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Great Moments in Live Music from 2012

I was lamenting to Jake Weller the other day that I was jealous of people who can make Best Shows of the Year lists, but then he retorted that it was because I was playing shows and not going to shows. We-he-he-helllll, good point there Jake, and so it was that he solved a conundrum. So here’s a list of shows that held some level of personal awesomeness for me. Maybe this will mean something to you, too.

10. Primus

Ha ha, this is kind of a joke… but only kinda. I actually opened for Primus! Kinda. So the story is that I was in a band, Smidgen, back in the early 90s. We played in Southern Oregon, where we were going to high school and college. Well, fast forward 20 years, long after we had split up and gone our separate ways, and the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, OR, is looking for bands for their new second stage… and they actually contact us! To play with Primus! So we reform to play for that one show. It was awesome. A bunch of our friends showed up, and we all totally dorked out all night. Really fun and, of course, Primus put on a great show as always. Random note: they played an obscure King Crimson song during sound check. Later, I read that Les Claypool recorded some music with Adrian Belew, so there you go. Smidgen was (or I should say IS) huge fans of Primus and King Crimson, so this was one of those great alignment-of-the-stars sort of thing.

9. Metameric

These guys are just super cool and nice people. Shiplosion first played with them last year at the Blue Moon, and they were totally okay with us throwing a massively chaotic balloon party. The staff was Not Happy about the massive mess, constant popping of balloons, and all that, so we really really had to clean everything up spotlessly to make sure we’d be invited back. I think the staff was okay with us after we left the place cleaner than when we arrived. But hey, it’s the Blue Moon. No one goes there because it’s clean. I digress. The point is that Metameric is really thoughtful about their music. They’re a good balance between proggy elements, and just good overall solid metal songwriting. So it’s great that they were good sports about a dorky balloon party going on around them. A lot of metal bands are just too self-concious about that kind of thing, but not Metameric.

8. Nu Klezmer Army

Dude, the night that we played with them at the Conor Byrne, these guys were on another plane. Some of the most soulful klezmer I have ever heard. Bucharest Drinking Team had been playing a few solid days of Folk Life Festival, and then we went up to Ballard for this afterparty. I was exhausted, and I was setting up my drums on the side of the stage in a completely packed room–when the Nu Klezmer Army went on stage. I literally stopped and just stood there transfixed, while they proceeded to tear out my heart with their soulful klezmer crooning. I looked around frantically to see if anyone was getting this. They were. The room was completely in their clutches. I had to force myself to choke back tears and continue to set up my drums. Five days later, their bass player, Joe, was killed by a gunman with untreated mental illness. We will never be the same. Later, some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking music I’ve ever heard was to be heard in the intersection outside the front door of Cafe Racer, and then later at the memorial. It’s a shame that it’s in times of mourning that there is some of the most amazing music–but it’s probably of great importance to those who need comforting.

7. Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band

The night after the Cafe Racer shootings, Bucharest Drinking Team played a fundraiser for Honk Fest West. It wasn’t until much later that night, when ENSMB hit the stage (I’m reasonably sure it was them) and proceeded to play some kind of insane New Orleans funeral dirge, that I finally broke down in sobs.

6. Colin Ernst

At the memorial that I mentioned earlier, he sang a new song entitled Assholes and Fuckheads. I’m trying to get someone to record it so that this masterpiece can be shared with the world, so that the world can be a better place. Any time that life screws with you, you will sing this song and feel better.

5. Bucharest Drinking Team

It’s selfish to mention my own band, but grieving can be very selfish and that’s perfectly fine. We were playing a fundraiser for the family and friends of the victims, and we got permission to sing some Circus Contraption lyrics that Drew would sing, and I look out into the audience at the Tractor and people are arm in arm, swaying back and forth, and kicking their feet a little, and I can’t say how relieving it was in that moment to see all the camaraderie and love in this strange and quirky and excellent community we have, and I knew at that moment that we’re okay. It’s moments like this that are why I play music.

4. Fabulous Downey Brothers

Frenetic. Blue. Dorky. Numerous. Hilarious. Captivating. Fun. Electronic. Very, very blue.

