Super Sunday Hamster Blender Blog

31 August 2006

If Buddha Were in a Band, We May Never Know

While out taking a walk a few evenings ago, trying to scavenge the decaying entrails of a summer bludgeoned by the creeping terror known as Autumn’s Chill, I saw a woman slowly walking behind a dumpster. Sort of a like a zombie, but with her arms at her side (most zombies like to walk with arms straight out and parallel to the ground, a clear homage to the Godfather of the Undead, John Kerry). I then noticed the reason why; she was stalking a rabbit out for a nightly nibble on a patch of grass behind the dumpster.

She quietly moved towards the bunny, until she got to a point where the bunny flinched upon realizing something was amiss in its dining proximity. In anticipation of the bunny dashing back to its burrow to hide and catch the waning minutes of The Sopranos, she purposely stepped forward with great exaggeration to make the rabbit run. She wanted to influence the bunny before the bunny influenced itself. Of course, it ran. You would to, if something twenty times your size approached you while you were having dinner, albeit you may not be eating behind a dumpster.

It seems to be a common theme among us humans; we like to make things react. How many of us have dashed headlong into a bevy of grounded pigeons or seagulls just to make them fly? If you saw a long line of dominoes, are you not tempted to push one to make them all fall? If we come across a ball or a stone or a skull in our path, do we not kick it?

Yes, we like to make things move; or more accurately, we like to exert our control to make things react. A mini-God complex. Influencing the destiny of the living and inanimate alike by inflicting our subtle attempts of power.

I am not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. The urge to run screaming full-speed into a long line of people waiting to buy tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert could easily be argued as necessary for society to survive. I am merely pointing out that we like to wield tidbits of control. My theory, which I will not delve into now too deeply lest I lose my point and logical construct, has to do with everything in our day-to-day being so controlled (through work, the government, the media, Microsoft, Oprah, etc) that we fight back in little pockets of insignificant-yet-pleasing acts of resistance.

My point – after five paragraphs of lead-in – is that many bands exist for the very same reason.

OK, OK, OK, we can all get down from our moralistic soapboxes arguing that SOME bands exist to fulfill a deeper purpose, like staging a musical revolution of the youth movement led by old guys, aborting the war machine and action figures, saving the whales from Romanian orphans, or exposing Area 52 for what it really is (a Wal-Mart). I am sure many bands have these boisterous and well-positioned intentions, and wave their fists skyward with great, manicured conviction.

However, I really think they like to make people react, and not necessarily in alignment with their principles and causes. Besides the obvious feeding of their own wallets, bands like to exert their ability to make us, as pigeons, move. It’s good for their ego.

I am not referring to them making us dance and feeling the energy and being at one with the audience and all that bullshit-Journey clichéd rigmarole, either. I am talking basic cause-and-effect. They sing, you stare at them. They pose for a CD cover, you go “oooo.” They say “we are for the working man” as they get into their limo, you go “I wonder if they have XBOX in their limo, and can I go to?”

Ah, but here’s the kicker – I am not saying this is an evil thing. While it is evil that anyone would shell out any cash to buy a Shakira CD who is only in this business for that cash, there is nothing wrong with feeding one’s ego. Buddhism aside – and I do believe that the ability to transcend one’s ego would be a beautiful thing but I know no American who can actually do it and those that say they can and live the Buddhist lifestyle are usually the biggest offenders of ego and thus are big Buddha stupid-heads – the ego is your friend, as long you see it and accept it.

I believe that our band exists for this reason (it certainly does not exist for the money; we are not-for-profit but not in a charitable sense – our business model involves way too much cost in beer inventory). If we truly – or any band – were in it for the pure joy of creation and the intimate bumpity-bump feeling deep in our furry hearts, then we/they would not have web sites, blogs, CDs, or play out to tens of people. Certainly, we in the Hamster Band Army feed off each other in our little weekly sessions, but we also feed dearly off the occasional compliment tossed our way from friends, strangers, and people we have bought off with love, affection, and begging courtship.

We are stomping our feet at the rabbit, and making it scramble. Or at least look up and wince.

(For the record, we have no intention of renaming to Super Sunday Bunny Blender, despite the improvement of alliteration.)

Where this became wonderfully applicable is when we played out. Before playing, I introduced ourselves by apologizing for our self-assessed lack of preparation. I referred to the show as being a practice, but in front of people, and offered my regret. Genetik, warming up on bass, quickly responded “no apologies, no apologies!”

