I played a gig last night with that venerable country/rock/70s electric-hippie-pop-thing known as "The Millrats" here in Greenville, RI. There was some new music on the list, a decent crowd showed up, and everyone played well. We really weren't bad at all for a group that hardly ever rehearses; in fact we had some pretty stellar moments, and playing was fun. My old Bag End cabs I sold to the venue's proprietor last year were there on the stage, and my Mexican Fender Jazz Bass, strung with LaBella flats, sounded like the Definitive Voice of God through 'em, as always.
I wore my Target-bought Fedora with pinstripes, black leather vest and purple button-down shirt recently procured from the local Salvation Army, and my new round, tortoise-shell bi-focals from Zenni Optical ($40!). Clean carpenter's-jeans and my just-bought 'Caterpillar' work boots completed my look for the evening. Why go on about what I was wearing? Because today's entry is all about image.
I spent much of my earlier years in a cloud of personal oblivion. As an early-twenty-er I'd wear blue jeans with great gaping gashes in the knees and a pair of cheap black dress shoes. I would mix and match modes of dress to beyond the point of obvious confusion, making great awkward stretches between the incongruous. I often created fashion disasters of the like that you might, on a rare day, see reference to in the pages of People Magazine, Rolling Stone, or Yahoo!'s news page. I generally had little regard for what I walked around in, not only in the presence of my peers but before people whom I might otherwise have liked to be able to talk to. I was a walking alienation-stick, clobbering right between the eyes anyone I came within range of who had had the ability to see.
A good friend of mine, willing to go a short stretch of sidewalk in the open with me beside him, once tagged me as dressing "warehouse". I was making my way through life with an altogether strange idea of what I was, yet his comment was key in exposing to me that I had been purposefully manipulating the perception of other people's views of me. Maybe it was so no one would expect much from me, maybe I just felt like I wanted to be invisible. Maybe I was just being lazy! But here I was called out- and not the first time- and was becoming increasingly aware that I was going to have to fix this present-ability issue.
I simply wasn't getting away from the fact that I did have 'something to offer' after all- that those who knew me did in fact expect more, and they wanted it! I felt like I was being called back into the party after being caught trying to leave through the service entrance... But it was good to be wanted; even to be asked to 'pull it together' so that your friends could be in your company and experience the best of you... so your life could enrich and enhance theirs. Something to offer. This concept was so much better than the self-protection of isolation! Slowly, I turned... step by step... and pulled it together. Mostly!...
For me, playing music is always getting closer to being where I want to be, whatever the genre or form for the session/evening. It's the station in life I want to inhabit as a rule. It's still work, only more mobile than being a laborer or carpenter, more open socially and contextually. As a musician who experiences some humble level of success, I can "be" anything, not tied to the limiting rank of my tool-belt or overalls. It's almost, and just enough, really, freedom. Present-ability expedites my happy endeavor of pursuing that not-science that I love of "making the sound", especially in concert with other musicians, and in the audience of revelers and contemplatives alike to transcend the mundane. So I want to honor it, to be at my best.
I don't want to stand out, as it were- I hate that and can't abide "being seen" like some strutting peacock. I simply want to fit the glove I put on; because in truth, the glove does fit. So part of the deal now is that I pay attention to my perceivable, physical aspect, even if what I put on doesn't always qualify me as fashion-plate material. But it's orderly at least, and I'm beginning to get the hang of it.