Wednesday, March 20, 2013

POP VOX - A Journey Through Time ...

Since my first two gigs, which you guys (and gals) made such a huge success, I’ve been wrestling with how to make future gigs as fulfilling as possible for all of us – you and me, together.

Oh. And by the way. Mark the calendars. The next episode in this adventure in Reality Interactive Beach Party will be taking place on Saturday, June 1, back at The Cave. This time beginning at a more grandfatherly … I mean, amenable, 10.00pm.

So. Fulfilling. Wrestle. As of 10.00am this morning, my thinking was, I need to make the sound bigger, the act bigger, the whole impact bigger. For why? Because how can I be ‘credible,’ unless POP VOX is superlative musicianship, fantastic dancers, electrifying backing singers, and so on, and so on, blah, blah, blah.

But then, after a fascinating discussion with a workmate and fellow honky-tonk, I had me an epiphany. Mind you, after a couple of glasses of water, and a visit to the bathroom, that passed. And made way for an idea. The Idea.

The answer is actually in the struggle. And it’s been there all along.

It began when my head filled with tunes years ago. And I had no idea how to get them out, because I don’t play an instrument. It evolved as, over those same years, I was told time and again that my songs were all fine and dandy for the masses, but would never appeal to the poperazzi because they weren’t in this or that appropriate idiom. And it finally came to fruition when you and I together created magic down at The Cave. I just missed it.

POP VOX isn’t me. It’s us.

Maybe there was a reason that The Great Tulip put a bunch of catchy tunes in the head of a musical ignorant. Maybe there was purpose when that same head decided to call the act POP VOX. Voice of the People. Maybe it was no accident that I have wanted all along to get you folks as involved as possible.

Why do I need to surround myself with musicians, when you are the instrument? When you sing-a-long? When you perform the choruses as much as me? Why have backing dancers? When you do the dancing? And you come up on stage to do it. Who needs this so-called fuller sound, when you fill the venue with the loudest and most joyous sound imaginable? You.

This is an evolving concept. It most likely always will be. But I have the germ of a thought today. I will take the advice of me fellow honky-tonk. And the advice all the rest of you have been giving me over the past few months. And for which I am so grateful. And will remain grateful. Because I want you to continue offering it. Because this is not just my journey. It is our journey.

And that thought is this: I am a non-musician. I play no musical instrument. I have been blessed with a box of tricks which allows me backing tracks for the tunes in my head. Which I then use to allow others to give expression to the music, to the magic inside them.

POP VOX will be about giving that expression. Not about giving expression to me, on some remote stage, cut off from you. Not about making the best, most symphonic music possible. A music which excludes by making it exclusive only to the very ‘best’ dancers, singers and instrumentalists. But a music which includes by inviting inclusion with whatever you have to offer. Music which gives expression, not to me. Or to you. But to us.

It used to be called folk art. Art which required no skill other than the magic within finding a way to come out. That is what I want POP VOX to be. And I will strive to keep it as minimalist as possible. Me and my box of tricks, giving you the widest and most welcome permission to make magic together, in any way you see fit.

Now, that is not to say that I am not open to ideas to make our music more engaging. I am. But I will strive, as hard as I can, and you will need to keep me on track. I will strive to keep the resulting experience one that changes only to become more engaging.

And there are alls sorts of possibilities. Ok. For now. We have sing-a-long. And dance-a-long. Even “Missed Connections,” where I call out the dance steps. Which is really not all that original, when you think about Contra.

But what about ways for you to design the action? The set? You choose songs? Or verses? You come up and provide backing singing? You create dances? If “Harlem Shakes” can produce a 30-second App, which allows you to viral your own dance, why can’t we do this with “Kisses”?

When venues get a bit bigger, what about screens with the words? Karaoke-style? What about our own App, where you vote on what comes next, as we go along? Where you write the words as we’re singing? Where you submit tunes?

What about having instruments available for you to play? Not just ‘specialized’ instruments. But ones we can all play? Tambourines? Bongo’s? Castanets? A Kazoo or three? Frankly, the way my mind is thinking, I’m going, you may not be able to play the guitar, but you can play your iPhone. So let’s make it an ‘instrument’ of inclusion.

The essence here is that life found away for me to get my music out of me. A non-musician. I want to give back by helping all of us find a way to join in. Whether we are musicians or not. It should be about magic, not just skill.

And I think that requires me, for my part, to continue to keep it simple upfront. Not look for ways to become more ‘professional.’ Whatever the music industry may say. This is our adventure. Not theirs. Well. It can be theirs. But not until I see Paul McCartney on Kazoo, doing the “Kisses” dance.

I know I’m going on a bit. But I do. When I get excited. And I have a vision.

It’s Rio. It’s 2016. It’s the Olympics. We’ve got on a bit. POP VOX is going to do Copacabana Beach. As part of the Olympic celebrations. 3 million folks, from all round the world (that was the number at the last Copacabana Rolling Stones gig). Singing-a-long to “Caribbean Sunrise.” Performing the steps to “Missed Connections.”

It’ll take some logistics. The Beach is several miles long. People are going to see, before they hear. How to keep ‘em all together. Plus, folks will necessarily separate into their own ‘communities.’ How do we honor that safety of separation, while allowing all to feel they are part of a common experience?

But that’s one night. What about the remainder of the two to four weeks? What of those who cannot get there? What of those who cannot afford?

Rio has some of the most extensive slums in the world. There is probably a more appropriate word for them. Shanties? But I say it like I see it. The mountains which backdrop Rio are carpeted with layers of favela, which the pop world passes by, save for the radio.

I want to perform with them also.

How can I, if I have listened to a music industry which tells me I can only spread my magic by having a gazillion dollars worth of sound equipment, and the massed ranks of a thousand musicians, dancers and technical personnel?

I’ll tell you how. Because POP VOX will still be able to pack up the Casio and a mike, hop into a car, set up on a barrio street corner, borrow a speaker, and put on a show after siesta. Where the moms play the Kazoo. The kids do the “Kisses” dance. And Pops never misses a beat to the “Missed Connections” jig. That’s how.

I want to do it every night. On a different street corner. All through the Olympics. And the Paralympics. In addition to Copacabana Beach. I don’t want ever to lose that immediacy. That access. I want to make POP VOX available to everyone. Not just the initial few at The Cave. And not just the exclusive few, with the bucks.

Why should that not be possible? Why? What is wrong with that as a dream? As an ambition? What?

Work with me, my friends. My fellow popsters and popsicles! Please. Keep the interaction alive. In which regard, as rude as I think it sometimes can be, I have Facemailed a bunch of you, to encourage that interaction. Let me know what you think. And please forgive me if I am being too intrusive. Or outlandish.

We’re either at the beginning of something new. Well, maybe not so new. It used to be called vaudeville. But something different for our times. Something exciting and inclusive. Or, that chocolate ice cream will settle. And I’ll learn to play the acoustic guitar, instead …