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stew review of jon c’s review of making it

Hey Jon,

Despite the fact that you work for the nytimes
your review was full of shit.
Not sure if you are too
but it’s not a question worth losing any sleep over.

Because yeah, we knew we were due for a hatchet job from the nyt given the long string of praise we’ve received from the paper of record going all the way back to our 1957 debut free jazz concept album
“Journalist Found at Bottom of East River.” But the glee with which you took up your ax-signment was showing a little too much: I mean when you start reviewing program notes and technical malfunctions as if they were part of the show, it’s clear you were out to get us and get us good. Well, now I’m out to get you. See below and listen up girlfriend.

“Stew and his band had just finished “Leave/Believe,” a terse, mopey number that stops cold in the middle”

The above moment you chose to open your silly review with was in fact a huge technical glitch which left both audience and artists confused. It wasn’t until after the entire show was over that we all realized what had happened. So nice of you to write about that technical malfunction as if that’s how it was intended, jerk.

”Somewhere in that hurricane Stew and Ms. Rodewald, who’d also been involved romantically, stopped dating.”

“Stopped dating?” Do you write for Tiger Beat in your spare time? I don’t think a 9 year old could listen to this show and describe our situation as having “stopped dating.” How does “going steady” sound to you?

“Their new collaboration, “Making It” — a concert, not a play — is the story of the end of their romance, though its very existence reflects their mutual professional reliance.”

Good one Jon! That was a really good sentence!
But this next one…

“That might explain the half-heartedness of this show”

Sugar-pumpkin, the show is all heart. Maybe you wanted us on the floor wailing the blues and really “meaning it” and sweating the way dem old school soul singers used to do in order to prove to you that the shit was painful? Well, we don’t roll like dat. Negro artist be sho nuff detached these days, Jonny. We don’t sweat it out fo’ y’all like we used to.

And did you ever think we might even be a lil bit ironic about the whole thing? Nah…

“staged more like a one-act Off Off Broadway play than a concert”

It wasn’t staged, Jon. We just set up in a circle. Just like we’re gonna do in your living room next week.

“isn’t quite a full exposition on curdling love.”

How the fuck would you know? Huh? How-the-fuck-would-you-know? I don’t remember any threesomes with me you and Heidi. Unless you do and that’s the cause of the bad review.

“its numbers less songs than sets of strung-together aphorisms…”

This is one of those disses that I can only take as a compliment. So aphorisms can’t be songs? God damn Jon, what else am I not allowed to do? Be fat and wear an orange jumpsuit?

“verging on trite.”

Oh Jon, you review AMERICAN IDOL shit for a living (???) and yer calling OUR SHIT verging on trite? Give me a fucking break. Reviewing pop music for a living is like being a professional pooper scooper. You have praised far shittier bands than us and we all know it.

“It’s a weak compromise between a musical experience and a theatrical one.”

You are a weak compromise between an american idol correspondent and journalist on a hatchet mission who reviews technical glitches and program notes.

What else didn’t you like about the music, Jon?

“The minimal staging — felt disproportionately constraining.”

I said the music jon…

“In the show’s program — another playlike touch —“

Jon, that wasn’t a “playlike touch.” St Anns is a theater, honey chile, and theaters make programs and then the artists write things in them that are NOT intended to be reviewed, fool. The fact that you went out of your way to review the program notes –fercrissakes- shows you were just hunting for blood. What next: my jumpsuit?

So again, back to the music…

“Coupled with the show’s shrunken size”

Shrunken from what? Heidi and I have been doing shows from before you were born on stages of all shapes and sizes.

“it all smacks of a sublimated repudiation of “Passing Strange” and its success.”

Good lord are you full of shit now. I am so proud and thankful for PS I cant even describe how its changed my life in countless beautiful ways. Making It is partly about how much it sucked to reach such heights while not being able to enjoy it fully because your relationship, which built that success, was falling apart. The most fucked up part about PS was that I really didn’t get to enjoy it. And I don’t blame PS nor its success for that.

What you don’t understand about us is that we got to do PS because of doing smaller more experimental shows like Making It. We’d been honing our craft in dive bars, art spaces, listening rooms and opening for big bands in huge places for quite a long time. St Anns is just another exceptionally amazing room we are fortunate enough to be working in.

“staid arrangements.”

The arrangements were there to serve the songs as we saw fit and not to please your ass.

I mean, honestly: what the fuck do you know about how we’re supposed to present our music?

