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 Andrew McMillen

How To Be A Live Music Critic

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Everyone seems to be loving this series, so we thought we’d reprint this gem from CB contributor Andrew McMillen’s blog dated April 20th, 2009 – Ed.

  • You must smile smugly when informing the door staff that you are attending on behalf of your allotted publication.
  • You may use several sentences to comment or complain about external factors that led to you missing half or all of the first band’s set.
  • You may attempt to capture the zeitgeist wherever possible, by referring to wider societal, economic or meteorological factors.
  • You must understand the importance of the zeitgeist if you are a music critic.
  • You may refer to the band’s stage attire or between-song banter if you are unable to accurately or coherently describe their music.
  • You may refer to the venue’s drink prices and the temperament of the bar staff only if you are still short of the word limit, even after describing stage attire and between-song banter.
  • You must not use more than half of your word limit to describe the band’s music. This is a waste of valuable words, which could be better devoted to describing stage attire, between-song banter, drink prices and/or bar staff temperament.
  • You must make reference to other artists’ sound when describing any band, for comparisons are the lifeblood of the music critic.
  • You may describe a band’s sound as ‘(genre)-tinged’, ‘robust’, ‘edgy’ or ‘angular’, even though you know that these words are meaningless filler.
  • You may not research support bands on MySpace before the show.
  • You may insist that you did not research the support bands on MySpace before the show because you wanted to “be surprised”.
  • You may insist that you did not research the support bands on MySpace before the show because you wanted to “approach with an open mind”.
  • You must never concede that the real reason you did not research the support bands on MySpace before the show is because you are lazy.
  • You may get inappropriately drunk, scrawl meaningless notes which you can’t decipher the next day, forget most of what happened during the show and rely on friends’ accounts and sheer bullshit to scrape together your pitiful pile of words to meet the limit.
  • You must realise that the above description accurately captures the actions of most music critics.
  • You may drink no alcohol, take thoughtful notes, and live vicariously through the rest of the drinking crowd, purely to perpetuate the stereotype that all journalists are hard drinkers.
  • You may not have “just a couple” of drinks. This is completely unheard of.
  • You may slightly nod your head to the rhythm of the bass drum.
  • You may alternate between slightly nodding your head and slightly tapping your right foot to the rhythm of the bass drum.
  • You may not, at any point, gyrate your body or move your arms in response to the music.
  • You may only move your arms to imbibe your drink, or when writing notes while in the process of capturing your thoughts of pure brilliance.
  • You must have your notebook and pen at the ready whenever a band is playing, in order to capture your thoughts of pure brilliance at the exact moment they come to you.
  • You may use the above act for overtly advertising that you are a music critic.
  • You may tell members of the opposite sex that you are a music critic when they ask why you are taking notes.
  • You may lick your lips before responding to the above question, as the questioner will undoubtedly want to make out with you immediately after discovering that you are a music critic.
  • You must refer to any weekday night as a “school night”. While there is some contention as to whether Thursday and Sunday qualify as “school nights”, there are no exceptions to Friday or Saturday.
  • You must have a smug smile on your face as you write the words “school night”, as if it’s some incredibly clever and original phrase.
  • You must treat every show you see as a music critic with the utmost sincerity, because watching three bands play music to people for a few hours is the most important thing in the world.

11 Responses to How To Be A Live Music Critic

  1. Darragh November 3, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Thing I hate about being a live music critic is having to miss out enjoying the show

  2. Everett True November 3, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    You’re not doing it right then, Darragh. I always found that being a live music critic increased my enjoyment *or accordingly my hatred* of the show one thousand-fold.

  3. Darragh November 3, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    I always find the getting drunk and jumping round like an idiot part is not conducive to the ‘taking notes’ part.

  4. Everett True November 3, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Never bothered me. Mind you, for the past 20 years I’ve found it best not to take notes whatsoever. Need a set list? That’s what PRs are for.

    And before then, I rather relished the practical difficulties such situations would throw up. (Before I ever wrote for the music press, I was notorious among music critics for my – er – individual dancing.)

  5. Princess Stomper November 4, 2010 at 5:05 am

    I was delighted that I’ve never been guilty of ANY of these, except this one:

    “You may get inappropriately drunk, scrawl meaningless notes which you can’t decipher the next day, forget most of what happened during the show and rely on friends’ accounts and sheer bullshit to scrape together your pitiful pile of words to meet the limit.”

    … although usually the bullshit was comprised of pithy one-liners I scrawled on my arm in biro to read when I woke up on the floor. Then again, I was way before “edgy” or “angular”. Mine was definitely the era of “thunderous tribal percussion”, which is thankfully later than “sonic architecture of the highest calibre”.

  6. Princess Stomper November 4, 2010 at 5:56 am

    (Oh, wait: I did do the comparison thing. How can you not?)

  7. Pingback: 10 Worst Things I Ever Did As A Live Music Critic « Reinspired

  8. Bill November 5, 2010 at 11:18 am

    I never EVER tell anyone that I’m reviewing the show, unless asked. Let alone using it as a prop to ‘pull’. I’m clearly not doing it right.

  9. Catshoe November 6, 2010 at 2:22 am

    A prop to pull? Do me a favour! But every single other one yes, and I’ll make sure to do them more and more

  10. Dan Nancarrow December 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    “You may refer to the band’s stage attire or between-song banter if you are unable to accurately or coherently describe their music.”

    That sums my reviews up!

  11. Golightly October 28, 2013 at 6:38 am

    I don’t take notes. I don’t tell people I am there as a critic per se… but if there’s a pass involved, I like to shove that in as many people’s faces as possible just to feel sarcastically important.

    I think having as much of a good time as possible is key… otherwise how can you give a genuine account of what it’s like to be at the gig?

    I sort of think that if something that happened at the gig was memorable enough to put into the review, then it will be remembered the next day.

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