Sunday, August 20, 2017

I Ain't No Bitch:




Sheila E. at B Kings:

"Ever since Aretha Franklin there's always been an Aretha Franklin rip-off somewhere on the charts doing a style she basically perfected."

"...but when I can focus on Tal and her fresh big cans tearing it up I feel more free to openly express my appreciation."


My trip out West 'caused me to miss a month or so of open mics; but at least I've seen a bunch of shows since I got back to New York. A lot of chick shows mainly; like Erykah Badu who I saw with Dave Chapelle at Radio City. No cameras were allowed at that one, so I can't post any pics. Dave's doing a month-long run as though Radio City's just some comedy club in the W. Village. Sometimes New York's still New York. 

I also saw a chick named Nikki Hill (who I'll get back to in a minute), but I have to first mention  seeing Sheila E for the first time since Prince died. The last time she'd played with Prince was at Madison Square Garden, so that was emotional. For a lot of people. Sheila cried for what the heterosexual male in me thought was a long time. Right there in front of all of us; but of course she killed. She's a real-deal performer.

And so was this Nikki Hill I mentioned earlier. I knew nothing about her before the show. Never expected to even be there an hour before it started, but when she went on stage...man, I liked her.  She's young, with nice long legs and real bright eyes and a lot of electric vivacity on stage. 

In 2017 its probably racist for me to say this (somehow its gotta be, right?), but I expected her to be more of an R & B singer. Or maybe that's just what I wanted her to be 'cause that's my favorite genre. But instead she's more of a roots-Rock artist. The genuine, old school stuff like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and Little Richard. Why someone her age would be into that I don't know, but she was awesome at it. So maybe that's why. And the greatness was heightened by her contradiction of my expectations. I saw her and was like "Oh man, now I'm gonna get my live R &B." But instead she just rocked the house. 

Still, she did do one slow number. Slow R & B in which the band brought the volume down and she stepped to the mic stand with eyes that slowly closed and cupped the mic between her palms in soulful, meditative, expression. 

Very feminine expression, despite the forcefulness of her personality, which is probably why I was so attracted to the stage. And not intimidated to get so close. Had it been a man getting as emotional or expressive as she was, I'd have probably had to have stepped back. Wilson Pickett or Jackie Wilson or 6' 6" Otis Redding pushing themselves to the emotional edge is not something I'd  necessarily stand next to. Who knows what a guy like that's likely to do? I can enjoy that as much from row 10 or so. And if they should break down altogether? Come on man, toughen up. What're you--a bitch? 

But a woman draws different things out of me. Different emotions. They're easier and nicer to listen to. I can let my guard completely down and feel a natural empathy for them. I root for them more. A lot more. And if they lose their shit? They're just gonna cry. Least the one's that I like. 

Prince used to always surround himself with nice babes. And now Jeff Beck always seems to hire female side...people. I like it. It changes the dynamic. Without Tal Wilkenfeld or Rhonda Smith on stage we Jeff Beck fans are just a thousand or so dried-up geezers with a semi-homosexual Punky's Whips hard-on for our guitar-God. But when I can focus on Tal and her fresh big cans tearing it up I feel like I've still got some spunk in my junk and I'm more free to openly express my appreciation. 

An old girlfriend once told me I have the musical taste of an 18 year old black girl. Course she told me that something like 20 years ago, so now that black girl would likely have 2 kids and a pair of titties hanging to her knees; but my musical taste has still pretty-much stayed the same.  For the most part I like to listen to chicks sing R & B. Usually big heavy-set black chicks; but that's just a generalization. I don't know if its racist (I'm sure in 2017 it must be--somehow!) to say that I think black women are the best singers, but I think they are. Or maybe I should say they sound better. I prefer the tone of their voices, which I think is usually richer than other women's voices. More full-throated and...more character. I can almost always tell when its a black person singing on the radio or on the other end of the phone. Even if I've never seen them. I think most people can do that.

