Archives For Music

I got a voicemail from a guy who had heard I was a singer and invited me to sing a few songs with his band at a gig that Saturday. In case you’re wondering how he got my number, I don’t know. This past summer I was practicing to perform some songs with the ex-boyfriend’s band, which never materialized. I did, however, tell everyone that I now sang with a band, including the dude at the post office who was helping me track down the “Good Morning I See the Assassins Have Failed Again” mug I had ordered from Etsy. Which apparently had been delivered to the wrong address so Post Office Dude took my number and I think he gave it to a guy who gave it to a guy.

Or something. Who the hell has time to play Inspector Gadget when fame and fortune come knocking at your door?

I was initially hesitant. I haven’t sung in front of an audience since college when I fronted a punk band called Freddy Fetus and the Coat Hangers, but in MY MIND I’m a singer. In my car and in my shower, I’m a goddamn singer. This guy I was dating, whom my friends referred to as “Mr. Atlantic City,” said “You’re gonna go sing with some band you’ve never heard, without rehearsing, and just WING IT in front of an audience? That’s a terrible idea, you’ll be TERRIBLE” so of course now I HAD to do it.

Atlantic City is Las Vegas with a yeast infection. Mr. AC owned a weekend house there, so for the last few months our dating consisted of cavorting around town until 5 am. There’s so much more to DO there than there is in the suburbs, what with the casinos, the cash for gold places, the tranny prostitutes and getting shot. His house has an elevator, and in case you’re wondering if the very rich are indeed different from the rest of us, yes they are. In a recent study which I made up, scientists concluded that 100 percent of men who drive Bentleys with vanity plates “are jackholes.” Mr. AC wanted to do only what HE wanted to do. He was furious with me for cancelling our weekend casino debauchery to go sing, even though I invited him along. No dice. (see what I did there?)

On our first date Mr. AC declared “I’ll pay for you to get a boob job, but only if they’re HUGE” and I hadn’t even mentioned wanting one. But fuck yeah, if you’re buying me titties, I’ll take three. He was also pissy because in two months he had wined, dined but not yet vagined me.  Rich dudes don’t expect to wait for sex. Every time we spoke on the phone he ended the conversation by saying “GROW THAT RUNWAY BABY” which is surprisingly less charming than it reads. Did I mention he had an elevator in his house?

Breaking the date was the end of our relationship. He was fun, and good-looking, especially from certain angles like when he was reaching for his wallet, but it was for the best. On our last casino romp he’d won $600 at the craps table, which he’d tossed at me and said “use this for something sexy to wear the next time you see me” and I was struggling to figure out how to make my utility bills look sexy.

The gig was in South Jersey, which is so white-trashy it should be a separate country from America. They have a completely different world view down there;  the number one recreational hobby is aggravated assault and “MILF” is a career objective. The entire southern tip of New Jersey smells like the inside of a fake leg. The minute you drive south of Exit 100 on the Garden State Parkway, you can hear the twanging of dueling banjos. The gig, coincidentally, was in the same town where the ex-boyfriend lived. No, I did not invite him. We haven’t spoken since we ended our relationship amicably, and by amicably I mean I was screaming ‘YOU LIMP DICK MOTHERFUCKER” on his front lawn.

I went to the band’s website to look at their song list, and I decided to sing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.’ Yeah, I know, you think of me as all punk rock and Nirvana but schmaltzy lounge music is SO my jam. You haven’t lived until you’re heard  Robert Mitchum mumbling his way through “Mama Looka Boo Boo.” In the privacy of my home, I wipe off the heavy winged eyeliner, throw on some Bonnie Bell Lip Ssmackers and rock the fuck out to the Fifth Dimension.

I got to the club and it was packed. PACKED. I met the bandleader, a bearded, portly HIspanic dude. I knew I had made yet another of my famous bad decisions when he asked me what key I wanted to sing in. What KEY? Is this a gig or are we taking our fucking SATs here? I tried to deflect him by playful responding “oh you’re such a troublemaker” and lightly smacking him in the jowls which is what people in South Jersey do to show affection. Beat one another.

