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Sometimes You Do It Just Because It's Fun


The Bear Jew

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So my last story of recording in NYC with my quasi-big-deal friend occurred in the midst of the reformation of my last band.

 

Yeah, there was a sort of down period for me where I worked with some other people because things got weird with my most recent band. See, when you're in a trio, if one person has to split, the whole thing is kind of in danger--with fewer elements, each one is more important. So, when the drummer had a work situation that precluded scheduling rehearsals or performances, we knew we had a potential problem in the band. And, again, in a trio situation, sometimes the prospect of replacing someone whose company you enjoy can just be so depressing that you question the whole thing...

 

So, in essence, when our drummer (a Dave Grohl-like dude) decided he had to split, the bassist and I figured we probably didn't want the band to keep going without him.

 

It really sucked. Looking for new bandmates when you really only want to do one thing--the thing you'd just been doing--is not fun. In my experience, people say they get it, but, really... they don't. I'm just used to a certain dedication, work ethic and set of reference material... and it just seems like a lot of other musicians I've encountered don't get it.

 

The bassist had a similar experience--he auditioned for a lot of bands, but he found very few of them interested him... some were just lousy, some were clueless... and most didn't want to hear song ideas from a bassist.

 

Ultimately, we found that the only people who really understood what we wanted to do musically were... us. So we decided to get back together and find a new drummer, which is a daunting task. So many drummers are ridiculous--and I'm not making a drummer joke here... because I unearthed a ton of shady bassists and guitarists who were just as ridiculous. Unprepared, gear-challenged, timing-challenged, personality-challenged, time-management challenged, employment-challenged, etc, etc, etc.

 

Eventually, we found a new drummer. Nice guy. Great timing. Great player. Gets the jokes. Has a job. Great work ethic.

 

So we worked and worked... and we got out shit figured out, got ready to play.

 

First show back was October 30. It was fun. We played with friends' bands and killed it. Made a few bucks. All in all, just a great time.

 

But here's what I really want to discuss... we played a house party this past weekend in a bad area of town. Small rowhomes, small street. The kid who lives there has shows almost every weekend. The neighbors don't care. The cops never come. We knew we wouldn't make anything, but we figured it would be fun.

 

And it was.

 

No bar--you want a drink? Walk around the corner to the little Cambodian-owned store and buy what you want... beer, 4-Loko, whatever, and bring it back. And if you're the smoking type... well, you're basically set--there's more of that floating around than you could want. I don't even do that, and I think I had a contact high.

 

So... picture this tiny room with the atmosphere full of various types of smoke and stuffed with about 35 20-somethings, a full drum set, a half-stack and an Ampeg fridge set to stun... it's a recipe for great times. PA? Try a little power amp, a mini-mixer and two bass cabinets. Sounds like it would be a mess, and it was... but in the best possible way. Loud, messy, cramped, stinky... awesome.

 

We treated that living room like it was Madison Square Garden. I'm 40 years old, and I was literally bouncing off of the walls like a teenager. Screw a stage--there was a kid standing about a foot away from me who kept pushing the mic stand back up for me when other people kept knocking it over. Best time ever.

 

So did we break the bank and make a fortune? No. Did we make awesome contacts for bigger and better things? No, but we met a lot of great folks who will probably come and see us repeatedly. It was win-win. Sometimes the money doesn't matter because the fun is so good. That just reminded me of being a punk teenager playing in abandoned houses... turns out I still love it. Sometimes it's nice to re-connect with that kid again.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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As much as we like ROI when we play out, there's nothing better than a great show in front of a grateful audience, paying or not.

 

This. Best shows I've ever done were for free, particularly charity benefits and such.

"Tours widely in the southwestern tip of Kentucky"
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This show wasn't put together for cash or a charity--it was just put together to play music for people who wanted to hear it. So there was none of the "I'll be in the place just long enough to see my friend's band" thing or the "antagonistic, competitive other band" thing. People came by to hang out, party and see/hear music. They suggested donations at the door, but the donations could be anything... I think some of the guests brought canned food for the local shelter, and some folks just gave a buck or two. The cash went to the out-of-town/touring bands.

 

Our rehearsal spot is literally about a mile from this house (yeah, our rehearsal place is in a bad neighborhood.) We incurred little-to-no expenses other than spending our Saturday night at this place... as opposed to another place.

 

I've been fielding e-mails and Facebook messages from the folks who were at the show all day today. Pretty great.

 

 

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Hell yeah. And, to me, charity events always have the aroma of a bummer... even if it's a good time and helps, something bad has initially happened in order for there to be a need for the charity event. Not that I mind helping out, but, you know, it kind of sucks to have that bummer hanging over your head.

 

Also, if you don't make a good amount of money for the charity, you feel crappy...

 

House shows carry no such baggage. They're just fun... as long as the cops don't shut it down... and nobody gets into a fight...

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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My favorite house show story really had little to do with what we (1218, the prog metal band) did at the show, and everything to do with what happened when another band took the stage. Two hours into a wild show, this band was busting at the seams with energy - so much so that they took to jumping up and down (which, of course, incited everyone else in the room to do likewise) while they played.

 

As you might imagine in a "crazy house party" story... the floorboards gave way and 3/4 of the band crashed into the crawlspace. Thankfully the PA, the amps, and the drummer and his stayed upright and on the edges of the room. The other three guys, completely undaunted, kept right on going once they got their bearings, and performed the rest of their set three feet below the crowd. :thu:

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Not as colorful as Eric's story, but last week I played in a funky bar with an 8 piece jazz group I have been playing with...four horns and four rhythm. We've been doing this for a while and gave up charging admission because it was embarrassing....there were often fewer people in the audience than on the stage and the ticket taker was paid $20 was making more than anyone in the band.

 

On the most recent night, we had a big crowd (although I think many of them were related to the bandleader), and they were very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and even danced to some of the music.

 

But none of that really mattered. We are playing some great arrangements and having a blast. The band sounds better all the time and we can feel it.

 

There are bright spotlights and I can't even see the audience (most of the time I have my head buried in the music anyway). I'm playing for the band and for me and am having a great time.

 

My friends who never come out to hear me play ("when are you going to play on a weekend?" "when are you going to play closer to where we live?" "it's too late at night") will just have hear me tell them what they missed. By the way, where we play is less than 15 minutes from Berkeley and we play from 8 to 10 pm. We don't play on weekends because we all get high paying gigs on weekends.

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Exactly... while I like to make a buck as much as anyone, sometimes it's really satisfying to let that part of things go and just really enjoy the experience of playing music you love for people who want to hear it. It was nice to forget about shady doormen who skim off of the door take for drug money and dubious promoters who disappear at payment time for a while and just rock out because it's fun to play music. I hope I never become too old or jaded to enjoy these kinds of gigs.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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