September 24, 2006

Rock Starved

So, I said I'd blog about music and bands and rock and roll and all that, right? Well, when I was a kid, growing up in a tiny town in Northern Minnesota, I wanted more than anything in the world to be a rock star. It was the 80s, and I wanted long hair, a bad attitude, and at least one self-destructive-but-glamorous habit. I was also interested in playing music, but mostly because that’s what rock stars did. The ability to either scream your lungs out or play ear-melting guitar solos seemed like the surest path to rock stardom, but therein lie the problem: I could do neither. I could sing, but I had a range of about three notes. And as far as rippin guitar solos went, well, I played the piano. I was decent, but being good at a few Bach fugues doesn’t pull the chicks the way Eddie’s lead on Hot for Teacher does.

I tried to make my piano skills work for me. I bought an expensive keyboard and played in a band with some kids from school. (Believe it or not, one of those kids happened to be Alan Sparhawk of Low.) But let’s face it: keyboardists just aren’t cool. They’ve never been cool and they never will be cool. Think Yanni. They’re like the rock and roll equivalent of the IT department. The better they are at what they do the more likely they are to be considered nerds.

So I decided to try my hand at guitar. I picked it up pretty quickly, thanks to my familiarity with chords and scales and all that, but I had no luck with those blistering solos I was so desperate to master. Eventually, I gave up. I didn’t stop playing guitar, and I didn’t lose my interest in music, but I did stop dreaming of rock stardom. That was over fifteen years ago.

And then, one night last fall, I had a couple buddies over for beers. We got a little drunk and I started singing along to a CD. Now, like I said, back in high school I could sing, but only about three notes. But years of singing along to the radio in the car had actually improved my range a bit. That night my buddy heard me singing and suggested I try out for his friend’s band, which was in need of a lead singer. I didn’t even have to think about it.

It’s been almost a year now since I joined that band, and although I have no illusions of potential rock stardom (or even long rock-star hair), I am singing and playing guitar at high volume at least once a week and also working on a couple self-destructive habits (tame stuff; mostly staying up late on weeknights and not wearing earplugs during practice; that kind of thing). But really, it’s not about being a rock star at this point. I’m old. I gain weight easily, and even when I was young and skinny I would have looked ridiculous in leather pants. Now it’s about playing music. Not great music, just music. I’m still not much of a singer, but I’m better at guitar than I used to be. I can’t play any brain-bending solos, but I don’t really care. For me, now it's about getting together with some friends and playing. You know? Sometimes it's nice to just be in the moment and really enjoy it. Not every ride has to be a training ride, and not every practice has to be a rehearsal. I mean, training or rehearsing when you have a an event coming up is fun, but so is just getting on the bike or strapping on the guitar or lacing up the running shoes simply because it feels good. And seriously, thank god for that, because a lot of us spend our days doing things that we don't really enjoy all that much. So here's to the things we do enjoy, whether we're stars or not.


suthsc said...

Good post.

At times it's hard for some -- including myself -- to resist competing within some given group. It seems everyone likes to "win" sometimes -- regardless of if that's collecting the most groupies or getting an age division medal. However, I think you've touched on a very important point. Namely, we have to remember that we do these things because we love to do them.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rock Starved,

I also recently felt the need to do something I loved but instead of being the
entertainer, I had to settle for being the entertainee.
I have a love for 80's style rock music and an old friend called
and asked if I would go with he and his wife to Nickelback. Now most people
especially my evil sister-in-law(Strats), my wife and many co-workers scoff at
my taste in music but it took me 2 seconds to shout "yes" back in the phone at
his invitation. I also grew up in a smaller town in Northern MN and wished
I had opportunities to see Bon Jovi, Poison, Whitesnake, Great White, etc...
when they were in their prime. For now Nickelback would have to fill the void.

We arrived at the Excel Center at about 7 p.m. people eveywhere, many forms
of dress and undress, hard-rock loving fools from age 12 to 60. There was many parent/kid
combos going into the concert and the parents were my age! Now I started to feel old and maybe a little out of place(shouldn't I be going to some Dora the Explorer Ice Show vs. rock concert)?
I soon felt even older but in a dirty old man sort of way when I saw what some of the
girls were wearing. I couldn't believe some of the shorts and skirts I saw-
literally the girls butts were hanging out of them! And the shirts they were not wearing.
Luckily most of the girls that wore these skimpy styles were in awesome shape. But I digress...

We went in to find our seats and discovered there were no seats-just main
floor. Also we found out that there was not just 1 opening group but 3!
Summary: Standing on concrete floor for 5 hours, letting our ears bleed
from 4 rock groups while getting pushed around by several thousand rabid
fans. At this point our foursome also realized that we probably wouldn't want
to leave our "spot" as we may not get as close again or would get split up. So no bathroom
breaks, no food and only a 20 ounce coke to keep me moving between 7 and midnight.
The torture one must endure to be a true rock fan.
Once we found our spots we never left. We got as close as humanly possible without
actually mating(although interlocking arms and legs with misc. girl next to me was getting close)
and located ourselves about 12 human rows from the front.

Opening group was Hinder-they rocked and were awesome! They were the best
suprise of the night. I had never heard them before, but it turns out they
have a top 10 hit on the Pop charts-"Lips of an Angel". They are a pop/hard
rock group that sound something like Bon Jovi meets Aerosmith with a White
Lion hangover. Seriously you have to check them out. I bought there CD and
if you are a 80's rock loving fool like I, you will love them.

Next up was "Chevelle"-pretty hard testosterone rock. All the college age
Frat boys seemed to love them. Mosh Pit broke out in front of us but luckily
it closed up quickly when some kid went down with a head injury-not serious I
don't think. Chevelle's lead singer/guitarist was unbelievely talented but their style
was too rough for me.

3rd was Hoobastank. They were great. They have had 4-5 pop/rock hits over
the last 4-5 years. Lead singer was awesome, did a good job of connecting
with the crowd. The crowd went nuts when they played a couple minutes of
both "Another brick in the wall" by Pink Floyd and "Living on a Prayer" by
Bon Jovi.

By this point said crowd was defenitely in a frenzy. We already had the
beach balls, body surfing, a couple fights and the heavy smell of hooch all
around us-then the titty show began. Before Nickelback came on stage a few
girls needed to show off their sweet tata's. One set was extremely nice and
probably extremely fake. One girl was just a little too outta shape and the
3rd was pretty average. But all three needed to show the crowd several
times and then Nickelback themselves once they hit the stage.
Nickelback was good but had too many sophomoric concert sideshow tricks,
which took away from the whole experience for me. The stuff that I could
have done without: drum solo-everyone does one, who cares. 4 hand-held
cannons brought on stage for an intermission to shoot t-shirts into the
crowd-was this a Timberwolves game? Dirty joke telling time by Chad
Kroeger(lead singer)-a very good joke, but why? and then all the fireworks
and actual flame show. I have never been to a concert with so much
pyrotechnics-again maybe for their grand finale it would have been cool, but
4-5 times? Oh yeah and some of the video montage on "Photograph" and a
couple other songs-definitly could have done without.

All in all it was a good time and I am glad I went. Nickelback was a little
disappointing-they sounded good and have a ton of music I wish they would have stuck to
just playing it instead of worrying about entertaining the
kids. Hinder was great and I ran out and bought their CD the next day.

By the time I got home I couldn't hear anything, had to pee like a racehorse
and was starving. I crashed about 1 a.m. and didn't regain most of my
hearing till about 7 p.m. the next day.

Doing things we love to do is a lot harder than what it used to be.


StevenCX said...

Great post! Way to keep life in perspective.