Posted in from one town to the next - live shows, music and the music business

attention, fellow sidemen…

 

i’ve been in the midst of a cleaning frenzy of late…to include my storage area, my house, and my computer files.

 

i found this while going through some old emails…i won’t reveal the source, because i was asked not to, and my googling turned up a website for the fat elvis band, so there may in fact be a credible source for this rant…but i couldn’t verify it.  at any rate, whether this is fiction or not, there’s a valuable lesson contained within for those of us who go out and play other peoples’ music as a vocation.

 

read on.

Dear Band,

Please allow me to express my innermost feelings. Know this is meant to be interpreted as a good natured rant from a flawed human being who wants to gently make a point to the ones he loves.

I am facing a 13+ hour drive by myself pulling a trailer for the next two days. On the way I will eat all meals by myself and stay in some shitty hotel worrying at all times about the security of our equipment and luggage. Once I arrive in Orlando, I will have to move the trailer early every morning. I will be super nice to EVERYONE, funny all the time, do 4-30 minute sets of music for 1000+ people but not repeat any song we played for them three months ago. I will pray that 4 people (you guys) don’t oversleep or have a problem with your flight on Friday. I will pick you up at the airport and get your room key for you. I make sure you are fed, prepared for the Sunday show, dressed properly, and aware of show times. I will grin and bear the bad sound system, the amateur choir, and any last minute changes the client has. I will do all of this in well pressed coordinated, stylishly conservative clothing.

(If you have ever cared anything about me, read on.)

This is one of two well paying gigs I have this month and the first one I’ve had in a few weeks. AND, I didn’t pick the music for the Sunday thing.

SO – (finally, the fucking point)…anything you can do to make this easier for me will be appreciated.

 

Including, and especially, keeping all sarcastic and passive aggressive remarks about the Sunday thing to yourself.

I didn’t pick the music but the wife of the guy with the fucking check did.

I, and the world, know you are too good to do this shitty music. Your refined ear makes it difficult for you to learn and rehearse these songs. I know it eases your pain (but increases mine) for you to approach the undertaking halfheartedly. I’ve been lifting weights all summer and I can tell you, it’s a lot harder to pick that heavy shit up when you don’t really want to pick it up. It’s EASIER to have – sorry to sound corny – a positive attitude. I understand that you are enduring some cruel cosmic joke that causes you to labor in obscurity playing in hack cover bands at Amway conventions while others with half your talent are stars. I feel your pain.

BUT, it’s one thing to be a great musician in a cover band. It’s another thing to be a great musician in a cover band with a shitty attitude.

Remember – no driving, you’re getting paid, your own room, out of town for the weekend, hanging on the Disney property, and only 4 30 minute sets over a three day period.

One more thing….

I know it’s funny to you to make fun of this gig and the crappy Sunday morning songs. It is your way of saying, “I’m too good to do this.”

 

Leave the funny shit to me.

I’m funnier than you will ever be, so don’t even try. Just shut the fuck up, wear the clothes, do the gig, and get your check.

You can never be as funny as me unless you go back in time and are raised by a paranoid schizophrenic with bi-polar disorder in rural fucking white trash Alabama with a job picking up trash on construction sites full of brown paper sacks that sweaty fucking hillbillies have shit in. THEN, you can spend the weekend at your Uncle’s pool with your molesting cousin and half wit brother who beats the fuck out of you whenever no one is looking. After that, you can go back to your nasty house where the dogs and cats have shit all over the place and practice guitar even though no one in your family plays and you have no reason to believe that you can.

THEN, after 20 years of struggle, you can support your whole family and spend your free time wiping your Mom’s puke from your porch and bathroom. Then, you can go to 13 different fucking therapists, every twelve step program known to man and be baptized twice.

THEN you can spend your adult life being known as Fat Elvis.

Then, after all that – you can fly a guy to Disneyworld, carry him around, feed him, and pay him $550.00 to complain about learning some songs.

THEN, THEN, you will be as funny as me and you can make humorous remarks for everyone to enjoy about the Sunday show.

In short, every day I don’t kill myself or someone else is a Goddamn miracle. I’m glad to have this gig and I’m glad to be going out of town and I’m thankful to have you as a friend and colleague. I’m a sensitive person who wants to please everyone around me and it makes me feel bad when you seem to be bugged by what I ask you to do.

Please – shut the fuck up, wear the clothes, play the songs, and don’t make me feel any worse about my life and what I ask you to do than I already do.

 

We have a lot to be thankful for. There are a lot of incredible players in Nashville who are working construction. I know. I have their fucking phone numbers.

