The Open Mic

If I have a fatal flaw as a DJ, it is how I sing along with 90% of the music I play. I am the kind of dude who would lose most ‘try not to sing’ challenges on the very first song. However, I do not have a stellar singing voice. It might not even be semi-decent. Simon Cowell would critique my voice with the most eviscerating vocabulary imaginable were I to audition for whatever show he is currently judging. I am a crappy singer yet I love singing.

My lyrical knowledge is deep and wide. I do not know everything, but I know a lot. From the Brat Pack to Wu Tang, Johnny Cash to Cash Money, Rednex to actual rednecks, new wave to nu metal, disco to digital, indie folk to arena country, Men in Black to Back in Black, Livin' on a Prayer to Livin' la Vida Loca. Pop rock, pop punk, and electro pop. Classic rock, modern rock, and hard rock. All three waves of ska.

I can “celebrate good times” and “party in the USA.” They say “play that funky music white boy” and I say “it’s getting hot in herre.” Ask to go “fishin’ in the dark,” my answer will be “I want it that way.” You could tell me to stop, but you will have to explain if it is “in the name of love” or because it is “hammertime.” Either way it will not matter because “the wave can’t stop” and I “don’t stop believin’.”

It is more than singing though. I join wedding parties on the dance floor for the Cha Cha Slide or Cupid Shuffle. I wobble and do the YMCA. I wave my arms “from the windows to the walls” and slowly drop to the floor when “shawty got low, low, low, low, low, low, low, low.” I also shuffle a little two step dance move through most gigs from behind the safety of my table where no one can see my awkwardness. My dancing ability is just as abysmal as my talent for singing. I am the stereotypical white dude – zero sense of rhythm. Still, I love to groove. Music is therapeutic and I find myself helpless to resist the beats and vocals which accompany such therapy.

You do not have to be good at an activity to participate. Most people who tell me they enjoy golfing are terrible golfers. They will never be PGA material, they hook and slice nearly every drive, and spend more time in sand traps and the rough than on the fairway. Between throwing clubs and cussing at water hazards, these people will insist the game of golf is the most relaxing thing they do all week. I get these people. They need a handicap for golf; I need one to sing and dance. I suck at my musical pastime yet still consider it the most relaxing thing I do, even if I am exhausted by the end of the night.

However, unlike those supposedly happy golfers, you won’t find me cursing my mixer or throwing microphones. Instead I leave the mic on and turn down the volume when it is not needed. The microphone sits in a boom stand, stretching from the side so I can talk into it while clicking buttons and twisting knobs. It is not in constant use, only there when I need to make announcements or introduce dedications. I assume people would rather “dance to the music” than hear me “talk too much.”

This last weekend, my habits caught up with me. I played through the ceremony and cocktail hour without an error. Dinner was great and guests were complimenting my selection of music. Then it happened. About an hour and a half into the gig, I turned and looked at my microphone. In that moment, I realized the volume was still on. I spent all that time singing and dancing next to an open mic.



What It’s Like to Be Me: Begin Again Pt 4, Fuel

My forced lifestyle change moved me into an apartment closer to my office, allowing me to walk to work. With shared custody, I discovered free time I never had before. I had freedom to cook, write, clean, and exercise. I met some new friends and built a support network I never had before.

Newfound freedom. New diet. New habits. New friends. This revised life required a remixed way of thinking. I needed motivation to keep moving forward. If music carried through my awkward childhood and the mess I made of my adult life, then music would lift me into who I wanted to become.

Social Club: “Losing Sleep
Insomnia. That was the worst symptom of my single life. Actually, the insomnia started before the divorce but got worse after. I was losing sleep. The time alone gave me time to think. No marriage, no education, no transferable skills to get me out of my day job. “Stuck in the spotlight, I'm talent-less, Life is like a circus and I'm just balancing.” Fern’s time as a thug and inmate lasted as long as my marriage: “10 years lost, can't get 'em back.” If I couldn’t sleep or get back the time I lost, the best I could do was hustle. I wrote like my life depended on it.

