This is it: my career has sunk to the rockiest bottom it can get, and I don’t see any way I can ever ascend to the surface without a severe case of the bends. After years and years of playing guitar until my fingers literally bleed, trying and almost always failing to get into nearly every venue you can think of (including my local synagogue), playing backup to any group that would have me (most wouldn’t), and my parents kicking me out of the house three times, I finally was “hired” last month on a semi-permanent basis by a group that actually has steady work. I knew I had sold my soul when I auditioned for – and was accepted by – a kids’ band.
And no, it’s not a band made up of kids: I’m 37 years old, so at this point most of my peers are starting to look like kids to me anyway. Belonging to a youth band actually wouldn’t have been so bad, since the audiences usually are made up of at least teenage-level people. Nope, this band plays for kids, with kid songs and kid choreography. I don’t know which audience is more unruly and unappreciative: the drunks and drug addicts who throw stuff at you just because, or the crying babies and wandering toddlers whose parents let them crawl everywhere and mess up everything.
Another blow to the ego is that I was told by the always-peppy lead singer/songwriter who wears overalls and pigtails all the time that I had to “clean up my act” when we’re performing. What, I always wear a nice T-shirt! But that wasn’t good enough: I had to cut my awesome hair as short as if I was in the Army, I had to shave my awesome beard just as it had reached my belly button, and I had to wear long sleeves so the little tykes don’t see my awesome tatts (one is a beautiful mermaid, I don’t see what the problem is) and become “negatively influenced” because I “clash with the band’s image”. Whatevs – long as I don’t have to get my tattoos removed, `cause then you’d be paying for it, sweetheart.
The first gig I had with the “The Littlest Sea Turtles” (I kid you not) was OK: the songs were easy to memorize since they used the same chords over and over again. The leader kept sneaking me dirty looks `cause I wouldn’t sing with her and her doofus co-lead singer/first guitarist, who is either her brother or owes her money (I thought it would be rude to ask which). I also wouldn’t jump up and down, wave my arms, or chirp like a bird/moo like a cow/etc. whenever she commanded us and the brats to. The kid whose birthday it was had already checked out so he could get his face painted as some superhero, so really, what was the point?
I couldn’t even sneak a cigarette: the moment I pulled out the pack, every pair of eyes that was over the age of 7 shot in my direction. I was afraid for my life, so I put it away and bummed a bottle of beer instead. Apparently, polluting your body with liquor is OK, but polluting your body and the shared air with tobacco is not. Safe ride home, moms and dads!
Our second gig was not much better – the leader threatened to fire me if I didn’t at least bob my head in time with whatever motions she was doing, so I figured that was a small sacrifice that required minimal effort. I somehow forgot some of the notes between shows, so I had to improvise during two of the songs; she sure knows her stuff, `cause she shot me with a stream of bubbles during those times, laughing as if it was a joke but glaring daggers from her eyes, as if she wished she had been holding a flamethrower instead. I like my band leaders stoned, not psychotic, thank you.
As punishment, at the next gig we landed she made me hand out the props to the kids wandering all over the place, which took me forever and killed the show’s momentum (I didn’t care anymore – my professional pride had long left me by that point). She also made me go back later and collect them (those things ain’t cheap), and the amount of drool on them made me feel like my hands will never be clean again. Also, one kid of course didn’t want to give up the thing (I think it was a salt shaker with rocks inside), and mom’s yelling at me to let him keep it that by then I almost punched both of them in the face, I was that far gone. The lead singer cheerily called me back to the stage in order to keep me out of prison, so I’ll give her that.
Next week, we’ve got a preschool graduation party (really?!) and already the ungrateful audiences are getting me down. They don’t even pretend to pay attention, and they’re constantly going on potty breaks, and their adult keepers seem to be more into it than the kids are. Half of them leave before the show’s over, and they’re talking and/or crying through the whole thing. I’m sorry, but I’m an artist, and I would like to have some kind of acknowledgement during the show! The better crowds sing and dance along and clap after each song, but most of them are jerks. I want to scream at the end of each set “You’ve been a terrible audience! Good night!”, but I think the lead singer would then strangle me with the microphone cord.
For now, I endure as all do, for – you guessed it – the money. And the music: it really is all about the music.