“Alone, the words were often whimsical but only rarely incisive.”

And you give examples of neither so what the fuck are you talking about?

“The songs were at their best not on the crumbling relationship but on secondhand concerns: the intimacies and detachments of touring life (“Tomorrow Gone”), drugs (“Speed”) and alcohol (“Kingdom of Drink”).”

Oh lord: yer calling Touring, Drugs and Alcohol “SECONDHAND CONCERNS OF MUSICIANS?????”!!!

How could you be so ignorant of the world you get paid to write about?

You have just disqualified yourself with that pearl. Listen Jon, touring, drugs and alcohol are an integral part of …uh, actually just ask a cab driver…doesn’t the nyt have a manual for guys like you to read up on rock musicians and their strange ways? “Second-hand concerns?” Jesus.

“The encore began with “Treat-Right,” a blithe meta-song about failing to write satisfying break-up songs: revealing, but still distant.”

“Revealing, but still distant.” Just like those damn peep show dancers…if they’d just come a little closer to the window maybe I could…”

“So went the rage-filled and semiotically thick “Black Men Ski””

Rage-filled? You mean like BLACK RAGE? You sound like an early sixties news commentator talking about the Nation of Islam. Were we in the same room, Jon? Geez, I guess the big black man in the ski mask scared you. Raged filled? That song is FUNNY Jon and people laughed. White people laughed. Did I really scare you Jon? Or were you just describing me as rage filled in order to de-humanize me and put me in my inarticulate, wild, primitive place? Cuz I swear Jon, White people laughed.

“Indulgently speaking truth to power, gratuitously ignoring his failed relationship: boy, did he look comfortable.”

Jeez, we’re getting a little personal here, Jon. Which is exactly why I chose to get personal. “boy did he look comfortable.” You sound like yer on the phone gossiping to a girlfriend about her ex-asshole boyfriend you observed in a bar last night. Just say it Jon. You don’t like me. It’s ok. I’ll be hurt for 5 seconds but I can handle it.

To end Jon, I sincerely believe you walked in there to hate on us without an ounce of objectivity. That’s why your review got reviewed.

And as far as “Indulgently” speaking truth to power is concerned, the only power I’m speaking truth to is you, Jon. And you don’t have very much power at all. Because Making It will last far longer than your pointless review.

You don’t get the last word.
We do.



  1. Bernie wrote:

    where does he live, Stew?…I’ll fix his wagon bike-messenger style. Sorry I couldn’t make the x-country trek to see this show…from friend’s reviews it sounds like a missed an excellent night of music….come West young (-ish) Man!

    Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  2. floridian on purpose wrote:

    Excellent post. You gotta right. And I’m very disappointed that I can’t see Making It. What I get for living in the sticks, right?

    I’d like you to know that not only have I been using “Freight Train” in my own classes to much success, but we’re going to start using it to help teach figurative and descriptive language to ALL freshmen in my high school, as part of their preparations for state literacy testing. Thanks again, Stew.

    All the best, John from Florida

    Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink
  3. A. Gross wrote:

    Right on! (and funny as shit). Saw the show last night after having read the dismaying NYT review that afternoon. Truly true and beautiful songs. Band sounded great. You guys definitely got it going on. Thanks.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink
  4. Beth Senko wrote:

    I agree that the reviewer for some reason was angry that he had to leave the borough of Manhattan…or whatever.

    The show was terrific, the visuals really fit in well…it was Stew, Heidi et al, doing what they do best — make music.

    PS — What was the package stuck in the top of the tuba?

    PPS — The best part was the ad lib as people walked out before the talk back.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink
  5. Brandon wrote:

    Just got back to Florida after flying to NYC to see Making It on Saturday night. The show was amazing, and this review of a review was hilarious.
    Keep up the good work Stew.

    Sunday, February 21, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink
  6. Jeff wrote:

    Those who can, do, like Stew. Those who can’t…write reviews for the NYT. A “critic,” indeed.

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  7. Randy Jackson wrote:

    Yo, dawg, I’m feeling the black rage thing, dawg, I really am. But you gotta stop being distant, dawg. Come on, now!

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  8. Scott wrote:

    Talk about a whiny little bitch, can’t take a bad review? Get out of the business you pretentious twat.

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink
  9. Me wrote:

    At the end of his life, Jon Caramanica. will be remembered for nothing. He will be remembered for not having contributed a thing of worth to the race, the species, the planet.

    Stew, on the other hand, will not only be remembered but CELEBRATED.

