Stillwater

So, I'm sort of in the market for a new guitar amplifier.
..Because I might actually be needing one soon.
I don't really do New Years Resolutions anymore. Too many years where I was able to look back and almost literally see the day I let myself down. Workout plans abandoned, career changes unfulfilled.. almost as if putting the declaration out there, the signpost in the road was the first step to getting lost.

So this year when the nine went to the ten, I just started going back to the gym. And while I suppose that might as well be an indication of an unspoken decision to start doing something or other, ya'll just need let me have my hockey player-style superstitions and stop nitpicking. Besides, I'm not really doing anything new, just working to return to the things I've been needing to do for a while that I'd somehow gotten away from.
So I'm writing every day.
And I'm playing guitar again.
If you've read this blog long enough, you've probably heard this song and dance before (lord knows I recognize the tune), but it's a part of me. A part I can't stay away from for too long, regardless of the reasons that lead to me putting it down again and again every year.
But I'll be honest -- I don't really like hamster wheels.
And there are times where all the blogging and practicing guitar alone in my apartment with only my annoyed neighbors listening starts to feel like one. That even though I believe in my talent, I can't seem to get past a certain amount of desire or pyrrhic accomplishment.
I live to write. I love playing guitar. But I need people to see those words. I need people to hear that music.
Blogging probably isn't going to get me published (although stranger things have happened), but my writing generally tends to feed off itself. There's a novel idea I started working on a while back that I've started tinkering with again, especially since I started back blogging on a regular basis.
But music is a different story.
Flasback to a recent string of nights at Endo, hanging out with the crew both before and after hours -- when a friend of mine who works as a barback there put a drunken arm around me and began rambling on about how much he needs me to be in this band he's in these days.

This isn't the first rodeo I've been in with this guy wanting me to be a part of a musical project with him that eventually amounted to nothing -- so when he started back up with this mess I just sort of shrugged him off. Dude was visibly drunk and more than likely high, so even if he was being serious about his offer -- the chances of him actually remembering it the next day were pretty slim.

Plus, I'd be lying if I wasn't still a little pissed about the way things went down last time he started talking to me this way.

About a year back, same dude was in another band. Sort of a classic rock sounding group that did original songs. To be honest, they weren't really that great -- but like a lot of not-so-great bands through the ages, they had a fistful of solid connections and a string of real gigs set up for the foreseeable future. The word was that they might be able to step to the next level, but the producers they were talking to felt the lead guitar player they were working with was holding them back. On a personal level they were also having issues with him making it gigs on time and putting in the same amount of effort the rest of the band felt it was giving.
By all accounts it was pretty clear the guy was on the outs.
I actually had to audition for the gig. Got a CD full of songs and a few days to learn them before showing what I could do in front of a few guys in the group. That went like gangbusters and everything seemed golden, to the point where it was said that I should get a bigger amp than I was currently working with since we'd be gigging in a few places with limited PA capabilities.
A lot of what they were saying seemed pie in the sky -- but it didn't keep me from getting swept up into it anyways.
About a week later I was actually shopping for half-stacks at a guitar store when a phone call came through saying that they'd all talked it out and decided that they had too much history with the original guy to just let it go. They apologized for the way things went down -- but long story short my services were not needed.
That band broke up about six months later.
They did play several relatively high-profile local gigs before calling it quits, and while there's really no guarantee that my presence would have been enough to keep things rolling any longer than they actually did -- I still felt royally screwed by the whole situation.

It was as if I had been courting a pretty girl, connecting with her on all sorts of levels, only to be stopped on the stairs up to her place so she could tell me that all she really wanted to do was make her man jealous, and that even though I seemed like a great guy and all the time we'd spent together was amazing..
Something else I've had some experience with over the years.
So when the same guy came up to me talking the same shit all over again, it was only natural I was going to be a little guarded. Plus, I'd seen this new group play a little bit, and to be perfectly honest (imho) they're even less talented than the previous band.

He describes their sound as "Punk" -- but it's hard to really equate what they do with that particular style. If anything, they're more like "aggressive 3-chord rock." Not offensively bad, but not particularly engaging either.
And yet they have a string of gigs apparently lined up, and connections that could get them a few more.
Two things that I do not possess.
And yet above it all is this sense that another year of just learning songs and keeping my skills up with nowhere really to showcase them or go with it was tantamount to spinning my wheels all over again.

So sure it might be a little below my skill level -- but it could really help me get back on track. And besides, who doesn't like cranking everything up to 11 and jamming out now and then?

The other thing that's been a little different this time is the fact that my buddy the barback bass player is a little more self-aware this time out, and perhaps wizened up (if only a little bit) from the experience of having his slightly more talented/far better connected band implode on him after deciding against removing the cancerous member from the mix.

