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I Want Beale Street Before It Was Beale Street (12.08.2019) 

City centers, streets, coffee shops, barber shops (and so on) serve an important role in shaping human culture by providing a physical location where people can run into others who have different perspectives and backgrounds.

These are places where the locals run into each other while they accomplish basic tasks like getting their clothes dry cleaned, getting a cup of coffee, buying a new record, or getting a haircut.

In the process of getting their haircut or getting a cup of coffee, one might overhear a conversation about discrimination against someone in the local community, or about layoffs in a certain industry, or increases in the rent in the building across the street. As a result, the local community can collectively adapt and even influence these changes, sometimes through changes in art and culture.

Sometimes a group of people gathers together within the city and they exchange ideas in a way that’s almost “magical". Think of Bob Dylan and the folks in the early days of Greenwich Village. Think of Jack Kerouac and the beatniks in San Francisco and Big Sur. Think of the musicians that worked together to build up the legacy of Austin or Nashville.

Memphis has a similar legacy. You could once find B.B. King playing music in bars along Beale Street. You could find Johnny Cash developing his music with the Tennessee Two and Elvis strolling the streets buying his next suit.

Importantly, Beale Street once provided an important location where local african american’s could share ideas and shape the local community. This was critically important in a time where societies views on civil rights were rapidly changing—the local community needed a physical location to meet and process and adapt to these changes.

Magic is created when the locals congregate among the mixture of coffee shops, cleaners, record stores, dive bars, and empty store fronts. Changes in culture emerge in places where the local artists get together and calibrate their views on society, and when their collective processing emerges as “art”.

Often, the resulting “magic” goes away when the word gets out. This scenario is illustrated by the example of the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry began as an important gathering place for the middle class worker. The crowd would pull their hands from their torn genes , clap their calloused fingers together and forget about the daily drudge. Now, the Opry consists of a crowd of tourists celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

The appeal of Beale Street today (and similar places that are built upon a rich cultural history) is based on a historical PAST, but I am interested in a place with a historical PRESENT.

I want to find Beale Street before it was Beale Street.

Thanks for checking out my blog. You can find a link to my newsletter below if you are interested in receiving new blog posts to your inbox. These posts generally try to integrate my music experiences with the people and places that I encounter along the way, and you can expect one post every few months or so.

Art Equals Safety And Gentrification And TED Talks Suck (11.24.2019) 

I was hoping to play music at the farmers market in Richmond Virgina but I instead found myself in a rough part of town. I felt better when I saw a mural on the side of a building and it got me thinking about how art indicates safety (and gentrification).  

One of the reasons why a mural indicates that an area is safe is that it demonstrates that someone was willing to stand out for hours with their back turned to the public. People typically wouldn't do that unless the area was safe.  

The presence of street performers can also indicate that an area is safe. Playing music on the street indicates safety because one has to walk around with an expensive instrument, often with additional expensive equipment. And they leave money out in the open in a tip receptacle. This isn't something that people like to do in dangerous areas.  

But at a more fundamental and instinctual level art indicates safety because if the basic needs for safety aren't met (and other basic needs like finding food) then people would invest less time creating art and more time creating security and finding food. Relatedly, a building would be used for housing or food (e.g. grocery store) instead of art if housing and food storage weren't already taken care of. 

It's interesting to think that art on the streets can indicate safety (and be subsequently psychologically appealing) in a similar way as birdsong. It can be said that birds sing when they are looking for mates, and they would likely only look for mates when their more fundamental needs like safety and food are satisfied.  

So we almost innately find birdsong comforting because the bird is declaring that the surrounding area is safe from predators. If it wasn't safe then they wouldn't be announcing their presence through birdsong. 

Just something for the street performer to think about.  

Also, Ted talks suck.  

Thanks for checking out my blog. You can find a link to my newsletter below if you are interested in receiving new blog posts to your inbox. These posts generally try to integrate my music experiences with the people and places that I encounter along the way, and you can expect one post every few months or so.

Carlsbad Caverns on the McDonald's Wall (03.30.2019) 

An email popped up from my dad: “Dave, I read your Twitter, take a break, read some Steinbeck”. A few weeks later a package came from him with the book Roads by Larry McMurtry enclosed. I think my Dad sent me the book because he felt my road trip from Albuquerque to Atlanta was significant, like my own little Travels with Charlie or Log from the Sea of Cortez experience. 

