Thursday, February 2, 2012
Thursday, June 9, 2011
And because RUSH plays with such expansive courage and sophisticated precision, the band accomplishes what few artists -- and that includes artists of pretty much any genre -- can do these days: Make you think.
Perhaps that’s why the
But RUSH made you think. At least, made ME think. During the show, I thought more than once about art, the process and creation of art, the dedication and (HATE this word at it applies to art, but it seems certainly to apply to RUSH) discipline of art.
It was as if, watching Alex Lifeson coax, manhandle and otherwise reshape his guitar(s) to make it do what he wanted to do and to watch Neil Peart do things on that massive drum kit what so few drummers can do . . . I thought, naturally, about writing. And about how art’s made.
To digress: Nearly every time I meet one of the writers I worship, who happens to live in my neighborhood and was the youngest winner of a major international literary prize, she asks: “So. What are you reading?” I have an answer. (I love to read. Just finished THE THREE MUSKETEERS, but be sure to get Lowell Bair’s translation. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve read in years.) But a few years ago, I was talking with a friend who fancied himself The Writer. I asked him: “So. What are you reading?” “Me?” he responded, as if thrown a trick question. “I’m not much of a reader.”
Among the zillions of frustrations I have in my day job, which is buying the talent for our live-music venue, are the bands. Which is kind of akin to a grocery store manager saying he gets annoyed at . . . all those groceries. But here’s the point, really: We get somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 requests (let’s call them “queries”) from bands, artists, musicians, agents/agencies, to perform on our stage at The Handlebar. Each year, we have to fill around 400 or so slots. That’s 150 shows a year times three or four bands per show, including the headliner and opening bands.
Here’s what often happens: We’ll post a show on our Website, a big show, a brand-name artist who likely will a bunch of tickets. Sometimes within minutes, we’ll get several requests from area bands and some even farther afield asking if they can open for that band. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but here’s where the irksomeness comes in.
If we were to get as much interest from fans to see the show as quickly and as hopefully as some of these bands want to open for these shows, we’d sell out more frequently and more quickly -- and make more money to afford to develop younger and, let’s face it, less talented bands who are seeking broader exposure.
But then things get muddy. Oftentimes, a big, national, brand-name touring band will bring its own “support,” bringing along with them their own opening bands. The reasons for this are so numerous, mystical, weird and political that it may require another blog . . . or maybe not.
The bottom line thus becomes: Okay, local/regional band guys, you didn’t get the opening slot for Such-and-Such Big-Name Band, but . . .
You also didn’t come to the show.
More often than not, when I walk into a half-filled or even packed-out show in my venue, I don’t see a lot of musicians or would-be musicians. The excuses I’m given -- on the rare occasions I care to ask -- include: We had practice, man. I was gonna, but I don’t have the cash. I had to babysit my stepsister’s little half-brother because . . . We had a gig at the Barbed Wire Grille.
Okay. Sure. I get it. My writer friend’s not much of a reader, either.
And that’s the point. To bring RUSH and their prowess, passion, dedication and--let’s just say it, perfection--back to the business of art, more specifically writing: Watching Neil, Alex and Geddy perform was, for me, something like being able to sit inside Jonathan Franzen’s or Jennifer Egan’s brain and watching them work for a couple of hours.
If I could be one of Isaac Asimov’s characters from “Fantastic Voyage” (the guy who got to pluck the bacteria off Sophia Loren’s chest, for instance . . . uh, sorry), I would inject myself into their heads and see how it is, exactly, they are capable of the pyrotechnics that make them so . . . fucking good.
If I were a musician (and I can barely play the radio), I would RUSH (again, sorry) to plunk down more than the price of a book (especially one on Kindle or used or . . .) and do anything I could to see a band of such powerful mastery perform.
Which leads to the second point. As I was walking back to The Handlebar from the
So today comes a story on MSNBC: http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/06/08/6813381-watching-jon-stewart-might-make-you-more-creative The gist of the piece is that a performer/artist as brilliant as Jon Stewart makes you THINK, which, then, makes you more creative. So, while the government shreds arts funding and chops away at education, including and especially targeting arts education, we’re left with some hefty personal decisions.
Open the book and read. Get out of the garage where you practice. Witness the work of an artist who/that will make you THINK, expand your worldview, your vision, recalibrate your sense of who you are and what you have to contribute to the world, regardless of how much it costs in time or treasure.
