Recently I did a weekend house concert-type gig with an independent, somewhat well-known regional artist. House concerts are fun because the crowds are more intimate and there's usually a nice spread of fine food and libation and the band are the "guests of honor". And because of the smaller venues, well.. .They're smaller venues! And being able to play congruent to that situation is a skill that is carefully developed over time. Playing in the "tiny space" is a completely different discipline and we'll talk about that in another story. The reason I even mentioned it is because it pertains to the following situation.

The Setup...

We arrived at the gig early and got all set up and the hosts quickly began to ply us with lunch and wine and we all had a glass. Some had more than one though and when we went on stage it was somewhat apparent that "elements of the band" were in their own time zone and the music, while it was played at a listenable volume, had a bit of a rollicking feel; the songs were being pushed slightly due to the "artificial happiness" bestowed upon us prior to launch. Everyone was feeling good it would seem and I was taking a few small-ish liberties with the music that would have previously "cost the artist extra" for creativity points!

It's OK, man... it's only music and no one got hurt...

~Eden Brent

The "Tempo Tantrum"

After the last note was played and the instruments were put on their stands, The bandleader stormed upstairs and we all sort of followed as it was the location of the common green room. I was in the bathroom when I heard the storm coming...upon walking into the room, I was met with "AND YOU, MOTHERFUCKER... YOU'RE BACK THERE BEING ALL "HAPPY" AND PLAYING ALL THAT SHIT MOTHERFUCKER...". I got called that word about a dozen times and at one point felt physically threatened by the guy. Being that I'm 6'4" and have an inner redneck that's stupider than his inner diva, I think that message got sent across pretty poignantly when I went over into his space and offered for him to hit me, but in a somewhat "kind" way. Not that I'd hit him back... sometimes it's best to let someone dig their own hole and not give them any sort of help.

The Consequences

So this was not the first time we had this sort of "discussion". It actually happened at the same venue two years earlier and was nearly the exact situation. At that time, the artist and I had a heartfelt discussion afterwards and I apologized for whatever part of that I brought unto myself. I also admonished him to never speak to me again in such a manner, due to growing up in an environment where a "fear-based rule" was observed, rather than one of compassion and rationale.

You will only be treated as poorly as you allow...

~Eleonor Roosevelt

In an attempt to diffuse the situation, I began to shed light on the reasons for his discomfort; we were within an all-glass enclosure where the band sets up is like stepping into a fast-pitch batting cage. There's just no warm latency between the rhythmic and melodic edges of the music and it's all delivered to one's ears in rapid-fire procession in a higher-than normal frequency than one's ear is accustomed to.

Also, when one member of the group begins to pull forward musically and they are the dominant sound, it can "pull" the band that direction. I explained some options that involved playing with a click track in-ear ("Too much work") or adding tracks to our ensemble ("Too synthetic") but as the bracketed content states, it wasn't well-received. We're talking about a personality that stays well within the safety net of their own convention and any attempt to fix the situation was met with negativity. Something tells me that my playing is the least of this individual's discord.

But he did it again. And he did it intentionally, and meant to push buttons that are not for him to push. Came right out and verbally attacked me in front of the entire band. And that's it. It can't go any farther from here. The reason for that is trust, plain and simple.

Musical trust, personal trust and spiritual trust. I need to know I'm not going to be verbally attacked over something as stupid and trivial as a tempo that was a slight bit too fast. I once worked with the great Blues artist Eden Brent and at the end of the evening, apologized for my two mistakes on endings and she said "It's OK, man it's only music and no one got hurt..."

The Aftermath

I've not worked with the artist since; a local drummer with impeccable credentials ended up taking the gig and as far as I know, it's working out well for him and I wish everyone involved the best. "Personal chemistry" was most likely the cause of that relationship fraying and falling apart. I had only known the guy for a couple of years on a professional level ergo, we didn't "hang out" so anytime I was there, I was getting paid for my time.

The Solution

Since this happened back in March of this year (2019) I have had the chance to reflect upon the "Why" component of this crash-landing and for my own personal part in this, I feel as if I didn't do anything to nurture a more intrapersonal relationship with the artist. I could have offered to invite him over / take him to dinner, bought him a birthday card, etc. Things that "friends" do for one another. Instead, I got too wrapped up in my own world and we only interacted at gigs. We musicians can be an introverted lot, being that art tends to come out of one's head and heart and as a result, we spend a lot of time there and it's a solitary place most of the time. It is for me, anyway.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle...

~Ian McLaren

In these crazy times we live in, empathy is a concept that's beginning to evaporate more and more and keeping our finger on that pulse is easy to overlook. Also, you don't ever know what sort of week someone is having. The answer is to be kinder than you should be, always.