The same time I was reading City Weekend music scene columnist Aric Queen's official last column in the new print edition - takes breath - there was also an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond playing in the same room. It was an episode where Ray, a writer, gets caught writing an obituary for his still living father for practice. So, I'm going to blog Aric's official departure from the scene as if he was dead/gone for good.
Aric Queen was recently known as a scene pundit of sorts through his column The Beat. Despite it being on the English speaking periphery of an already small scene, the column still managed to provoke debate and a few storms in teacups along the way. A notable example of this was the column following up on strong shows at Tembo that asked if Brad Ferguson was the saviour of the Shanghai music scene. A lack of experience with English expressions and journo-hyperbole led folks at Yuyintang to take it as a slight on their own efforts.
After taking over the column from the DJ-centric Michael Ozone of Antidote, Aric brought his local live music agenda with him. Recently, though, burnout settled in and the column increasingly fell back to generic posts on the ex-pat bar scene. With only one print column a month, most of this year was spent wondering why girls kiss each other at parties and other related topics. A column wondering if it was "gay" to cry at a Black Eyed Peas show caused a predictable (and justified) ruckus. Around this time, Aric also broke onto Current TV with his Shanghai Diaries v-log. This was not music related. This month's final column announces his departure into greener pastures.
Now for what a lot of newer arrivals to the scene don't know about Aric. Aric Queen was an extremely talented, and professional, voice artist/presenter whose Gig Shanghai project is the sole largest missed opportunity the scene ever had. I still miss it. It's easy to start a website or blog and write about the scene, just ask me. It's not easy to maintain a good one. You need the time and resources to create a strong lead feature and publish it often. Gig Shanghai had it all.
Aric was working for Ken Carroll at Chinese Pod as an English presenter for some of their podcasts. Gig Shanghai was then started within this professional environment. They had their own studio and employees at the company to do research and bookings. The site was simple and effective with good branding and a simple clear style. They had a single strong feature, the podcast, and produced it every week. And it was good. After a few weeks it hit it's stride and expanded to include a Chinese language program too. The future looked bright and it all hinged around Aric's considerable skills in the host's seat.
It all collapsed as quickly as it had taken off. The process of expanding into a fully fledged video show in effect killed the podcast. The new show Giglive didn't pan out and had been funded through a venue as a promotion, a move away from the Carroll stable. Everyone walked away and the greatest web project on the scene died a quick death.
When Aric resurfaced with the CW column and a freelance producer mantle, he was already jaded. But, the skills on show during Gig Shanghai stuck in my mind and we (me and Cameron Hirst) approached him to present a demo project of our own - FNU. We made it to use as a demo and involved Aric in all parts of the process. We had a good time and got to see the Aric skills in action, reminding me again of what could have been. It was a joy to work with a pro and I finished the project wondering what had happened to this guy who was now mainly know as "The Columnist You Love to Hate - Mostly Hate". Attempts at a low rent revival of the pod/vid cast in the CW blog of the column just seemed to underline the transformation.
Of course, Aric is not dead and I for one hope his trip brings him back to us refreshed and recharged. It takes all types to make a vibrant scene even people you love to hate.