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Sitting Outside On The Sidewalk

Demmi's MarketSomewhere between getting home from last Wednesday’s gig and today, a few bits and pieces have been shifting around in my head. Or my heart. Or my soul. I have no idea which, really. But the gist of it is that I’ve begun to realize a few things that may very well have a big impact on both my immediate and distant futures.
When I was in my twenties I was full of piss and vinegar. I thought anything was possible. I thought I would live forever. It’s amazing how different my perceptions are now. That distant horizon that I never thought I would reach is now far behind me, and the days slip through my fingers like sand.
What does this have to do with last Wednesday’s gig? Not much, really. Except that I had something of an epiphany, sitting out front of Demmi’s Market, watching people walk by on the streets of Ybor City on East 7th Avenue. It all started shortly after we’d played our first set. Somehow our guitar player discovered an Abba tribute band that was inexplicably hanging out in the area. And somehow there were invited to sit in (which I didn’t particularly care for). But I was graceful enough to sit quietly and respectfully through their first song.
Actually, the first song was a nice, enjoyable funk tune. But when they started in on a second song, I lost interest and began to wander. By their third song I was sitting out front at one of the sidewalk tables. Somehow, that just seemed to sum up where we are as a band. I drove all the way to Tampa to sit outside and listen to someone else play my bass with a band that we willingly gave up the stage for.
In other words, I felt like I was wasting my time. I don’t like that feeling. Even when we went back to playing, I felt like the evening was already over. That frustration carried over into the next day, when I wrote the band e-mails complaining about our total lack of progress. We’re supposed to play a gig at a car show on October 4th, for which we had six months prior warning. With just under three months left before the gig, we still haven’t worked up any of the tunes we’d talked about doing. I have no real reason to expect that we ever will.
Somehow last Wednesday felt like a milestone. Afterward I genuinely started questioning what I want out of this band and comparing that to what I can reasonably expect. I couldn’t get the two to match up at all. I want to get the band out of Demmi’s Market and into the area music scene, but these guys are obsessed with getting a weekend gig at Demmi’s. I’ve suggested a handful of songs that I think would liven up our sets a bit, but all we seem to work up is more Classic Rock. My suggestions and ideas are ignored. And there’s apparently no interest whatsoever in working up original material. I have hundreds of original songs, and we’re not going to play any of them?
So… let me get this straight. We’re playing a whole bunch of songs that I was playing with bands back in the 1980’s. We’re apparently afraid to venture beyond the safe confines of Demmi’s Market. We make no money. And we’re not doing any original material. What exactly am I supposed to get out of this? Any kind of artistic satisfaction is definitely not in the cards.
I have so much on my plate right now that I’m beginning to realize that if I’m ever going to get anywhere with my life, I’m going to have to prioritize everything. So if anything has started to kill my enthusiasm for Systematic Chaos, it’s the creeping sense that this band is never going to bear fruit, while scattered all around me are sprouting seeds that only need fertile soil and some attentive care.
If I can point to any one thing that has made me restless, it’s probably the recent rise of a concept called Capt. Thornton’s 1st Annual Tampa Bay Local Music Festival. I’ve decided that I want to start a music festival that focuses solely on local talent. There’s nothing like it in the area. At least not on any appreciable scale. Somehow, next to a noble concept like that, squabbling over which tired old song we want to work up next doesn’t seem all that important. Neither does begging a club owner for a Saturday slot when he clearly couldn’t give a flying fuck about us.
The music festival seems important. The vampire novel I’m working on seems important. It feels important, with the days of my life slipping away from me, for me to start recording some of the hundreds of songs that I’ve written. It seems important to start creating the dozens of art projects that I’ve been chewing on, including that line of faery art.
Last Wednesday I sat outside of Demmi’s Market in Ybor City at a table out on the sidewalk, thinking about all the projects that I need to start working on, listening to another band playing on our stage and another guy playing my bass through my equipment, and I couldn’t think of a better metaphor for the band and its position of importance in my life. There’s only so much energy that one has to spend on each day and each project. As the slow accumulation of age continues to rob me of my energy, strength and determination, I find myself less and less willing to waste my time on pointless exercises.
I just need to decide which are which. And I need to act accordingly.

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