How to Be a Punk Musician

Well, here we go again; the mad search for a musician to fill the rest of the dates of a show.

Oh, you thought I meant Punk Rock musician? No, I mean a punk, unemployable musician.

Here are the rules:

1. Tell everyone after two shows that you cannot be the bassist for the other four dates because you have another gig booked. You know, the one you booked AFTER you agreed to the dates of THIS show.

2. Keep arriving semi-promptly for rehearsals, but stop preparing on your own time so the band sounds BETTER each week.

3. Immediately upon your arrival for a demo recording session, be sure to ask which songs we are doing for the demo. This is a great way to get a big-eyed, slack-jawed look from the guitarist who heard your question. The same guitarist which leaps between you and the opposite-facing bandleader as if said guitarist can move faster than the speed of sound.

4. (I didn’t hear you, but if I did…)

5. Do not confirm your UNavailability at any point during a gig date discussion. This will require someone to question their memory days later when none of the other bandmates can confirm they heard your nonexistent confirmation. It just makes everything that much more fun.

6. Never reply to emails, texts, or phone messages either.

7. Leave town on the day of the second show for the (your instrument here) competition you entered weeks ago and kept secret until less than an hour before hit time.

8. ‘Hit Time’ is the time we are supposed to start playing; not the time you arrive to set up your 4,000 drums. Which is #8 – having 4,000 drums.

9. Lie about any reason you are canceling your participation in a gig. Unless you are selling your truck and ‘the guy is coming tonight to look at it’; then by all means, tell the truth.

10. Leave your book on the stand and your instrument in the pit every night; especially if you have missed all but one night of tech week. You are just that good.

Engaging in any one of these behaviors should get you fired as well as immediately ruin your reputation.

Assuming you had developed a good reputation previously, Punk.


Reading Gigs


Evidently, the Reading Guitarist Universe has heard my arrogance. I have three current projects requiring me to sight-play. One is a production of Footloose at my daughter’s high school. What is really neat to me, is that my daughter is in this production as an actress. This is the second production that has us working together in our respective arts.

The second project is with a community Jazz band. The tunes are reading grade 5 or 6. I have discovered that I have a lot of homework to do in reading Afro-Cuban rhythms. In most written music, there is a concept called ‘The Invisible Barline’. Rhythmic notation is usually split into two equal halves of a measure. A simple example is that there will be two beats in each half for a measure of four; a measue of six will split into three beats in each half. Other time signatures split as well, just not equally for the same reason that odd numbers do not split into two equal whole numbers.

I didn’t realize until last night how much I depended on this ‘Invisible Barline’ concept.

The director/conductor mentioned that one of the other players was more than a little frustrated with her performance. I suppose it is a good thing that the director/conductor’s consolation to her was: “Look, even Justin is having trouble with these rhythms.”

The third project is a Jazz band program at a local boarding school. The music in this group is decidedly easier, but since most of the students are good at reading, even these will have a surprise now and again.

It is nice to have a solid challenge; it is very nice to be needed/wanted in so many projects.

Yeah! What Pete Townshend Said!

I am reading the Pete Townshend autobiography: Who I Am.

In it, he describes a short story called ‘The Limousine’; the subject of which…”is a dark murder story in which the evil man who owns the limo fills the airtight passenger compartment with tantalizing music combined with poisonous gas. Then he robs, rapes, murders and dumps his customers.

I told this tale to an initially rapt audience of about 200. Once I had them in the right frame of mind I go to my theme: when music, converted into digital data, could be compressed sufficiently to pass down a telephone line, music as we knew it would end. We would feel as though we were in control, but we would merely be helpless passengers. Composers and musician would feel they had a direct line to their customers, but they would also open doors to all kinds of mental an spiritual pollution…Vinyl discs, already endangered, would disappear, as would analog tape. The CD would be unnecessary. We would use computers, some as small as a watch to listen to music and share it, and we would be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of sounds we were exposed to.

Unable to distinguish good from bad, we would, in the matter of music – metaphorically speaking – be gassed, robbed raped and murdered. our luxurious, comfortable limousine was really a hearse. Perhaps I was being too dramatic. Maybe it was just (junk). But one thing I could see clearly: by the time I got to my punch line most of the audience had walked out.”

Evidently, the idea wasn’t as daft as those in the audience might have thought.