Thursday, June 22, 2006
It Feels Like the First Time
photo by Gregory Titievsky
The Band is unbelievably excited about our upcoming gig at Milwaukee's Summerfest, the World's Largest Music Festival, on July 5, 2006, at 12 noon. We will be playing on the Classic Rock Stage, a few hours before headliner Foreigner takes the same stage. Wow.
Now, we don't expect to be able to fill even the smallest fraction of the venue, especially not on a Wednesday afternoon. Just playing the festival is exciting enough for us. Playing on the same stage as Foreigner makes it exponentially more exciting for me, since that band was a huge influence on me when I was developing my musical style. (Listen to Barchi Nafshi or Aniyah and you'll be able to hear it).
What's interesting is that despite living in Milwaukee for 15 years, I've never felt the urge to play or even attend Summerfest. I thought, "Why would a predominantly non-Jewish audience want to hear us play Chassidic Rock (Mendel's unbelievable guitar chops notwithstanding)?" Credit a certain Chassidic Reggae Superstar for showing me the light.
So what will the speakers be blaring? A really tight mix of Diaspora Yeshiva Band, Piamenta (oh yeah), Aron Razel, Shlock Rock (Clapton and Setzer covers), Kabbalah and of course Moshe Skier Band originals. We've been rehearsing once or twice weekly, which, given my very tight minyan schedule, has been tricky, but thanks to our very understanding drummer (who has to shlep an hour each way just to rehearse), I haven't missed a Kaddish.
Which brings me to the really weird part of this whole thing, and that is that I am still very much in mourning for my Father. So much so that I don't listen to music for pleasure now. I listen to Right Wing talk radio (WIND out of Chicago). Or rather I listen to commercials punctuated by the occasional 2 or 3 minute Right Wing Rant/Abusive Phone Call. But that's a subject for another post.
So it took a little soul-searching for me to figure out what I want to do about my music. Of course, anyone who makes a living playing music is allowed to continue during mourning. You are not required to lose your job when you lose a parent. Professional musicians are even allowed to practice as much as necessary to keep up their skills. The question is, am I a professional musician?
I've been playing music in bands non-stop since I was seventeen. I've never played less than 3-4 gigs a year, even when I first moved out here and was a medical intern. More recently it's been more like an average of 1-2 gigs per month. So while I don't rely on music for my livelihood, I do make a significant amount of money performing (so much so that it has tax implications), and more importantly, music is a very big part of WHO I AM. I have defined myself as a musician for a lot longer than I have defined myself as a doctor, father, husband, or a blogger. I don't think I could give that up for a year.
The only thing I've been longer than a musician has been a son. So the issue for me is what would my Father have wanted me to do? He encouraged me learn the guitar, he bought me my first microphone (I still have that feedback-prone Shure mic), and he generously lent me his car as I stuffed it with amps, guitars, and teenage musicians and drove to far-off places to play. So I think he'd be OK with this.
And the Rabbi said it's OK as long as I get paid, so...get ready for some hot-blooded-double-vision as the Jukebox Hero takes the stage July 5th!