A young man (I am not a good judge of age so maybe 20-22), accompanied by a female friend, is first up tonight. She has no instrument. He carries a guitar and is self-conscious. The MC tries to get him set up center stage. The performer pulls things over to one side. The MC sets up a chair. The performer drags a stool to the corner.
This peaks my interest because I prefer not to stand when I perform solo. It is difficult to find a good sitting setup – chair is too high, chair is too low, seat is soft, the damn thing squeaks, etc. I have always viewed the stool as an excellent mezzo-perch, not too high, not too low. However, every time I’ve used a stool I find the rungs placed too high or too low, facilitating awkward positioning. Sigh. Stool designers are not guitar players.
Predictably, the guy has situated himself in what looks to be a very uncomfortable position – one leg on the floor, one on the too-low rung. Half his butt-cheek is the only thing that keeps him from sliding onto the floor. He has no guitar strap. So, in this position, he has to hug and strum the guitar at the same time. As introduction, he makes a quick caustic remark (an inside joke with his female friend) and tells us, “Anyway, this is my song, here it goes, I hope you hate it.” Immediately, it’s apparent his positioning on stage and approach to stool sitting are intentional. It is how he prefers things. No question.
The sloucher plays his steel string like a pawn shop strat-knockoff in the hands of an old-school punker – low-slung, down-stroke power chords. When singing, his voice is a cross between Milo from The Descendents and GMR from Bush. This produces a fair amount of cognitive dissonance for me since his speaking voice is treble and timid. He is passionate and the lyrics are dark, mature and about girls. He introduces the next song as one he wrote “a way long time ago, like I was 18 or something”, and again, encourages us to hate his song. He offers the same passion but this time driving edgier, squarely in-your-face lyrics about girls. He describes his last song, which he forgets to suggest we hate, as a cross between 50’s style Swing and Rockabilly that “came out of the 70’s”. He labels it “totally instrumental”. I hear a pseudo-Yes acoustic intro that morphs into a Bo Diddley groove. It keeps my interest.
I enjoy this music. Not just this guy’s stuff but every night’s offerings. I don’t hear the errors, see the agonizing hesitation, or mind the delusional antics. The New Sound Junkie in me sucks up all the unintentional beauty, accidental synchronicity, and random circum-ambient concurrences. At the same time, I ruthlessly analyze each performance. Who are they aping, what is their favorite vocal affectation, how can someone write such cliches? The Critic says “Oh, shut up! Like I really want to hear this!?” the New Sound Junkie says “Oh, shut up! I really want to hear this!” I’m like a beach ball lost at sea…totally psyched to be tossed around by waves. Should I be bothered by this?
John Cage (a 20th century composer/artist) suggested that all sounds are valid for aesthetic consideration and that audience perceptions can complete a work. The Critic cries “Snake Oil!” However, the New Sound Junkie’s countless hours of listening to live and recorded music of all kinds have corroborated these concepts. I make these observations. The young man’s performance is complete. I critique the stage personae of others. I cheat on the completion of my own.
The Derp doesn’t stay for the other sets. He leaves with his female friend. I don’t think this is significant.