On band-aids

When I first saw that movie Almost Famous, I hadn't heard that term "band-aid" applied to a person. So I assumed it was just a thing made up for that film. And somewhere along the line I also figured it was a pejorative of some kind. Neither was correct.

Band-Aids are a band's best friend. Sometimes they're the only ones to show up to a gig where you're otherwise just kind of playing to an audience composed of the other bands on the bill. They buy drinks, they keep overly rowdy folks away, and, on more than one occasion so far, have saved me from some much unwanted attention.

It's appreciation for you guys that drives this post. Because I've come to realize that band-aids are truly the guardians of the musicians. The role of a musician is emotion. Emotions are our mental motivations and the best musicians are not necessarily the most accomplished singers or most technical guitarists. The best musicians are those that can convey the emotion they're trying to at the time (and on the timing) that they mean to. I mean, it sounds pretty simple laid out like that. And I guess, even in practice it's not exactly complicated to think of. But the doing of it. The doing it is to expose vulnerability. Before a musician can lead an audience emotionally, the musician must be there already. Over time, and with practice, the musician gets better about doing both (leading emotionally and projecting oneself emotionally), and the currency to do both is the musician's stability and sense of self.

The emotional roller coaster is a very vulnerable experience. The musician just can't remain entirely under his or her own control during a performance or the performance is tantamount to "just another rehearsal," only with an audience. And the audience can tell, of course, because they aren't being led anywhere emotionally. They might dig the song, feel the vibe, all that. But if they haven't journeyed anywhere, the fault is entirely with the musician, never with the listener.

So. To be an effective musician (and why would you want to be anything else?), you really have to let go of a lot of your own self-preservation holdups. Not only can you "not be afraid" to touch that nerve, to open that vein, or any other phrase that really means the same thing: you must be eager and willing to hurt yourself. Much worse, you've got to be vulnerable to attack from others. If the song calls for childlike innocence and joy, exuberance, you can't hack it by emoting cool and aloof. I mean, you'll sing the song and you'll certainly come across cool and aloof, but that's not where that song was supposed to take people. It's not about the musician whatsoever. You have to be able to, and honestly enjoy, the wantonness of complete shamelessness. Skip across the stage, blow kisses at people. If you're not having fun, honest fun, there's no chance of leading your listeners to a place where you yourself are not. Love songs have to feel like love. And as I'm so fond of saying, you can't "feel" a falsehood. Truth is beauty because it's symmetrical, real. It can be lived and experienced and felt. Falsehood never can.

The sadder songs, fittingly enough, pose the greatest threat to the musician. This makes total sense. Low is a hard place to come up from, and it takes a great degree of self-control to flirt with the periphery of the emotional black hole, to not let the audience fall into it either, while yourself trying to explain the beauty of even despair, via the music. And the conduit is the musician. The reward is worth the greater risk, of course. Music is emotional validation, and we all have pain and broken pieces. We feel vindicated, understood, and complete when we can hear similar pain, we can feel that that musician has this bit broken off over here just like me, that they're struggling too. This validation is the most precious in the sadder songs, and it's why I say we have to be eager and willing to hurt ourselves to get there, because that's the only reason we do it at all.

Haha! You can perhaps tell that musicians are not the easiest folks to be around all the time. It's a job requirement that we must be emotion-led. We make ourselves unstable and easily bothered, and we don't always mind our manners as well as we could.

This is where the band-aids flourish. I don't even remember how I met most of our closest friends; it seems like they've always been there looking out for me. You guys remind us to eat, you make sure I've got a place to run and hide if I need it, and, most importantly, you learn our emotional signatures - what I mean is you know if we're getting out of control sometimes before we do. I don't recall the date or the show, but I vividly recall one of our band-aids kind of pulling me out from a crowd and letting me graciously make an exit, just seconds after I felt that first tick of "too much, overstimulated, gotta get away." I mean, I had just realized it myself and she was right there to pull me away with some bogus excuse and let me run back to the green room.

And I don't mean to say that I don't like interacting with folks or anything like that. Like anyone, I'm a social creature and we all love the same music, and we all dig each other. But like any introvert, I just don't have the social stamina that I should, and in those times of weakness I have to get away and just be alone for a bit. It's a failing of mine, yes, but I'm okay with it. It's those quieter moments that give me time and space to appreciate the wonder around me. Like the band-aids! Like all of our friends that come out to the shows, even if I can't always be myself enough to hang out and chat right then.

The craft that we love so much, the music, demands all. The musician chooses each time how much of themselves to spend on the music. I guess I'm just a romantic old sucker, but my choice each time is "all of it, take all I have." The band-aids are the ones with a keen eye on the stability and emotional vital signs of the musician. They're the guiding light when we fail to have the self-control we should. If the musicians are the keepers of the music, the divinity, then the band-aids are the keepers of the musicians.

Below are some friends and loved ones.


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