Noted music critic emerges from shadows

Wanna re-live the turn-of-the-century music scene? Now you can– "Cripsy" is back, baby! Well, sort of.

Cripsy Duck, one of this town's noted music critics and the man known in real life as Stephen Barling, author of dozens of music reviews from September '99 to May '01, has finally released his back catalog.

"People have been asking to see them again," says Barling, who adds that he doesn't think the Charlottesville music scene has changed much since his Crawl. "There are still a lot of bands and no central organization," he says.

The unusual moniker came from an error on China Star Restaurant's menu and ended up inside the brain o' then club-hopping Barling. Back in the day, one of Cripsy's favorite venues was the Prism.

"They had acoustic shows in a living room setting. National acts loved that place because it was very intimate," he says. "Gravity Lounge is picking up some of the slack, though, and they have a lot of diversity in their acts."

Though he has trouble deciding, Barling says the best show he ever saw in Charlottesville was probably The Dead Kennedys at Trax in the '80s.

"I gave up," he explains. "No money. Going out every night to see bands I didn't know or care about. That's a young man's game."

But in a city with as much culture as Charlottesville, can Barling ever really escape music? Nope. He's half of the duo called B.C. or Barling and Collins.

"I'm sure I'll write about music again because I imagine people aren't all that excited to listen to me rant about politics," he says.

Besides writing Cripsy's Crawl for the old C-ville Weekly, Barling more recently penned a few pieces for a gossip blog called the Cvillain, but he notes that his music reviews there were "more about the conversation than the content." He could spend a long time writing a review, he says, but if it wasn't controversial enough, no one would comment. "You need to get up and say something like 'The Outback sucks!' on that site," he says.

Cripsy started his new blog because he wanted the freedom to write about "this exciting political race we have going." He adds that the blog, which has had about 600 hits since it was first posted about a week and a half ago, will most likely also cover music.

"There's still a need," he says. "There's not a lot of live reviewing going on. There aren't a lot of people going out and pounding the pavement."

Barling's new blog lives here, and his old music reviews live here.

7 comments

Ok, I'll bite: ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??There are still a lot of bands and no central organization,¢Ã¢â??¬ he says.

"central organization"? isn't that oxymoronic as applied to the music scene? whatever happened to anarchy?

Yeah, Maude, true dat. But there was a time when Charlottesville was expected to be the next Seattle - we can all see how that turned out. Seattle had its own sound and community - sort of. Charlottesville never really had that. In fact, if you sound like Dave Matthews around here, it's hard to get any respect at all. (maybe that's best.)

well, a community and sound are different from a central organization--one is probably synergistic, and one sounds fascistic. but anyway, yes, ok, charlottesville is not seattle, or even athens, ga, but a central organization or homogenized sound is not necessary for that. Maybe it's a venue issue? or maybe people are too stuck on being here and not willing to make the effort it takes to translate to the big time?

I think it's venue: since Trax and the mineshaft are no more (not to mention the prism) I don't think any of our venues has provided just the right space--satellite came close to trax/mineshaft, gravity comes close to prism, but the pavilion? ugh. Paramount? too upscale, too expensive. also, Millers is not what it was--there are good local bands playing there still, but the scene has changed with the new ownership (well, i know it's not really new anymore, but...) and it's not likely to be a breakout venue.

now that satellite and starr hill are both gone, it will be interesting to see what takes their place, and whether that makes a difference.

A small correction here: Cripsy's Crawl ran until summer of '02, not '01. Sweet.

Maude, you're right on about venues - though I've found Charlottesville audiences to be pretty blase about live local music anyway (ever seen a full house at JPJ just sitting there yawning?) Just like the local papers, local fans rarely get interested in local acts unless somebody somewhere else says they're really cool.

Now that you got me thinking about it, the last thing Charlottesville had that was really scene-like was the old Tokyo Rose under Atsushi Miura. Punks went to goth shows and vice-versa, but there were only 150-or-so people in the scene down there.

There are little pockets of bands that support each other consistently (Jim Waive and Sarah White come to mind), but generally bands avoid each other's shows, don't network, etc.

Ultimately, however, what the town really lacks is booking and representation that can help some of the more worthy to get out of town and pursue larger audiences. You can't run a band in a vacuum, it takes a ton of logistical support, and despite the efforts of a few noble loons (Jeyon?) this rarely translates into anything useful for C-Bands.

ya, you're right--the Rose was a perfect incubator for bands. I guess outback is sort of serving that function--but, who really wants to go there? [i mean, thanks for providing a space for new bands!]

yes, having worked many years ago in supporting national touring folk acts, I know how much work it takes--not just the booking and negotiating, but taking on the PR function b/c local venues don't always do it consistently for themselves. It's a lot of work and doesn't pay all that well, especially at first. You have to be a true believer in your acts and be able to make those connections w/out of town venues and media so they'll trust you when you're selling the newest thing.

...so, now I'll put in a plug for my former boss and her great book and website: http://www.performingbiz.com/

I've got that book! Nice one.