I decided to be lazy last night. I had the opportunity to go see Texas Hippie Coalition at The Masquerade in Atlanta and I chose, instead, to stay home on my sofa and watch movies I have seen a few dozen times. It’s not a very metal thing to do, but it is a very human thing. After spending the past few days sick at home, it was probably the wise choice to sofa surf instead of trying to brave a crowd of alcohol fueled metal fans. I further justified my decision by listening to a few demos from new bands and spending a little time online, helping to keep the peace in the latest troll frenzy we are seeing in metal groups in Facebook. After the third demo, my ears were tired and my brain was ready for entertainment that required no thought. Several days of online arguments (it ceases being a debate when people insult you personally), coupled with lingering effects of illness, had me on the ropes. Off went the computer, on went reruns of THE BIG BANG THEORY and my brain went to idle
While in relaxation mode, I began thinking about some of my favorite musicians and the ways they let go of stress. When I spoke with Kyng’s Eddie Veliz a few months ago, he reported he has become a big proponent of hitting the gym after a show and during down time. Seeing recent photos of him, it appears to have paid off. Everyone in Kyng looks great and in shape. This was probably enhanced by touring with Black Label Society. I don’t know if Zakk Wylde is still an active weight lifter, but with arms like his, I could only assume he’s hitting the gym regularly.
Many bands have publicly discussed the slippery slope of drinking/partying to release stress after a show. I thought about this for a bit. On one hand, how stressful can it be to play music, something they profess to love? I then looked into my own (short) history as a semi-professional musician. It’s a tough job. You’re expected to be on cue with every song. One flubbed note can turn a masterpiece into a pile of crap. There’s the stage presence you’re expected to generate, the super human creature fans expect you to morph into. Failure to provide the entertainment factor to the masses is met with not only disgust, but with decreased money from merchandise sales. One bad night may not wreck a profitable tour, but it can certainly put a cramp in the living style of the band. That constant stress takes a toll. Meditation, exercise, healthy diet choices, making sure adequate rest is had sound like sure things to maintain sanity, but not in a van filled with unwashed bodies who have been living on fast food. The temptation of the quick release is always there. Some bands survive self medication. Motley Crue would be one of the more famous bands to make it out of the lion’s den, but for everyone that skates the thin ice without falling, there are dozens that implode, often losing band mates in the process.
My mind drifted back to music and the statements I had read years earlier from my several of my musical heroes. Dickie Betts and Gregg Allman have recounted numerous times how they turn to jazz to let go of the stress of touring, as well as to inspire them for their improvisations. Keith Richards is still known to turn to classic blues recording from the 1920s and 1930s for relaxation. All That Remains Phil Labonte has been raving about Taylor Swift as his go to music for down time on the road. The power of music is obvious. Much of the music I listen to is adrenaline charged and designed to move me forward. These artists who move me use music to also calm the storm that rages inside.
I realized I had failed to calm my own storm with the distractions of Dr. Sheldon Cooper and his friends. I turned to my own musical devices. Van Morrison sang about going into the mystic and I felt the valve loosen. The internal pressure was lessened by the soulful bliss of his voice. Another crisis averted.