Hello? Is this thing on?
My husband played guitar in an Irish folk/country/punk band for the first several years we were married. If your town has a drinking establishment that uses Olde or Ye or Slainte anywhere on its menu, or brass fixtures and red telephone boxes in its decor, then I'm sure your town has a version of this band. They played Thin Lizzie and Waterboys and Ramones covers, along with electrified versions of Danny Boy and the Rocky Road to Dublin, and a sprinkling of bluegrass for local color. They were huge on St. Patrick's Day, and had a pretty good run in the college bars. One time, whilst being introduced to a couple at a party, the wife thought they might have attended a gig once. The husband was having a hard time digging it up. "Remember, honey? We were dancing and then you threw up."
"Yes!" Patrick and I exclaimed in unison. That was the band.
When Patrick started out with them, they were mostly Irishmen, and there's no denying they did tend to run to stereotype as far as the drink goes. (It's funny, when I was in Ireland--and I spent nearly all my time there in bars-- I never saw anyone getting really drunk. It was all quite civilized and genteel. Perhaps they export all the troublemakers.) You could say the band had a tendency to get ahead of the crowd.
The frontsman and bass player was a charming fellow from the North whose accent was utterly unintelligible. This was a blessing because once he'd had a few, he'd start cursing at the audience. "Dance, you bastards! Motherfuckers dance!" Since he was smiling when he said it, and since it sounded to them like, "Brawbrawbraw!", the audience would simply smile and give him a thumbs up sign, if they paid attention at all.
One night some of us wives tagged along to a gig in Memphis. The place was a bit of a dive and it was a slow night. The lads were drinking to make up for the folks who couldn't be there, I guess. Once they took the stage, things went rapidly off the rails. I forget the number they were trying to play, but it got louder and loopier and more discordant by the second. The bass player was screaming something, while the rest of them were sweating and looking back and forth at each other in confusion. It was a train wreck. Somehow they brought the song to a screeching halt.
"What the fuck was that?," shouted the bass player, throwing off his guitar strap.
"You kept saying play faster, play faster," someone charged accusingly.
"I was saying, 'YOU BASTARDS, YOU BASTARDS!"
What recently reminded me of this occasion was a wonderful article in the New Yorker last month about stage fright, where it was revealed that Laurence Olivier used to manage his by pacing back and forth behind the curtain prior to a performance, muttering, "You bastards," at the audience. The article went on to delve into the peculiar love-hate bond between a performer and his public, rife as it is with need, narcissism, power struggles, manipulation, idolatry and all the other hallmarks of a totally codependent relationship. For the person in the spotlight, it's the old "can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em" paradox.
Recently I have found myself pacing back and forth in front of my site meter (the doohickey at the bottom of the page that tells how many hits a day this page gets), muttering similar curses. I tell myself its not about the numbers. This blog was never intended to be anything other than a place where I could write purely to please myself; check my expectations at the door. But then I got to looking around the blogosphere, and I notice what kind of traffic other blogs are getting, what kind of feedback, what loyal readership. Whole social clubs have been founded on the comments pages of other blogs. Advertising agencies are falling over themselves to get space on them. I don't think this in itself would bother me, but there's a little petulant part of me that says, yeah but dammit, I write better than most of them. Where is my loyal fanbase? Where are my bouquets of roses?
It occurs to me, perhaps:
1) I actually suck and don't know from good writing.
2) People who read blogs suck and don't know from good writing.
But neither of these theories take me to my happy place, so I might go with:
3) The world is not ready for the magnitude of my gifts.
which is a variation of the time-honored, "When I die, then they'll feel bad."
I know, I am breaking the rule of never let them see you sweat. The fact is, I'm up here in the spotlight squinting into the dark theatre. I know a lot of the seats are empty, but I know some of you are out there. I'd love to hear more often, from more of you. Send me a note backstage sometime, introduce yourself. Toss me a rose, throw a tomato. Clear your throat once in a while.
Or just email me a smiley and a thumbs up, because, honestly, you can't understand a word I am saying.
Filed under: randomthoughts
Irish music, drinking bands, band wives, New Yorker, stage fright, good writing, blog feedback, popular blogs, bloggers who can write
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