Update: This entry is from my column that originally appeared in the Northern Colorado entertainment magazine The Scene. While I'm not doing this column anymore, I'm still as involved as I can be in the Fort Collins area music scene in general.
This edition’s topic: On Tour... Election 08
Wait, I know you’re feeling up to your ears in it but let’s take another
quick look anyway, shall we? My God, what a simultaneously odd and wonderful
freak show this is. CNN footage of drooling, monosyllabic racists aside, this
race is almost amusing. I am in a North Carolina hotel room watching Larry King
Live as he and guest commentator Bill Maher watch the NY Diocese Al Smith
memorial charity dinner. Here they are, America. The two presidential candidates
joyfully clowning one another like some late night commercial for the Dean
Martin Celebrity Roasts DVDs. I half expect 60s comedienne Ruth Buzi to come
flying out of the wings to beat both of them with her purse. Part of me is
wishing she would.
Forget Joe the Plumber who’s not a plumber, come on over to my front lawn and
ask ME what’s on my mind! Hey...I’m a just a guitar player (really...unlike Joe
I have my union card!), but I have a reasonably valid question: What in the
flying f---- is going on here? Isn’t the country on the verge of collapsing from
within? What are these guys doing sipping chardonnay and chortling at one
another’s one-liners in their white bow ties while Rome burns?
Well, at least they have their senses of humor. Personally my votes lean Left
with a few small Rightish tendencies, so I can snicker when SNL or others
lampoon all four ticket members... And boy is there grist for that mill or what?
Moose Mommy verbally stumbling through speeches in ways that make “W” look
almost worldly in retrospect. SHE COULD BE PRESIDENT! Like many of you I’m
afraid, but trying to enjoy the circus anyway. However, in this year of historic
political tensions I’m a little uncomfortable laughing. Sort of like my days
working in a mortuary, when yes, we had to joke occasionally or we would have
lost our minds.
Pardon me while I think back to a more carefree election season. My band,
Cracker, was invited to play at one of Bill Clinton’s most pivotal campaign
rallies in Atlanta. A proud moment, a proud year. As I walked up for my token
souvenir snapshot with Bill, I remember complimenting his resplendent suit.
Instead of a simple “thank you,” he grinned knowingly and winked. I felt right
there that the then-unsubstantiated rumors about his “PLAYA” ways were true.
Bill had it goin’ on and knew it, big time. It was a surreal day, the grandeur,
the left and the right “making nice,” the daughter of a prominent senator at the
bar, tipsily attempting to say “hello” by biting my neck (while secret service
types hovered yards away with eyebrows raised). Even in my post-show, gin and
tonic haze, I felt trouble looming. I split through a side entrance feeling like
an extra in a Bond flick. Interesting times indeed. Rock and roll decadence on a
campaign trail budget. Indie/alt rock was blossoming into its heyday. We had an
album out on a big label. Rock the Vote was huge, and we were proud to be part
of it. Good times. Sigh.
Fifteen years later... the major labels (many of whom deserved it) are all
but gone. For better and for worse, we now have the digital revolution. We can
reach wider audiences. Of course, many of them think our life’s work, our music,
should be downloadable, free, like the wind. Will they come work for me for
free? Hey man, come on over and make Cracker a free pizza! (Sorry, another rant
for another day). Probably three quarters of the bands that were together when
my band was at its peak are no more. But here we are, thankfully, still going
strong, willing to work longer hours with higher overhead to bring our music to
fans and our paychecks home. We hope that even as recession threatens, people
will always need live music to rejuvenate. We musicians, like everyone else,
just hope to weather the ongoing storm.
To my fellow working musicians, I offer this bit of optimism: whatever the
fallout from this historic election, whatever recession or changes in world
politics these times bring, we all need to keep doing what we do best. Creating
and entertaining. Even during The Great Depression of the 1930s the clubs and
speakeasies were full of people downing prohibition booze and listening to live
music to forget their woes. If the election goes against our wishes, may we
write the best blues we ever wrote. Punk rock. Protest songs. Melancholy
instrumentals. Regardless of how the election tips, let’s make the feel-good
songs of the season, so the fans whose candidate triumphed can dance on the
discarded lawn placards of the other side. WHEEEE!!! Those whose candidate lost
can slip into the comforting Friday night ritual of wine, whisky and song. Same
as it ever was.
Uncle Johnny, over and out.