A review of reviews

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aprilo
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A review of reviews

Postby aprilo » Tue Jul 24, 2007 6:28 pm

What is it about performing arts reviews in this town? And what is the point of the Isthmus doing three page articles on… their own journalists???

On the bright side, I can say I’m better informed after reading this week’s self-congratulation of Kiki Schueler’s zeal for live music. I was previously under the impression that the Isthmus just couldn’t get anyone better to review the Madison music scene. Now that I understand that you in fact like her writing, years of mediocre composition in the arts and entertainment pages of the Isthmus make plain sense.

Ms. Schueler’s reviews, indeed many gone before, are neither good nor bad, on account of the fact that they aren’t reviews. They are linear narratives of objective occurrences taking place during a band’s set, slanted to an unskilled writer’s bias. One might hear a conversation similar to Kik’s reviews among friends the day after a party: What she drank, who wore what, how many people were there, the décor and ambiance, who took their pants off and other showmanship stunts, how cute band member X is, jokes told, etc. One might miss that music was being played, live, by live people, all night long. For bands of less intimate acquaintance, articles amount to a listing of the band’s bio and discography, providing little interest to anyone not intimately involved in “the sceneâ€Â

supereightsnate
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Postby supereightsnate » Tue Jul 24, 2007 7:28 pm

I'm might be wrong on this, but I think Kiki only reviews for the dailypage.com, not for the isthmus print. If that's correct, you might wanna move this over to the "dailypage" discussion forum.

While Kiki's writing style may not be everyone's cup of tea, at least she gets her facts straight and records a clear detailing of her observations, unlike Albertoni. I mean, if you had a problem with the article ON Kiki, that was Albertoni's little project.

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Postby blunt » Thu Jul 26, 2007 11:58 am

aprilo:
I think I'm in love.

bobbkins
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reviews

Postby bobbkins » Thu Jul 26, 2007 12:08 pm

Amen A. O.

The line between being a reviewer and a blogger has been blurred pretty badly in her case. I hope readers don't take her style of writing as credible journalism, because if that's the case, it devalues the entire scene whether it's music, theater, or whatever.

The Isthmus seems to like to write about their own from time to time. A little inbreeding huh?

A non-Madisonian who reads these "reviews" are going to think we're a bunch of amateurs, as far as I know most madisonians aren't so ok with being mediocre. Her reviews (and I've read more than a few, even since the Rick's days) come off like a lovestruck highschooler, or worse if she didn't like some (performance or non-performance related) aspect of whatever she's reviewing.

I agree, Laskin and Albertoni's reviews are generally pretty good, but this article on Kiki was a little too much for me.

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Postby GenieU » Thu Jul 26, 2007 12:20 pm

Aprilo Wrote: The art critic’s job is three-fold


Aye, and there's the rub-You want critical standards-but we're talking about rock music and it's accompnying scene...not "Art with a capital A"...

Rock writing is inherently more subjective than art critism-otherwise writing about music actually tends to harm the subject by being stuffy and overintellectualized.

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Postby depinmad » Thu Jul 26, 2007 12:28 pm

was kiki the one who wrote the piece about josh harty in dublin, where there turned out to be no gigs and then she left before the one actual gig happened?
i remember reading that and wondering if someone actually got paid to write it...

bobbkins
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Postby bobbkins » Thu Jul 26, 2007 1:10 pm

I tend to think though that if you treat reviews of musical happenings around here with some respect and decent journalism it can only do good things for everyone. I've felt that some of the reviewers in town have done a pretty good job of keeping themselves out of the reviews they write. Her writing is unskilled journalisim, it's not a "style" of writing. If she doesn't intend it to be taken as journalisim, than she should stop being paid.

They don't have to hold themselves to A.'s standard every time, but if your reviews look like they've been written by a child, no one is going to take the reviewer or the subject seriously. Everyone loses credibility.

Yeah, that review of the Dublin thing was bogus!

That's the last I'm chipping in. I just liked A's posting a lot, and it got me thinking.

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Postby jjoyce » Thu Jul 26, 2007 2:16 pm

A couple thoughts: Kiki isn't a critic so much as she's a reporter. She sees a ton of shows and has good insight on the local scene and if her style is "bloggier" than others, that's by design. She's extremely professional, never misses a deadline and consistently nails the feel of the shows she attends. In that respect, she often excels where a critic will falter.

On the topic of criticism in general, there's no question it's a dying art. This might be due to the DIY culture spawned from blogging or even zines, but not nearly as much weight is given to the professional critic as there used to be. This isn't the case in Madison alone, but everywhere.

As for remarks about Madison being small time, that's absolutely true. That's why there are sometimes articles about our contributors in the paper or on the site. Kiki attends hundreds of shows a year, some in her basement, and writes about them. This got some notice and earned her a gig writing for The Daily Page. It also sounded like a good story, which it is.

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Re: A review of reviews

Postby harrissimo » Fri Aug 10, 2007 10:15 am

aprilo wrote:Folks, I’m trying valiantly not to whine here. . .


Could you try a little harder please. And also work on the pompous asshole thing too. Thanks.

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Postby dave esmond » Fri Aug 10, 2007 10:29 am

I'd so much rather read a writer who's passionate about something, and biased, then someone who can "keep themselves out of it". The whole point of art is how it makes people feel and react.

Kiki's more then welcome to report on any of my bands anytime she wants to. I love reading what she thinks, hears, feels and reacts to. She knows live music and what she likes. And that's just who I want to read a review from, someone who cares enough to put themselves into the experience.

bobbkins
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Postby bobbkins » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:02 pm

Dave, I agree with her being passionate about her writing. That doesn't make it any better though. Her writing makes sense to you, you're in a band, you've been to the places she has, and likely seen the bands she's seen. As someone who isn't in a band and isn't a part of the "scene", her writing style doesn't particularly make me want to go out and see the bands she's writing about.