I love you, See you in Florida,

Big E

 

i’ve been as guilty as anyone i know of falling off the BMC wagon (BMC=Bitch, Moan, and Complain) but i try to make a rule of being a team player.  my usual snits are when i show up to set up and there’s room for a solo acoustic act where a band is expected to set up and play, and there’s no room for my stuff.  in fact, i’d dare say that this would be my most recurring complaint…no room for my stuff.

 

(those of you who have employed me in the past would probably also be quick to point out that i’m not a light traveller…and your point would be well taken.)

 

generally speaking, though, i like to think that i’m not in the band in the email…

 

…most of the time.

Posted in yesterday. today. tomorrow.

Routine

yesterday, in the car, wendy was reading aloud from a blog that she follows on a regular basis…the author had apparently discovered, via her excitement over the purchase of a new window, that she’d backed into being a grownup without her knowledge or consent – and hadn’t realized it until that point.

as we get older, there’s definitely a shift in the seas in terms of what we find comfort and solace in…right now, I’m sitting at a table at my favorite diner, listening to the banter between the waitstaff and the senior citizens who, it can be told by the fact that no menus are exchanged and no orders are actually taken, are definitely regular visitors.

it occurs to me that I’m finding that kind of familiarity to be somewhat comforting to me…and I never would have thought that would be the case years ago, when I expressed the full brunt of my disdain for the shithole town I came from at every opportunity.

I guess we’re all getting older…

Posted in from one town to the next - live shows

jd malone and the experts at puck live, doylestown PA

puck is a great room.  this needs to be said upfront.

and yet, up until this night, i haven’t really had a good experience there.

my first gig there was with dan may, opening for the refugees, playing to roughly nine people.  after that, i went in as part of graham browns’ band, onstage with about six to seven more people than should have been on there in the first place, and it was cramped and awkward, and it just kinda sucked.

pic-049and the third time wasn’t looking to be much different, out of the gate.  i got a later start than i wanted to, and traffic was ridiculous…so my mood was appropriately reflective of this as we arrived at the end of soundcheck.

there were two other acts on the bill, both opening for j.d. malone, who i was playing with – erik balkey, who was pretty good, and EAZ3, who were not.  don’t get me wrong, they were nice enough guys (save for this eric dude, who kept repeating this “osama-obama” mantra of his until i wanted to smack him), but if they were playing for free a block from my house, i’d probably go to the movies.

nonetheless, i wanted to maintain my soundcheck etiquette and, as such, i didn’t bother to set up until they’d done their own soundcheck and were finished.

pic-058not that there was any need for worry – mike lightkep did his customary amazing job of setting everyone up and blending me in on the fly when it came our turn to play.  and thankfully, most of my sour disposition had melted away by then, as well.  when we got up to play, we came out of the gate firing on all cylinders and kept it going for the whole set.  avery was somehow armed with a microphone, and he and jd started this dialogue that had me in stitches…danny manchester, jd’s new bass player, was stellar in his debut (considering that we did zero rehearsals before the show).

jd did one new song, that the band had never played before…i can’t remember if it was in D or E, but we had a lot of fun with it, too.  all in all, it was a good night – and i’m glad that i finally had a good gig at puck before idlewheel goes there in october.

Posted in rants - political and otherwise

why bother with facts when you can make shit up?

ok, so i had made an agreement with myself that i’d lay off this stuff this year…but – man.  you just can’t make this shit up.

read this earlier tonight on daily kos – and there’s some pretty intense truth in this post.

We know, for a fact, that Sarah Palin lied about being “against” the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. I don’t mean that she flip-flopped. I don’t mean she waffled, or equivocated, or mislead, or was disingenuous, or misspoke. I mean she lied outright. Period. She was, in fact, a supporter of the now-mocked symbol of pork and earmarks. She was a supporter during the entire process, up until the now-magical point when the entire thing had devolved into farce, and not even Republicans could attach themselves to such a boondoggle without paying a political price. Then, and only then, did she distance herself from it.

And by “distance herself”, we mean “kept the money”.

We know, for a fact, that Sarah Palin lied about being “against” earmarks. As mayor of her small Alaskan town, she hired a Team Abramoff lobbyist to squeeze Washington for generous funds, funds far in excess of what the average American small town could expect. The lobbyist delivered nearly $27 million worth of earmarks to the town of less than ten thousand people: a fine haul, indeed. She said so herself, in her own handwriting.

So she lied. Baldly and repeatedly. McCain is now on a multistate tour, repeating the very same lies — and for Republicans, they are applause lines. Huzzah to the “anti-pork” governor whose state is more dependent on pork than any other state. Hooray for the “anti-earmarks” candidate who made a name for herself as a champion of the earmark.

The question is: what of it?

