I am in Prague, at my gate at the airport about to fly home from Europe after a couple extra days here and just wanted to say thank you.
Thank you Europe. Thank you every single person who came to every single show. Thank you to the promoters who took a risk booking us, to the drivers who gave their energy to keep us safe and arrive at the venues on time, to the tour bookers who took their time to create the experience, and to everyone involved with the tour in the bands and otherwise.
But mostly thank you to the people who came to the shows. Thank you, all of you, for supporting us (and for supporting your local scene).
I am thankful that there was never a night where no one showed up. To be half a world away from home and have anyone at all show up for an artistic event is a gift. And not just show up, but engage and connect in different ways. It is a great honor. I’ve been reflecting on connection and how people connected on this tour. Some nights had the sing along dancing craziness, and others had focused attention. Every night, during the song “Are These Our Lives?” I take time to try and make eye contact with every member of the audience that night. That’s when I can tell who is with us in the moment, and even on the “off” nights on this tour, the connection was always there. It might not look like the hardcore photos we all admire sometimes, but that is irrelevant. Life is not supposed to be a caricature of itself. It is supposed to be as it is, in moments.
No band or artist deserves anything. Not us, not anyone (not even Rush). No one HAS to come to a show. That they might WANT to is incredible. When I wrote the lyrics to the Trial album, my goal – and I wrote about this in my journal at the time – was to write lyrics that I would still believe in and fully stand behind even as a 95 year old and even if we never recorded anything else. It didn’t matter if time passed. It still doesn’t.
When writing the Trial LP I was writing for a lifetime, not for a record and certainly not for popularity. I still stand by that. If we wanted popularity the topics certainly wouldn’t have been the ones that ended up on the record. I stand by the lyrics as if I wrote them yesterday. As I said on this tour onstage at the show in London (in regards to refugees), even the topics in the lyrics themselves are unfortunately still relevant. The world’s issues and our personal psychology are ongoing. The sixteen years since we recorded the record is just a blip in time ultimately. It might be twenty generations in hardcore and feel like a lifetime. But hardcore isn’t life. Life is life. Hardcore is a means by which we interpret life. I am thankful for all those who came out to the shows to share in this artistic interpretation.
Ultimately the deepest point in any performer’s bow should come when the audience is leaving, not when they are arriving. I’ve been on stages for my entire life, as a speaker, as a singer, as an entertainer. And oftentimes performers think that the audience is there for the performer. They are not. The audience is there for their own experience. The performer/presenter’s duty and obligation is to serve them, whether there is one person in the audience or a hundred, and regardless of how they respond. If a small audience stands and stares instead of cheering, then that, quite simply, is that night’s dynamic. If a large audience shows less energy than a single person, that too is how the proverbial vegan cookie crumbles.
And we have options in the case of disconnectedness. We can complain about it (and sometimes I have though it’s immature and futile), we can do something about it (by engaging the audience more or playing far more passionately – and i have done both in various ways on stage) but ultimately every night is a unique experience never to be repeated and we have to embrace it as it is. I see this on my spoken word tours. The same story told in one night might bring laughs, and on another night, tears. My responsibility is to be present here and now in those moments with the audience regardless. The bow at the end of any performance is a “thank you” to them, not a recognition of applause. The performer’s bow is deeper depending on the depths of a willingness to thank their audience for their time, and also for their attention and receptiveness, however they might have expressed it. Deep and humble thanks.
I don’t need pile ons and sing-alongs. I only ever hope for connection. I’ve had more than my share of Burning Fight crazy sing-along hardcore moments. That is all icing on the (yes vegan) cake. For me the foundation is and always has been about the people and the connection. And this tour had that at every single show. Even the one or two shows that we didn’t “like” due to this or that reason, or due to how the audience seemed to not be engaged. That’s irrelevant. It’s ego. And would be short-sighted of me to ever think that an audience didn’t care. Even at those shows there were people who connected afterwards with words to share about what the night or the band had meant to them. I am deeply thankful for everyone who shared thoughts and emotions and everyone who took the risk to connect.
The conversations I was able to be a part of and the intricacies and intimacies that people shared meant the world to me. Hardcore to me is and always will be about connection first and foremost. I don’t care what band I am in or with, or without. Trial has had some incredible experiences and impact both on us and on people who have experienced us. But in the end the vocals and music are simply a vehicle for connection. That I have had a chance to listen to hundreds of people share their thoughts and emotions on this tour means so much to me.
When all is said and done, I tour for connection. Not for profit. Not for glory. Not for anything other than face to face contact with people around the world. That’s the mission always.
On this tour, even the nights I wanted to cancel I am thankful for. I for example pushed to cancel London. I was tired and acting like a privileged baby. So I didn’t get sleep. Who cares. So I didn’t get enough food. Again cry me a river. Tell the people of Haiti that the worst part of my day was that the clean water i was drinking was slightly warm, and that i was drinking it while being driven to a room to play a musical show in a vehicle without air conditioning. The ones without homes will ask, “what’s a room?” The ones with homes will ask “What do you mean someone drove YOU around? And in a car?” I am wealthy with experience and privilege.
I’m so glad we didn’t cancel any shows London or otherwise (other than the one where we were stranded in the side of the highways be couldn’t get to Leipzig Germany). But even then let’s be realistic. We broke down at a rest area with a restaurant that made us custom vegan meals, and had a hotel where we could afford if we chose to sleep comfortably. It was SO difficult. My god. I had to carry a bag from the van to my room before sleeping for nine hours without anyone trying to break in or murder me past the locked door and hot shower. It’s shocking that I survived! My tour journal makes it sound like it was a mess. But really it was the slightest inconvenience at worst. If only that day was the worst thing that will ever happen to me in life…
I apologize to anyone with whom I didn’t have enough time to speak one-on-one or to anyone to whom I might have said the wrong thing at times. And I apologize too if in a moment I didn’t remember meeting you before. Tour gets chaotic. There were many moments doing merch when I was very rushed. A guy offered me a granola bar at the merch table in London and i was so rushed to set up after we had arrived late that I didn’t thank him nearly enough. He had read online that the drive had been long and offered that food as a gesture of kindness as soon as we arrived. I hope you’re reading this, granola human. I appreciate you.
The most consistent criticism in my life is that I spread myself too thin and that sometimes individuals might feel as though I am not present with them in moments. For anyone who found that to be true, my apologies. My heart was with you even if my body or mind were failing me in the moment, which does happen from time to time on any tour.
And this tour, with some longer than normal drives to faraway places certainly had its share of challenging moments. No sleep, no air conditioning…in retrospect: whatever, who cares. It was all amazing. Someone asked me how hard the tour was. My answer to her then and my feeling now: we had food, shelter, companionship, no war, no terrorism, no death, no poverty. And that means our “hellish” tour as I have referred to it previously in posts was a privileged heaven compared to a vast majority of the world population’s experiences over the last three weeks. I was stoked out of my mind to play those faraway places and meet people I never would have otherwise had the honor to meet. Getting to and from Serbia for example brought us to the limit of our sanity but it was so worth it. I am so deeply thankful that we got to play there.
In the end, I can’t wait to go out again. Spoken word in 2016, hopefully Between Earth & Sky in 2017 after completing our LP, and also potentially with a new musical project in the works as well.
I am spending the rest of this year finally writing a number of projects, hardcore related and otherwise, and also working on One Hundred For Haiti. I will be thinking about this tour and its lessons about connection and how to bring those lessons to other situations worldwide. Ultimately – after two decades – shows still have me feeling humbled and deeply thankful every night and every tour, this one included.
Until next time, and there will be many more next times in whatever form they happen to take…