2/12/09

Criticism

For years I have wondered why critics choose to write so many negative reviews. There is plenty of fodder, maybe now more than ever, but there is an amazing amount of good stuff being produced. Why don't critics use their forum to spread the word about things they like? Bad music certainly doesn't need a critic to slow its momentum. That will take care of itself. But good music can always benefit from a little critical praise.

So this week I saw two shows. One was terrible, one was fantastic. I found myself thinking and talking about the bad one a lot more than the good one. Why? Who knows? Was it because I felt ripped off? Well, I did. Had the tickets been free I still would have felt ripped off. The 'world famous' band looked like they had just rolled out of the tour bus bunks, a couple of them were obviously quite hammered, and totally called it in. One guy stumbled around the stage for the entire show and sounded terrible when he was actually playing. The rest of them performed with as much enthusiasm as a 12-year-old taking out the trash.

It might have been fun if the show was in a venue that was more suited to the music. A smoky bar with a stage in the corner and beers for a dollar would have been a better fit. Unfortunately, it was all wrong. The vibe of the room was stuffy. The sound was AWFUL. I'm not just being picky...it was undeniably bad. You'd think a venue that consistently charges $30 for tickets would install a proper sound system. Both acts were clearly struggling to hear themselves in the monitors, and the audience was struggling to hear anything the singers were saying. AWFUL.

The following night I went to see another show at the same venue. It was amazing. World class musicians, world class music. Every song had something great happening. I'd rank this show up there as one of the best I've seen. I felt the contradictory urges to go write music all night and to burn my guitar in acknowledgment of the fact that I'll never reach that level. I love that feeling.

Still, I wonder why I feel more compelled to tell people about the bad show than the good one? Am I trying to warn the masses? Do I need sympathy for the loss of time and money? Am I simply offended by the disregard for the audience showed by both band and venue? Whatever it is, it makes me want to talk about the experience.

In the restaurant world they have a saying: "If a customer has a good experience, they'll tell a few friends. If they have a bad one, they'll tell ten."

Maybe I gained a tiny bit of insight into the mind of a critic. It's a little more understandable, I guess. They have to listen to stacks and stacks of mediocre CD's. They probably feel robbed of their time and their only recourse is to make their experience known to the rest of us. Fair enough...but I still think they should cheer up.

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