Band: Best Coast
Venue: The Fillmore, San Francisco
Critic: David Garcia
Publication: San Francisco Foghorn
Writing Disorders: Infectious Punctuation, Ambiguity Sickness
Irony: “But still. You can try.”
Dave, you’ve caught plenty of flak for this concert write-up, and it’s already been absorbed into a much larger discussion about sexism in music writing. It’s peculiar to me how something written for a student newspaper could generate this much bad press, but it has. Otherwise I never would have seen it.
If it’s any consolation, I don’t think you’re a knuckle-dragging misogynist. But I do think you’re a clumsy writer who made some doltish points poorly enough to give that impression, whether it’s justified or not. And that’s still bad. So I’m hoping you’ll take this as a learning experience and at least double down on your editing.
Dave, a lot of what you wrote is just confusing. You describe the show as a “huge let-down,” but then go on to write that “the music…was pretty great” and “Best Coast sounded great.” To me a huge let-down might be a show getting canceled at the last minute or otherwise riddled with subpar musical execution. But as far as I can tell, your biggest gripe was that Best Coast was reserved and standoffish on stage, which apparently had no real bearing on the quality of songs that you described with words like “soared” and “glided.” It’s like saying your meal was a huge disappointment but the food was amazing.
Speaking of food, let’s look at one of your more puzzling sentences:
“But a concert isn’t about listening to music, in the same way that going to a restaurant isn’t always eating food.”
Dave, again I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and guess that you forgot to put a word like “just” or “only” in there, as in “a concert isn’t just about listening to music.” You do elaborate to that effect, but starting off a paragraph the way you did isn’t the best course when you’ve already demonstrated a knack for confusing exaggeration.
Sloppy writing was smudged all over the review. You wrote “pretty” three times in the same paragraph, two of those as “pretty much” separated by eight words. That’s pretty lazy by most measures, Dave, and it tells me that you didn’t look at what you wrote with a keen eye before you sent it. I won’t get into your misuse of commas because that’s a much harder and longer lesson for someone your age than I’m willing to devote space to here. Besides, you’re in college and allegedly paying people to teach you not to write things like “fashion show, or, God forbid, a beauty contest” in your first sentence.
But there was one punctuation snafu so bad that I’m not going to let it slide. If the Foghorn’s editorial team had the time to write a 500-word letter to “Best Coast and their fans,” then maybe they could have found five minutes to edit a staff writer’s article before posting it. Ahem…
“The outfit was–and I’m still a bit heartbroken that I have to say this-is-the best part of the evening.”
I think we can both agree on how ugly that ropy turd of a sentence looks, Dave. I’m praying that you already know what you did wrong there, but I’ll lay it out for you just in case. Is this what you meant to write?
“The outfit was – and I’m still a bit heartbroken that I have to say this – the best part of the evening.”
If it was, then it might have made a shred of sense to the casual reader. Em dashes are a potent tool when used correctly, Dave. You didn’t use them correctly.
But beyond the little “FIllmore” typos and botched clauses, there’s the elephant in the room:
“I just wish they had put on a show half as good as Cosentino’s outfit.”
“She looked sexier and badder than any rock star I’ve seen in years. Sporting a short latex skirt, a sheer mesh top, and a pair of suede heels, and armed with a drink and a blood red Fender Jaguar, she took the stage to applause that might have weakened the floorboards.”
Dave, I’m not a prude or a puritan. If I were at that show, I’d probably agree with your description. But that’s not the point. The point is in the execution, the way you wrote this review. You didn’t so much as mention Bethany Cosentino’s voice that night, how it swept or faltered through her verses; how she strummed her guitar, stomped on her pedals, or toyed with crackling feedback. You didn’t devote space to describing any of the intimate hallmarks of her chosen profession as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Instead you mentioned her “shooting glares,” someone who “barely smiled” but “offered her thanks sincerely enough” and then “strode off the stage.” You gave a long description of her clothing without extending that same show of importance to her bandmates’ attire. So whether it’s true or not, the way you wrote this article suggests that you chose to emphasize how the singer looked hot in her clothes but didn’t “act accordingly,” and that the band’s “one off night” was “mediocre at most” but somehow “great” at the same time. Muddled opinion that looks a lot like sexism isn’t a winning recipe.
Dave, I haven’t read any of your stuff besides this review, so it might have been your own “off night.” But even if it was, I think you’d benefit from stepping outside the weird parallel universe where your editors praise you as an “excellent writer,” because notwithstanding the Internet’s current outrage, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.