So I am going to preface this with this bold indictment, this unqualified criticism, this wide open for rebuttal comment — when I happen across a musician standing on a stage wearing an acoustic guitar and singing songs of GOD KNOWS WHAT — I think of campfires, and substitute teachers, and part timers…tourists in the world of music. Save for the comedy of Pat McCurdy and the violence of Ani DiFranco…an acoustic guitar just ain’t my thing.
That being said, in the past few weeks I had a chance to sit and listen to a friend play. I have been seeing him play for better than half of my life it feels like, I even got a song in the song list about two years ago (a Violent Femmes song, so we will not mention it). Normally I end up talking to him way too much, and it somehow makes me not see him as a performer, but as a buddy singing songs.
But I was able to sit at the bar at the City Grille and hear him sing, and I got to see him again at Mickeys. Both places seeming out of sorts for musicians, but so it goes. At least they’re giving these guys a shot.
Anyway, his name is Jim Carlson. I think he is about my age, he is a Dad of a pretty cool son, he lives in the coolest apartments downtown, and he respects Apple computers. The thing about Jim, is Jim does everything right. He does everything professionally. He handles business. When so much of local music is tom foolery, and localism at its worst, middle brow underacheiving tripe — Jim sees that he needs his music to move. Beyond Wausau, beyond Marathon County, beyond Wisconsin. Jim is the only local cat I know that has played in Europe, has charted in Europe, and is available worldwide. We used to joke that Jim was huge in Belgium, and I thought it was a good joke, until I took a real look at what he does.
When I listen to Jim, as a performer, and NOT MY FRIEND, I can see how the songs are great, well crafted, emotional songs. His performance style conveys the music perfectly, and I think that his performance when in front of a cold crowd is amazing. I think sometimes on the home court, there is a little too much inside baseball. But so it goes, its like playing in your bedroom, ultimately you know its going to be okay.
Most of my friends are musicians in one form or another, most of my extended friends are record label or radio cats and many of them look at someone like Jim Carlson with a ton of respect. Jim goes for it businesswise. So many locals, who think that playing a gig at the PI is the goal, or whatever, can take a lesson from Jim Carlson. Jim is a cool dude. He works all day to set up the night gig, while we play Xbox, or whatever, he courts relationships with his fans, he takes it seriously. He knows where he is, and he has goals. Atta Boy Jim.