Monday, May 07, 2007

Reentry with the Waffle Kings


One entry found for reentry.

Main Entry: re·en·try
Pronunciation: (")rE-'en-trE

Function: noun

4 : the action of reentering the earth's atmosphere after travel in space

I suppose it is time to enter back into the mainstream. It certainly feels like a difficult reentry into the atmosphere and gravity has already pulled me down. Still, this feels like a good time to share some thoughts with you.

(Who are the guys pictured? That's the California Guitar Trio with their sound man, Tyler. More on this. No, I did not take that picture.)

First, a huge thank you to all the lovely and kind support from friends. Every act of kindness and word has been taken to heart. I want you to know that.

I feel as though I have lived a lifetime this week. It's impossible through words to express the things that I have felt.

But sometime, you have to come back to the world, painful as it is. And I know I come back somehow richer, wiser and more open. My eyes open to compassion and beauty, real friends versus acquaintances, family politics and subtext, and the evils of all bureaucracies.

On Sunday, May 6th the California Guitar Trio came to play at the Cultural Center in Charleston. On a personal note, it was also the first Sunday that is now someone else's shift. Six to midnight. For nine years, that empty multi-million dollar building was mine. In the beginning, when I first could do the six hour shift all on my own, I nearly went nuts in the place. Recording in the studios, listening to many CDs, borrowing the uncatalogued CDs, and taking those that no one wanted. It was paradise for musician/fan like me. It's been a long road and I'll miss Sunday nights and being a part-timer. Why? Simplicity and no politics.

Check out their links about C-Town.

Even before I signed the Faustian deal ("not signed overnight" says a co-worker. How true.) of going full-time, I had had my eyes opened by observing those whose signatures were already well dry on Lucifer's document. I watched people stumble through minefields, watched them nearly explode from the pettiness, the underhandedness and the basic lies people tell through their facades. To quote from Hannibal: "People don't always tell you what they're thinking. They just see to it that you don't advance in life."

But I have digressed...

The CGT concert was fun, wonderful, and showed just exactly what world class players these three gentlemen are. The concert was more than a diversion, for me, I was taken away with the power of music. Getting lost in the music is the best medicine.

I "MC-ed". To define: walk on, greet, intro yourself, read a few quick bits. The odd thing was I didn't introduce the band, but the promoter-in this case the guy who put up the money to bring them to Charleston. Though I ran a thousand scenarios in my head, I resolved to follow my wife's advice and "not try to be funny." All audiences have their own vibe. This one was quiet-you could feel that as soon as you hit the stage. Better to be professional, reserved and save yourself embarrassment. Turns out it was a good plan. The crowd was small and very quiet. Good for listening though.

There was an after concert reception. My wife was tired and so, after we had a quick bite together, I headed by myself up the hill to the Residence Inn to take in my first ever "meet-and-greet". One thing I vowed: no autographs and no camera. My strategy was simple-talk to them as people first, not even as guitarists. Don't get in the way of the food, booze or other guests. In short, play it cool until it's your turn, Mr. MC DJ.

It felt weird to be called an MC, let alone be the DJ or local radio personality at such an event. You can imagine how many times musicians must be subjected to these social events-all part of the process.

First down (and first to leave) was Hideyo Moriya. A Japanese gentleman who, I was told beforehand, is the more reserved of the group. I waited my turn, politely waiting until other people had their chance to talk to him.

I introduced myself, interrupting the flow of veggies and dip. We chatted a bit about composers like Mozart, Stravinsky, etc. Evidently, he loads up string quartets from Shostakovitch and the like onto his iPod.

I mentioned his countryman, Sakamoto. And then the topic of Sylvian popped up. They had done a tour with Fripp-Sylvian. No tricks to teach this dude.

A brief mention of his guitar maker, Breedlove. I asked only one technical question about whether the electronics he used transposed the pitches in any way because I could have sworn that the lowest string, C, was a bit lower sounding than that. He thought about the answer, no doubt a language barrier in play, and told me that no transposing effects were used. He remarked that they chose electronic effects for musical purposes. An observation that was clear to any attentive listener. I didn't expect to bend his ear long. Good idea. Well done. One down, two to go.

