I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
July 14, 2016 - 10:37 a.m.
Welcome to an I don't have any antacid but really need one edition of Wise Madness. I will write though the pain because I care about My Gentle Readers.
I did nothing exciting yesterday so I'm looking in my ideas bin. There's one item that just says "Stage banter." What the hell did I want to write about stage banter? Now I remember. OK I'm going with that.
Most artists spend a significant portion of their stage time talking so it's important. Of course not all do. When I saw Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Review for the two hours he was on stage he just introduced one song, a cover of an early rock and roll song. All he said was "this is one of the oldest rock and roll songs; it's from 1948," and he gave the title and whoever first recorded it. That's going too far for most people but there is a virtue in not explaining songs. Isadora Duncan said, "No, I can't explain the dance to you; If I could say it--I wouldn't have to dance it!" That goes for songs too. It's often entertaining to hear about the genesis of a song. Some songs make references that need to be explained to a general audience. I'm pretty sure that most people don't know that the Wall of Death is and Richard Thompson has explained it at shows. Some songs are based on incidents in the songwriter's life and that context adds meaning to the song. But never just say what the song is about. How silly would it be for Dylan to say, "When someone breaks up with you, you get really mad and fantasize how bad their lives will be without you. That's what this next song is about;" before Like a Rolling Stone. If you can say in words what the songs about better than the song does then the song is not worth singing. If you can't what's the point in saying it?
Some performers come across as too studied between songs. They have what is clearly prepared banter. There are musicians I love that do that. Being good at making music is not the same as being good at talking in front of an audience. The only ones that bother me are the ones that work too hard at creating an image. Some just come across as smarmy. They may not be smarmy. It's hard to be up on a stage and just talking. But it still put me off. There's one performer who I know who is talented but just can't abide because he/she feels like such a phony. I'm not the only one that gets that vibe.
Then there are those that come across as totally unprepared. They stumble their way between songs. That's better than being over-prepared. At least it's being yourself.
The best thing is to let the audience know that you're enjoying yourself. If the performer is having fun, then the audience has fun. When I'm seeing a band I love when they talk to each other and it sounds like you'd imagine them off stage. It's friends riffing off each other. Yes, sometimes what seems spontaneous is prepared. Milton Berle said that he worked for months on some of his best ad libs. Stage craft is a craft and can be worked on. Some people are naturals and others take years to get comfortable on stage. People in the audience know they care about what the performer says but they don’t' often thing about what goes into it. Many performers are the same way while others overthing it and spend too much effort on that and not enough on the music. I always appreciate it when the artist strikes the right balance.
Going back to the start, people can learn from Dylan. It's better to say too little than to say too much. Don't talk just to talk. But if you have something that you'd say to a friend or a story about the song, tell it. Something funny happened to you recently share it. It just hit me that it's like going on a first date and trying to be entertaining.
So where do I come off telling performers how to do their job? I have no idea. I'm a bit offended but my heart is still burning and I'm not going to start writing from scratch. I get to cross one item off my list. I'm looking on the bright side.
Now the question is; do I have breakfast? Will that help or hurt? Yesterday I had a favorite I haven't made in ages, sausageeggandcheese on a bagel. It's tempting to have that again. But I think I'll go with poached eggs with ham and cheese. That sounds like it might help.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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