I should have seen it coming – should have seen the moment when our family moved from Des Moines to Columbus, Ohio back in ‘ 94: “You know, you’re going to have to start all over again.”
This was a comment made to me by a local music store owner who I was starting to do some amp repairs for – I was going to have to start all over again in the music business and scene, building up relationships, and seeking out musical friendships. Yes, I was starting over, and I kept starting over in a 16-year period, but frankly, the old adage goes – if I knew then what I know now, I would have saved myself a hell of a lot of time, and trouble.
First, enjoy the ride.
Secondly, let go of the past, embrace the future, and take the left turn……
Last, and finally, savor whatever musicians, and musical moments come your way. You waiting for Charlie Parker or Jimi Hendrix to fulfill your creative void? Fine –keep waiting, and missing out on moments – they’re dead, you’re alive, and the rare, eccentric, talented individual that comes along, the one you’ve been dying to jam with, or write some music along side, could be more disruptive than fun, more aloof than caring about your needs, and just the epitome of the word ‘downer’ than you ever expected……
Been there, and not doin’ agin, nosirree…..
Which brings me to the point of the article – most every musician belongs to a ‘tribe’, if they think they do or not. A ‘tribe’ can consist of like-minded artists driven to the same goal – jamming, playing in a band, playing in several bands from the ‘tribe’ membership, writing and recording music, or ‘doin’ the hang’ at the local music store, church, coffeehouse, extinct record shop, bar, etc. Playing in a band, or hanging with a tribe, is kinda of like being married, and going to work at the same time. Given that fusion, it can work well with a collective self-awareness, and group - conscientious nature, or fly straight into the toilet - whirling down the tube with an I-told-you-so epitaph……
You wanna join a tribe?
Most musicians get a wee tinge of satisfaction when they utter the immortal words, ”Yeah, I’m in a band.” Or even more so, with the overwrought and cumbersome line, ”But, I’m WITH the band.”, the phrase that opens up a world to a free drink and dinner pass, or even heavier debauchery. But why join up? What are the reasons to join a musical tribe, and to stay the hell away?
Because it sounds like FUN.
Oh yeah, it can be BIG fun – you can create and play music that’s satisfying to you, and maybe collect an audience along the way. Plus, there’s ego fulfillment - you know, the ’hey-lookee-what-I-can-do-Ma’ syndrome. But band membership can be akin to going to work and being married at the same time: strong personalities, opinions, and feelings can mix into a baker’s brew of combustibility.
You still want to pack five people in a van with music equipment, THEN, drive 75 miles to make $40 apiece? And yes, I can hear the Greek chorus – “damn Holmes, who is YOUR agent?”
Again, getting that diverse group of talent, quirky personalities, expectations, and egos to work together like pistons in a Mercedes Benz engine, can be a tricky endeavor indeed. And that’s also fodder for at least three more columns……..
If you’re like me, who has done this dance several times in a few cities, well, kids, it gets old. I don’t wanna go on eHarmony.com, Mr. Wizard!!!
And you know, sometimes people don’t want you as a member of their club – it could be an out-and-out pronouncement, or a sly series of passive-aggressive moves, gestures, and phrases to tell you, ”Sorry, we can’t accept your application right now.”
Well, what the hey-ba – you can form your OWN club. You have that right, you know…….
I can also wax about how to ‘go along to get along’, or just plain tell your disgust with the proceedings in any musical venture, but those of you with spouses, kids, families, and jobs have already got that figured out. Yeah, all those dynamics go along with being in a band, or a group of musicians in a community.
You’ll get it worked out – it ain’t an omlette without breaking a few eggs along the way.
Tribes is tribes, peeps – you join a group, or make your own. The tribe has it’s own rules regulations, mores, and standards of practice. Again, to quote Groucho Marx, I would be suspicious of anyone who would have me as a member of their group.
Couple that with a Yogi Berra quote – “It’s deja vu’ all over again” – and you have a philosophy.
Wanna join a ‘tribe’, or form one? Step right up!