    Jon Caramanica, mediocrity and nothingness is your name. Enjoy the currently thin notoriety you’re getting online, here, as it will be your singular magnum opus, for sure.

    For that, Jon Caramanica, you should be on your knees to Stew, in thanks.

    Jon Caramanica: What nobody wants to be, or become.


    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  10. Daddy wrote:

    Wow! I know it can be tough to take a harsh review, but DAMN, Stew! You come across here like a whiny little bitch grasping for straws and trying to justify your choices.

    I saw the show the same night as the reviewer, and have to say that I agree with most of his comments.

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Permalink
  11. stew wrote:

    anonymity is a motherfucker since one would like to assume this email is from the journalist in question but if i rip you a new asshole and you aren’t the journalist in question then what good was that? there are better ways to spend one’s time.

    if savageotter wants to come clean (which would only be polite considering he called me out of my name) i’ll be happy to engage. otherwise, i’m going to consider you anonymous.

    and note, i dont “take” shit from anybody without giving a little back, whether its uncalled for emails from cats like you who call me outta my name who dont even know me, all the way to stupid-ass journalists with a personal gripe.

    “get outta the business”?
    i’m in the business of making music, son.
    and a punk-ass journalist has not shit to do with the business of music.


    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink
  12. Me wrote:

    Daddy is a liar.

    And like Jon Caramanica, Daddy is a nobody who will be long forgotten while future generations enjoy ’em some Stew.

    Kisses, Daddy.

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink
  13. stew wrote:

    what is so sad about people who trip off me cuz i take it to reviewers is that you act like just cuz the motherfucker works for the nyt that i’m supposed to take his shit? That is BULLSHIT. I dont give a fuck who he is. I got a motherfucking website and i’ll post any fucking thing i want on it. Just like everybody else does. And if a dude wants to open a review by talking about a technical glitch I have the right to take it to him, period. And i also have a right to keep the dialogue going. I thought thats what all this internet shit was for. Who else do you shut your mouth for? Politicians? Priests? No, i didnt think so. So why some no-talent writer from the nyt?

    Now when one of you have your show please invite me to review it and then we can see how we all feel after.


    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink
  14. Me wrote:

    You go, Stew.

    Jon Caramanica ain’t nothin’ but a “wish-I-hadda/wish-I-coulda” little pussy bastard who sacrificed his dream for a regular paycheck.

    Not that he “had it,” anyway. After all, you can’t learn passion and vision from a classroom, right?

    Fuck him, and fuck those like him, wherever they hide, slink, and crawl.

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink
  15. alex wrote:


    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 1:33 am | Permalink
  16. Gramsci wrote:

    I’m just sorry you had to read an article that was “literally” full of shit. Must have been hell washing your hands.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  17. Yo Dude you could always Use this exchange in your next piece of magic & revenge “Crit Tics”

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink
  18. Dharil wrote:

    Git im, Stew!

    YOU make art. Somebody else sees it. If they yap about it in a publick forum, then it’s fair game for the artist to yap ’em back, godammit.

    Yap on, brother, yap on!

    Its the oldest song in the book (or at least in the top forty). The artist does something unlike what they did before, hence, they make the audience change a bit. Some folks don’t like to do that. They’s one in every crowd. And five at every paper.

    Friday, February 26, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink
  19. Angela W. wrote:

    I find myself in the middle, or in a gray area here. The unfortunate part of criticism is that it’s structured to make the reader think that it’s not a writer’s opinion coming across, but some objective, etched in stone “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED” account of what, well, happened. Or was played on a record. Or on a movie screen. So without the writer seeming to personally relate to what they’re writing about, what’s the point? What does criticism do but to hurt artists?

    I think being out of the box of the artist’s world always creates problems with reviews. Don’t know if this Jon guy could understand the context of what you’re trying to do as an artist, Stew. Because ultimately, what does he care, what’s his investment in your work.

    As someone who really loves what you do, I’ll put it this way, which isn’t here or there, because what does it really fucking matter what I think. I didn’t like the Making It songs as immediately as songs you’ve written in the past. It might be one of those grower albums that you need to sit with in bed with your headphones or something like that. I always enjoy you as a performer, but the INSTANT connection wasn’t there for these songs, for me, on that night. Maybe I was hoping you’d figure out the end of my last relationship for me, ha. That said, I recognize that the work is always evolving and if you decide to work on it, it’ll be what you want it to be. One other quick thing – I read a few articles from Gothamist and the Voice leading up to seeing this, and you said some really amazing and poignant things about relationships, breakups, situations, life, such that I personally was looking for Making It to be spelled out for me in a that clear way. But it’s like any time you see material for the first time, and like that opening band who you never heard of and you hear what they’re playing, but aren’t completely immersed. That’s all.