That’s when I began drinking shots. I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. As a matter of fact my superpower is turning tequila into crippling regret, but hey, I was at a bar in South Jersey and when in Rome, right? Since it was too late to get a bad tattoo or develop adult acne I started pounding shots of Patron.

A bleached blonde who’d known these guys for 20 years was sitting up front with her husband and decided she was my new best friend. She bought me shot after shot and told me all about her affairs and her 2 grown kids in rehab. Once I’d drank enough tequila to let my brain cells leak out my asshole, I completely forgot the words to ‘Brown Eyed Girl,’ and she was kind enough to write them for me on a napkin. When I told my bestie about this, she asked, “a sanitary napkin?” but NO, a cocktail napkin. Although looking back I wish I HAD gone on stage with a sanitary napkin because that would have been like in 1974 when an inebriated John Lennon stuck a Kotex on his head at a nightclub and John Lennon is a GOD.

When I got on stage the band leader dude handed me a tambourine. I was all SMASH THE PATRIARCHY WOULD YOU HAND ME THIS IF I WERE A MAN? so I said, “Don’t give me this, I don’t play the tambourine! FUCK your tambourine, man!” And then I said “that’s actually the name of that song. People think it’s ‘Tambourine Man’ but it’s really ‘FUCK Your Tambourine Man’”and I cracked myself up so much the band had to play the intro a very long time until I could stop laughing.

That went so well I decided to do a sexed up version of ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.’ It was less a song and more me dry humping the band leader. My friends on Facebook were disappointed I didn’t get video of this but imagine, if you will, a drunk Jessica Rabbit with one bad leg giving a clumsy lap dance to Puerto Rican Santa Claus.

When it was over, my new best blonde friend said “Well, you LOOKED good” and some chick gave me her card and told me she was a vocal coach and that I should call her. Like, immediately. The band didn’t invite me to sing with them at their gig next month but I’m gonna show up anyway. I’m getting my sanitary napkin ready and practicing the Fifth Dimension’s ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ and that’s a string of words I never thought I’d put together. But there you have it.

 I present me singing, unironically, “Can’t Take  My Eyes Off Of You.” Recorded live this morning in my bathroom so please excuse the clunking sounds in the background as I got ready for work.
The recording ends abruptly, but so do many things:

https://www.smule.com/recording/frankie-valli-cant-take-my-eyes-off-you/1624246345_2641155142/frame

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I was born into a family of musical impressarios. My oldest brother sat down at the piano when he was only three years old and delivered a perfect rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” At 3, my son was still pooping into a diaper and the only thing he would have done at the piano was give me a splitting headache.

I’m the least musically talented person in my family. I wouldn’t even go so far as to call myself a musician. The brother who is closest to me in age argues that I “am musical,” which sounds like the spoken equivalent of a participation trophy.

That particular brother and I have a multi-layered relationship regarding music. I have always been in awe of his talent; envious, proud and completely daunted by it.

When he was just 11 years old, he picked up a guitar and musical artistry poured forth. He was able to hear things the rest of us didn’t and could recreate songs note for note. He could rock 2-chord simplicity, making the song “Horse With No Name” sound amazing, but he could also carve out complicated, curving, epic solos.

HOW DID HE DO THIS? It seemed ludicrous for me to continue. His genius was too strong a contrast to my mediocrity and I gave up playing instruments.

That’s what happens when you are born into a family of musical geniuses. To be average is intolerable.

 

About a year ago, I started playing guitar again. I’m not great; I’m not even good. I’m fair. If I play a song, its recognizable.

It’s common for people over forty to take the “fuck you” pill. I’m heavily medicated on that prescription, and consequently, asked my brother to come over and jam with me.

Have you ever googled “what it’s like to be a musical genius?” There are no first hand accounts. People are loath to speak about themselves this way. But one night when we were jamming, my brother divulged to me the story of his musical genius.

He knew the minute he picked up the guitar that this was some kind of “gift from God.” He almost felt as if he was channeling. A force he couldn’t control took over, guiding his hands to greatness.

And therein lies the rub. He couldn’t control it.

He was in bands most of his life, but none worked out. Most of his childhood friends were incredibly talented musicians, and many went on to pursue careers in music.

But people shied away from playing with him on musical projects because his “gift” was so unpredictable.

He’d be in the middle of an extraordinary guitar solo onstage, the kind that people tout as ‘legendary’  – and then hit a sour note. Or three. He never knew when it would happen nor how to fix it.

He tried to harness his gift and devoted himself to the mindful execution of music. But musical training seemed incompatible with the “gift.” To work in this way would make his head ache to where he could not continue.

At one point he studied guitar with a prominent NYC jazz guitarist, a man who required an audition to even study with. During the audition, his musical voodoo poured out and the  jazz guitarist thought him much more advanced than he really was. After a handful of lessons in which my brother had no idea what was going on, he quit.

My brother’s entire life he never discussed his “gift” because he felt that talking about it would jinx it. It took him 40 years to tell me how he felt that day when he picked up a guitar and the heavens opened up.

 

 

He’s able to finally talk about it, because these days, he’s no longer afraid of jinxing outside forces. At 50, my brother has decided that he needs to start over and learn music from the ground up.

Yes, it’s grueling and draining, but it’s also feeding his soul, to finally reconcile technique with genius.

 

I always knew there was something magical about my brother; about all of them, in fact, when it came to music. Like most things, it was terrible and wonderful. They intimidated me, but I was raised with a love for music so profound that without it, life would be monotone. One long, silent birthday celebration with just candles.

To hear that this gift I’ve always envied was in fact a curse, something that has prevented him from pursuing his dreams of playing out in public his entire life, was an epiphany.

We’ve both arrived at our own musical epiphanies; simultaneously, but independent of one another. He’s starting at the beginning. And I’m finally playing again.

I stayed up all night the other night playing guitar.
My hands ached; my face was smeared with fatigue but my heart was buoyant. As the room was bathed in the streaky light of dawn, I finally realized that all that matters is how I feel when I play music, not how I sound to other people.

And that’s MY gift.

How much do you love music?? Do you play?
Doesn’t it suck to have a sibling SO much better than you at something?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

 

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2009pitchfork_freaks

 

“You HAVE to come with me next time!” my college BFF slurred drunkenly over the phone from Little Rock, Arkansas. She was having a musical epiphany at a 3-day festival and called to let me hear some obscure band play over her iPhone.

No, actually, I don’t. I don’t want to go anywhere where I contract hepatitis from a porta potty.

The Internet has killed the retail music industry. Now, we must spend a gazillion dollars travelling to festivals to hear obscure genres like “sock puppet poon tang” and “tropical beaty bop-pop-a-roonie”

Music festivals aren’t for people who actually like music. They’re for people who want to get chemically annihilated in a humongous crowd while trawling for similarly wasted sexual partners. People who eschew silly amenities like food and water to camp out in the mud for a week. People who like to experience music as tiny insects a mile away, performing songs you have to watch on a Jumbotron. Sort of like watching them on YouTube, only far less comfortable.

Here are some of the music festivals I WON’T be going to. EVER.

 

COACHELLA

After you sell a lung to pay the $1000 to get in, it’s only a 50 mile hike –  in a 150-degree California desert sandstorm – to the festival entrance.

If you actually want to see a band, be prepared to stand for 12 hours in the blistering heat. Just be prepared for the Douche Brigade to come muscling their way to the front at the last minute. The 6-foot dude in a velvet patchwork top hat will plant himself right in front of you. Natch.

Coachella is a great place to feel body-shamed, in case you don’t already have that hangup. People train ALL YEAR for their “Coachella bodies” so they can wear as little clothing as possible. It’s crawling with skinny models dressed in Urban Outfitter’s finest. Fashion is foremost to these fringe-laden, hula-hooping, drugged-out hipsters.

