Saturday, July 11, 2009
The Glamorous Life
Bet you think those rock and rollers have it made, don't you? Traveling from city to city, roadies unloading your gear, setting it up, nothing to do but soundchecks, hang out, then go onstage and rock out, right? Oh, then lap up the applause and accept the adulation of fans who want your autograph, want to tell you how much your music means to them, just want you to actually SEE them.
I am an outsider to this world, but thanks to KB the veil's been lifted a bit. Last night was a real eye opener.
Do you remember the Australian band the church? If not, do you remember "Under the Milky Way" from the film Donnie Darko? That's them. They've been around since the eighties but now and again they surprise themselves with a hit as they pursue their unique vision of art rock.
They're wrapping up their 2009 tour and we went to see them in New York. It wasn't a big venue, but it was a nice one. They didn't fill the place but there was a respectable crowd and they were true fans. There was much dancing in front of the stage, roaring ovations after the wild, ear splitting, orgasmic guitar bridge and a few faithfuls singing along with every song. They're not the Rolling Stones, but they've got a solid fan base.
Backstage after the show, they were a bunch of tired Australian guys who badly needed some sleep and were dealing with the million and one headaches that result when you can't supervise every single person on the tour. A piece of equipment is missing - the venue staff doesn't have access to the rooms you need to search.
They were grateful for the fan response, grateful for an abundance of food backstage that they pronounced "the best they'd had yet". They were both sad and happy to be wrapping up the tour and going home. Back to their lives. Back to putting the kids to bed at night. Back to the classroom to teach other people how to play guitar.
The battered guitar that's covered with duct tape only comes out in your family room or when you rehearse in some intimate space with the band. Back at home, you're a space walker suddenly thrust back into the gravitational field. And much of your time will be spent figuring out how to get back out to space again.
A musician on tour is a gypsy - but unless that musician is an icon, he's an incredibly hard working gypsy. With luck, someone else sets up the gear, someone else checks the guitars, someone else makes sure the venues are confirmed, the tickets are selling, the backstage passes and press contacts are organized. But even with luck, there are the all night bus rides, the bleary late mornings wondering what town you're in today, the strange disconnection from the world because you're just dropping by. There's a moment of hyper-reality that is the show, when you connect with the music and it connects with the audience and an energy loop is established that leaves you frizzing with energy for hours afterwards. But then it's back to the bus, back to the road, off to the next location, the next show, the next audience.
It's a strange life. And apparently as addictive as any drug.
the church finishes its tour in Canada this week.
I'd link to their original music video, but the record company pulled the audio. Ah well, live will have to do.