Monday, March 23, 2009

The Musicians Mind on a Murky Monday

"Life is short. Life is dull. Life is full of pain."

This is a quote from the most recent Woody Allen movie, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." It is also the theme of the movie, and, perhaps, a strong theme in life (at least my life, anyways).

One character in the film, Vicky, believes (and tries to convince herself) that she knows exactly what she wants out of life and has actually attained it, only to realize that it's not really what she wanted. You know, the successful fiance and, ultimately, husband, the house on Long Island, membership in the club (literally and figuratively), etc., etc.

The American dream, right? Only with Woody Allen's sensibilities (and dialogue.)

Her counterpart, Cristina, is quite the opposite. She doesn't know what she wants out of life. But she indeed knows what she doesn't want. She's tried various forms of "traditional stability", but it just doesn't suit her. So she tends to be more experimental and open to new adventures.

I've been thinking about this movie, that quote, really, and about my life and music and the music business. About the relationships I have and the track record I've accrued. I see both of these characters' perspectives in me.

I've done some of the best gigs in the world, all over the world, sharing the stage with the likes of B.B. King and Jerry Lee Lewis.

I've gotten to play with some of the best talent that's in the city of Chicago; guys with very high levels of musicianship, versatility, and professionalism.

Obviously, my current gig with Lonnie, a Chicago blues legend, is an opportunity that very few players are able to realize. He's one of the last of the older generation. The real bluesmen. So, as I've said in previous posts, "I'm a lucky mutha****."

I play with guys like that because I belong there. I've put in the time and paid the dues, as they say. I'm on that level. I'm very good and I know what I'm doing. This is not vanity. It's just a fact, simple as that.

I've seen a lot of the world.

I've also made some good bread most of the time.

"Life's been good to me so far," to quote Joe Walsh.

I've also done some of the worst gigs in the world with guys that, really, are just not very good (again, just a simple fact, not an indictment). Playing 4 sets from 11-5 in some dump in Schiller Park, stuffed in a far corner, for a chicken sandwich and the door (split 4 or 5 ways), changing in the bathroom, being extra careful not to step in the puddle of pee, and then paying for drinks at the end of the night.

Thanks a lot pal, you were great. See ya next time. Kiss my ass.

I'll probably do some of these type of gigs again at some point, too. Ugh.

Life is certainly short.

Chicago has made many changes for the worse in the last few years. The city (and state) has seemingly become a cesspool of corruption, nepotism, and nanny laws. The taxes for the city, county, and state are very high, as you know, giving back very little in return, and they are about to go up. Again. We've got red light cameras. We've sold our assets for quick cash (parking meters, skyway, Midway). It makes it tougher and tougher just to be here, let alone live here.

Life is dull.

Then there's the proposed "Promoters Ordinance" that's been hanging around in the city council. This could prove to be detrimental to live music in this town, as it would be the final nail in the coffin for what I like to call "the crackdown on fun". I thought the smoking ban was gonna kill the clubs, but alas... Bars and nightclubs won't have live acts anymore. They'll just stop. Or move it to the underground economy. The insurance and licensing would cost too much. It just won't be worth it to them. It's hard enough to make money on live music as it is.

The death knell.

So much for Chicago being a major player in the music industry. I guess the Olympics are more important.

Life is full of pain.

No matter what, though, life is never gonna be the days of wine and roses 24/7. There are always bumps in your road, whether it's your job, your girl, your family. Whatever.

I'll always need more gigs and a few more dollars. I'll always have to do my hustle. I'll always have to be diligent about it. To what end, though?

I still pay for my own health insurance, which only covers 80%. Still just a commodity.

Maybe it's time to think about expanding my horizons; branch out to another town where musicians might actually been seen as an asset and not a burden on the economy. See what I can do out there. After all, I have a unique set of skills that I've spent a lifetime working on and honing. New players would only enhance and improve what I do. Give it a freshness of sorts.

Besides, Robin would dig it, too.

So it goes...

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