If you do opt for clothing, Native American is de rigueur, which is French for “I look like an asshole.” You may not see any bands, but you’ll see oodles of molly-stoned millennials in Navajo Indian headdresses groping each other.

 

 

BURNING MAN

“The Burn,” as its cult devotees refer to it, is not really a music festival. It’s a week-long art festival which allegedly provides spiritual enlightenment in an obscure corner of the Nevada desert.

Event promoters describe it as a “radical experiment in self-expression,” but it’s 70,000 loonytunes camping out in the desert while engaged in Bacchanalian drinking, drugging and sex. Newbies are greeted with “WELCOME HOME!!” by seasoned burners with names like “Captain Pajama Pants.”

Burning Man is the antithesis to Coachella’s gym-honed perfection. Here you get leathery old bare-assed hippies, ravaged by time and psychotropic drugs. Middle-aged, middle class men in particular love to drop their inhibitions and their pants at Burning Man, so be prepared for a veritable cornucopia of naked testicles drooping like turkey wattles.

If you ARE dressed, you must be in a costume. Otherwise some self-righteous druggie perv with herpes on his lip, dressed as the big rat from Chuck E Cheese, will lecture you on participation.

I’d love to trip balls in the desert and dance around dressed in nothing but a python and duct tape over my nipples, but I have a life, a kid and I job. I can’t pencil in a trip to the desert to get so high I shit myself.

The grand finale of this hippie-flavored shindig is the burning of the actual 60-foot wooden Burning Man. I enjoy a good orgasm of flames and destruction as much as the next pyro, but I’m not interested in being asphyxiated while 70,000 frenzied stoners perform the hippie version of a Ku Klux Klan rally.

Not if I have to sign a waiver that reads:
“I acknowledge and fully understand that as a participant, I will be engaging in activities that involve risk of serious injury, including permanent disability and death.”

 

 

ELECTRIC DAISY CARNIVAL

If you’re wondering who the hell listens to that soulless, inhuman, repetitive nonsense known as “EDM” (electronic dance music), they’re all here.

Electric Daisy Carnival is a souped up, super-size rave, for people who don’t realize that raves have been over for two decades. It was cool when it was an “underground secret warehouse” culture, but like anything else that’s been commercialized, it’s a ferocious, brutal appropriation conveniently adapted for mass consumption. It’s rave folklore packaged for your 14-year-old kid.

Electric Daisy Carnival is a stage in a parking lot, full of kids with suckers in their mouths and gas masks on, getting obliterated. For three days, the same three minutes of music plays on repeat. Teeny boppers sporting knee-high fake fur and tutus have no clue what they’re listening to. All they care about is taking selfies as they flash peace signs and make duck faces.

And then there are the “Bros.” The frat boys who once inebriated themselves to Dave Matthews Band are now wearing neon tank tops with “TURN UP” in block letters and careening around to Deadmau5. The ‘roided up bro culture loves aggressively loud music they can break into gorilla-ish fights to.

And the line up? It sounds like porn. All these DJs have sex-toy names. Max Enforcer, Dirtyphonics, Gigamesh, Delta Heavy. I don’t want to listen to music made by people who sound like menacing dildos.

The EDM industry is a music industry cash cow. They’re repackaging old techno as something new and selling it to an audience who doesn’t know any better. Of course the music sounds good when you’ve lined your nasal passages with pure crystallized MDMA. I could play “Gangnam Style” in a room full of EDM fans blown up on Molly,  and by the second verse I guarantee each and every one of them would be having the time of their lives. By the end of the song I could convince them it was actually a symbolic anthem regarding the struggle of a divided Korea.

You can do ingest all the drugs you want, but for fuck’s sake, don’t let those substances convince you that Electric Daisy Carnival is the event of a lifetime. You’re just ball-hair blasted and listening to a glorified Mrs. Pac-Man soundtrack.

