When considering the reasons why musicians often seem like damaged individuals, consider the following items culled from our two-night road gig this last weekend.
- 3.5 hour drive to a gig in the middle of nowhere. If you leave at 6:30pm, you will arrive approximately 3 minutes before everything (except the bars) will close for the night.
- Bar patrons in tourist areas have a higher density of drunken louts. I suspect this is due to a preponderance of day-drinking.
- Bars in tourist areas seldom have proper stages. Lacking that delineation between band and audience, this often leads to an identity crisis whereby the audience believe they are the lead vocalist. They will commandeer the microphone for: singing the wrong lyrics, shouting to their friends in the bar, political speeches, and/or psychological breakdowns.
- Without well-defined boundaries, people will want to talk to you. While you’re in the middle of a song. To request a song by the band you’re already covering. They will seem confused by your inability to have a conversation while you’re playing an instrument. (You will be confused by the fact that they’re talking to you instead of the sax player who is doing nothing and waiting for his solo.) 4a. You’re just a radio to them. They don’t want to hear your songs.
- Bartenders will want you to play quieter. It makes it easier for them to do their jobs (or not, as the case may be.) You can ignore them if you wish because their only real authority is the ability to call the police. Unless the bartender is also the owner. You don’t want to upset the person who will pay you.
- Bars will want you to begin playing around 10pm. They expect that you will play until shortly before they close. In Wisconsin, that is typically between 2 and 2:30am. With breaks, that’s 3 sets of at least an hour each. The intense physical demands of that performance duration will kick your ass. If you have a 9-5 day job, that means by the time you’re done, you’ve been “on” for 17 hours. And you still have to deal with all your gear and get to where you’re crashing for the night.
- If you’re fortunate, you have friends, family, or band members nearby who will let you stay the night. This is desirable because you are most likely poor enough that a hotel is prohibitively expensive. But it can also mean that 8 people are sleeping in or around a doublewide trailer. You won’t fall asleep until approximately 4am. The birds are already awake.
- The people who are putting you up for the night probably don’t want to actively punish you. But in the morning they will proceed according to their routines and desires. As a result, you will likely sleep for only 4-6 hours.
- Food. Unless your hosts are generous, you won’t eat well. It will be road food. No vegetables. You will be dehydrated from performing, etc. Depending on your age, be prepared for stomach/G.I. problems.
- Now, repeat steps 2-9. If you’re successful, you will be paid modestly for your performance (possibly enough to cover the expense of gasoline.) If you’re lucky, no one will be sick, injured, or frustrated enough to quit the band.
I think it’s rare that people are well-adjusted enough to do this. (I think it’s rare that people are well-adjusted!) Hopefully this gives you some background for dealing with musicians in your day-to-day life. They probably deserve a little slack. And if not slack, understanding.
or, how I learned to stop worrying and make a minor adjustment.
As a person who writes, I go through a lot of paper. As a person who writes with a fountain pen, I’m also unnaturally particular about the quality of the paper. Fountain pens behave differently depending on a number of variables: width of the nib, viscosity of the ink, and the paper. What we think of as normal paper is usually inappropriate for fountain pens. They either “feather” too much, which means the strokes of the letters widen on the page through capillary action. Or the ink bleeds through to the back side of the page. Or, they aren’t porous enough to set the ink and it smudges. Of all the papers I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot) Clairefontaine makes the best paper for fountain pens. Trust the French to make the best paper!
Years ago, I bought a Medium Bomber Jacket Journal from Levenger. In those days they sold the highest quality refillable journals available. The leather is simply sumptuous. But, the paper in the journals was inferior quality (high feathering and bleed-through.) The ruling on the pages is narrow—likely narrower than college rule. That’s two strikes against their journal refills. The last is that the journal accommodates a 5.5” by 7.5” journal, and that’s an uncommon size. What is an inveterate journal-er to do?
Solution: modification. Clairefontaine has a Clothbound Notebook which meets all of my criteria but one: size. At 14.8cm by 21cm, it’s about a quarter-inch too wide on three sides and cannot slide into the bomber jacket journal. Not deterred by paper dimensions, I used an Exacto knife to trim a quarter inch off of the covers (which are merely a stiff laminated card stock.) There is no need to trim the paper because only the covers need to fit inside the flaps of the journal. Once I did that, the journal fits perfectly!
Now I have what I’ve always desired: perfect paper (for me) inside a beautiful (non-vegan) journal cover. The only thing better would be if I didn’t have to trim the covers, but that’s a 2 minute task that only needs to be done when I refill the journal. DIY for the win!
From my letter to my best Australian friend:
Thinking a lot about the horrific massacre in the Colorado movie theater last night. I wouldn’t say I’m struggling with it. I know these things happen in modern-day America. I’m thankful it wasn’t worse (bad though it is.) I look for silver linings, and I think these things do generate more discussion. Although we’ve had a few decades of this violence and nothing seems to change. I don’t think it’s merely that we have easy access to guns. One of your countrymen (@indefensible) said on Twitter:
“American society makes sense when you realize they are all fucking terrified of each other.”
I think that’s probably true of most people, actually. It’s rare to find people who aren’t afraid of being alive in society. Sure, there’s a lot of legitimate things to worry about… when you’re actually confronted with them. Most of the time, we don’t see those things at all—and we still suffer the anxiety of them.
The other part is the culture of violence in this country. I suppose it’s understandable in the context of our history. Not acceptable, but understandable. I just don’t know how a culture moves away from it. The willingness of people wanting blood for vengeance is sickening. Today I heard people say, “I’m not really for the death penalty, but this guy who shot up the people in the movie theater deserves to die.” I don’t need to get into all the reasons why I don’t support the death penalty. And I can empathize with the pain people feel that moves them want punishment for the guilty. I just don’t know what good it does. Who are we to judge whether one is deserving of life or death? Do we have any greater moral authority than the extremely disturbed individual who tried to execute dozens of people last night? I know I don’t have that authority. Nor do I feel any great need to perpetuate a violent act as punishment for another violent act. This is perhaps the route by which violence becomes circular. A cycle of violence becomes a culture of violence.
I’m not playing that game.