I had the pleasure of entering into the magical world of online dating several months ago and meeting a lovely woman. We had a beautiful child together, bought a lovely house with a yard and lived happily ever… yeah I’m joking- you knew that was nonsense. Although most of this story is BS, I did meet a woman and we discussed our interests and I of course, mentioned that I play bass. She mentioned her brother also played bass and we laughed awkwardly and in unison. Oh, the joys of sharing with a complete stranger! During our second conversation (we’ll call her Ann), Ann shared with me that she mentioned to her bass playing brother that I also played. His response: “I bet he sucks!”
Well, believe me, initially I couldn’t do anything but laugh. He never met me, doesn’t know me and has never seen how bad I suck! So Ann and I shared another equally forced laugh. The comment rested in my mind for a while until days later, when the pride that sometimes makes an appearance in me; stood up and took exception to this guy’s very ill-tempered, misdirected pot-shot!
And then I thought about my own shitty attitude in the past and it led me here.
Believe me, there is so much negativity that closes in around us if we let it: that guy at work who is condescending, the PFA your ex-girlfriend has on you, the neighbor’s dog shit is in your backyard; the list could stretch across North America! What do we do about our attitudes towards other musicians though, and ultimately- ourselves? Playing a steady gig and going to other parts of the country allowed me to witness and experience other bands and musicians I might never had if I stayed in the basement or garage. Ivet, Eastcide, Jack Potential, Squatweiler, Halestorm- all made it out of the garage in their prospective towns!! Ok, that last band really “made it” out of their garage, but I remember once, after a show in some dislocated VFW, standing with a very teen aged and wide-eyed Lizzy Hale. She was eager to learn more about touring from a bunch of grizzled, jaded (and aging) rockers stretched to their capacity to give a shit! That attitude served her well.
That’s not to say that a garage band who plays one backyard BBQ is not qualified to judge or un-worthy of an opinion as, let’s say Radiohead (before they flew off to outer-space), or some other well-known entity. I assure you that a band like Radiohead spent a great deal of time honing their craft by listening to other musicians and being open to what they heard.
The way we view music and artists is exclusive to us and that is why most of us feel a certain way. That single-minded approach has its limitations though.
Musicians/bassists have access to every social media outlet: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and music specific sites like YouTube, BassMusicianMagazine.com(!), ReverbNation, Soundcloud, etc. It would be hard to not take in something new each day. Would you want to focus on one style or genre and snub everything else? Is there a purpose in flame-throwing every type of music but the kind you like?? Is every bass player beside you a joke, with some inherent flaw?? All that wasted energy…
The temptation lies in spending too much time being mediocre, not opening up to enough variety and not listening but JUDGING! When I was young there was cable TV and that was it! My friends and I bought cassettes. Crappy sounding, disposable cassette tapes! I didn’t even see my first real concert until I was 16 (Cinderella and Winger- don’t judge me!), and today I’m guessing every kid out there has seen a show at half that age. Hint: that ringing in your ears- it does not go away!! I spent so much time as a young player learning from fellow musicians; and not just bass players- mostly guitarists. There was no YouTube to reference! I had so many guitar playing friends that I finally bought a guitar as well. Still a ways to go on that, but when I was too naïve to care; my impartial mind was void of harsh judgment. All those inhibitions…
I know that it is part of our make-up, our human condition; to be self-righteous. I’m a parent now, so I’ve gotten pretty good at that! There’s no secret hidden message here or toy awaiting you at the bottom of the Fruit Loops box. If there was a ‘take-away’, it would be to lighten up! As a musician, I’m guilty of the same things and need a reminder as well. Think about it, we want what we want and like what we like and there’s no need to focus on musicians with crappy dispositions or negative situations. Don’t fall into the trap door! If it’s not your cup of tea- don’t drink! And don’t dump it all over everyone else’s head! Focus on the frosty goodness and liquid refreshment that makes you want more. Alternately, think about this:
- The average time a person spends on Facebook a week is 7 hours!
- The average time a person spends on the internet, in general, is 13+ hours per week!!
- Your attitude is rancid cheese. Dispose of it!
Time yourself next time you pick up your bass. Do it without distractions and see if you feel good about making your time worthwhile. Play for thirty minutes straight and you’ll see it in context. Your smartphone has a stopwatch- use it!
Don’t let me fool you. I have entered the large vacuum that is the internet, posted auspicious comments, and well, succumbed to other time drainers. I have picked up the local musician magazine and dismissed most of the bands, until I realized they’re playing out right now and I’m not. I’m here to release myself back into the wild, to free myself from the confines of my own self-righteous entrapment.
If you find you are caught up in some gnarly, chastising, holier than thou opinion of yourself, (you hear me- guy who thinks I suck??), and you have so much negative energy that it’s bursting at the seams; then do yourself a favor. Turn off the TV, unplug your computer, drop your tablet in the bath tub and pick up your bass, plug it in (make it loud, your ears are already ringing) and play something! The only way you’ll feel better about your talents is by focusing on YOU.