That’s right, it’s that time again. Time for me to put on Morrison’s Mask and spend an evening conjuring up the spirit of decades gone by. I’ve written here on the blog before about performing, in fact last year at this time on a post called Re-inventing The Myth Of Morrison I wrote the following. Permit me to quote:
“If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I have been performing in a Doors tribute band for many years now. That is always an interesting experience, if for no other reason than, having grown up with their music, I do enjoy performing it. But both I, as the singer, and the other three exceptionally talented musicians in the band, try to strike a balance in our interpretation of the Doors” music. Our main objective is to re-create not only their music accurately but to bring the atmosphere of their live performances back to life. But we make music, not theater, and theater is what all too many of the other Doors cover bands have to offer, and there are many good bands out there. Theater, sadly, is also what the audiences want to see. Since the original is no longer available, a clone will do., If you want an act, then don’t come to see us. I don’t ape Morrison. I don’t need to stumble around in a pseudo inebriated state with a tight leather pants hard on (as I’ve seen some Morrison interpreters do) to bring him back to life. Hell, I’m not 25 anymore and have no intention of making a fool of myself.
Now, people tell me all the time that I sound like Morrison, which is ridiculous. I don’t, not at all. What I do have down good though is his phrasing and the ability to weave the spirit of his performances into our renditions of the Doors’ music. When I walk out on stage I have to put on a mask, or perhaps better said, a cloak that I am able to wear in the style and the spirit of what his music and talent embodied. For me it is always an intense and interesting experience. And I would hope for the audience too. At the beginning he was a captivating, mesmerizing performer. As their former manager Bill Siddons put it, “For the first few years he was the ringmaster. Then all of a sudden he was fighting for his life.” Sadly after 1969 Jim became the circus. I can’t be the twenty something Adonis that Jim was when he first started performing, I certainly wouldn’t want to be, but when I perform I can try to become what he perhaps might have been had he lived to be my age and was still performing. Someone who can fill a concert venue with creative energy and spirit, That was the Jim I would rather remember and portray. And I would hope that he’d approve of my efforts just a wee bit…“
That said, I’d like to talk a bit about how things have changed since I joined this band some ten years ago. Between 2005 and 2008 we played all over Germany, north, south, east, west, often traveling hundreds of kilometers for a concert. We were usually paid a good fee, given overnight accommodations and meals and drinks were included. Sometimes there was even extra money for our transportation costs (gas, vehicle rental). After the economic downturn in 2008, all that changed. Clubs could no longer afford to or just didn’t want to pay a guaranteed fee (hiring a DJ is cheaper than four guys in a band) and the audiences no longer wanted to pay for live music either. “You guys enjoy playing. So play for free.” Getting people to understand that performing might be fun, but that it is also hard work that one deserves to be compensated for, just wasn’t meeting with much understanding. Driving to a gig, paying for the gas, setting up the equipment, playing for a couple of hours, tearing the equipment back down and getting back home is a lot of work. Now, when we try to book a gig a couple of hours drive away, the venue owner will say, “Sure, no problem, but, we can only pay you 80% of the take at the door.” Great. For us that means renting a vehicle, filling it with gas, traveling hundreds of kilometers and if we have bad luck and something else is going on that weekend or there is an important Fußball (soccer) game on the telly, and just a handful of people show up, chances are that we’ll end up paying money to play. No thanks. We’re not a band of 14 year old teenies drooling to get up on stage and strut our stuff and willing to pay for the privilege or do it for free. Those days are gone forever. Now, with a very few exceptions, we only play within a radius of about 100 kilometers, and more often than not, much closer to home. The times have changed and have become a whole lot leaner for working musicians. And the future doesn’t look that promising either.
So, I’ll put on Morrison’s Mask again tonight, hopefully do him justice, perform a good show and give the audience their money’s worth. No canned music will ever match a live performance. And the pleasure I get from singing, from recreating that 1960’s live atmosphere, will most likely be the best possible compensation I can receive. After all, I’ve never really been in it for the money, not even when the money was good. The plain truth is that I just love to sing. So, show me the way to the next whiskey bar…
Photo taken at the Johannisfest in Mainz, Germany in June 2014. Photo courtesy of DePiero and Associates. © 2014.
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