I was having lunch with a friend recently and he mentioned how he tries to go out to hear and support regional live music but feels there is an overabundance of “new country” singer/songwriters in Texas right now and it’s making him weary of the scene. You know, a solo performer with a guitar is like a boy and his dog. It’s just something we all seem to accept as a special, revered thing. It’s cozy and down-homey, but it can also be boring as hell. If the lyrics aren’t engaging and the singer has no charisma and can’t sing that well and the music isn’t interesting, there’s not much to fall back on. When you’re in a band, someone can take a solo on an instrument other than an acoustic guitar or perhaps a listener can get lost in a groove. At least there are more people to look at in a band. And bands can make more sounds and textures. And the more people on stage means more friends show up. Of course, there are exceptions. One time we were in New York and a friend who worked at a record label in the city suggested that we rush over to a small club in the Village to check out an audition he was attending. He said it was a singer/songwriter, so I hesitated, but decided he wouldn’t be pushing me to show up unless it was something cool. We got there and immediately saw Clive Davis sitting in the back of what was, indeed, a quite small pace. And on stage, or rather, standing against the opposite wall, all by himself, was Jeff Buckley, playing and singing. And it was okay, pretty good, actually. Whatever, I believe he was signed by Clive Davis that night. My point, other than just to impress you by casually dropping a couple of famous names, was to say there is a time and place. And quality matters. But I do miss the variety of the past. Where are all the psychedelic freak-out funk bands? Or the experimental punk jazz bands, like The Mike Dillon Band? He comes through town on occasion. And Denton’s very own Snarky Puppy got all big-time and moved away. In general, where’s the really edgy stuff, not the predictable edgy stuff? Also, there’s no place to buy oddball cut-out albums anymore. You can go to thrift stores and Goodwill stores and buy old used ones, but that’s not the same thing. The best time in the world was coming home with 10 to 15 unopened records of music you’d never heard or, possibly, even heard of. Am I right, or what? Sit back and drop the needle on track one, side one and let your imagination run wild! Why not cover Perez Prado’s twist version of his mambo classic, “Patricia?” A bunch of Brave Combo’s repertoire has come from funky albums no one wanted. Anyway, back to that whole “new country” singer/songwriter deal which is hugely popular, especially in Texas and Oklahoma, yep, there are a lot of ‘em. My friend was right.
Speaking of bands, I’ve had a lot of time to think about making them work. And a lot of hands-on experience. It is damn tricky. Most good musicians know they’re good and along with that confidence there’s usually a big ego hanging around. In a way, you have to have a big ego to survive as a performing musician. You certainly have to be tough to break through any significant levels in the music biz and your ego gives you the strength to plow ahead when the number of people in the audience doesn’t always match your impression of yourself. Your ego takes over and reminds you that your music is fantastic and the reason no one showed up is that only stupid people live in that town. And then you just pack up the gear and drive to the next potentially stupid town with your head held high. Brave Combo turns 40 this year. We still exist and perform as a band, full of egos, and by this time, quite set in our ways. But we all know the score and dig playing notes and chords and rhythms and singing lyrics, often in harmony with each other, and talking non-sense on stage. Bubba and Jeff danced the cha cha cha with each other at a show recently. Hadn’t seen that in a while. We know people want to be entertained and experience something unlike their day-to-day routine; perhaps something which gives them a sense of comfort that there is an invisible structure which is always present, available to anyone who bothers to investigate. I don’t want to inflate the “special” importance of music and art. An inflated ego for no reason can be a dangerous thing and this is a world where more cringe-worthy moments happen on stage, than transcendent ones. But, in the big picture, there’s definitely something going on when music works. I mean, you don’t have to be a great technician on an instrument or even have a good voice, but something has to be in place. There has to be a hook and that hook is a stepping stone. I often wonder if my reaction to music is just for me, but I have found that I can share that feeling or reaction with an audience, if I present the music a certain way. And that’s Brave Combo’s job and high calling. We simply interpret and present; point at something and frame it so the audience can see/hear it better.
Speaking of stroking our egos, Brave Combo has been invited to be part of an exhibit of the history of Denton music at UNT on the Square (University of North Texas exhibition space in downtown Denton). More info to follow. So, when you take that trip to Denton you’ve been putting off for a few years, you can make this part of your itinerary. And, don’t worry, we have many fine establishments selling beer. Many, many, many, many. There is a whole lot of beer drinking in Denton, I think. And coffee drinking, too, just like where you are reading this from. Same thing, exactly, most likely. So, Denton will feel just like home. And if you decide to stay for years, our trumpet player, Danny O’Brien (applause) also has an up-and-coming real estate business, dannyobrien.com and can find you a forever home, so you can start making new memories, which you will probably forget someday, if you live long enough.
Okay, that’s it. Brave Combo is still on sorta vacation, but do check our itinerary often. We will be adding several 40th Anniversary events and club dates as the next few weeks unfold.
And don’t forget to send a picture of yourself wearing a Brave Combo T-shirt to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s a video to help you sleep.