WE Will Be Our Own Gatekeepers
[from Kenny, late March, 2011] 10,00 feet up on American Airlines, headed to Nashville for the first Blue Sky Riders' live gig ever. April 2, 2011, at the Rutledge Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee.
I feel strangely giddy, excited-plus-nervous; a feeling I haven't felt in many a year. (My good friend Gay Hendricks calls fear, "excitement without the breath." And he's right. I can't remember the last time I took in a full breath.)
Perhaps THIS is why I started a band, to feel excited again, in the way I did when my first band, The Second Helping, opened for The Association at the Civic Auditorium, back when dinosaurs roamed Pasadena.
Well, that particular excitement didn't go all that well, 'cause I spent at least an hour backstage throwing up before I went on. Somewhere, in some box in my storage locker, I still have the picture someone took of our band after that performance: my long hair matted to my head, my shirt stuck to my body with sweat, my skin as pale as a blank page, ... but with a shit-eating grin on my face as if I'd just crested Mt. Kilimanjaro.
For me, there's never been anything like that.
Or how about the first time Loggins and Messina took the stage at the famous Troubador in Hollywood. (Was it 1972? Really?) That is to say, I took the stage! Jimmy was no dummy. He thought the best way to start the show was to send the kid out alone, "Go on out there and wow 'em with 'Danny's Song' and 'House at Pooh Corner.' I'll be right behind you." So I marched dutifully to the lions, humming my version of "Onward Christian Soldiers" to myself, blissfully unaware of the bare fangs glimmering just inches away in the darkness.
I mean really... Our first gig was as an opening act for Curtis Mayfield! ("You wanna be a junkie...why?") An unknown, very white, young, Mulholland Drive country-rock act opening for an R&B Icon! Oh yeah...THAT makes sense. Ya gotta laugh.
But I think we pulled it off because we didn't know enough to be afraid. Blind faith, personified. Can I get an "Amen!"
And so it goes...
Now-a-days the so-called music-biz experts tell me that the adult audience has grown apathetic about music, but that's not what I've seen lately. Every one I mention the band to is encouraging and enthusiastic. Even the flight attendants on the way south today, when I mention I'm on my way to Nashville to perform in a brand new band, are genuinely excited for me, saying things like "I love your music. I can't wait to hear what you're doing," and "When will your record come out? When will The Riders play in Chicago?" Which begs the question, "Do we ever outgrow the need for music that touches our hearts and souls?" I can't believe we do.
Music is one of the primary things we have in this world that makes the weight of existence a little lighter. We need a soundtrack. We just do.
That adults buy less music now is partly because we're not the kids we once were, and partly because the record industry simply abandoned us for the "easy kill," teenagers.
I've always said, "Rock n Roll is music of the kids, by the kids, for the kids." But what of music by and for, shall we say, "non-teenagers?" Does nothing noteworthy happen to us past the age of 35? Nothing really worthy of writing about, once the blush has left the rose? Once the backseat of the Chevy is once again, just another chair?
Or is the rose itself still worthy of a song? I believe it is. It has to be. It just requires more willingness to observe, to feel, to chronicle. Who will write our soundtrack? And how will we find it?
Taking the "power away from the gatekeepers" means we must now make a partnership with each other, an agreement to be our own "record company," to use the social networks we've inherited from our children to find each other again. It's essentially the same thing we did with "jungle drums" not so long ago, in our own teens, but now, when we click on "I Like," everyone of our friends is instantly informed of what just might be something they need too, something that's telling all our story. Something we need to express of our joy or ease a friend's pain. And it's probably music.
Music in the morning is a much better way to start the day than the sad, too often terrifying noise of the news or endless advertisements.
Music at dinner. Music at a party. Music at the end of the day to simply calm my heart.
As I see it today, moving one more day towards making my dream of Blue Sky Riders a reality, this is not only an opportunity to reinvent myself, my music -- but also an even farther reaching way to reinvent HOW we reach each other.
We are the record company. We are the publicist. We are the media. This is the moment.
Posted by John Smith in Blog