I really respect Angie Stone and her songwriting. I think she deserves way more recognition then she gets and like the way she's more of a mid-range singer as opposed to that Mariah Carey/Patti Labelle style that's always singing/swinging for the high fences. 

Of all the female singers today, I'd say Lalah Hathaway has the nicest tone. I'm not saying I think she's the best artist--or even my favorite; but I like her tone the best. And that's saying something. Her voice makes me envision a plush red-velvet couch in the VIP with my head laid back, a Johnny Blue in my left hand and a handful of some silky stripper's hair in my right as she slowly bobs her head on my knob at about 80 bpm. That's the kind of peace and joy that generates love. 

I like the first couple Alicia Key's records and obviously the first half-dozen or so Aretha Franklin records. Those are the template right there. For 45+ years and counting. Ever since Aretha Franklin there's always been an Aretha Franklin rip-off somewhere on the charts doing a style she basically perfected. But no one's ever bested her in her prime. Back in the 1960's/early 70's she still had a real feminine softness juxtaposed against an exuberant, youthful, Jesus-fueled confidence. The sky was the limit for her. And us. Nothing but possibilities for her people and our country as a whole. 

But now everything sucks.

Anyway, after that Nikki Hill show last week I got the chance to meet her. Poor girl had to shmooze with me, then politely dismiss herself so she could race to the back of the club where she was selling CD's. She seems to run her own show both on stage and off, so she can't be too short with these would-be fans. Gotta press the flesh a bit. But you always gotta be selling too. Can't forget to pay the bills. It seems like a lot to juggle. Being on the road and in the music business in 2017...that's gotta be a hard lifestyle. 

At one point that Nikki Hill posed for a picture with me and then--at her suggestion, said "Lets do one more." I couldn't believe she took the time to do that. She has bright eyes. Full lips. A real warm smile and great caramel skin. I couldn't help but think about all that as my middle-aged, Rheumatoid Arthritis-with-the-torn-Achilles tendon-ass limped home from the club. 

"Man, wouldn't it be great to play for her.

"You could never play for her Lodo--her guitarists were awesome.

"I know, I'm just saying. ...Hey, wouldn't it be great if we could spend some more time with her. Like, help her promote her gigs or something.

"My God Lodo, listen to you. That girl's half your age if you're lucky. Look at that picture of you two--she's young and fine after 2 hours of performing and you look like grandpa on his way to dialysis."

No sooner did I complete that thought than all the energy suddenly escaped my body. And legs. I nearly collapsed into a fetal position right there on the sidewalk like Marge Simpson sneaking off to the library to cry. 

But almost as quickly, I re-gathered myself. Remembered who and what I was. Tightened my ankle brace, straightened my back. Did my best not to limp as I headed home.

"Jesus Lodo--toughen up. What're you some high-school bitch?

"Crying in the corner eh? Mind if I join ya?"

       

       

       

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Thing (in Six Words..or Less):

"So what's the story?"

"At that time I still wore my boot on my foot for of my Achilles tendon, so I'd hobble 'round the stage like Johnny Winter blinded by a pair of high-beams."


"My old buddy Artie from Detroit became a big movie producer in Hollywood."



This is a good time for me to take my vacation since it was right around this time last year that I first played open mic. First played at my local open mic. My first actual open mic was a Prince tribute in Hell's Kitchen a month or so after he died, but I've never gone back there 'cause I bombed hard.

My local open mic that I go to every week is 6 blocks from my house. If it were 7 blocks, I may have never gone. But its only 6.

Open mic is a lot more than just playing in front of people.  Its about what're you gonna play in front of those people? Used to be I just played guitar at home. Diddled on this tune; daddled on that. I was so raw and new that any guitar I played, no matter the song or genre, was going to make me a better player. 

And I'd like to be a good player. It takes more than just some nice songs to maintain my interest over time. A certain amount of technical proficiency's required if I'm going to stay excited about a concert. Or musician. Even if that musician's me; so I try to be demanding of myself in regards to my playing.

