So the past few months have been quite interesting. I moved in with my lovely girlfriend Erin, which has been great. I played some weird-and-awesome fill-in gigs, I “joined” then quit a band (I’ll explain the quotes in a bit), and I discovered I have some issues with how I’ve been relating to music and gigging, and in general have done a lot of self-reflection.
On to the first part – The move went really well and I’ve set up a nice studio in the upstairs loft area, with my electronic drumset to one side of the studio desk, and my keyboard controller and guitars lined up to the other side. The room has a lot of reflections, so I’m going to have to figure out some ways to make it deader for any voiceovers or singing I might want to do, but that’s all in the works.
I played some fill-in gigs, in various configurations, with a band (Texas Players) that features Roman Holiday drummer, and my brother-from-another-mother Lee Thompson on drums. The gigs were crazy but fun in their own way – something I didn’t think was possible with that particular band. I may have these out of order chronologically, but I’ll share them anyway. First was filling in on bass with a second guitarist (Paul Lidel, who is awesome) instead of the usual keyboardist (my friend Shelley), and that gig went AMAZING. We sounded great with minimal trainwrecks and it was super fun. Then I filled in as the guitarist with the usual keyboardist, which was nerve-wracking (more about this later in the “guitar freaks me the fuck out” part of this post in part three below), but ultimately ended up working out, and apparently we sounded good. Then we had a last-minute gig where I insisted on being the bassist, and we found another guy (another friend, David Houston, who gigs more as a bassist these days) to play guitar with Lee and Shelley and me. This one was sort of all over the place, but as the night wore on it became truly fun. Eventually I grabbed David’s guitar and he played my bass and we did all kinds of weird things, including a fun version of Rush’s “Working Man” where I tried to recall all the parts of the guitar solo while I played the song. The crowd seemed to enjoy themselves a LOT, which was good, because I don’t think we sounded that awesome overall, but we did our best on short notice! Three fun gigs with TP in a row. About 6 months ago I could never imagine that being the case (I was frustrated with the experience of filling in with them even though I liked them personally).
Part three involved my experience with a well-equipped, well-booked cover band that I won’t name because I’m afraid people will get the wrong idea about them based on my individual perspective and experience (don’t want the search terms directing people here). I met with them mid-January to say I’d cover some upcoming shows for them so they wouldn’t have to cancel, and for some reason they interpreted my covering the shows as joining the band. Which was weird, because I hadn’t joined (and I didn’t see that they’d posted my joining to their Facebook page until almost a week later, so I was shocked and a little annoyed), but I liked the guys, so I didn’t say anything about it. Then we got into the rehearsal room, and I was even more shocked to discover that they didn’t really even know their own song list very well. This is something I can’t fathom. They had been a band for a WHILE and very few of the songs were outside of the “cover band standards” realm, and none of them were difficult to play. It is extraordinarily hard to get involved with a group when they haven’t even invested in their own material and you’re expected to slot in. The guitarist knew what he was doing, so that made it slightly easier for me coming in as lead guitarist, but the bassist and drummer were completely inconsistent with what they knew and/or could pull off. And it completely put me off from the start. Two strikes and we’d only played together one time.
Because I was in the process of moving, I wasn’t really available for rehearsals, and there were many discussions via email about what songs to play, and as we inched closer to a list that was long enough for covering a 4-hour bar gig, no one seemed to want to say, “THIS IS WHAT WE’RE DOING”. I think this is fairly common in bands, because no one wants to be the source of any butthurt in their bandmates, but I just couldn’t believe they didn’t have a set repertoire already and ready to go that I could just work from. Stuff would be added and removed, pointless songs that have no public traction anymore deleted from the list, tired-but-workable classics added with whining pretty much every time one was suggested. It was irritating, and that further soured my experience with the group. But I liked the idea of being lead guitarist and lead singer on most of the material, so I hunkered down and started woodshedding.
