Another Tricky Day (Pete Townshend)
Might As Well Make It (Wonderful)
Absolutely No Sense Of Humor
Magnet For Trouble
Dylan & Moses
Get Outta My Head
Fat Man In The Bathtub (Lowell George)
I’m still trying to make sense of my official return to being a singer-songwriter onstage…at International Pop Overthrow 24 in ‘23.
I think it was a victory and…as my experience with Radio8Ball has taught me, this victory has little care for (and may be fueled by) the psychological pain it causes me. That’s my responsibility. Taking it on is a privilege. No complaints.
David Bash most lovingly programmed me to perform after Sparkle*jets UK on the “opening day” of the festival. He had no idea the well of my personal history in the LA pop scene he was tossing me into so generously. I haven’t played his festival (or anyone’s) in decades, but when I reached out just a couple of weeks before the fest to let him know I was available if anything opened up, he promptly offered me this spot, which I took as a greater honor than he could have known. Thank you David.
I asked Bash to review my last record “All You Get” several years ago and he didn’t like it, which made me think he didn’t like me. See what kind of a fool I can be?
Sparkle*jets UK put on a tremendous show I don’t think I would have seen otherwise for reasons I don’t exactly understand but intuit out of necessity. They even did a cool cover of “I Want A Pony” by one of my favorite obscure LA bands; Candypants. During their show I couldn’t help but notice that none of the folks I’d hoped would attend my set were showing up. I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) blame any of them individually but, as a non-affiliated group of haphazardly absent individuals…they were killing me.
It was in this forlorn state that I was pleased to notice, and I must be delicate about this, a person whom I (and anyone else in the room who was hip to it) regard as a pretty important musical talent, showing up to see the Sparkles. This cat knows me. I was in his life for a moment when I was dating/in love with/not really good enough for a woman he used to be boyfriend and girlfriend with. I think we got along in those days and since.
In the absence of the folks I’d invited, it would be fun to play for him.
Then, as I was about to go on, I noticed he had been joined by his (and to a lesser extent my)…former girlfriend who I am trying not to offend in the way I tell my story. I highly doubt either of them will read this blog, but this unexpected convergence really made the event for me. It’s the kind of synchronicity I’m seeking in returning to the stage with my songs. Surprising opportunities for truth and reconciliation. I don’t really care that much about anything anymore. At least I try not to, but friends are precious, and if she or he wanted to move into our elderhoods as pals, well, that’s better than any record contract I can imagine, where the only interest that matters is that which we have in each other.
Enough said about that.
When you listen to the loudness of the crowd in The Redwood that afternoon, please don’t blame Sparkle*jets UK. Several of them came into the performance space where I was playing my songs and gave really good attention that grounded me and helped me fight through my natural impulse to tell the talkers to shut the fuck up and listen…and THIS is the victory.
I didn’t do it. I used to, but I didn’t even consider doing so this time, not until I watched the video, but that’s me as an audience member, and as an editor and producer. All roles in which I am far more militant about mediating music-ruining chatter. As an artist I guess I’ve gotten to the point where I can really lean into the music and spare myself (and the unsuspecting audience) any fits of petulance. At least onstage. At least so far.
Let’s just say, in this case I was able to find the listeners that were there and paying attention, and played for them. And when it came to the people playing videos on their phones during a live music event…Sinners!…it felt good to stare them down and make them part of the show. If only for my own amusement. Like it felt good to draw the reactions and silences I could from those whose eyes I could see, knowing that for the folks who were listening, I just needed to play and sing the right notes and let the songs do their thing. I needed to keep the ball in the air…which is really all most of us who stand behind microphones and in front of cameras and audiences can hope to achieve.
If the audience talking offends you, we are in solidarity. I try and hear it as a kind of John Cage-ian musical accompaniment. Like, I imagine what it would be like if something really tragic happened and people couldn’t gather in rooms and be noisy together. If we had to be all alone for a long period of time. Maybe forever. In that case I can imagine people overlaying rude audience chatter over live recordings with perfectly respectful audience silently listening and clapping in the right places, to make them feel human again. In that world, a recording like this would sound so much more beautiful than the most pristine document of my performance. Thinking this way helps me appreciate the unruly beauty of the crowd. These music fans and musicians at The Redwood on August 5th, 2023 who seem to have no concept of the most basic level of musical solidarity which might animate a genuine international pop overthrow. Imagining them gone stirs in me, a kind of gratitude for them being there to ruin my show that night.