On How To Properly Respond To Criticism ...

Picture_Jay_1b.gif
"It stinks!"
Quite the hullabaloo here on DC9 over the past few days, namely in regards to this post that we ran last week on The King Bucks, and our reviewer's somewhat controversial opinion that they lack a certain amount of necessary on-stage showmanship.

It happens, I guess. Musicians tend ***SWEEPING GENERALIZATION ALERT!*** to be a sensitive lot. So too their friends and die-hard fans.

Listen: We understand that, when we run a negative review, it will most likely ruffle some feathers. Especially if those feathers belong to a group of musicians so firmly entrenched in the local music scene and so greatly revered around these parts as The King Bucks happen to be.

I don't want to say we expect a backlash when we run such pieces. But, certainly, we're prepared for it. To a degree.

This instance, though, has been a little different. Things turned fairly ugly in the aftermath of that initial post from Sophia Dembling. One member of The King Bucks, Danny Balis, who happens to be the co-host of "The Hardline," a popular drive-time radio show on KTCK-1310 AM The Ticket, went on the air the day after her post ran and responded to Dembling's take by calling her an "ugly, fat old bitch."

Not exactly the coolest of responses. Balis has since taken to Facebook to apologize for his comments, but, still, the imbroglio continues: Dembling has posted a response on another blog she works for, and local feminist blog Hay Ladies, penned by former Observer scribe Andrea Grimes, has taken a particularly strong stance against Balis' comments as well, first calling them sexist and then calling us out for not immediately jumping out of the gate and agreeing that his comments were sexist.

As for our stance here at DC9? Well, as we told Hay Ladies, we expect a jerk-ish response from bands we critique from time to time. It happens. I, for one, have been called every name in the book by various musicians. A few times, even. Got somewhat hilariously accosted by a heckler last night, even.

Still, that doesn't make Balis' response OK. Nor does it necessarily make any such childish remark made in response to a negative review OK either. Listen: We're just doing our jobs -- offering criticism to bands that either come from or play somewhere within our coverage area, more often than not in response to a band asking us to do so.

People send us albums. They invite us to shows. They do so because they want feedback -- and honest feedback at that -- because, let's face it, their friends and family more often than not will simply just tell them how great they are so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. That's where we come in, offering criticisms and praise as necessary, in part in effort to help push the act in question in the right direction.

It helps them, it helps the overall scene, and it helps our readers develop their own opinions on these acts.

It doesn't really help anyone when a band throws a hissy fit in response. So, in that vein, a primer of sorts after the jump, a reminder on how to best take critiques, you sensitive musicians you.

  • Actually read the review. I can't tell you how many times I've been engaged in conversation by an act we didn't slobber over, who simply skimmed our take to look for words like "great" or, conversely, "terrible." More often than not, our takes tend to be longer than one or two words, crazy as that may sound. And, in this age of space being at a premium in newspapers, we could choose to go the less-is-more route. We don't. Instead, we try to flesh out our takes so we can fully get our thoughts across. Read the whole thing. Generally, we explain our stances in full in there. So read it. Don't focus on one or two words.

  • Stop assuming we have ulterior motives. We don't actively try to give backhanded compliments. We don't have issues with you personally. We listen to the music, as it is presented to us (usually in disc form or in a live setting) and try to give it an open-minded listen, while judging it within the realm in which it's been presented.

  • Stop dwelling on the negative. As I said earlier, space is mostly at a premium with us these days -- especially in print. And our staff, despite our output, isn't as big as you might think. So, more often than not, we take the high road and choose not to cover bands that we have nothing good to say about. Does that mean we don't run negative reviews? Absolutely not. But most times, when we do, it's because we see some potential hidden underneath the bad stuff. Otherwise, we wouldn't focus on as much.

