High Demand For Bland

High Demand For Bland

High Demand For Bland
Grey garage, grey gravel, grey fence, grey car.

Something that fascinates me is the high demand for things that are bland. With so many options available to us, we still seem to gravitate towards the dull and the boring. The demand for blandness seems to have reached a new high.

Car Colour

I don’t understand the preoccupation people have for owning black cars. Firstly, we live in a country with intense sunlight. Black absorbs heat. Therefore, a black car will get hotter than other cars. To choose a car colour that maximises the impact of the harsh Australian sun makes little sense. Secondly, black is the same colour as most roads. This impedes visibility, making it more likely for another driver to pull out on you, increasing your risk of being in an accident. Thirdly, black is the same colour as most hire cars. If you are being driven by a hire car driver, then there is a certain amount of prestige that accompanies this. Unfortunately,most people with black cars don’t have drivers. They have to do the driving themselves.

The popularity of grey as a choice in car colour also puzzles me. If there is any one “most boring” colour, it would have to be grey. Think of how miserable just one week of grey, gloomy, wet weather is. We can’t wait for the vibrant blue skies to return. Strangely, we choose to drive around in grey cars. In an attempt to make grey interesting, we substitute words such as “charcoal” or “silver”. We may as well use descriptive words such as “mud”, “dirt” or “drab”.

Probably the most common car colour is white. Plain-ol’-white. Can’t-go-wrong white. Nothing-interesting white. Never-fade white. It’s the same colour as an artist’s canvas before he or she starts to work on the painting.

I was taught that black, white and grey aren’t colours. They are shades. This means that most of us choose to drive colourless cars. We seem to have a fondness for the plain,dull and uninteresting. Does this cross over into the rest our lives? Are most of us leading plain, dull and colourless lives?

Our Preference For Bland Music

I love drinking un-homogenised milk. The cream is at the top. If you want it mixed up, you have to shake the bottle. The milk tastes better. It is less processed. Yet, it is difficult to buy. The majority of people seem to prefer homogensed milk.

A broad definition of the word homogenise is, “to make it all the same”. With milk, this means to make the cream and the rest of the milk all the same. This is done by reducing the size of the fat globules. 

In our current society, there seems to be a propensity “to make it all the same”, from cars to clothes to music. And, just as I am puzzled by people choosing grey cars, I am equally perplexed by people choosing to listen to “grey” music. Music can be so exciting, yet dull music has an overwhelming popularity.

The Popularity Of Bland Music

Walk into most establishments either serving food or selling clothes and you’ll hear the same computer generated drum loop. It’s the same drum loop you hear when someone drives past in a car with their stereo blaring. It’s the same loop that you hear when you sit next to someone on a train and their headphones are so loud that they spill into the carriage. So boring yet so popular. People love bland.

Walk into a bar or pub that advertises “live music”. You know in advance what you are going to hear get because everything is the same. There will usually be a guy dressed down in grubby clothes playing the guitar. He will most likely be using some kind of loop pedal to set up some kind of repetitive beat before each song. He’ll be sitting on a stool and he’ll have an ipad attached to his microphone stand. There will be nothing unique about what he does and no one will be listening to him. He’s employed to be wall-paper and be part of the generic vibe. If it’s not bland and meaningless you know you won’t see him back next week.

Let’s Put Colour Back Into Our Lives

We don’t have to lead grey lives. We are surrounded by vibrant colours. It’s simply a matter of choosing colour over grey. Think back to the 70’s. Clothes were colourful. Music was colourful. People’s lives were colourful. We also had a more even distribution of wealth across the world. 

What’s your preference?

Which do you prefer? This…

 

…or this?

 

 

 

 

Why I Play The Trombone

Why I Play The Trombone

Why I Play The Trombone

I took up playing trombone way back in 1979. For over 35 years, I’ve been spitting into the narrow end of a long piece of extendable metal pipe. Who would be crazy enough to take on such a humbling pursuit? And, of all the musical instruments available, why the trombone?

The simple reason I took up the trombone was because that’s all they had left.

Was the trombone the best choice of instrument for me to play? I don’t know. The simple reason for taking it up was that it was all that was left in the music department storeroom. I had already developed an interest in music early in high school. Inspired by Norman Gunston, my first musical pursuit was to teach myself to play the harmonica. I saw an advertisement in the ‘New Idea’ with the selling pitch, “become the life of the party”. Excited by this prospect, I posted off my money and a few weeks later received my first harmonica along with a booklet explaining how to play it. Forthwith, I took my first steps along the road to a career in music.