    Who knows. Maybe this Jon dude just broke up with his girlfriend or boyfriend and turned up at the show looking for answers about what to do now that his partner and best friend doesn’t want to talk to him any more. Ultimately that’s what critics are doing. They were all fans at one point, but grew too old or too cool to do anything more than hide real excitement or real anger behind an objective screen. And here’s this, maybe this critic is such an asshole that he’ll make you even better, make you want to write those throw it in their faces songs. Or something.

    Anyways, Joys and Concerns and Post Minstrel Syndrome have been my ipod gospels these past few weeks. Thanks for that.

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  20. R.B. Martin wrote:

    …I, for one, applaud Stew. For so long, music critics have been allowed to operate with no recourse: if an artist responded to an invalid review, that artist was considered whiny or somehow ungracious — which is bullshit. Artists need to speak up, or else critics will essentially operate unchecked, and the balance between what is important (art and artists) and what is secondary (the press, critics) will be forever distorted.

    Bravo, Stew! Encore!

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  21. I wanted to address Angela’s insightful post by adding that your comments feel far more legit coming from someone who gets the artist As opposed to someone who had an agenda
    intention to knock someone down a notch because that’s their only source of self expression

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink
  22. cindylee wrote:

    My husband, who until he fell ill with dementia, was a rock journalist who LOVED REM. His philosophy was “why waste my time writing about stuff I don’t really like”, wrote a critical review of REM’s MONSTER album. He didn’t like it and didn’t like the way Michael was in the press pushing it so hard and said as much.

    When the review came out in his CRAWDADDY! magazine Paul received a phone call from Michael’s manager, saying Michael would be calling Paul or at least writing him a letter. It never happened but a song did appear on their next album called The Letter, which I think was Michaels response.

    Michael did later include a lovely photograph of Paul in his book of photos “Two Times Intro: On The Road With Patti Smith.

    I suppose what I’m getting at, is it takes someone who LOVES and understands the language of the artist to write a critical review, someone informed and endeared by that artist. Otherwise, as the NY Times reviewer proves, it is a waste of everyones time.

    I believe, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate our current popular ideas of journalism.

    x’s and o’s to you my old friend,clb

    Friday, March 12, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  23. dustyspringlet wrote:

    Excellent point, Cindy Lee… I’m going to paste/re-post that paragraph here:

    I suppose what I’m getting at, is it takes someone who LOVES and understands the language of the artist to write a critical review, someone informed and endeared by that artist. Otherwise, as the NY Times reviewer proves, it is a waste of everyones time.

    – – – – –

    Jon C’s NYTimes review was disturbing, venomous and out of touch with the subject matter, Stew’s life and/or his material. After talking with numerous folks about this issue, it is agreed that though Jon C may not be in charge of his journalistic career at this point (American Idol reviewer, case-in-point) he should delve inward to discover his anger and bias (cranky? pre-menstrual?) He delivered criticism worthy of Fox political coverage – superficial and out of bounds.

    Kudos to Stew and Heidi for getting out of the LA music ghetto, much congratulations for your Tony, Stew, and more kudos to Dorsen, the fantastic cast and crew of PS. Where else can you get psychedelia, complexity and simplicity, a coming of age story, psychotherapy-meets-history meets -literary meets counter-culture references, camp, rock, soul, pop, cabaret, and an accurately portrayed 80’s avant garde performance art in one musical? From the head of Stew and the musical prowess of Ms. Rodewald, that’s where.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  24. Mark wrote:

    Write them a letter to the editor next time.
    Or better yet, find a review of a third party (ie not TNP stuff) by Jon C and take him to task for these types of flaws, biases.
    Rock on.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  25. Carolyn Soyars wrote:

    Stew, you’re hilarious. Love this. 🙂 I am cracking up at my desk at work. “I don’t remember any threesomes with me you and Heidi. Unless you do and that’s the cause of the bad review.”

    Friday, October 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  26. Mark wrote:

    i hope the giants win so that i can catch your show at oakland metro…i think they stole their “fear the beard” thing from you…actually george carlin had a “don’t be scared its only a beard” back in the seventies…

    Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

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