Friday, November 28, 2014

Post Gig: Thankgiving Eve

The drums, in rock star mode.
Well, aspirations true photo-journalism have been foiled by circumstance. Sure, I have a few photos from the band's job last Wednesday, but, in my head, I pictured getting down among the crowd and capturing the silly drunkeness of "Thanksgiving Eve" in North America. Sadly, that big crowd resulted, mostly, in my being pinned to the stage between sets. And, when it came down to the real visual feast of the post-gig, the logistics of breaking down the equipment and getting it through the hammered hoards meant that the cell phone stayed in my pocket. Nevertheless, there is still a tale to tell.

I left the house at around 7:00. We were to start playing by 8. We got up on stage and the place was just filling up -- on the half of the bar opposite the band. I don't know about the rest of the guys, but I felt a little like we were in quarantine.

Our band is one that has pretty much played in every circumstance one can imagine. We have played in front of thousands; we have played in front of two. We have played outdoors and indoors. We're not hungry for fame. But to play to a room with no energy at all is just paid practice. Which can also be okay.

Drummer's eye...
But this place was filling with twenty-somethings. We are ready to play for the age; don't get me wrong. We have the right material in our arsenal. But they are a strange lot; a "what have you done for me since the last song" lot. During the first set, we might as well have not existed. We are also used to this. I am going to call it like I see it here: playing to an older audience, you will get the occasional polite applause after a song -- people will stop their conversations for a second to clap; playing to an audience between 21 and 30 you will get backs turned to you. Until...

...they drink just enough to dull the compulsion to prove coolness through demonstrative signs of complete boredom with the universe and you play a song they like. Then, the dance floor is full, the girls are singing along and drinks are raised in salute to the band. But, wait -- it is only the second set. Not quite enough fuel in the tank. Full party mode has not kicked in. If the next song isn't up to snuff, you don't just get a slightly apologetic evacuation of the dance floor, you get wrinkled noses and, quite honestly, sometimes, the old "thumbs-down." On occasion, you will even get graced with a sticking out of the tongue.

Jeff Todd, lead vocals. (Don't let him fool you --
he's not this nice. In fact, the band is called "King Richard"
because of him. I'll let you figure it out.) 
By the third set, the tipsiness had turned the corner. De-evolution began and backbones started disappearing. One guy was "dancing" so hard, he legs were blurry and he fell smack on the coccyx against our bass speaker. This did not seem to hurt him a bit (at that moment) and he spun back away into the crowd like the Tasmanian Devil on crack.

For the rest of the night, we could do no wrong. ("The more you drink, the better we sound...") There were calls for three encores. The stage filled with young ladies playing tambourine and singing (one of them was quite good) and the crowd was undulating, front to back, like a movie set water tank.

The real challenge was getting out at the end. We finished early -- before "last call," which is rare -- which meant we had to go out the back way. As luck would have it, the fire marshal seemed to have some issue with the bar owners and people started getting forced out. As I took out my first load, I walked between two girls who were vomiting into the bushes and I had to step over a young man who did an astoundingly accurate pantomime of a tree falling in the woods. (I heard it quite clearly.) The parking lot was like one of Dante's levels of Hell: cars pointing in all directions full of aggravated moms and dads picking up their drunk twenty-somethings (God bless them) and couples arguing profanely and violently about nothing. I had to wait for a pony-tailed fellow (I think it the same guy who had fallen on the speaker) to finish urinating on the curb in front of my car (Him: "Uhhhunh. Sorry deeeuuude." Me: "Take your time, my good man.") before I could start loading.
A long intro allowed me to take this.
She was pretty good - before long,
three friends had joined her on stage. 

Finally, all the cars were loaded and we, as a band, stood outside waiting  to "get greased" (which is bandese for "remunerated") as the wobbly clientele poured out around us, no doubt wondering where the heck the old dudes had come from.

I took the usual profoundly peaceful (and music-free) ride home slowly and carefully (with the biggest bar night of the year comes the biggest police presence and various dangers) and pulled safely into my driveway.

And I might add that no one truly knows how good it can feel to get into bed until one has done so after having set up, played three sets on the drums and broken down afterward: silence, blankets and stillness unparalleled.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pre Gig: Thanksgiving Eve

We blog writers walk a line (though some that I have read don't seem the least big conscious of crossing it) that divides the blogging world into hemispheres. On one side is the realm of autobiographical sharing  in a way that offers readers exceptional insight into life, in general (as do the bloggers zmkc and Steerforth). The other side is the incessant prattling of those who think everyone cares what they had for lunch.

