Dispatches | August 27, 2010

So I had this gig to play on drums last weekend—a Bruce Springsteen tribute night in Oxford, MS. The group I was playing with was going to be performing the entire Springsteen album Darkness on the Edge of Town. Although I played the drums pretty much nonstop in my 20s, I don’t perform much anymore. So why did I get the call? It so happens that I’m a very qualified Max Weinberg. Before going back to grad school in 2000, I spent a year performing with a Jersey-based Springsteen tribute band called Thunder Road.

Thunder Road, Circa 1999

Playing this gig in Oxford meant learning the material (in my case re-learning; I’d played most of the songs before, but a decade earlier), driving the two hours to Oxford for rehearsals, driving to Oxford again for the show, then staying overnight in a motel room (unless I preferred to drive back home in the middle of the night, which I didn’t) that would cost almost as much as the money I earned from the gig. All of which is well and good.

 Except, here’s the thing: the gig never happened.

Why not? The club double-booked us. We learned just days before the show that they’d inadvertently scheduled two bands for the same night—and for various reasons, that other band won out.

Frustrating, but unfortunately just another day in the music biz. In fact, it felt like old times! Which leads me to the reason for this post—to lay out what I’ve come to see as a key difference between playing the drums and writing fiction. Here goes:

 Playing the Drums in a Band, Requirements of

  1. Bandmates
  2. Tolerant neighbors and/or a house on lots of land
  3. Gigs
  4. Patience with bar owners who confuse the number “1” (the actual number of bands that can perform on a given stage at a given time) with the number “2” (twice the number of bands that can perform on a given stage at a given time)
  5. Somewhat reliable transportation
  6. The ability to sleep in your somewhat reliable transportation (or to stay awake, if you’re the one driving)

 Writing Fiction, Requirements of

  1. A computer—or pen and paper
  2. Coffee and snacks (optional)

Playing music, in other words, requires lots of stuff. Not so with writing stories, which can be done anytime, anywhere, and with nary a ride in a half-busted van. Yes, publishing one’s work is another matter—but after playing music for so long, I quickly came to enjoy an activity that requires so few accoutrements.

If the Springsteen tribute gig gets rescheduled, will I play it? Of course. But for now, rather than be double-booked, I think I’ll just sit here and work on my single book.

Michael Kardos is the author of the story collection One Last Good Time, forthcoming in February 2011 from Press 53. While earning his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, he served as Contest Editor for The Missouri Review. He currently co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University. His website is michaelkardos.com.