There is absolutely no penalty for lying, in politics. None. Zip. Nada. Sarah Palin could stand atop a stage and declare herself moon-goddess of Endor, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Yes, the papers would correct her. There would be a few cable stories on how there was no prior record of her being declared a moon-goddess. In the end, however, it would not matter, and it would not matter because Republicans have decided that it does not.
For Republicans, there is no longer any moral taboo whatsoever against lying outright. The only relevant question is whether the lie is effective — not whether it should have been done in the first place. Karl Rove can rail against the inexperienced nature of one vice presidential candidate — a Democrat — and without the slightest bit of explanation (or shame), but happily pipe up with praise for an unequivocally, plainly less experienced Republican pick. It is not expected that he be self-consistent in the slightest. Everyone understands from the outset that his role is to say bad things about Democrats, and good things about Republicans, and if the two things conflict spectacularly it is not considered a symbol of his dishonesty or evidence of a histrionic maliciousness towards factual discourse. It is merely spin. He can make a farce of his own prior arguments — what does it matter? If he is comfortable with it, and the people who look to him for guidance rally behind it, then we can Newspeak our way into and out of any argument as neat as you please.

So what of it, if offshore drilling will not reduce gas prices. It’s fine to say it anyway — it doesn’t matter. So what if the President of the United States says “we do not torture”, and then we discover that the White House itself authorized acts that are torture under any rational definition of the word. He’s the President, he can lie about anything he likes, as long as it has nothing to do with sex. And honestly, even if it does.

So what of it, if Sarah Palin says crooked things with a straight face? Name me one Republican who will object. Name me one — just ONE — diehard conservative who will be angry at the lie, instead of praising her for it. To hell with facts, there is another election to be won.

This is why I consider the Republican Party to be, at this point, a wrecked party. There is no self-consistent philosophy other than the acquisition and protection of their own power: there are certainly no moral or ethical boundaries that the party will internally enforce. John Edwards, a Democrat, had his political career effectively terminated when news of an affair came to light; a Republican can visit a prostitute wearing a diaper, and find himself easily forgiven. You can lie, you can staff your government with morons and ideologues, you can give a speech saying one thing while doing the exact opposite (a Bush specialty, in his State of the Union speeches. We bemoan constantly the Democrats’ failure to keep a unified front, in order to pass a more meaningful agenda — but you would be hard pressed to find even a single, lone Republican in Washington willing to buck the moral collapse of their own party. Such people once existed: they were voted out of office. All that remain are “mavericks” like McCain, figures who will countermand every previous belief in order to regain the support of his own party.

Palin may be an unapologetic liar, but there isn’t anything even slightly surprising about that.

i’ve come to believe that people willingly swallow whatever garbage they hear that fits in with whatever it is that they want to believe, without giving a rats’ ass about the truth, or whether or not what they choose to believe has any basis in reality whatsoever.   and don’t bother trying to point out the error of their ways – all that buys you is instant resentment, no matter whether you can back up what you’re saying or not.  and don’t even think about asking them to back up their statements with sources – you’re just some asshole trying to start a fight.

remember…before you try to confront one of these folks who get all their talking points from forwarded emails and the checkout line at the supermarket…it’s just not worth it.  you’re not gonna change their minds, because they’ve already made them up.

and no amount of inconvienent facts will change that.

Posted in yesterday. today. tomorrow.

small town girl in the big city

there are days when you just gotta bite the bullet, fill the gas tank, and hit the road.

so, over the labor day weekend, being devoid of work or musical responsibilities, i loaded up the kids (plus dylan’s buddy robert) and we left on a combination errand run and spiritual quest…to pick up a couple of instrument purchases – and to get dylan to his personal Mecca…

…white castle.

it was the movie, no doubt about it.  but, to be fair, dylan had never been to white castle, and at sixteen, it was past time for him to get to experience that.  i mean, it’s one thing to deprive him of something like hersheypark or great adventure…but white castle?  that’s just parental cruelty.  so, with a trip to white castle dangling like the proverbial prize carrot, we loaded into the truck and took off.  first stop was just outside roselle park, NJ…then on to franklin lakes, NJ, and then into manhattan, onto the campus of NYU.

jayda undergoes an interesting transformation when she sees new york city…her eyes light up and her disposition brightens and you can see her dormant lifeforce emerge.  she most definitely has her fathers’ restless spirit, and she has that hunger to be a part of something big, to be in a place where there are real opportunities, to shake off the shackles that tie people into a small handful of predetermined paths…her current hometown offers her nothing, and she is keenly aware of this now.  it took a while for it to become apparent to her, i think…but she gets it now.