Then, in the sweet, spare space, get into it and get good at it.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Monday, November 23, 2009
Okay, never mind that I was the instructor. The students were dedicated, engaged, involved, interested and talented, the owners caring and nurturing and determined to ensure everyone's happiness - artistically and gastronomically. To sit in overstuffed living-room chairs or to pace on a hardwood floor splashed with light from ample windows, all around a hand-built rock fireplace in a cabin of rich history and modern convenience ... and to share WRITING ... is just this side of paradise.
The series draws top-flight writers in an intmate, safe (all levels of litarary artists attend) and art-drenched setting, where art and emotion run free. How much more energized can one get?
All workshops begin at 10 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. on Saturdays, with two hour-and-a-half sessions sandwiching a lunch that, alone, is worth the price of admission. To anyone anywhere near North Carolina (or not), DO NOT miss this most extraordinary of opportunities. Here's a handy .pdf link for registration. Space is limited (often; the room is intimate!), so join early. And often.
Monday, October 26, 2009
This isn't what I'd usually read, and Im not sure if I'd have picked it up if I didnt win it from Goodreads, but I ended up quite liking it :) It took me ages to read this, but not because it was bad - I just havent had time, which sucks because I really loved the characters.
The description is so rich and the characters are so strong, and you really get a sense of their personality and quirks. I initially thought this was just going to be a book about a Southern family coming to terms with loss, and that there'd be a lot of mysteries and sinister stuff in the Plunder Room, but it was a lot different than I expected.
It is about family and legacy, but it's much deeper, darker and more complex than that. Each character has their own struggles, and some characters have more than a few skeletons in the closet. It's about family dynamics, and how you can be related to someone yet know so little about them. And of course, it shows how honour is so unimportant to people these days, as all the characters in the book are continually compared to the late and great Edward Randol Duncan.
Without spoiling it, there's a really sinister subplot involving Annie Harkin, and although I kinda guessed what she might have been up to, I didn't want to believe it : it's interesting, because while she seems initially innocent and gorgeous, she turns out to be quite despicable - while Jupe and Jerod seem seedy from the outset, but their story was not as worrying as I initially thought, and they redeemed themselves in the end.
It's really nice to see the whole family come together in the end, and this book is just a really great character study. There's no sugarcoating it - at times these family members hate each other, and they don't hold back in showing it, but injuries, loss and shady dealings bring them all back together in the end, and they sort of learn to love each other without it being at all cheesy.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
TIME MAGAZINE: Check out TIME magazine online. I'm quoted, along with a mention of THE PLUNDER ROOM, weighing in on Gov. Sanford's affair.
BOOK CLUBS: They've all been way much fun. Most recently, a Book Club spent TWO hours with me at The Handlebar dissecting THE PLUNDER ROOM and its multiple layers and archetypes. Great entertainment, all FREE (except for the meals and beverages, of course) ... Call The Handlebar at 864 233 6173 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your Book Club!
NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN devotes nearly a full page. Peter happens to be the Music City's music critic - that alone makes him world class - AND he's one HELL of a great songwriter himself AND he writes beautiful prose. PLUS! Peter and I shared the pages of MAKING NOTES: MUSIC OF THE CAROLINAS. His new CD with Eric Brace, "You Don't Have To Like Them Both," is enchanting, filled with listenable gems, a critical darling and acclaimed all over the national press.
MAKING NOTES: If you haven't picked up your copy of the nonfiction collection of essays, MAKING NOTES: MUSIC OF THE CAROLINAS, the book is a Must-Shelf. Edited by the sublimely talented and generous Ann Wicker and published by Novello in Charlotte, NC, the handsome paperback tells you everything you need to know to stay in tune with . . . the music of the Carolinas.
MINDY FRIDDLE FANS. Her new release, SECRET KEEPERS, is out, and it's better than Publishers Weekly says it is. From the first get-you-chuckling line to the story that wraps you into the world of her widow, Mindy knows not only how to involve you in her people, but she knows how to involve you in the full range of human emotion and the human condition, as well. Her blog's a blast, too.
COOL New Website: Despina Yeargin, longtime Handlebar fan and fellow writer, has a magnificent new Website, filled with inspiration and a fabulous new publication model for stories and poetry. PLEASE check out her Alpha Publishing & Communications. Born in Greece, Despina is one of those women who delights and enchants, enthralls and inspires. One stop at her Website, and you'll get the picture.
Random thoughts: Coming up! July 24 marks the 25th anniversary of my kidney transplant. My brother, Stephen, gave me this quarter of a century of life. Without him, no Handlebar, no PLUNDER ROOM, no Whole Lot of Things; he's the Clarence to my George Bailey - it's a wonderful life. And ... my love to Kathy, always.