We find inspiration wherever we can get it. And sometimes when we’re not even looking, really great inspiration comes into your boring job, sits right down, inspires you, goes to lunch with you, inspires you some more, goes home, and then friends you on Facebook. This is what happened to me this week — another busy week — when I wasn’t looking for inspiration. Inspiration walked in called herself “Laurie Lindeen” (http://laurielindeen.com/) and proceeded to remind me why playing music is still worth doing even when I haven’t touched a drumstick in four weeks.
One of the bonuses of being a teacher is that we have a venue for sharing and exposing other artists’ work to the college and to students. It was Brian’s idea (not mine) to invite Laurie to speak at the school; he had been an admirer of Laurie’s band Zuzu’s Petals in the 1990s. She had recently published a memoir about her experiences titled Petal Pusher and Brian had loved it. I had no idea who she was. But, dutifully, I supported Brian and assigned an excerpt of her memoir about playing in a rock band to my students. This was facilitated by Brian who handed me a copy of a chapter and an assignment and said, “Here, have your students read this.”
And I did. The chapter I read could have been a posting on chickdrummer. In it Lindeen writes about the aftereffects of gigging, the adrenaline that races through your veins the next morning, the hangover that comes not just from alcohol, but from the experience.
“It’s difficult returning to your normal life the morning after a gig. I’m not exactly a dewy-eyed newlywed with an afterglow. More like a haggard mental patient following shock treatment: After all that adrenaline leaves your body, you are left with a ferocous hangover. The counterchemical is as down as the adrenaline is up. Antiadrenaline is the darkest shade of navy blue; it brings a sort of postcoital depression.”
I read that in my office preparing for class, but I felt like the proselyte of a new religion who had just heard holy words from an oracle. You said it, girl. I had always wondered what that was. That funk, that weirdness I felt the morning after gigs. The first two years of gigging I rode the adrenaline high for two days after the show, but as I get older I want off the ride the faster. Roller coasters are great, but who wants to live on one? So, I had to develop a new after-show routine. We leave the club as soon as we can, no hanging out to talk with other musicians, we come home, unload the gear with the precision of a S.W.A.T team, and I shower, I eat something light and healthy — grains, vegetables, tofu, fruit — I do yoga to stretch the worn-out muscles, and I try to be in bed before 2 am (reasonably early for musicians), and the next morning I try to get up at the same time I always do instead of sleeping late. I learned to do this out of my own sense of self-preservation. I’m 40 years-old, not twenty, and the physical strain of shows takes a toll on me that it doesn’t on some young thing.
And that was what was so inspiring about Laurie. She writes about and talks about what gigging and being a “rock star” (in quotes because the term is relative) really means. It means you can still suck at your instruments and still record and gig, it means you don’t have to be a virtuoso, it means you can do it just for fun, and here’s the inspirational part: it means you can be woman. And she also speaks from the perspective of a woman who has matured and reflected on what the years in a rock band in her twenties means for her now and how it influences her writing. “I write listening to the backbeat; I hear how the vocal sits on top,” she said. That too, I think, is also the benefit of music outside of music. It changes our understanding of other arts.
There aren’t a lot of books by female musicians that tell you what’s like for us. There’s umpteen million books about male musicians, their gear, their groupies, their drug problems, but there aren’t many written by women. The other inspiration in Laurie’s public appearance is that I could see how she inspired the young women in the audience. I could see it in their eyes and the way they looked at her with one question beaming from their faces: How did you do it? In the end, it doesn’t matter that you or I may have not heard of Laurie Lindeen or Zuzu’s Petals. What matters for some of the women (young or old) in the audience is that there was another one out there who tried to live life on her own terms.