The Feminists: Railway Club, Post Show Analysis

It’s awfully late. 2:35 am as I start this entry. We played a show tonight at the Railway. It always takes me many hours to wind down after playing a show no matter how tired I am. I’m too restless for tv, and so here I sit tappity-tapping.
I’m in a total daze of post-show afterglow. It’s probably a good thing that every show isn’t like this one. I don’t think I’d get much done. I feel a little weird comparing playing rock and roll to sex, but it’s the only thing that comes close. A lot of the symptoms are the same. I get to do it with people I love, that helps.
I’m at the point now where I can’t really play music casually with people anymore. I guess I’ve grown up a little. I want meaning, connection, chemistry, trust. Not just a one night stand.
The exhibitionary aspect of performing live is so exciting. I would never have sex in front of people…but I fucking love playing in this band in front of people. We can feel it when people start paying attention to us, when the conversations start to die down and it stays a bit quiet between songs. At that point, some kind of excitement takes hold of the four of us together and it’s like we all kind of burst into flames. This prompts the audience to pay more attention, which spirals it up to another level for us, and the whole beautiful reciprocal cycle just builds and builds. The thing that makes me so happy is that we don’t lose control and play sloppy when we’re vibrating off the energy of the audience…we play more effortlessly, we listen to each other more intently.
The last few days have been hard for me and K and Ferdy. Mike never seems to have a bad day and is always funny and relaxed and calm. But last night even he was in a bad mood because he had forgotten his drum sticks and had to go back to our office (jam space) to get them, thereby interrupting another band’s recording session – extremely bad musician etiquette. Upon returning to the club, he realized that he didn’t have his cymbal bag, and had to go to the van parked miles away to see if they were in there. They weren’t . No Mike Zobac cymbals tonight. So he was in a bad mood like the rest of us. It’s very rare that all four of us are in bad moods before a show.
This past week life seemed to be evolving at a breakneck pace that I could hardly hardly keep up with. It was like that for Ferdy and Grief too. All this uncertainty is where the best art, the best playing, the best connection between the four of us comes from. I didn’t particularly want to play tonight, I wanted to stay home and contemplate the abyss. I know K. wasn’t too excited either to play, but Ferdy, who has had without question the most difficult time of us all this week, was raring to go. He realized that playing together would be just the thing to remind us that there’s some contentment left in the world – not just cruel, random, gut-wrenchingly painful events that turn one’s life instantly into something unrecognizable.
After a long taxi down the runway for the first two songs, we took off gracefully and climbed steadily. From the first note of my first solo, I grinned helplessly, relaxed utterly.
When everything clicks and I can just sit back and enjoy the show, I have the best seat in the house. As I cannot attach the keyboards to my body with a strap and cavort merrily about the stage while playing, I am in a perfect position to observe Ferdy and Grief run around and it doth bring me great joy. Mike is also fun to watch behind the drums, especially when the sweat runs burning into his eyes and he grimaces fearsomely.
It is an amazing thing to push the band to the nth degree of intensity during my solos. I throw out a spark, they catch it, and off we go. K can do this too with his guitar solos, and it’s equally satisfying to be pulled along on the ride as it is to be in the drivers seat.
And the sound of it all… I would imagine it’s sort of like standing in a hurricane. Except it sounds better (usually). I’ve played in orchestras, and it’s pretty awesome to be in the middle of 165 people making organized noise at the same time. But it can’t compare to the intensity of creating an enormous wave of distortion and power with these particular musicians. I love rock and roll so much. I love how loud and dirty it is, I love how it gets people off, I love to hear and feel the drums pounding out the pulse of the song, I love to hear and feel the low throb of the bass, I love to hear Grief’s guitar cut through everything like a diamond scratching on stone, with sparks flying everywhere. Sparks are a big thing for me when I play music. I see them, I hear them.
Fortunately for me, all the guys in this band are completely compelling to watch while they rock out onstage. Ferdy Belland stomps around the stage like a viking. I often tease him about his Viking Stomp. If you’ve ever talked to Ferdy in person you know he has extremely piecing, very intense eyes. Also he has a strong physical presence. He wields his bass like a viking sword and stomps around for every song while he pounds out groovy lines and fills and runs and glares at Mike behind the drum kit with great determination. A thousand years ago under different cultural expectations, I’m totally convinced that Ferdy would be navigating some huge viking ship on a mission to circumnavigate the globe and pillage along the way. He embodies a very wonderful combination a man equal parts rock and roll, and viking. A Rock-Viking Hybrid, if you will.
Mike Zobac on the drums is easily one of the best rock drummers in the city, which naturally follows then he’s among the best in Canada, because Vancouver is Canada’s third biggest city after all. He is essentially the band’s musical director because he has so much power over us all and can change the sound of a song so drastically depending on what he alone plays. That’s why it was a big deal to know we wouldn’t be hearing his cymbals during the set. Everything was going to sound completely different than what were used to, which is always a fascinating element of risk in a live performance
However, Mike played very excellently. It’s a rare show that he doesn’t. He had some great moments of technical wizardry. It’s so impressive to watch a good drummer execute a flurry of tricks with all of their limbs at the same time, and each limb is doing something totally different. At a high rate of speed, while keeping the beat steady, and with a sense of melody and musicality, not just a soulless display of military exercises. He can do all of that at the same time! It’s really quite ridiculous. I challenge you to do ANYTHING where you operate all four limbs independently of one another. Now put it to music and see how that is for you.
Grief was in fine form tonight. I forgot how it is to play in the summer and how much fun it is to watch the rock sweat fly off him as he flails around. He had a good night vocally. When he’s on, it’s a beautiful thing to hear how exactly he wanted those melodies to sound. His voice is so versatile. He can go from Ben Folds to punk scream of evil in one breath. He appears to listen to the perfect blend of influences that have created a completely unique melodic sense that is completely familiar to you the very first time you hear it.
You know what people say to us all the time? Great songs! Wow, those songs are great. Your guy’s songs are awesome, etc., etc. That’s all K. He writes the songs. We just play ’em. I used to be jealous that people didn’t say, ‘wow great keyboard parts’ (I used to be self centered and petty) or ‘hey, you guys sound awesome’, or even ‘that’s good music’. But now I’m just happy that K. is getting the recognition for his writing abilities that he so richly deserves, and I say this sincerely. You would be hard pressed to find many writers of a similar caliber as young as K. He’s been singlemindedly devoted to his craft for many years. Unwavering perseverance is in my opinion an essential element of being a great artist.
He also plays a wickedly cool-looking guitar that sounds incredible and provides the entire top end of the band. He’s basically in charge of the treble register and is always cranking out clear and piercing rhythm parts. And he can compose and improvise some very evil solos. But I think it’s the artistic qualities of his writing that are his most impressive gift.
Grief was the first person to help me see a clear dividing line between poetry and songwriting. I guess he was the one who showed me that songwriting is a completely unique kind of writing, like Haiku. It has nothing to do with poetry, although the two styles share many of the same elements. It also has nothing to do with music, which surprised me at first but now makes sense. K. will be continually producing better and better writing for the rest of his life in a personal style that is unique to him. What a cool thing it is to work all the time with a young, healthy, blossoming artist who is actively engaged in his craft night and day.
Okay, now I’m tired. It’s after 4 now and I’m off to collapse. Hopefully our next show will be crappier so I won’t have anything to write about and can get to bed earlier.