I’ve always wanted to be a novelist. A singer. A screenplay writer. A fashion designer. An actress. A drummer. A photographer. An artist. Basically, a rock star of the highest order.
Throughout my life to date I have dabbled in many of the above. My notebooks are full of half-finished stories (with a few complete and published) and dress designs, I have sung on stage in front of an audience, produced performance art with the help of friends at Nuit Blanche, performed for years with Pretty, Porky and Pissed Off and been in a stage production or two. In university I sat my ass behind a drum kit and “supported” a motley crew of musicians in a band that played a total of three shows.
Don’t get me wrong. I am happy with where I have landed up — a writer and editor with a great marriage, a good job and, without realizing, a successful career — but there seems to be something missing. And, despite how irrational this sounds, I think it’s life on the road.
Friday night I had the chance to see an old friend play in a relatively well-known Canadian indie band. They were playing a couple of shows with two other Canadian indie bands (both of whom had different levels of success and recognition) at the Sound Academy and two friends and I went to check them out.
The venue was packed with too-cool-for-school lads and lasses and peppered with people who were out to enjoy the live show. Screams and applause were generous. And the bands seemed to be enjoying themselves — gracious and ready to give back. It was an all ’round lovefest. That was until I made my way backstage for some quiet hangout time with the friends.
Now it’s true that I was in the inner sanctum, that I had a window into these musicians’ lives that others may not. And that they were enjoying a level of comfort often reserved for one’s living room, which becomes one’s dressing room while on tour. But that said the graciousness that, as an audience member, I experienced while they were onstage was not extended in an off-stage environment. There was homophobia. Shocking frat-boy like homophobia. From emo indie boys. At an idie rock show. In front of guests.
I know that when I invite someone into my living room I try to not offend them. It’s the polite thing to do.
Needless to say I left the backstage area and for the rest of the evening remained with the “riffraff” in the front of the house. I also decided to do some investigating to see whether this was possibly an isolated incident (which the offender’s bandmate said was not) or whether this was commonplace.
Thankfully I happen to know one or two Canadian musicians (see list above of things I would like to be) and so asked around. The resounding response was that the worst of the bunch was a well-known asshole and someone to be avoided. It was even questioned how he could continue to front a band and how he could find so many people willing to put up with his antics.
This is not the first time I have heard of backstage bullshit. Of how mean artists can be to anyone they deem beneath them or don’t really like or just because they think they can. And this is not the first time it has made me consider whether I actually want to work to become part of this community. I have a community already (a couple really) and for the most part, I think they try to be nice to one another. Sappy maybe. Decent? You bet!
As we prepare for this next year away, it’s all beginning to make sense. If it’s on the road that I think is missing, the key is to get out on the road. Traveling around Europe for a year, sleeping in cheap hotels and meeting new people is exactly what bands, who are half-decent humans, do when they are touring. Make friends. Have a laugh. And hope to be welcomed back for another kick at the can. But just in case it’s the rock star thing, more than the on-the-road thing, I’m packing my drumsticks. And you’re all welcome backstage.