what exactly are my qualifications to write reviews on bands – it’s a valid question, here’s some information that may be helpful:
1. Classically Trained. I started playing piano when I was 5, and took lessons in classical music (Bach, Beethoven, etc.) for eleven years. (I quit when my mom tried pushing me into Julliard at age 16).
2. Further Training (guitar). From piano, I went to guitar (acoustic, rhythm). I still mess around with that, including writing songs (with lyrics). So about… hmm, what’s 16 from 51? However many years that is.
3. Studio/Live Work. All musicians end up in the studio and/or playing gigs. I’ve done both (in front of and behind the sound board) off and on over the years as well.
4. Concerts. My first concert was in 1972, America in Ventura, CA (outdoor venue). Lots of stuff in the air that didn’t include music – my 12 year old brain hardly knew what hit it! I’ve seen so many bands play I can’t even remember a lot of them (sad); used to keep the ticket stubs but ran outta drawer space (well, ok, not really, but it sounded good). Best shows I saw pre-2000 were the Dead (Oakland Coliseum, and yes, I was tripping), Yes (also in the Bay Area, S.F. I think?), B-52’s and Starship in (outside S.F. venues), Bush (Grand Rapids, MI). Most recently two AIC shows (Salem Armory and PDX Coliseum) and Silversun Pickups (here in Eugene at the McDonald, followed by PDX Crystal Ballroom). I’m usually at a “professional” show at least monthly, coming shows include Jimmy Eat World, Foster The People, and of course Floater (with This Patch of Sky who I just reviewed for this year’s LBS). I also go to local venues weekly (Speakeasy, John Henry’s of course, WoW Hall where I volunteered for a few months as well).
5. Previous Column. Google my name and you’ll find a clip from a column I ran when I lived in Grand Rapids, MI for the local weekly paper (called, unimaginatively enough, “The Paper”) – the column was called “The Club Circuit” (clippings are available by email – just ask). Anyway, Lucy Webster (folk guitar artist) put a part of my review of her show on her webpage – I never knew about it until I was Googling to see what would show up (you wouldn’t believe some of the things attached to your name!) – you’ll also see I’m involved in a lot of other stuff as well (including a weird post on classmates.com showing I attended Welches Elementary which I never did!). The other stuff is all valid tho.
As for what I listen/look for when I’m reviewing a band, here’s some categories – these are based on my classical training as well as all the years playing and listening to bands:
* Timing – do all the musicians play together? Does the drum and bass guitar keep time (most bands have a tendency to start speeding up as they go through a song)? A popular thing to do (and very cool when it is done right) is to switch time signatures – it’s difficult and can oftentimes end up getting away from you (turning sloppy).
* Pitch – are the vocals on pitch with the instruments? with each other?
* Tuning – are the instruments tuned correctly? and to each other?
* Lyrics – do they make sense within the song? do they fit the style of music being played?
* Showmanship – do the musicians connect and interact with the audience? do they hold the audience’s attention? how does the audience respond to them? (when I see folks drift off the floor, that tells a lot)
Obviously, if I like (or don’t like) a style of music, that makes it difficult to be impartial. I do my best, but I’m human. So sue me (I work with attorneys for my day gig). If anyone ever has an issue with one of my reviews I definitely want to hear about it – I’m constantly learning myself!
While that cannot possibly encompass everything I know, that should give some background info that perhaps was lacking and hopefully answer some of those folks who were wondering who died and made me GOD (that’s GODDESS, by the way). It’s just a column, folks.