But you can take that too far, by which I mean all I was doing prior to open mic was staying at home working on my proficiency. I tried to learn Beatles tunes all the way thru. I focused on my right hand technique like Andy Summer's says to do. Learned some of the modes like Miles did. Worked on my ear training like they all say you have to do. I got better, by which I mean I was able to play songs and demonstrate some musicianship, if not actual artistry. 

But then when I started to play at open mic I was back at square one. Square one in that I quickly learned I couldn't play in front of people--couldn't maintain concentrated interest or perform even the easiest of songs with a straight face if I didn't have an invested connection to the music. I suppose if I were getting paid; sure, maybe. But at open mic, I need to have an integration with the material. Its forced me to develop an identity, not just be a player. Which some might say makes you an artist.  

But I'm not prepared to go that far yet. 

After a year of open mic I can say I have my thing. It used to bother me when people forced labels or descriptive genres on music "Hard rock." "Blues." "R & B." "Classic Rock." "Fusion." "Jazz." "Neo-Soul." Shut the fuck up. That's industry talk. My old buddy Artie from Detroit used to do that. He'd have us pitch stories to him in the car on our way to work. He became a big movie producer out in Hollywood; and just like in that movie The Player, he'd always insist, "give me a story, in 25 words or less." Whatever Artie.

But now I have to say; since open mic, I think you should be able to pitch yourself or idea in 25 words or less. It demonstrates that you've put the proper thought into it. Considered it. Honed the idea down to its fine and finest elements. Sure you're gonna lose some nuance--I'm not saying nuance isn't important. Some might argue nuance is everything. Gotta love the grey. But I think 25 words is enough to get to the essential issue.  Even if the issue is you. Or me. 

A year of open mic has taught me that I play instrumental R & B. That's my thing. In four words. Six if you count 'R & B' as three words as opposed to one. Course "instrumental R & B" sounds a lot like "smooth jazz;" and in fact I can see how a reader that hasn't heard me play might make that connection. But in an odd twist of fate, my lack of overall playing technique has kind of shielded me from the smooth jazz label. I still have to grind out my solos. In fits and starts. I don't have the unbroken fluidity up and down the neck of a more competent player. There's a lot of rawness in my execution, which may not be indicative of the highest level of musicianship; but at least it helps me avoid the smooth jazz comparison. If my technique were stronger, I think I'd sound a lot more like any one of ten thousand players.

Course being satisfied with my "raw technique," may just be a cop-out. A big rationalization. My hero's are Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix. Fluidity, flow, overall mastery--I'd like my playing to be associated with those words. So when this kid approached me a few months back and said to me "You're like a jazzy Neil Young," I was kind of taken aback. I don't know what my face registered to that comment, but it caused the kid to instantly qualify it by adding "I mean that as a compliment." 

Jazzy Neil Young. ...I guess that could be a compliment. Even if that guy is kind of a spaz. People love him. He's had a decades-long, Hall of Fame career. Front man and all. Still, I wasn't crazy 'bout that comparison.

But later, as I walked home it began to make some sense to me. At that time I still had my boot on my foot for my torn Achilles tendon, so I'd hobble 'round the stage like Johnny Winter blinded by a pair of high-beams. In fact I'm not too steady on my feet 'cause all the muscles atrophied from my legs. My guitar sound's distorted in what could be called Neil Young-esque fashion. My playing and overall movement aren't the most...dexterous. Jazzy Neil Young. Certainly not what I was going for. Not who I thought I was. But you cant truly know yourself 'til others know you. I guess the question for me now is do I embrace jazzy Neil Young? Has open mic and this kid taught me something about myself and personality that I wasn't aware of? Or am I not communicating my message and what I want do correctly? Ineffectively telling my story 'cause I'm not a good enough player?  

These are questions I'd only ask 'cause of open mic. And I suppose only open mic can answer 'em.

Guess we'll see what this next year brings. 


I'll take 'jazzy Neil Young' over Kenny G!

       

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Good Open Mic:



"So when he stepped up to the drums he kind of...approached them. With a respectful wonderment of the sort Wayne Shorter talks about..."

