Monday, July 25, 2011

Unsolicited writing advice (review criticism edition)

Over the weekend, I reviewed two shows: A Perfect Circle (which can be found here) and Mission of Burma (which can be found here). As I started formulating in my mind what I wanted to say about the APC show, I was reminded of some good advice I was told a few years ago by a rock critic I respect: never forget what it felt like to be young and save all your money for a show and you came out of the show disappointed.

I'm very thankful that the shows I've covered have come with guest list privileges. Shows at big venues are not cheap and I've always taken that into consideration when I write my reviews. After what I witnessed on Saturday night, I've never come away from a show so incredibly disappointed.

But the key thing I suggest to anybody writing a review: don't write like you're a teenager who's let down by the show. Write in the voice of your own age, damnit.

With my reviews, I try to use as much tact as possible. Weigh the good and the bad and consider which one weighed more. But if people want your professional and informed opinion, don't sound like someone who just bought some lame pot, annoyed your girlfriend only goes to second base, and you're still pissed that your parents grounded you last month because of bad grades.

I know writing in a brutally honest way can get you traction with readers, but I've never been out for blood. I'm not a confrontational person unless I'm truly driven to that point. Furthermore, I try to not let whatever is going on in my personal life dictate how I feel when I'm at the show.

Every show I've covered for DC9 has been a show I've wanted to be at. Given how I have to rise early in the morning during the week, I take into careful consideration whenever I have to cover one that's during the week. I ask myself if it was worth staying up late for. So far, all of those shows have given me the answer of yes.

When you want to be at a show, it comes out in your writing. When you don't want to be there, it becomes painfully obvious right away. If you choose to sound like someone who wanted to do a lot of other things other than see that show, then it really comes out. Ultimately, it says to me, the reader, "Don't really listen to me because I didn't want to be there in the first place."

So I have to ask, if you didn't want to be there, then why should I read your review?

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