Tag: musicians

Happy Naked New Year

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It was sometime in the mid-nineties, after the last ragged, dying gasps of my foolish decision to marry at nineteen. The disco ball sparkled fragments of light romantically around the floor, where I moved slowly underneath, head pressed against the chest of my new boyfriend. A crowd of equally drunk people swayed around us in the haze. Through the speakers, Whitney Houston was singing “I Will Always Love You” in a time before reality shows would make her a laughingstock. I pushed aside the cynical part of me that was cringing at the drippy song lyrics, and just tried to enjoy the moment. We were young, it was midnight on a New Year’s Eve, and we were naked.

No, not emotionally. That’s not a metaphor or anything. We were actually naked.

He was the bass guitar player in a country-rockabilly band. I was learning to play guitar for an all-girl rock band I was joining, and I’d met him in my crowd of musician friends. His band had a standing New Year’s Eve gig at a nudist colony in Washington, Texas. They would make the drive from where we lived in Warrensburg, Missouri at the end of every year, to ring in the next one at the Live Oak Resort.

I wasn’t a stranger to nudity. When I was a child, my parents’ divorce took my little sister and me from Phoenix, Arizona to a farm outside of Lawrence, Kansas to live with our new stepfather. Our land was completely secluded, and our parents were reformed hippies, so we ran around naked outside in warm weather if we felt like it. Our only neighbors were the proprietors of a lesbian sprout farm that provided alfalfa and bean sprouts to local restaurants and grocery stores. They often walked around topless, and would casually squat to pee in the grass mid-sentence while we chatted with them, so they didn’t mind our nudity. For a couple of city kids, the newfound freedom in the countryside was awesome. Kids love naked time.

When my boyfriend tentatively asked me if I wanted to road trip with his band for the New Year’s Eve gig at the nudist ranch, I didn’t bat an eye. I knew the people watching would be choice. Of course I wanted to go.

As we pulled into the resort and parked the van for load-in, I was surprised to see various stages of clothing on the patrons. Some people wore clothes. Some people were naked. Some were only wearing shorts, but no shirt, as if they were getting dressed and suddenly remembered where they were. Most were wearing shoes, however, which bothered me. There is something inherently off-putting about a fully shod naked person. If you’re going to wear shoes while naked, you might as well strap on a fanny pack, or don a top hat and pair of mittens too. It just looks odd.

During the drive there, I had been briefed by my boyfriend and his band in the etiquette of bare-ass, and what to expect. They told me that nobody would be pressuring us to take off our clothes; nudity was not a requirement. “That’s cool,” I murmured casually, lest they think me uptight.

We got out of the van fully clothed. As promised, no one pointed sternly to the word “nudist” on a sign and demanded that we strip down. The band set up their instruments, sound checked, and we started drinking. Despite the nonchalant attitude we were trying to maintain about the naked people, there was definitely a nervous vibe. I knew I wasn’t the only one whose inner teenager was giggling and pointing.

The large building had been decorated for the occasion in white and silver streamers with rainbow confetti on the tables. There was a disco ball glittering in the middle, and a black velvet-covered deejay booth to one side. The champagne fountain caught my eye immediately. I had only dreamed of such glorious things up to this point in my young life. The sweet alcoholic nectar was flowing expressly for my girl-drink inebriation. Despite my free spirit upbringing, the plethora of casual naked strangers was unnerving, and I knew the champagne fountain and I would become fast friends.

The band got onstage and began to play. Naturally shy, with the boyfriend/social lifesaver now missing from my side, I took up permanent residence near the stream of liquid courage. Through the softening focus of my bubbly-dimmed awareness, I soon realized I was surrounded. The once empty recreation building was slowly filling with people. Naked people.

When you picture a nudist colony, if your mind is like mine, you might mentally hearken back to the sixties, to a time of lax inhibition and free love. You might picture young, unclothed people at one with nature, walking serenely though a field of flowers, holding hands. You might picture throngs of squirming, nubile bodies seeking pleasure from one another. You might even picture yourself in that scenario, if you are feeling sexy. What you do not picture in any imagined dreamscape full of naked people are your grandparents.

