Sometimes winter comes too soon and it's kind of a drag. I am a big fan of changing seasons although I almost always wish that autumn could last longer than it does. Anyways, in alignment with a new habit I'm developing to say 10 good things about anything I have a negative attitude about, I'm gonna do it with winter. Not that I'm dreading it, it's just that I'd rather sweat than shiver.
10 Good Things I'm Looking Forward To About My First Winter in NYC (in no specific order):
10. Improving and optimizing and studying and cultivating relationships.
9. Specializing in The Pizza Bats
7. Dogs in sweaters and booties on walks.
7. Cranking out the hours and not knowing what opportunities will crop up.
6. Not having to drive to get anywhere.
5. Getting to wear my boots.
4. Not having FOMO when I just want to sit inside and make music.
3. Continuing a new tradition with this Christmas's second annualnut loaf. It's really, really good, y'all.
2. Using baking as a way to warm up the apartment: Maybe I'll learn some casserole recipes.
1. Seeing how NYC dresses up for the city for the holidays.
I've been a mega fan of Louis CK's work since I first saw his standup special "Hilarious" several years ago. From there, I had to know more and began my quest to watch pretty much everything he's been responsible for creating. From his early standup to Pootie Tang to his short-lived sitcom "Lucky Louie" to his impressively surreal and beautifully thoughtful "Louie", I've fallen in love with the guy's stuff. He's got a brilliant show that came out several months ago, and it's weird because there hasn't been a lot of news about it; maybe it's too dark, too real, too funny, too tragic? Idk, but it's transformative so I gotta tell you about it.
Now I'm not generally into TV shows, in fact I think they're largely a huge distraction, but earlier this year, comedian Louis CK quietly released a 10-episode series exclusively on his website called Horace and Pete. I discovered recently that some generous souls had uploaded [illegal?] versions of the show on YouTube, and over the past week or so, Sydney and I watched them all. The show is incredible and you should check it out.
It's the story of two brothers, Horace (played by Louis CK) and Pete (played by Steve Buscemi) who own a bar in Brooklyn. The bar's been their family business for 100 years, and it's a surreally tragicomic environment where the most esoteric individuals--they, and the by-standing twenty-somethings who have gradually come to populate the borough (hipsters, if you will)--congregate and discuss, usually peacefully, their generally dark views on a variety things including culture, current events, sexuality, bigotry, alcoholism, drugs, Bambi, and the Holocaust.
The show is... powerful. It's funny and sad and twistedly beautiful, and it delivers potent lessons for its audience that helps us to confront things within ourselves that we generally like to deny even exist. Horace and Pete unapologetically exposes the underbelly of human existence, and lays before us the evils we perpetuate in the name of tradition; all of this is accomplished, of course, with Louis CK's bizarre and brilliant brand of humor. With a cast comprised of countless geniuses from both the acting and comedy worlds, and a captivatingly melancholy original theme song written by the legendary Paul Simon, the show magically unclogs dormant emotional and psychological conduits and ignites our souls and minds to think and make connections in ways that we thought we'd forgotten.
Check it out, for the good of humankind. You can get it legitimately from Louis CK's website here, or if you're unwilling/unable to pay for it you can poke around and find it on YouTube (that's what we did). I guess you could probably find it illegally on a torrent website, but I'm not going to condone doing that (😉 winks out to tha anarchists doe), and you should just probably buy it if you can. That's all. It changed my life and I highly recommend checking it out.
So, we're trying this new performance tactic. Actually it's not all that new, but it's the first time I've tried it in New York City. I used to do it a lot while I was living in Tulsa mostly during the first Friday art walks in the Brady Arts District. Jake and I met our friend in New Orleans to do it for a week during Mardi Gras season. We each have a license to do it in Chicago. What is it?
We've been playing music for strangers in the streets and in the subway tunnels with a box in front of us in hopes that people enjoy what they hear and want to throw us tips. It's called street performance or "busking."
We've made more money busking the past two days than we have at any of the three bar gigs we played last week. In the past I would have reacted really strongly and negatively towards the venues, faulting them and society for not valuing good music. But the thing is that cash is a piece of paper that represents something. Often in my life it has represented time: the time I'm willing to watch over a place and help anybody should they come in, or the amount of time I cook sandwiches for people or slice their carrots into pretty little ribbons. But in this case it's real human value. We're not really asking people or expecting people to give us anything. We're welcoming them into our world. I'm hoping that I bring enough value to their experience while waiting for the train that they want to reciprocate by giving me a bank note that I can use for something that's important to me.
Over time I'm certain that this rate will increase because our act will improve. We've very deliberately decided to implement a few tactics to expedite improvement:
2-mile rule: All performances will take place within two miles of our home to better build a community following. Bushwick is growing in population, especially the millenial, music-loving, self-employed, time-flexible population. There's a lot of opportunity for business owners and creators like me.
Repertory sets: We've noticed that people respond faster and with more enthusiasm to songs that have recently been on the billboard charts. We're now supplementing our current set list (which is composed of about 40 songs ranging 60 years) with songs from the past 10 years. Eventually we will have sets for all types of themes: 90's nights, dance music, classic rock, Americana... but always songs we like and enjoy playing.
Practical contexts: We need to be somewhere we can be heard. Yesterday The Pizza Bats ventured to Times Square and nobody could hear us, everyone was on their way somewhere, and the bright screens outshone us. There were hoards of people but nobody understood what we were doing. The subway tunnels are great because it's not unusual to see performers there, the acoustics are super awesome for harmonizing, and there's just enough wait time between trains for someone to decide if we bring them value or not.
I would say there's one more necessity to expedite our improvement, and that's experimentation. For the first time ever I'm experimenting with presenting myself solely as a vocalist. I used to refuse to perform without my guitar, which was actually a representation of being fearful of criticism. So I'm doing that, but ultimately I want to get a battery-powered amplification system (there aren't electric outlets in the NYC subways) to amplify the bass or to run produced drum and synthesizer tracks through Ableton Live, as well as a microphone or two. We will continue to experiment with instrumentation using whatever we have access to, which right now is, guitar, bass, computers, and voices.
Best wishes to you all,