R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT


finding the time
6.July.2007, 9.13 am
Filed under: daddyhood, marriage, post-rock, transitions, work

I’ll be surprised if anyone’s reading my blog anymore, simply because I haven’t updated it in weeks. Sorry about that… I’m sure you’ve found something better to read in the meantime. In case of full-on Justin withdrawal, I suggest you check out some of the links on the right… lots of good stuff there.

Anyway, part of the problem has been a continually surging stress level. My right-hand at Spencer’s is being amputated soon, and I’m really anxious about finding a replacement—not a prosthesis, but a fulling-working part with good firm digits and quick reflexes. Added to that was Foxhole tour, which took us in a circle from Bowling Green to Bushnell, Ill., then to Mt. Pleasant, Mich., Cincinnati and Louisville.

Playing music often turns out to be a real zero-sum proposition… we make some money on sales and shows, but our van guzzles gas and leaves us breaking even, at best. Meanwhile we spend hours driving from one city to the next, usually to find: a crowd of 30-80 people, many of them uninterested in the actual music; a venue that’s talked up what a great show it’ll be, only to come at the end of the night with much less money than they led us to believe; a promoter who said “I love your music!” who doesn’t take the simple steps to make sure things run smoothly, sound levels are right, and that people will actually show up.

It’s really, really frustrating, actually… I get myself pumped up for these outings, and they always sort of disappoint. I imagine a culture where artists are appreciated and are compensated properly… I’m not asking for punk-rock welfare here, just an understanding that creating and performing music takes a lot of hard work and that it’s worth more than $3 and a “good show, man” at the end of the night.

Granted, it’s a free market, and there are a few bands who can afford to pay for their meals, gas, even some entertainment with the earnings from their shows, and still have some money left over. But the market is way oversaturated and, on our end, we’re way too busy to pull some major marketing coup. It’s tough, too, for me to stay enthusiastic and to find the time to write and rehearse when all my bandmates are in Nashville; they, meanwhile, are plenty busy and aren’t as proactively minded as me, and so we tread water more often than not.

It wasn’t like this before, and I’m having a hard time adjusting. My strange day/night schedule at the newspaper was the first blow, marriage was the second and Lewis is a big one at No. 3. I’ve such fond memories of practicing and just jamming around with my bandmates on a semi-daily basis… my mind likes to forget that I was constantly down about not having a true love! Grass is always greener when you don’t have to cut it.

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4 Comments so far
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Sorry to hear the tour wasn’t everything you hoped for. From all reports, though – that is, yours and greg’s/adam’s – it ran much more smoothly than ANY other tour we’ve ever taken. You know, those two or three others. ha. It’s a learning process, I’m sure, and the fact that we do it so seldom surely slows down the process.

As for me, it doesn’t boil down to results. Rather, it’s always about the experience, which indeed is often sour, but all the same an experience worth having, because amidst the sour there’s a good deal of sweet as well. Getting those hours on the road with you guys is an experience I long for, really, and one we’re not able to afford anymore in these stressful times. I’d say the time we’re on the tour is the time I see you the most happy-go-lucky and easy-going, and is always a boon to our friendship.

Furthermore, the experience for me is about obedience. I’ve never felt “not called” to do foxhole. And while the results aren’t ever as satisfying as we hope for, I’m not necessarily looking for satisfaction in the experience, but rather in the service – that is, the service of God, of other people, and of you, my friends.

As we get older and more responsible, we take on more responsibilities. Sometimes it gets to be too much for us, and it pains me to hear of how stressed out you and other friends always are. I don’t think this is how it should be. Granted, jobs are stressful, kids are stressful, marriages are stressful, and even bands are stressful, if you’re trying to do something more than just “have fun with it.” But all these things also have their blessings and great joy is included in each, and if we’re not too focused on how stressed we are, I think we can better enjoy the composition of our lives, even if our lives aren’t ever quite so satisfying as we’d like. Then again, it is good to take things slowly every now and then.

