Last Friday we mastered the record in Chapel Hill at The Kitchen. It is finished!
Today I am in Los Angeles. I came here to hang out with friends and last night we went to the sold-out U2 concert at the Staples Center. My friends work in 'the business' so i got a ticket long after it was sold out, and a backstage pass. The show was great. Like many people, I have been listening to U2's music for like 20 years, so when they played songs like 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' it was very exciting and nostalgic. The set and lights were simple and beautiful - it is always a pleasure to see a big well-run professional concert, and this one was particularly tasteful.
Bono is heading up a project called 'The One Campaign' to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa. Bono has always brought his politics onto the stage, and it is a ballsy thing to do because it can easily come off cheesy or just be generally off-putting. He straddled that fence a few times but never fell over onto the cheesy side. I had heard beforehand that he was going to talk about the campaign during the song 'One' and I was skeptical about that, but it actually was beautiful. A simple string-keyboard line came in and started looping. He asked everyone to pull out their cell-phones and the room filled with the tiny lights of thousands of cell-phone LCDs. Then he talked a little about Africa and equality and a sign came on the screens to text message your name to a certain number to join the campaign, and they softly launched into 'One'.
Apparently the show was 'the hottest ticket in town', and this being Los Angeles, that means celebrities. A few feet behind me was a fenced off area in front of the sound board - the celebrity cage. This cage was particularly packed I think because Brad Pitt has gotten involved in the One Campaign and had recruited a bunch of his Hollywood friends to be in a PSA that will air this week on network TV. Present were Chris Rock, David Arquette and Courtney Cox, Brad Pitt, Dennis Hopper, John Cusack, Don Johnson, Robbie Williams, Scott Weiland, etc etc. And I thought about how everyone envies their position, but do they realize how limiting that fame is? They have to watch the concert from inside their little cage - it just seemed like such a good metaphor.
After the concert, it was like a royal court - all social hierarchy and pecking order, your worth boiled down to the type of pass hanging around your neck. Bono was surrounded at all times by a huddling knot of people - and I respect his high tolerance for schmoozing, he seemed to handle it well. Then there were his 'people' and assistants orchestrating the schmoozing, making sure that the right people get to talk to him in the right order. God what a lot of crap. Nobody makes any genuine connections at these things. Sure, there were some people there I would have liked to have had a conversation with, but not under those circumstances.
So my friends and I came back feeling a little dirty. We agreed that we should have just left after the concert and kept the high from that going, instead of wallowing in the muck of ego jockeying in the backstage olympics of posturing. And all of this had me reflecting on my own goals and dreams, for here was the biggest band in the world, here was the reality of what it means to 'make it big'. And contrary to some people's impression of me, I do want that - at least a version of that. I want my music to have an impact, I want my records to be logged in the generation books of American musical lineage... one yearns to have one's work recognized, to do something of value and be recognized for that - there is validity to that.