Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Having it both ways

The Whiteboard

Dang, I'm really, really lazy. Once again I can't remember what I did when. There was some practicing and of course the regular band rehearsals.

We did play a gig of sorts. Our first (and bestest)* bass player was in town for a couple of days and we ended up playing at an impromptu party for her.

The Commentary

Have you ever been a captive audience? I mean truly captive, where the alternatives are to listen to the show or throw yourself out of a moving vehicle? I had this privilege a couple of weeks ago on a vintage train. It was a stag of sorts for a friend with a train fetish. The trip out was fun in a low key sorta way, most of the enjoyment was provided by the company rather than the event.

On the return trip however, we were given a floor show. No, not the usual floor show at a stag, these folks kept their clothes on. Oh, and what clothes they were! He had a shiny lime green stripped vest with matching bow tie, hat and spats. She had a belt and shoes of the same material and hat with a large feather in it. Yup, these folks were "Entertainers".

"5 foot 2 Eyes of Blue" and "I'll Be Working On the Railroad" were the only parts of the set to stick with me. The latter because we were encouraged to sing along and if caught not singing were glared at and mocked by Mr. Shiny Hat. He did a lot of mocking and flirted with the pensioners, it was....awkward. Now, to be fair they were pretty good singers and worked really hard, especially in the face of the vast indifference and/or outright embarrassment of a goodly portion of the audience.

I've been trying to figure out why it bothered me so. I know music is subjective and just because something isn't to my taste doesn't mean it's bad. I suspect that I was feeling embarrassed for the performers more than I was hating the music. Arrogant no? I mean, who am I to judge someone who's actually making a living playing music? For all I know these folks truly enjoyed the music they were presenting and don't harbour secret fantasies about writing the first successfully Goth-opera or whatever.

We played our "gig" such as it was a week or so later. I'm always uncomfortable playing for the people who'll love us no matter what. They deserve our best, not that paying customers don't also deserve that. It just that I don't want to let anyone down and I really don't want to feel like I'm taking advantage of them. Also these folks, well, for the most part they're musicians. Some of them are great musicians and that's intimidating.

I felt that it sucked, we're really not in gigging shape. But as usual, people told me how great we were. One told me we were....wait for it....entertaining! She gave me a funny look when I said rather abruptly that I didn't want to be entertaining. When asked what I'd rather be I told her "moving". Silly really. This band isn't meant to be moving. We play instrumental covers with overtly humorous intent fer Weird Al's sake. No wonder she looked at me funny, I was responding to something internal.

There's a local band called The Floor who are getting a lot of buzz around town. They're decent musicians and have interesting arrangements, can't really tell what they're singing about, but that's par for the course. They're really quite good in a Cure-ish sorta way. I love The Cure and by all rights I should love these folk. I don't. In fact I found them almost as irritating as the performers on the train. Every time I've seen them I've left early thinking "Stop trying so hard."

I don't think they inhabit the song very well. The best performances I've seen are by people who are simply in the moment. They're method acting, reaching inside for the feeling and then expressing it. The Floor seem like they're telling me "Feel this!" rather than showing their emotions and hoping I'll come along for the ride. They also don't seem to snap out of it between songs. Part of truly being in the moment is that when the song's done you're in a different moment. Carrying the song's emotions into the break is over-selling it.

I have nothing against being entertaining. I have nothing against being emotional. The trick is to be both. Like always, I can see the problem but have no idea how to fix it. The way the current band is set up it'd be very, very hard to have any more emotional depth than we already have. Maybe if we all wore matching shiny spats....?

*MJ, I'm not saying this because you're my one and only reader. You're the only bass player we've had that would actually listen. Not just to what the rest of us were playing but also to what we had to say about it.

No comments: