29 Gigs in 21 Days

…and for “gig” I use a broad definition, which includes any time we took out our instruments, tuned them up, and performed for people. Some of these people were a dozen pre-schoolers splayed on a carpet. Some of the shows were fuller sets for 700 middle school students in a school gym. Some even involved professional lighting and sound in a bonafide performance space. One was in a living room. One was on a piece of stage once strode upon by Elvis. One was on my birthday. One was preceded by a gentle plea to turn off the game on TV. One was taped for radio.

Some, namely the concerts for kids, were just 4 or 5 songs interspersed with questions — “Where do you get the ideas for your songs?” “Why do you make that face when you play?” or my personal favorites “Why don’t you like your children?” and, in a one-on-one exchange as we packed up “Are you pregnant?” (blame that one on the brewpubs we frequented that week) — or a copycat contagion of commentary favored by 5 year olds “my brother has a guitar but it broke”… “we have drums but they broke” … “my sister plays the violin but she broke it”… Most were fuller concerts where we (we being myself with my trusty trio-mates Jamie Fox and Stephan Crump) did our best to take the audience on a journey from personal to political, visceral to introspective, laughter to perhaps some tears.

Pretty much all of them were satisfying on one level or another. New friends were made and old friends hugged, many CDs were sold, inspiration was received and dispensed.

It was my longest trip away from young Maceo, 8 1/2, and Van, 4 1/2, who stayed back in Brooklyn with our beloved friend Nathan and their superhero Grandma. I thought about them and talked about them all the time, but the constant flow of new challenges (Set up a PA in 15 minutes! Sculpt a guest lecture for a Masters in Social Work honors seminar ! Strike a balance between reusing stage banter laugh lines and boring my bandmates!) took up any spare moments I might have spent missing them. Back in Brooklyn, we have settled back into our routine and shared stories, with their details of the visit to Legoland holding more interest than our relaying the fact that we had performed for 200 kids at 8 am.

So what’s my point? I’ve apologetically mentioned more than once that much of my creative energy goes toward tour planning at the expense of songwriting. In songwriting workshops I might point out that much good work on a song can be done in those stolen moments when one is walking to the subway, washing dishes, or watching kids on the playground. But for me when a tour is in the works, those same moments are stolen by thoughts of logistics rather than lyrics. Like looking for the right word for the 2nd verse, filling in an open Saturday on a midwestern route can offer great satisfaction and feel like a creative endeavor. But ultimately the tour is like a puzzle, attractive when all the pieces are put together, but soon to be disassembled into memory (and 5000 more miles of wear and tear on the minivan). I worked on this puzzle for a long long time — years, actually. It’s gone, and I am at a bit of a loss. What’s next? I need a break from all the plotting and selling. I need to clean my apartment. I need to hit the road to get the music out there and cover my tax bill. I need to make new songs and grow as an artist. I need to help my 3rd grader with his science project. I need to go to the park — it’s spring! A month ago I had a 3-week plan to follow, one largely of my own design and which contained no nagging questions, and the pieces fit snugly. Today is scattered puzzle pieces from mismatched puzzles, offering not a chance for neat completion but rather open-ended questions of where to start?

the world looks different today
more contrast — black and white
no longer shades of grey
no final verdict if I stay
or hang it up for good
too stubborn to let go
the reckoning I know
will have to wait another day

I’m not sure what the next master plan is.
In the meantime, I guess it’s time for a new tune. Yeah.

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