From Cover to Cover
I have to admit I was somewhat surprised when I read Sara Bir’s article regarding the 10th anniversary party for Section M magazine (“F*ck Section M,” Sept. 10) due to the amount of sheer bitterness and obvious personal distain that Bir has for the magazine. I don’t know if she intended that to shine through, but it was obvious.
I don’t know Ms. Bir, but I’ve been a fan of her articles in your paper for some time. Like her, I was involved with the magazine at one point, though I could hardly be called part of its staff. I also was a devoted reader throughout the magazine’s existence.
So, to answer the question: “Why celebrate a magazine that never made a profit, was littered with typos, found a miniscule readership at best and, it could be argued, existed to serve itself?”
Because it was a huge success. For a short glorious time, Section M united the music scene based out of the Phoenix Theater, gave us something to rally around and gave local bands a goal to shoot for. To be on Section M’s cover was a big deal in the small pond that is the North Bay music scene. Everyone from fans to the musicians themselves read Section M to see what everyone else was doing. Who was recording? Who was releasing an album? Who was on tour? To this day, the Bohemian really hasn’t matched Section M’s local music coverage. How could you? Section M was devoted to local music coverage from cover to cover.
It was flawed, and yes, it was troubled, but it gave us all something to debate and argue about (Why did they never give the Velvet Teen the cover?). Maybe that Section M existed in the first place is impressive enough; it helped give a lot of us our start. Even if Section M wasn’t perfect, it was a success, and just like the bands it covered—it just couldn’t last forever.
I made the two-hour trek to attend the Section M 10th anniversary reunion show, looking forward to seeing old faces and to experience again the magic of Sonoma County music. The show was an absolute, joyful success—the party that Section M never had but always deserved. As a writer and editor for the last half-dozen issues of the magazine, I finally got to connect with people who had come before me.
Imagine my disappointment upon reading the Bohemian’s retrospective article. History is littered with absolutely awesome magazines that are no longer publishing, but I don’t know how five years of publication can really constitute “failure.” I’m looking back through issues at the different bands we covered that have since broken up—have they failed, too?
So many people put so much effort into the magazine over the years that I cannot view the stack of back issues in front of me as a failure. I have my own level of regrets being involved, but Section M is the reason that I am finishing my English degree right now. Section M was the moment that I realized that I could love something enough to work for it.
A rare and lucky time
While working at the Section M reunion party on Saturday night, I realized that never in my life had I seen so many people enjoying themselves at an event that might otherwise remind people of their mortality. Having worked at that music magazine for nearly every issue, I was—to say the least—a bit hesitant. However, despite my doubt and that of so many others, it was a success.
Complete with nearly all the movers and shakers of Sonoma County’s music scene of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the smiles and cringes of recognition abounded. Those who were missing were sorely missed—particularly Logan Whitehurst, whose genius cartoons and essays were one of the mag’s biggest highlights.
Despite the setbacks, the dramas and the general shittiness of volunteering for a magazine that often catered to the flaky elite of big-fish-small-pond music, the five-year run was exciting. Raised on blues and Beatles, in no other circumstance would a kid like me have been so readily exposed to so much talent and drive. A boon of inspiration, that magazine led me to pursue music and all of its facets since.
I owe a barrel of gratitude to that magazine and many of its staff members. Had it not been for them, I may not have become a published illustrator. It was a rare and lucky time for me. And despite the criticisms—many of which I once held—I have to admit there isn’t much like it out there.