good morning ~
(click the link above to listen)
today's track is a jammer in two halves ~
no upcoming gigs or news for you today, but tomorrow is bandcamp friday and should you feel moved to participate you can find my tunes and merch here. I'd also like to suggest you take a look at this invaluable database.
On Sunday I strapped on my railroad conductor overalls and tied my little kerchief around my neck and filled the CRV with amps, pedals, cables, and cords - I carefully coiled each one. I brought down my boombox, I brought down my bags of merch. Work. I spent the week beforehand preparing a cassette tape that I could play along to - I struggled to make it both full enough to be interesting and spare enough to leave space. I made many posts about the performance online and I had various phone calls and meetings leading up to it. I whipped up a price list and I printed out little handouts, almost like micro church bulletins, neon green slips of paper that could communicate and provide intention in lieu of my having a microphone.
this is a performance
and you are the performer
you are here
a small miracle
allow yourself to hear
as much as you can
lay down, feel the earth spinning
your body is singing
and so is the traffic
wings in the breeze
late leaves of trees
the dead beneath
Then when we arrived at the converted church in Hillsdale I carried everything out to the cemetery in a light misting rain. Should I move it inside, I wondered. I checked the weather every five minutes. But I have played inside so many spaces and so few graveyards, so I found some shelter under the arcing limbs of a towering tree - good enough cover from the weather. The extension cords could reach there, I unrolled them curl by curl. I carried out a chair. I carried out a table. I set out the colorful blanket I like to use. I plugged everything in and tuned the instruments and adjusted dials. I wanted to play loud enough to rumble the dead awake, should they choose to join the party. I wanted to play loud enough so that people could hear the music through their costumes. I wanted to play loud enough so that even people inside would have no choice but to participate in the performance. And so it was loud, very present, louder than I've been in what feels like years.
And then I brought my merch to the converted church's solarium and set up a table full of LPs, cassette tapes, CDs, my little book about touring in Italy, keychains that my girlfriend laser cut, goofy bumper stickers, and my last 8 Cicada Waves crew necks. I set out the price list, I arranged the goods. It was really premium placement - right next to the bar. Finally, after what felt like 5 straight hours of schlepping, indexing, driving, and arranging I was more or less ready to perform. And my friend, the host, said that she'd ring the church's entryway bell when it was time to begin.
Then it was time to do the other work, the less physical labor, and by that I mean that I began to schmooze. The social work, the small talk, the hellos and the embraces, the introductions and the smiles, the endless remembering who. I looked at the work on display in the church-turned-gallery. I ate some snacks. And though I was so, so happy to be chatting with cool and interestingly-costumed friends and strangers I felt very depleted - I deplete so easily lately. And my face ached from smiling almost right away, a pain in the cheeks.
With all the work, all the prep, all the schlep, all the putting out there of oneself, I have to admit that I wasn't really sure it was worth it. I felt tired, I felt tired of exerting all the time.
But then our friend rang the bell in her entryway and the partiers came out to the cemetery where I sat underneath the tree. The rain let up and the people gathered clutched their little micro church fliers, I could see them reading and internalizing the instructions. A couple dressed as bunches of grapes laid down in the wet grass of the dead, how did they manage to do that in their orbed costumes, I wondered. And for forty straight minutes I let the cassette play from the boombox, I let notes ring out from the lap steel, they bounced around the delay pedals and then the amps, then the hills. It was nice, pleasant to be loud and intentional in the pristine outdoors of the Catskills. But it had been so much work.
While I was cleaning up, a friend told me the performance had been great. I said oh yes, thanks, I think it went pretty well. But she pushed on. No, it was great, she said, and then she went on. It was beautiful, so much so that it gave me the courage to tell my boyfriend I love him for the first time. I just told him during your set! How wonderful, my eyes welled.
A bunch of us stayed the night. The next morning someone asked me if I had talked to the cyclist who had come in off the road. I realized I had, but I thought he had merely been dressed as a cyclist for Halloween. No - in fact, he was in the middle of a cross-country bike trip that took him through the Catskills. He heard eerie, inviting music wafting over from behind a church while pedaling up a mountain and - as if from Homeric legend - he was lured to the party, where he stayed all night, smiling at strangers.
Not that I think what I do is particularly earth shattering. I love what I make and often enjoy making it, that feels enough. There, in the cemetery, what is truly wild and wonderful is the series of invitations. A glimmering chain of yes, a nest of open doors. Will you come play? Will you come listen? Will you lay in the grass of the dead? Will you follow the sound? Will you crash out among us, dressed as we are in wigs and makeup and cardboard accessories? Will you do the work?
But what about you? Are you echoing through the hills? Are you opening the doors? Are you laying in the grass?