The following year, I bought myself a ukulele. I really wanted to play the guitar, but the ukulele looked easier having only four strings instead of six. In addition, the price of $5.00 made it very accessible. I also purchased a tutor book and  I was off again in my next musical quest. Once I could strum a few chords, I bought a neck brace for my harmonica so that I could play both instruments together.

By Year 10, I felt that I was ready to move onto something more serious, so I approached the school’s music teacher and inquired about taking up a ‘proper’ instrument. Being halfway through the year, I was disappointed to discover that all the ‘good’ instrument had already been borrowed. So…what was left?

Trombones Galore

The music teacher opened the music storeroom, and there were about a dozen trombones. Nothing else. No other instruments. The choice was made for me on that day. We picked out one and I took it home. The following week, I started lessons. I have been playing ever since.

Making The Most Of It

There was never any real love of the trombone. That’s what was available, so that’s what I played. I plodded away and even got accepted into the N.S.W. Conservatorium Of Music. It was there that I picked up the nick-name “Slide”, which I have adopted as my actual name.

Becoming a singer seems to be a natural addition for trombone players. Well known examples are Trombone Shorty (Troy Andrews), Nils Landgren and Fred Wesley.

 

Why I play The Trombone

For information about playing trombone, try these links…

WIKI-HOW – How To Play Trombone In 11 Steps

ONLINE TROMBONE JOURNAL

Sydney Wedding Bands

Wedding band, live band - Slide McBride - Sydney, New South Wales

Sydney Wedding Bands

Get out your phone, tablet or computer, go to Google and search for “Sydney Wedding Bands”. The result will show page upon page of bands spruiking themselves as being “Sydney’s Premier Wedding Band”. The impression it gives is that every musician and singer wants to play in a wedding band, yet it wasn’t that long ago that bands were embarrassed to categorise themselves as a “wedding band”.

Musicians used to view playing in a wedding band as a sign of failure. A classic thing you would hear musicians say was, “Yeah, I’m just playing a few weddings until my original project takes off”. The focus and ambition used to be to play the music you believed in and thought would make you famous. Nowadays, the ambition seems to be playing cover versions of Ed Sherin and Justin Beiber songs, along with a few classic disco songs from the 70’s.

What Happened To The Dream?

The dream used to be sex and drugs and rock and roll. What happened? Now the dream seems to be white dresses, reception venues and wedding cake.

The dream used to be touring the world and smashing up hotel rooms. Now the dream seems to be keeping the wedding planner happy, getting some free drinks and hopefully a bread roll with your ‘crew meal’.

The dream used to be getting laid by one or more groupies after the gig. Now the dream seems to be exchanging business cards with the photographer, catching up with some musicians you haven’t worked with in a while and maybe getting some of the left over flowers to take home to your wife or girlfriend.

My Personal Wedding Story

Being born with the surname “McBride”, it seems like it’s  always been my destiny to play at weddings. I don’t know anyone who has played more weddings than I have. Over the years I’ve seen many changes to what is a typical wedding reception. I’ve also seen venues come and go, photography change from analog to digital and photobooths become a “must have” addition to the night. I’ve seen many changes, but I never anticipated how competitive it would become to get couples to hire you to play at their wedding.

The Wedding “Industry”

About fifteen years ago, I first started seeing the term “wedding industry”. I’ve never been fond of the term, but the harsh reality is that the business of weddings is seen as a recession-proof cash-cow. Young couples are happy to blow tens of thousands of dollars on one day. Wedding industry suppliers are all vying for a piece of this.

Wedding Planning By “Google”

Meanwhile, the inexperienced young couples open up their phone or laptop and put their wedding planning in the hands of Google. Whichever businesses have the biggest budget to spend on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) will appear on Google’s ‘page one’ and will be front runners for a booking. It’s a sign of the times that Google has such a strong influence on weddings. Consider that I’ve heard hundreds of wedding speeches, and what is very common is hearing, “I wasn’t sure what I should say in my speech, so I went to Google…”. I wouldn’t be surprise if young couples are consulting with Google about consummating their wedding.

The New Dream

The old dream used to be having a top 10 hit with an accompanying video clip.  The new dream is about making page one on Google for the search term “Sydney Wedding Band”. My song writing has been replaced by working on and optimising my website.

Yes, I’ve only gotten better at making weddings totally memorable with my band, but without the credibility of Google I have no apparent value.

