Boozhoo, indinawemaaganidog! Aaniin! That is to say hello, all of my relatives! Welcome to another edition of An Irritable Métis. My greatest source of consistent irritability lately has been Substack. It started a couple weeks ago when they sent out a message saying we could “invest” in the company. That has the whiff of rotting flesh from a corpse that doesn’t know it’s dead yet. Now it’s this damnable Notes garbage that might be flooding your feed; I’ve been trying to turn off notifications of new ones since the beta started because I want no part of any of it but of course that functionality doesn’t appear to be working yet. It’s frustrating.
Like I said when Chat was unleashed on us: the last thing I want to advocate for is anyone spending more time looking at forgettable bullshit on devices and computers, and that’s what most of this kind of “innovation” is. There are few people who write beautiful newsletters that can also be trusted with short bursts that are anything but inane, including, especially, ME. The lack of all that is what has made me find some measure of online comfort in Substack in the first place.
Lately loading up Substack at all has the vibe of rolling into a barely tolerable office environment where you still like the work you do so you abide but now the manager or whoever has just returned from a conference or seminar with all kinds of ideas to “make things even better!” that just make getting the REAL job done more difficult, so you endure the irritation of all the annoying clamor while waiting for the whole thing to blow over and exist in some part of the building where you don’t ever have to acknowledge it again and just do your friggin’ work before the enjoyment of Any of It slowly has its life trampled out of it.
I know this all makes me sound like one of those Black Keys
I’ve never had a spiritual connection to Easter. When I was a kid we received Easter baskets, and the Easter Bunny was as real to me as Santa Claus, but all the Jesus stuff was never part of it; I had a vague idea of the resurrection but never cared and still don’t. If I have any appreciation for Easter at all it is how the rabbit and the eggs and all that are such powerful pagan symbols and so many fanatically Christian people are utterly oblivious to their origins and meaning. That level of lingering subversion makes me happy. I’d rather all the seasonal attention landed on the Equinox itself but as I’ve said before: it’s hard to commercialize for mass consumption the budding glory of the sun the way you can in stuffing waxy rabbit shaped chocolate into a plastic basket (that will exist forever in a landfill starting three days later) full of plastic grass (that will exist forever in a landfill starting three days later) and whatever else gets crammed into those things in this millennium.
I have fond Easter-related memories though. Like this one. Over a multi-year span somewhere in the neighborhood of probably fifteen years or so ago my rock band regularly had an end-of-season show in the town of Big Sky, Montana. There is a fancy ski resort there, and the grubby locals who lived and worked in the area loved us; they treated us like rock stars, and gleefully got obliterated and turned the pit in front of the stage into a seething maelstrom. Back then Big Sky was already plenty exclusive and bougie, but nothing like it is now. In fact, we were last there the summer before Covid, I think, or the year before that, and what used to be a meadow we’d pass on our way up the hill to destroy The Black Bear bar and everyone it it was now a little community of shops and restaurants that made me want to hurl. We played a sports bar thing and it had none of the vibe from the old days and I don’t really care if we ever go back.
One year we played the end-of-season finale on a Saturday night, then blearily set out to make our way home to Missoula the following Sunday. There was a little highway-side restaurant near the Four Corners area of Bozeman we would traditionally stop at for breakfast. On this particular Sunday it happened to be Easter Sunday, which had escaped us, and as we shuffled into the restaurant they were just finishing the setup for their special Easter breakfast buffet. This was possibly the holiest Easter moment of my lifetime. We peeled off a few bills from the wad of cash we’d been paid the night before and TUCKED IN. Three big, hungry dudes, likely hungoverand still off-gassing whiffs of the stage beers from the night before, hunkered down for the better part of an hour waging destruction on the ham and eggs and biscuits and bacon and hashbrowns and gravy and everything else that was “all you can eat.” And we ate. All of it. It was glorious, especially as the dressed-for-the-holiday crowd started arriving and there we hunkered in sweat pants and t-shirts and bottomless appetites. It was epic enough that I remember it all these years later.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my rock band lately. Playing music is something I still do that brings me incredible joy. I don’t talk about it that much because usually, when I am talking with someone about writing and they find out I play music too, that’s all they want to talk about. I’m not a musician, I just like to rock, and there’s not much else to say about it. I’m not a singer/songwriter who writes songs I can strum on a guitar at readings. I mostly write songs about monsters and aliens and horror movies because they’re fun to sing and no one is listening that closely anyway. I’m never going to “sit in” or “jam” with anyone because I can’t play anything beyond the songs we’ve written because there aren’t that many I’ve ever bothered to learn and the ones I ever bothered with I’ve forgotten. We aren’t a cover band, or a bar band. We play bars, yes, but last summer when we had a couple opportunities to open shows in a big room with 600+ people in it it solidified what I’ve always known: that is the environment we are built to unleash into. And people who’d never heard of us before were immediately into it.
