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On Searching for a Band and a Church. Part 3.

Posted in: Auditions,General,Practices by Tom Beaudoin on October 29, 2010

For a few posts now, I have been setting up an informal comparison between searching for a rock band and searching for a church. In part two, I asked: “Does the search for a church involve anything like the search for a band, an experimental attitude, a search for many possible places to end up, a direct comparison of influences, and a willingness to share the journey with others who can be moderately to substantially ‘different’ theologically?”

I have been in and out of many Catholic churches since college. Between the relativities of place at the three universities (University of Missouri, Harvard Divinity School, and Boston College) I attended, and the three different faculty positions (Boston College, Santa Clara University, Fordham) I have held, and other life-related moves, the sheer number of addresses I have had since I moved out of my parents’ house in 1988 (that would be more than twenty different places of residence in the last 22 years) have prevented me from being able to sit too long in any single church.

But there is more at work in any church search for me. The Catholic sense of self in which I was raised has undergone a significant change in adulthood. This has to do perhaps most basically with friendships and loves beyond normative Catholicism, of which perhaps the most abiding and gracious “result” in my life is that I have an interfaith marriage and family. This has had the effect of keeping me alive to religious life beyond Catholicism and in some ways has slowly redefined how I imagine my relationship to a local Catholic church: it has to be a place that can accommodate my interreligious Catholicism.

My changed self is also the outgrowth of a long process of disillusionment with, deconversion from, and the “secularization” of my Catholic and Christian sense of self. These shifts have left me with a very different understanding of my religiousness than I would have had even a decade ago at age thirty. (At that time, for example, I was still articulating an “evangelical Catholicism” — of a progressive sort, to be sure, but of a particular evangelical sort nonetheless.) There are too many sources of this change in my theological life, and many of them are too personal, to render appropriately and adequately on a blog (at least until I can think of a more fitting way to present them in writing), but on the public level, they are related to the implosion of the U.S. (and global) Catholic church in the wake of the revelations of the abuse scandals. The theological measure of these scandals have truly barely begun to be taken. For myself, the fundamental theological question raised by the depth and breadth of these scandals is: What is Catholicism?



On Searching for a Band and a Church. Part 2.

Posted in: Auditions,General by Tom Beaudoin on October 28, 2010

Recently I posted part one of this little exploration of band- and church-searching. In the first part, I wrote a little bit about what I have found to be a characteristic (and amusing) combination of predictability and variability in the rock audition. I suppose I could also write about the many ways I have experienced a rock band ending, too. (Would the ecclesial parallel be the different ways of leaving a church?) But for this short post, I’ll just keep focused on the joining rather than leaving.

Joining bands includes a heavily experimental quality, and the sounding-out of each other is an important part of the exploration. You compare tastes in conversation and through playing together. You become curious, interested, or even excited about the mesh of styles, tastes, abilities that come out in the talking and playing, and which also have to be correlated with the level of commitment, the hopes for the band, and the adjudication of the mesh of personalities. The last one often takes the deepest discernment to figure out. When I was younger, I was able to tolerate much more experimentalism and loose fit in the construction of a band. I was willing to take hours to try to invent a few lines of a tune with other players who may have only shared some basic but not strong overlap of tastes or abilities. I had more tolerance for substantial band difference in attitudes toward and practices of (adult) cigarette/drug/alcohol use.


On Searching for a Band and a Church. Part 1.

Posted in: Auditions,General by Tom Beaudoin on October 18, 2010

Having lived in New York for two years, I am due and overdue for being back in a rock band. My last couple of bands from California are now fading memories, and I am ready to jump back into the live music fray. New York City is a hell of a place in which to so jump. The volume and variety of NYC Craigslist musician postings each day are enough to overwhelm the uninitiated — and those with lives who cannot spend three hours a day browsing the ads. But ever since band-searching leapt from the local magazines, newspapers, and roadhouse bulletin boards to the Internet well over a decade ago, I’ve gotten more and more accustomed to inhabiting “band search” time as a taste of the Wild Musical West (or in my case, East). Until I land in a band relationship, I get to spend serious time tasting the wares of the local scene by browsing online listings, listening to potential bandmates’ music on their websites, and risking the awkward “First Date” otherwise known as the audition.

Several weeks ago, I went to my first audition in perhaps four years, in Brooklyn. This experience confirmed that no matter how many of these one does, you never really forget how to do them. In the rock scene, by and large, there are gestures, attitudes, paces, rituals, and forms of attention that make of the audition a legitimate rock happening. Despite the changed technological world, the exercise of the audition works basically the same now that I’m 41 as it did when I was 21.

Before the audition:

Exchanges of Idols and Icons: lists of favorite bands, influences, who your last few bands “sound like,” favorite players on your instrument. The very thoughtfullest of thoughtful bands will want to meet before the audition to talk about all this in person, but usually it’s now done just by essentially emailing bullet points or having a five-minute phone conversation.

During the audition:

Holding expectations loosely: when you’re an individual player trying to fit into an existing band, auditions usually consist of three types: [1] “let’s just jam”; [2] “learn our tunes”; [3] “here are five covers.” And what one should actually anticipate at the audition site is almost never fully spelled out. For whatever reason, this seems to be particularly true in guys-only bands. What? You didn’t realize that the dude on the phone forgot to tell you that you need a key/pass/bribe/code/crowbar to get into the building? Did you know that when the guy on the phone said “take a left on the next block at the Wendy’s” he really meant two miles later, and turn right at the Circle K? Did you surmise when you got the email that the “rehearsal space” was an extra room in “my mom’s house,” that the fellow would be fully thirty years past his 20th birthday? You thought that there would be no unidentifiable but slightly disorienting or unnerving odors emanating from the carpet/guitarist’s pants/bass drum near where you’ve just placed your guitar stand/pedalboard/snare drum/inappropriately sandaled foot? You didn’t plan for the audition starting two hours late/lasting ten minutes/lasting two hours/never actually occurring? You didn’t know a potential bandmate can’t stand/wants to replace/would like to borrow/once stole a replica of/might be getting sick on/is about to be careless with/has an ingratiating/disdainful attitude toward/your instrument/pedals/microphone/wristbands/mike stand? Do you mind hanging on a sec while the drummer/guitarist messes with his patch cords/changes his snare/fixes his amp/futzes with his monitors/eats lunch/fights with his girlfriend/wife/dad? Are you already silently wondering what to make of what you see on the walls of the rehearsal space, perplexed by the murals/posters/charcoal sketches of velvet Elvis/Hello Kitty/Yes album covers/Yellow Submarine/dogs playing poker/Pink Floyd/Morrissey with the eyes scratched out/Roller Girl? Whatever you were told about how the audition would go, plan on something completely different happening. You rehearsed, however reluctantly, and at the request of a potential bandmate who now denies it, “Let the Good Times Roll“? Too bad, because we’re gonna write a glam tune right now because the drummer just saw Hedwig. Know any glam, man? The major exception to all this is the touring band, who are more often than not a slightly anarchic machine, and they’re paying some bills with these gigs, so if they do not totally have their shit together from the get-go, they are probably going to be a worse experience than a Suburban Dad Garage Band. The sooner all this is embraced, anticipated and imagined as a series of infinite auditional possibilities that bear their own unsurpassable amusement and that are the very stuff of auditional life, the more can one learn how to live in this culture.