Leilani Polk introduces herself as Creative Loafing's music editor

Creative Loafing old hand Leilani Polk offers her offical introduction as the newbie music editor

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click to enlarge The author in her natural (work) setting. - jamesostrand.com
The author in her natural (work) setting.

Who the fuck is this person? you think with disgust as you read my apathetic reaction to Steely Dan’s performance at Ruth Eckerd Hall. You find yourself compelled to school me on my apparent lack of knowledge, compose an angry response listing all the reasons I am wrong, berate my abilities as a journalist and my failure as a music critic overall. WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW AND WHY THE FUCK SHOULD I CARE? you conclude in all caps so I can’t ignore your ire. I can almost hear your self-righteous click of “Submit Comment” button.

You have a valid point. Who the fuck am I and why does my opinion matter so much more than those other idiots who came before me who you also thought were chattering out of their asses?

I am a near-native who’s covered all aspects of Bay area culture for Creative Loafing for nearly six years. While I never aspired to be the paper’s music editor, my love of music eventually and naturally led me to write about it, to attempt to put those intangible moments of joy and sorrow to paper and describe the seemingly indescribable, to relay a sound or a feeling or a mood or a texture with words, to try and offer an objective look at something inherently subjective, something based on experiences and background and taste and even my mood at any given time. I’ve been writing and listening to music for a long time. I don’t pretend to know everything but I approach all music with an open mind and a willingness to build upon what I already know.

But convincing you I’m not a musical moron isn’t the point of this introduction. My real intention is to share a little about who I am and where I’m coming from, both as a person and a writer, and to try and put you at ease.

I am the sum of my musical experiences, a vast array of moments that imprinted themselves on me beginning when I was too young to realize that tinkering with mom and dad’s record player could lead to a future career. I spent much time mining my mom’s treasure trove of early Beatles albums, then moved on to the ’80s pop music she added to her collection as fast as MTV could endorse it — Lionel Richie, Madonna, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Hall & Oates. Admittedly, the first thing that deeply moved me as a child was 1986’s An American Tail, and I became keenly attuned to the soundtrack’s ups and downs and hooked on the emotional responses each song elicited.

My neighbor’s unruly teenaged daughter turned me on to Guns ‘n Roses and even though I wasn’t old enough or male enough to appreciate the aggression, I was intrigued by Axl Rose’s energy and as I got older, by his sheer magnetism.

Numerous musical phases followed and correlated with whatever I was experiencing in my life at the time. A period in foster care led to a quick education in rap and hip-hop, the accepted genre in a household where admitting to liking rock ’n’ roll got you good and beat up until you audibly changed your mind. Junior high growing pains and awkwardness in my skin led me to grunge rock and the odd discoveries — Portishead, Mazzy Star, The Cure, Tori Amos. High school brought first love, my family’s refusal to accept my badboy boyfriend, the resulting anti-authoritarian angst, and a preference for industrial fare, heavy alterna rage, and rawk music for moshing and thrashing and screaming your face off. In college, I shed the boyfriend — who’d always had completely disparate taste from my own — and re-discovered the music I’d abandoned for him: Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, a band that spoke to me on so many different levels and at several different points in my life, and the psychedelic Beatles, as I was finally able to appreciate what they were doing and how their influence changed and molded nearly everything that came later.

Meeting my husband and being introduced to Phish exposed a world of music I didn’t even know existed, prompted a whole new way of listening to music, nurtured a desire to seek out the latest sound and all those sounds I’d never taken the time to check out before and have come to love dearly — The Velvet Underground, Ween, Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, Miles Davis — and stoked my passion for music in general, making it a fiery unquenchable burn.

Phish’s very public break-up is what led me to write my first published article about music, about my odyssey-like trip to the band’s supposed final festival in 2004. Five years and many other music articles later, the band has re-formed and I am now writing music on a full-time basis.

What’s most important, and what you really need to know, is that I not only love music but I am deeply passionate about it — about how it moves me and how it’s made and where it comes from and what inspires it and how a song comes together and the way magic happens when the right musicians are making it. I’m addicted to those transcendent moments, when it’s no longer just people playing but a group of bodies transmitting the vibrations of the universe, to those times when all else drops away and the only thing in your mind is the joy of dancing.

I have strong opinions backed by knowledge, am an unfaltering advocate for most music out there even if I don’t always get it, and a harsh critic if faced with music that lacks integrity or ingenuity or value. I’ve spent countless hours at my laptop writing about music and trying to figure out new and better ways of putting it to words, and I’m always looking for something new, always eager to share what I’ve found.

Please, rest assured that you’re in good hands.

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