"TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY,
THAT IS THE QUESTION..."
Welcome, everyone, to the start of a more interactive Louisville Rock Lowdown. I have been in the mindset lately of doing something to address the issues and concerns of the local scene. Quite frankly, I have made it blatantly obvious that I am tired of hearing the same old complaints and arguments and would much rather approach this whole scenario with an open-mind and willingness to put forth effort to change things for the better. Now, how do we do this?
When I have made mention of the concerns that local musicians have in the past, I have received some very positive feedback. A week or so ago, Matthew Brown emailed me with his opinions on the subject. Here is what he had to say:
"I really liked your article in the January edition of the LMN about the hardships and grim times all musicians go through. Being a local musician and a dreamer of bigger and better things, I have been through the crappy gigs with very low turnout, the long trips and coming home broke (or in debt). I even smashed a guitar once on stage because I was so frustrated. Luckily the guitar didn't break (although it was VERY out of tune). I guess it was saying to me "you're not going to get rid of me that easily." But through all the crappy times we've all had, I can guarantee that we have had many good ones. I remember taking a second date to one of my gigs and to make a long story short; we are now happily married. She is a terrific person who pushes me and supports my aspirations and wants me to go out and play. I am also teaching her how to play guitar. So to all of us out there, still marching on I say, "a s****y gig is still much better than a good day of work."
~ Matthew Brown"
I wrote Matt back, asking for his permission to reprint, and also to thank him for his input. Here is his response:
Thanks for the response. You have my permission to put my e-mail address in the LMN. I would like for people to write me and share stories. I am also currently looking for others to jam with and get my songs heard. I read the LMN every month and I enjoy all the articles and stories. What do you play and are you in a band? If so I will come check out a show. Just let me know. I'm always interested in networking and in helping to create an environment that is friendly to original music, because this city needs more of it. Well, gotta go.
First off, I want to thank Matt and all the others who have written me. Your comments do not go unnoticed. Secondly, I want to take the time to comment on what Matt has brought up. That is, in a nutshell, why we, as musicians, continue to play in the circumstances that we are subjected to. "To play, or not to play;" that IS the question.
For the record, I have quit my band. Why, you ask? I quit because there were a lot of things that were going down in my band that I did not feel were worth the amount of work that I put into it. One of these things was the inconsistency of my own members. There were days that "the guys" were two hours late to practice. There were days that we achieved little more than jamming a few songs, taking a smoke break and calling it a night. There was a constant struggle over whether or not it was OK to be high at band practice, or at a show. I was tired of it. So I quit.
Aside from the perspective of unreliable band mates, there is the question of gigs. When you are fortunate enough to get a gig, you have to put a ton of work into it (promoting it, taking off from your other job, making arrangements with your band to meet at certain times, etc.) to make it worth doing. Sometimes, even after all the hard work, something still happens to make you regret taking the job, such as a low turnout, low payment, or some other unexpected turn of events that seems inevitable at times. Bottom line, it's hard.
I have played numerous gigs for free or very little money. I was almost arrested for fighting (with one of my own band members) immediately following a gig in front of a crowd. I have long since lost the notion that playing music is a profitable and rewarding experience, at least on a monetary level. I feel that we need to take some advice from Matthew, and learn "the true meaning of Christmas," oops, I mean music. The point of it is, we musicians need to try to focus our attention on being successful with our music, whatever that means to us. This is not necessarily fame and fortune. It is more rewarding to be happy doing what you are doing in life than to be unhappy but wealthy. Music is a great thing, and sometimes we get caught in up in the drama of "getting big." It is a competitive field, no doubt. However, we can all be more productive to each other, as well as ourselves if we would take the time to realize that there is more out there than being more popular than someone else's band.
I know that everyone in this city knows there is good music out there to be heard, so WHY DO PEOPLE NOT GO OUT TO SEE LOCAL BANDS? This is your homework! Send me your explanations/ideas for this for next issue.
I'm sorry that this is such a short column this month, but I really want to take some of the power to you as the readers. I am still going to feature local bands in Louisville Rock Lowdown and do all I can to help promote all the hardworking groups in Louisville, but let's open this forum up to discussion as well. You know the drill...
JJKSLACKER@cs.com, (502) 262-8728 for voice mail. Rock on Louisville!