"...he was there the night I got cut at blues jam."


It usually takes several years on a show before a character gets killed off; but in the case of Open Mic we lost our first regular this past week. I don't exploit my fellow open mic'ers for comedy or material. That'd be kind of cheap and I think would justifiably generate some ill-will towards my direction; but now that Bob's gone I guess I can talk about him.

Actually I barely knew Bob. I don't know any of my fellow open mic'ers very well for that matter, which seems to be a modern First-world predicament. I was told he'd been professionally involved in music, but what I really liked about him was that he was probably one of two open-mic regulars that was older than me. At least a good dozen years older than me. So he had authentic experiences to share, and I could talk to him without feeling like the old man of the group. 

And he was always very supportive of me in particular. Possibly the first to give me a sincere compliment. I've mentioned in prior posts that I'd bombed hard at my local blues jam (not to be confused with open mic), and it so happens Bob was there that day. Him and his wife or girlfriend--whoever she is. I got cut in the middle of my 2nd tune, but when I went to retrieve my beer Bob was right there, letting me know what I'd already suspected. That there was a lot more to my getting cut than just my shitty blues guitar playing. 

But that's another story. 

It couldn't have been more than 2 months ago that Bob and I played together. He wasn't really a drummer, but he played drums that night and it was one of my favorite open mic's. It began totally spontaneously, by which I mean we were outside smoking when he suddenly asked without any real segue, "Hey, you mind if I play drums with you tonight?

Usually I have to solicit a drummer. Eat all kinds of pride as I humbly make the rounds "Hey man, you wanna play with me tonight? Naw its cool--I get it."  So for Bob to ask me if he could play. Made me feel good. 

A lot of the drummers here in NYC can't play at their house. Because their house is an apartment. So if it weren't for open mic they'd never really get to play. I bring that up 'cause by the time open mic rolls around these drummers are really chomping at the bit. They've been pent-up for a week. So usually its bam!, bam!, BAM! on the skins like they're bashing-in their boss' head.

But Bob wasn't really a drummer and the testosterone of youth had long since faded. He was past trying to impress any of these kids. Or anyone. So when he stepped up to the drums he kind of...approached them. I wouldn't call it timidity; but rather, a respectful wonderment. The kind Wayne Shorter talks about. We never discussed what we were gonna play; and it was just him and me. The way I like it. 

When I play with someone new I usually fall into one of two modes. I'll either jump right into the Hendrix-type stuff (something I've been trying to avoid as of late); or I'll just start to meander in a certain key. Fish around 'til the energy gets figured out and something starts to congeal. 

With Bob things started in that meandering mode. He was playing so soft and gently that it was a complete 180 from the normal experience. There's a good rush of excitement when I first get on a stage; but I had to choke that down and really listen to what he was doing. Eventually--completely out of the blue and in the best possible open mic manner, we suddenly settled into a version of The Beatles' Norwegian Wood. How we got there I have no idea. And it was definitely an odd version. We never went into that Britishy B section, and the chords weren't straight on. But it was just close enough to Norwegian Wood that over time I could hear the occasional sound of an audience member smack their hands or suddenly recognize the melody to their neighbor. At some point I looked at Bob and he gave me the classic head-nod that true improvisers seek. The one that says "were on it." 

When we'd finished we were quick to shake the other's hand. He gave me a look through his wired Ben Franklin-type glasses that was both direct, yet kind of looking past me. Like he was taking-in the entire room. And moment. He must've known he was dying.

"That was very interesting," he said almost like a professor as he ran one hand thru his grey hair and leaned on me for support as we stepped down to the floor. "Very interesting," he repeated with that same absent-minded smile before he turned towards his girl for a hug. I'm pretty sure that was his final performance.

So now flash-forward to last Tuesday's open mic. We're a few hours in when suddenly one of the regulars gets on stage and says very casually in her thick French accent "I don't know if any of you knew him--I'm seeing a lot of regulars here tonight so you should; but Bob just passed away last week..."

