I went to the grocery store today and ran into an actor/comedian acquaintance who was waiting in line ahead of me. While she was checking out, I zoned out for a second—as I’m commonly known to do—and started whistling. The checker called me on it after my friend was finished, and while she was ringing me up she asked, “Is that your Waiting-In-Line whistle?”
“Nope, it’s my I’ve-Got-A-Song-In-My Head whistle.”
She took a beat. ”What song?”
“One I wrote, actually.” She has no way of knowing that it’s a brand new GhostBand song, and it’s a safe bet that she, like most other humans, isn’t even aware of GhostBand’s existence. ”I was working on it all morning.”
“Oh. That’ll be $15.99.”
I handed her a twenty-dollar bill. ”Hopefully you’ll be able to hear it out there in the world before too long.”
“I wouldn’t really know what to listen for.”
“Well, then. . .I guess I’ll have to keep you posted.”
There was an awkward pause, while she counted my cash and returned the change. ”Okay, have a good evening.”
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
-Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille
Thanks to my amazing musical friend Kyleen for making me aware of this quote.
This ad was posted on ListByCraig today, in the ‘musicians’ section.
“Very experienced drummer without legs. What I can do with the rest of my limbs will surprise you! Looking to jam or maybe start band with good people who can accept me for who I am.. Below are links to my drumming videos. Thank you to my brother for allowing me to post a few videos of me playing on his synth youtube channel! Love you and God Bless!”
Rick Allen, the drummer for Def Leppard, has shown the world that a person doesn’t need all of his or her limbs in order to rock huge arenas around the world. I was expecting this guy to be using a modified drum set of some sort, or maybe he was even a guy like Trilok Gurtu, the amazing Indian percussionist who used to play with John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra and all that. He has legs, and he uses them on occasion, but his main Thing is to sit on the floor, surrounded by a mountain of percussion instruments, creating a soundscape that is both big and small. He sounds like a drummer, but so much more. He’s amazing.
So I’m giving the guy who posted his ad the benefit of the doubt. He seems like a good guy, is really confident, and he isn’t going to let his disability come between him and his dream. This being Portland, there are a million hippie percussionists out there, and this guy could be one of them. Good on you, dude, and more power to you, I thought, as I clicked on the links to his videos. Do not read the rest of this entry until you’ve watched both of the videos. Don’t worry, they’re not very long. Here’s the first one. . .
. . .and the second one.
I can imagine him twirling his virtual drum sticks at the end of that second one, or holding his iPhone aloft with the lighter app flickering on the screen.
I almost fell out of my chair laughing.
I have to commend the guy for his positive attitude, and his gumption or moxie or whatever, but OH MY GOD. SO FUNNY. Here he is bragging about how what he can do with ‘the rest of his limbs’, and he can’t even keep a solid beat. And ‘very experienced drummer?’ What does that even mean? Very experienced playing the drum machine with his fingers in his bedroom?
Okay, so assuming that all the stars align, and that a band actually wants someone to do that for them, what would that look like on stage? A couple of guitarists and a bassist with their big amps, a singer strutting around on the front of the stage, and a guy sitting in the back tapping out beats with a drum machine on his lap. Hilarious.
I hope he gets in a band. I’ll absolutely go see them play.
This all reminds of a band I saw about eight years ago at the venue formerly known as the Rabbit Hole. It was a female singer-songwriter and her ‘band’, which consisted of two electric guitarists and a CD player on the back of the stage, which provided their backing tracks. She would say something like, “Here’s another new song,” and one of the guitarists would turn around and push the button on the CD player to make it play. It was the (unintentionally) funniest musical thing I’ve ever seen. I seem to recall that she even counted off one or two of the songs with, “One. . .two. . .three. . .four—” before one of the guitarists started the CD, but maybe I just wanted that to happen so badly that my memory is playing tricks on me. It’s been known to happen.
In the interest of full disclosure, my first band (back in 1987) used the same Yamaha drum machine as the one in the top video when we recorded our song demos, and I played it the exact same way, by tapping on the big buttons. We made a video for one of the songs at the local community-access TV station, and I’ve heard that they still play one of our other videos on their ‘Flashbacks’ series, which is simultaneously very flattering and slightly cringe-worthy. Suffice it to say that I have first-hand experience with playing that exact drum machine in that exact way, and I’ve played all kinds of instruments (including a keytar) on all kinds of stages, but I would never dream of doing that in front of people, for any other reason than a humorous one.
