The Lightning Round

Last fall, in an effort to foster comradery amongst the few New York City musicians I know, I invited a dozen of my favorite singer/songwriters over for what I hoped would become a monthly confab: a book club for musicians, but without the pesky books.

We made it two months, then folded under the weight of day jobs, deadlines, and commitments. Tonight, we gave it another shot.

Remember when we got together on my roof, knocked back a few beers, and chatted up life, truth, beauty, and rock ‘n roll? I propose we do so again. Mr. Verhoeve seconds.

Monday, October 2 @ 7:30pm
103 W 80th #5C (Columbus)

Drop me an RSVP. Rope in any of your *saner* singer/songwriter friends. Feel free to bring a six…

Oh, and be ready for The Lightning Round!

Initial response was good. All twelve respondents RSVP’d that they were coming. Then, in the last twenty minutes of my day at The MTV, I received four emails: “Can’t make it,” “Not feeling well,” “Girlfriends sick,” yada yada, yada. I resisted the urge to cancel outright (it was, after all, one hell of a day at the office), hopped the subway to the UWS, stopped into Broadway Farms for some chips and guacamole, grabbed a six of Harp, and climbed the five flights to my apartment.

Casey Shea and Wes Verhoeve of The Undisputed Heavyweights, singer/songwriter Chris Abad, Chris Hacker from Engine Room Recordings, and I gathered around eight, and got down to it. The preamble of beer and pizza went well enough. We talked day jobs, hedge funds, marriages, and all sorts of subjects non-specific to rock n’ roll. Then we got down to brass tacks: The Lightning Round. The guys mocked me for coming up with questions, typing them out, cutting them up, folding them, and putting them into a bread pan for random selection, but they stayed until we’d all answered each one.

Here’s a random sampling of my Q&A:

Q: What band member would you be if you weren’t the front man and why?

A: Drummer, hands down. Best show I ever played was as a drummer. It was only four songs, but I killed it.

Q: What was your first concert?

A: John Denver.

Q: Name one song you’ve ripped off and how.

A: Almost all of my songs are derivative or borrow from another in some way. I wrote “Dear Elizabeth” after discovering how rhythmic the word “Elizabeth” is from singing along to Counting Crows’ “Goodnight Elizabeth.” “Summer’s Gone” is derivative of Buffalo Tom’s “Summer Song.” “Caramelize” borrows from the chord progression of a song by The Beige that Smokey Junglefrog covered called “Stupid.” Bono says it best: “Every poet is a criminal / Every artist is a theif / All kill for inspiration / And sing about their grief.”

Q: What was your first record?

A: My best friend gave me Herb Alpert’s ” Whipped Cream & Other Delights” for my fourth birthday. That blew me away. The first record I bought with my own money was Hall & Oates “Kiss On Your List.” Shawn Cassidy’s “Da Doo Run Run,” Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana,” Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” Juice Newton’s “Queen Of Hearts,” and the “Grease” and “Star Wars” soundtracks were also early faves.

Q: What is your favorite chord and why?

A: G major because it’s so versatile, and is the foundation for everything else.

Q: Name your guiltiest musical pleasure.

A: “Since You’ve Been Gone” (Kelly Clarkson), “Move Along” (All American Rejects), “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” (My Chemical Romance), “So Much For My Happy Ending” (Avril Lavigne).

Q: Who is your non-musical hero and why?

A: Martin Luther King, Jr. He walked the walk, changed the world, and was one hell of a performer.

Q: File sharing: good, bad, indifferent?

The file sharing question was the most interesting, and prompted the most discussion and diverse opinions. Casey and Wes agreed that music should be free, or at least, as Casey suggested, subsidized by some sort of music tax. I felt strongly (and by way of context I’ve released a dozen records to their collective four) that the only money I make on music is through CD and download sales, so every illegal copy and file share makes my next record that much less likely.

Soon enough, the pizza was gone, the fridge was empty, the bread pan was out of questions, and cell phones were lighting up with messages from significant others.

The concept of a musician’s book club without the books is, I think, a good one. I like talking about all these issues from folks who wrestle with them as well. But it doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction. Rock ‘n roll is ego driven, and dialogue is not an ego’s best friend. Plus, we’re all in different places: The Heavyweights are taking off, Chris is landing, and I’m taxiing towards the gate. I just don’t have the energy to sinlge-handedly cultivate it anymore.

So will we do it again? I dunno. Is there any more comradery than there was, say, a few hours ago? Maybe. Does it matter? Not so much. It was fun. That should be enough.

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