The Work Ethic of Musicians: I Stand in Awe

Just got home from another Hairbanger’s Ball show! I freaking love this band.

Every show, they BRING a party. And not only that, but are engaging and respectful to fans. They draw boundaries when necessary if things get unruly, but play on and interact and flirt and take pictures and do shots and do it all with a smile.

I can’t imagine the stress of doing this completely sober– but they do it while partying! I don’t know how they have the endurance, but they truly set the bar high.

And I gotta say, this show was one of the more memorable I’ve attended. As I am prone to doing, I went on impulse alone. This time, my journey took me to Frankfort, IL. I navigated the country back roads in the darkness– sans my glasses. Only St. Anthony knows where they are! I expected a small dive– but there were parking lot attendants directing traffic! When I paid the cover, I was even given an official ticket like you’d see at any regular concert for a national act. It was awesome! I’m saving it.

I realized that musicians are some of the hardest workers out there. Tonight, I truly have a new and untold level of respect for them.

Musicians endure some pretty harsh working conditions, and get paid next to nothing for what they are truly giving. They spend their lives perfecting their technique on instruments of choice, constantly challenging themselves to higher levels of performance. They are never satisfied, and if they want to exist in their industry they cannot afford even a moment of complacency. There is so much competition that they need to be one step ahead at all times. They need to be more versatile, more committed and more professional than the myriad other musicians out there who are scheming to take their place.

And if they are to succeed, they must sacrifice not only their time but their entire identity and often their bodies as well. They lose relationships, sleep, sobriety and of course their hearing. They work whatever jobs they can muster to support their dreams, and if they want to be lifers they have to quit many of those jobs in order to secure the gigs that satisfy their soul.

Music is mostly mathematical, if you’re playing an instrument. I can’t imagine doing math like that– at lightning speed– while drinking! I can understand now why drugs are such an inherent part of music culture. Musicians are mere mortal beings– I can only imagine why it’s so tempting to succumb to substances that will enhance your energy levels. The strength of will it would take to say no to the plethora of substances that must be passed around in this world must be superhuman.

If you’re singing, it’s still quite a bit of stress on your voice and involves years of preparation– whether you’re self-taught or classically trained.

Tonight there was a particularly aggressive trio of women buying incessant shots. The band indulged them until they finally had to refuse– and I was flabbergasted by the band’s professionalism.

I wondered, how do they decide when it’s enough? The biggest part of rock n’ roll is the partying. Fans are always buying shots, wanting pictures, groping them without shame, staring at them. And it’s their job to entertain, to please the mob. They have to not just pack the house and be the cash cow for the venue, but please all these fans as well.

And it doesn’t matter if they’re tired or sick or miss their significant others or families. They have to put on a show– a show which is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting– under bright lights, at so many different venues.

I’m realizing I have the same passion for writing! I spend all my time either fantasizing about topics, reading, blogging, reading books about writing, scribbling in a journal or attempting a poem. Lately, I dream about writing fiction. For the first time in years, I’m craving publication again– beyond blogging.

The risks are part of it. A life of art is not a safe one.

But God, what a way to live.


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