Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Show and Tell: "Can I get in the Van?" by Erick Lyle

This is easily my favorite piece of journalism that I've read in the past few months. Basically, the writer is assigned to write a piece on the two reunited versions of the famed punk rock/experimental/psychedelic band Black Flag. The writer, a musician, hears that Black Flag is auditioning bassists and decides to hitchhike his way across the country to Texas where the auditions are held. He melts the faces of the guys in the band, and he practices with them for a week. They offer him a spot in the band. He turns them down and goes back to New York, bass in hand.

I think this is such a fascinating piece because the writer put himself completely into the story. He showed a Hunter S. Thompson-esque disregard for his original assignment (write about a reunited band) and decided to dive into the story completely. In doing so, he is able to provide a perspective no other journalist will ever get: one from inside the band. We can see the criteria guitar player Greg Ginn has in mind for players (Do you smoke weed?") and it gives the reader an amazing insight into the musical process of how this band jams, man. Furthermore, it's fascinating from a narrative standpoint. It's a damn good story.

It also raises some interesting questions. Did Erick Lyle violate journalistic ethics? Is there too much of him in the piece? Does his involvement render the piece ineffective. I don't think so, but I'd like to hear other opinions.

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