Watershed moment

May 16, 2009

This week I did something for the first time in 23 years: I actually paid for jazz festival tickets. Shock, horror! What’s the world coming to?

In all of those years I received a media pass from the Coastal Jazz & Blues Society for the festival. Not this year. I’m not requesting a pass for one simple reason: I’m not currently writing about music for a newspaper. I was a contributing writer to the Vancouver Courier from 1996-2008 and the Georgia Straight from 1986-2000. I covered the festival many times for those papers, especially for the Courier, which published my annual best bets for the 10-day event along with articles on specific artists. But the Courier told me that they’ve had to clamp down on their freelance budget, so they can’t take any articles from me this year.

I’ve been expecting this for a few years – it’s a sign of the times with newspapers, which have become an endangered species. But now that it’s really happening, I’m feeling somewhat sad. I don’t really care that I’m not getting free tickets anymore. (Well, maybe I care a bit.) What’s more on my mind is how this represents a personal watershed moment – closure to an important part of my life.

The last media pass:

Jazz Fest Media Pass

My first article about music, headlined “The Future of Music?” (about punk rock), was published on November 12, 1980 in my high school newspaper. From that point on, all I wanted to be was a writer, and specifically one that wrote about music. I went on to do that exactly that, and had a good run. My last article, published on November 5, 2008, was about Vancouver musician Steve Dawson.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so final about it; I could pursue other writing gigs. But I doubt there are many opportunities out there, and I’ve moved on to other pursuits. Plus in many ways, I now feel closer to music. I listen to music and write about it in this blog for pure pleasure, not because I’m getting paid to write about it.

I’ve kept clippings of all my articles. There are hundreds of them, some starting to yellow. Some day I’ll sit down with my grandchildren and show them my work. Maybe they’ll be surprised to see I wrote about not just jazz and rock, but punk, hip hop, country, Afrobeat, Eastern European music and much more. I’m proud of my oeuvre (if you can call it that), but it’s time to move on.

In case you’re wondering, these are the jazz fest concerts I bought tickets for: Hiromi’s Sonicbloom (Performance Works), José González/Ndidi Onukwulu (Commodore), Joyce (Performance Works) and Kenny Werner Quintet/Fred Hersch Trio (The Centre). I bought the “Jazz Stimulus 4-Pack” – at $88 + services charges, an excellent deal!

A sampling of articles I wrote, mainly for the Courier



  1. Impressive archives Chris! (and as an aside – LOVE Kelly Joe Phelps…)

    Saving my money for the Folk Fest this year…really incredible lineup!

  2. Grandchildren?

    Do you know something we don’t know?

    I think you should visit Magee and start up their student newspaper again. We need more writers and fewer bloggers… and we need newspapers again.

  3. My take on free tickets for journalists is that they’re not really free. The advantage of paying for your ticket is that there’s no implied expectation of anything in return, and you can just go and enjoy yourself. Besides, aren’t you earning most of your living off the Google ad revenue from this blog? …

  4. […] talking about my career as a music journalist. Just over a year ago, I wrote about my watershed moment of not writing about our jazz festival for a newspaper for the first time in years. That turned out […]

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