3. Carnotaurus

Before the last song of the night, at the 2 Bit Saloon, the singer remarked, “This song is about a man being crushed inside some giant gears!” That was totally metal.

2. The Funhouse

This is not a band. This was a lifestyle, that is now part of the never to be forgotten past. It was a club that was shut down to make room for condos. I am all for city density, but I am more for community. Condos aren’t community. In October, 2012, I reached some sort of codependent peak where I played at the Funouse 4 times in the same month with many of my dearest friends. Then, on Halloween, it shut down forever. That night was a crazy party, where we proceeded to drink all of the remaining booze in the house and party until close. At the end, some new reincarnation of Titanium Sporkestra marched in with their all brass and percussion band and proceeded to show how heavy brass bands can get. I started throwing money at them. I couldn’t help it. Good thing I only had singles in my wallet, because it was quickly empty. Then they marched out onto the street, as everyone said their last parting farewell to an era.

1. Operadesiac

They host a monthly variety show at Cafe Racer now. I’ve seen almost-nudity, Microsoft Word art, people in chicken suits, a binder full of women, an accordion, a turkey baster being played as an instrument, elf performance art, puppet shows, accoustic guitar rock, shredded ballots, peep sculpture, and much more. It’s a great time. You should check it out at least once.

0. Secrets

I have to hold some moments just for myself as a secret. Sometimes music is not about community, but a much deeper, more personal moment–never to be shared.

Thanks for reading. I left a lot out. But this is what came to mind at the moment. Here’s to a year full of success and more excellent live music to feed the soul! And maybe a little less tragedy, this time around, please??

Why you should play the drums

Eleven reasons why you should not play the drums

1. You will not make any money.

Musicians don’t make much money. The vast majority of us supplement our income with a day job. Plus, programmed drums can be cheaper. If you’re lucky, you can be a poor professional who competes with drummers who care more about music than you. The richest drummer is Ringo Starr, who a lot of people seem to mock as if he sucks. Even the richest drummer has a curse.

2. You have to haul stuff.

You spend more time hauling than performing. You must own a car, unless you live in New York. Don’t expect others to haul your stuff–that’s why they are playing another instrument.  You spend 2 hours/day just setting up and breaking down your equipment. You are the only person in the band with a car. Or worse, you don’t have a car, and you’re constantly being kicked out of the band because you’re such a mooch becuase you’re so poor buying equipment.

3. Equipment is expensive.

Drumsticks, Cymbals, Heads. They constantly break, and must be replaced or you can’t play. No, you’re not getting a sponsorship remotely soon. Only superhumans get sponsorships. You need a cymbal bag to store your cymbals, or they will break more quickly. You need a stick bag. You need a freaking car.

4. Playing is hot and sweaty.

You can’t play anywhere without having to change your clothes every time, or else you smell bad.

5. You aren’t the center of attention.

The singer should get all the attention, for a great reason. Everyone likes to sing. People rarely get a drumbeat stuck in their head. They never see you anyway, because there’s always a person or a cymbal in front of you in every direction.

6. You’re loud and annoy people.

Pike Place Market bans percussion for this reason. And you seriously have to go out of your way to play quietly. People would rather just hear a singer/songwriter.

7. It takes a long time to learn, and it’s repetitive.

Stop playing drum fills all over the place because you’re bored. The musicians mostly want someone to lay down a beat. Beat It, by Michael Jackson, is a massively successful song with the simplest possible rock beat for 5 minutes straight. That is what they want.

8. Most people don’t want to hear a drum soloist. If they do, it’s in context of a song.

See rules 5, 6, and 7 for more info. You’re not going to be a solo artist. Everyone hates that person on the street who plays drums on buckets.

9. You probably don’t have a sense of rhythm.

If you don’t constantly tap on things and annoy your parents, then it’s too late. You must practice to a metronome all the time.

10. You take up a lot of space, and usually play in a corner.

You’re trapped behind your drums, while everyone else gets to move around and interact with the audience. If you have to go to the restroom, you need to physically move your hi hat to get out. Or you’re pushed at the back of the stage, and may fall off on your back.

11. You have a bad attitude.

The previous ten rules bum you out, and you complain all the time. No one wants to play with you anyway.

The only reason you should play the drums

Because you know inside your soul, this is what you are meant to do.