  • Actually consider our take. Don't rush to judgment and get upset because we didn't immediately hail you as the next Bruce Springsteen (which you're not) or the next Mumford & Sons (which you very well may be). Take a step back and read our take. Think about the criticism. Consider that maybe you're too close to the material to notice some nagging concerns. Maybe even consider applying our advice. It's OK to re-evaluate things every once in a while. Maybe our ideas might even help you. Crazy, I know.

  • Don't resort to name-calling. You're not the first person to call us a name. You're not going to get under our skin. You're just going to look immature. Or, worse, you might upset a regional feminist blog that will start accusing you of being a sexist.

  • Remember that there's no such thing as bad press. Hey, at least someone's talking about you. And, worst-case scenario, you'll have tangible proof to show your grandchildren when they don't believe your stories about your days in a rock band.

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75 comments
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BoarSmith
BoarSmith

You want a WAR? Bring on the Boars.

Zetamax233
Zetamax233

Good to see that you know that musicians are sensitive. Take that into account when you write reviews -- I know that snark helps the pageview business, which you are firmly entrenched in, but you have somewhat of an obligation, due to the fact that you can make or break bands. Its a GREAT responsibility to have, and one that I know you take seriously. Criticism is essential, both positive and negative, but consider taking the high road when available, and being constructive when it is possible. 

Jenny
Jenny

I find it ironic that the Observer is referring to musicians as overly sensitive when it has taken the embarrassing step of running a snarky rebuttal to its viewer's criticism of its snarkiness. If that isn't inappropriately sensitive, I'm not sure what is. Just own that it was a bad piece of journalism on so many levels and maybe I could begin to respect this music section again. And as a woman with a graduate degree in journalism and former career in music criticism, this whole sexist, you-don't-know what-music-criticism-is-all-about isn't gonna fly as a defense with me. Were there sexist comments under the original piece? Yes. But it's offensive to attribute sexism to the majority of legitimate criticisms that were posted there. It's even more offensive when the idea of feminism is degraded by its use as a double standard. Note to all women: do not emasculate a guy and expect him to not call you a bitch, and even worse, call him sexist for doing so. Reducing a bunch of hard working lifetime musicians to trite emo like descriptions might piss someone off on a primal level. It's hard enough to take a piece seriously when it begins on the embarrassing note of ironic facial hair and how good looking the band is, but even harder to take the writer seriously when she complains about how the musician or readers find her less than good looking. I think that is the true irony, facial hair aside. Was it the noblest word choice to call her a bitch in a public venue? No. But it was human response that I can understand. And I do think it was noble to apologize, something the Observer can't seem to do. And extrapolating a single comment (that in some ways i think could be expected in an off the cuff response) as a proof that the criticism of the piece was overly sensitive and sexist is absurd and merely a distraction from the real issue - that it was a bad piece of music criticism in an increasingly unreadable music section. I stopped reading the Observer's music section a few years ago because I just couldn't stomach the snark. You say that you try to take the highroad and not run pieces that have nothing good to say. Why try? Just do it. It should be a nonnegotiable ethical standard. There's no point in doing otherwise or then you simply exist to eviscerate someone. And more specifically why write a piece about how much you dislike a likable cover band? seriously? What is the fucking point? Just title your music section: Dallas Music Lovers Are Idiots, which pretty much seems to be the only discernable point that could have been intended. I'm not going to repeat all the other countless reasons this piece missed the mark. That's pretty well been covered. And if the Observer actually respected its audience and the musicians it reviews, it might take a moment to digest that rather than going on the snarky offensive, which seems to be its one trick pony.

earlkabong
earlkabong

What I've realized is that all of you are fat little bitches and talent-less trolls who are controlled by the Jewish media and the Gay Mafia. Also your momma wear's army boots. From LAST YEAR'S collection. And your dog is ugly. There that ought to do it. Please respond by subscribing to www.traipsathon.com and pointing out that I am a genius and right about absolutely everything. Thank you.

Camille
Camille

  Just an opinion, just a thought... I’ve never donethis before....it’s a little frightening. And I’m using my real name!