The lure of the road was percolating in my mind in my own way, as I had already been strategizing how I could use music to visit communities on the way from Albuquerque to Atlanta. I wanted to get gigs along the route and I’d call it the Headed Down South Tour. The copy of Roads sat at the corner of my coffee table while I planned it out. 

I formed a “two weeks on, two weeks off” approach to music which was centered around the only consistent gig I had-- a monthly event I put together at Tractor Brewery. I began to release a new song each month on social media, timing the release with the announcement of the next date of the event. The songs were recorded using a low budget home recording studio I put together and the release was plastered on social media with $20 to $40 dollars thrown down on targeted Facebook and Instagram ads. The song was essentially released at the onset of the “two weeks off” phase, when I would hibernate and write a new song which would be played aggressively to the public two weeks later. My goal was to get the song in as many ears as possible. 

By keeping track of the number of times I played in public and the reach of the song on social media, it seemed reasonable that 2000 people could hear at least a small portion of each new song. I’ve heard that you need to get your music in front of 100k people to develop a strong fan-base, so at 2k people per month I should reach 100k in five years (#theydidthemath). 

During a caffeinated lunch break at work I felt pressed to see Carlsbad Caverns before moving out of New Mexico. I searched the internet for breweries or bars in Roswell and Carlsbad that I could potentially play at. It would be a mini practice Tour for the Headed Down South Tour that I was hoping to put together. 

A few weeks later I slipped out of work on a Friday with a Twisters breakfast burrito in one hand and the steering wheel in the other on my way to Roswell. Things were already off to a good start--I didn’t spill any of the burrito on my performance shirt. 

The first thing I did when I got to Roswell was take video footage of all the green alien statues that pop up along Main Street. I’d use the footage for a music video for my new song “Funky Patriotism” (link below). After shooting video, I was asked on a date by a sixty year old waitress at a New Mexican restaurant. 

I made it to Black Cock Brewery forty-five minutes before the start time of my gig. I setup my new equipment and strummed some chords to get the crowds attention, then talked to them briefly over the mic. There was a group from Texas and another group with a woman who took offense to my mention of “seeing aliens” in Roswell. “We have much more than aliens,” she said, “my family has been here farming and raising cattle for a hundred years.” Next time I have a gig in a small city I’ll be sure to comment on all the cows I see when I’m driving in. 

 “We think the aliens are fine,” my AirBnb hosts told me over coffee the next morning in their living room.  After thinking about it a few more days, I decided that Roswell needed to double down on the aliens and embrace them even more. If my video pisses the Roswell people off then so be it, you’re not doing anything interesting unless you’re pissing people off. 

I wrapped up the gig with confidence about continuing to book more gigs. The Brewery was interested in having me back in June for what would so far be the second stop on my Headed Down South Tour. The crowd at the gig was smaller than I expected, but they were respectful and there were many points throughout the night where they were engaged with my music. 

I was unable to book a gig the next night in Carlsbad, but I found an open mic at a brewery instead. The brewery had a young crowd and I caught a few glances from attractive women while wondering around trying to find a place to sit. I grabbed a beer and sat by myself at a large round table and started talking to a guy at another table with half a pint of beer from the last dregs of the keg. The beer had lost carbonation and the guy had decided to just sit and stare at it instead of getting it replaced with another one. After his friend joined him they asked me to join at their table and I soon learned that his boss had committed suicide. 

The host was still chatting at a table when I finished the third song in my set, so I announced “I guess I’ll play another song”. After my fourth song the host was still lost in conversation so I shrugged and said “nobody’s telling me to stop”. The bartender gave me a “chop off your neck” sign, which seemed like a less than gentle way of letting me know what I already knew—my turn was up. 

I slipped out of the brewery to get food at a McDonald’s a few blocks away. The girl behind the counter robotically took my order and I sat and drank a soda while staring at an image of Carlsbad Caverns pasted across the wall.

Thanks for checking out my blog. You can find a link to my newsletter below if you are interested in receiving new blog posts to your inbox. These posts generally try to integrate my music experiences with the people and places that I encounter along the way, and you can expect one post every few months or so.

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