Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Art and Money

Art is an essential expression of the human condition, one of the core characteristics that makes us human. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Art is nice, but money is serious business kids.  Money doesn’t lie.

Last night, I spent a whole bunch of money, way more than I ever imagined, on a PA for the Bathtub Gin Serenaders.  I could have spent a lot more; many bands do.  But I definitely spent more than I thought I would. It took me weeks to get up the nerve. After much research and consultation with a trusted expert, I waited until the vendor was having a big sale, took a deep breath, and pulled out the credit card.

I freely admit, when it comes to money, I’m very careful, frugal, cautious – oh hell, might as well own it: Cheap. Tighter than bark on a tree is how my daddy would put it.  Try raising kids on food stamps for a couple of years and see how “careful” you become.  I don’t apologize for it, but I do acknowledge that I have a very complicated relationship with money.  I worry about it too much and take it way too seriously. Poverty will do that to you, too.

So yeah, art schmart, but now I’ve put my money where my art is.  It doesn’t make me a better artist, but it damn sure raises the stakes.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dry Spell

A long hoped-for storm finally broke the prolonged, frightening dry spell this week. Rainfall totals were six inches below normal for the year. Here’s hoping that a wet spring makes up some of that deficit, but chances are that we’ll enter the summer facing drought.

Dry spell. Deficit. Drought. I detect a trend, and it's not just alliteration.

I've been suffering through a creative dry spell myself. The holidays can do that; I spend so much time taking care of my family, friends and house, going to party, shopping and wrapping. There isn't much left over for creative pursuits. But, I feel a change in the weather coming on.

Hamfist finished recording the raw tracks for our self-produced CD. A lovely young sound engineer from OSF recorded us at Jimmy’s studio and another sound engineer will mix it down. We hope to have it ready for release sometime this spring. I have mixed feelings about the recording as it currently stands. I don't think it's my best work, but it is what it is. Here's hoping that the engineer can mix out some of my many errors.

Bathtub Gin Serenaders barely made it through the winter. Our fearless leader Wayne took a job in Southern California, which left us leaderless and a'feard. It was a near thing whether the rest of us could pull everything together to keep the band going. Then, a new drummer entered the picture and breathed new life into the band. He's amazing, another one of these crazy, classically trained, real musicians. He used the term “subito” last Sunday; I had to look it up. It’s Italian for “suddenly.”It’s used alongside other musical terms to indicate that their effects should be immediate. For instance, when you “accellerando subito,” you suddenly speed up the tempo (which we happen to do in a couple of songs.) Playing with these cats is a joy and a real education.

Maybe the dry spell is breaking. It better; I have two gigs this weekend.

Almost time for me to drive home. The subito storm left a foot of Siskiyou Cement on our road. I had to park at the top of the hill last night, but luck was with me. Sequoia was home and he drove to the top of the driveway, dug out a parking space for my car and then drove me to the door. Yup, he's a keeper. That boy never has a dry spell.

Me and my man

Making our stand

Up on Cottonwood Creek.

So many years

Down the road

With my personal lucky streak.

Long haired dog in the back of the truck

Raisin' the babies on nothing but luck.

Me and my man.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Woody Guthrie's New Years Rulin's

Love everybody
Make up your mind
Wake up and fight

Monday, January 2, 2012

All is Quiet on New Year's Day

My mother used to say that what you do on New Year's Day predicts what you'll be doing for the rest of the year.  If that's true, then my 2012 will be marked by periods of intense activity followed by langorous stretches of willful sloth.  Hamfist rang in the New Year playing "It's The End of the World As We Know It" to a dancing throng. It may be my favorite moment onstage ever.  It was the highlight of the evening; the rest of the night was a mixed bag.  We played well, but the dancing was sporadic and the crowd's interest waxed and waned. I worked my ass off trying to keep them entertained, but I didn't mind. I like working hard when I'm doing what I love.

I love to make music, especially with my musical brothers and sisters, but it's been more challenging lately than in the past. Some of my musical relationships have been less collaborative and more contentious. It can be frustrating, even depressing, and makes me question what I'm doing.  I sometimes wonder why I put myself through the heartache, but I always go back for more and I'll keep going back until they lock me out. 

Ultimately, I play for myself; not for my collaborators, not for the audience. The music wells up and spills over. I can't stop it; I don't want to. I might as well try to hold back the tide with my bare hands. Whether I'm alone in a room playing for myself or onstage with a dozen people playing for hundreds more, the energy springs from the same source, unbidden, unstoppable. It's who I am.

I got home from the gig around 2 a.m. but didn't get to sleep until dawn; too wound up.  I drifted off for a few hours then pulled myself out of bed, headed straight for the couch and spent New Year's Day flat on my back reading and watching bad TV.  It's not the first time I've wasted a day doing absolutely nothing, but I usually feel guilty as hell about it.  This time, I had no regrets, which is completely uncharacteristic.. Yesterday was an interlude between the two years, unmooored from the past, untethered to the present, unconcerned with the future, with no agenda, no goals, no responsibilities. Maybe it's a sign that 2012 will be the year when I finally give myself a bit of a break. What would that be like? I've spent my whole life beating myself up and urging myself forward.  Is it possible to just be instead of always becoming?