There have been a lot of statements like, "Sure we're not gonna be the next best thing -- but this is a fun band, and I know you want to get up on a stage and play," followed by more telling words such as, "Look, you know me. I'm a forgetful stoner, and sometimes I goof things up. If you want to be a part of this you've got to keep on me. You've got to make sure I make that call."
Sentiments that in a lot of ways echo the mantras I've been telling myself recently.
It's by no means a perfect situation. Like I said, the songs aren't that great and by all indications I've gotten, the band is made up completely of stoners -- and not the "Hey I've been working on an awesome new experimental jazz direction for us to try out" kind of stoner, but more the "Oh man, was that gig tonight? It totally *cough, cough* slipped my mind. Hey, my car got repossessed -- do you think you can come pick me up?" kind.

But it is a working band. And a lot like bartenders who cut their teeth at the local beer hole or behind the high-top tables at Applebee's looking for the chance to get their foot in the door at the hot nightclub, a guitar player who's in one band has a far higher chance of finding his way into a better, more talented situation than some schmuck standing stage left with his arms crossed telling anyone who will listen that "I can play that too."
The question raised is simple: Is being in a bad band better than being in no band at all?
Think about it for a second -- Let's say this happens. Let's say I get in the band and we start rolling. If the songs don’t change or improve -- I'll clearly be bored of it all in a short time, which is to say nothing of the fact that I'll have to hang out with a bunch of potheads a couple of times a week.
But if I don't, it will just be me in this apartment again -- learning Paul
Gilbert
songs I'll never have the chance to play anywhere but YouTube.
So I've been quietly shopping for amps again. Even if this doesn't work out the way I'm hoping -- having new equipment might not be such a bad idea. I'm not exactly in a place to afford top line stuff, but the practice amp I'm working with now isn't really enough to get me where I want to go anyways -- so even if this is just a means to an end, in some ways it will have been worth it.
Eyes on the prize, you know?
Of course when I got to the guitar center that night it seemed like they really didn't have much of anything that fit my needs in a price range I can realistically consider, or maybe they did -- it all got a little blurry when I caught sight of one of these hanging off one of the sales racks, something I truly don't need (or can even think of affording)--
But something I Oh soooo want.

[Listening to:  Bjork - "Come to Me" ]

Comments

wigsf said…
You guitar players can never have enough amps, can ya?

My bro, he's gotten rid of a few amps over the years. Quitting the band/aging/marriage will do that to ya. Right now, he's got his: Mesa Boogie (just the dual rectifier so no drooling on your keyboard, pal); some Marshall with a customized grill panel, not sure on the model but with his Les Paul Sweet Child o Mine sounds perfect; some new Vox model; and a bunch of old one pieces kicking around like a Gibson (I wanna say) Falcon but the speaker's been replaced with a Fender (again I wanna say) Jazzmaster.

I say hawk it all and get a dobro.
D said…
Just seeing the cover of Almost Famous puts in a particularly groovy mood.

Thanks for the up-lift!
Werdna said…
Great subtitle.


Being in a crap band is better than no band.

Nothing makes you play better than playing with others.

Also almost every band history is band Y breaks up, members of Y form X, which goes on to... fame and fortune.

I'd lend you the dinosaur rig, I still have the bassman head, but the burnt rastafarian lost/sold/parlayed my Fender 4x10 cab into I don't know what.

Just for you I'll kick out the jams:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rAiJwCkgX0
rainbowlens said…
Do the band.

Not in the biblical sense, the other sense.

-Gem
Anitra said…
You're a golden god :)
JerseySjov said…
being in a band > not being in a band.
this is usually advice that you get from grown ups, but you shouldnt go into something expecting it to fail.
Hex said…
WIGSF -- *Just* the dual rectifier!? That's the one I want! Sounds like he has a sweet setup.

D -- Love that movie.

Werdna -- Yeah, that's my thought process too. Unfortunately the whole thing fizzled before it got started. The other existing guitarist in the band was apparently "threatened" by the idea of adding another -- even though the initial idea was just for me to sit in on a jam session.

Gem -- Even if it's not going to be this one, sometime this year, a band will be did by me.

Anitra -- indeed :)

Jersey -- I wasn't going to go into it expecting to fail, but I've had some experience joining bands thinking they were going to be great and only to end up disappointed and in some ways disillusioned by the fact that the other musicians don't even want to try to make things better.

It's not so much that I was expecting failure, but more that I wasn't seeing it as more than it could have been.
Heff said…
Butlik uses a Dual Rectifier. It's good shit.