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Vance Gilbert

Angry

Amy Malkoff, whom I trust implicitly in with all things web-internet based and all things backing vocal and arrangement (see "Leaving Avon" & "Lie To Me" on Unfamiliar Moon), was quite adamant during one of our first meetings around setting up my then new website and its accompanying "blog". I *quotate* "blog" because she said to me, and I paraphrase , "Vance, yes it's a blog, but one of the things about your singing and writing is that it doesn't have severe borders. So I believe your blog should be more of a rant."

So be it. And today I'm angry.

Now, once some of you read these things I'm sure you'll respond that I should be spending my time and energy being angry about things that can motivate others to make change. I suppose they may be right in one sense. In another sense, some of these dropped-coffee-in-the-lap slights, aggravations, and livid illuminations clear the palate for me to do what I really do best - bring joy through comedy and music to thousands.

These things hurt, and I have always heard that writing stuff down helps. Well, this modern web way of being necessitates that fans and artists break down a few walls, so while I reach out from the stage and cajole, tease, poke at you, laugh with you, we must sometimes cry together too, as you can't expect all honey and sunshine 24/7. Rather than balling these grievances up and tossing them circularly, here they are. Once I'm done I swear I'll be done for a while..

I'm angry at God for taking my neighbor Shira Shaiman this week. Mad as hell. Don't be shocked, as I'm told by my Baptist minister friend Jackie in Texas that being angry at God is all part of the deal. It's supposed to be OK. If I could tell God to go to hell I would, but it seems kinda ironic and silly. Or maybe that's the point. If I deeply believed in God it might be harder or easier to tell God to go screw himself, he hasn't taught me shit in this taking. But I guardedly believe, which gives me license to do…I don't know what.

I remember discussing herb gardens with her and her husband. Watching their 2 very young children play. Jogging by, waving. They were sweet to my dogs as I jogged past. In fact, my most aggressive dog, Bessie, who'd happily eviscerate anything else canine, is in love with their next door neighbor's cat. So these two houses have a lot of meaning for me. Passing by, waving, jogging, nuzzle the kitty, see the kids? Who gets a colon cancer diagnosis 30 days after giving birth?
Now it's last-gasp dirty piles of snow, 3 feet high, the trellis begging for budding roses, and the green garden hose, so neatly coiled for winter to the left of their door, like some sign of spring to come or maybe some sinister sonofabitch snake, just ready to strike, I don't know which, but I still jogged by this morning, no sign of the cat for my Bessie, or maybe I couldn't see. There's a mezuzah in the doorway. Do you see it, God? Protect the kids, God, and give their Daddy strength, if you do exist, you asshole. Yeah, right now, I'm pretty angry.

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Im angry at the promoter who, newly belonging to the board of a coffeehouse I've played 7 - 8 times, 340 miles away from their home coffeehouse, had a disagreement as to the content my presentation at their home coffeehouse, and managed to convince this far away venue and the rest of its board to simply not hire me. What'd I do to deserve this? Here's the story...

After hiring me numerous times in the past, the last time I played this promoter's place I did a little research on the faith/religion that worships at this house, and I comically asked the audience in the first set, "But…but where do you go when you die?" Yes. That was the worst of it. An attendee to the coffeehouse had brought her 12 year old child who she recently allowed to pick what religion he wanted to be. Serious truth. In any case, he chose this house, and decided to attend this coffeehouse. Well, after hearing me for both sets, child and mother besieged me as I was 8 feet from the stage as to why I was "picking on her boy's new-found religion". I most certainly replied my pat answer that "I pick on all religions", however that apparently wasn't enough, as the mom complained to the Board of this house of worship, who called the promoter on the carpet, who then proceeded to not hire me 3 seasons later, and when queried by my agent, told him the story.

Here's where I wear the asshat.

I wrote the promoter and called him a chicken for not standing up for me, open speech, challenging ideas through music etc. Yes, I opened the letter with phonetic chicken sounds in the subject line…The promoter responded that I had therefore proved and cemented my per sonata non grata status by my letter. After 2 - 3 more letters with calmer heads, I had apologized but stood firm that my content is my content, and that still felt trash-thrown by one person out of 120 that didn't agree on what was otherwise, even admitted to by this promoter, a love/laugh fest, great show. Turns out I was collateral damage for the host faith organization as they were having internal troubles from the word go, and for whom nothing of recent was funny… Turns out too that this promoter, noted in circles to be somewhat acerbic and irascible, is apparently not used to being called on their shid, and is continuing the grinding of their ax.

Most of you have heard me go on about Unitarianism, Buddhism, etc. I particularly love that 3 Unitarian ministers over the years who wanted a list of the jokes I told to use the next morning from the pulpit.

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I'm angry at a music scene, kinda like above, with a mentality that rewards a performer for being on one hand truth speaking, on the other hand turning their deaf ear when the performer says "fuck" in every other sentence, like the scene did with Ani DiFranco. I've been to festivals where you couldn't hear her guitar or her lyrics because you were standing sandwiched between throngs of braless-singing-along-20 year olds, festivals packed beyond capacity because she was swearing her way into the truth of these kids' hearts, festivals nearly empty 2 hours later but for the hardy folk fan who stayed through the onslaught and the immediate fan diaspora once she was done her set.

I'm angry and the promoters and these kids as I watched Ani age, now with a kid of her own, sit backstage with bandaged and iced hands and arms, vocally torn and ragged, having paid the price of hammering out soul punk folk funk to the tune of tendinitis for this crush of believers, who are getting older and having kids and ailments too, by the way,.. who seem to alternately adore the abandon her.

At the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival a few years ago, during her set, she alluded to the fact that maybe it wasn't all the Governments fault that things were awry. Whoa, Conservative heresy, ice my wrist, sip some slippery elm tea, and rock my baby!! Then comes her myopia in booking a plantation in Louisiana as a location for a songwriter's retreat, and the resultant shitstorm. Yeah, look it up - google "Ani plantation" and witness the excoriation of this pop icon. Yes I said icon. Hey, you now older, grown up, sing-along ladies….you created this icon. Can you say "Independent music"? Can you get to be a millionaire doing independent music? Or once you are big and rich are you just another large music conglomerate? Hey, Herb Alpert made A&M Records out of Charlie Chaplin's swimming pool and sound studio. Google A&M records and see how they went from independent to whatever kind of musical monolith they are now. 32 flavors later and I'm still angry.

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I'm angry at US Conservatism for being beyond politics, and stonewalling everything this standing President has presented. I would like to think that Conservatives, and all critics for that matter, have the right to criticize this President and his policies. Don, Mike, yo, you buddies of mine who surely would die for me, I know a bit of how you see the world, and I want to sit at the table and have that discourse with you. Back and forth. All the issues. Nothing greater than when discussing across political lines, to learn something from a friend - hell, about a friend, and then swear to them that if they were to die that you would make sure their children are adherent to their parent's teachings and leanings. Nothing greater than hearing the way the other side thinks and saying those 4 magic words of learning, resolution, and acknowledgement "Hmmm, I see your point…"

The beyond politics part? Sorry, my radar is still up, way up. Except on sitcoms where the chief of police is Black, it seems it's hard to go with a Black boss. Allen West, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell - these brilliant, Black, Conservative politicians just don't seem to clamor for the starting blocks for the Presidency. Why? Because loss is loss. It's the untied shoelace, the bow tie gravy stain of many political careers. Conservatism speaks a big game when it comes to Black leaders, but it always seems just inches from Presidential delivery. I don't blame my magnificent Conservative friends nor am I calling them racists, not for a second. But when it comes to reality, numbers, and even the smallest minority of the Conservative electorate, the truth is this - Not all Conservatives are racist, but guaranteed most all racists vote Conservative. Man, I'd love to be wrong here.

I'm angry at this President for surrounding himself with advisors and administration that didn't have sense enough to foresee the blockade climate mentality that would prevail. His campaign, and now his advisory staff seems to be like the guy in your passenger seat, looking up the blind street so you can pull out to your left, saying "OK, it's clear, you can go". You gun it and pull out and they say, "Uh, well, maybe, uh wait a minit…". So I therefore deem this President and his administration divisive. Somehow between today and "Yes We Can" there was no revolution or evolution, rather there was a war between people. Yeah, I'm angry.

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There's a song out there called "God Bless Everyone" that helps me to deal. You should check it out. I'll never run for office, probably never be as "big" as Ani, and after this is seen most assuredly will never play at least 2 coffeehouses that I quite liked playing. There's always tomorrow. But today, I'm still angry.
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updated: 3 years ago