Some of my favorite things to watch on the youtubes are videos made by people playing in their homes. Guitarists who shred and dance around in their bedrooms are always a hoot, but amateur drummers seem to take the cake when it comes to megalomania. This guy is one of my favorites, for many reasons. Most of all, he’s just not very good (but he THINKS he is, and THAT’S funny), but it’s the ridiculous and ergonomically challenging setup of his drum kit and the way he keeps looking at himself in the mirror that tell me all I need to know about the kind of person he is.
The best news of all is that he has his own channel (of course he does!), with an entire series of videos that we can all watch and enjoy together. I recommend his version of “Limelight” by Rush.
The subject of auditioning and dealing with potential band members dredges up similar feelings, and I’ve written about that before, so if you’re so inclined, you can read more about it.
Okay, I admit it; I’m an elitist musical snob. Are you happy now?
A few months ago, I had a funny conversation with a friend of a friend, whose very unusual first name began with an M. When my friend introduced me to M, I said, “Oh, you must know [GhostBand singer]. I think she might have been in the same school program as both of you were. Were you at the Goodfoot?”
“Nope,” M replied. “Never been there before.”
“That’s weird,” I said, “maybe I’m wrong about the school program, but I met another friend of hers—maybe from college?—and there are two of you with the same name.”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “If there was another one of us, I’d know about it.”
“Yeah. It’s an unusual enough name that I wouldn’t forget it. But she exists.”
“I doubt it,” she said. This is starting to get weird.
“Okay.” I said. Resistance was useless. Fast forward a few minutes into the conversation, and the little group of us was talking about food and restaurants; a favorite subject here in Portland. I mentioned one and gave it a good recommendation.
“Oh, I love that place,” M said. “Too bad it closed down.”
“Really, when? I was just there.”
“A few months ago, or a year, maybe.”
“No, it’s still open. I ate there a couple weeks ago.”
“No, it’s totally closed.”
I get no pleasure from arguing, and only resort to it if the subject is really something worth fighting about. Things like people I’ve met, or restaurants that aren’t closed, those aren’t even arguments, they’re wastes of time that could be better spent in a good conversation. I had a similarly funny and surreal one with my stepmom this past weekend. The subject of music came up, and she had a question.
“Who’s the guy from Hoquiam [tiny town on the coast of Washington state] who died? The musician?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“He was from Aberdeen, though.”
“No, he was from Hoquiam.”
“I don’t know if he was born in Aberdeen or not, but he grew up and went to school there. I’ve watched a bunch of documentaries and stuff about him.”
“Yeah, that’s Hoquiam. There’s a bridge there, and a memorial.”
“But that’s all in Aberdeen. I’ve been to that bridge.”
Well, here it is, the bridge over the Wishkah river. I didn’t make this video, but it’s a simple and touching tribute. And it’s in Aberdeen.
And since we happen to be on the subject of Nirvana and documentaries, I can’t recommend this one, “About a Son,” highly enough. It’s told exclusively through audio interviews, and filmed in a very compelling way, and it walks you through Kurt’s entire life story. You never see him speak, but his voice narrates the entire thing. It’s candid and haunting, and I think you’ll agree.
Since this is the first entry of 2013, it must be time for a recap of the better entries from last year. It’s always fun to go back and revisit some that I may have forgotten about in the intervening months. To wit:
Not a lot to choose from this year, since I wasn’t exactly ‘on my game’ on the blogging front, but these are a good representation. I’d forgotten about the doomsday cult dream. Craziness. Makes me want to go through and re-read (and/or re-post) some of the other vivid dreams I posted over the years. Or you can do that yourself, should you feel so inclined, by clicking here to the ‘dreams’ tag, which will bring up every single one I’ve ever posted. Not on one page, don’t worry.
So, on we go to 2013. Here’s to a fitter, happier, more productive BFS&T, in a cage. On antibiotics.