The Mythos and Pathos of Rock Stardom: An Expose of the Indie Rock Underworld
Part 3 of 3
Being resourceful can mean "making sacrifices for your art." At this point, we have managed to put out two full length albums which were both recorded in our home studio. After we finished the second CD, we wanted to up the ante in terms of production and overall quality – we wanted to spend some time in a real studio. It just so happens that we have a friend that works at a well-respected studio in Time's Square that was willing to hook us up with some off-hour studio time to record a few songs.
Now "off-hour studio time" means whenever there is no one legit actually paying for the studio, he might be able to "squeeze" us in. This basically means that we can record and mix our songs between the hours of 10 PM and 8 AM on a select number of Sunday nights and all we have to pay for is the engineer ($35/hour). This is great, except that four of the five members in the band have day jobs which start at 9 AM, so after an exhaustive and loopy studio session, it's off to the corporate grind where the hallucinations set in. The other key cost that is incurred with such an arrangement is that the door guy gets a $50 bribe to make the studio invoice magically disappear. Rock and roll in the big city, baby.
One of the more rewarding perks of rocking NYC is the veritable plethora of canootniks and bizarros that may ostensibly become fans. Handing out flyers is most often when you will encounter the most people personally, so it's only natural that these moments bring some of the crazies out of the woodworks. I recently randomly handed some guy a flyer, not really paying attention to his appearance. After he stopped and turned to face me, I realized that he was carrying a large flashlight and was wearing a hat that read, "FBI." Mind you, it looked like he had been wearing the same set of clothes for two weeks, so the FBI affiliation seemed pretty bunk. He pointed to the flyer rather, um, pointedly and then pointed at me.
"Yes, GOD the band – we're playing a FREE show tonight over at The Sidewalk Café" I said, pointing to the venue across the street.
Just then, I observed that he had some plastic device inserted around a hole in the front of his throat. I wanted to see him press a button so I could hear that creepy robotic drone say something like, "Sounds like a lot of fun." He pointed again at the flyer and then at the venue across the street.
"Yeah – right there. It's a free show, you'll enjoy yourself." I said, suddenly weary of his potential of becoming a die-hard fan.
Later, midway through our set, a flashlight beam started flickering on and off the ceiling above our heads - it wasn't in any sort of time with the music. After the song ended, he came up to the stage and began to point at our drummer, Johnny. We all looked at each other nervously and then back at the pointing mute. He made a drumming gesture and then pointed back at the drummer. Johnny held up his sticks and the mute nodded his head in agreement.
"Oh, you want his sticks. Ahhhh, OK. Heh-heh-heh."
Sidewalk Security to the rescue!! Phew! Close shave!
Being called GOD the band doesn't always attract the most desired element of conversation with strangers either. Some get very angry: "Who the hell do you think you are?!" Defensive: "Why GOD? You are asking for trouble with that name!" or just psychotic. One of the latter stopped dead in his tracks after I'd handed him a flyer and he turned around to face me – "Do you know God? I mean, really know him?" he had blood on his hands and blood had been painted in the shape of a cross upon his forehead. Help. He talked at me fairly incoherently with a demented fervor as I continued handing out flyers and doing my best to pretend not to hear a word of what he was saying. Thank God, eventually, he left.
The most notable fan that we've attracted has been Joe, The Lifter. We met him on one sunny day in central park after he spotted Danny (the other singer in GOD) and myself standing over near a tree. "Are you guys going to perform?" he asked randomly. "Sure, we'll perform," we responded and then burst into some improvised hoo-ha with a kazoo and a jew's harp. Ta-Da! "Is it alright if I lift you?" he asked next. "Um… sure," Danny ventured. And wouldn't ya know it? Joe lowered his body, squeezed Danny around the waste and lifted him off the ground and carried him around for about 30 seconds before setting him down again. One by one, he lifted each of us there on that bright afternoon (with the notable exception of my girlfriend).
Naturally, The Lifter received a flyer for our next show, and, sure enough, he became a regular at our shows. It was cute at first: he'd show up and nervously stand off to the side while we'd play, holding a pen and compulsively clicking it while awaiting his chance to lift us up where we belonged. But it quickly wore thin and got more than a little disconcerting to have this middle-aged nebbish's thin arms tightly wrapped around your waste while he looked up at you and squeezed your pelvis against his chest with a salacious zeal. Yes, Joe is a perv, but what harm is he really doing? I mean, um, what harm is he really capable of? We would figure out a way to drop the subject and forget about him until he would show up at the next show. And it would get annoying once the show was finished to have Joe ramble himself onto the stage and want to lift us up. There were some in the group he liked in particular, like Danny, that he was always aiming to lift; fortunately, I wasn't as much a priority, but still…
I wrote a song about Joe called "The Lifter," and since premiering it, his attendance to our shows has dwindled. "Whatever happened to that crazy cat?" I'll call out while introducing the tune. No matter, he'll still show up when we least expect it and our simultaneous elation and dread will kick in upon his sight. "Ahhh, hey Joe, how's it going?" "Okay," he replies with no interest. Ten seconds later, I'm reaching for the stratosphere and hoping that Joe quickly tires so that my testicles can get a rest. What can you do? He's a nutcase for sure, but his contribution to the band has been so great, it's hard to deny his lifting rights after he's inspired both a good song and a lifetime of memories.
It is the Joes that can really inspire us to carry on. Hmmmm… well… maybe not exactly, but it's always nice to meet new and strange people wherever we may end up playing. But beyond the freaks and pervs that seek our attention, it feels fucking great to play a song before a crowd, something that you've written, and to have it applauded and cheered as though it were genuinely appreciated (at times, I think it is genuinely appreciated). These are the moments that define being a rock star for me - no matter the size of the crowd and scene, and these are the things that will keep me lunging forward in this rock and roll lifestyle. When you get cheered on by a group of strangers, or a crowd is calling for an encore because they want more of the feeling that you've given them, then being a rock star isn't that much of a stretch. Suddenly, saying, "I'm a rock star" doesn't seem so delusional.
Now if only that were true…
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