Posts Tagged ‘ Dreams ’

Pay to play…please.

Living on the bottom rung of music is a difficult place to be. Starting out as a young musician you have aspirations to make a career out of that which you love. However, Ireland doesn’t really have the avenues to make a living out of music. There are many reasons for this but there are three major ones that I believe hamper the scene and creativity in general: (1) a lack of dedicated places that put on original music (2) too many bands and (3) unwillingness to pay bands. The first two points are difficult and impossible to solve respectively. Pubs are the venues for gigs in Ireland and the punter wants music that they recognize. On the second point, you can’t stop people playing so, an overcrowded market exists. Point three is the kicker and it is the one that really stifles the Irish musician.

Firstly, we all have to admit that we have devalued music. All of us. We don’t think we have to pay for music. Spotify, YouTube etc. etc. pay very little we all know this and now we are beginning to see the fruit of this as even successful bands have to tour constantly to make money. ‘Well screw them’ you might say ‘they have enough money already’. That may be the case but I’m thinking more about the bottom rung musicians and in Ireland, when you are there well money doesn’t exist.

‘What system does exist?’ I hear you ask. For the most part, exploitation. A tad dramatic? No not really. You see I come from a working class background and my parents couldn’t afford to bankroll my dreams. ‘Never stop believing’ is easy to say but let’s be honest that doesn’t pay for guitars, amps, PAs, strings and petrol. Look at point two again. Yes, too many bands. You see there will always be a band that will play if you don’t. Starting out I never cared about money, of course I didn’t I was 14 when I started. But when I turned 18 I was expected to work. Nothing dulls a dream like an empty pocket and nothing kicks you in the stones like working on songs only to be told: ‘We will give you the gig , we can’t pay you but (and every bottom rung musician knows the next line) it’ll be great exposure!’ We all believe this at the start but only a fool believes it down the road. Or so you would think.

I’m writing this because I believe that most musicians live in a bubble or suffer from a psychosis. I’ll never forget my girlfriend asking me ‘How much did you get for that gig?’ I was in my thirties and playing in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. I’ll never forgot the look on her face when I replied ‘Nothing’ (I lie we each got one pint). She looked at me like I was mad. I was. You see that look pulled me out of the reverie but to be honest that had begun to happen a long time before.

It happened one night in a pub in the inner city, I won’t name names here as I’m classy like that ah what the fuck they probably need the exposure. It was The Mercantile and we were waiting to go on and the drummer turned to me and he said: ‘I’m sick of playing up and down in the same places for nothing’. He looked so dejected that I knew that night his heart was gone out of the band and truth be told mine had begun to. It wasn’t really the band. It was more that I had to try to hold down a job and then get to a venue and play to about fifty people who didn’t really care. I’m from the punk school of music so I put on a show but it was hard. What was harder was the realization that when you don’t pay for something you don’t appreciate it. We weren’t getting paid, and we weren’t getting paid for all the hard work that we had done and because of that people treated it as next to nothing. Harsh? Yes. True? Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

I’ll leave it on this, I was in another band and we got an opportunity to appear in a short film. You know the story, it’ll be great exposure yadda, yadda. So, I ring to find what we would need (as I’ve never been in a movie) and the most ignorant waste of space has the temerity to start getting snotty with me as I’m asking are they providing a PA for us to play through. He starts to launch into an attack about how I should know and why am I ringing. I stop him dead in his tracks and tell him in no uncertain terms to never talk to me like I’m an errant child and remind him we are doing him the favour. Against my better judgement I borrow a PA to bring with us to the shoot. We drive fifty miles to a pub at the designated time of one o’clock. No one is there. When they do arrive three hours later we set up etc by eight that evening we have still not started the shoot. I talk to a guy back stage ( I don’t want to embarrass my band mates) he has a word and eventually at around 9:00 the shoot begins. It’s all over by ten but we have to pack up and get back. We were promised food. That’s all we asked. Food. They bought eight pizzas for about eighty people. I got one slice. I arrived home at one. I did twelve hours for a slice of pizza. That was two and a half years ago. The film has never been released and the band have since split. Exposure? When you’re on the bottom there ain’t no such thing!

