This here is an archive for the published music journalism of…me. Michael Patrick Welch. Not to be confused with Michael Welch from the newer Star Trek, or “Monster” Mike Welch, the child blues guitar prodigy. Since 2001, I’ve written about New Orleans music of every genre for Gambit Weekly, OffBeat (the city’s longest running music publication) and AntiGravity magazine. Much is made about New Orleans’ musical traditions, but this blog (and in turn my writing career) aims to give a more even, modern view of all the types of music that can be found in our amazing and varied city.
That’s also the agenda behind the 2010 music and art book New Orleans: the Underground Guide (UNO Press), which we update and revamp for a new edition each October. Featuring beautiful original photography by Zack Smith, the music guide is full of fun, informative, opinionated, sometimes provocative interviews, essays and listings, and is meant to be read cover-to-cover, though it’s also a great tool for visitors wanting help navigating New Orleans’ nightclubs and art galleries. Since its initial release, New Orleans: the Underground Guide has remained a top-selling title at UNO Press, and recently garnered this great review in the Chicago Tribune.
Having written about New Orleans’ music for ten years, I wanted to address in a substantial way the imbalance in coverage for non-traditional New Orleans art. The city’s institutions enthusiastically promote those who propagate New Orleans’ traditions, while artists pursuing newer musical ideas are given far less press. I also aimed to write about the city’s music in a way that was blatantly not PR for my subjects – a very hard thing to get out from under in music journalism in general, much less in tiny New Orleans, which is not unlike Sesame Street, where close social quarters demand we all get along. I wanted the book to seem honest. When the first edition came out, it pissed off Big Bird and few other important characters, and I hid in my trash can for a little while, coming out only to apologize sincerely. I’ve softened some of the opinions slightly in further printings, and gained most of my friends back. In the end I still believe it’s an important (if imperfect) statement. And people who don’t live on Sesame Street seem to unanimously find it a valuable, unique and entertaining resource.
As for me (call me MPW), I began my writing career at the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times). At the end of that three-year tenure, I self-published the diary Commonplace with the help of record label Screw Music Forever. In 2000, I moved to Costa Rica for a bit to begin work on the novel Y’all’s Problem, which took seven years to write, and was only recently released by Dirty Coast Press (with excellent illustrations by Jeff Pastorek). In between, I penned the New Orleans novel The Donkey Show (Equator Books), the first chapter of which was published HERE at McSweeney’s.
My journalism and other writing has also appeared in Newsweek, Spin, Filter, Houston Press, Miami New Times, Dallas Observer, New Orleans Review, Scat, Kitchen Sink, Cleveland Scene, Weekly Planet (Creative Loafing), Feed, Urb, Southern Woman, Paul Tough’s Open Letters, Constance, Pindeldyboz, Ink19, BayDomain, BIGNews and others.
On the side I cover New Orleans’ burgeoning charter school movement for The Lens news site. I also teach a writing class wherein public school kids of all ages improve their literacy by writing album reviews as well as rap songs which they record and perform live (check out this New York Times review of my students’ first album.)
Here are reviews of New Orleans: the Underground Guide from Dig in Baton Rouge and my buddies at OffBeat. NOLADefender did this really thorough interview about the guidebook and Y’all’s Problem, which was also well-reviewed by local art freak Lord David. And here is a review of my first novel, The Donkey Show, written in Arthur Magazine by the brilliant Gabe Soria.
As of now the blog features three dozen pieces covering acts ranging from Public Enemy to ReBirth Brass Band, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore to 47-year-old Louisiana gospel group The Electrifying Crown Seeker, and everything in between. I will publish intermittent personal essays and other original content, including short anecdores about funny celebrity encounters, which are almost comically abundant in New Orleans these days, “Hollywood South” and all…
For now, here is a video of my rap class wylin’ out: