What I'm noticing more often than not recently - and it's really quite sad, a dumbing down - is that a lot of people don't understand the point of opinion-writing, of blogs and columns. People make allegations, via Facebook and Twitter that the writer is projecting, that the "article" is incorrect, or bias[ed] - they seem very upset at the notion that the opinion in the piece could possibly be different from their own. We are supposed to read opinion pieces and take them with a grain of salt, use them to further inform our opinion, reject them outright. Yes, sure you can bitch all you like about the opinions presented in any opinion writing but at least understand the process.
You don't have to go easy on the columnist/blogger at all - but you should understand that they're writing in such a way to present one side of things on purpose: their side. Apparently it confuses people even further if that writer decides to do something really daring in this day and age - like play devil's advocate. You have to, you see, always say what you mean, pin your colours to the wall - own your words, and you better not ever be trying anything smart-ass. People would, it seems, prefer you to also write up their opinion rather than your own. If you write up your own you'll only be mocked - they'll also remember all the bad stuff you wrote and hold that against you forever, never bothering to read any of the 'good' stuff.
Oh, I'm not talking about my own work by the way - it's been a mine-field this week negotiating all the column inches offered to Charlotte Dawson. Someone even suggested just yesterday that I write about it - offer my thoughts on cyber-bullying in the wake of Dawson's death. You know, because, I've obviously copped a bit over the years. No thanks - that's not a fun topic at all. And I have nothing much to say there.
Here's my thoughts on how this process works: you can't handle it, you move on. Do something else. My opinion is that depression is a serious and sensitive subject. That much is obvious I would hope. But all these self-serving hacks "weighing in" on it give me the sh*ts frankly. I'm not going to be one of those.
So this column that is not about Charlotte Dawson and is definitely not about cyber-bullying is about The Worst. Even though cyber-bullying probably is pretty much the worst. And Charlotte Dawson was often the worst too, remember. Until she died. Then she was just wonderful. And someone who struggled. No longer - at all - the worst.
I want to know what you think the worst thing is that you've endured in relation to music. My preamble was obviously to extract a bee from the bonnet, because when I first posted something about the worst music experiences I've had a comment writer told me that I'd obviously lived a sheltered life if this thing was the worst. Sad to have to remind them that it was about music - so the context was worst thing with regard to music. But apparently we're always having to remind of context. Nobody gets context. If they wanted to get context they'd have links to it on their Facebook page.
You're aware then, from reading this, my music blog, that every week I write a post for the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page (including a new series which starts today). Those posts are then added to Off The Tracks. When I load them up on the site I then share them here - and we've looked at Classic Albums I Can't Ever Listen To Again and Great Kiwi Artists You Must Revisit and most recently The Best Gigs I've Ever Seen. Actually that last "best gig" was so bad it was good, and it was the inspiration for the next series: The Worst. I wanted to write about the worst things I've endured on the job - I can walk out of gigs, sure. And I do. But I still have to walk into them in the first place. It's part of the deal. Same with interviews. I can decline them. But once I've agreed and they're underway, well you never quite know what you're going to get (that of course is part of the thrill - and often part of the joy). So, the new series is The Worst and I've loaded them all up for you to look at and engage with if you so wish. Actually, I had a lot of fun dredging up these painful reminders and cautionary tales. So I'll be adding to the series beyond these first eight posts I'm sure.
But I wonder if you have one or two - or a small handful of - situations you'd term the worst. That is "the worst" music related ordeals of course. Please don't use your computer and broadband connection to type in "first world problems". That's not only not clever it's fundamentally ridiculous.
So, here are the worst things I've endured on the job so far:
1. Reviewing Donny Osmond - self-explanatory
2. Local bands with sympathy orchestras - that's not a typo. You know the deal, the gig where the country/ish or pop or rock or reggae or - gah! - roots band brings strings along too and gets a rattle-your-jewellery audience as a result.
3. The Dandy Warhols half-attempt at playing live - the worst effort I've ever seen from a 'big name' band. Worse even than Japandroids.
4. Disrespectful Hawke's Bay Audience - well of course it was a Mission concert. But it was Ray Charles. Show the man some respect. But no. Not in Hawke's Bay.
5. Attending a Rhys Darby concert - okay, so not music, but still a form of gig-reviewing, still work. Very hard work indeed.
6. The Worst Music Review I Have Ever Read - say no more. (Please, say no more).
7. When The Famous Musician on the Phone Doesn't Want to Talk About Their Hit/s - happens a wee bit. Always a bit sad when it does.
8. The second Mumford and Sons album - when of course the first one was bad enough.
I'll find a few more examples of worst happenings to add to the file. And am happy for suggestions - but in the meantime I want to know what your worst experiences have been - concerts you should not have attended, albums you shouldn't have bought, drunken rants you shouldn't have had...that sort of thing.
Postscript: Hey, I know I'm not the best but I'm hopeful too that I'm not the worst DJ in the world. But if you want to find out - I'm playing some records tonight at Motel Bar in Wellington. From around 10pm until close (3am/ish). Here was last week's setlist. Come along and say hi. Or tell me off about something if you must. You know, anonymous old keyboard-warrior me.
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts