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The Frost Heaves / Blog

Why do we do it?

There’s always that moment. We’ve all felt it at least once. Maybe it comes when you’re packing up your drums at 2:00 am, knowing you’ve got to be back at work in five hours. Maybe it’s when you look up from your guitar, and a row of empty seats is staring back at you. Maybe it’s when you start adding up the costs of that EP you’re recording. But whenever it happens, if you’ve been playing music for long enough, that question will be there sooner or later. Oh, don’t be like that. What, is that some big secret? Am I supposed to keep my idealism strong, keep telling myself that it’s “for the music,” or it’s “art for art’s sake”? Should I tell myself that I do it for the “love of the music”? Well, that’s fine then, if you are also willing to admit that it should make no real difference whether you play in front of 500 people, or 12, or even if you spend the rest of your days in the garage, playing your heart out to nobody at all. Hell, with technology being what it is, you don’t even need bandmates. Just sit behind your desk, run Fruity Loops, and have fun.* But that just doesn’t feel right, does it? There’s a fundamental difference between the act of creation and… Oh, I’ll just say it… The act of APPRECIATION. Go ahead, be as cool and detached as you wish, but you know it’s true. You want people to like your music. You want the attention. You want the recognition. Of course you know in your heart that the stuff you do is brilliant, but you want someone else to say it first. Preferably, someone you also want to have sex with. The thing is, there’s nothing really wrong with that. We humans desire to be part of the social dynamic. We want people to like us, we want them to like what we do. Even the most so-called “non-conformist” noise band wants other noisecore fans to like them. There’s always a group of people in our heads that we’re playing for. They may not be at the show that night, but they’re out there, somewhere. Say what you want about your noble principles regarding selling out, there’s ALWAYS an audience you’re writing for. Ok, ok. There can be something transcendent in the act of performing music. And I’ll be the first to admit that the old adage about writing holds true about music, as well-- You don’t do it because you WANT to; you do it because you HAVE to. But there’s a difference in how it feels when you’re playing to a click track, when you’re playing with a few friends, when you’re playing in a half-empty club, and when you’re playing to hordes of cheering fans. At least, I think there’s a difference. I’ll let you know as soon as we get hordes of cheering fans. -Lex *In the interest of full disclosure, I fully admit to writing scads of songs on my computer that I’m happy simply writing, with no real expectation of anyone else ever hearing. However, I’ve uploaded some of the better ones to my reverbnation page. I think you’d really like them…

Finding the next Rathskeller

10/22/10 I suppose this dates me, but I first came to Boston when the Rat was still open. Ok, granted, I was slightly underage, but that's nothing an intrepid kid with a few artistically creative friends couldn't manage. By the time I had rolled into town, the Rathskeller was already a legend past its prime; you weren't going to see Talking Heads or the Ramones on the one-foot-high stage, and the Bosstones had already been in *Clueless*, and had no time for the concrete floors and $2.00 "Rat Brew" (which was just Coors Light, but the punks didn't seem to care). But there were still good times to be had. I remember seeing US Bombs there, Swinging Utters, The Elevator Drops, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black… Hell, I even saw the Bloodhound Gang play there, when they were still trying to be a hip-hop group. You could make a case that the Middle East and TT the Bear's had better sound, and at the time it was marginally safer to be in Central Square at two in the morning than Kenmore (ah, gentrification. There's sure to be a few people scratching their heads at that last sentence, but rest assured the kind of people you see hanging out at the Eastern Standards these days would have locked their doors, rolled up their windows, and not stopped until they were in Brookline back then). But nothing compared to the ambience, the sheer *attitude* of the Rat. Once you were through the front door, a quick turn to the left and down a narrow flight of stairs that opened onto a concrete box of a room. Bar on the right, stage straight ahead, a bas relief sculpture of hundreds of rats spiraling inwards on the left wall, and the bathrooms behind you, doors conveniently removed, toilets in full view of anyone who felt like looking. When the Rat finally closed in '97, there was a general outcry from whatever remained of "the scene", and to this day aging hipsters lament and moan the loss of the kind of club which, décor aside (or maybe *because* of it), contained an energy and a spirit of independence; the kind of place where emotion was more important than clarity; where the beers are cheap, and you're likely to see any number of acts you may have never heard before but could just end up becoming your favorite band. Well, you know what? That kind of place still exists. It's one of main reasons I love playing the Cantab. Yes, the Cantab. Downstairs. It's got everything that the Rat used to, almost: The AC sucks, the beers are cheap, and the bathrooms are… to be honest, they're a little cleaner than the Rat's used to be, but that's not saying much. More to the point, Mickey Bliss puts together shows for his "Club Bohemia" nights that are at times brilliant, and at other times brilliant disasters. It's got the same foot-high stage, a workhorse of PA system that just pushes the vocals loud enough to overcome a blaring Marshall half-sack, cheap drinks in the back, and yes, concrete floors. Sometimes he puts tables out, sometimes the floor is clear. It's the kind of place where thirty people feel like a packed house. And those thirty people are right *there*, in your face. If you're playing a good show, you're going to know it immediately. The only difference I can see is one of reputation: The Rat can lay claim to REM, The Police, The Replacements, and the Pixies. But be honest: How many of you would have known who the hell those bands were when they actually first played there? Exactly. All I'm saying is give it a shot some night. You could be surprised at what you find. -Lex (drums)