Monday, May 11, 2015


The mind of the musician being analogous to alcoholics, compulsive gamblers, and drug addicts is almost too obvious. Except alcoholics, compulsive gamblers, and drug addicts have those meetings you find in church basements across America with coffee and donuts holes, and people with names like Bob or Janice anonymously laying bare everything their addiction cost them and their loved ones. Supposedly it makes them feel better. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never heard of an organized support group for musicians, which isn’t surprising considering how pathetic we are at giving a shit about anything that goes on in church basements unless there’s a crap-ton of instruments ready and waiting with the end game being to make as much noise as possible until the pastor comes and throws you out.

Try to imagine a passion burning inside you that takes priority over everything else in your life. You wonder what it’s like to function in the real world so you walk the fine line between your artists’ soul and holding down yet another pointless and irrelevant day job. Like most musicians your passion doesn’t pay the bills, so you try to conform only to discover most everyone you come in contact with can't possibly understand what’s really going on inside you. Relationships at home are strained, especially of the intimate variety. At some point, after years of inner turmoil, you long for a little normalcy in your world, so you push your musical fantasies aside and try to walk away, put on a tie and blend in. That's when you learn the foolishness of turning your back on the one thing you love. The musician gene is tenacious. At some point an opportunity invariably comes along and you think, “What harm could there be in playing a one-night stand?”

Next thing you know you’re back in the throes of it all. Having spent all your hard-earned money buying back the equipment you pawned, you’re left shivering in the cold, wandering the streets in search of an open-mic night, or a jam session with some heroin addicted hair band making god-awful noise in a musty industrial park storage unit. You use the Penny Saver like hopeless singles use, looking for like minds to bring affirmation to your addiction. It’s a grim scenario, but when you’re fondest memories are those acquired from countless nights huddled outside the back door of some shithole-in-the-wall nightclub, chain smoking Marlboros in between shots of Jack and snorts of baby powder, reveling in those final anxiety-ridden moments before you climb on stage and bust out your chops to a room full of half-coherent drunks. The adrenaline rush from the smell of bleach and cheap booze, from losing yourself in a performance, from mind-melding with your on-stage brethren, from the gluttonous feeding frenzy off the energy buffet in a room jammed wall to wall with writhing flesh; it’s as hard to explain as it is to forget. Certainly your audience can never fully comprehend why you’ve slit a vein and spilt your blood simply for their amusement. “Give me two liters plasma, stat. They want an encore.” You can’t buy this euphoria from an Indiana trailer park meth lab, that blow to the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, that je ne sais quoi, that right there is worth all the doubt, the debt, the depression, and busted relationships that litter your broken past. That right there is living.

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