Solstice update, part 1 of 2

2019 is just about in the books! Here’s a recap of what this year looked like for me. Of course, when extreme introverts take time to reflect, we tend to get a bit long-winded. Skim as you will. 

I tallied them up, and I played 116 gigs in 5 states this year. Some personal highlights were: 

The Big Payback’s 10-Year celebration at the High Noon Saloon in November. We’re proud of our 10 years together, and we really wanted to do this right. New original music, re-arranging old music, promotion, planning, and rehearsing. It felt like a lot was on the line for this show, so I can’t even explain how amazing it felt to play to a fully packed room. To everyone who made it out to the show, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. 

In August, Driveway Thriftdwellers finally made it up to Mile of Music in Appleton. I had heard so many great things about this multi-day, multi-venue festival that I was almost prepared to be disappointed. But it’s as amazing as everyone says it is! We’ve never felt so welcomed. We played some very nice stages, but strangely the highlight was when we crammed our 5-piece band into a tiny corner next to an escalator in the city center (I think) and played an impromptu semi-acoustic set to an unsuspecting but receptive crowd of shoppers, employees, and a very nice security guard. 

The Civil Engineers played a killer set at PeopleFest. I kind of needed a show like this at the time. I had just come off a gig where everything felt a little “off” (room didn’t sound great, I didn’t play great, audience reaction was lukewarm, etc…) and that has a way of spiraling into “WTF am I doing with my life?” pretty quickly. TCE’s set at PeopleFest melted all that away. Surrounded by friends onstage and off, I was quickly able to lose myself in the music and remember why I do this in the first place. We also had some snazzy new t-shirts for this show. 

Five Points Jazz Collective released our live album in June. The CD release party was at our home base, the Mason Lounge, and was also part of the Isthmus Jazz Festival. I’ve now been playing trombone/euphonium and guarding the men’s room of the Mason more or less every Tuesday for 7 years. I am proud that we have recorded and now released a live album that is a testament to the vibe of the Mason and the kinship of our little Tuesday night family. I should also mention that I wrote a tune for the group this year and have been really happy with the results. 

It turns out I only played one solo show this year. I think the main reason is this: like many creative types, the act of self-promotion does not come naturally to me. It’s always easier to rely on the established booking machinery of my more active bands, especially when things get busy in the summer months. I am learning how to manage my time and my life in a way that will put me in a position to book more solo shows in the future, something I very much want to do.  

It’s now been 7 years since I started making a living solely through performing and teaching music. It is not easy. It’s a constant expenditure of creative energy, which sounds easy on the surface, but it can be exhausting and confusing. Everyone I make music with is constantly having to juggle decisions when it comes to booking. Are we making enough money for this show? Are we asking for too much money? How much time/money should we put into promo and advertising? Is it worth playing a show for lower pay if it puts us in a better position long term? Are we playing too much in one market? Not enough? It’s a balancing act and every band deals with it differently. I’m sure business owners and entrepreneurs know what I’m talking about. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember that really I’m doing all this because I love everything about music. Fortunately, all these questions melt away for me as soon as I’m on a stage. 

This was definitely a year of personal growth. I’ve discovered the benefits of therapy and have been dealing with depression with a sense of intention and acceptance. Even realizing that it’s OK to feel down sometimes. I’m very fortunate to have a loving and supportive partner in Elizabeth, as well as a whole network of friends and family who have my back. 

In terms of recorded output, I only released one album this year (Five Points). But there is much more new music on the horizon! Some of it already recorded and awaiting the final polish. Part 2 of this update will focus on what’s ahead in 2020. 

Thank you for reading. Peace and stillness.

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