But that was what the building was full of: naked grandparents.

I was aghast to discover that my hedonistically carnal vision of what the nudist resort would be like was completely off target. I was expecting Greek gods and goddesses with bodies made of marble and supernatural sexuality on full display. Instead, I was surrounded by elderly people who might have pulled out a hard candy to offer me, if only they had pockets. I didn’t know if I was disappointed, relieved, or repulsed. Probably a combination of the three. The pressure was officially off to be attractive. Anyone with a poor body image would do well to go to a nudist camp.

With the intimidation factor lifted by the sagging skin and alcohol around me, I soon felt comfortable enough to revisit my carefree childhood by taking off my clothes. I stripped down to nothing, leaving my baggy jeans and T-shirt on a chair. Fuck it, I decided. Obviously nobody here cares if I have the body of a Victoria’s Secret model, or even a Lane Bryant model, for that matter.

Standing near the front of the stage drunk and naked, watching my boyfriend’s band play, I was soon asked to dance by one of the older men. It was a fast song, so there was no slow dancing closeness, and I accepted. I was really nervous about the slow songs, though. How would we keep the naughty bits from touching? With visions of Uncle Creepy punch lines dancing in my head, I didn’t want to explore that disturbing riddle any further.

I ended up dancing with many elderly gentlemen. As we talked, most of them seemed to feel obligated to explain to me, the outsider, why they were at the nudist ranch. Even though I never asked, or cared, they seemed determined to give me their reasons for getting naked. They told me they liked the resort because unlike in their normal lives, where they were very wealthy and powerful, nobody could determine one’s financial status without clothing. Everyone was equal when naked.

At the time, this rationalization struck me as noble. My youthfully trusting brain thought they were really neat people for valuing the social equality to be found in nudity. Now that I’m older, I realize they were probably just trying to impress the hot young chick by making sure I knew they were rich. Rather than appreciating the lack of class division, they were actually making certain I was aware of it. Unable to display shiny red sports cars and power suits, all they had left in their arsenal were words of braggadocio. They made sure the cat was out of the bag, or wrinkly old sack, as it were.

The night wore on, and the room full of nudists got more raucous. I noticed there were a few people who stood out as full-fledged extroverts, and many who were more casual. Upon meeting, some women would flirt openly, lasciviously telling me they liked the way I moved my body on the dance floor. Others would politely extend a hand in greeting, as if we were undressed ladies-who-lunch attending a fundraiser for clothing.

One woman was going from table to table, hiking up a leg to show everyone (who didn’t ask) her recent clitoral piercing. I found it interesting that someone could be seeking attention so hard that being naked wasn’t enough; she still needed to perform a labial lambada to stand out. I happened to be close to a few different tables when she did this, each time smiling benignly on the outside, while screaming in horror on the inside. She had managed to do the impossible: making me want to un-see something even more than the wrinkled ocean of senior flesh surrounding us.

There was a younger guy maintaining a constant state of semi-erection as he tried to dance with every woman in the room. People were giggling about this, which surprised me, as I would think any form of bodily mockery would be frowned upon in such a place. I was relieved to discover that even in a room full of nudists, it was still okay to laugh at an errant boner.

One man in particular latched onto me that night, grilling me about the nature of my relationship with the boyfriend. Yet again, the explanation was given that he came to the nudist resort so that he could be naked and not judged for having so much money, blah, blah, blah. Same story as the other men, but he was pushier, shoving a business card into my unwilling hand. “Call me,” he insisted.

The band ended up drinking enough to lose most of their clothing by the end of the night. And there we were: a bunch of naked people rocking out in a Texas warehouse. The show ended before midnight, and a deejay took over, playing all of the grungy songs and romantic ballads the nineties had to offer.

