Ten things I’ve learned from playing in a band

NOTE: I used to play in a band called Broken Falls Community Hall Band. We played a bunch of gigs in Vancouver, made a CD, never made much money…and loved every minute of it. This is a page with a song on it (right-hand side): http://radio3.cbc.ca/#/bands/Broken-Falls-Community-Hall-Band. Here’s us playing on a ridiculously small stage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHxyiT5omYU

  1. Try recording an album after having food poisoning for days. It’s tough…but you have a kind of manic energy from starvation and shock that can’t be replicated.
  2. We recorded our album by packing up a bunch of rented portable studio gear, our instruments, a laptop, our friend Jon (an engineer), and lots of cable, driving up/ferrying to Vancouver Island, where we then drove to a house in Courtenay BC to lay down seven tracks for our (short) CD. It’s a great way to record music.
  3. I’m never more nervous and shy than when I’m singing on stage for real in front of people. You are revealing yourself completely, and it is terrifying.
  4. Playing in a band because you vibe with your bandmates and you love making music together is the best reason to play in a band. We didn’t give a shit about making money, and consequently we had a great time playing gigs and at rehearsal. And we still made some money.
  5. If you want a band to be commercially viable, you probably shouldn’t play eight minute long jam songs. But if you like to jam, then you definitely should.
  6. Playing music with my band was often transcendent, and one of the purest and rawest forms of artistic expression I’ve ever had. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. When we got in the pocket and really played together and sang our asses off, it was cathartic.
  7. You get to know your bandmates really well. The love stories, the challenges at work, the smells…
  8. A good rhythm section is invaluable. It locks the wayward guitar soloist and the melismatic singer down.
  9. Booking gigs is easy. Filling seats isn’t even that hard if you know anything about promotion at all. All you have to worry about is being worth the money they paid to get in. Will they buy your merch, and will they come back again?
  10. Playing music with people is powerful. I miss those guys so much sometimes. I miss the feeling of playing together. The old rehearsal space with high ceilings and broken fans. I miss Craig unloading and setting up his drum kit, Chris’ unique wooden bass head and huge amp and funky basslines. I miss Jarrah’s angelic voice and how she adapted her classical keyboard training to play blues and rock, and I miss Dave’s emotive songs and cowboy swagger. All the small moments. Creating art is an experience you never forget, because you feel it, and when you reminisce, you feel it all over again.

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