March 12 2009 12:00 AM

A survey of Lansing’s musical landscape

After not watching the Grammy Awards for the umpteenth year in a row, it’s safe to say I didn’t miss anything.

It’s the same every year. They hand over an award to an industry dinosaur like Robert Plant, who recently recorded a brilliant (or mediocre) album. Then, a hip radio band (Coldplay) wins at least two prominent awards for a rehashed version of its previous album.

“Viva la Vida,” The Coldplay album that won three awards, was 2008’s second-best selling album in the United States. It was only topped by Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter III” — and yes, Lil Wayne also won a handful of Grammys. Coincidence?

While the award show rules insist record sales have nothing to do with judging, it seems it certainly doesn’t hurt the artists’ chances.

Basically, the Grammy Awards ignore anything that doesn’t have a million dollar budget or wasn’t released by a major label. Which is fine, they serve their purpose. They ignore folks who listen to left-of-the-dial music and vice versa; even trade, right?

The one problem I do have with televised award shows is that they create a standard in people’s head of what “good music” sounds like. Young people watching at home are told what the best rock, country and rap albums are by a group of judges who obviously don’t research past their FM dial, VH1 and MTV.

After watching a Hollywood awards show, an impressionable youth is not likely to go to Uncle Sam’s Record Emporium in Old Town and dig for a 7-inch record pressed by a local band. These kids are too busy downloading the latest Ne-Yo single and talking about what dress Beyonce wore. It’s sad because it compromises the sanctity of music itself.

People can like whatever they choose to like, it’s just a bummer that most seem to be brainwashed by whatever corporations throw at them. Those seeking new music would likely be better off walking into Flat Black and Circular in East Lansing and asking longtime employee Jon Howard what he recommends.

I’m not saying all Grammy winning records are horrible, I just have more than an inkling that the “judging” is not all about the quality of songwriting.

Obviously, there are great musicians who don’t drive Bentleys and talk it up on MTV, but you will rarely, if ever, see them on stage holding an award for Rock Album of the Year.

It’s best not to be bitter about situations where “elite” people get together, dress up and talk about how great they are all night. I suggest taking a step back, chuckling and knowing that it’s all about numbers and names (not music). Maybe even go and watch a local rock or hip-hop show (such as the ones listed below). You may or may not like what you hear, but at least it would be you making the decision.

Michigan is out of the way for any touring band that doesn’t live in our state. So it’s always nice when a great punk band drives hundreds of miles to play in Lansing. On Feb. 20 Let Me Crazy (Long Island) will play a feedback infested set of trashy punk at Mac’s Bar. Rounding out the bill are local madmen, The Cartridge Family. If you haven’t seen a grown man in spandex but yearn to, you may want to check out this show. Feel Good Violence (Lansing) opens the show with a sound reminiscent of early Incubus. 2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing. 9 p.m. $8

The following night (Feb. 21) at Mac’s, metal heads invade the stage with thrashed-out sets by local metal masters Wastelander, The Plague Years and Cavalcade. The out-of-town loudness of Amen Ra (Belgium) and Zoroaster (Atlanta) complete a night of mayhem. 2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing. $10. 9 p.m.

The Hard Lessons (Detroit) are one of Michigan’s most promising indie bands, and on Feb. 22, they will lighten up the dark stage at Mac’s with some poppy, high energy rock’n’roll. Locals Alco and Elliot Street Lunatic headline this early show. 2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing. $10. 6:30 pm all ages.

Looking for something a bit quieter? Aside from selling vinyl LPs and 45s, The Record Lounge in East Lansing is also hosting unplugged performances from area musicians every other Monday. On Feb. 23, Simien The Whale (indie rock, Grand Rapids), Annie Palmer (acoustic Americana, Ypsilanti), RockSpring (altbluegrass, New Hampshire) and local acts Lucid and Truncated Lions will break out the acoustic guitars for an intimate evening of music. 210 Abbot Road, (upstairs) Suite 187, East Lansing. 11 p.m.

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