This experience reinforced to me that even in a group of people who consider themselves nonconformists, there will always be the familiar personalities. The archetypes exist with or without clothing: the attention whore, the arrogant rich guy, the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, the criminal… you’ve seen the movie.

Hugging my naked boyfriend on the dance floor at midnight while Whitney serenaded us, I noted the inimitability of the odd evening.This will probably be the most unusual and interesting New Year’s Eve I ever have in my life, I thought. And so far, this has proven to be correct. But I’m not giving up. I remain hopeful that I may someday top it.

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A Musician’s Guide: Top Ways to Promote Your Original Music

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The music industry has been drastically transformed over the last decade, with the days of musicians struggling to get signed to music labels for promotion long gone, thanks to the Internet.

Self-promotion has never been easier, but with so many others also utilizing the marketing tools available, it’s still important to do everything possible to get noticed.

Below are 6 top ways to promote your original music and develop a large fan base.

 

1. Find Your Folks—

Before you start targeting your demographic, you need to figure out to whom your music appeals, and advertise accordingly. Pay attention to the types of people who appreciate your songs and come to your shows.

Don’t waste money and time promoting yourself in the wrong places, or playing shows in venues that don’t generally feature your genre. Instead, figure out your target audience and aim directly at them.

 

2. A Wonderful Website Works—

An interesting, catchy name will help people you meet remember your band—especially those with a few adult beverages in them—so don’t forget to apply the same principle to your band’s website.

Be sure to update your website frequently, with upcoming show/tour dates, music samples and a well-written blog with the latest news.

Fans also love to connect with their favorite musicians, so if you can offer a section below blogs in which you reply to comments, you will win major loyalty points.

 

3. Utilize Social Media—

Oh, what the bands of yore would have done for the golden opportunity to market music that social media now provides, so don’t waste the chance to reach thousands of people via the Internet.

A Facebook musician page is necessary, with frequent enough updates to keep fans interested, but not so many they become annoyed and hide or “unlike” your page.

A Twitter account can allow bands to remind fans of shows and recent news, and a music-sharing site (example: ReverbNation) can offer a place to showcase music and connect with other bands.

 

4. Be People Pleasers—

Music fans can be some of the most loyal and dedicated supporters on the planet, but you need to give them the chance to know you before they can love you.

Be sure to have a compelling bio written for the band (or solo musician) with plenty of detail, personality and charm, but keep it concise enough that it reads smoothly.

Musician photos—be they live, studio, or candid shots—will also help fans feel connected to their favorite musicians, so include plenty of pics on all websites and social media.

 

5. Manage Your Marketing—

If you’re playing a tour, or even a single show, don’t count on the promoter or the venue to advertise for your band. Surprisingly, even though they profit from a larger crowd, many bars and clubs don’t have the manpower, knowledge, or desire to make sure your upcoming gig is successful.

Make flyers to be put up around every area you’re going to be playing, and get them into the hands of someone who will make sure they’re distributed before your show.

Sometimes you can call the club and mail show flyers ahead to be posted, and some musicians have “street teams” of dedicated fans who get word out for them, which really helps.

 

6. Give a Little Bit—

While it’s important to make sure fans can buy your music online through your website, and other places like CD Baby and iTunes, be sure to allow them to hear or even download a few songs for free. If you’ve got the goods, your talent will sell itself.

Giveaways that include free music, T-shirts, stickers, water bottles, lighters and anything else you think fans might use are smart ways to get your name out there, and will brand you to potential new fans.

 

A little promotion can go a long way, so use the tips above to market your music to be seen, heard and appreciated by everyone who will like your songs. Your fans are out there; you just have to find them!

Aural Relaxation: Stop the Stress with Music Therapy

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Research has proven that music therapy can be an effective anxiety-reliever, making it a commonly utilized treatment by healthcare and psychiatric professionals. Music has the power to soothe the stressed-out by lowering blood pressure, regulating breathing and heart rate, and can even slow down or speed up brain waves.

