"Goodbye" by Toe -or- "The Book About My Idle Plot on a Vague Anxiety" (When it comes to performing in front of people)
This article initially started with what was going to be a simple facebook post that I had decided to scrap because I just didn’t feel like writing something I wouldn’t be around to respond to about playing music. I’ll just share that bit for now, but I’ve been enjoying writing to particular music or songs, and I wanted to share the song I sat down and listened to before writing which is “Song Silly” by a band called toe, from Japan, which many of you know I’m obsessed with. I don’t need to go into what kind of music it is (if you know me at all, you know it’s probably going to be math-rock, and you’d be right), but this song has the singular most calming note I’ve ever heard. It’s a simple string bend at 1:55 seconds-in that I’ve gone back to and re-listened on multiple occasions. Just saying, it’s worth listening to a few (read: thousands of) times.
The original post:
What I want to say before I fall asleep on “going to shows”
I appreciate your apologies for not being able to attend a show to some extent, but to be completely honest, not everyone who has the desire to attend a show is able to, and that’s fine. I can’t see every show I would like to, and it hurts when I can’t, especially when it’s a band that means a lot to me. That’s why they play more shows.
But on another note, these shows are proposed to audiences who aren’t able to hear what an individual has to say on a day to day basis. The more hung up I become with work and responsibility, the less I have to communicate with the people I hold close to me. Playing shows is my only current outlet (aside from social media; the beast we’ve created where our initial thought was how nice it would be to stay connected with our distant friends, but quickly turned into a dark bank of memes and cross-trash-talking about people we hardly know) to communicate with a broader audience. I don’t care if you come to my shows*. People have been coming out plenty. I can’t thank them enough. And I’m sorry, but because so many of my close friends are there, no, I do not notice your absence, nor should I have any obligation to. I appreciate the people who are there so much, and I feel the need to express that so much more than a “Thank you” after every show or a “Thank you” via facebook after every show. Because they’re there willing to listen to the shit that I have to yell about. And that’s what matters to me.
So come to a show. I hope you have a good time. But don’t pretend the outcome is contingent on your presence. I’m going to play the songs the way I want no matter what, because that is my catharsis. That is how I get by. That is my therapy.
This original bit was written after one of my band’s shows fell-through towards the end because of noise-complaints and in-turn, my band was the only one that wasn’t able to play at all. I don’t hold any grudges at this point, but I was upset that I didn’t get to play, obviously. And I was trying to figure out why I was so upset by it. I wasn’t upset with the venue, or jealous of the bands that did get the opportunity to play, or frankly even that upset with the cops. They were following their instructions, it’s not like me arguing would make those instructions would change anything. I’m a fairly passive person when it comes to things like this, and I had even prepared the band for the possibility of us not being able to play based on the number of people attending for the day and the fact that it was originally scheduled to be on a roof. (If anyone wants to set up a show on a roof, I still have that thirst to quench, so let me know, I just want to play on a roof, really).
What I was truly upset about was the fact that I didn’t get to play the things I’d written to the people that wanted to hear it. That was it. I had mentally prepared for having the opportunity to say the things that had been on my mind to a large group of a lot of my friends, who I haven’t had the time to check-in on and talk one-on-one. This is something we all face as we get older and more “booked-up” (my wonderful friend Leonard showed me an article on avoiding using the word “busy” when people are checking in on how I’m doing and I hope it resonated with me as much as I think it has). We don’t have the time for people that we used to, because we function in a society where we can only feel successful if we’re doing a million things at once. It really is a wonderful feeling. Feeling accomplished, feeling successful, feeling motivated to do more, constantly pushing ourselves to do as much as we possibly can with the time we’ve been given. But on the other side of this dichotomy is keeping ourselves happy. I do as much as I can to keep myself happy, and part of that for me is talking to my friends and playing music. With musical performance, I get to do those at the same time.
So when I was presented this opportunity to play my songs to a lot of people that I consider great, interesting, and talented friends, with my band of people who I would say are some of the greatest, most interesting, and talented friends that I’ve got, I was really excited to have that opportunity. I was sitting there, ready to play, Ted had gone on a jog, Jeff and Leonard had convened to make sure everyone was doing okay since we had been at the venue for that long, and we were ready to go. When we realized there was no way of getting around the police shutting down the show seemed to be this slow process of our hearts collectively sinking in different spots in the venue. I’ve noticed this need for musical-release in others, the people that you can’t take your eyes off of while they perform. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. People will watch Thom Yorke shake his head while sitting down at a piano for a long time. Watching Beyonce do anything is like a gift in and of itself. But noticing it in my friends is something new. I had a moment when I was watching Max Stern, our beloved, Cleveland bringer-of-ska and provider of posi-summer jams, at Coda who played along with the aforementioned Leonard Baum (of solo-sad-song fame as well as my favorite keyboardist ever), Jenna Fournier (of Nights), and solo acts of folks from Brokenbeak, City Cop, and Dead Leaves. A lot of people had come out for this show, and Max decided to play a new song upon the entrance of what appeared to be some close friends from way back. They were saying their ‘hello’s to some other people who were there and Max was essentially staring them in the sides of their faces, singing a song about how unfortunate it is that we don’t have the time to connect as closely as we once did when we were younger. Growing up, having children, working, traveling, and not being able to be there to experience these things with all of the people we hold close to us, but treasuring the chances that we still get to be there for an important milestone, every here and there. The fewer opportunities we get to be there for our loved ones, the more significant it feels when we do. And here he was putting this into song form, singing directly at the people he was singing about, while they continued to talk to someone else about how they know Max and all of the things they’ve done together. It was a strange moment. I don’t know any of these people personally, and I doubt Max harbors any resentment for them for talking during his set. My best guess is that he was just happy to see them. Of course we want people to listen when we play music, but one of the best things is to just do it for yourself.
A lot of times playing music isn’t about having all eyes and ears on you, regardless of if that is the circumstance. For me it’s getting to play and sing with my friends about the things I feel like are important to talk about at the time. I’m not a particularly positive musician, but singing about the things that make me infuriated on a daily basis will usually keep me in check. If I get a fifteen to thirty-minute window of opportunity every once in awhile to play a loud guitar and yell with my friends in front of people instead of by myself at home, great, I’ll take it. But when that doesn’t happen, there’s a little bit of a hole left in me. Fixing that can be hard some times. That was one opportunity missed where I didn’t get to share what I’ve been doing with a lot of close friends, before they left to travel the country or move more permanently. I still got to see them and we got to hang out and chat, but I was so mentally stuck in making sure that things were set up smoothly so that we could play. And when we realized we weren’t going to, I was led to an immediate disappointment that wasn’t so much the fact that I hadn’t gotten to play music, but I had just missed out on all of the time that I could have spent to catch up with everyone, meet the people they hold close to them and get to know those individuals better, and say a real goodbye to my friends who were the ones leaving. It was their party, and I spent the majority of my time in my own head, rather than being a real person.
There will always be more shows. There won’t always be more opportunities to be with your friends. See you at the next one.
*Actually I totally do, I like seeing y’all a lot
Samuel Mooney likes to make coffee for people at Duck-Rabbit and play sad music with/around other people and just generally wants people to have a good time and be nice.