Getting the "facts" straight
I can't understand the absurd diatribes that get posted every week against Robert Wilonsky and the other music critics of the Dallas Observer. Case in point: the reactions to Wilonsky's dissing of Pearl Jam. Outraged readers wrote that Wilonsky was ill-informed, poorly educated, smoking crack, and was a jackass. Every letter boiled down to this: Robert Wilonsky sucks.

His ineptitude seems based solely on his inability to like a reader's pet band, not on his writing. This time, irate readers set the record straight, establishing the "fact" that Pearl Jam is great because the band sells loads of concert tickets and radio stations play its songs a lot. This "well-informed," "factual" response is actually just someone else's opinion. Apparently, when readers write that Pearl Jam is a rock behemoth, I'm supposed to sigh in awe. When Wilonsky writes that the band is a 1970s rehash with more cryptic lyrics, however, these same readers proclaim that he's "biased" or "uninformed."

Of course he's opinionated; that's the point. The difference is that Wilonsky bases his opinions on the artists' music. These readers base theirs on things completely separate from the actual art--popularity, Billboard ratings, ticket sales, wardrobe. I'm sure many self-respecting Pearl Jam fans hate Hanson and the Spice Girls. But, by these readers' rationale, both groups must be extraordinarily talented: They also sell out shows, make lots of money, and receive a ton of commercial airplay.

Robert Wilonsky, despite the bias that supposedly handicaps him, is talented enough to inspire readers--week after week--to formulate passionate missives against him. It's a shame that most of these letters are poorly conceived, inarticulate, and badly written. But that's partly the newspaper's fault. Your choice of printed letters reflects on the overall paper. The letters--whether they praise or damn the paper--should be articulate and well-conceived, like the majority of Wilonsky's articles.

Walter Biggins
Via e-mail

Robert, be of strong faith, young man. One day soon the locals in this narrow-thinking town are going to discover that your real talent is sports, and all that negative bash from the music twits is going to go away. Outstanding piece on Randy Galloway ["Paper cut," August 6]. No one in this town has touched the true story like you did. Keep it up.

Herb Goodenough
Via e-mail

Ten plus Wilonsky equals zero
Top 10 things you'll never hear Robert Wilonsky say:
10. It's in poor taste to compare one artist's work with that of another.
9. I'm rooting for these fine young musicians.
8. They should go far.
7. This band can hold its own.
6. I'm glad these guys are still around.
5. If you get a chance, go see this band.
4. Congratulations on your success. You deserve it.
3. This is a good album.
2. I really liked their sound.
1. I had a great time.
Mark Morale
Via e-mail

Someone should shoot Robert Wilonsky--quick. That such an overbearing, pretentious buffoon actually gets paid to write is downright sick. I wonder if this guy even listens to the music he maligns before he slings clever-sounding oh-so-smug mud? We'll call it mud here, but if it weren't meant for public consumption, you would have to more accurately look for it in a litter box. Don't even waste good rope on him; it'd give hangin' a bad name. Just my two cents.

Via e-mail

Something smells Phisy
I just wanted to drop you a line to say how extremely disgusted I was at the article about Phish [Music Listings, July 23]. Robert's piece was probably the biggest piece of shit I've read in a long time. He makes many outrageous claims, with nothing to back him up but his own uninformed and ridiculous views. This man obviously has problems that need some therapy; maybe someone to listen to him vent is all he needs. It sounds to me like he's got the old tiny-penis syndrome, with all his talk of self-gratification. I say fire him now, before he offends another 100,000-plus-person fan base of some other band.

Brad Zuchero
Via e-mail

Your recent short article by Robert Wilonsky about the group Phish was one of the worst excuses for musical journalism I've ever seen. These four respected and hard-working musicians have released excellent studio albums (albeit rigorously eclectic and perhaps hard to grasp by some "mainstream" listeners) and are extremely entertaining while treating their audiences to a fun, high-energy display of their musical and technical prowess in their concerts. While Wilonsky's drivel is so poorly informed and irrational as to be unworthy of point-by-point debate, it must be commented that he and your editors have done a disservice to Phish and to your readers.

Leon Kalbfleisch
Via e-mail

After being utterly disgusted by the comments in Robert's article, I would just like to know his opinion of good music. If he doesn't agree that Phish performs some of the most dynamic, improvisational, smoothest grooves this side of Frank Zappa, he needs to either actually attend the concert himself rather than play off the Dead-hippie comparison, or try to think of a better argument to disprove why Phish is so popular (at one time, the band was the biggest-grossing touring act in the nation). I found his comments to be ignorant, uneducated, and downright filthy. This man bashed one of the greatest rock bands because of all of the hippies that follow and the stereotypes that he holds against them.

Garrett McAlister
Via e-mail

Recently you wrote an article reviewing a Phish show in Dallas. [Editor's note: It was actually previewing an upcoming concert.] Let me say that your article was the furthest thing from journalism I have ever seen. Using terms like "playing with themselves" to describe musical performance is infantile. You obviously didn't take any time to listen to the music and analyze it in terms of your own musical preference. Phish produces some of the most complex, thought-provoking live music of the day. The album A Live One, which you comment on as unlistenable, contains songs like "Harry Hood," which not only displays a multitude of musical talent, but describes stories and adventures without saying a word.

In some ways I doubt that you even attended the show. You made your assessment of the band on the basis of the "hippie" following and never got past that point. Just because you don't like the scene associated with the music doesn't mean the music is bad. I suggest you go back and first listen to a song like "Taste" on Billy Breathes, and then go listen to the same song on a live album like Slip, Stitch and Pass, and then attempt to call this band "pop improv." Your article was a poor excuse for a review, and I'm shocked that you could get paid for publishing such garbage. And I don't say this because you don't like Phish--I respect people's opinions to not like their music--but make an intelligent critique, not some childish banter.

Zachary Taggart
Via e-mail

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