Monday, July 28, 2008

Jiggity-jig, and, ranting on "the Pounce"

Home again home again. Nice visit out east, remarkable good fortune (e.g., no major fuckarounds) from airlines. Rained like hell, but given how little we get out here, I kind of don't mind the E-coast monsoons. Dharmonia and I are just starting to think about the possibility of affording a little bit of our home-ground and so we spent a little bit of time driving the rutted tree-arched stone-walled roads of my (and her) childhood. Schlepped the new baby (5-string tenor guitar by the great GD Armstrong) in anticipation of sessions and was delighted to find it fits in all overheads, even the little Embraer puddle-jumpers they fly out of here.

But here's the frustration. I expect that when I go back East, or maybe out West, moving more-or-less toward the epicenter of the music that I play, I'd find better sessions and better players and, in general, situations that would kick my ass musically and charge up my batteries for the return to our little scene. And, if I were head down to the Burren in Somerville, or maybe the Skellig in Waltham (sister pub), or Mona's or the Eagle Tavern down in Manhattan (or, for that matter, the Catskills week up here), I could count on getting my ass kicked in the friendliest, most thorough, and most efficacious way possible, and recharging my batteries every bit as much as I needed.

But, anywhere else 'round out there? Not so fucking much. I went to three different pub sessions, at least one of which enjoys a reasonably positive reputation (more on the basis of who used to live in the vicinity and look in there, than on any present conduct), and I was overwhelmingly struck by how fucking joyless and uptight they were. Sessions are supposed to be joyful--or at least conversational. I hate those sessions that are got up by people who either didn't grow up in the music or haven't spent enough time in the music's real epicenters, and who bring such goddamned tension to the experience. The weenies who take over as "leaders" at sessions because they're worried that if they let someone else start a set "everyone" will recognize how many tunes they don't know; the newbies who, because they have not been made to feel comfortable and welcome, feel they have to pounce on every 10-second pause. Why don't these people fucking smile occasionally?

The very best sessions I've ever been to have had as much conversation as, or more than, music. Sessions are supposed to be about people, and their interaction. When there are 25 people in a session and the "leaders" are so worried about keeping control that they don't even know who's there, or can't hear what they can do, it just makes me want to walk out.

Which, in the latter instance, is precisely what I did. Not my preferred response, for sure (the control-freak teacher in me makes me want to somehow find a space in which to wrest the thing toward a more dynamic, interactive, human zone), but I actually just realized I'd rather get out than keep fighting a losing--and frustrating--battle.

As I was packing up, a Tier-2 player (e.g., somebody who comes every week, doesn't have all the tunes, but does go out of his way to take up the welcome-slack the leaders are obviating) said, "are you leaving already? That's too bad, you sound pretty good...How long have you been playing?"

I said, "since 1978."

And left.

[ps: I don't usually like to rant like this, but in this case, the bile comes from a sense of frustration at the way such situations are, versus the way they can be, and the degree to which the music and the participants are short-changed by such dynamics.]

1 comment:

Mac Tíre said...

Sorry you had such a rotten time. I'd like to whack people like that on the head, because they give the whole freaking tradition a bad name. Roomie and I say hello from Vancouver!