Believe it or not, I don’t really want to write about the idiotic, sad, and perilous situations in which humanity currently finds itself. I would rather make up bizarre scenarios in my head and present them in an entertaining and thought-provoking way, but with the emphasis on music and art, not politics. I would love to bore you with stupid jokes I make up, even though I’m apparently the only one who usually thinks they’re funny. But you know what? Art and music and politics have always mingled. Think protest music. In the 1960s almost every popular band had at least one song which could be viewed as a protest song, commenting on some injustice somewhere. Many musicians and performers over the decades have wallowed in it quite successfully. There was a time if you didn’t comment in your music or art, you were considered light-weight fluff. Jeez, HAIR was a massive Broadway hit. That piece of work covered a lot of territory. Much of it was pretty cornball, but it was a protest musical. How many movies have dealt with human inequities? My point is that there is a tradition here. You have probably sung along with a ton of protest songs throughout your life. A few Brave Combo fans over the years have told me to stick to music, but the reality is that Brave Combo was born out of protest. We started this band to point out prejudices within the main-stream music community. One of our main goals was, and continues to be, to level the playing field for genres and styles which have been treated unfairly. Brave Combo was never a yuck-it-up frat-party band. Our approach has often been sorta militant even. That’s why so many punk bands and venues embraced us. The real punk movement was one gigantic protest. It was very important to us to affect how people listened to music and to, hopefully, help them open their ears to a bigger world. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun job, generally. It always was. Following the path of Brave Combo was an easy decision. But trying to make a difference has been part of the journey, as well. We believe in the power of the music we play and, to some degree, feel an obligation to use that power to make this period of time on earth a better place for everyone. It’s not a lofty goal.
Here’s a song by the famous calypso protest singer/songwriter, The Mighty Sparrow.
Texas went dark. Cold and dark. I now know what 15-20 rolling blackouts is like, when the temperature is around zero. We managed to keep a feral cat, who often sleeps and eats on our deck, alive through some creative efforts. It sucked for us, but we got off relatively easy, compared to about 50% of the state. Some people who thought everything was fine a few days earlier, froze to death in their homes. I could go on and on about what needs to be fixed, but I’ll just say this. There must be something in between the “evils” of socialism” and the “God-given rights” of renegade capitalism. Hmmm, we are the only state not on the national grid. We are so against sensible government regulations, our former governor, Rick Perry, said we don’t mind a week of suffering. Then Ted Cruz made us all feel way better. There are some good things about living here, but the whole Texas hyper-pride thing is pretty gross. You wouldn’t believe how many really big, loud pickup trucks roam the streets of Denton these days. I did meet Lady Bird Johnson once at her wildflower center, where we had performed and was in awe of the moment. She covered our state in bluebonnets and the beauty of wildflowers. She made me proud of Texas. I just wish we still had compassionate adults running things, who truly cared about all Texans. Maybe someday. Not now, sadly.
WHAT’S UP? In the January MACHINE’S PUMP, I mentioned I would try to explain what’s going on in the big picture. I also told those in the Brave Combo sphere to please eject themselves if they supported the big election lie and think the recent insurrection at the Capitol was justified. I am happy to report that only one person asked to be officially removed from any of our lists and we gladly accommodated them. Anyway, back to what’s up, I’ve often wondered, throughout my life, what the hell’s going on. People are here, on this big ball of dirt and minerals, constantly making new people. It just goes on and on. Some people really get into manipulating their environment, to make themselves more comfortable or powerful or just plain richer. They’re extremely attached to their allotted time on Earth and want to make the MOST of it, damn it. More is more. For far too many people, every day is literally about survival; getting to the next day. And in the big middle are people just going about life, feeling secure enough about things like food and shelter and cars and computers. Most people know they can afford this and can’t afford that. I’ve said nothing particularly inciteful here, but it’s a place to start. Since we all have to stop breathing, eventually, working to simply accumulate things or money or power never seemed like a good idea to me. A big waste of time, in fact. So what’s the point? Religions have answers, sort of, but usually there are more questions. There must be something simple to understand, or so I thought. I decided to just figure it out on my own, drawing from bits and pieces which made sense. For instance, what’s the real reason we are encouraged, in every religion, and actually commanded by Jesus, to not judge others? The Golden Rule seems to be a universal element. Why is that? It can’t mean that we should just be nice to others, although that’s a good place to start. There had to be more to it. In Jesus’ case, what was he trying to say? Why did the Buddha leave the protection of his home and go sit under a tree and come to the same conclusion? Why does it all come back to not judging? I decided that maybe, if you really apply that idea to everything in your life, you might get an answer. So, I tried. I got hardcore about it. I had personal reasons for wanting to figure it out, but quickly saw that it could be a universal endeavor. I started focusing on this about a year before Brave Combo started. 1978ish. Okay, that’s all for now. I’ll get even more specific in the next MACHINE’S PUMP. I bet you can’t wait.
I would like to remind you Brave Combo is a band which has human members who play instruments and sing. We try to do it all at once and together to create a unified sound, in order to convey a message or an emotion to those who gather to be entertained by us. We have not lost sight of that role, which we take very seriously. If we don’t kick ass, we failed! Please check our itinerary. Although we are probably not getting back into the swing of things, live music-wise, until, perhaps, about mid-summer, we just might book one-off gigs here and there, which will, of course, be super safe to attend.
Get your shot, when you can. Yeah, the pandemic continues to suck, but this is historical stuff, so be brave and be a part of history. Gosh, electricity is nice.