Sunday, August 26, 2007

Petty Frustration in the Music Biz

There was no just cause for me to be short-tempered with the parking ticket attendant on my way out of Navy Pier this evening. But I gave him a hard time in classic "kick the dog" mode. I was venting my pent up anger from the four hour gig I had just suffered through plus the four hour gig the previous night.


1) a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.

2) The condition that results when an impulse or an action is thwarted by an external or an internal force.

I was ready to tear what's left of my hair out because a certain musician who had turned up on both of these gigs drives me insane with his playing. It is difficult to describe to civilians, but you musicians will know what I mean when I tell you what this man does to frustrate me: he plays way too loud, doesn't listen and, worst of all, rushes like a mo'fo' constantly.

There is nothing I can do to make the music feel good because this guy is always phrasing way out in front of the beat. There were excellent drummers on both these gigs but there's only so much commiseration we can share via stolen looks and musical telepathy. We basically have to tune this guy out. Oh, by the way, he's a rhythm section player (I don't want to get too specific here).

As a consequence, I have to try to NOT listen to this musician, which is antithetical to the nature of playing music, especially in a small group. Adding to the maddening level of non-musicality is the unfortunate fact that I happen to like this man very much personally. If I didn't like him so much it would somehow be easier to loathe trying to create a groove on the same bandstand with him.

The final straw for me is the feeling of pettiness that goes along with the frustration. What right do I have to complain or to feel anything other than grateful to be doing this work? I'm not digging ditches or, worse, slogging away in some anonymous cubicle. I'm playing music, fer crissake! And being very well paid for my time and effort. And yet...with the knowledge of how good it can feel to be in that groovy zone with players who are all on the same wavelength, it IS difficult and weird and unfulfilling to be in this situation. I DO feel like my intentions are being thwarted; that I'm being prevented from functioning at the highest level I'm capable of.

I would have liked to explain the whole thing to that nebbish parking dude, but I just didn't have it in me. I did manage a lame apology. With any luck my blood pressure will return to normal before tomorrow morning.