SPZRKT: “Better Off
I’m not a fan of divorce. If I know of a couple struggling in their relationship, my advice is usually to make it work and fight for love. Despite experiencing a less than pleasant marriage, I still believe that the bond between married couples can be a wonderful thing – when it’s done right. I failed the first time around. While I champion making marriage work, I also know ending one can be incredibly healing. When it was over, I had to start thinking like SPZRK (pronounced spazzy rocket): “I’m not thinking of you when I’m thinking of my life.” Such a mindset was freeing. I could finally pursue my passions, what made me feel alive, and become who I believed God wanted me to be.

Fort Minor and John Legend: “High Road
Not all this newness was sunshine and roses. I heard secondhand stories about myself that were not true or twisted to make me look like the bad guy. I was criticized for doing things I never did, even to the point of false complaints to the police and baseless accusations of child abuse. I received texts from her friends calling me a “shitty dad.” However, I had to speak positivly of Bekah because she was still the mother of my kids and desere nothing less. This song kept me focused on being the better person. “I’m trying to be bigger than the bickering, bigger than the petty name calling, under the breath talking, rumors and labels and categorization.” The attitude was empowering, “the bullshit you talk might work a lot, but it’s not gonna work today.”

Everclear: “The Swing
Speaking of old friends, cutting them out of my life was one of my wisest decisions. I know exactly what Art feels in this song when he sings, “All your friends, they can kiss my ass. They only see the simple things they want to see.” I needed to take back all the power I had previously forfeited. The power Bekah used to manipulate me, the power her friends used to discourage me, the power circumstances out of my control dictating how I felt about myself. For me, The Swing represents reclaiming my place in that dynamic. “Sometimes I think the power is better than a hard drug.”

Embodyment: “Greedy Hands
Divorce brought grief and disillusionment, like something inside me died. Then this song sings “It’s gone, my innocence” and I feel like I know exactly what it means. There are parts of me erased in divorce that I won’t ever recover. Yet listening to this song doesn’t remind me of all I lost, it motivates me to become a something better than I ever was.

Linkin Park: “Nobody’s Listening
My greatest fear is irrelevance. It’s the sense of not being heard or not making any difference, as if I don’t matter. When the person spreading lies about me was also charming and eloquent, it was a struggle to get anyone to believe me, let alone listen to me. I connected to this Linkin Park song so deeply, “I got a heart full of pain, head full of stress, head full of anger, held in my chest.” From the rumors and false reports to the police, to secret code words devised behind my back and use of therapists to manipulate me, I was dealt one losing blow after another. I needed this song to remind me of a way forward: “Because all of this stress gave me something to write on, the pain gave me something I could set my sights on. “

Oleander: “I Walk Alone
The chorus of this song breaks down a simple truth of my life post divorce. “Everybody and everything I've known never taught me how to stand up on my own, had to learn it from the one who let me go, now I walk alone.” That was my predicament. I had to figure out my path on my own and I never would have been able to do so if Bekah had not let me go. It was the best gift she ever gave me.

Seether: “Breakdown
After a decade of being lied to and manipulated, followed by another couple years of innuendo and baseless accusations, I began to understand the ways in which she controlled me and confront the reality of never being me when I was with her. “I could have tried and devoted my life to both of us, but what a waste of my time when the world we had was yours.” I had to determine the difference of how Bekah saw me and the truth of who I was as a person. I reached the point I no longer cared where her next attack was coming from. If that’s what she needed to do to make herself feel better, there was nothing I could do to stop it anyway.

Panic! At The Disco: “This is Gospel
There’s freedom in the words “If you love me let me go.” I never felt loved but I know the freedom of being let go. Brendon Urie sang these words as gospel for the fallen ones locked away in permanent slumber, vagabonds, ne'er-do-wells, and insufferable bastards. Those kinds of people are my tribe. If he was addressing them, then he was singing on my behalf too. “They haven't seen the best of us yet.” Those words were gospel to me.

John Reuben: “No Regrets”
We’re all familiar with the Serenity Prayer commonly used in 12 step programs: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. I used No Regrets for a similar purpose, to find serenity. “To the future in the palm of God's hand, to the past as of now that I can't understand, to the future uncertain unclear, to the past I left to bring me here, I stay I pray.” I didn’t understand my past and couldn’t predict my future. The best I could do was to “live right and pass on what I believe” and be “secure enough to admit my insecurity.”