Orlando’s Bao Le-Huu: The Music Columnist Central Florida Needs

Bao Le-Huu

I love Bao Le-Huu’s music articles. When he writes about bands, he can either be brutal or uplifting. The world needs critics like Le-Huu. Too many artists expect praise without actually working on their craft. Oh sure, their buddies who write blogs may still lick their asses. Yet, writers like Bao Le-Huu comes along and write words no-talent musicians and bands really deserve.

Another thing, too many Orlando residents kiss out-of-town artists asses. For some reason, words like “New York Artist” or “LA Artist” blind Orlando folks. They rarely look beyond the words to see if “New York Artist” has any real talent. Not Bao Le-Huu. I’ve observed his writings ripping out-of-town musicians and bands to shreds also.

Recently, I asked Bao to bless this humble blog with his words.

1. What is your history in Orlando?

I’ve spent most of my life in Orlando and practically grew up here. With the exception of college, I’ve lived here since the mid-‘80s so I’ve seen much of the development and critical mass of this city’s modern era.

2. What is your history with music?

My parents were always music fans, so music was always playing in our house day and night, much more than the TV in my early years. And thankfully, they had good, diverse tastes.

So once I started developing my own taste in music, I was always the most passionate listener among my friends. Even more, I was the most analytical and most vocal about it. And once I began going to concerts and nightclubs, well, a lifer was born.

3.What is your writing history?

I’ve been a freelance music critic and journalist for over 11 years now, contributing to various national and regional publications. I’m currently the music columnist for the Orlando Weekly, a post I’ve held for eight years.

I don’t have any formal J-school education or anything. But throughout my school life, I was always far more interested in and better at English than math (myth busted). So between all the English, philosophy, and literature classes I took over the years – and there were many – I did a lot of writing development.

I got my start in music journalism through a huge, possibly semi-blind roll of the dice by our dear mutual friend, the late Kelly Fitzpatrick. Before she was the Sentinel’s nightlife columnist, she was one of the editors for Orlando CityBeat, an online culture and entertainment magazine that was launched in 2003 to be the hot, young sister of the Orlando Sentinel. Kelly and I sort of knew each other socially, and she was aware of my enthusiastic show-going and overflowing opinion about music. So when they were gathering their first pool of writers, she asked if I was interested in possibly contributing. Since I wasn’t a published writer at the time – or any sort of writer at all, really – she asked me to submit a couple pieces for consideration. So I banged out a couple album reviews that were adequate enough for her to give me a trial run as OCB’s music columnist. It was a completely insane chance she took, one that probably sometimes gave her pause, but that column (The Set List) caught some attention and ended up being one of OCB’s longest-running columns. Once OCB became subsumed by Metromix, local coverage was whittled down to a meaningless trickle so I took a column offer by OW.

4. Explain your Orlando Weekly article.

This Little Underground is OW’s music column. It consists mostly of live show reviews but it’s not some straight, boring play-by-play. First and foremost, it’s a piece driven by opinion, sometimes strong. There’s some scene news sometimes, too. But as much as possible, I try and do it all with some perspective and context. And though everything is fair game, the focus is on the city’s more underground side. It’s Orlando’s most robust and most original frontier. And for me, that’s where it’s at.

5. Some reviewers tend to be on some kind of power trip. You’re different. You’re outspoken. Yet, you seem fair.

I’ve always believed in the role of critical, independent review as a key force in the advancement of anything we do as humans, whether it’s art, government, or whatever. At heart, I believe that criticism, even hard criticism, should be an agent of positive forward movement. Unlike what sensitive, reactionary types believe, those aren’t mutually exclusive things. And though I’ve sometimes overextended the bounds of critical license, I try and base my critical ethics in solid analysis and reason as much as I can.

6. This may seem like a stupid question. How do some folks react to your reviews? Any threats?

The spectrum of reaction has been wide. I’ve been received with everything from high-fiving respect to open hostility. And, yes, some threats. But the negative reactions are usually just ad hominem hate rants that are fueled more by the need to expel emotion than any interest in furthering the dialogue. I think most people, even many of the recipients of negative reviews, understand the deal.

7.What are your views on the Orlando music scene?

I think it’s a scene that’s loaded with talent, creativity, and vision. I see it every week. If I didn’t believe in it, I would’ve stopped doing the column a long time ago. It takes a lot of street-level time to do right. I get paid to do it, but I don’t get paid enough to do it without any emotional investment. And though it’s a personally rewarding platform, even I would eventually get tired of just masturbating.

That said, I think there are things we do that prevent us from breaking through to the next level, a thing that we’re sometimes closer to than most realize. On the fan side, there’s too much apathy. On the musician side, there’s too much insularity, fractionalization and bullshit micro politics. Support is often way too conditional in this city. With some legitimate breakouts in recent years, we’re getting big but not big enough to have the attitude that some of us are carrying around. We need to just get over ourselves a little bit. Other tribes in the scene are doing cool shit too. So step outside your party lines a bit and check it out. You don’t earn the right to talk shit from your couch.

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