 

In regards to music reviews, I often wonder if the Dallasobserver should be credited with the "dallas curse."  

As an entertainment guide it seems to build wallsrather than break them down.

 

Why…WHY start a fire? You live in this town. Youwrite for this town. Why do you paint such horrible pictures when you do.  Why write snarky articles that bait people tofeel and say negative things.

 

I don't understand why a paper would spend thespace to write about something terrible and something so awful, when you couldinvest interest with a  positive light about the city, art, and thegrowth. Or hell focus on something that interests you so others might enjoy.

 

  This entire escapade just confuses me….. Verymuch. It almost hurts my feelings.

 

I found this online. It’s cute!  Enjoy the battle, but I wish there wasn’tone.

 

BreakingThe Negative Spiral – A 5 Point Guide

1.       The first thing to do is ask yourself what real evidence is there toback up what has just been interpreted – concentrate on facts only, notsubjectivity.

2.       Could the person you are dealing with have something else on theirminds other than what you are discussing? Could this be affecting their communicationwith you?

3.       Look out for repeated behaviouralpatterns: vary times and placesof meetings. In case this could be affecting the interactions. (It could bethat the person you are dealing with isn’t a ‘mornings person’ and maycommunicate more easily in the afternoons. Or maybe the physical barrier of abig desk between you is causing psychological barrier too, and a chat overcoffee in the staffroom would be more positive.)

4.       Discuss with the person what you have observed and theimpact it had on you. Be very factual and specific – not general – in yourcomments. So prepare.

5.       Try to put yourself in the otherperson’s shoes. Whatdid you say and how did you say it? Could you have put it differently? Couldyour tone of voice have affected their response?

Sometimeswe are so wrapped up in what we are doing or saying that we don’t always noticethe things that maybe affecting others. Prepare yourself, by using the 5 PointGuide, and discuss your observations openly and honestly. You may be verysurprised by the discussions you have and in the end you will find commonground…. if you look for it!

 

Jiggy
Jiggy

That chick says, "fuck 'em" and you DO bitches complain about their response?!? Really??

Also, read your own post here. How can you preach to others how they should act and then you act the same way? Hey kettle, I am pot.

Eam0061
Eam0061

Dallas: Where we coddle musicians into never leaving. We are horrible helicopter mothers, and The King Bucks are overgrown babies who still live on our pullout couch.

Superlative Corby
Superlative Corby

Even worse in that this scene is a nuclear family of say 100 people and 3 cover bands with a jaded radio show as the nucleus and mouthpiece.  It's going to be odd watching Danny morph into Rhyner, and sad.

Paul Burrough
Paul Burrough

This all reads like an old episode of Tres Mujeres.  Both sides could use a little perspective and a BIG dose of humility.  Meanwhile - back in the real world - Robert Ellis' new record is a country masterpiece.

Austin
Austin

Remember the King Bucks' acceptance speech that was read at the DOMAs a year or two ago (or was it the Quick awards?)... for best live act, nonetheless. The prewritten speech was nothing more than a diatribe insulting every single local musician.

Yeah, the article in question was kind of crap but there's no reason to defend Balis. He'll grow a pair some day.

Guest
Guest

Saying "ergo fuck em" is personal

BigFulkindeal
BigFulkindeal

It must be nice to be able to pull the sexism card when your lame attempt to be edgy failed and you find out you can't take what you can dish out.  Must be part of that rape culture.

Paco Jamal Warner
Paco Jamal Warner

I'd really like to draw a line in the dirt, pick a side, and start calling people names, but I think the King Bucks and DC9 are both fucking terrible.

JT
JT

Love the Ticket but always annoys me how they can criticize and the subject of the critique should be tough skinned. As soon as the tables are turned they are as hyper-sensitive to criticism as anyone.

Tcudavid
Tcudavid

It's kind of funny to me how Danny was offended at the review.  He claims he was just defending his friend, the leadman of the King Bucks.  I call bullshit on that.  Danny is known to over-react all the time on the Ticket.  He sounded pissed off, and used his position on the radio to attack a music critic.

It's a little ironic that Danny got upset at a review.  He's one of the most negative people I've ever heard when talking about other bands.  If you're not Neil Young or some obscure country relic, he's going to hate you.  

I remember how he slammed U2 the last time they rolled through town.  He hated how over-the-top their show was.  When I wrote to him about how I disagreed with his review, he responded this way:

"...if i'm gonna go see a performance, i want some heart and soul and passion put into it. not some choreographed over-rehearsed sensory overload oxplosion-fest. i felt nothing from the band or their music."

Seems both Danny & Sophia are actually wanting something similar when they go see a band play.

Can't we all just get along?

P.S.  Here's a definition of the word "bitch":  a person (usually but not necessarily a woman) who is thoroughly disliked. 

Sounds to me that Sophia needs to toughen up a bit.  If she's going to dish it out, she better learn to take it too.  She very well may be a bitch.  But then again, I'd never heard of her before this.

Gordo
Gordo

Of course Danny stepped on his dick and backed himself into a corner.  He was personally insulted and wasn't just defending Chad, but being a huge pussy or perhaps because he plays a character on the radio, he couldn't admit it.  Dallas is a soul less turd of a city with a turd of a music scene that for some reason is dominated by a rag of a paper that largely caters to people looking at the hand job adds in the back.

Jason
Jason

My whole thing, Pete, is I don't understand the point of her initial review.  There didn't seem to be a point to it.  Was the night she saw them special?  Was it for the release of their new CD? This is a band that should have been covered already in the pages of the Observer.  They've been playing shows for years.  

The review of their live performance seemed like something she should have written in an e-mail to friends and family, or a discussion that could have been had at a water cooler, or a post for her blog.  What was its purpose in DC9 at that particular time?

I'm not going to comment on the validity of her article or what took place after (I don't agree with the article or the radio comment).  It seems like it's been pretty well covered.  I was really just wondering how this went to "press".  I mean, when the idea of covering a King Bucks show came up, what was the objective?  

And this is not a knock on her, and I'm just "blue skying" it right now.  Was it so that an outsider could interject how things are done in other cities?  All of the bands that she mentioned seeing at CBGB's and Max's are all established in their own right as being cemented in music's history.  Was she comparing those acts to a hole-in-the-wall C&W band? 

I would have had more respect for the original piece if she took the angle of, I've been in Dallas for a while now and have seen some pretty lackluster (and that's my own opinion) bands and here's my take on it based on acts I've seen in the past that grew from nothing and are now in music's history books.  But, The King Bucks?  Just seems that she could have honed her argument for the article a little better.  Or, if maybe she could have started the article with "Dear Diary - I am so gosh darned mad tonight.  I went to a hole-in-the-wall bar tonight and saw this band.  Gosh, you wouldn't believe it.  This band, The King Bucks.  They just bored me to tears, and I've got to tell you, Diary...  They have ironic facial hair!  I know!  Well, yeah, we are living in Dallas now.  Don't talk back.  This was the exact reason why we left NYC - steeped in irony.  But, listen.  The point of this story is they didn't excite me.  I went to this place tonight to see something special.  Wait.  What Diary?  I should turn this into a story for work?  Really?  You think so?  You think it would be great?  You really think this would inject my name in Dallas' music scene?  I think you're right..."

MattL1
MattL1

A lot of you seem to think that saying "fuck 'em" is some sort of highly offensive personal attack.  It's not.  If that's the only justification you can find for Balis' comments, methinks your position is relatively indefensible.  

Everyone's a critic...

Dave_little
Dave_little

On How To Properly Review A Show...Actually watch the act. Or listen to the whole cd: no smoke breaks. or chatting with your friends. or hearing one song and half of the next and making up your mind. do your job. and pee when the band pees.Actually consider your opinion may not be the truth: you're not magic. you may have listened to tons of music. and seen tons of shows. that doesn't mean you know anything. i've eaten tons of food. doesn't mean i can explain what i've eaten.You may have ulterior motives: do you take an oath before you see a show? put your hand on the bible and swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you, Booze? I don't think so.There is such a thing as bad press: just ask casey anythony.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

You are awesome on the orphanage....oh wait - never mind

D1P1
D1P1

Sophia says she didn't like being called names.  Well I don't consider it to be a very professional critique of any music act or any movie when the writer says "fuck em".  I also think that if Sophia is allowed to express her opinion of their appearance and their facial hair, others are allowed to have an opinion of her and her review.  It goes both ways and critics should NOT expect a free pass.

Cornbread
Cornbread

Really? You defend this woman or her opinion that y'all allowed in your rag? And now this lady gets more mileage from her ignorant review as a result? She wrote one paragraph marginally sharing her marginal thoughts and several paragraphs trying to validate why she should be allowed to do so. She failed, and at the same time invited colorful and albeit angry responses. What did you or her actually expect? I give you credit and believe you got EXACTLY what you expected. And now Sophia is playing the "victim" role. If her writing model has followed this pattern over the years, I am sure this "attention whore" has been the victim of ridicule for years

Sweet_greggo
Sweet_greggo

I have also seen the "Bucks" play...I thought there melancholy Laissez-faire attitude was just their schtick...who knew they actually talked in between songs...huh...go figure.

I actually liked it...I hear Danny too much on the radio...less Danny...

Coleman
Coleman

" fat old ugly bitch" is probably a little much...now if he had said "neurotic introvert who may or may not have a problem interpreting band/audience social interaction..."

Theticketrules
Theticketrules

Sophia upset the boys club that is the Dallas Music Scene, which the Observer helped create. There are some members of the King Bucks that this publication has been covering for fifteen years or more, which is just unacceptable considering how talentless they are. The King Bucks are indicative of the kind of bands Dallas likes:  bland, soulless, unimaginative.  But hey, they're such great guys!   I hope they have fun playing the Taste of Dallas for the rest of their lives.  

Also, saying you don't have ulterior motives is complete bullshit.  I've talked to some of your writers.  One of them has said that Pete's early posts were motivated by his hate of Zac Crain and weshotjr.  

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

This is all similar to how the Dallas "scene" circles their wagons after something happens like this. I think the big issue with local music "coverage" is the fact MANY local bands w/ much more talent are getting left in the cold by local publications because these "bar/festival" bands usually are either related to someone locally famous or named. I can honestly say that the Danny Balis Ironic Beard Hipster Experience(i.e. the king bucks) wouldn't be as big if Mr. Balis did not work in local media.

Dave_little
Dave_little

The word "hipster" gets tossed around alot. Exactly what does that mean to you? And I can honestly say that the King Bucks work all the time because they are good at what they do and the people that hire them know that. 

JeterSuckedMeOffOnce
JeterSuckedMeOffOnce

oops i confused you with the real ticket glutton, dave lane.

My name speaks for itself. It was a lonely night in Greensboro. He was in the minors, and I was a minor. Sparks flew. He convinced me it wasn't gay if I was receiving.

Dave_little
Dave_little

as much as i love being called "ticket glutton" i'd much rather hear the story behind your name.

JeterSuckedMeOffOnce
JeterSuckedMeOffOnce

face it, ticket glutton, king bucks don't have enough pyrotechnics to be considered good music

Bigmac Tony
Bigmac Tony

Andrea Grimes sucks. Her columns were garbage. The only worth while thing she ever wrote was when she put on a bikini and sold tacos. 