Read below about 6 ways music therapy can uplift or calm a worried mind, relax a tense body and bring peace to anyone in need of some serenity throughout the day.

 

1. Reduce Road Rage—

Many people commute to and from work, which can be a constant source of stress and anger, thanks to congested traffic and distracted drivers.

Playing music during a drive can distract us from the drudgery of travel and turn it into a source of pleasure.

Music helps by psychologically reframing the commute, turning a necessary-but-unpleasant daily event into what feels more like a fun activity, keeping the listener calm and less frustrated.

 

2. Increase Productivity—

Once you step out of your music therapy vehicle and head into the job, consider continuing to use this valuable method of relaxation once you reach your workspace.

If your employer allows music to be played at desks, cubicles, in kitchens, factories, retail establishments, or wherever you are employed, this has been shown to dramatically increase employee morale—and happy employees work harder.

Remember: A fast tempo will speed up brain waves to increase concentration, while a slow tempo promotes a tranquil state of mind.

 

3. Have a Musical Lunch—

Another way to use music therapy throughout your day is to play music during your lunch break. If you’ve had a rough morning, playing upbeat music with positive lyrics can get you back into a determined, go-getter mindset.

If you’re feeling anxious, mellow classical music or folksy acoustic tunes can calm you down enough to refocus and stay on-task for the rest of the day.

If your work’s break room doesn’t allow music, get into the habit of having lunch in your car where you can control the melodies and play exactly what you need to keep your mental state solid.

 

4. Play an Instrument—

In addition to listening to songs, playing music can be one of the most effective stress-relievers available.

Playing percussive instruments such as drums or bongos can be a great way to work out aggression or tension after a tough day.

Strumming a guitar or expressing emotions through songwriting can also be tremendously cathartic.

Harmonicas have proven helpful for music therapy because they are conducive to deep breathing, which naturally alleviates anxiety.

But don’t forget about the instrument everyone can play; the voice. Singing along to music can be wonderfully therapeutic, whether you consider yourself a good singer or not. If you’re self-conscious, sit somewhere secluded in the car, or wait until the house is empty, and sing the stress away.

 

5. Dinner Time Tunes—

Listening to music while preparing food can turn a nightly chore into a positively purifying process.

Sometimes after a long day, cooking dinner is the last thing in the world we feel like doing, but music can lift our spirits and revitalize this task.

Light, calming background music played during the meal can also soothe everyone at the table—just make sure it’s not loud enough to compete with conversation.

 

6. Musical Meditation—

Meditating to music can be done while sitting in a classic meditation pose with a visual focal point, lying comfortably on the floor with closed eyes, in a warm bath, or anywhere you feel the most relaxed.

Slow your breathing, and allow yourself to unwind until you are thinking about nothing but the music, clearing the mind and body of all anxiety and negativity.

 

Our hectic world, jobs and personal lives can often create chaos and inner turmoil, but living in a constant state of fear and worry can damage our physical and psychological health. Try to incorporate some of the music therapy techniques above into your day to release tension so you can stay healthy, happy and stress-free.

My LA. Neighbors

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A few years ago, before we moved to the Midwest, my husband and I lived in a decrepit apartment building just off Hollywood Boulevard. We were mere blocks away from Grauman’s Chinese Theater and a music school.

Because of the location, our building was filled with mostly transgendered individuals and musicians. Aspiring women and aspiring rock stars. It was an always interesting and sometimes annoying combination.

The transgendered folks were often coming home from a late night as I left for the 5 a.m. to noon grocery store shift that paid my bills. The the elevator would reek of cheap perfume and cigarettes, with partially finished beers sitting on the stained carpet. I much preferred the pretty ladies with great legs and large feet to my musician neighbors.

Perplexing to those who know that I am a musician myself? Probably. Let me explain by quoting a passage from my Musician’s Handbook for you.

