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Progressive Travels

The haphazard chronicles of a professional musician and his relentless pursuit of an otherwise boring life.

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Location: St. Jacob, Illinois, United States

If it ain't Baroque, fix it!

15 March 2009

Musical Snobbery

BenWahBob has been fairly busy of late. We normally schedule gigs about every other weekend, as none of us really want to make it a full-time job. So far, though, the beginning of this year has been a bit heavier than normal, playing three weekends in a row recently.

That’s not really a big deal. In the past, I have been used to playing sometimes as much as 4 or 5 gigs in a week. It’s just a little unusual for this band. Add to that the several other start-up projects I have been involved in, and my time has been quite tightly regulated. It was with no small amount of relief that I found myself with some time to work on my pipe organ yesterday. I really need to get that thing finished, both so I can play it and so I can move on to other things.

Here’s a short synopsis of the three most recent gigs:

21 February 2009
All Stars Sports Bar in St. Peters, MO is a place I played several years ago before quitting BWB. The stage was a bit bigger than I remembered, probably due to the fact that we now have one less person up there. The gig went fairly smooth, in spite of the drunken idiots who couldn’t – or wouldn’t – stay out of the way while we were loading in equipment. There was one guy who kept ogling Carlos’ wife much of the night. Carlos made it perfectly clear to him that she was taken. I guess he later threw a fit when he realized he couldn’t have her, and got himself banned from the establishment, fortunately with no bloodshed involved.

28 February 2009
BWB went back to 21 Rock in Arnold, MO for what we all pretty much deem a paid rehearsal, as the turnout at this club is usually staggeringly low. On this night, though, we had a fairly decent crowd. All of the BenWahBabes were in attendance, including a rare appearance by The Lovely and Gracious Dawna. This gig was actually kind of fun. We whipped out some new (old) stuff, and almost played it right. Chuck Mann and some of his buddies came out for awhile, probably to promote their gig there the following weekend with the band Capone. There was one girl there who blew my mind. She looked young, and was very attractive with long, blonde hair and a nice body. Then, she smiled. She looked like a hockey player from the old Federal League, as she was missing most of her front teeth. Wow! Gotta love Jefferson County, Missouri. There was a chick fight at the end of the third set, complete with hair pulling and clothes ripping. Dawna (who was not involved) took that as her queue to leave, and she did just before the police arrived.

07 March 2009
Motley’s Pub in O’Fallon, MO has become a new staple for the BWB schedule. Jessica Motley runs a good bar, and is building a good reputation as a music venue. They even improved the electrical situation on the stage since the last time we were there. The BenWahBabes were out in force again this night, and they brought some of their drinking buddies. It was a pretty good party, with no real drama to speak of beyond the really drunk guy who was making most of the women uncomfortable until his wife drug him out of there. Jess gave us a hard time at load-out, citing the fact that it was nearly 04:00 already and she wanted to go home. She then giggled and noted that that included the change to Daylight Savings time, but only after she enjoyed the stunned looks of disbelief on our faces. I like her.

I didn’t want to take too much space recounting the details of events that you should have attended in the first place, because I wanted to address an issue that seems to be presenting itself more and more often of late: allegations of Musical Snobbery. This has been an issue that seems to have followed me for some time. I know why, but I refuse to accept the flawed premise. That’s why I’m going to address it head-on now.

What exactly is Musical Snobbery, you might ask? Well, as far as I can tell, it has absolutely nothing to do with me personally and everything to do with the misguided opinions of others. I prefer to listen to what I consider “good” music, and eschew what I consider “garbage.” Example: I like rock bands like Yes, Rush, Kansas, and Dream Theater, but have little use for bands like AC/DC, Poison, and Nirvana. Some people hear or read that about me and respond with something along the lines of “Oh...you listen to THOSE guys.” Ummm...yes, I do. I also listen to a lot of J.S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi, if that helps you to reinforce your opinion.

...which brings me to my next example: I can read music and I play about 10 different instruments, which seems to make me “one of THOSE guys.” I’ve never understood how the pursuit of music can tag someone as a snob, even amongst his peers...especially amongst his peers. I can remember as a youngster hearing about people who could play many different instruments and thinking, “Wow, how cool is that!” I found it to be a source of inspiration, not degradation.

This all came boiling up again in a conversation I had last week with a drummer friend of mine who frequently gets tagged as an a-hole and difficult to work with. I’ve worked with this guy on several occasions. I can see where he might rub some people the wrong way. When I told him this, he wanted to know what I meant, as he is always interested in working on his “character defects” (his words). That’s the part that set this blog in motion.

This fella – we’ll call him Eddie – is one of the most talented drummers with whom I have ever worked. He’s worked hard over the years to get to this point, and continues to work hard at getting even better. He has no lack of natural talent either, which doesn’t hurt. The problem for him, though, is twofold; he expects the best from other musicians around him, and he’s honest in his assessments of them. Many people don’t seem to care for this second part. Musicians have notoriously fragile egos, and when it is not being inflated, and is, in fact, being brought down to earth by an honest opinion, this can cause friction. Thus, he’s the a-hole for being honest enough to say what others are probably thinking, too.

I don’t understand how we’ve gotten to the point where honesty and accomplishment and striving to be the best you can be have come to be considered a “character defect.” How is it that my desire to be a better cellist makes me a snob, but a band who has written the same three-chord song over and over since 1974 is awesome? There truly is no accounting for taste, especially in music, and I completely understand that. There are some really talented musicians in this world who make some truly awful noise. You don’t have to like it. That’s one of the great beauties of art. But, don’t call them snobs just because they are doing something you don’t like or understand, or because they choose to continue their efforts to better themselves.

Rather, try to use it as inspiration. I did. I still do.

I think I’ll go do a little more work on that Bach cello piece.

2 Comments:

Blogger Deron said...

but, then there are musicians that play over the same three chords, like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins lets say, would you consider them in the same vein?

Maybe you've just lost your soul? Or sold it... LOL

08 May, 2009 21:31  
Blogger Deron said...

what's amusing, now that I think harder about it, is how I've gone the exact opposite direction. You know full well that I was, at a time, completely enamored with "progressive", shall we say, types of music. I studied at the highest levels available to me, and there was nothing I wouldn't attempt to learn and incorporate.

Yet, I grew tired of it, at times find it almost pretentious, and found a much deeper connection to the more soulful side of a melody. Less has become more. To each their own.

08 May, 2009 21:39  

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