To my fellow Music vessels: I know how painful this has been. If you were heavily active with playing live shows and/or facilitating in-person music gatherings like I was, your usual way of life has been utterly kicked in the genitals with a steel-toed boot and shoved into the dirty knapsack of a multi-headed mutant bio-mechanical monster. It’s uncomfortable being shoved in here against our preferences, it’s lonely and stifling and the airflow isn’t fit for proper breathing.
I see you, I feel you, I’m shoved in here with you – and yes, I smell that too, and I too would like to get the hell outta here before we all choke to death.
One thing I had often heard over the years about my stuff is that the recordings are great and all, but “you should go see her live!”. You can’t ever really see yourself or listen to your music like others can, so you try listen to what others say about it, try and get a picture of what your music is like from an Experience outside your own. After hearing that in the air more than a few times I pondered on what it is they see that I don’t, given that I often don’t feel like I know what the hell I’m gonna be like one stage until the moment it happens. I realized though that overall, I do feel like my music thrives more in a live setting. And I think that’s because, like so many of us, I fucking LOVE being on stage.
I’m in love with the Experience of it, the drug of it, the energy flow, the Connection. So many of you know exactly what I’m talking about: the magic of music…of just throwing yourself so deeply into that other dimension, into that Here-and-Now moment, when the music flows through you, and everything you are in the “real world” disappears, your identity disappears, your body disappears and there’s no line anymore between you and The Big Everything. And then everyone in the band lets themselves disappear too, ’cause hell yeah they’re fuckin’ down for a trip to la la land, and then that out-of-body joyride spreads out into the people in the crowd and they all disappear too, everyone’s fucking lives and identities and shit, all their back stories of what brought them there to begin with, all of it stripped away, and everybody is hovering around in the air now, there are no walls between you, no line that divides you or separates you, you’re all just pulsing vibrating Oneness and you feed off your own magical frequencies, and TimeSpace isn’t a thing anymore, and never was…
Not being able to live this anymore… not having this in our lives, especially during a time when it feels like we need it the most…it’s gut-twisting. It’s depressing, it hurts the heart and casts a grey shadow over things, and can easily put you in a state of mourning, leave you with very little motivation to keep going “forward” with your music.
It’s all just gone right now. Can’t play shows anymore, can’t work, not making any money, can’t go to the studio, can’t gather with friends, no jamming with bandmates, no touching, no hugging, trying the live stream thing but maybe not getting as much attention to it anymore because we’re like 5 months deep now and social media has been absolutely dominated by other issues, and how can anyone live off Venmo/Paypal tips anyhow, and people are giving money and attention to more important things right now anyway, and why would they take the time to support your music in the middle of a pandemic/Revolution sandwich, and are you selfish for even trying anymore…
Yes, there is a huge hole right now where our usual way of life used to be. And now we are face-to-face with some weird-ass mirror, forced to look at ourselves as everything we thought we were is now being ripped away. You’re forced to look at yourself and your music-making and ask: what am I now in this new paradigm? What the fuck do I do now?!
Even just in general, think of how much your identity was wrapped up in what you did “for a living” or what your “name” was when everything was still bustling, and how much of it became meaningless all of a sudden. So you can’t be much of any of that now…so what are you? Who are you now?
My heart hurts at how many things I’m reading about musicians just flat-out giving up and quitting on music. To throw my hands in the air and say “whelp! There goes all of it, no more live music ever again, I’m done!” feels ridiculous. It’s absurd, and I for one won’t fucking do it. I will never not sing, I will never not be a musician (and when the time is right to do so, I will most definitely be booking shows again). If your identity as a musician was wrapped up in your social media attention, the stages you played, the draw you had, the merch you sold, the money you made, the tours you did, the press you got, any of it…yeah, you’re prolly fucked. If that’s all being a musician meant to you, then yeah you’re prolly fucked for an undetermined amount of time.
But what if you discovered that although you won’t make much money, you can’t play stages, you’re not gonna go viral, and you’re not going on tour, etc…. YOUR music making is going to help to cause actual, measurable healing and change in the world? What if the simple act of continuing to make music despite the chaos becomes the very heart of turning this all around and into something better?
I know it’s scary out there right now, but let’s not forget: truly magical and wonderful things happen when we speak and share in a musical language. I mean, I could dig through the eons of ancient texts and research and publications on what music is and how it heals and what it can do to us and what happens when we gather and engage in it as a group with all of our energies as One, and try to put together a nice lil’ powerpoint for ya…but are we really so far gone that we’ve forgotten all of this?
Why aren’t you making a shit load of music right now?! We need you! We’re in a pandemic for cryin’ out loud! Music has been proven to heal, to boost your immune system, to clear out the mental garbage, to help you scream and cry and clear out all the emotional garbage that’s dimming your fucking light – the light that heals you and keeps you going. Plus, when it comes the Revolution side of the pandemic/Revolution sandwich: it seems to me that music-making has been at the heart of every Revolution, even if they had to take it underground because it didn’t feel safe in public anymore.
We need to stay vigilant, and we need to keep playing. Play in your yard with people in your household. Play in the park with a giant hula hoop around you that gives a 6ft. radius. Play in the cul-de-sac for the neighbors. Keep live streaming, make silly videos. Play for your cat, or play to your garden and help it grow. Or hell, play alone crying in the bathtub, the acoustics are probably pretty unique. Get in that fuckin’ tub and unleash yourself and play it like your life depends on it, and record it in one shitty take on your shitty phone, really nail that depressing crying-alone-in-a-bathtub sound, and post it on your website with the title “Shitty Bathtub Recording” and write about how the recording was done in the bathtub ’cause it felt right, and let people feel it with you, cause maybe they needed to cry alone in a bathtub too, and they were just waiting for the right song.
Connect with your Listeners and music tribe outside of social media (I don’t know about you, but social medial to me is just a cesspool of anger and filth these days). Check in with each other, share new music with them personally, ask how they’re doing and if they need anything, or if they want to make music. We can no longer just post something on social media and assume it has successfully reached the world – if we want to connect, we have to actually connect, like in real life and shit. Let’s dare to pretend there’s no internet anymore, take the “old school” challenge and do it like musicians of yester-year. Shitloads of Artists managed to “build an audience” and get by just fine without social media. Make other forms of Art, and share it: paint or draw, write shit, sculpt shit, try dancing, make videos, take pictures, create something. Or ya know, don’t. Just stare at a wall in Silence and do nothing but contemplate the insanities of human Existence – but then come back to making music and Creating about it, ’cause you’re an Artist goddammit, and we could really use your heArt right now.
We need to keep making music, keep sharing it via whatever means we’re able to, keep ourselves in shape and ready to be called upon when the time comes. Yes, it may indeed be a while before our big festivals and “A-List” shows are allowed to happen full-force again – but that doesn’t mean our smaller local venues and house shows won’t be there for us. I believe intimate, smaller gatherings in local spaces are going to be the backbone of re-birth of our music scenes; so let’s also make sure we’re all supporting each other and nurturing this re-build, keeping ourselves in service to one another during this time as well.
Live music is not dead, it’s just taking a nap right now. We WILL gather in the name of music again, we just have to be patient and get through this, no matter how long it takes…