Photo courtesy of Milton Gan Photography - http://miltongan.com/
Photo courtesy of Milton Gan Photography – http://miltongan.com/

 

Live Band Performance Tips – Competing With Mobile Phones

Live Band Performance Tips –

How To Compete With Mobile Phones

A couple of months ago I went to see Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, “Hateful Eight”. Tarantino’s film is a conceptual experience designed to give the movie-goer an experience similar to seeing a film at the cinema in the late 50’s/early 60’s. Two notable parts of the experience were (i) that the film was in two parts (with an interval in between), and (ii) there was a musical overture prior to each of these two sections.

The Experience

I had my “cinematic experience” at the Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne. Another notable part of the experience was that there was no advertising or film trailers prior to “Hateful Eight”. Instead, a massive organ came up out of the floor and we were entertained by the masterful musician, Neil Jensen, a true maestro of the organ.

For those who don’t know much about organ playing, the amazing thing is that an organist uses four limbs simultaneously, that is two hands and two feet. The left foot is playing the bass lines. The right foot is controlling volume swells. The left hand is playing chords. The right hand is playing melodies. On top of this, hands are darting up and making changes to instrument and sound selections.

Being a musician, I was mesmerised. This is multi-tasking on steroids! The brain is being split into four parts. It’s like a four musicians coming out of one human brain.

In between being mesmerised by the organist’s performance, I looked around the cinema to see if people were as in awe as I was. I was shocked and dismayed to see that approximately half the cinema’s patrons had their phones out and were (I guess) either texting, checking emails or were on Facebook.

The Message

This brought home a very clear message to me. If you are giving a musical performance, you can’t afford to be static. The number one aim must be to be engaging. Also, sitting down during one’s performance is something to avoided at all costs. Something I am wtnessing more and more of is younger singers not only performing seated, but also using an ipad (which has become a replacement for the music stand and song book).  I am appalled. How do you expect to engage an audience sitting down and staring at an ipad? This is simply laziness on behalf of the singer, and shows contempt for the audience. We wouldn’t accept going to the theatre and watching the actors walking around with a script in hand, so don’t bring this lame practice to the band-stand unless you want your audience ignoring you and playing on their phones.

No iphones here – These 2 photographs courtesy of Dean Dampney – CloudFace

Sydney Wedding Band
Photo courtesy of Dean Dampney from CloudFace Photography

 

Sydney Wedding Band
Photo courtesy of Dean Dampney from CloudFace Photography

These two photographs are courtesy of Dean Dampney from CloudFace Photography

For more details on Dean Dampney and CloudFace, go to http://www.cloudface.com.au

 

Who I am and why I’m here

I believe in finding purpose. When I find purpose then I have all I need to drive me to make something useful of myself. One of the things that I’ve worked out for myself is the value of serving other people. This is what then gives me a purpose, makes me feel useful and then leads to fulfillment.

I have one of those “dream” jobs that people fantasize about. I am a singer in a band, and have made my living from this for the last twenty-five years. It’s a job that sounds great and can be loads of fun, but has many pitfalls and a never ending list of challenges.

An example of one of the pitfalls is alcohol. What other jobs are there where you are encouraged and expected to drink alcohol. As a singer, it’s always available and always free and constantly being offered, but it’s the worst thing for your voice. I learned very early in the game that this has to be avoided, despite the temptation always being there.

I have worked with plenty of musicians who drink when they work, and I’ve never seen it make someone play better. Sadly, I’ve heard it make many musicians sound a whole lot worse. I’ve had some highly embarrassing moments on the bandstand surrounded by drunks while I’ve been totally sober. The audience look perplexed while the guys in the band think they sound amazing.

One of the major challenges of being a singer is getting older. Our culture is preoccupied with youth, and the music business takes this further than any other occupation. I have the experience of performing on somewhere around three thousand gigs, but the person hiring the band will generally prefer a singer with little or no experience but with the right look, that is, young and sexy. In contrast, imagine needing an operation or surgery but opting for a young, good looking doctor rather than an older, experience one. Another example might be that you are facing jail, but rather than employing the most experienced lawyer available, you prefer to hire a young sexy lawyer.

Another challenge that is hard to take is part time singers and musicians who happily play for free because they want to live out a fantasy of being a “rock star” for the night. Sometimes I fantasize about being a banker and buying and selling companies in foreign lands, but I don’t anticipate that anyone is going to let me do that for even one hour.

Getting back to my original statement of finding purpose, the older I get the more I value “serving” other people. I work harder now on a gig than I have ever worked because I can see my role more clearly than ever before. I generally get employed to perform at occasions in people’s live that are highly significant to them, such as their wedding or their birthday party, where primarily my role is to make the night as memorable as possible. So, this is what I try to do. It’s all about them, and not about me. It sounds like a cliche, but that’s where my journey as a singer has taken me.

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