Turns out, there's not always money in the banana stand (plebeian edition)
“I love making, I love doing. I love being to the full, I love everything which is not sitting and watching and copying and dead at heart.”
Ugh. I’m tired today. The last few revolutions around the old axis of the earth have brought on some pretty bleak situations: Bernie dropped out (and I’m not gonna make this a political rant, so don’t panic, but it’s crazy to me that in a time of pandemic where people need healthcare more than ever and grocery store workers are suddenly American heroes, that we’d so willingly let the guy who wants to guarantee both healthcare for all and a reasonable minimum wage slip away), John Prine died, which is a huge loss, but also emblematic of a stark truth, which is: we’re gonna lose a lot of good people in this thing, and then today Boris Johnson got a haircut and now we don’t even have THAT to make fun of anymore. In the words of a great band from Carbondale, shit sucks. But what can you do?
One thing you can do is subscribe to this newsletter, where you get great bonus content that’s not available to the rest of the unwashed hordes. See, here I am talking about Bernie and serving the elites via capitalism. The world’s fucking topsy turvy, y’all.
One way a lot of musicians and comedians and...well, I’m sure other entertainers too, are trying to stay sane is by putting on shows via Zoom or going live on Instagram or doing some kind of pay thing where you essentially buy a ticket and then get to see a show. I’m sure that it’s probably about as close as things get to the communal experience these days, but it’s also a little depressing. I don’t begrudge anyone for doing it or watching it. We need something here, but man...I mean, there’s suddenly a lot of this kinda content out there right now. And not all of it is good. For example, every single person on Instagram is live at this very second. Not just you. Everyone.
I don’t know the answer to anything but....okay, up there I was just saying “I’m sure other entertainers too” and as I’ve been typing this paragraph my brain has been stuck on what other entertainers could possibly be doing online. Is Stephen Curry having three point contests with his neighbors? Is some dickhead doing a livestream indicating that he thinks he can dance? Are there mimestreams? Are actors doing soliloquies from the Crucible from their breakfast nooks ‘n shit? I don’t think so. I think it’s just musicians and comedians and maybe a few of the more rebellious mimes.
Anyway, my point is that we’re all looking for ways to stay sane. Used to be you could just go get hammered, or lose yourself in work or sneak down to the Dairy Queen and chug a hotdog and a Blizzard, or even just go down to the lake with your mattress and give and receive random blowjobs if you were looking for a more low key evening, but now, that shit’s kinda out the window. But I have some ideas.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been touring in various bands for a long time. I definitely started touring before some of you were born, which is depressing to me, but I’m also thankful that A) I’ve been able to do it for as long as I have, and that as a result, B) I’ve had training in the arts of dealing with humans you’re trapped with in close quarters and also passing the time.
Before I get into some survival tips, I just have to say that I really truly never thought that I’d be looking at a situation where my job: that of ‘jagoff with guitar,’ would not be viable. “As long as anyone wants to hear my dumb songs, there’s always money in the banana stand” I’d say. But now, we’re looking at some real weird shit.
Consider this: When the world starts again (assuming it does), so many clubs and bars are gonna be out of business. They will be gone. For good. Beyond that, SO many bands are gonna be jumping on the road to try to make up for lost time, to finally tour on that record they put out months ago or to just try to maintain the sliver of relevance they’ve worked so hard to achieve.
That means that conservatively, every club and bar that still exists will have something in the neighborhood of 2 five-act shows a night. Now consider that the potential audience for said shows is DEAD FUCKING BROKE because the bar or restaurant they work for went out of business, or because the firm that they work for laid them off, or because people just can’t afford to pay a few dollars for handjobs in the park district broom closet anymore. There’s gonna be no clubs, a zillion bands and no money.
Not trying to be a doomsayer but the 80’s were bad in terms of catastrophic economic collapse, but I never considered that maybe that had something to do with why shows were $5 and there were only like nine bands. I thought that had to do with radio payola, lack of an underground network and...I dunno, it’s like...um…
Okay, fine. You know how it’s tempting and even kinda hardwired in us to believe that generations before us weren’t doing double anal or coming on each others’ faces or sucking off strangers on haphazard mattresses down by the lagoon? It seems impossible that James Madison was involved in any of those things, for example. But! If you can build a pyramid or a printing press, you can figure out how to fuck someone in the ass. There is nothing new in this world. Okay, where was I?
Ah, the 80’s. So, yeah. I guess I thought that in the 80’s the few people that were out there touring in underground capacities were just radical visionaries, and there was probably a little of that going on, but if I think about it with any sort of critical mind AT ALL, every single movie I see about or from the 80’s had punks all over the place. Fuck, I was ALIVE for all of the 80’s and I grew up seeing mohawks and shit EVERYWHERE. The world was swimming in underground subculture.
Sure, there was no Internet, but there was no internet when I started touring and there were PLENTY of bands and plenty of clubs and plenty of people coming to shows by then. In fact, if you look at an old video of like, Discharge or something, it’s evidence that there was definitely an audience back then, and plenty of ‘visionaries’ in attendance to boot.
Maybe the problem was that the economic downturn of the 80’s led to a dearth of clubs, a lack of pocket money and therefore a lack of avenues to the viability of being a touring band. It’s a sobering thought, but thankfully, I’ve done no research whatsoever on this, so I’m not saying it’s true, and I’m not saying that’s what’s gonna happen when this is all over. I’m just saying examining shit like this is something I never thought I’d have to do. There’s always money in the banana stand until they close the pier, ya know?
At this point, I bid some of you adieu. For those of you who are paying subscribers, thank you, and please follow me into the VIP section below. If YOU want to see how this one turns out and you haven’t subscribed yet, just hit this button…
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