Monday, March 3, 2008

mark time mark

the thing that used to scare me about marching band was the idea of having to do two things at once. i never understood how people could play and walk at the same time. during my junior year, i landed a spot playing flute in the most advanced band, thus embracing my geekdom with full force. the consequence of my talent was mandatory marching band participation. the weekend before band camp (that girl from american pie has ruined whatever social clout the phrase "band camp" could have held in non-musical circles), i had nightmares about puncturing a base drum with my flute or playing through a rest in the middle of a performance. little did i know there were greater things to fear (like ill fitting uniforms). my terror quickly abated as i discovered a natural talent for roll stepping and pivoting on a dime.

i went to a college that didn't have a football team, so my marching band career stalled out in its prime. my days of musical multi-tasking went into hibernation until i took up the guitar. it was (and still is) a purely recreational undertaking so there were no night sweats about my left hand forgetting to change chords while my right hand plucked the wrong strings. one thing that has always eluded me, though, is the ability to sing and play at the same time. i'd like to blame it on my mediocre singing ability, but i can't even manage an off key version of "mary had a little lamb" if i have to accompany myself. i must have been genetically engineered with a connection between my vocal chords and my hands because the moment i start singing, my pick hand becomes spastic and i can't remember what chord to play. my guitar teacher of six years always told me it was a matter of practice. i suppose this could be true, but i wouldn't know because i'm too afraid of getting a knock on my door from a neighbor asking me to PLEASE stop stepping on the cat while i practice. i guess i could try humming instead.

or i can just stick to watching people like Jose Gonzalez who've already mastered the feat. a certain monkey and i went to see him perform last night at the Variety Playhouse. the opener was soporific at best, with droning baselines and underdeveloped lyrics. i'm sorry, but i can't accept forced rhymes with words like "watch" and "latch." Jose, on the other hand, was the kind of performer i love to experience. He didn't address the crowd until the 5th song and even then he kept the chatter to about 6 words at a time. His finger picking rivals that of Sam Beam, and when combined with his voice, you will feel like you're standing on the front porch of a Montana cabin, eating a bowl of steaming oatmeal, waiting for the morning chill to wear off before you go for a hike. [insert steamy breakfast food here if oatmeal makes you cringe]

speaking of Sam Beam, Iron & Wine will be playing at the Variety Playhouse in April. you can bet i'm putting a moratorium on the spending freeze to attend that show!

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