I built that????
I Built That????
Photo: Sam Waters
Jenna and the Hops played their premiere Club gig last night at Sticky Lips Barbeque and Juke Joint . We rehearsed the night before to get our arrangements together, but maybe we shouldn’t have as they all went right out the window.
Friends came out, friends from many different circles of life, and that always makes me nervous because I don’t what judgment is going to be passed – you are judged by the company you keep you know.
Jenna is a major proponent of Body Love, and she is quite large in stature – note that she also became a certified yoga teacher last month. Many of my trail running friends came out and they are waifs. This, I thought might be interesting because I don’t necessarily know everybody well beyond running with them or their propensities and prejudices and I was concerned that there may be some judgment thrown about.
I also, wasn’t sure if these trail runners were going to enjoy the style of music we were playing, we don’t throw down “modern music” or rock, we sit in a swing groove most of the time bordering on Rock-a-Billy and Vintage R&B and even some Country; not stuff you’re going to hear on commercial radio. Add to this musicians I respect immensely in the Rochester area came out including members of Innerloop, The White Hots, Woody Dodge, etc. It’s always nerve-wracking when you put yourself out there in front of musical peers you respect.
Photo: Sam Waters
So here it is, my worlds collide, nothing happens to plan, and I just let it happen. MAGIC ENSUED! The swing dancers found spots (Note to Sticky Lips BBQ & Juke Joint, it’s a great venue, but you will get repeat business from these dancers if you can provide a place in front for them to dance. They add to the ambience and actually bring more people in who like to watch them as well as the band. It will help your bottom line, even if they aren’t purchasing many drinks; they bring and keep others there who will spend money on food and drink. That’s a pretty good return on investment considering you don’t have to pay them). The runners had a great table to eat and drink and recover from their trail run earlier in the evening, and then they started dancing. The musicians from other bands found their corners of the room where they could listen unimpeded. There were other groups of people present that mixed and mingled that I found heartening, from young rockers to middle aged jazz heads, from CIS-gender folks to straight laced conservatives. This renewed my faith in society, and reminded me that music really is the great uniter.
The earliest philosophers understood these powers of music even though they argued the validity of high art versus the mundane. To that end, the band was hot, and even though we screwed up arrangements, we all listened to each other, laughed, shrugged, and forged ahead making the mundane into high art in its improvisatory aesthetic.
Photo: Cara Livermore
Front and center of this was Jenna and her pipes. She absolutely slayed. Playing with Justin is such a pleasure, laying it down in a way that I never had to worry about losing time when I decided to go off the charts. Aleks, one of the greatest, most under-rated guitarists in the Northeast USA (although every musician in this town knows what a treasure he is) has been a partner in crime with me and music for some time now, and because we have been doing this so long we were able to keep it together with a simple glance, shrug, and smile when entrances where miffed and arrangements thrown out (evidently no one read my notes). His guitar playing was absolutely extraordinary. But the greatest musical joy of the evening was working with reed specialist Matthew Seiber-Ford who was OFF THE HOOK. Being our second gig together (which is always very different than rehearsal) I’m still feeling out our musical dialogue. By the end of the night, there was that innate interplay that usually develops over months and years of working together.
Photo: Cara Livermore
I have mentioned the audience already, in one of my comments on facebook this morning I was given props by one of the trail runners there. He mentioned how great our “vibe” was. It is important to recognize (and I told him this) that the “vibe” is the audience. Musicians are not paid to play at an audience, we are to play FOR an audience. This requires two-way communication. The crowd informs us as to what to do, we morph each other. The band can move people in different directions, moods, and affects, but the crowd also has the same power over the band. As I continue to explore the interconnectedness of everything, it is simple to see this in a star-stuff/molecular/atomic way, but live music allows us all to experience it in a way that is more “spiritual” in nature.
Photo: Sam Waters
Of course I use quotes because I don’t believe in a great intelligence or a god, so I don’t want this term to be misconstrued. That said, the idea of affects, overtones, Pythagorean philosophy, etc. captures my interest as I see it in action. I saw this last night. I saw simple sound waves combine and collaborate with physical motions, emotional moods, and intellectual analysis. When put in those terms it seems like a complicated equation, but rather it brings us all into a much simpler place. A place of shared experience, which ironically is experienced differently by each individual. Yet it connects us all in one place of commonality that allows us to share a room with all of our differences and join in the most non-partisan community available.
This is the feeling, the vocation, the “calling” that I think is for me. It is hard work, personalities in bands can be difficult, even under the best circumstances with people we genuinely like, respect, and adore. But the troubles and work are worth it when you get to experience/create what happened last night.
I want to say, “I built that,” and while I have been a large part of it I didn’t build it. I got some people in a room after Jenna asked me to. It didn’t work right at the start, so I got a phone call from Aleks which prompted getting different people in a room and it started to come together. The Rochester Swing Dance Network had a jam that allowed Jenna and I to play a couple of songs, and they booked us. Tom and Sherry at The Pultneyville Grill talked to me about booking a trio after Aleks had me sub for The White Hots. Frank Deblase and Deb Jones were instrumental in booking the band at Sticky Lips and publicity. There are so many others, but it’s absolutely not built without an audience. So it is a lie to say, “I built that” because WE BUILT THAT.
Every show you come to, every band you comment on, every time you engage with live music, you join the building of that enterprise. You built that – collectively.
Do you want to continue building us? Talk us up, tell your friends, talk to bartenders, managers, venue owners of places you frequent, tell us what you dig, come out and dance, hoot, holler, eat, drink, socialize. Love what we do and let us love what you do. In a world where so much is out there to tear us apart from one another, don’t you want a respite, a place to enjoy the idea of being connected in a very magical way? Join us. There is nothing better than being able to say, “That? Yeah, I built that….” because you did.