Music, for instance. If I hate a piece of music, I hate it with a regurgitative kind of hate. I, for instance, loathe The Doors. I don't think they are bad musicians or that Morrison was a bad lyricist or singer or that their music was low-quality... I just hate their music. No real reason and no real evaluation of merit or the lack thereof lies under any of it. When a Doors song comes on the radio, I actually curl my upper lip, for some reason, and fumble to change the station as if swatting at some horrible insect. There is no good reason for this; it is as if, as stated above, I ate a food that disagreed with me.
|The best pictures of the band are ones |
in which my face is obscured by a beer bottle.
I don't, for instance, generally like "country music." It has, however (slowly...insidiously...like the growth of a tumor) become a part of my life because I am in a band that plays and has always played what is popular. We were a classic rock band and then alternative came along and then grunge and we shifted with the times. We never fit into the Spinal Tap cliche -- we have never dressed the part of any particular music movement and we have never become rock stars in our own minds.
Now, for better or worse, it's all about country music. Very popular. We began putting songs into our list some time ago and people really like it peppered in between, say, "Play That Funky Music" and "Sweet Caroline." We'll do a few dance and then a few rock songs and then put in a little Luke Bryan or some Kenny Chesney.
I'm not usually thrilled when the country stuff comes up...but it is not bad to play. I mean, yes, I do often wonder how many times one can use the phrase "them blue jeans" before one questions one's creative scope and takes to the bottle; and, yes, it does get a little tiresome to hear about blowing one's pay check on Friday night for a party in the woods...but I have played worse.
|Country line dancing. They were not kidding. |
And the crowd ranged from 21-71.
So, we learned three sets of country music in two weeks and played our first gig in a country bar. It was weird, but not altogether unpleasant.
The weird: We were not "the show." Usually, in the places we play it is a concerty situation: people watch us and if they feel like it, they dance. At a country place (or, at this one, at any rate), it's all about the dancing. We simply provided the music. And the dances were group things -- line dancing; prescribed dances per song. And the people in the dances were none too happy with those who didn't know how to do it. Reports from friends of the band were that they were told to hit the road if they didn't know the steps. Hard core boot-stompin'. From a historical perspective, I wonder if this is a throwback to the stranger walking through the swinging saloon doors and everyone stops what they are doing and the piano player cuts off mid Foster song and one can hear the tumbleweeds ticking dryly by outside. At any rate, I suggested line-dancing classes to our friends -- for their own safety -- if they intend to come out again.
The not altogether unpleasant: They clapped for us. I know this sounds like a given, but our response is usually either getting ignored or furious dancing followed by woo-hoos and cheers and long "yeeeeeaaaahhhh"s. These people would finish a dance and, in old school fashion, turn to the band and clap. It was neat. And the people there were really nice -- staff and audience, included. (I talked to a guy in a black cowboy hat for about twenty minutes about the Rolling Stones, Kevin Costner's band and traffic in South Jersey.)
Twilight Zoney? Yes -- a bit. But, it was nice to change up the set list and it was even nice to "read" some of the parts that I had to write out because we learned them so fast. I haven't done that in a while. And, there were moments in which we played things that are totally out of our usual "feel": "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Straight!? -- I never get to hit the drums that lightly. I saved some money on Advil the next day.
There was even a real music moment: Tim McGraw's "Shotgun Rider." Country? Rock? Pop? It doesn't matter. It's a good song. We also got to play "Tequila Sunrise," by The Eagles, which I love... That about equals the number of "real songs" I get to play per night on a regular gig, so who's complaining?
No, I'm not about to start boot stomping or wearing Stetsons (I did take some inter-band flack for wearing a t-shirt from the Black Dog Tavern on Martha's Vineyard -- a little far north), but change keeps you on your toes. And while I could do without the neo-top-forty country and the "drankin'" around the "bonfahrs" in the woods, it's not much worse than pop... In fact, there as a lot of pop that is much worse.
And, let's face it -- we want to keep playing and pros adjust. So, yeah, once a month I can clamp a piece straw between my teeth and play some snare drum shuffles. But...you know...once a month, please.