Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We're begging you, Mr. Bettman... no Nickelback

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To: Whom it may concern at the National Hockey League

From: Rob Williams, Winnipeg Free Press music critic, and Bartley Kives, reporter and former music critic

Re: The possibility of Nickelback performing at NHL FaceOff

Dear Gary Bettman et al.,

ACCORDING to our intrepid sports reporters Gary Lawless and Ed Tait, the 2011-12 NHL season is going to kick off in Winnipeg with a big show at The Forks, dubbed NHL FaceOff, on Oct. 6. This will be the first of four days of festivities leading up to the Winnipeg Jets' home opener against the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 9.

That is a fantastic idea, and both of us are thrilled to have the Jets back. We are ready for a party to launch the season. We both are part of groups who purchased season tickets so quickly back in June that Winnipeg may never reclaim its reputation for being cheap and miserly.

Anyway, the word in last Sunday's paper was there's talk of having a "major Canadian concert act" perform at the FaceOff event, with the possibility Nickelback is in the running to perform.

As people who love music and love Winnipeg even more, we have a request: Please ensure this does not happen. The return of the NHL to Winnipeg is something we have been dreaming about for 15 years. Please do not sully the celebration with the presence of a band whose existence is antithetical to the very concept of celebration.

Please, Person In Charge Of Booking This Event, do not bring Nickelback to Winnipeg that weekend. They can play the arena to their own fans -- of which there are many -- any time. But a free public performance? That would be tantamount to spitting on Bobby Hull's toupee, burning Dale Hawerchuk's jersey, leaving something wet on Thomas Steen's city council seat or tripping Teemu Selanne on the ice during his final season in the NHL.

Justin Timberlake, debatably, brought sexy back. You would be doing the opposite by bringing Nickelback back to land of Bachman and Cummings.

Why detract from the fun atmosphere of the return of the Jets by booking a dour, depressing band that has done little but inspire more dour, depressing bands, such as Theory of a Dead Man, Three Days Grace and Hinder. Music critics actually use "Theory of a Dead Nickelback" as shorthand for humourless, joyless, mid-tempo, plodding CanCon that only exists to make life easy for unimaginative radio programmers and manufacturers of pyrotechnics.

Why does Nickelback love pyrotechnics? Because you need to watch something at a Nickelback concert. I mean, besides Chad Kroeger's facial hair. Who doesn't love his facial hair? An entire subpopulation of eyelash mites is supported by that mass of follicle-spawned cellulose. Plus, razor blades are expensive these days. But we digress.

Whenever we travel to other countries and are asked about Canadian bands, we are frequently forced to apologize for the existence of Nickelback, our international embarrassment. (True quote: "Sorry about Nickelback. I hate them, too. ") Sure, the pride of Hanna, Alta. sells tons of albums, but again, this is a product of frequent airplay.

Nickelback began as a derivative act. They processed the post-grunge of the late 1990s -- already dated at the time -- into an even more homogenous morass. They are the musical equivalent of a margarine sandwich on white bread. The 2001 success of How You Remind Me merely inspired the band to produce even more formulaic music that was derivative of itself. Critics like us have been panning the band so long we have forgotten it once had a couple of hooks.

In fact, dissing Nickelback is now part of Canadian heritage. It deserves its own vignette to run between episodes Dragons' Den and Being Erica on CBC Television.

And as a side note, the band is based in Vancouver, the scene of horrible, embarrassing and costly riots following Game 7 of the most recent Stanley Cup final in June. Many of the rioters were goofs wearing backwards baseball caps. Have you ever been to a Nickelback concert and seen the headwear of choice?

We don't need Winnipeg's reputation sullied by people with questionable taste in music. Again, they may attend a Nickelback concert and be free of the abuse and scorn meted out by judgmental losers such as ourselves.

And if this does not convince you, consider frontman Chad Kroeger. No, we don't care about his driving record, as we are not moralists. We just believe nothing good has ever come from the name Chad.

Lake Chad? This African body of water is an environmental disaster. Hanging chad? We hold that responsible for eight years of George W. Bush. The Chad, from Charlie's Angels? Probably the worst character Tom Green has ever played - and that's saying a lot.

So please, Person In Charge Of Booking This Event, do not besmirch the reputation of Winnipeg and its music scene with Nickelback. Do not perpetuate the myth this city is populated by nothing but people who enjoy driving ATVs over flower beds while drinking Lab Lite and smoking cigarettes. Do not provide column fodder for indignant snobs like us.

If Nickelback precedes the return of the NHL, the chant will change from "Go Jets Go!" to "No Chad No!"

Please don't let this happen.

And as for whom we would like to see? We are fully in the "Anyone but Nickelback or Bands That Sound Like Nickelback " camp. How about no B.C. bands at all unless they are Nomeansno or D.O.A.? Heck, we would rather see supergroup featuring members of Glass Tiger, Haywire, Honeymoon Suite and Moist than Nickelback. Who's at the casino that night? Someone that's not Nickelback? Great. We'll take 'em.

On a serious note, if you can afford to pay for Nickelback, you could afford to pay for Arcade Fire, who are uplifting, anthemic and can also fill the MTS Centre. Not all hockey fans have the same taste in music.

Thank you for your time.

Rob Williams

Bartley Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 27, 2011 G6

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