Fri 06, Apr 2012
Article - Inside the Shell of an Event Reviewer
By: Carmina Khairallah
As most of you may know, I’ve been writing event reviews for Freak Show since their website was launched, and I’ve also written a few reviews for another webzine. I have to say, the job of an event reviewer is relatively fun: we go watch concerts for free (whether we like the bands that are performing or not, but that’s a different issue), we spend a bit of time in front of a screen typing away about what we saw, and after a certain number of reviews we even get a certain reward. Although, I’ve noticed that here in the Lebanese Metal Scene, an event reviewer doesn’t always have it easy.
First of all, there is the big question of whether to be objective or not. On one hand, no one really cares about your personal opinion, you liking or not liking a band or genre doesn’t define its quality. But on the other hand, it’s a review, not a neutral analysis, and you have to give people an idea regarding whether the event was good or not. What I usually do is focus mostly on crowd reactions, but when you consider that sometimes a very weak band are encouraged by an audience filled with their family and friends, and sometimes an amazing band get no reaction whatsoever, that’s still not the best solution.
When that is figured out, we have the technical issues (which if I understood correctly are much more frequent in Lebanon than elsewhere). How to judge a band correctly when the sound system is terrible? How to truly appreciate a band among 4 others (often playing completely different styles), without granting most credit to the first one or two bands because your ears get tired after two hours of music? Who to blame when a pedal goes crazy and the vocalist sounds like a kid who’s high on helium, or when the concert starts two hours after the scheduled time? (Which reminds me, when that happens, sometimes you can’t stay till the end of the concert, but you have to review all of it anyway, leaving place for uncountable mistakes, especially if you miss a whole band or more.) And while we’re at it, most bands don’t have enough means to record their songs, and even if you know all the songs in the history of Metal and Rock, you’ll be hearing their originals for the first time, which will make them much harder to judge especially among covers.
Now let’s say that all of these difficulties aren’t too bad. Let’s say that they’re worth it, considering how nice the job is. And hey, we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t like it, since it’s not really what we can call a job we do for the money. But there is something that I quite frankly consider horrible: people’s reactions. Okay, I’m the first one to admit I have an average of one rather big mistake per review, and they’re sometimes quite embarrassing. When it happens, someone should let me know about it so I could tell someone to correct it on the website, and everything will be alright. Let me tell you that this is completely hypothetical.
Once I wrote a review about someone who played as a replacement act in an event, and I have to say I wasn’t nice to him at all. He saw me about a month later and told me that what he did wasn’t in his field of expertise, and that he agreed he was terrible. When I asked no hard feelings, he answered of course not. Now that’s what I consider a normal reaction. But more than once, I’ve seen people look for the slightest mistake in my reviews so they could blame me for it. Worse, when I write what could be considered a “bad” review, the band or artist concerned becomes defensive, sometimes aggressive (not all of them of course) and starts giving me excuses for their flaws. Do you have any idea how badly I dread writing a “bad” review, especially if I actually know the people who will be performing? Sometimes, when I already know that the band that will be playing that night is weak, I have to prepare in advance what I could write to make my review nicer, more neutral, and less harsh. But couldn’t they consider that they might have not been excellent and progress from there? And worst of all, I have once been told that some band members call reviewers “The Enemy”.
In conclusion, the Lebanese Rock and Metal Scene might be small, but it’s an entity. You have the bands, the artists, the organizers, the sound engineers, the owners of the pub and cafes where the concerts take place, the managers, the agents, the audience, and we also have those who are in charge of advertising, photography and reviews. Often, all of these people know each other well, because as I said before, the scene is small. In my opinion, all the parts of this entity should learn to respect each other and agree to listen to each other without immediately starting an argument before we can decently call ourselves a Rock/Metal scene. Who’s with me?