Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I've been reading Catching The Big Fish by David Lynch. "It starts with desire," writes Lynch. Desire is what brings in the big fish. Big fish are big ideas that live in deep water, and desire is the bait. If you have desire, patience, and a solid Transcendental Meditation practice, you'll dive deep and catch the big fish. Maybe I'll attempt meditation sometime in the future, but for now, I'll stick with desire. I have so much desire. So much desire, so much bait, and sometimes, I catch a big fish. This is how a song starts. A fish flops into my hands and says to me, "Being beautiful is easy." This is the opening line of a new song I'm writing. I don't know what it means. Being beautiful is actually hard, isn't it? But what if it were easy? Or is being beautiful a God-given state, neither easy nor difficult to achieve? The rest of the song is an attempt to solve the riddle of the first line.

Being beautiful is easy
I do it some of the time
Give up all the anger
Look up at the sky

I'm not done yet. I'm waiting for answers. I used to push lyrics along, writing whatever came to me so I could finish, because finishing was all that mattered. One more song in the can before I die. Now I know better.

And then last night, I ran into Aubrey. The first thing I said to her was, "You look exactly the same!" We talked about her exhausting year in China, my exhausting year in legal immigration purgatory, and how in Berlin, people dive deep right from the start. Aubrey used to live in Berlin. "I miss Berlin," she said. "They don't waste any time with surface level interactions. When you have to leave a table, you just get up and go. You don't have to say goodbye. And when you sit down, you jump right into the thick of the conversation. People are emotionally available." "Less reserve?" I asked. "Yeah, less caution."

I don't know anything about Berlin. I've never been there. My impression of Germany these days boils down to the image of a sadistic schoolmaster beating a Greek schoolchild to death, but yes, I believe in diving deep. Meanwhile, I'm in a loud Oakland bar, I'm talking to Aubrey, and we're shouting to hear each other over the noise. We're trying to dive deep, but the noise holds us back. I tell her about the big fish. "I'm reading this book," I say.

Before talking to Aubrey, I had performed five quiet guitar songs. This is why I was at the bar. Sometimes, Stefan lets me perform music unrelated to FEZANT. So I sat there, guitar in hand, microphone in face, diving deep to catch five big fish. I threw them onto the stage, one by one. They died slowly. At first, everyone listened. By the third song, I felt a shift in energy, and during the last two songs, the room was back to its boisterous state of drunken confusion.

At the end of the set, I rejoined the confusion, transitioning from performer to layperson in mere seconds. Aubrey intercepted me before I had a moment to think about what had just happened, and we talked about her exhausting year in China, my exhausting year in legal immigration purgatory, and you know the rest. Then Lovage and Alee got on stage. More big fish. Their songs were somewhat less quiet than mine, but still, too quiet for a loud bar. At first, everyone listened. By the third song, I felt a shift in energy, and during the last two songs, what was initially a beautiful hum of collective concentration waned into a din of distraction. Same thing all over again.

Lovage and Alee

Why is it, I wanted to ask Aubrey but didn't, that most of the people in this bar prefer to jabber than listen to the music? I doubt they all have terribly important things to say to each other. Maybe the music isn't great. Maybe the music is mediocre. But isn't mediocre music better than mediocre jabber? I'm usually relieved when a band starts playing, because it means I can finally stop coming up with things to say.

At our last FEZANT show, we blasted the audience with sound. We're a loud band. Most everyone seemed to be paying attention, and the ones who were talking didn't matter, because I couldn't hear them through the roar of synths. Is loudness the only way to make people listen? Is loudness the only kind of magic that maintains its power to silence and awe? Only by screaming over and over again, "THIS IS A BIG FUCKING FISH," will people listen? Are big fish otherwise so banal, so overabundant, farmed to a point of senseless profusion on the Internet and beyond, that alcohol-fueled jabber proves more enticing? Do I sound like a crotchety egomaniac? Maybe I'm just not good enough. I'm pretty bad at playing the guitar. Nina Simone would have shut them up. 

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