This past Saturday night, I attended a surprise 50th birthday party for a total stranger.
I arrived more than an hour before any other guests. And, by the time I left the party, I was tired, sore, and very sweaty.
This sounds like bad riddle, right? It’s like I’m trying to get you to guess what I was doing there.
It’s not a riddle. Here’s the answer: My band was booked to perform at the party. I had to get there early to set up sound. I was tired, sore, and sweaty at the end because I was on my feet strapped to heavy guitar the whole time.
Plus, I had done the same thing at a bar the night before.
That’s right: One weekend. Two gigs. But, I digress.
I was backing my minivan stuffed with music equipment out of the party host’s driveway on Saturday night when I suddenly realized something: Relatively speaking, very few people get a chance to play music for people while they dance, sing along, and have a good time.
It wasn’t the first time I had that realization. But, it had been a while.
I won’t lie. It made me feel pretty good about being me.
The Heroic Tales of a Pretty Decent Cover Band
Chapter 1: My Name is Bryan and I am a Guitar Guy
I’m in a cover band. I’m like the frontman/singer/person/guy.
And we’re pretty decent. Some version of the band — members tend to come and go — has been getting consistent gigs for nearly three years now.
That’s pretty cool.
People actually pay us to come to their bar, club, or house and play music for three to four hours at a time. Sure, they don’t pay us all that much — the joke I tell far too often is that we make dozens of dollars every month. But, generally speaking, the band is a profitable enterprise.
That’s pretty cool too.
When I stop to think about the whole thing, I’m still a little bewildered.
I started this band when I was 38 years old. I wanted to be in band pretty my whole life — at least since junior high. But, aside from a handful of short-lived efforts in college, I never really had the confidence to make it happen.
Here’s the deal: I’m not a great musician. That isn’t false modesty and I’m not fishing compliments — it’s an objective fact.
Sure, to the less astute, it may seem like I have some talent. I can strum my way through a fair number of songs on the guitar. And, more often than not, I can sing on key.
But, any real musician could watch me for two minutes and recognize my skills are middling at best. And I’ve become acquainted with quite a few real musicians over the years.
I don’t have a brain for music theory. My taste and appreciation for music is, compared to most musicians, pretty narrow.
But, I love playing music. And, at some point, as I neared the end of my fourth decade on the planet, I decided I could pretend not to notice how mediocre I was compared to many, many others.
The Heroic Tales of a Pretty Decent Cover Band
Chapter 2: Open mic nights and other such nonsense
Music and Endorphins or Whatever
There’s something therapeutic about just strumming a few chords on a guitar — it’s endorphins or something. If you can make it resemble a song, all the better.
Even if you’re all alone, playing an instrument through an amplifier and/or singing through a microphone is a unique sensory experience that that be replicated with anything else.
If you get a chance to do all this with other people — collaborating and combining to make something sound the way you intended — it’s like a miracle drug.
I’m not just making this stuff up. The health benefits of playing music have been documented extensively.
To be honest, when I first started the band, I never thought we’d get out of the jamming/rehearsal phase. Perhaps we’d play a few open mic nights or some other venue where there’s technically an audience and anybody who signs up can get onstage. But, that would be it.
And, back then, that would have been fine with me. That, by itself, was a worthwhile enterprise.
Yet, now I not only get to play music with a band, I get to do it in front of people. Sometimes a lot of people. On a more or less regular basis. And, did I mention I get paid for it?
All that good stuff — the endorphins or whatever — you get just from playing music gets multiplied many times over when there’s an audience. If they’re dancing, singing along, and having a good time…forget about it.
So, What Am I Saying?
Is there a piece of advice hidden in here somewhere? Or am I just rambling about my band in writing like I often do in person?
Perhaps there’s not a bigger purpose underlying all this talk other than an expression of gratitude for my own good fortune and a reminder not to take it for granted.
But, I think there’s a handful of smaller lessons to be gleaned as well.
Smaller Lesson #1: There’s nothing wrong with chasing the silly dreams or ambitions from your youth. No matter your age. If you’ve always want to write a book, make a movie, or be a rock star (or a pretend rock star, like me), give it a go, even if it’s just on a small scale. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try or a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, find a class and sign up.
We almost always end up regretting the things we don’t do more than the effort we put into something, even if we fall short in the end. I’m sure there’s a cat poster slogan that could sum this point up very nicely.
Smaller Lesson #2: Everyone should, at the very least, make more time to listen to music. Finding a way to actually make music is even better. If that thing you’ve always wanted to do is play an instrument, find a teacher and take some lessons. Because endorphins and stuff.
Smaller Lesson #3: Music from the 90s is awesome. Did I mention my band is an ALL 90s cover band? That means we get to play music from the peak of western civilization and we never, ever have to play “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
And that, if I do say so myself, is pretty cool.