Okay, so I just hit up two open mics today–not one, but two. Oddly, there were very few female performers at either. The performers were decidedly male. (Not that I mind males. I like males. It’s just that women comprise of half the population, so when I see no or few women, I can’t help but wonder why?) This is not the Middle East. This is the USA… So why are women afraid to speak out? Have we lost our voice?
Or is it just that once you realize no one’s listening you stop talking altogether? There’s that stereotype of the woman who talks too much. Women talking is supposed to be a bad thing. Why? The nagging woman. Gossiping women. Stop talking. Stop. We’re not listening. We’re men. So let us do all the talking. Listen to us. Hang on our every word. Or else. Or else, you are the nagging woman you’ve heard so much about. And you don’t want that.
The first open mic was for poetry, yet there was only one other female present. That really surprised me. Isn’t poetry supposed to be “feminine”? If there aren’t many women musicians, surely there are women poets, er, poetesses?
Anyhow, it wasn’t my intention to be militantly “feminist” today, nor was it my intention to post another blog. It’s after 1a.m. for God’s sake. And it’s been ages since I’ve posted. Yet here I am, not drunk, though perhaps a bit tipped and blogging out into the universe. Ranting and raving out my blogospheric comeback. (But haven’t you heard? The universe has no ears. Nor eyes. And, obviously, no justice. Forget about peace. Piece? Peas? Pees? See? Can’t even spell it!)
The universe will not read my blog. Nor will it hear my mad typing. If a tree falls… If a blogger writes/types and there’s no one around to read it, does the blog exist? I would say no. What are your thoughts? (If they’re derogatory then please don’t share them, at least not now. Not tonight, dear. I’ve got a headache. And it’s the incurable type. So rant on yer own friggi’ blog.)
(Oh, and by the way, if a female musician is talented but never has the chance to play in a band so that other people can hear her then does she really make a sound when she strums that guitar? When no one is around to listen?)
Anyhow (or is it any who?), I’d been goin’ to these open mics for nearly two years now in this city, and I announce sometimes on the P.A. before or after I play that I’m looking for musicians–drummers and bassists in particular–and would anyone be interested in jammin’? And most of the time the answer is no. Just no. No one shows up. No one approaches me and talks to me except to tell me I’m “good” and they like my playin’ and maybe they want to hit on me. But no one hops on stage to accompany me. I’m jam-less. (Though not jammie-less as it’s nearly 2 a.m. now, heh, heh…)
(I’ve posted ads on the tried-and-true craigslist, as well as on good, old-fashioned bulletin boards in music stores. You know: “musicians wanted, blah, blah, blah.” Could it be that I live in the belly of the rednecked beast where no woman dare play musical instruments, lest the evil sexism devil rear his smelly head and breathe stinky, rednecked, potbellied man-your-momma-warned-you-about breath all over your tattoo-less, feminine neck until you pass out drunk with disgust?)
Should I just go ahead and give up playing guitar already? Not if you tell me I should.
But maybe it’s not because I’m a female musician. Maybe it’s because I play originals and maybe my originals are just too esoteric. Perhaps I’m a one-woman art band. And who in the US likes art anymore? “Perhaps if I just played some old Beatles songs, I’d attract the jammers,” she thought knowingly (and naively discounting songs currently played on the radio as fly-by-night one hit wonders.)
And so, heart in her hand (or is it hand on her heart? Well, her hand was somewhere anyhow) and brain heavily sedated, she showed up once again at an open mic to do the deed: to bravely go where only a few women have dared go before, to play guitar as every woman should, but as many women do not do publicly because, for some reason, for some reason she cannot fathom, and for some reason that irritates her greatly, women musicians who are not primarily vocalists are treated like sh*t.
Yes, that’s right, I said “sh*t!” Oh, did you want me to leave out the asterisk? Oh, did you want me to cuss more politely? Oh, do you think that ladies shouldn’t cuss? Oh, well, then let me say it again: “Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t! !SH*T SH*T SH*T SH*T!”
Has a nice ring to it, eh? Perhaps I’ll recite it loudly then save it as a ring tone to announce my cell phone calls loudly to others whilest I await my bus some morning on my way to work.
Ah, that feels better. Feels mighty good not to be lady-like. Mighty good.
Don’t make me come over there and take out that asterisk! (Actually, I’m not on drugs. I stay away from that stuff. But, funny, why do you ask? 😉
She brought out her electric guitar and began strumming. Alright, she didn’t sound like Metallica, but hey, it was an open mic, alright? Just a girl and her guitar. How rock ‘n roll do you expect it to sound? And what really got her, yeah, what really got her was that a bunch of musicians she’d seen and spoken with at other open mics showed up, spoke with each other, noticed they were all guys, checked out each others crotches ‘n’ all and agreed to get together and jam on stage. So, much to her surprise, these guys who were never at all willing to accompany her on stage, got up on stage and jammed with the other guys, backing each other up on songs even though they’d only just met and weren’t familiar with each others songs.