What do we want from these artists who tour the world? What can we, the punters, ask these guys that they haven't been asked before? Probably nothing. Watching these guys made me think about my own musical career and how I probably stalled in the 80's when I set about to join a band. My ambition in music has never been fueled and I have often thought about how little I have accomplished as a musician. I have wondered, if I had just taken off with a guitar and suitcase to seek my fortune in a larger metropolitan area, what the course of my life would be right now.

Not to say I am unhappy, far from it. I enjoy the stability of married life and my spouse truly loves me. I am a lucky guy. Still, I realize that I have exhausted the resources (no offence intended to my dear musician friends and their talents) in this city and often labored way too long on projects (guitar ensemble) that outlived their usefulness, speaking purely selfishly. I have learned more out of school at this point than I did in, being so long and so old at this point.

What guitarist doesn't feel a bit of envy when you look over the accomplishments of this unlikely trio of guitarists? I am at a point where I can cheer on the accomplishments of others with goodwill and not feel any disappointment in my own abilities or accomplishments.

Then Paul Richards came down. He was first signing posters in the outer room. Paul was the gent I interviewed on the phone. I was anxious to talk to him, but gave him plenty of space, especially when he was chatting with an attractive young string player from Turkey.

Can't blame a guy for talking to fans, especially cute ones. I stayed politely away and waited my turn. I try to have manners-even when I'm dying to chat with musicians. The moment must be right.

Turns out I was wrong. Once I had Paul's attention, we were chawing away not about guitars, but about Kentucky Derby Day, which they had just seen the day before. I had read a short story by Hunter S. Thompson about the degree of drunken debauchery and related this. I took an instant liking to Paul Richards. Even on the phone, he was so easy to talk to. I think Paul is a genuinely friendly guy who seems genuinely interested in what other people are saying to him. All these guys are humble and down-to-earth.

Once the topic of bourbon was breached, then premium vodka and my favorite, rum, were the topics of the conversation. Two guitarists not even talking about music, but the finer points of expensive Russian Pear infused vodka. Paul, of course, consuming his with Tony Levin.

I told him about my friend, Craig, who brought it about 9 different rums, all varying in age. We were rum connoisseurs for a rather foggy evening/morning. He seemed amused.

Then after torturing Paul, I caught a word with Bert Lams. He's also very approachable and very down to earth. At one point, both he and Paul were asking me about my playing. I "held court." I was in seventh heaven.

Bert lives about five to six hours away from me and so I asked if he would give me a lesson if I arranged a trip. He said, "That's a long way to drive, but sure. Maybe we go out to dinner." A gentleman, for sure. Whether or not it happens, who knows?

Here's a rule of thumb for journalists, DJs and promoters: you ain't gonna be their friends and you aren't going to hang out with them. There is that illusion that you harbor, especially when the musicians are as open as these guys are.

Midnight came way too fast and it was time to say goodnight. Bert had politely said goodnight to all concerned. Paul was being summoned by the promoter, so it was time to make a quick exit. I told Paul what a pleasure it was to meet him. I even told him, "Come in sometime and I'll take you on the rum tour." It was a naive and stupid thing to say. These guys tour almost incessantly. I doubt they remember, though they are generous on their road diaries, the millions they meet-all wanting to befriend them.

We all have dreamed of the touring life; whether it be an air guitarist dancing before his bedroom mirror or a struggling musician playing for his friends at the local watering hole. We want to travel the world, hang out with our heroes, and play to appreciative audiences. Our ticket is luck, persistence and talent. The big T. The haunting T.

It was a reentry into the world, for a short while, with those wacky guys in Waffle House crowns. A glimpse into a life on the road. A glimpse into a life that most of us, even those who really love the instrument, will never know.

I drove home, happy, the night a bit chilly, still buzzing from talking to the people I had seen play just a few hours ago. To them, it's another gig.

To me, it lifted my spirits and took me out of my blackness.

Those guys: I wish them the best because they sure deserve everything they have.

Me? I'm a lucky guy. Someone is waiting at home that loves me. That's worth quite a lot.

Even to a Waffle King.


wthii said...

Great post. I am fascinate. Followed the links to CGT's blogs and whatnot. Bought CGT + 3 and Whitewater. Congrats!

Yer bigges fan.

The Film Geek said...

Wonderful post, man. From the heart!