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She Speaks

image…boop,boop.Metronomic time, ceaseless and unforgiving.Under her watch fingers freeze, throats tighten and pulses race. In the moment four fight from going under the sonic waves they have created. Outside there is the alley. The artery. Rain falls in giant globs running from Pearse Street to Lombard finally coming to rest at the side streets end.

Some months before and the half whistled shapeless melody is given form by the guitar player’s hands.Lucid dreams given substance. Consonants and vowels drift from the larynx and the word is made flesh. Bass flitters between the gaps, wild and old. This new ship is anchored by the drum. Happiness fills the space.How easy it can be to make worlds.

Joyce’s Liffey everflows to the sea. The eastlanders follow on to Westland. Time passes.The metronome is tamed. Beginnings give way to ends. Parents to our children (all eight of them and those we lost) we coo at them, play peek-a-boo with them. Afraid to let them go but let them go we must.

I think of them now and then. I wonder where they are and what they are doing? Our children. Out of nowhere She Speaks. I hear the lady clearly and remember our moments, frozen now in my mind. Silently, I thank her and all the minutes we shared. All the seconds. Bip, bip….

We lived in dreams always.

There was something in the night
it seemed alive, you could almost feel it breathe
the animal mind of my age, afraid to rest, to sleep
for in stopping it might miss, moments that may never be.
A deep hurt ran through the dark
silent eyes watching for a movement, waiting
ready to pounce upon the weak.
All is lust, blood, venality and the stink of corruption
it seems that nothing can break out.
Where are the words that lift the soul?
Where are the songs to make a hand a fist?
Where can the restless run?
Why are the ignorant content to wallow in the filth
and the piss of all that is profane?
Oh it seems that hope can flounder in the debris that remains.
And yet….and yet…a spark can make a flame
and love can grow in the light her fire creates
and in that way nothing has ever changed
and in strange ways we lived in dreams…always.

The Middle Block

The Middle Block

Fag-ashes mess would heave with loss and love
the patrons were my kinfolk, my clan
some would say our dreams were small
but we had each other all the same.
The line between love and hate was as thin
as the window pane that kept the night out
when darkness crept over the roofs
we’d huddle inside, four to a bedroom.

Breath would kiss the cold air
leaving a faint trace of the life from which it came
moonlight on linoleum and Morpheus singing
to the midnight children and the visions they weave.
All the while the streetlight kept watch
His cycloptic eye looking for the lost ones
waiting for sorrowful Thanatos to show his face
all played out upon the evergiving Gaia.

She was the great womb of the world
the mother of us all, she heard us laugh,
held us when we wept
and listened to our whispered hopes.
Her plains like great arms cradling her children,
her tribe, her short grass people.
On her serene flatlands the sky looked endless
stretching onward to Heaven itself.

Of dreams and doctorates

Academic snobbery is nothing new. Universities thrive on it, college lecturers live by it and students get caught up in its tailwinds. I loved university when I first attended it which, was during my mid-twenties. After the boredom of the classroom and the ennui of a succession of dead-end jobs I felt that third-level education was radically different then what I had experienced up to that point in time. Now, in hindsight, I realise the error of my ways, but more of that anon. At this juncture I should point out that I was a high achiever in university. I received firsts on a regular basis and was offered a masters degree in English and in History. I chose History for two reasons: History allowed me to become a tutor and the degree was a masters in literature (or an MPhil). The latter was crucially important to me as the Mlitt allowed me to research on my own and to gather primary sources around which to build my thesis. I had hoped to pursue a PhD but it was felt that my particular topic did not lend itself to that particular award.

It plagued me for some time. Feelings of uselessness were aroused. Somewhere deep inside of me I felt I had let people down. I agonised over the rejection. My thesis director assured me that the department did not treat those pursuing a masters or a PhD any differently but if this was truly the case then why mention it? My director was right: the department didn’t treat me any differently but I was looked upon differently. So begin the next part of my journey as I decided that I wouldn’t attempt to make my thesis into a PhD and that I had to move on toward something new.