I try to be careful. My posts are not always autobiographical, because, if I wish my life were more interesting (which I do), then why would others want to always hear about its most superficial details?

Yesterday, though, I was talking to a co-worker. I mentioned to her that my band had to play tonight (Wednesday, Nov 26) and she mentioned how interesting it would be to tag along and see what goes into being in a working band -- the implication being, I think, a not-famous band; a band in the trenches of "gigging."

So, why not? Maybe some others will find it interesting. At the very least, this is an aspect of my life that is "out of the ordinary" and this might be cool for my sons to read when I am, as my father-in-law says, "toes-up."

Me drums. 
Today, since the club is close to my home, I'll finish work at my school after a half-day schedule and I'll head to a bar -- a pretty large room -- to set up my drum kit. This will happen at about 1:00, PM. In the U.S., the night before Thanksgiving is the biggest bar night of the year; people have off of work the next day; students are home from college. Setting up any time after dinner is really not an option, especially for the drummer, because the place will be too full or revelers for me to walk through with the gear.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Me vs. the Thirteen-Year-Old Drummer

Here is an embodiment of how it is frustrating, sometimes, to be a musician. A friend posted this on Facebook: What is frustrating, in music, is that most people don't have any real understanding of it and they judge it anyway. Or course, everyone is allowed to have an opinion, but it is always slightly annoying to see something like the video above. (For the record, my friend is a musician and I am sure he was just trying to get a rise out of me.)

To be clear: she is an exceedingly talented young woman and what she is playing is impressive for someone her age. But, to any drummer worth his salt, what she is playing is actually fairly easy; however, it sounded impressive enough for a video-poster to, even jokingly, say that the girl is "a better drummer than you will ever be."

What she is playing is based on a drum rudiment, the paradiddle. She has just moved it around the drum kit...which, again, is impressive for someone her age. To a pro-level drummer, it should be simple.

Things like this make me wary of offering opinions in other people's areas of expertise. Still, when it comes to art, it does seem that everyone is pretty darn sure of himself...

Let's face it: it was just the title that got me going. Not -- though this would be the easy way to try to humiliate me -- because I feel challenged by the drumming of a thirteen-year-old (I have no sense of competition when it comes to drumming) but because it is conceivable that there are those who don't really understand drumming who might really think this girl is a master of her instrument.

That's the part that could be bad. For her.

Friday, November 21, 2014

No One Cares About My Beard

One of the best parts about "growing up" -- at least to me -- is the ever-deepening understanding of how truly unimportant I am to everyone around me. I'm not saying that we are not all important in our little ways. Each of us has an effect, either grand or minimal, on those around us. But, for some, it is hard to latch on to the concept that we are not the center of everyone else's lives.

Now, that's a beard.
For instance, at the moment, I have a beard. It is not much of a beard, if you ask me, but it is a beard. There is no mistaking it for a beard, grant you, but it is not Gandalf -level robust. The fact is, be that as it may, that I never would have had a beard if it were not for a charity "Movember" event at my school for the benefit of one of our students.

Let me be clear: I bristle at things like this. The ice bucket challenge? It made me angry and I refused to participate. I like my charitable acts to be anonymous. (Also, to me there is nothing more annoying than a campaign to pressure people into good deeds... I could write a whole post, but I won't... Besides, Mike Rowe did the job already.) But this group-inspired fundraiser, I did. Why? Because this was for one of our kids. One of my kids in the school in which I work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Rebellion in Socks

My boys are both in middle school. They are both in a few activities. Both of them are in the chess club. Both of them are in the band. One of them is in choir. They have also done things like "Lego Club" and they both earned quite a few belt-levels in karate. They come home from these activities and they "knock out" their homework. Then, we all eat dinner together.

Yes, you heard right. All four of us at the table, talking and eating.

After dinner, the boys will play their allotted video game time. My wife and I might read or watch something on Netflix. I might go up to my studio and work on some music or practice my guitar. On some nights, we will all watch a movie together in the living room.

Near the boys' bedtime, my younger son and I almost always go upstairs to read a chapter of The Lord of the Rings together. By then, it is time for them to go to bed.

Once the boys are in bed, I usually go up to bed and read until it's sleepy time for me. Karen, who may have been finishing up studying for a class comes up soon after.