While it is more and more difficult to play shows because there aren’t that many venues that can accommodate us, it is something I still spend quite a bit of time engaged in. The band is just coming off a stretch of a couple months where we didn’t get together even to rehearse because our drummer was having some kind of foot or leg problem, the correction of which required them going in and disconnecting/reconnecting his Achilles tendon. When he was healed enough to play again, we got back at it.That was just a couple weeks ago, and I was struck, walking into the room, how deeply I felt being together again with these friends. We have little in common outside music but that doesn't matter. Jimmy, who plays guitar, has been on the other side of the stage from me for more than twenty years, and is the friend I’ve had longest in my life, even if we really don’t do anything together but play obnoxiously loud rock. I’ve known Steve, the drummer, almost as long. They are my brothers.
All this makes me think of how we quantify success in this dumpster fire capitalist culture. We base our efforts on economic viability, making a living, whatever, and that sucks. Because if I were to look at all the things I’ve done in my life (aside from help nudge a child into being a functioning adult), playing music is the most successful thing I’ve done. It was no later than 1977, when I bought my first album with my own money, that I knew I wanted to be a rock star. My friends and I put our first band together in the summer of 1983, and in all the time that’s passed I bet it barely totals a year cumulative that I haven’t been engaged in rocking with a group of other people.
I’ve never had the level of quantifiable “success” with it anywhere close to even the negligible amount of success I’ve had with my writing but I’m still doing it all these long years later. There are myriad bands who got big, burned out, and now don’t exist. We’re still here! I’m not a rock star but I feel like one when we’re playing. And I am confident we can take the stage with any rock band in the world and hold our own. That feels like an accomplishment to me, even if the vast majority of bands we play with now are comprised of adults still young enough to be my children.
When we measure the worthiness of our dreams on whether or not they generate income or not we are hamstringing ourselves. I wouldn’t even call my music career a “hobby” because it is an essential part of my life. I think of this whenever I am in a workshop or whatever and people who love to write say “I’m not really a writer” because they don’t make money with it, whatever. I urge everyone to ignore that mindset because it doesn’t serve us. If something makes you feel fulfilled and mighty, do it. Anyone urging you not to for bullshit capitalistic reasons is not your friend. Seize all the joy you can and glorify in it. Life’s too short not to. I’m not a rock star? Fuck that. I am a rock star!
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Did you click the link to watch that video? I got a little verklempt revisiting it. More than a decade ago when it came out I was spending A LOT of time in environments just like where that wonderful man is getting down, and it was music like this that kept me tethered to a better reality than what I was living at the time. Music, friends! Music!
Thanks, Mom! I have so much gratitude that I will never be able to properly express for not having received a religious indoctrination as a child.
In truth, I don’t think I’ve ever been hungover after a rock show. I don’t drink much – I’ve maybe only been hungover two or three times in my life – and even if the show ends with 4-6 empty beer cans around my mic stand, at least half of that ended up spilled down the front of my shirt while trying to refresh myself in the brief instants between songs, another quarter is probably soaked into my beard, and the rest just cascaded down my throat only to be squeezed out as sweat moments later. Rock does batter the body, though, especially as I’ve aged, and the morning after physically, even just after vigorous rehearsals, is a lot rougher now than it used to be.
Thank goodness it is on his hi-hat foot and not his kick drum foot. I mean, who cares about the hi-hat, right? And the kick drum is the most important instrument in a rock band.
Thanks for how you named the changes on this thing. I love the quiet of a non-endless feed -- I look if any of my writers have a piece, if they do, I read them, and when there’s no more, it’s done. I briefly felt like this was a harbor from the toxic waves of the attention economy, but it seems Mr Best wants to capitalize (literally) on twitters downfall. Not interested. I appreciate feeling the permission to opt out of the notes/chat stuff. I’m here to write and read writers and save my presence for more beautiful things.
You are absolutely a rock star, Chris! Never doubted it. (I had "Dickhead Mountain" on in the car when I picked my son up the other day and he said, "I didn't know [redacted name of class bully] had a song named after him." American Falcon lives forever.)
I want to dance with that guy. I'd forgotten that song existed.
Also the comment about a manager coming back from a conference with all sorts of ideas is *exactly* how I've been feeling. Just let me get my damn work done! The launch of Notes actually pushed me to delete the app. I was using it mostly to keep on top of comments but now it feels too much like all the other social media I tried to get away from.