Zeeba Neighba
Zeeba Neighba

A better choice for an article might be how to properly critique a musical performance. This would start by judging each band or musician on their own merits and intentions. Not from previously conceived expectations or opinions of the reviewer as to what constitutes a "show" or performance. There are several examples of so-called standoffish musicians, but the most significant that springs to my mind is Miles Davis. And it is precisely that kind of prejudgement of Ms. Dembling he railed against his entire career. Controversy and junior high name calling aside, it really is a very poor review. Not every musical performance is about a "show". But if one chooses to critique others with such personal, off the mark, diatribes, then they should have a much thicker skin than Ms. Dembling has shown. W.W R. D., What Would the Ramones Do?

Akdjksdgf
Akdjksdgf

Bunch of fucking crybabies all around. No one gives a shit but the 5 people involved in this high-school drama BS.  You're all embarrassing yourselves

JLR
JLR

I just want these comments to hit 70

Evan
Evan

I'm not mad at Sophia for calling out the Bucks, I'm mad at her for writing a shitty, inflammatory article. Please don't have her back.

Fact checking cuz
Fact checking cuz

Riddle me this... Why is it ok for Sophia to comment on the king bucks appearance, but it's not ok for Danny to critique hers? After all, Sophia has no problem posting her photo on the interweb. Danny was merely opining on her appearance in much the same way she opined on their 'ironic' facial hair.

I agree with the above. She went looking for a fight, and she got one. Just like the hardened New Yorker that cut her teeth at CBGB that she is. I mean she comes from vaudevIlle stock.

Claire
Claire

Danny "merely" calling her a fat old ugly bitch is on par with her calling someone's facial hair "ironic"? I'm sure Sophia can handle it, but here in Texas most men I know consider that rude at best, and being the behavior of someone with little pea-sized balls (if any) at worst.

Billyv33
Billyv33

It is a good thing that a) Danny didn't tweet his response and that b) he is seen as indispensable at the Ticket (for no good reason either) or he'd be looking at a suspension or a pink slip (see Bacsik, Mike).

Claire
Claire

Wow Dave, you're funny. Really..funny...

Gavinmulloy
Gavinmulloy

Is this Google+?

JLR
JLR

you are all in my "circle"

Dave_little
Dave_little

And Sophia got talked about on the radio! Or does there's no such thing as good press not extend to reviewers?

Dave_little
Dave_little

I'm gonna give myself shit first before anyone else does. I meant "bad press". I'm sorry. I'm on my period.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

LOL dave..I agree good or bad press is press, you get your name into the mix of things and it'll hit the fan and land on your or someone else. King Bucks and Sophia have both benefitted from this in their own individual camps. I will state that Danny went over the line with "Im a local on-air personality and I deserve respect" schtick, no one "deserves" respect, you earn it.

MattL1
MattL1

Here we go again!

Listen, I didn't entirely agree with Sophia's critique of The Bucks' showmanship.  However, I understand her point of view.  I suppose it's because I'm not so highly evolved that I think MY take on things is the only acceptable one.  I appreciate it when an artist makes an effort to connect to an audience.  It doesn't usually make or break a show for me, but it's nice to see.

Sometimes music reviews are harsh.  Learn to deal.  If you can't deal, attack the review, not the reviewer.  If you don't, civilization as we know it will cease to exist!

Laura
Laura

I was looking forward to the Observer's official response to this because I knew the ensuing comments-section bitch fight would be a good one.  You guys don't disappoint - this is way better than TV.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Wow, someone expected something dignified and polite from someone like Danny Balis?  Look, if you lack thick skin when it comes to critical reviews, you dont belong in music, plain and simple. My advice to Balis, his hipster bar band buddies and every other musician plying their trade in this city: Grow A Pair. Not everyone is going to be enamored with your covers or originals, not everyone is going to kiss your ass. I've never understood why the bar musicians like The King Bucks think they deserve some sort of hero worship when they play a guitar, drums or perform vocals...

Dave_little
Dave_little

Is "Danger" your real name or did you change it for show business?

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

My real name...even on my record of birth sir ;)

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