Let’s jump to an aside here for a moment. I have issues with being a guitarist in a band. It has more to do with wanting to be awesome even though I’m pretty inexperienced at getting a consistent good live tone. I have nothing but confidence as a bassist, having the experience of gigging regularly in that role in a variety of situations for 20-plus years. But as a guitarist, I had one little time between 2005-2006 and one little time in 2014 when I had done it, and that was about it. So being the “quality above all” musician I try to be, I know I can bring “teh suck” with my live sound sometimes, and that uncertainty and lack of preparation sets me up for serious anxiety. I always want to be awesome. I always want to impress people. I remember a quote from Joe Dimaggio when a reporter asked why he played so hard all the time, and it stuck with me: “Because there might have been somebody in the stands today who’d never seen my play before, and might never see me again.” I guess it might be rooted a little in my ego, but I’m like that about being kind to people, too, so maybe it’s just the unquenchable thirst for external approval of me as a person. I desperately need to be liked. And on that, like many people, I create fantasies of people hating me because of things they probably don’t even notice. It’s ridiculous and I’ve worked on ways to not let this sort of destructive thinking ruin experiences for me, but it’s a work in progress. Speaking of which…
This cover band had its first gig with me at a nice pool hall (not an oxymoron – it actually is a nice place) way up north in town. They used in-ear monitors, which I have not had very good luck with in the past. Despite not being able to hear myself most of the show, I didn’t completely eat shit, and that had a lot to do with working so damn hard on the material even though every time I tried to sit with it and work things out I desperately wanted to be doing something else. I haven’t quite figured out the psychology of this. Like I said before, this is a well-equipped, well-booked band with guys that I like in it. But doing anything for it made me anxious and frustrated. Partially because I felt like I was getting nothing from anyone in the band in terms of a cohesive direction with the material, and partially because when we’d get together to practice, only one of the three guys seemed to have actually done outside practice. I was HATING my experience.
I was ready to quit after the first gig, but I didn’t want to fuck them over, so I figured I’d tell them, “hey, I’ll do the March show, and then I’m done”, and then two more shows were booked in March. One of them completely without my knowledge. So I soldiered on, trying to accept the awkward reality of the half-assed, well-equipped, well-booked cover band full of guys I liked personally but who didn’t seem to work very hard on learning the songs. I figured at least it’d give me more guitar experience. I played the first March gig – again at the same nice pool hall up north. It went okay – I had better luck with the in-ears. Clips of my singing/playing showed me I was pretty good at this crap. But my frustration continued to grow. Then about a week before the show on 3-25, we noticed another one had been booked for 3-26 by the drummer without half the band’s knowledge. This was it for me. First they join me in the band without my consent, now they’re booking gigs and not even telling me? FUCK THAT SHIT. The week we were to play the gig on the 25th, they booked another show on 4-15, and that’s when I decided that if I didn’t have a complete blast playing the 3-25 and 3-26 shows, I was quitting the band as of the 4-15 show which would give the guys enough notice to find someone to cover the shows in May.
Well, that show was this past Friday night. And I played really well. I actually sort of had fun with it, and the fact that it was at the same venue where I first met with the guys and talked about covering shows was a nice completion of the circle for me. I appreciate that they gave me a shot, and I hope they don’t hate me for bailing on them or sharing my perspective here, but if they really want to compete with the Suedes of this town, they are going to need to improve a lot about the band. I’m not terribly sorry to not be a part of that improvement (and I know I definitely was, based on things I heard from most everyone connected to the band who had seen other versions of it), but I do wish them well.
So now that it’s over, I’m happy to have had the experience. It SUCKED for me, but it taught me things and drove me inside for some serious emotional inventory. Like that I miss Roman Holiday and want a band like that again, or at least something like that (“something like that” is currently brewing, and I’m really hoping we are able to make it happen). I’m going to learn how to be pushy and try to book gigs for my solo show and for this new band, once it’s up and running. As much as working with a well-equipped, well-booked band can be nice, for me it’s not worth it if it’s not fun. And I hated being an obstacle to booking because of my weird schedule. I feel that if I’m in charge, it’ll be much easier to manage with my availability.
And back to the new home stuff – now that I have a studio set up at the house, I WILL be producing more content. I will also be doing live performances of songs and maybe even some live “vlogging” (hello, 2007 terminology) on Facebook Live, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. So watch out for that.
I’m hoping for all good things in the music realm from now on, Connecting with my music more emotionally, performing with heart and spirit and really driving a party both as a solo and with the new trio, and hopefully finding a way to get all my music recorded so I can share it with the world. If I write new stuff, awesome, but I think just going through and recording what I’ve already written will be a good start.
Thank you for reading my ramblings, and thank you to the guys in the well-equipped, well-booked cover band for giving me a learning experience and being nice to me through it. Onward and outward (and hopefully upward)!
Peace be the journey!