Of course, he was right. I if were truly sorry, we never would have played. We would never have pushed the domino. No matter how poorly or well we would play, we made a choice to do something for someone and expect something in return. Even if it were a bad ego feeling that was returned to us, or rotting vegetables, we would still get the reaction and the feeling one gets from pushing over the first domino. Genetik’s declaration certainly exposed my own personal hypocrisy, and helped me understand why I do the things I do. Sure, I love the creative process and working with wonderfully accepting band mates and assembling a song from the impromptu meanderings of a frazzled Thursday evening, but I also like to see what this music does to anyone, and the feeling I (me-me-me) get from making it, playing it, shoving it down people’s throats. Bum rush the bunny!

And no apologies.

Which makes me come to terms of why I desire to play out again. I’m simply itching to kick a skull that happens to be in my path, and there is nothing wrong with that, regardless of talent, Buddha, or how many whales are orphaned in the process.

07 August 2006

For Those of You About to Swim…

Super Sunday Hamster Blender, a self-proclaimed studio-only group, actually left the studio (i.e., Genetik’s basement) and played their first full-band gig out (i.e., a house party). Consider it our debutante coming out party, introducing our cellar-dwelling selves to the world. Or to a small chunk of Amston and surrounding villages.

Since last September, the band recorded eighteen songs. However, they were all recorded in pieces, track by track, with each instrument being laid down separately from each other. Until just recently, the band never played any of the songs as a band.

So, with our first outing scheduled, we had to rapidly learn to play them as a band for our special gig, this outdoor affair at friend Chris and Elaine’s house. It was very nice – and brave – for Chris and Elaine to invite us. They were dutifully warned; we only play originals since we don’t do any covers (yet), and this will be like a giant practice for us. In essence, we will play music no one knows and with anticipated plentiful screw-ups. Exactly what any party-goer wants to hear.

Amazingly, they enthusiastically accepted us. More importantly, they enthusiastically fed us.

Their house and yard is its own little Paradise Lost. The built-in pool has an adorable rock-laden waterfall. There’s a tiered deck and an outdoor built-in fireplace. A luxury grill, generous coolers of beer, and an abundance of mermaids and jackalopes roamed the grounds. It was like Las Vegas, except in the midst of Connecticut’s back woods, and with ticks instead of gamblers and hookers.

There were, in fact, no tick sightings or tick injuries. Therefore, the band pronounced its uncanny ability to ward off unwanted blood-sucking pests, something everyone should keep in mind when scheduling your next event and you plan on being near a wooded area, vampires, or oil company executives.

Our premier on this brilliant day was almost cancelled. Two days prior, we blew our PA head, and both vocalists had illnesses. It wasn’t until Saturday morning, a mere seven hours before the show that we committed to continue on. We figured that sore throat phlegm could be a fair substitute for our lack of pyrotechnics.

We setup in front of the pool house, facing the pool. We were playing uphill to the crowd seated and mingling on rocky ledges and the deck. The Colonial house loomed in the background, a safe haven for those who wished to escape the blistering heat of the day, or the blisters of our music. We were performing on a slab in front of the pool house, with limited space, so we had to mount the speakers in the windows behind us. Furthermore, a two-foot wall was in front of us, so we had to raise our amps on top of empty chlorine pails. We were unequivocally backwoods. The only things missing were the suspenders and corn cob pipes.

While the pool threatened us with electrocution, and the kids diving in front of us were a mild distraction, and the setting sun playing directly into our eyes, we, armed with imaginative and mediocre talent, still managed to reel off ten songs, without much noticeable damage to the neighboring community. Despite a few minor glitches of neglected lyrics, disadvantaged chords, and juggled drum sticks, we never had to abandon a song. Wobbly at times, yes; but we stood our ground. And begged for compliments with puppy dog eyes and muffled whimpering.

And it felt…good. Remarkably good. Maybe after months of being hidden away in a basement, the daylight refreshed us. Maybe it was because it was a friendly crowd, accepting and banned from throwing empty bottles. Possibly the welcoming smiles and flirtatious winking from the mermaids encouraged us. In any case, we have some newfound confidence and spark. Watch out Las Vegas, we’re a-comin,’ so hide the women, ticks, and jackalopes.

You can check out a clip from said performance in the Tunes section at Look for the movie camera next to the song "Push Isolation" and settle back into oblivion.