When a show grabs you by the throat and won’t let go, and you … kinda like it

Remember the last time you felt pleasantly choked after going to a classical show? Pic:
Remember the last time you enjoyed a little choking at the hands of an orchestra or performer? Pic:

THIS is the way to write show reviews.

Garrett Harris is a guy who writes for the San Diego Reader. Classical criticism isn’t exactly kush employment, so it’s rare to read reviews from writers with an actual pulse. To wit:

I caught the [“Mostly Mozart”] concert at the Balboa Theater on June 18 and it was — how shall I say this? Badass. (…)

What do I mean by badass?

If there were ever a West-Side-Story-esque-a-la-Anchorman-news-fight orchestra death match, this group would cut you and maybe choke you out, in a very musical and artistic way. You might even thank them afterwards.

I’m in, I’m all in. Standard classical reviews are straight-up depressing. I won’t name names but you know the type: faux-writerly J.O. material, intended for the Vineyard-Vines-and-brie set, written by dullards for dullards.

Who's the intended classical audience? Pic:
Who’s the intended audience here? Pic:

When’s the last time a critic’s review made you want to GO SEE the show? (That the critic undoubtedly got free tickets to, but I digress.) Was there a time when you depended on a critic’s good word to steer you to criminally-unnoticed shows or recordings? Has that time passed?

The market’s never dry for tastemakers, especially ones with great goddamn taste. Like, if I’m in a bind and I need to show up somewhere looking flawless, I’m not going to TJ Maxx (no disrespect to my Maxxinistas) for that new-new. I am liable to page through Hypebeast for some original (and much-copied by now, but let’s stay focused) look, and thereafter track down those pieces.

Classical critics are tastemakers. It’s not about writing that load-blowing 5,000 words to prove you know what’s going on. First of all, no one asked for your history lesson. Second, you’re there to make a sale: your audience wants exceptional music, and they’re willing to shell for sweet shows, good albums, the whole works. If the best you can muster in a labyrinthine 15 paragraphs is damning-by-faint-praise, you picked the wrong line of work. Time to cash out & move on.

Classical music is strictly for lovers. Respect it, treat it good.


By Will Roseliep

Writer for different outlets. Personal work appears here first:

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