Monday, June 04, 2007

Sunday Morning, 2 a.m.

Some people get it. They understand that because of rock’n’roll music, the world can be a better place. And so they consume it compulsively, listening to it on the radio, shouting along to it in their cars when they think no one can hear, discussing it endlessly with their friends late into the night, falling asleep with its healing magic echoing in their headphones. And if they’re lucky, some people even get to play this music, get to be part of its history and traditions themselves.

It’s a compulsion for these people, they don’t do it for the money or the fame, but because they don’t know what else to do. And so they learn to play the guitar or the drums or the piano, they write songs and form a band and rehearse till 4 a.m. in their parents' garage. They all have jobs and lives but they make time because they have to. And if they’re lucky they get booked to play shows and perform before a real live audience. Sometimes they even get paid for it.

Some bands are just passable; they borrow and steal from those who have gone before them and get away with it because mostly people are just there to drink and don’t really notice or care that much who’s up there on the stage. But there those that are good at this; they come up with their own sound, their own look and style and presence, and after a while people begin to notice. People come out to see them regularly, and they ask them if they have a record out. And they say no, not yet, and then they write some more songs and go into some cheap studio and do the best they can, and actually it’s not half bad at that.

And they’re not on a major label—they sell their CDs at the shows and on the Internet, and local papers that practically no one but other musicians and writers even reads give them good reviews, and they take heart from this and keep working hard and the bookings increase. And the same handfuls of people keep coming to see them. And they find out that not only are these people talented musicians, they are also warm and generous and funny. And they get to be friends.

And that is the best part of all, because these are the only people who really get you, who really understand your compulsion to be out every night listening to music, to get drunk and scream and shout along, to voraciously consume and then memorize everything you can find on your favorite artists, to purchase endless books and CDs until they spill over into every nook and cranny of your tiny apartment. They really get you, and you love their music and you can’t believe that they let you hang out with them, that they actually think of you as a friend. You can be yourself with them, you can say or do whatever you want and it doesn’t matter. And when you’re with them, you’re more alive somehow, every moment is electric. You feel you are at your best, that perhaps there really is a place for you in the world after all. You laugh until your stomach aches, you eat and smoke and drink and suddenly it’s 2 a.m. and the place is closing and how will you get through the week now without them? You wake up the next morning and wish you could have put it all in a bottle and taken it with you so you could open it up and enjoy some of it when life becomes too dull and painful and meaningless. You wish it would all last forever, but deep down you know that what makes these nights truly special is that they will, like everything else in life, eventually come to an end.

These people save your life again and again, and you do whatever you can to help them, but they are modest and self-effacing and really, you don't have that much power in this world; there is not much you can do but write the occasional essay and hope someone reads it, submit queries to magazines and pray the editors bite on them. Like them, you can learn to believe in yourself a little, to be persistent and hope it pays off. But in the end, all you can really do is say thank you.

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