I thought I’d go in a slightly different direction for this one. That direction is actually backward — that is, to the past — which I’ve done before, though not like this…
Allow me to set the scene. A good decade ago by now, not long after starting up a working partnership with a DJ and producer of the genre (I’ll spare you all the name-dropping, as it’s neither here nor there really), I was asked for my input on a project that they were in the formative stages with. It was an album project, one with the working title of ‘Glory’. I was being called upon to pen (more than) a few words about that which we as artists and performers do, what it feels to do what we do, nay, what it means to do what we do. But not in a rhyming/lyrical presentation since I do that every weekend already. Just something more akin to a poem or verse, something that needed neither melody nor rhythm in order to make sense. I was to recite this as spoken word somewhere amongst the music — intro, outro… the specifics hadn’t been settled upon at that point in time.
I liked this request! I wanted to speak to some of the highs and lows, some of the emotions that I, even if nobody else, felt in some of those moments. To try to conjure some mental imagery from my vantage point up on stage. Maybe even debunk an oft-repeated myth or two, if I’m smart about it?! I’d never been asked something like that before, and it was an itch I was keen to scratch in that I always believed I was good at poetry as a kid, but once actual rhyming became a thing I wanted to do, my capacity for free verse dwindled, and those specific ‘mind muscles’ all but atrophied (to this day I still can’t, annoyingly).
So here in 2020, being asked to write my thoughts and perspectives relative to my experiences and whatnot, I thought about writing another one of these to a similar ‘brief’. I considered building upon the words of yesteryear, refining and enhancing them now I have a far deeper well of experience to draw from. I ultimately decided against either of those things, as upon re-reading I felt there was value in the words as they were written then being read now. I also felt like nothing that’s there is out of date or irrelevant either; I’m still very much that person. I’m also going to share all of it with you, and by that I mean that I made a start, typing away at that which immediately came to me, and hit what I believed to be a ‘wall’ a paragraph or two in. After multiple reads, and having sat with it for some time, I decided to scrap it and start again. So you’re gonna get the rejected one and the one I ended up with, just for context/additional insight into my headspace. All these years later I’m still glad I scrapped the first draft, though it still raises a slight smile to read back.
Okay. Here goes…
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. Ravers, performers, musicians, and most of all music lovers. What you’re about to experience is the coming together of many minds, minds influenceable by anything so as to give you everything.
See, music is an amazing thing. You don’t need to speak a certain language to understand it, or come from a certain part of the world or background to connect with it – but I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. What I am gonna try to get across to you now, is not the story of how, but more the reason why, many of us are here doing this thing.
It’s difficult to put into words that feeling you get playing a track to an audience for the first time ever, and watching them go crazy. Or spitting that lyric that was finished only hours earlier, then delivered for a crowd that hangs on every word. To be told, to see, to KNOW that the work you do, the fruits of your labor, are appreciated, respected, revered… is an amazing feeling. More so than living life to your own timetable, being your own boss, taking a holiday when you damn well like.
Even now, all these years later, I still can’t really quantify what I don’t like about that. I think it’s perhaps lacking immediacy, not engaging enough? Too conversational? Somehow inauthentic? I dunno. But a week or two later I came up with what follows, and I’m going to leave you with it as if it was at all worth reading — or writing, moreover — I shouldn’t need to ‘say’ anything else afterward. Hope you like it!
This is what it’s about for us. This is what we do it for.
When the lights come on, and the music stops. When all has been said and done. It’s that light-headedness, the breathlessness, the goose-bumps, and the butterflies, all rolled into one. When every garment you’re wearing is completely soaked through with sweat when your head hurts, muscles ache and voice is hoarse – and there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was all completely worth it. It’s the crowd that extends as far the eye can see, chanting your name with one voice. It’s the sound of one thousand pairs of hands emphatically clapping out a uniquely syncopated pattern of appreciation. It’s the silent admission from every other performer in the venue that you were the star that shone the brightest on stage. This is what it’s about for us. This is what we do it for.
It’s when people who don’t speak your language can recite your lyrics perfectly. It’s when listeners feel as if they know you, simply because of how they connect with that which you do. It’s when people still speak fondly of you long after seeing you, long after you’re gone. It’s how you leave your mark, how you extend your life beyond quantifiable Earthly years, kept, immortalized in the hearts and minds of others.
But even after our bodies are committed to the Earth, long after the countless precious memories fade – fade, like the ink used to print words of critical acclaim, accolades, and dazzling reviews in the national and international press; even in those days to come when people will reminisce back to Blu-Ray discs and HDTV, and speak in nostalgic tones about mp3, that which went around will once again come back around. It’s the origin, the journey and the destination. Because this is what it’s about for us. This is what we do it for.
It’s more than freebies, more than groupies, more than endorsements or sponsorship. More than a passport full of stamps, a drawer full of boarding passes, frequent flyer miles, or a Star Alliance Gold card. It’s more than money – however much it is – and fame? Well, to me, that sorta misses the point…
See, it’s about when you’ve broadened the horizons of the narrow-minded. When you’ve created something far greater than the sum of its parts. When you achieve the unachieved – or better yet, the supposedly unachievable. It’s when your work finds its way to places you’ve never been, and perhaps never could be. It’s both fate and destiny. It’s when the most respected in the game respect YOU. It’s when someone tells you that you’ve changed their life – and not only do they genuinely mean it, it’s actually true. It’s when you’ve gotten more than you ever asked for, which also happens to be everything you’ve dreamed.
This is what it’s about for us. This is what we do it for. Some do it for the love. Many more do it for the money. We do it… for the glory.