In which I tell you about my weekend. And the crazy fluctuations in my state of mind. (Seriously, watching your mind do whatever it does is EVER an exercise in weird.)
Friday night I went out and got drunk for no good reason. I hadn’t intended to get drunk, but I was sitting at the bar having a really nice conversation with one of the regulars and Amy kept pouring the way she does, and, well: shit happens. Saturday I had to get up about three hours earlier than I usually do and if it was a little rough, well, that was my own damn fault, wasn’t it!
Curt & Shelly came and picked me up and they gave me an egg biscuit and hash browns from McDonald’s the very minute I sat down in their ride (and OMG I srsly LOVE THEM for that). The drive to the Benton Franklin County fairgrounds was uneventful; we didn’t need to be there early because it turned out there wasn’t going to be a sound check after all. I was, hangover-style, a little agro that I’d had to get up when I did. We milled around aimlessly instead. Steve bought me a coffee. I love him, too.
At noon, Romagossa Blu kicked off the festival with a bang, and then Vaughn Jensen went up and smoked. Coyote Kings went on at 1:30 and three songs later I went up and joined them.
Playing festivals is great. The stages are huge, the crowd is way into what you’re doing, and there are actual professional sound people at the board. Monitors! Lights! No schlepping!
There was a wedding on stage directly after our set. I got to sing ‘At Last’ for the happy couple, then bluesman Billy Stoops officiated the marriage of (our friends and fans) Nancy and Steve right there in front of everybody. It was cute.
After the set I changed into comfy clothes and promptly started drinking the free beer from the craft services tent. I spent most of the day backstage because I could (UnTapped doesn’t take your VIP pass away after you finish playing, like other festivals sometimes do) but I did wander around enough to have seen absolutely everything. UnTapped has tons of beer and wine makers and lots of food and a scattering of other vendors. It’s a really cool festival.
A few of the NW players I met told me they’d heard of me, which was, as you can imagine, immensely gratifying. I was encouraged to move to Portland; I was encouraged to start my own band. In short, I got a lot of ego stroking, but – because the mind is a terrible thing – I somehow managed to feel self-pity anyway.
I know, right? WTF, Mush? Fun blues festival, stage time, free beer, beautiful weather, good friends, and my internal dialog is fux0red. This is what happens when one doesn’t deliberately choose the upside.
My (admittedly not accurate) perception was that the musicians got younger as the day went on. In the early afternoon we had guys pushing 60 but the kids in the headliner’s band all looked like they were still on the fresh side of 30. I was having, in the back of my mind, one of those completely negative “since I wasn’t headlining at 26 it follows that I suck” thought processes. Why? It’s stupid, but lemmie tell you what: all that crap about the negative psychological effects of unemployment? Appears to be true. After not getting yet another job, I’m having a glass-is-half-empty crisis in the form of a really insidious “I’m totally mediocre” mental litany.
It doesn’t help that this is my second long-term bout of unemployment in the last five years, either. Stupid job market!
I met a metric ton of musicians, including the superawesome Miriam (of Portland band Miriam’s Well) and her bandmates; Chicago tenor player Eddie Shaw and his son Vaan (who is a really cool dude); trombonist Ed Earley; and the headliner, Hamilton Loomis (who was not only a smokin’ musician but a really, really nice person), to name a few.
Loomis’ set was not at all what I’d call blues; his has been described as a â€œblues-rock-funk-groove-soul band,â€ and he did charts that broke down into funky Stevie Wonder grooves, charts that were pure rock, charts that were pure soul. It occurred to me that from here on out, it’s all meta. Every song will contain shades of every genre that’s ever gone before, and descriptors like “R&B” and “pop” and “blues” will go the way of the dinosaur. Listeners will be expected to understand music from a global perspective that spans the whole of recorded music.
In other words, it’s so meta it’s actually like this: I have some cheesy pop in my library that features a raga in the bridge, house with a gypsy violin in it, and funk with a banjo solo. There’s really no reason I can’t do R&B-soul-blues-jazz-rock and still get booked at blues festivals, that’s all I’m saying.
Applying this meta concept to the idea of “work”, I’m realizing that my bad attitude is stupid. I’m online all the time, so I know that very little can truly be monetized. All this free information on the Internet is there because people want to do it. They try and try and try to monetize and the vast majority of them fail; overall they do this shit for the love of it. Free ebooks, free TV series, free how-to videos, free games, free lessons, free recipes: some people manage to be offering the right thing at the right time and they break through to monetization, but most of them don’t. And that’s okay.
I do what I do for the love of it: I sing, I take pictures with old film cameras, I publish thousands of words online per year, I share recipes, I comment on tech. These things are fun, and I don’t need to feel guilty – or mediocre – about not turning them into money.
I have this belief that life is structured like this: there’s this job thing you do, and it pays your bills. You do not love it. You’re very fortunate if you like it. It takes up much but not all of your time, and it subsidizes the other things you do. Some people get paid a lot to play at whatever they play at and they don’t have to do the job thing. They are rare and special, and I am not one of them.
That’s my job meta. I don’t like it, but I don’t think I’m eligible to transcend it because it seems that if I was I already would have. So, I believe that I need a job, and I don’t have one, and it’s messing with my head. Since I can’t through any amount of effort on my part cause a job to exist, I need to do something else meaningful to structure my time.
Tomorrow I’m going to visit the WorkSource office and find out what options are available. I’m ready for some options. I’m a displaced worker, I guess, since there aren’t any ISP support gigs around here and I’m 41. I think I might be eligible for grants and scholarships.
I think I’d really like to go back to school. I’d much rather be in class than on the job market since the endless rejection, poverty, and uncertainty is, um, starting to bug the shit out of me.
I mean, sure: I love having nothing but free time. Who doesn’t? I like eating when I want, sleeping when I want, playing guitar when I want, going out when I want: it’s fun. I read all the time, I can meditate whenever I want, or do push-ups and crunches when the mood strikes rather than when I have to. The freedom is great, but apparently I just can’t stop worrying about what will happen. What will happen when my benefits run out? What will happen ifone of the minimum wage jobs I apply for actually offers me a position I really don’t want?
Anyway. Sorry about the digression. All the pics from the blues festival are here, if you want to check them out.
My next gig isn’t until July, but we’ll be playing The Pastime at the Ritzville Blues Brews & BBQs festival, which should be a total blast.