She went on to say some more things--truth be told I wasn't crazy about the non-nonchalant manner it was presented; but in fairness, she was way better friends with him than I was so I assume she knows the kind of guy he was. And what he'd want.

He was an older guy; but its still a bit of a shock to hear that someone you'd recently seen has passed.  And in our case, I hadn't just seen or talked to him; I collaborated with him. In common cause. There was a Vulcan mind-meld there with that Norwegian Wood.

This week I'm tempted to perhaps re-visit that Norwegian Wood version. As a kind of dedication; but it wouldn't be the same. The spontaneity's gone. That bird's flown as Lennon might phrase it. I don't record my performances, and don't have pics of that night; so there's no documentation it ever really happened. But I've still got that head-nod we shared lodged in my mind's eye. Like the smell of an extinguished fire. That smile of communion with what's now eternity. Moment's like that are good open mic. 


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

...but I've Still Got My Guitars:


My girl was born on the 4th of July:

"...playing the Strat's like bending over a little 95 pound spinner chick."

So normally I'd be going to Open Mic tonight; but since its July 4th everything got changed up. 

Before I go to Open Mic--and assuming I have the time; I usually line my guitars out on the futon like you see at the top of the post. Then I grab one randomly to play. I'll do a few songs on one guit, then put it down to grab another. Like I'm a Rolling Stone or someone who plays real gigs. All the guitars feel different and do different things. 

And all my guitars were gifts. My buddy Murphy gave me my acoustic and that's what I learned to play on. I did it just like Keith Richards says you should; by which I mean I played that acoustic for a year before I ever considered an electric. Then my sister gave me her old Fender Telecaster after my dog died out in Colorado. Here's a pic of me (below) playing it for my girl a few days before she died--which, I'll admit right now is a blatant attempt at manipulating your emotions.  

I'm not actually a lefty, its just the camera on the computer. By the way, did I mention that my dog's dying in these pictures?



My Tele's a bit of a plain Jane, but she's a good guitar. You can drop it off the couch and it stays in tune; and I can pull her out the case after 2 months of being under the bed and she's good-to-go. But I've never gone (2) months without playing my Tele

 
Much as I love my Telecaster, when your guitar heroes are Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck (or Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix depending on the day), you gotta get a Strat. My mom bought me this one (posted directly above) for my 50th birthday, and its been a blast. Its probably not as good an example of a Strat as my Tele is of a Tele (if that makes any sense), but its a better fit for my hands and for what I hear in my head. Playing the Tele is like banging a big girl. I've gotta think about my technique and consider my approach to what I do; whereas playing the Strat's like bending over a little 95 pound spinner chick. I can really...manipulate it. Manhandle it. Course you still gotta know what you want to do. And I'd like to think that  I occasionally make some love to it. 
Sometimes.
I picked the Sunburst Strat especially because of the iconic Jimi Hendrix photo (above). I was like "that shit looks good." And it does. Course a lot of people like the Sunburst. Its the guitar equivalent of a pair of Levi's 501's or a white Jockey T-shirt. So while it hasn't happened yet; one day I'll go to open mic and someone will have a Sunburst just like mine. Then I guess we'll have to..fight to the death or something. I don't know what the rules are about that.

I always take my Strat to open mic. Its more me. I'd take my Tele on occasion if she weren't such a freaking tank. But she is. My sister's old boyfriend once said he'd never want to have to carry the guitar-equivalent of a boat anchor, and that's what my Tele is. I pinched a nerve in my neck playing that thing too much, and I've bombed really hard with it--both at my 1st open mic (Prince tribute) and at local blues jam. But I'll always love my Tele.

Its still so oddly-comical to me that I even play guitar again. And that I play so much of it. I've actually received some scattered compliments on my playing; but if those people knew how much time I spend on it at home they might re-consider my talent level. I play a lot. I should be freaking Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck combined by now, except that I smoke so much weed and obviously don't have the true musician gene(s).  

Still, if my 50 yr old ass met 25 year old Lodo Grdzak I don't think I'd be such a disappointment.

"Where we live?"

"New York.

