Margaret Hair: Cheering on local LeBrons

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Margaret Hair

Margaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com.

— If you've ever made a habit of reading the ramblings of a specific writer about anything going on in a contained cultural area - hint: you have - you might have noticed those writers tend to harp on certain sources or topics.

I am absurdly guilty of this, as regular readers know from rampant coverage of the semi-local band American Relay, or from recent mentions of how much I love The Avett Brothers.

Really, I don't see anything wrong with this - writing about the arts has a sort of inherent subjectivity to it because forming an opinion about the arts is a subjective pursuit. It's hard to feign interest in the inspirations and influences of art you find uninspired, or of music you think has particularly unfortunate influences.

With local music, it's hard to think a band is completely uninspired, because you've probably heard the group play at least 17 times, and you've probably been within 10 feet of the stage for each of those performances.

It's the same kind of connection you might feel for the sports star you used to ride the bus with, or a successful politician who used to be in your civics class.

Say you grew up playing basketball with LeBron James. You did this on outdoor courts with metal nets, and occasionally he would let you shoot, probably because he knew his outlandish level of skill would make you so nervous, there's no way that layup was going in. You figured one day, LeBron would look out at you from your TV screen and sell you some Sprite. And you knew that one day, you'd look back and be able to say, "I remember that time he tripped and fell off the school bus."

Growing up with a band, during the years they play in smoky dives or sports grills that happen to have a stage, has the same effect. When those bands are good - as the Avetts were in the early 2000s in North Carolina, and as American Relay has the potential to be now in Colorado - they develop the same kind of cool-kid star quality as the neighborhood LeBron.

Music fans want to be there for every show, and music writers want to be able to get a non-stock interview before every performance. And even though the chances of all of these bands signing to major labels are about as good as the chances of every high school basketball star getting signed to the Lakers, it seems like a waste to approach the situation with any of that in mind.

If you did, you'd be throwing away the enthusiasm those bands bring to their performance. And as anyone who saw the Avetts' performance on Tuesday for the Strings Music Festival knows, that's a lot of sweat to shed and energy to expend if the audience isn't going to follow suit. So you have to root for the hometown team - even if that means talking about its stars nonstop.

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