This is a weekly newsletter where I send out a new “nice sounding” track, some writing, and a picture of something I saw. It’s also one way I let people know what I’m up to otherwise. Thank you for reading. You can hear every single My Big Break track in one playlist right here.
Good morning ~
I sorta remembered how good it can feel to play guitar this week and the track reflects this - - all day I wanted to set up the hammock and take a nap in the sun but the demands of online life were too great. So I tried to make something that sounded like the hammock feels and nearly got there.
Can you believe I’ve done 49 of these letters, and made 49 tracks, which I think is like five hours of music? What have I been writing about for a year? And what is there to show besides the corpus of the work itself? I told myself long ago that when I got to fifty I could stop which will somehow have happened in one week’s time. Maybe taking a break would be good, I don’t know. Feeling tapped out of online energy, but also feeling like I should keep doing the work and push harder to make it my livelihood, despite the very low numbers of listeners these audios get. Mixed up about what I should be doing and what I want to be doing, and feeling a blanket of powerlessness settle over me politically as the news unfurls (and feeling very happy and content in other ways, all at once!).
I don’t have anything to plug at the moment, really, so let’s get to the writing, which tried to document the weird live stream moment we’re having as a culture. I think we’ll be nostalgic for this type of interaction next decade.
It’s an unusual night, though the longer all this goes on the more commonplace this type of night becomes. I am in the last few moments before the live stream I’m supposed to do tonight is gonna happen. I don’t recall having live streamed before shelter-in-place began but now I am a seasoned pro. The first time we did it Matt and I had no idea what the fuck we were doing and took a running stab at it, really just went headlong into it. We did okay, but it felt like maybe we were playing for each other way more than we were playing for the void (how badly I miss my friend, my every morning coffee sharer, the one person I have actually jammed with since March, half asleep on a leather couch with a miniature amp passing phrases back and forth in the middle of the night). I’ve been setting up all day, but I think I’ve got the hang of it now (although I’ve heavily neglected this project here). This is not the first time I’ve done a live stream from the comfort of my home, but it’s through a cool NYC venue with a built-in fanbase, so I’m feeling just a little bit anxious, a few flaps of butterfly wings. I’m not sure who will be out there. I asked the guy from the venue “what’s the advance for tonight” with a laugh but also wanting to know how many tickets sold and he told me it’s about 30 people. I suppose under normal circumstances I would be delighted if 30 people decided to come to a show I was playing from my spare room, but it’s hard not to feel a bit stung tonight - theoretically this online concert is open to anybody in the entire world whereas normally in-person gigs are limited to people within the immediate vicinity. Other coast family members could join, this coast family members could join, people in Europe could join although the timing is bad for them and I assume those buddies are asleep. 30ish people, and don’t get me wrong I am glad for this, but it continues to triple underline the fact that I will probably have to continue working a job I hate for the foreseeable future, the swell of humanity just isn’t there for me in the way that I once dreamed of - keep your day job. I will be broadcasting from the little spare room in my girlfriend’s job’s institutional housing - she has an office and access to a beautiful, large sculpture studio across campus so I’ve taken over this little room, using it mostly to do my exercise bike routines and to work on, well, what you’re reading now. But for tonight we’ve turned it into a surprisingly robust broadcast studio - I’ve got the sound component really dialed in, tons of software running, and there are lighting panels and we are projecting some video I took of a sunset seven years ago in Alaska overlaid with some video of that wiggly light effect that happens when sun hits a swimming pool. In the resulting video I look pink, maybe like I got a little too much sun. I hope that when the stream begins I feel comfortable and that I can relax and be happy. It has been very hard for me to relax and be happy on the days I have to punch the clock at my remote office job and today felt particularly brutal, so my teeth are still a little clenched. I don’t feel myself at the moment (I rarely do these days, who is this housebound depressed person? And how has he taken the exact shape - though a bit larger - of the joy ridden kinetic piñata I once was?). It’s funny how these digital spaces can feel more or less comfortable. The frequency or the tone of chat messages along the side as you play are a pretty reliable indication of how actually dialed in people are - I read the comments as they flutter in like like I’m in the Matrix. I am very grateful for these streams - at their best they feel like a faxed version of actually being at a show, a sugar-free version of camaraderie. At their worst they are a way to pass the time, but ways to pass the time are valuable, too. The show tonight is a double bill. I’ll be joined in the e-space by my buddy V.V. Lightbody who recently put out a very good record. We’ve become friends, playing shows in each other’s cities a few times over the past couple of years - the last time she was in town my friends and I backed her up on a couple of songs which felt like an extremely cool thing to do. Originally we had planned to play a show together in real life in New York City - it was going to be at a venue just down the street from my house, I could have walked home downhill, victorious, soaked in the beer light. But instead we will be here together, online. Lacking skills and the computer power to do it properly I cobbled together a very goofy video of us doing “karaoke” to one of my songs. It’s not really synced up properly and my singing isn’t very good but the shabbiness of it is something that I think is important. It feels undigital in a way that I crave so badly, even though, uh, technically it’s kind of bad. I just miss things being frayed, imperfect, undocumented, allowed to flow out into the ether never to be recorded or re-examined. When she and I were working out what we were going to do for this show we couldn’t really stay on topic because all we wanted to talk about was the wonderful developments that had happened in our personal lives as a result of staying indoors all the time. We found significant overlap in our situations and a shared light sense of guilt at enjoying life so deeply at times when so much is so hard for so many. And as the time I have to sing my little songs to an invisible audience grows nearer and nearer I realize again - for the 1,000th time - that this is actually the point. I want the work I actually want to do so badly to be the thing I spend the majority of my time doing. In other words, I want it to pay the bills. I want it so badly to be the thing that finally proves my worth to myself. I want it so badly to be the thing I do rather than the thing that I do when I can. But ultimately the real work is from where the friendship flows, a point of origin for nearly all that is wonderful in my life - there are very few friends I hold in my heart that have not at least known that I sing on occasion. And that should be enough. And at the bottom of it it in fact it is. And now I have to stream.
What about you? What are you broadcasting? What’s the point you’re trying to make? Do you feel like you’re walking downhill?