There's a much larger audience of people who don't go to bars on weeknights and stay out until 2am on weekends at venues who love music, maybe more than the scenesters, and would probably like and go to see the bands she's writing about if she actually said something with some substance. People who aren't going to shows and know the Madison music scene read this high schooler stuff and it does very little to excite them. It's not just me. Why is someone who's never head of the Blueheels, or whatever band going to go see them because she thinks that Robbie is cute, or that she normally "doesn't like something but this band was ok". That doesn't do anything to make the readership more informed, or excited. It would if it was your band she was writing about I guess, but I'd like to think that she could reach people who aren't in the "scene" or already in a band with some good writing, this would do more to grow Madison's music situation than what is happening now.

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Postby harrissimo » Fri Aug 10, 2007 12:55 pm

bobbkins wrote:There's a much larger audience of people who don't go to bars on weeknights and stay out until 2am on weekends at venues who love music, maybe more than the scenesters, and would probably like and go to see the bands she's writing about if she actually said something with some substance. People who aren't going to shows and know the Madison music scene read this high schooler stuff and it does very little to excite them. It's not just me. . .


That is just silly. You're telling us that there's this large audience of people who love music more than those who actually support the local music scene by paying the cover charges and going to shows. And the reason they are not going to shows is because they don't like Kiki's writing. Silly? Hell, that's just plain stupid. Instead of whining about Kiki's writing why don't you guys go to some shows, buy CDs of local artists and support the scene and maybe even post some reviews so you can show us all the proper way to write a review.

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Postby bobbkins » Fri Aug 10, 2007 2:04 pm

Mr. H, yes, I believe there is a much larger music appreciating audience in Madison and nearly everywhere else who don't go out regularly to see shows. It's pretty narrowminded of a musician/performer to think that the only people who really appreciate what you're doing are the ones who come to your shows. I'm over 40, I have a job I must be at early in the morning, and am not particularly motivated to stay out late because of this. This doesn't mean that I don't like music, local not.
I go to the Madison street festivals, and I have bought a few CD's from local bands that I do like. I never said that Kiki's writing is the single reason people don't go to see shows, but I'm positive it doesn't help.
In fact, it was my friend who write the letter above, and I happened to agree with her.

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Postby dave esmond » Fri Aug 10, 2007 2:08 pm

It's true I'm biased. Kiki and I are pretty much the same age with pretty similar tastes in music, so if she likes someone I know I probably will too. If she doesn't include a bio in her reports I'm fine with doing a quick google search to find the bands website and read it there, I'm gonna want to hear song samples anyway so I know I'm gonna have to do a little work on my own.

I agree that Madison has a lot of music fans who don't come out to shows and aren't really live music fans. I used to wonder how we could get more people out to shows and I was never able to figure it out. "It's too smoke filled, It's too late, It's too early, It's not kid friendly, It's too much for families, I've never heard of 2 of the bands on the bill, the reviewers didn't get me excited enough". At this point I just don't believe that there's much we can do to make non-live music fans into people who go out on weeknights and stay out 'til 3am on weekends. And that's fine with me, if it's that hard for someone to get excited about live music then a live music show probably isn't the best place for them anyway.

I'm not trying to be smartass or anything I just don't believe people anymore who say they'd go to see more live music "if only" something was different. The huge crowds of people who were kept away by the smokers don't really exist, there's been no big increase in crowds since the smoking ban went into effect. I play a monthly happyhour show, partly because I kept hearing "I'd love to see you, but it's just too late". What I find is that pretty much the exact same crowd shows up at 6pm as does at 10pm. People who like live music go see it, those who would go if only something was different are probably kidding themselves. They're just not the live music crowd and that's okay with me.

So yeah, Kiki writes reports that make more sense to those in the scene. But I still love her passion and I'm willing to check out bands she likes. If folks need more hand holding from their reviewers then she's probably not the one to be reading. It's live music at a club, how much hand holding do people need to get them to risk $5 on a local band?

There's a ton of great music being made in Madison, every night of the week. It's not hard to find and the scenes I've encountered are really friendly, even someone like myself with hyper shyness has found a place.




####

Completely serious offer. If someone wants to write a review of one of my shows this weekend let me know. Friday at Mickey's is free and starts at 6pm. www.homeofsquirt.com for samples.

Saturday is 10pm at The Crystal Corner. Contact me at dwesmond@wisc.edu and let me know you want to show me how it's done and I'll put you on the guest list.
www.theaugustteens.com for samples.
The reviewer for the Onion says it "should be the most entertaining rock show of the weekend" if that matters.

I'm not trying to do a put up or shut up thing. While I don't have a problem with Kiki's reports I do think the more people who write about Madison music the better. I'd seriously just like to see what kind of reviews people want more of.

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Postby Schabow » Tue Aug 14, 2007 8:47 am

From a person that is in bands she hates and doesn't hate, I can tell you that I'm always interested in hearing Kiki's thoughts, positive or negative. Her style is a style of her own and we're lucky to have someone so committed to the scene. I especially enjoy reading her articles about shows I was planning to go to but could not attend. It kind of makes me feel like I was there. As a note-taker, silly lyricist, scribbler and part-time writer, I prefer to not think of any style of writing to have rules attached. So if you think she's a poor writer, well that's fair and in my opinion wrong, but don't write a list of rules on how to be a proffessional journalist, because in my view, that is not what writing or journalism is about. I simply like Kiki's articles.

As for The Isthmus, I, personally, think the article was a bit long, but still totally worth writing about...and Dave, I love all of your responses. Do you know if anyone actually went to any of your shows based solely on your previous post?


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