unusual weekend

I did something unusual this weekend – I stayed out past 1AM. Went to Dan Electro’s to see Governor’s Chair and decided to stay for the band that followed. It wasn’t a band in the traditional sense. It was a collection of musicians who seemed to get together just for that evening – a drummer and three percussionists plus a bass player and guitarist Terry Greene. I can remember seeing Terry play at Blythe Spirits at the Sunday night jam when I was underage. He looks pretty much exactly the same. And it’s still fun to watch him play guitar.

Between GC and the jam band, a couple of random people came up to us talking about the prodigy who was going to play a set that night. That “he is only 14 but an amazing guitar player.” I thought the conversations reeked of PR, and, sure enough, each of the people with whom we had these “random” conversations were soon sitting together with the young lad. I was dubious.

So Terry Greene played a few songs and then turned guitar duties over to the kid. He was definitely a kid – this wasn’t some world-wise teenager but your typical skinny little white kid. And he started “wailing” on the guitar. He did every flourish he could summon, pretty much constantly. Though he was an okay player, he had no soul. It seemed there was no artistry to what he was doing. He was all flourish and no melody. Lots of fast fingers but no feeling. It was like watching a really talented monkey with nimble fingers. Or maybe seeing that computer that plays chess taking a turn on guitar.

After each song, the dad/uncle/manager/Col. Parker rushed on stage to swap out the kid’s guitar. Ridiculous. I had to leave in the midst of the third song before I started shit-talking in the audience and starting a scene.

I sound like I’m being too harsh on this kid. Here’s the thing – his family/friends shouldn’t be going around doing the hard sell on the kid. They shouldn’t say anything, in fact, and just let him get up there and play. Then the kid is a surprise, and you think “wow, for a 14-year-old, he’s pretty good.” Because when you promote him as an amazing guitar player, and he’s following someone like Terry Greene, you’re setting him up to fail. Plus, it’s just really, really obnoxious.

My advice to that kid – have fun playing the guitar. Take your time. Take the stage when you want to, but don’t do it because the adults around you are forcing it. Because they want you to be the next random white guy (John Mayer) who makes a shitload of money. Tell your stage dad to back up off you.