“Musician Manners 101:

First Rule: You DO NOT have band practice where you live, if you live in an apartment building or a house that is in close proximity to neighbors. Firstly: it is rude. Secondly: they will call the cops on you.”

Duh, right? This seems obvious to me.

The entire time I lived in Los Angeles, I played music in bands. There are many places that allow a band to rent a practice room by the hour, usually in the $15 to $30 range. (The cheapest places were in North Hollywood, but there was a costly place just down the street from me, in West Hollywood, that we’d use in a pinch.)

When you split the rental fee amongst band members, it is quite bearable. A small price to pay to rock freely and loudly as you’d like. Many of these places even have a drum set already waiting in each practice room, amplifiers available for the guitar players and a P.A. system complete with microphones for vocals. I thought it was a great deal and enjoyed the “not having to lug a bunch of musical gear around” factor. Just show up, play your music, pay and leave. Painless.

For some reason, maybe because they knew they were a majority, the musicians in our apartment building played loud, amplified guitars and sang constantly in their tiny apartments. The building was old, the walls were thin. It was like being at a rock show if someone a wall over, under or above decided to play. Pretty much any time of day, there was somebody being really loud somewhere nearby. It sucked.

The people below us often played wanky guitar licks with fuzzy, obnoxious distortion and would have sing-along parties late into the night. These parties usually ended with the couple who lived there having one of their late-night drunken, screaming, slamming doors, 20-something fights. With a 4 a.m. daily wake-up call for my aforementioned job, you can imagine that these parties thrilled me pieces.

Pieces of angry, exhausted, 30-something rage.

Once, when my husband went downstairs to ask them to turn the amplifier down, he was rebuffed with, “But dude, I just got a new amp.”

Oh… sorry. Well in that case, pleeeease turn it UP and play that Coldplay song you’ve been playing over and over again for the last hour at least sixty more times. Sorry we bothered you… dude.

This brings me to another problem I had with my fellow musicians/apartment dwellers: their musical taste. If you’re going to play other people’s music constantly, can I at least CHOOSE the songs? The guy below us had a nineties mayonnaise alterna-drivel boner that nearly beiged me to death, and the guy whose balcony was directly across from our balcony loved to butcher cheesy eighties songs.

I sang in an eighties cover band for awhile. It was a blast, I made good money, but I’ve heard those songs played the way they were supposed to be played- by excellent musicians. This guy did not even come close.

The cheesy eighties songs guy was what prompted me to write this, actually. I was reminded of him when Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” came on our car radio this morning. My husband and I both immediately said, “I wonder where that guy’s getting stoned and singing off-key now?”

We used to hear him smoking up through the screen of our balcony. The tap-tap-tap as he cleaned out his pipe on the edge of the ashtray. The scratchy click! of the lighter. Next, the smell would come wafting across the way. The Official Smell of the Unmotivated. The Smell of Rock Concerts Past. The Smell of You’re Not Going to Sleep Until I’m Done, Neighbors. We learned his routine, and knew that if we heard the pot smoking, off-key singing accompanying a poorly-played guitar would soon follow.

“Time After Time” was a favorite of this guy, but not his long-suffering neighbors. He didn’t even come close to hitting the right notes, and often we’d sing along loudly across the balcony air in his direction, trying to alert him to this fact. “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me! Time after time!” we’d scream together across the way. Sometimes we tried to harmonize with him.

My husband went over to tell him to knock it off many times, the last time being when the guy finally snapped at him: “Go ahead! Call the police! I don’t care,” probably because the police would be an improvement over the 6’5″ neighbor with “no verbal filter” as my husband will sometimes apologetically explain. (He’s a say-what-he-means, no bullshit sort of guy. I deeply love this about him.)

My husband replied, “Okay, I will… and I’ll be sure to mention that I smell pot every time you open your door as well.”

So he called the police. He also mentioned the interesting smell. After making us deal with his caterwauling for a year, the guy moved out within two weeks. We never saw him again.