"Wow! What do we do?

"You're a private investigator. And you play guitar again.

"What?!--really? Am I good?

"You have a Strat and a Tele. ...And you play at an open mic once a week. 2 songs or 10 minutes, whichever comes first."  

"That's crazy. ...And do I have a dog?

"No, you're dog died."

"Well,...I suppose it still sounds pretty good."
       

Friday, June 30, 2017

Its Never Hotter Than July!:



"My music sensibility is still 100% Detroit. I'll never shake that. Wouldn't want to. I'll always keep my Detroit music deep down in my heart."


 Geri Allen:

w/ Wayne after the Town Hall show:


My favorite concert of all-time was Jeff Beck at BB Kings (9/11/2003); but the greatest--most highest level of musicianship and artistry I've ever seen or heard was Wayne Shorter's 80th birthday concert at Town Hall. That show not only featured Wayne and his now classic quartet; but Soundprints (Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Joey Baron); and the rather poorly titled ACS (Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri-Lynne Carrington). 

Geri Allen's death this past week...man. Just another reminder of how fast my people and generation are fading away. Geri was a great jazz ambassador and yet another in a long (long!) line of awesome Detroit musicians. A lot of cities make the case for being the best music towns; but I'd put my old town of Detroit above all of 'em. In fairness, we may have never gotten that Detroit greatness without the original contributions of New Orleans and Chicago; but once they got the wheels turning Detroit strapped a Cobra-Jet engine on to 'em. 

Memphis can make its case. New Orleans. Chicago. Philly. But at least when it comes to singers, Detroit kicks everyone's ass: Jackie Wilson; Diana Ross; Mary Wells; Betty Carter; Wilson Pickett; Betty Lavette; Eddie Floyd; Anita Baker; The Clark Sisters; Mitch Ryder; Dwele; Rob Tyner; Mark Farner; The Winans; David Ruffin; Smokey Robinson; Jack White; Mary Wilson. 

Come on y'all. That list (above) doesn't even include the really important, super-influential artists Detroit produced like Berry Gordy; or Madonna; or Aaliyah; or J. Dilla; or Eminem; or The Eagles' Glenn Frey; or Jeff Mills/Kevin Saunderson; or Don Was; or Ron Carter; or drummer Elvin Jones; or Iggy Pop; or George Clinton. There, I think that's all of 'em. Oh wait!--Aretha Franklin and a guy named Stevie Wonder. Game over motherfuckers. That list above is American music culture. 

When discussing the most important music and musicians of the past 50 years, common wisdom tends to be to start with The Beatles. Okay, I get it. Makes sense. But lets not forget that the The Beatles never made a record after 1970. And never played a live show after 1966. Meanwhile Aretha Franklin; Smokey Robinson; Stevie--they've never stopped recording and performing. And they've been around almost as long. More important; soul music and R & B have never been more popular than they are today. They're still completely relevant; whereas that classic-type of rock 'n' roll...I'd say its seen better days. 

Michigan in general and Detroit in particular may be Midwestern by way of geography; but they're the closest to the East-Coast of all Midwestern locales. Detroit gets that East-Coast influence and yet; its in it, but not of it. Unlike New Yorkers who see everything in the world only in relation to themselves; Detroit can see the forest for the trees. It has the perspective that comes with distance. And with perspective comes insight.

Its been over 20 years since I've been back to Detroit, and now that Michigan voted for Trump I may never go back; but my music sensibility is still 100% Detroit born and bred. I spent the first 23 years of my life there, I'll never shake that. Wouldn't want to. I'll always keep my Detroit music deep down in my heart, and the greatest of all Detroiters--the greatest American musical artist of all-time for that matter is Stevie Wonder. 

