Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Massive Musical Success (Part 2)

People need each other, for basic reasons. Root reasons. Primal reasons.

Most basically, we need each other for survival. This, no doubt, originated with ancient humans standing back-to-back and fighting off beasts with nine-inch teeth. Then, talents were discovered and someone took the role of hunter; another, the cook; another, the healer, and so on... We still operate that way.

Less basically, while the hunters were out looking for wild Whateverbeast, they got to talking (or grunting) and then one slipped on a paleo-peel of some kind and they cracked up about it, and "the friendship" was born. And that night, as the tribe sat around the fire, gnawing the last of the goodness off of the Whateverbeast bones, a man connected eyes with a woman and he offered her the last of his marrow and romance was born...

Everything spiralled off of these things, right? Necessity became safety; safety became comfort; comfort became "society."

This part of it, I get. (At least, I think so -- you tell me what you think.)

What I don't get is why we remain glued to each other in every moment of our living and breathing, waking hours. Why is it that we depend on each other for validation as humans? Why do we measure success by what we think of each other or by how high we climb, compared to each other? This is not tied to basic survival and it is not as sublime as love and friendship. It's "just the way it is."

A few ancient philosophers warned us about his sort of thing; about the need to transcend the workings of the material world in order to find true happiness... Maybe we get better at this as we grow older.

Last Saturday, the same night I mentioned in my previous post, Jimmy, the guitar player, Jeff, the keyboard player and I were in the back room of the bar, talking between sets. A younger guy, probably in his twenties, came back and began to tell us what a great band we are. We thanked him. (It's always nice to hear, and, for some reason, considering the source seems unnecessary -- unless, of course, the source says we stink, and, then, he is, obviously, an liver-eared fool.)

As long as I'm behind them, it doesn't
much matter what room they're in. 
After praising us, the young guy regaled us with his own musical exploits; we heard about his journey of "teaching himself" the violin ("because, if you listen to recordings, violins are, like, everywhere") and the ocarina. (Yes, the ocarina.)

After a few minutes of eliciting nothing much else other than mild eyebrow lifts and is-that-rights out of the three of us, he said, "So, I guess you guys are really climbing the ladder're probably, like, taking off by now, like playing the way you play..."

The silence that followed that statement shimmered. The looks my band mates and I briefly exchanged were comical in their weight. (Dude...does he know we're in our forties?) The keyboard player mumbled something about the fact that, yeah, we play a, you know...

...but we have played a lot for the last fifteen or twenty years...

The twenty-something notion of "climbing the ladder" as a cover band (of all things) was so distant from us, the very mention tripped us up a little. The days of longing for the "A" rooms in the Philadelphia area are behind us. We've played many of them and we found out they're no big deal, really. We realize what we are: a really good cover band that makes decent money to play. And that's cool.

Have we, in this one respect, escaped the onus of "success" and comparing ourselves to others? Speaking at least for myself, my passion for playing has not decreased a millimeter since the early days and my band is equally passionate about playing. But as for "making it" or "taking off" in the local club scene? -- first off, to be honest, we're too old for the hottest rooms; secondly...we just don't really care that much. We just want to play someplace where people like our music and to get paid enough to make it worth the loss of six or seven hours' family time on a Friday and Saturday night...

You could scrutinize us forty-somethings and the young guy and paint a picture of the death of ambition; you could say we lost the youthful, electric drive he feels, with his ocarinas and his self-taught violining. You could say that whenever I write about my contentedness with relative artistic obscurity that I am equivocating for my failures; that the simple fact that I write about it from time to time shows that I am  trying to convince myself that all of my musical efforts have not been for naught.

Could be. But, as long as I really believe it, right? More importantly, as long as I feel it. Only I really know the truth of that.

For me (and, I think, for my whole band, but they can chime in to the opposite, if they want) if you could see a graph that depicts one bar for "Drive for Success" and another for "Passion for Music" and if those bars depicted a range of 0-100, the "success" bar would be at about 30, where it was once at, say, 90. But the passion bar would be, as we say in music recording, "in the red" -- pushing up above 100, the way it always has been.

During that night, I got into a conversation a guy who, at some point during the previous set, had taken the microphone and done a rendition of "Some Kind of Wonderful." He was pretty good. He caught me between sets and began to tell me he "used to play." He bragged for awhile about having once backed up Twisted Sister (um...yeah...great) and "how much [he] missed it" and I said, "So, get out there again and play." He started enumerating the reasons why he can't do it, in his fifties; with a family, etc. etc. He then began, as most guys like him tend to do, giving me all of the reasons why not playing is the right choice for him...

Well, that's what we ain't. We play because it's what we do and -- to be a little cliched -- who we are. Maybe there is more wisdom than there appears in the phrase "rock on". Rock on, indeed. It's the "just do it" slogan of the musical world.

Thus ends part the second, (final installment) regarding my (and my band's) enviable musical success.

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