 

Would you camp out in the woods at these events? What music festivals won’t you be attending? 
When did I get so old that these festivals are no longer fun? 
Talk to me.  I’m listening. 

 

 

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When Cowbells Were Sexy

August 20, 2015 — 72 Comments

 

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who left home at 16. She claimed it was to attend school, but she chose the school based solely on how far away she could get.

She put hundreds of miles between her and where she never wanted to be again, and still they weren’t enough. She wanted to rid herself of that oppressive atmosphere, the pain and violence, the loneliness and sadness.

She carried with her the burden of her virginity, a gift she had been unable to give away.

It no longer felt like a gift; it was a yoke around her neck, binding her to what she knew would soon be the old version of herself. It suffocated her, like a coat of armor that made it impossible for her to dance gracefully through the world.

She had tried to unbind herself of this before, and others had tried with her, but none were succesful. She waited like a princess in a tower but no princes could manage to rescue her.

She was too young and small and strange and smart, and much, much too eager. And they joined her in this eagerness, falling upon her delicate frame, fumbling with clumsy hands.

While she stayed tethered. Turning every prince back into a frog.

And there were always brothers around, violent and shrewd. There were so many of them one was always somewhere she was. Guarding her.

They tried to tell her she couldn’t go away; they insisted she stay home to go to school, but she laughed in their faces. Their home had always been total anarchy and she left to her own devices. They would not tell her what to do now.

She left, and never returned.

 

It was a magical town at a magical time and she turned 17 there. It was a beautiful place with fields and waterfalls and lakes and woods and there she reinvented herself. Here she turned herself from a strange and skinny ugly duckling to a beautiful swan.

But still, there was the matter of her innocence. It was a shackle that dug into the tenderest parts of her soul.

Here, she waited. Because here there was magic.

Here, the weather got warm and she walked around the tiny town in her bare feet, putting out her thumb to get a ride from cars passing by. Driven by strangers who were always just friends she hadn’t yet met.

And in this clean air, she could finally. Breathe.

There was a boy who liked her. He wrote songs for her, which he played for her on guitar while they sat on a blanket by the waterfall and had picnics.

One day he filled her room with hundreds of wild flowers he picked in the woods. “White for purity,” he said, and she laughed and pressed them to her nose.

But this boy would not be The One.

 

 

And one early summer evening she stood on a porch and saw a man who saw her, seeing him.

And she knew he would be The One.

He was 21 and had one year left to her three. He was tall and strong and his eyes were green; the color of the moss next to the waterfall where that other boy had declared his love for her.

They stood on the crowded porch and the laughter of partygoers swirled all around them. But now there was no long any need to be there; in each other, they saw the reason they were both there. They left together as if it had already been decided.

Which it had.

 

And that night the walls of his room shimmered in different shades of gold. On the next night and every night thereafter they were just brown, but that first night she remembered them as gold.

And later she would remember his smile and his moss-green eyes and his strong gentle hands. And his patience.

 

There was wine and music and candles and the walls glowed in prisms of gold.

 

♪♫  Whatever colors you have in your mind,
       I’ll show them to you and you’ll see them shine ♪♫

 

Their rhythms were not in sync and her heart was beating too fast. So he moved very slowly.

And in the morning, as the sun rose over a pastoral country dawn, her face smeared with fatigue and want and need; finally, finally this man took from this girl what she had wanted so badly to give.

Finally, finally.

And she lay next to him, grateful and glad. And brought his hands to her mouth and kissed them.

She looked out the window and saw all the colors of the world opening to her at once.

There was nothing left of who she had been.

Finally, finally.

And she was Free.

 

 

The End

 

(But really, the Beginning)

 

 

Did you ever realize the clip-clopping sound in the beginning of “Lay Lady Lay” was cowbells? What songs remind you of the most incredible moments of your life?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

Sax Maniac

June 4, 2015 — 93 Comments

sax

 

I attended Little Dude’s 5th grade band concert yesterday and it might have been the most brutal thing I’ve ever been forced to listen to.