According to Google; Songs in the Key Of Life wasn't released until September of 1976; but I seem to recall I Wish playing throughout the summer of that year. Its hard to say 'cause I was only 10 yrs old back then and singles were slowly drizzled from that album for a good 2 to even 3 years. I definitely recall that Bicentennial year and hearing I Wish; and Knocks Me Off My Feet; and Another Star; and Isn't She Lovely; and As all the freaking time. Bruce Jenner was still a man. Ray Leonard hadn't yet become "Sugar." USA boxing as a whole was freaking awesome!! And on every station, at any and every hour was Songs in the Keys of Life. I've never stopped listening to in some way, shape or form for 40 years. I don't care what the fuck Google or internet says, whether it was '76 or '77--whatever! July 4th and that album are synonymous in my mind. I can't separate one from the other. And why should I? I just saw the 40th Anniversary of that record last year both in Denver and at The Garden, and Stevie sounded exact perfect. His voice has never been better, 

...which means no one's better. 

       

       

       

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

You Are What You Is:


"I have a propensity towards self-absorption..."

"...just like Monterey Pop will always degenerate into an Altamont Speedway as more people get involved..."

"So even you--Lodo Grdzak, got caught up in this scam?"
 

Losing boxers always talk about the various adjustments they're going to make for their next fight. "I'm going to be more elusive, more selective with my punches. I'm gonna pace myself better. I'm gonna sit-down on my punches more." Um hmm. That usually lasts until the first real exchange or sign of trouble, then its right back to the old habits. 'Cause like Frank Zappa famously sang You Are What You Is. Or as Mike Tyson phrased it, "Everyone's got a plan til they get punched in the face." 

For better or worse, I have a propensity towards aloofness and self-absorption. Always have. Which isn't to say all I do is sit around and post selfies or jerk-off to internet porn. That's just half my day. The rest of my day is handling investigations and working on my skills.  My guitar playing or writing. I used to workout, but I don't do that anymore; and I used to read books, but those days seem to be over. For me and everyone else. But I'm sure society wont suffer anything for that.

Guitar in general and Open Mic in particular were supposed to be a bit of a cure for my solipsism. Supposed to help me expand my horizons and break out of the isolation I found myself in after working on my book and starting my business. In the past I'd hoped my blogs might do that for me; and in fact there were people that reached out to me over the course of the years I was blogging. I was (and still am) appreciative of the comments they left and their attempts to reach out; but I could never formulate the trust needed or the confidence in the internet itself to actually respond in kind. You always hear stories about "catfishing" or identity scams--even of people you'd think were immune; so its hard to shake the voice of Stacy Keach from my mind when I imagine the ramifications of my clumsy attempts to make an internet connection.

"So even you--Lodo Grdzak, got caught up in this scam."

"I guess that's true.

"Even though you're a professional investigator, trained to be skeptical.

"Yeah, they got me too."

"You--a veteran with years of experience in a field which requires you to analyz..."

"Listen man!--they got me okay!

So yeah, blogging didn't exactly lead to a wider world of social contacts like I may have liked. 

But truth is, I'm just not a social guy. Never have been. I've got plenty of TV channels; 3 guitars; a library down the street with 6 decades worth of movies; over 500 compact music discs; 50 restaurants within 3 blocks of my house; a dozen of the world's best jazz clubs just across the river; a steady weed supply; 100's of books (now going un-read); plus my own book to write. I don't need you; and you don't need me either. We can play pretend all we want; but that's all it is. Truth is, we need each other less and less, despite the world's breeding more and more. Maybe that feeling of isolated loneliness is what makes us breed more. A vicious cycle as you might say. 

But that's a topic for another time.

So yeah,what's funny is that when I first started at open mic I really made an effort to either reach out or play with anyone who asked. And initially it went great. The first guy who joined me on stage was this Latin drummer who played The Doors' Break on Thru. It was him and Murphy and me; and he added a jazzy, Latin flavor that really worked for the song. Course being a drummer he was right up my alley anyway. Then another guy--a hand-drummer came on stage. He's a regular; knows how to play; and that went great too. 

