do you play?


you know what's crazy? there isn't a single shop on capitol hill where you can buy guitar strings. sonic boom on 15th ave n.e. does carry some, but only for electric and bass. no acoustic strings. what gives, capitol hill? two record stores, a statue of jimi hendrix on broadway, music venues galore, and a guy can't get a pack of acoustic strings in the neighborhood? i had to borrow meagan's car and drive to guitar center off westlake ave n., so i could do some more shitty covers of shitty songs to post on youtube.

i used to think guitar center was the shit. i was amazed by all the amps and guitars and that i could try anything out for as long as i wanted. i liked playing with the various pedals. a little stomp box could make things sound distorted, spacey, echo-ish, reverby. yes, those are adjectives. i spent most of my teen years thinking, if i had the money for a couple of decent stomp boxes, i could have myself a proper band. my cousin had the d.o.d. grunge effect pedal. i liked it, but i didn't want to get the same one. i got the death metal pedal instead. poor choice.

i've tried a whole bunch of others. the boss ds-1, the ibanez tube screamer, the big muff. i started thinking it strange that everyone who played electric guitar also had to have a distortion pedal. it seemed that all modern music depended on this soft/loud dynamic. you play a few verses clean, and then you hit the distortion pedal for the chorus. it struck me as odd. we were all trying to sound like nirvana or the smashing pumpkins or something. because of distortion pedals, we were never really able to find our own sound. instead, we were constantly trying to reproduce something already mainstream. what a waste of time.

i've always had trouble finding musicians. last night, i asked the clerk if he had trouble connecting with musicians, too. "yeah!" he said. "you?" "yeah," i said. he told me that he was looking to play music that was "ambient, but with folk instruments, lo-fi, and with occasional doom." he made the metal sign with his hand when he said "doom." i nodded. if i had a telecaster and tube amp, i would've said, "let's jam sometime." but all i've got right now is my acoustic guild. i miss hitting the distortion pedal for those choruses.

i've tried looking on craigslist for people to play with, but the ads are mostly bullshit. people on there are super serious and intense. "bring your own equipment." "no flakes, no druggies, etc." "we're professionals looking to get gigs, get signed, go on tour." i once posted my own ad, trying to find people who just loved playing for the sake of playing. i wrote something like, "i have an acoustic guitar and i cover songs sometimes. i'm not that good, but i try. i'm looking for people who aren't that good, either, but who are willing to try." i left it up for two weeks, but i didn't get a single response.

it seems that people are always looking for drummers and bassists. no one needs an average guitar player. guys like us are a dime a dozen. when i realized this, i started hating on those guitar center wankers. you know, the guys who hang out in there all day, playing some stevie ray vaughn or eric clapton solo. these guys are usually in their mid-thirties to early fifties, and they sit on the little black benches they have throughout the store. sometimes, they'll have their girlfriends (or escorts) with them. the girlfriend with black laced boots and denim shorts will usually have her arms crossed and look bored, as though she's thinking, "will you hurry up? are you going to buy this fucking axe or what?" and the guy just sits there, looking pleased with himself. his thoughts are, "yeah, she's with me," and "look how good i can play this solo."

what separates the wankers from the gangsters? what did neil young do differently than my washed up guitar teacher, kenny, did? "it's luck and talent," people say. maybe it's all about working from abundance and being persistent. even though no one believes in you - or, especially when no one believes in you - you have to just keep with it. then when you've got it made, you can make a fucked up album and call it trans to piss everyone off. but what if this isn't true? what if kenny has a whole basement full of tapes, and what if he's been playing music for decades?

i guess it still wouldn't be so bad. sad as it sounds, at least he was still his own number one fan.

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