• JM(b)

Who Reviews Their Own Show? (this guy)

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

The Hotel Utah Saloon on 4th & Bryant in San Francisco was the perfect venue for a reunion show a few weeks ago this October. Being back in San Francisco always brings back fond memories of playing out every weekend, hanging out with friends, and getting paid with mediocre beer. In this case, it was Pabst Blue Ribbon, which we didn't get to enjoy during the show as it was hidden somewhere in the dark alley that serves as the back stage area, but which the bartender was nice enough to hand us a can each after the show, "for the ride home."

The Hotel Utah, as always, remains a pleasant place with great staff who make you feel at home, whether you are are the Soulbillies--a band comprised of school teachers whom we shared the night with, or a piano rock trio put together for a one-night-only show in San Francisco. We, of course, were the later.

It truly was a soul-filled night, as the return to our musical home was both emotional, and a bit of a rush in that we pulled together our show with only one afternoon rehearsal, and the three of us had never played together as a group. Of course, I'd trust any show to my long-time friend and drummer from our Even Elroy days, Ryan Machamer, and my friend Ben Reynolds on bass knows exactly what I'm going to do before I do it. There was no question about their ability to rock our little saloon with the energy we've always come to expect at our shows.

And rock we did.

Even without guitar, there was a sense of completeness to the sound in our set that evening. The tunes we selected worked well in a piano, bass, and drums environment, and save for some mic issues that are typical in any small club, we pulled off a nearly flawless set after not setting foot on a stage in five years. The magic, in my humble opinion, was there, and those who made it out to the show that evening, concurred.

Why, then, did this night also feel that this was the end of an era? The final stamp on a long career of live performance, when in fact it was the very first show to promote my new album, Better When I'm Older? Well, that may be the topic of a future post, but the idea that kept circling through my mind that evening as we worked our way through our set was that just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

I've written a lot of songs and played a lot of shows over the years since forming my first band out in San Francisco in the early 2000s, and I've loved every moment of it. Perhaps, too much. I fell in love with the idea of playing music for a living, and did just that for a long time, with no other aim in life. Even working in other fields was never really a bother for me, as living in California demands that you have at least one, if not two of what we in the biz fondly refer to as day jobs. I've always worked and played music, and found the balance not too difficult to manage.

That was before I ever worried about things like health insurance, and rent, and figuring out what our little guy can eat for dinner other than his favorite bag of goldfish. Getting paid in a case of PBR for entertaining a crowd with some upbeat original piano rock was a pretty good trade, in my opinion. Now, as much as I enjoy a good PBR, I also enjoy a good night's sleep, and knowing my family is provided for.

The name of my new record is Better When I'm Older, and after spending the last two years writing and recording this album with my good friend and guitarist Scott Barkan, I feel the title is one hundred percent accurate. I have taken all of my musical knowledge and put it into these new songs, and continue to use that experience in performing, and whatever else I choose to write. Yet, there is still a little part of me that thinks I have much to learn about the essence of songwriting, and what it takes to make a musical composition that can truly move a person after just hearing one note.

I love playing in a band, and I love performing. Yet, I also recognize there is a bit more to do than rock out for a 45-minute set in a bar with muffled sound. There are songs that need to be written that can heal the world. There are books that need to be published that can help enlighten others. There are businesses that need to be created in order to bring those works to the public, and while there is still a chance that I could do all that while putting together a demanding, high-energy show, chances are something is going to suffer.

You may not think all of that can run through your head while putting on a show at a bar with a band that has never played together and a mic that keeps slipping and an upright piano that has a few keys out of tune you need make a conscious effort to avoid, but you'd be wrong. My head that evening was filled with an enthusiasm for the future, a fondness for the past, and a mild concern as to just where they hid our free beer. The set went off without a hitch, we accepted some wonderful, heartfelt congratulations, then went our merry ways.

All in all, it was the perfect night.


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