Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Velvet Papers, Pt. 13

"I'm on the outside, looking inside
What do I see?
Much confusion
All around me."

"Been there, done that
Been there don't wanna go back"

After I was finally weeded out, that is to say I was gently never called back to play in the last band, freedom was mine. I just didn't want out of bands, rather a compete break from all band/bar musical activity was what the doctor ordered.

I even begrudgingly did weddings-those gigs with lucrative paychecks. I hated them. What I loved was hours spent composing music in perfect quiet and isolation. Quiet wasn't always possible unless I went to UC and holed up in a practice room.  For most of those years, the church and the UC guitar ensemble got my full attention. Composition was my passion. It felt like a sacred calling.
Of course, I kept an eye on the newspaper and read what bands were playing. I knew who was out and playing. Though part of me wanted to be in the game, the memory of the hassle was enough to keep me far, far away.

Evidently, my guitar playing replacement in the last band (not Velvets, to be clear) was not, shall we say, as open-minded or as willing to learn from someone who was clearly the bandleader. The hot seat I left was at times too hot and tensions were high at rehearsal. The guitarist quit. I savored this story like a fine vintage. Oh yeah. You mean all the subtext that I thought was going on was in fact going on? All the implications were a huge massage to my ego, but that didn't make me want to get back out there.
I relished my weekends free of noise, arguments, power struggles, the constant raising of volume, lugging equipment and all the unpleasant elements that outsiders never see about groups. A cup of coffee, a Mac, manuscript paper, pencils and a guitar: these were the elements of bliss.

Coming Out of Exile

"Count" Weg, Nelson and the curmudgeon stand on the same stage again.
Being horrible at remembering dates, I am going to guess that this exile lasted about 15 years ('94 to 2009), give or take. Gigs were played, the guitar ensemble did public performances as well as the Dynamic Duo (flute and guitar), I just stayed out the freelance scene. It took my upcoming 50th birthday to move me out of inertia and finally realize that enough time had passed and all wounds had healed.

More importantly, Craig and I had begun a dialogue, which was awkward at first, but then we both realized that perhaps this shit was all not worth getting excited about. He had been a steady father of three children and a good husband. Both of our lives were filled with responsibility and steadiness, it was time to forgive and forget. Greg and I got back in contact. The ground was set.

Walk the Mine Field Again

I have to admit that the first time I stepped into Live Mix Studios. it felt really weird. A lot of uncomfortable feelings came back. The place had all the familiar hardware of a drum kit, cables strung everywhere, and instruments galore. Though this usually excites me because of the musical possibilities, a queasiness was in my guts. It's one thing to declare that the past is the past, quite another to embrace it completely.

Disagreements? What disagreements?
 Three Velvets met to discuss a setlist. We scribbled some tune titles from the ancient past on a legal pad, but in true Velvet form, we worked more on finishing Al's Pusser's Rum bottle than any real planning. And finish it we did. God love us. It's hard to get uptight when the world's smoothest nectar is flowing free to all at the table.

While I had forgiveness and goodwill in my heart, I was hoping that I did not meet any stone walls after all these years, but it seems that everyone thought that getting together for the old man's 5-0 was cool. All of the band made it (save the difficult one) and atmosphere was highly energized and positive.

Once we actually got playing underway, it felt good. We had a blast and I knew why we still had affection for each other all these years. The music we made together and the experiences making it created a solid bond that remains some 16 or 17 years after the fact. I cannot speak for each and every member, but for me, there is an unbreakable bond, despite any petty differences. We ain't all in love with each other, but there is a mutual respect that remains today. You can't go through all that and not have it leave a permanent impression.
In a sense, the Velvets just scattered and fragmented into other groups. That may seem like a self-centered way of seeing your fellow musicians, but I played a gig last night and it was four V's plus one. Here we are, still playing, even though the instrumentation is somewhat different, it's four out of the original nine.

I didn't hear the comments, but evidently some favorable comments about the old band were shared. While that pleases me beyond measure, I am not interested in merely recreating the past. That would be a huge mistake. The V moniker remains, but does not limit our exploring and exploring we will go.

Last night, after two gigs, I shared a pint with Veeb Dave. It was a pleasure to sit and chat in person instead of emailing. "What I like about this band is that I'm not sure where we're going next." Hell yeah. As long as it's creative, vibrant and keeps me on my toes, count me in.

Just give me two measures before we start.


Karan said...

I love this. Will there be more Velvet Papers, then?

eclectic guy said...


And here I thought I was just blathering on about the past. Thank you.

IF the question is "Will the Velvets continue to play on?"

The answer to that question is yes. We have begun the process in The Velvet Nomads. Where we are going: none of us can guess.

The original band would be very hard if not impossible to recreate. Unless we sipped top shelf rum as we played. Then the old band might shine.