Oh dear, these guys must have left that open mic thinking about how friendly it was and how easy it was to meet other musicians there. And two of them got a gig out of it too. Well, that’s cool. They got a gig. And they got some other musician friends to jam with.
I’m ever so happy for ’em really.
But my question here is:
(Drum roll please… unless, of course, you feel uncomfortable jammin’ with me on this blog. Maybe my being a female musician and all will make you feel uncomfortable. It’s tough to focus on playing drums when you know the guitarist-blogger is a woman, right? Of course, your wife/girlfriend might get jealous and… Oh never mind. Just forget the drum roll, okay? I don’t need a drum roll. No, never mind. It’s getting too complicated. Just forget the friggin’ drum roll!!!!) I’m a SOLO artist. Forget the bloody drum roll. Just roll it up your a**. Yes, I said a**. You’re right, earlier I said sh*t too. Not very lady-like of me, was it? Aw…
Where is my guitar? I just want to pick it up and bang it over your head a few times just to test it out and make sure it can handle the strain of touring and public performance. You don’t mind, do you? It’s for the sake of the music, dang it. The music. Think of the music. Yes, that’s better. Thank you.
Thud! <X%*#@! Bang! XZXOOM!
Wow! Your head nearly cracked open! Don’t worry, the bleeding will stop eventually. And my guitar is perfectly fine! No damage done at all! I knew my guitar could handle it.
But my real point is just this: why did I have a completely different experience than did those guys at that open mic?
I mean, I’ve been going to these open mics on and off for nearly two years now and these guys just walk through the door, their first time in the joint, and a couple guys approach ’em, ask ’em if they’d accompany ’em on bass and drums and they’re thrilled to do it. But why did they refuse to accompany me on previous open mic outings? Hmm… (puts thumb on right side of chin and taps then caresses her chin lovingly with the thumb as though trying to understand something utterly profound… Or perhaps she’s some kind of a pervert who gets a cheap thrill out of touching her own face… Hmmm… Guess we’ll never know. Or will we?)
It’s no biggie or anything. Not as though I want to be a professional musician or anything. Obviously, that can’t happen as I go to the bathroom differently than most musicians. I mean that’s really it, isn’t it? It’s not about whether or not I can play the guitar, drums, bass or whatever. All that really matters is whether or not I go to the bathroom a certain way. And I choose not to. I’m a grrl, dang it! I’m not going to exaggerate it by undressing on stage and playing guitar in the nude but then again I’m not going to pretend to be a boy either. (A woman musician I’d met many years ago bragged she faced no discrimination as a female musician whatsoever. Only problem was she had to wear turtle necks to hide her lack of Adam’s apple, wear a tight band around her chest to hide her breasts and take voice lessons to practice speaking in a lower octave bass tone without permanently damaging her voice. She also had to legally change her first name to “Pat” and sit with her legs spread wide open occasionally touching her crotch area as if to adjust something there… Okay, okay, I’m kidding. She didn’t have to do any of those things. The woman was naturally androgynous. I don’t think it took any effort at all on her part.)
But really, in the grand scheme of things, none of this matters. I could die tomorrow in abject poverty. No one will ever know if I could play this or that on the guitar. And even if I became rich and famous tomorrow and actually got credit and recognition for what I did, I could still die tomorrow and it wouldn’t really matter, right? Can’t take it with me, n’est-ce pas?
I’m just saying….
After I played, I got a really good response, people complimenting me on my playing, etc., they really liked my voice, they liked my music, etc. But the musicians–all of them guys–weren’t willing to jam with me, not even at an open mic, so I’ll never be able to take my music up to the next level, unless I use technology to sound like other musicians. (Hmm, now there’s an actual thought.) They already had their little jam buddies. And that’s cool. That’s cool. Guess I need to get my own jam buddies in the form of technology, prerecorded music I make myself.
But then I just like to observe people. And this has happened to me many, many times before. These guys just walk into a joint. No one’s heard them play yet. Nobody knows if they can even play well or not so well. Maybe they’re the worst guitarists in the world but because they go to the bathroom a certain way, other musicians approach them and invite them to play with them on or off stage. Sometimes they get invited to jam sessions. Sometimes they get invited to play at other open mics or to perform with or open for other bands. It’s amazing how easy it is for these guys to get a chance to perform. They don’t even have to be talented or have much technical skill. All they have to do is go to the bathroom that certain way and they’re in. What a life!
