Hey gang, yeah, I’ve been slacking here like a boss. A lot of stuff going on, eating my mind and time. It’s about to get busier, with more things to share. As always, I appreciate you stopping by. I really mean that.
So, NAMM 2017… I spent four days there, gathering this and that, running myself into the ground, and ending up sick for a week and a half afterwards. It drained me pretty good, but when you’re surrounded by thousands of people, sick happens.
In the end, after thinking about the whole extended weekend, I wondered, what the hell should I tell you about? Products? Meetings with old friends? Connecting with new friends? Same ol’ shit, really. Boring, filler, nothing of any real consequence. You know from reading this blog for several years that I strive not to be commercial, and that I only rarely mention products.
That’s because I’m far more interested in people. Real people, humble ones, those with integrity, often the lower key folks who run under the radar and just get shit done. Soooo… that’s what I’m gonna tell you about NAMM 2017. Two groups of people. I learned valuable lessons from both, and hopefully, you’ll benefit as well.
A Bartender Named Bobby
It’s Friday night, and I’m hanging with friends I only see once a year. We’re in the lobby of one of the big hotels, listening to live music and wanting to get our drink on. I saunter up to the bar and order a couple of shots, and the bartender looks at me like I’m a Mormon in a whorehouse. Very confused, he was. The glaze in his eyes was strange, even by my definition of strange.
No affect, emotion, juts kinda zoned out. I say, “Yes, I’d like a shot of head-whomping tequila, something to make it pound.” No smile, nothing. He pours a pathetic version of a shot, really more like half of one, in a tiny plastic cup. Just bending over like a wounded robot.
So I pay for my overpriced, under-poured drink, and off we go. I down it quickly, and we go to another bar around the corner, where a bartender with a sense of humor proceeds to fill the shots like shots were meant to be filled. “Now that’s how you do it, young lady!” I exclaimed, sharing my gripe and angst about the shortcomings around the corner. “Yeah, he’s kinda weird,” she replied, with nothing else offered. My friends and I agreed, and off we went into the loud night, buzz in hand and soon down the gullet.
The next night, Saturday, we go back to the same lobby, and I order more drinks for myself while my friends reloaded nearby. As the bartender in pouring, I say to him, “Your man Bobby doesn’t know how to pour a proper shot. Glad to see you do.”
The bartender stops and looks up at me, and says, “Take it easy on him. Bobby’s got Parkinson’s, he’s not gonna be around much longer…”
And right there, the music in my world stopped.
It felt like a freight train going full steam coming to a screeching halt, and everyone hopped off, leaving me to my stupid self, sitting in coach.
The bartender handed me the receipt, and I tripled the tip.
“This much is for you. The rest is for Bobby. Don’t tell him who or why. I’m an idiot. Let’s leave it at that, okay?”
The bartender nodded, I took my drink, and my friends and I left.
You truly never known someone’s story. The are silent struggles everywhere. I hadn’t put my foot that far into my mouth in so long I’d forgotten what the rubber on my sneakers tasted like, but I got quick reminder. The universe speaks in strange ways. It’s always talking to you, sometimes through you. Sometimes through others. It’s the real music we should be listening to.
Streetlight Cadence and their mid-day Serenade
Sunday morning, it’s pouring. Stops and starts, but it was a wet one by day’s end. I checked out of my motel and parked over at the Disney lot and hoofed it about a quarter mile to the NAMM entrance. On the way in, you pass a huge soundstage where people are playing all day.
As I walk by, I see four musicians on the large stage, getting ready to play to about seven or so people. The diehards, standing there with umbrellas, taking in every note, transfixed by the young performers. I kept walking, thinking, “Who the hell plays in the rain to virtually no one?”
And then I hear them, and I stop. Turned around, looked at four guys with no drummer, singing harmonies that painted rainbows across a grey stage and sky. I mean, it was instantaneous. Some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard in a long time, a simple love song.
The small audience remained front and center, taking in every note. They applauded strongly when the song was done and looked forward to the next one. I walked a little more, and then turned around again, this time watching the group on the larger monitor located at the back end of the audience.
Another stunning tune, performed to perfection on an imperfect day with a smattering of listeners. It didn’t matter. The musicians embodied what music was about, what it should be about, what it must be about. The performance. The moment. The presence.
Google Streetlight Cadence.
And that was part two of the universe having its say.
I’m guessing the third part would be me writing this blog and sharing the moments with you. I’ve always felt that being a writer was more like being a vessel for something larger, kind of a scribbling pack mule transporting thoughts from nether regions to the light of day. So for now, that’s what I’m going with.
Give more than you want to get. Consider the unknown stories, and play to the falling rain, like every note is the only note. Sure, music is a business and you do have to hustle to get your meaningful message out, but hustle with heart. Strike that balance, and the road will unfold in some very interesting ways.
And don’t forget to feel your feet as you walk, because remembering to play from the ground up is everything.