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March 2019:

Old news by now, but...
The end of Maximum Rock'N'Roll is such a bummer!!!!

I can't even imagine being a coordinator at this moment and letting this institution die on my watch. But I can understand their situation and why it's played out like this. As an outsider, I don't feel qualified to have such a strong opinion about what they can do/should do/whatever. It's just really sad. MRR is such an important historical documentation, a snapshot/litmus test of what punk is like at any given time, and it's not possible for anything to replace that at this point. Any new endeavor will have to work hard to build up to MRR's inherent scope and reputation (if it's even possible to achieve, starting 40 years after punk began), and MRR transitioning to an online zine isn't bad but doesn't work as real "historical documentation" in my opinion, which to me is the most important role of MRR.

I also think an online zine is going to really alter what's possible for MRR. I imagine an online zine to be inherently smaller. How do you get revenue to pay rent? But there's no longer any need for a centralized location, everybody can work remote to maintain a website, so do you have a decentralized set-up? Which, to me, negates some of the power of MRR, like having the collection, the compound, etc. But I might be totally wrong about the functionality of an online zine.

Within my friend group and beyond, people love to talk shit about MRR. But I think most of the complaints miss the point. MRR isn't some elite tribunal that arbitrates punk (at least, I find it hard to swallow viewing them, or anybody else, as such) nor does it fail by "not focusing on what people want....classic bands! good bands! blah blah blah". MRR is about possibility within punk. MRR is about capturing and communicating the moment, by average punks in one big city. It's a litmus test of the interests and values of punk at this moment, and I think when the zine is filled with boring bands and stupid shit, it's because punk at this moment has veered in this direction, and it'll veer in another direction soon enough. Every generation of people has their own slightly different sense of values, interests, tastes, and the magazine has changed as the culture has changed. And with any change, there are people that appreciate it and people that don't.

I disagree with the oft-heard complaint that MRR was "too elitist", although I understand how some of my friends feel that way. And I really can't relate to the notion of "they gave me a bad review because of reviewer mismatch, I feel so discouraged and upset" (see: last month's coordinator column discussing this, people going berserk over Perdition tape getting a bad review a few years ago, etc). Maybe that has more to do with my own sensibilities: I feel totally disinterested in third-party reviews of anything I do because why would I care what anybody thinks of my art? But I do think a lot of these reactions indicate mindsets like "MRR owes everyone a good review" (why? because of legacy issues? because of 'feelings'? because of business interests? I DEFINITELY don't agree with that) and "MRR's opinion is so important that this is tantamount to rejection by punk itself"....which, again, why? Why would you place so much emotional weight on what some random punks in San Francisco think about your band?

I disagree with all this stuff because MRR is all volunteers, all people just like you and me, with their own opinions and worldviews and tastes. It's not an infallible institution and they're not paid professionals with cultivated opinions. I think people place WAY too much weight on MRR in this regard. Sometimes submissions get lost in the mix, sometimes reviews get assigned randomly, and sometimes they just 'get it wrong'. MRR, as far as I can tell, was not a perfect, fluid, lossless operation. How could it be? An all-volunteer project of that size and scope and longevity, anybody that's ever been involved in any project that required multiple people to operate could tell you it's simply not possible to have something of that size operate perfectly. The important part, to me, is that they succeeded far more often than not.

Anyway, the loss of MRR as a print magazine is such a startling and tremendous blow to punk, in a way that I think will become significantly more apparent in 1-2 years than it is at this exact moment. But I do think the degree of the blow is going to depend 100% on how MRR shapes up as an online zine. If it can transition into an online repository of up-to-date information, I think the blow will be more minimized. But without having a centralized, hard-copy repository of information easily available to everyone, we enter a new era of punk where we're back to regionalization and distance, where information is harder to come by. Could be better, could be worse, but I do think it'll be different.

Next month, more about the new Pear of the West CD.