All I can say is, I must be a terrific guitar player, ’cause I hit the glass ceiling at measly open mics. I mean that glass ceiling hits me hard, before I even have a chance to go out there. Boom! When I look for management or hook myself up with gigs I often hear, “We prefer bands to solo artists.” Yep, they prefer bands and they need to be male. I mean, think about it. Allowing female musicians to perform necessitates the installation of female restrooms that are clean and furnished with toilet paper. Think of the thousands of dollars in toilet paper and cleaning staff that are saved every year by preventing women musicians from participating in the musical process. And there’s less flushing with an all male crowd too. Discriminating against women is fiscally responsible, people! Better for the environment! Better for Republicans! Rush Limbaugh likes it!
I think I’m going to turn to sarcasm for comfort. From now on, I’m going to start responding with, “Does it matter how I go to the bathroom? ‘Cause I use toilet paper. I think that (toilet paper usage) makes me original as a musician. Adds to my sound. Not too many of us toilet paper users out there playing electric guitar. There are a few of us. But some of us get terrible headaches. Terrible headaches make it hard for us to concentrate on our playing.”
Hey, if I’m going to be original by being female AND playing electric guitar then I may as well be original in my responses to ignorant people too.
Again, I’m just saying…
You see, when your head hits that glass ceiling as hard as mine has, it makes you a little dizzy. Sometimes you can go into a trance. There are those who’ve gotten concussions from hitting such ceilings. You have to be careful of how it hits you. Angling your head the right way is very important. Don’t let it hit you in the wrong spot. It’s dangerous to be a woman in the music business. Heck, in any business these days.
Tonight, on my way home from the open mic (not supposed to be spelled with a man’s name, as “mic” means microphone and microphones are androgynous), I pondered purchasing some sleeping pills. How many would I have to take and with how much beer and poison? Not that I was truly considering offing myself, mind you. It was just an idea I’d pondered briefly as I watched my life slowly pass me by as it does with each beyond my control experience. Events that just happen to happen can change your life or refuse to change your life at all. And there’s not a thing you can do about it. Sorry that you don’t want to hear this, but you can’t control what happens to you in life. Things will happen when you least expect them to and, yes, they will happen to you. Resistance is futile. Welcome to your life. Please, sit down, relax and just hope for the best. Fasten that seat-belt, though, because the worst might happen instead.
You’re supposed to review your life after you die and meet The Lord. But I review my life frequently. There’s just so much to think about, so many reasons to ask myself why. What could I have done differently? And if I had, would it have made a difference at all? Perhaps our lives are planned out for us before we’re even born and no matter what we do or how we do it, everything will just happen as planned, whether we like it or not. Ah, cruel world, I wish I could say ‘goodbye’ for one last time.
Ah, but that would be silly. The afterlife is probably just as sexist and narrow-minded as this one. In fact, the afterlife is probably like San Francisco–too expensive to live there, all the single men are gay and, oddly, no one who lives anywhere else believes you when you try to tell them this. (Instead they try to convince you that it only seems expensive because you haven’t tried hard enough to get a good job or that you just aren’t working enough. And you’re single because you don’t get out enough. I mean, hello, I go to open mics every week, my friend. I think I’m “getting out” enough.
But “putting out,” on the other hand… That’s another story.
What they really mean is, “Girl, you ain’t slutty enough. Just roll up that skirt till it’s almost a thong around yer butt and plunge that neckline, baby. Show ’em what you got! Jiggle when ya’ wiggle and maybe you’ll get some.”)
Well, I am showin’ ’em what I got but not in a physical way. Why can’t I show ’em what I got in terms of writing or musical ability? Nerd alert!
Enough of this self-pitying, self-mutilating banter. Admittedly, I learned to play guitar when everyone was telling me, “Girls can’t (trans. “shouldn’t”) play guitar” on purpose. I knew it would offend ’em and that’s why I did it. (Just as I know I’m offending you now. Oh, the joy!) But isn’t that why most people, male and female, play guitar–especially the electric guitar? Playing electric guitar should be a “rebel yell” loud enough to shake up the proverbial status quo, non?
How did our society get to be so conformist, so unimaginative? How did musicians, presumably creative, artistic people, get to be so conservative?
Well, I am done with the open mic scene–at least for a while. Okay, for the next few days anyhow. I’m getting out the drum machine, prerecording my backup band and taking myself, my one-woman art band out on the road. I’m not asking anyone to jam anymore. Ain’t no way, Jose. I’m playin’ with myself. Er…I’m playing guitar alone. Solo. I’ll write the songs. (Perhaps this is where Barry Poodle Manilow got his inspiration?) I’ll sing. I’ll play. Heck, drum machines give me no trouble. They never hit on me (not even when I’m drunk), and they’re always on the beat. None of them criticize my songwriting skills and I don’t have to worry about ego conflicts. And they won’t need any of my toilet paper.