That something new was teaching at secondary level. Essentially my academic career was now viewed as over. Of course, I had to obtain a diploma to teach but I know (and I felt it) that this was looked upon, by the academic world, as a minor achievement, that I was, for all intents and purposes, taking the easy way out and would be stuck in the backwater of pedagogy. One thing that the diploma gave me, that neither of my degrees ever could, was the tools to look at my educational experiences up to that point. It forced me to interrogate the model of chalk and talk and to challenge middle-class assumptions about the merits of education from the primary to the secondary and on to the tertiary.

Within Ireland the discussion around education narrowly focuses on the first two but rarely on the third. The chalk and talk model is now seen as old hat in the primary and secondary level yet it persists in the third level. A lecturer stands up and talks at the class, the methodology of teaching is absent and the human connection is lost. Jargon triumphs over knowledge and a narrow focus is often pursued. Where do students with special needs fit in? Disclosure time once again: my second diploma is in the area of special needs. The ‘yak and don’t talk back’ model of third level in Ireland doesn’t really leave a space for those with special needs or as our old head of English said in 2003 to the mass of students on their first day: ‘If you have dyslexia then this course isn’t really for you.’

Knowing what I know now, I should have stood up and walked out but then I was chasing the dream (of just getting a degree).  My mother would have said of our old head that he was ‘a know all that knew fuck all’. To my shame I said nothing. How could I? Wasn’t the model just: ‘Yak and don’t talk back?’ In the end the PhD wasn’t to be but you know what I took the right path in the end,

Us

On the gable end of the block
there ‘stood’ painted goalposts,
two dimensional, just like our lives were meant to be.
Inconsequential and insubstantial to those that did not understand
but they were the gateway to our culture
speaking more than any political proclamation.
That block was our island, our very own nation.
It was neatly bookended with the words Leeds Utd
a daily reminder of all those that had gone to other shores
to etch out a future free of predestined narratives.
Outside authority was alien to us and when we rubbed up against it
it screeched like some horrible language.
Bitterness was the true mother tongue
and dead hearted men would drown their self-loathing in pints
and then they would keen underneath the moon for their lost youth
and the love that had alluded them.
The women would weep or else join them
and in those dark cramped halls lives were broken.
On our road pain was buried deep
waves of desperate longing left unspoken.
From underneath a grey generation of patriots we struggled,
strangled by sentiments as foreign to us as any oppressor’s tongue.
History whored about as cheap commodity, a catch all opiate to placate
the common hoards.
We were Free-state bastards, told that we were living beyond our means.
We were sinners told that we were living with venal disease.
We were an economy gone wrong, a doleful death rattling scream.
We were us…faded but beautiful as vivid as a living dream.

37.

 

image

Age is more than a number. The body eventually changes. With that comes the realisation that some of the dreams you once had must be consigned to history. Dreams are the hope of better things to come and the failure to live up to them is the cold reality of the passage of time. We make narratives of our life, we socialize members of society into the belief that life will pan out a certain way. Boy will meet girl, fall in love, have a family and all will be well in the world. God is in his heaven. However, there comes a point in one’s life were expectation must be tempered by sobering thoughts.I am now in my late thirties, I am single and the dream of happy families recedes as the days pass. It is now likely that I will never be a husband, it is now likely that I will never be a father and by extension a grandfather. In many ways there is a profound sadness in writing that as it is an acknowledgement that, in many ways, love has passed me by but there are millions like me. Have we failed? It is possible that we have. We (and by we I really mean I) won’t get to pass on my experience, my wisdom and my love. Depressing isn’t it? Yes, but that is what being an adult is all about, dealing with the dreams that pass us by and in the end I am reminded of the words of Joseph Conrad “No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence–that which makes its truth, its meaning–its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream–alone.”