But just like Monterey Pop will always degenerate into an Altamont Speedway as more people get involved; my attempts at reaching out began to lead to fewer and fewer positive returns. Part of the problem was that I've been trying to figure out exactly what/who Open Mic Lodo Grdzak really is. I'm still in the process of discovery on that issue; and the collaborations oftentimes felt like a digression from that pursuit. Suddenly I was playing tunes I had no interest in playing--that weren't taking me anywhere. Just to get along and find common ground. There was nothing for me to really add (nothing original or authentic anyway), and a lot of times I'd just lock-up. 

Another problem I had was that the more instruments/voices that were on stage, the harder it was for me to hear and discern what was going on. That's still a problem for me. Ideally, a trio is my favorite configuration. It gives me all the space I need to change direction at a moment's notice; but still gives me a chance to collaborate a bit. Its uncluttered; and because I don't have a lot of experience playing with other chord-type instruments, I get constrained when I have to try and fit-into what someone else is doing. But oh man! When I began to discriminate a little bit. Began to say no to certain people who wanted to play with me, I really violated the spirit of open mic. 

Case in point: for a long time my thing was that I'd play with a drummer. Just me and a drummer. 'Cause I was still finding my personality. And getting used to the stage and space. But at open mic people will just jump up and start playing, which...that's just open mic. You can kick them off; but it rarely comes down to that. Usually people are smart or polite enough to ask; particularly if they're a singer or  doing something that's really upfront. 9.5 out of 10x a drummer or hand-drummer jumping on stage is gonna be a total positive. Really add to the mix and energy. But someone jumping up spontaneously to start lead singing or ripping a guitar solo is, well,...hello?!

So I was playing with this drummer--a regular at open mic. He's great and has his own band. I was really grateful to be playing with him 'cause I could feel myself improve. But after the 2nd or 3rd week that we played, the singer from his band suddenly jumps up and starts singing with us. On my time. Two songs or 10 minutes, that's all I get. But okay, whatever--she's talented and definitely all-around better than me. Got a good voice, a lot of personality, plays nice bass, writes, shakes her ass a little bit. The code of the schoolyard says the better the talent, the more time they deserve. I feel that. Agree with it even. But she's singing, and singing,...and singing. She took over my entire time and--more importantly, made no attempt to assimilate what she was doing with what had been established. That's what really bothered me. Then the next week, she did the same freaking thing. 

So now, the next open mic, were all outside smoking when she approaches me and basically starts to tell me what were going to play. On my time. Two songs or ten minutes--that's all I get. That was when I made a correction to her behavior. I don't need to get into what was said. Its not important. No one was made to feel small; no one yelled; no outside or unrelated issues were introduced to the discussion. I addressed what had to be addressed and we moved on. Or thought we had.  

The following week I saw her, and in an effort at appeasement and reconciliation I said to her, "Hey, if you want, you can play with me on my time. You know I don't use singers 'cause my thing is that I'm instrumental; but you can play bass, which might be cool cause it'd give you a chance to showcase that part of your playing." 

Well this chick just looked at me with her jaw dropped open, rolled her eyes, and stomped off with no reply. I assumed there was some kind of miscommunication or something got lost in translation; so an hour or so later I saw her outside and asked her again." 

"Hey, I dont know if you caught what I was saying, but I..."

"Oh I heard exactly what you were saying and let me tell you I'm getting real tired of you trying to place limits on me or what I do! Everybody is.

"What does that mean?

"It means I'm not the only one who feels this way. I don't think you know this, but you're developing a really bad reputation here among the other musicians. Ask around. Everything's about you. You just play with a drummer. We get it--you're the star. But ask" (here she threw out a name of someone I recognized. Someone I'd played with in the past and respected; but in fact I had treated rather shabbily), "he'll never play with you after what you said. A LOT of the musicians feel that way. I don't need to play bass with you. I don't nee..."

She went on, but I'd stopped listening. Not because I was dismissing her; but in fact, she'd kind of hurt my feelings. It was all coming back again. The self-absorption. The lack of appreciation of others. The constant assessing. The stand-offishness that's marked all my relationships. You can try and re-train a boxer. They always say they're gonna make the adjustments, but in the end...you are what you is. 

But I suppose that doesn't mean you stop fighting.