• first gig

    taking a break from pre-history to share some tidbits about modern history. about the first varnish gig, which was my first gig ever.

    i went into my first gig with a modest set of goals:

    1. don’t leave the stage to pee during the set. (i had been fending off illness and drinking even more than my usual loads of water….this was a very challenging goal to meet.)
    2. don’t let down my best friend. he had gotten us the gig and i didn’t want him to regret it. secretly, i wanted to do more than not embarrass him; i wanted to make him proud and make him like me more and want to get us more gigs.
    3. oh, and it would be nice if i weren’t totally mortified with our performance. (i am really self-critical, so that isn’t a joke.)

    i also went into that gig knowing:

    1. we had some great songs.
    2. i was a good lyricist.
    3. i was a good performer.

    and here is how this all came together:

    1. all goals achieved! i am pretty sure i grinned like a complete idiot when the best friend told me we’d done really well. good thing there were no cameras.
    2. the monitors were really good, so i could hear myself really clearly. and people who were not drunk, were not there for varnish, and were not hitting on me told me i had an amazing voice. which means i could finally add to my list of things i knew that i was a good singer.

    my friend celeste, who ran the video camera (i told you i’d mention you by name, missy) and has always felt free to give loads of feedback on the efforts i make at music, told me that she saw when i started to believe. and that everything got better then.

    so the most important thing i got from that, aside from popping my gig cherry, was belief in myself as a singer. leaving me with a burning need to make sure that the boys in the band believed in themselves and that my friends in other bands believed in themselves. because as awesome as their performances were, i had now learned that believing in yourself (and i don’t mean having some cocky ego trip, because that’s usually rooted in insecurity) lets you do a better job and enjoy what you’re doing more.

    and maybe that seems like a very obvious thing to you, but i gotta take my enlightenment where i can get it. even if it sounds like a cheesy greeting card.


  • yes, i have a mum

    before things go too far, i thought i should mention where my mum fits into all this. if i just talk about my dad, you may think he was a single parent. which isn’t the case. it’s just that, to be honest, i’m not sure that mum’s contribution of neil diamond had much of an influence.

    now, i won’t pretend i can’t sing along with a song or two, especially songs from the jazz singer soundtrack. i am not here to start some sort of “amber hates neil diamond” drama. i mean, wearing a black neil diamond t-shirt at college caused great confusion and glee. (the most visible thing on the shirt, from a distance, was “diamond,” which caused many people to believe it must be a king diamond shirt.) but, really, i’ll be interested in hearing if anyone can locate the influence of mr. diamond or his peers in our music.

    mum’s interaction with the music i like has been pretty limited as well. whilst i was learning to drive and she was in the car, she did get a carefully selected exposure to things i liked. but it became clear that she wasn’t really engaged when she noted, not using names but saying things like “that last band” and “this band,” that the smiths were much happier music than the cocteau twins. i guess that means i need not have been so worried about what she might think of the lyrics…

    as far as her response to my music…well, let’s just say she isn’t a fan and leave it at that. and let’s also say that i wasn’t surprised and not really hurt by that. so it’s okay.

    and that is why you are unlikely to hear much about mum here. not that i plan to talk much about the other members of my family either. but i thought i should at least acknowledge that i have a mum and she was very present in my life but doesn’t really have much to do with my music.


  • how it all started

    not to be overly conventional, but let’s start this at the obvious place.

    my dad loves music in a crazy way. and my older brother is much the same. so i can probably put part of the blame for my “condition” on genetics. and, of course, growing up in a house where there was so much loved of music meant that there was always music being played. both nature and nurture conspired to turn me into what i am. fortunately, the music they were listening to was pretty good.

    dad teethed me on bowie, hendrix, joplin, the velvet underground, and all those other things your classic rock station plays or your adult contemporary station mixes in with the newer stuff. i wasn’t allowed to touch the reel-to-reel, so i had to wait for him if i wanted something other than a record or cassette. but he once had these pulsing lights plugged into the stereo so that we could lay on the floor in the living room and watch the lights pulse with the music. he was the person who introduced me to the concept of underground music and who would happily turn up “walk on the wild side” when it was just the two of us in the car. i’m fairly certain he was the one who gave me the “rise and fall of ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars” record. he is certainly the person who made sure i always had some device of my own for listening to music until i was into my 20s. which is really good of him when you consider that he didn’t really approve of all my music as i got older.

    my brother was a little more cutting edge. i am pretty sure that i learned to dance in his bedroom whilst “safety dance” was on the radio. and i wore out his bowie “tonight” cassette multiple times. and feared breaking his cure records. and, honestly, loved this one quiet riot poster he had…i clearly recall, when i was quite young, realising that his musical tastes were part of what caused me to feel free to listen to and explore any music i wanted. he might not love to hear it, but that time we were driving through the streets of anchorage in the early 80s and i saw a boy with a mohican and wanted that hair for myself…it was my older brother’s influence that inclined me to feel pretty okay about that.

    those are the early years. i’ll get to the pre-teen and older years later. though i think we’ll have to pass through a story about hearing loss first. but now you know why it was inevitable that i end up in love with music, and with rock music in particular. just in case you were curious…