Show for One

It was an outside concert and the promoters hadn’t made peace with the local authorities, so it looked like we were going to be playing to nobody, or more frustrating, to a huddle of folks looking in through a chain link fence. It was a gorgeous day, dry and warm and blue. We sat around, waiting for information, thinking we might be playing to no one.

How many shows have I played for no one? Or I should say, for the bar staff, and if lucky, for the other bands. How many excuses have I heard over the years for the lack of attendance? There is a big event in town taking people away from our show. There is an article in the local paper about gang violence at the venue. The sports team is in the playoffs and everyone is at the bar up the street because they have television. No one knows the promoter, or he’s pissed people off, or he’s on drugs, or he really just has no idea what he’s doing and the wan faces of the bartenders hint at secret stories of drama and corruption. It’s a beautiful day and everyone wants to be outside. It’s a rainy/snowy/steamy day and everyone wants to be on the couch. read more

Whole Lotta Love

The slide guitar begins.

It fills the monitor and fills the stage and fills the venue and it fills me up, hitting the frequency of my being.

My back straightens and I settle solidly on the drum stool. My hips are right angles; my feet melt into the pedals.

I breathe deeply, drawing the smell of bodies and heated tubes and beer-soaked carpets and taps and electricity into my lungs and I rest, unclenching my chest muscles and shoulders. The air runs down my center and into my diaphragm.

My pores expand and the sound enters, vibrating the channels in my veins open, widening tracks around my veins as they travel through muscle and tissue. read more

Let There Be Rock: What Dragonflies Taught Me About Practicing Drums

Today in the little park, the pug was sniffing around and I sat myself down in the morning sun. All was quiet except for construction noise a little ways away. It’s San Francisco, where some rich person is always building something.

I guess I hit the right hour for dragonflies, because there were a number of them zipping around the park. So beautiful and careeningly free. I recalled Thoreau and his thoughts about the innocence of nature.[1] I remembered that dragonflies have sex mid-flight and flashed on the word “ecstatic.” At that moment, I saw a dragonfly just pop out of the air. One minute, barreling through the sky, one minute, gone. It was funny, it didn’t seem out of the ordinary that it, flying, would vanish in front of my eyes. They’re so chaotic and authoritative that surprise wasn’t my first response. read more

The Power of Loud

My first drum lesson. I’m in my 20’s, a bartender in New York. A customer had passed me a business card.

“Well if you want to play drums, here is the number of the best drum teacher in New York City.”

I remember that card coming toward me. I remember the blue afternoon light deep in the restaurant windows. I remember grabbing my future out of his hands.

My teacher sits me down at the drum set.

“Okay, now hit the drum.”

I look at the snare drum. It is vividly white. I gingerly pick up the drumsticks lying on the head, and tap the drum politely. read more