Parents were falling all over themselves to video this debacle. I must be missing some maternal sensitivity chip because I don’t want a shred of evidence of this Cacophony of Horror.

Little Dude plays the sax, and I use the word “plays” lightly.

He’s dreadful. It’s like “Root Canal: The Musical.” I’ve heard him sing, and I thought he had a little bit of a musical ear, but that might be wishful thinking because I come from a musical family. Also, vodka.

 

Like the pushy Tiger Mom that I am, I drill music into my kid’s head. I want to make sure that he’s at least exposed to some of what I consider to be “the greats” before he rejects it for trendy, soulless dub step.

When we listen to music in the car,  I’m the Most Annoying Parent ever. I’m trying to train his ear. I pull apart the sounds, and have him zero in on certain instruments. As far as I’m concerned, it’s part of his education to fully appreciate the majestic guitar solo at the end of “Hotel California“.

When he was picking an instrument for band, I steered him towards sax. A few weeks ago, we were listening to Lenny Kravitz in the car. Little Dude actually stopped yammering about Minecraft during one of his electrifying sax solos. Afterwards he said, “THAT’S why you want me to learn sax, isn’t it?

YES.

YES IT IS.

 

Fast forward to the reality.

When I nag my kid to practice, it sounds like Mothra devoured a rural town and is now shitting farm equipment.

Apparently, every kid who plays an instrument in the fifth grade refuses to practice because the sum of them was a horrific violation of sound laws. If there aren’t sound laws, there should be ones that prevent this kind of tuneless caterwauling.

This sounded less like music and more like the agonizing screams of a kitten who accidentally climbed into the radiator fan of your car and was woken up when you turned in the ignition.

I should have prefaced this post by telling you that I have hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to everyday sounds. It’s a bit of a generalized assessment of my condition, because I particularly have a hard time tolerating tinny or static-y music, off-key singing…

Wow. Maybe I’m just a bitch.

But I also have very pronounced misophonia, which is totally legitimate. It’s an acute reaction to certain low volume sounds and it’s REAL.

The slurping chomping smacking crunching sounds people make when they eat drive me into a blind rage. I have to leave the room when my kid eats cereal or a ceramic bowl will become a lethal weapon.

 

So, this concert was the equivalent of slow torture. Not just “synth intro to Van Halen’s Jump” annoying. More like the “agonizing sounds of a conscious man getting his head sawed off” horrific. (Stay away from 4chan. You’ve been warned.)

The concert was worse than the cries of a thousand tormented souls. It was worse than the  SSSSKKKKKKKRRRRRRSSSHSHSHCKCKCKKKBRKACKGRAZNCKIRGUSHTERBOFPK of a car accident.

You know how people choose to vacation in the Middle East because it’s cheap and accidentally end up near an active war zone? That’s what this concert sounded like.

 

I had all but decided that music is just not my kid’s thing. But yesterday in the car, we were listening again to Lenny Kravitz. I asked Little Dude, “Can you hear the influence of the Beatles in Lenny Kravitz’s music?”

He said he did. I persisted. Irritating my kid when he’s trapped in the car is one of my favorite pastimes.

“Please doesn’t just say yes to shut me up. Do you really hear it? Where?”

He listened for a while. And then “I Build This Garden” came on.

“There Mama, right there. This song is very Beatle-ish, like ‘Eleanor Rigby’.”

Damn if he wasn’t right on the money. The song contains driving rock guitar riffs blended with orchestral strings, in a total Beatles sonic tribute.

 

This was music to my ears.

I’m going to invest in private lessons. And some really good quality ear plugs.

 

Do you ever force feed your kid stuff, especially if it’s something you love?
Did you come from a musical family? Do you think music is important to kids’ development?
Do you have an aversion to certain sounds?
Do I just bug the crap out of my kid?
Talk to me. I’m listening.