Ruth Bailey’s review of Kid Sam’s Performance at The Troubadour, Brisbane

Kid Sam

Band: Kid Sam

Venue: The Troubadour, Brisbane

Critic: Ruth Bailey

Publication: Brisbane Times, 2010

Writing Disorders: Jargon Palsy, Idea Fever

Stuffiest Phrase: “some fairly uncategorised musings resting under this umbrella classification”



Ruth, up until now I’ve stayed away from ripping concert reviews because they’re more like yarns or anecdotes. Live music is a physical experience with all its people, sights, smells, drinks and ass-grabs. For the most part, writers in attendance write stories instead of sterile descriptions of sounds, but apparently not you. You might want to check the “fun” firmware in your android brain, Ruth, because whatever you wrote here is…wrong.


First: the formatting. This concert review you wrote has 18 paragraphs over less than 500 words. EIGHTEEN. Did you just type out your notes from the night, or do you have a weird condition that prevents your thoughts from gelling? After scanning through it and grouping your ideas, I came up with three paragraphs — four tops. Here’s one to illustrate:


“Music genres are usurped as `trendy’ as quickly as they are borne, but the `new direction’ appears settled on Indie-folk as an established leader.

This is largely attributable to international bands like The Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear leading a renaissance for once popular folk styling.

Even Indie-folk is in danger of being overtaken for the latest sub genre, `Experimental Indie-folk’.

The `new black’ in live music, barely a Saturday night passes in Brisbane these days where you’re not unable to sample some fairly uncategorised musings resting under this umbrella classification.”


That’s one paragraph, Ruth. Short controlled bursts are okay for fighting aliens on four pulse rifles with about 50 rounds each, but they’re not the best defense in descriptive prose. This looked like a Twitter feed, and it wasn’t long before I stopped caring about whatever you were explaining because your style kept killing connections between ideas.


Second problem: …everything else. I do blame your editor, but this was sloppy writing, Ruth. You’re the one who wrote this:


“The mellow, pop-infused guitar whirring enveloping the crowd, who appeared mesmerised for the vocal abilities of front man Nic McKenzie.”


Where’s the rest of the sentence? Either you need a comma after “McKenzie” so you can continue talking about the “guitar whirring,” or you need a different verb tense. I’d recommend a useful (and free) tool called rereading. It clears up clogged phrases better than the leading brand. Speaking of that:


“Illustrating that these Melburnians brought new meaning to the verb `jam’ but also that here-in lies the answer to why today’s live music-lovers allow themselves to be romanced by this Experimental Indie-folk analogy.”


Ruth, I don’t like to rag on my former students, but that sentence up there was more confusing than some of their essays, and they had Asperger’s. I’m not even going to try offering suggestions because frankly I have no clue what you were getting at. Utter confusion isn’t the best formula for a strong closing sentence.


Also, if you’re going to write Mandingo-length sentences, try using the right tools. I’d like you to read this sentence you wrote:


“Regardless of the Sydney-sider’s acerbic tongue, the band played a tight and concise set, fervour for sixties bands The Monkeys and The Beatles was especially evident particularly in Don’t Be Sorry and hit of the moment, Lonely in Your Arms.”


Notice how things take a U-turn after the word “set?” Can you imagine how a reader would need to stop and go back to make sure he was reading it right? The good news is that you already know one of two simple cures: a period. You might also consider the semicolon if you’re feeling daring. Read any book and you’ll get an idea of how to use them.


Ruth, I’m going to end this because I’m getting bored and anything else I could point out really boils down to you reading and editing your work before you submit it. Just…do those things…please.

4 thoughts on “Ruth Bailey’s review of Kid Sam’s Performance at The Troubadour, Brisbane

  1. This is my favourite part: “some of it’s inexcusable coming from someone writing for a major paper.” Brisbane Times isn’t a major newspaper, or even a minor newspaper – it’s a weekly magazine which is handed out for free in the CBD. I doubt the people who contribute to it are even paid. Keep up the good work though.

  2. Duly noted. In my country, our times will probably suffer the same fate. Free toilet paper.

  3. Music criticism in Australia is so bad. Editors are so hard up for copy that pretty much anyone can give it a go and get published. As a consequence most music lovers I know here in Brisbane don’t pick up the street press except to check the gig guides. It’s as reliable as the afternoon summer storms we get- the writing always sucks, except for Tim Finney’s (syndicated?) singles reviews in Time Off Magazine.

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