I promise to do some babysitting for you when I get back (once the little dude is comfortable with me), so you can take your wife out and romance her a bit. You need to make a habit of that. Not all of us have the privilege & responsibility.

“one for sorrow, two for joy”

peace

Comment by Derek

Actually, I agree with almost all of what you’ve written… I hope you don’t too often take my one-sided writing (usually done in a certain mood or on a certain theme) as being “the whole story.” A couple notes: 1.) In regard to the part of your comment which you’ll now see has been deleted… it was too personal for this forum, and also a bit ignorant (in the technical sense, not meant derogatorily)… with a fill-in Derek of a different persuasion, the absence (at least in my mind) of a certain thing was intentional. 2.) Results should be a factor—certainly not the only one, but it’s valid to want your work to be taken seriously and respected. 3.) You should really have your bro mail me Super Smash Bros. Melee! I need the practice! 4.) Lewis would love to be babysat by you, I’m sure… by the time you get here he should be running around on his own, at which point you guys can play soccer or do kickboxing of sumpin’.

Comment by rjustin

Regarding results, yes of course. Results should be a factor, and they are. But your current results (or lack thereof) are, in my mind, to be expected. We tour so seldom and in effect produce so little momentum that it’s sort of silly to expect monster crowds, or an easy time getting shows with real professionals. What’s more, we practice relatively so little in preparation for these outings that our shows on the road are never consistently good, hardly astounding, or (could I even say?) adequate representations of our music, suggesting to me the improbability of enthusiastic chatter from peers and fans afterwards.

Other bands we know, whose music I’d argue is really no better than ours, nevertheless find the results they’re (and we’re) after because they put the work in beforehand to achieve them. That is, they practice a lot together and on their own, and they tour enough to keep fresh in peoples’ hearts & heads.

I think our current results are simply reflective of our current work, and it’s we’d be dumb to expect otherwise if we’re not willing to put the work in beforehand.

While it’s certain we can’t increase so much the frequency of our performances, I think we can at least approach each outing as what it truly is: that is, a rare event to be handled with care and sincerity, putting the time in to make it come out great, barring the bad luck gods’ acts of terror.

I’d like to seriously ask the guys in shipping news/rachel’s or other bands we love that play so seldom – but when they play it’s sure to be an event – just how they go about producing as good (sometimes even better, say in Shellac’s or Battle’s case) a product on stage as on their records. In the meantime, I’d say we need to start putting into action the things we talk about regarding our live shows, starting work on it months ahead of time, rather than waiting to the last moment, signing it off as too much work, and thus letting the good ideas ferment for months or years in continual, non-effective talk, because if we’re going to go out on the road but once a year for a very short stint, and then produce only half-inspiring work on the stage, then I’d say we’re doing a disservice to everyone: to God, to the fans, and to ourselves.

I don’t want for this to sound like, “WE’VE GOTTA DO MORE!” and thus put more pressure on your already highly-pressured head, but I do want to impress upon you, myself, and the other dudes in f-hole that if we’re not willing to make every precious outing an event, thus demanding the respect and appreciation the work deserves, then I suspect we should be “satisfied” with the meagre results we already achieve (by grace, I often think), and while I won’t go so far to say, “It’s just not worth it,” I will say its inherent worth is deeply hampered.

Could you maybe explain your first note to me in a personal email? It’s really vague and full of strange phrases, and I honestly can’t remember what I would’ve written that would’ve been so personal and deletable.

I’ll see if I can get my brother to mail you that game, though I honestly think there is other, more productive “practice” you could be putting your time and love into.

Sorry to sound like such a party-pooper. It’s all spoken out of an intention to love more and the hope of us being humbly accountable to one another.

Comment by Derek

the video was pretty incredible – nice to see. sounded great after the very rough beginning was over with…

Comment by matthew




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