I wrote a song called “Party Favors” while living in the dormitory. It’s just about the darkest lyric I have penned. It was the only song I could perform competently. Walking down the street in Richmond, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen a while, performing as a solo act in a small nightclub. During an intermission, I asked if I could play a song. He said, “Well, I’ve put a lot of work into getting all these songs together, and building this audience. I can’t let anyone just step up and perform.” I thought he was being a total prick, but I eventually realized that he was right.
There was a house in the woods just north of Harrisonburg. There was a small stage near the house. I attended some of their parties. I met the owners, and told them that, “I took the liberty of looking through your CD collection.” They laughed uncomfortably, and I continued, “Anyone who has Big Science on CD is pretty cool.”
One time, a rock band was playing. A friend and I formed a mosh pit of two. That wasn’t even the stupidest thing I did at that place. A local reggae project, Awareness Art Ensemble, was performing. There were some roto-toms set up; nobody was using them. I saw a pair of sticks. Next thing, there I was, banging on their percussion…terribly. I figured that since no one in the band was telling me to leave, they must like it.
The closest thing to improvisation in Nashville is when someone farts. I was into the free jazz scene: musical improvisation and total freedom with no regard for tempo or key. The goal is to not to pay attention to what the other musicians are doing. It’s super fun. Not one person from Nashville understood. Not one.
The friend I followed from Harrisonburg to Nashville was going back to Virginia. There was a going away party at the big house with a rehearsal space in the basement. At parties in Nashville, everybody tries to impress everybody else with their skills as a musician. There was one girl who utterly hated me. She played a little guitar, and then she tried to set the bongos between her knees. She couldn’t make it work. She probably hoped that no one noticed.
I sat down at the keyboard. I loved playing the piano. One big-time engineer guy tossed me from the bench. He asked if I knew how to play. I didn’t answer, I just went somewhere else.
A little later, the bongos were unattended. I held them with my arm and attempted a rhythm with the other hand. It was a crowded area, and I was leaning against a wall. I was banging on the bongos like the grooviest man in the room. Some guy that I knew motioned a rhythm as he walked past. I thought he was being silly. Apparently, there is a specific way to play bongos…but I didn’t know.