Saturday, March 18, 2006

I was rummaging way, way, way in the back of our liquor closet and came across the tapes from my middle school band concerts. Band was my only activity in middle school, and I was pretty damn proud of my mad skillz, so it really lights up my heart to know that my parents store the only physical remnants we have from those days in the same dusty closet they store bottles of tequila that haven't been opened since the Carter administration. Two millenia from now, archaeologists are going to unearth our house and find still half-full bottles of Grand Marnier in there next to videotapes from Christmas 1987.

I thought, "This will be some mellifluous fun!" and stopped dusting off bottles of rum. I figure it'll be another twenty or so years before I'm back in that closet, so I took down all the tapes I could carry.

The first problem is that these "cassette tapes" things will not play on my iPod. I try jamming them into the CD-ROM drives on my computers and my assortment of defunct Discmen, and they won't fit. They're like thick and rectangular with these holes in the middle. God, what primitive beasts we once were. Thankfully, my parents still have a clock radio from, well, the Carter administration, and after some fussing around with the thing, I'm listening to some sixth-grade memories in full monophonic analog sound.

Wow.... I have never felt so bad for parents in my life, having to listen through this cacophony, then smile and tell their kids we sounded amazing. It doesn't help that the tape, since we cared for it so well, deteriorated over time, or that the band was pretty much reduced to playing Broadway medleys dumbed-down for the most amateur of amateurs and trite, generic pieces with trite, generic titles like the bizarrely-quoted Alamo "Concert March" and Baywood Overture (the overture to "Baywood"?), and the non-sequitor Allegheny Overture: Welsh Folk Song. You gotta realize that these were the days before band competitions and "excellent" and "superior" ratings, and trophies and all that shit — the point of these concerts was to impress the parents enough to get them donating to the band boosters, and it didn't take a lot to impress these parents. I mean, some of them still had kids wetting the bed (not me, and I hate you for thinking that) so pretty much anything that didn't involve setting a house on fire got out their checkbooks.

Who the hell thought having a junior high string ensemble would be a good, harmonic idea? My ears! They burn!!!!

If I can get my audioblog to work, I'll post this whole damn concert so you can hear how truly horrendous my sixth-grade band was. I believe there's about forty people in the band, and throughout most of these songs, we're all playing like fifty different notes. Our sixth-grade jazz band came out sounding a bit better since there's only eighteen of us — for some reason, a third of the band was a flute section, so maybe we were trying to be the Jethro Tull of middle school jazz bands. We played "Sweet Georgia Brown," and I to this day remember my solo. I also remember not getting any applause for my thirty second solo. Not one damn motherfucker in the whole motherfucking audience clapped, and I know I wasn't great, but I played loud enough to be heard, hit all my notes and most of them in tune, and I'm in freaking sixth grade standing up and performing in front of the entire thankless school! Meanwhile, that goddamned load of shit Ian Doebber, in the school's other jazz band — the one we showed off at that asinine Hershey Park competition — he plays eight notes of "What I Did For Love" and the crowd, which on the tape sounds like it's all female groupies, goes fucking apeshit.

I wasn't sure I remembered that whole night correctly, but now it turns out that we have an audio tape, so I listened to it again. I play my solo and it's dead silence — the trombonist who was supposed to solo after me had stagefright or something and couldn't get anything out of his instrument but a spitty stutter — and I swear, I'll get the damn audioblog working and I'll post the tape. It's not like I'm bitter or anything.

I also found the concert from the year after, when I had to share my solos with Kristin Pastir, and good sport that I am, I did so begrudgingly. Back in middle school, I was one of those kids who got told, a lot, "Everybody's awkward in junior high," which translates to, "I know everybody's awkward in junior high, but damn you're awkward, freak. I'm a professional with a college degree and even I want to give you a wedgie." I didn't have a lot of friends, or more precisely, I had no friends. I stayed out of trouble, made nice with my teachers, kept to myself, and was basically an insignificant, insecure wisp of nothing, so I kind of treasured those four minutes of seventh-grade when everyone in the school would be listening to me. I think this point eludes a lot of adults who earnestly try to maintain a happy community of children, so I sort of wish they'd shut up with the inevitable condescending platitudes and listen for once.

Anyway, Kristin got the wind ensemble solo and I got the jazz band solo, and all was cool, except.... Now here I am, it's been eleven years, and I'm notice that the wind ensemble soloists are listed in the program but the jazz band soloists aren't. I'm mostly remembering middle school band, which I really loved at the time, as one screwing after another. I let out a litany of curses.

Oh my God, listen to Kristen squeak in the middle of her solo. Seriously, I'll post the damn thing.

Seventh-grade: we're sort of in tune. We suck more than last year's seventh-grade band. I sort of blow my solo because I'm playing a tenor sax for some reason and it's larger and heavier than I am. I get a tiny, tiny bit of applause, which I'd kind of deserve, except it's middle school and what're you expecting and would it kill you to stroke my ego a little? It was like a — jeez, who the hell was popular before the boy band era — like a Boyz II Men concert after Ian Doebber played his few notes last year. I think he was a soccer player, though. Fucking school board never cut their budget.


DL said...

Yeah, I remember when I switched to tenor sax to get into Jazz Band II (II still can't believe we had a Jazz Band II). I hated that thing with a passion that knows no reason. Seriously, I'm not really sure why but when I switched from alto to tenor sax music lost what little fun it had left for me.