had to end not because of city curfew, but because another Flower15 show needed to start. (Before you say it: I can guarantee that factual errors make it into the local editions of The Onion, but I dunno if those would've.) (Speaking of errors in the S-T and Tribune, I noticed Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis--both excellent rock writers operating at the tops of their games--made exactly the same weird mistake in show reviews over the last two weeks. Find it, and I'll send you a friggin' T-shirt. Or a dollar. Or something. Hint: Each reviewed show was a reunion, to at least some degree.)

So that's that. I got rubbed the wrong way. I'm sure (or at least I hope) that I've written things that have sparked debate or even annoyed people. I just thought another (incredibly biased) opinion should be made available to you, America. I love you, you sexy, ugly thing. Here's what The Promise Ring looked like to me this weekend, and how I'll be remembering them, even as I embrace Davey and Dan's excellent new band, Maritime..