so…after finishing the three runs that we’d laid out for ourselves, we went up to the white castle on 103rd street at 2nd avenue, and dylan and robert settled in to do their damage.  jayda, being jayda, ordered practically and stepped aside.  dylan, robert and i, though..well, there was just no way that was gonna happen.  when the dust settled, we were sitting at a table with roughly FIFTY white castle nuggets of oniony deliciousness, half a dozen orders of fries, drink cups and ketchup and all the goodies…and off we went, as jayda sat uncomfortably at our table, with little choice but to bear witness to what happened next.

dylan proudly showing off his white castle receipt
dylan proudly showing off his white castle receipt

i personally don’t remember much about it, with regard to details…all i can safely say is that it was an onion-and-pickle-fueled orgy of deep fried goodness that dylan will be talking about well into adulthood.

we wiped out a solid majority of what showed up at our table, and dylan brought a bag home with him to remember the day by, but apparently he decided the next day that his memories were vivid enough without having the burgers around, and he scarfed ’em down for lunch the next day.

as we were leaving the city, though, i made the suggestion that we come back the following day and go out to liberty state park and watch the sun go down over the manhattan skyline.  i thought for sure i’d be shot down, but – to my surprise – jayda agreed to it.  she’d already spent the entirety of her only day off with me, driving around and eating greasy food in NYC, and here i was, getting a bonus day!  she had to work until 3:30, so i told her i’d pick her up after work and we’d leave whenever she was ready.

originally, she was going to bring her laptop with her and work on her homework when we got there, but she busted through a lot of it in the car…and decided once we got there that she’d just do it up the next day – “i figure that i’m both a procrastinator and an insomniac for a reason,” she said.

sept-009so we drove out interstate 78 on a picture perfect day and got off exit 14-B for liberty state park and bought ice cream and went over and took a seat on the benches…we watched the sun glisten off the buildings across the bay that made up the manhattan skyline, then watched the lights come on in slow succession as the sky went from blue to hazy gray to violet to dark…jayda and i both took pictures, with her camera and with our phones, and we reveled in the comic relief provided by some of our fellow sky-watchers.

sept-087on another perfect day some years before, i had come there with my buddy jay smalley – he had come out from the west coast for a week, and i brought him into the city to take it all in…we got somewhat shitfaced at the orange bear, playing pool and listening to music on the jukebox, we bumped into liv tyler at arlenes’ grocery when we stopped over to see my friends in aunt pat play just after liv’s boyfriends’ band…and we rode the ferry to ellis island and back, and watched the sun set against the manhattan skyline…which was, as you surely know, much different then.

sept-040it was one of those days that sticks with you long after it passes…we went back to the hotel we were staying in across the river and drank beer and watched “space ghost”, which was, at that moment, the funniest thing i’d ever seen in my life.  it hasn’t been as funny since, but it was fuckin’ hilarious then…jay fell in love with liv tyler, then with the bartender at the orange bear, then with a woman of apparent french descent at the statue of liberty.

the thing that affected jay to the extent that it did that weekend has also, i believe, taken up residence in my daughter.

sept-014she’s enamoured with new york…she wants to live there in the worst way.  as is something of a custom in her maternal lineage, though, she’s already got all her excuses all picked out as to why she can’t or shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to or won’t…there’s a distinct lack of the reckless abandon that i’ve employed to make major decisions in my life.  perhaps her being witness to said abandon is her primary motivation to avoid it, i don’t know.  but there’s no point in dreaming if you can’t funnel your dreams into some form of personal motivation, if you won’t allow them to paint a picture of what your life could be like if you were willing to take the chance and see what happens if you create an environment for success.

the problem, i think, is that the same environment that can be a catalyst for success often provides an equal opportunity for failure…and that’s the thing that i think she dwells on at times.  yeah, it’s expensive.  yeah, it’s hard to find a place to live.  yeah, you’re going to be starting fresh in a place where you don’t know a lot of people.

howEVER…

if you’re only interested in known quantities, in familiarity, then the only option you really have is your current situation.

and if your current situation isn’t getting it done for you, then the unknown is the only alternative to that.

sept-025we stood there at the abandoned train station adjacent to liberty island as the sun was starting to set, looking out at the rows upon rows of empty train tracks and the signs notating what train used to leave from which track…

…and i said to her, “you wanna talk about taking a leap of faith…imagine what these people left behind, and how little they knew about what they were getting themselves into.  and not all of them made it.  not all of them stayed, and not all of them survived…but they tried.”

it’ll be interesting to see how her life unfolds over the next few years…for now, i’m just thankful that we got to spend the time together that we did over the weekend.  it’s increasingly rare, with her school and work schedule…so it’s something to be thankful for when that kind of opportunity arises.

i’ll do a little dance in my heart when she makes the call and moves to the city, though.