A few weeks ago I found myself 25 minutes out of Las Vegas in the small community called Boulder City. If you have never heard of Boulder City, It is the town where the workers from Hoover Dam were housed in the 1930’s during the building of (then named) Boulder Dam…Now called Hoover Dam. Furthermore, if your history is still a bit rusty…Hoover Dam is where Megatron was kept in the first Transformers movie.
After dinner in the local diner, my friend and I were walking around the main shopping/dining district and I stopped in my tracks. Our conversation over dinner was about gigs both near and far, music festivals, concert lighting, endorsement deals and the amount of blood, sweat and tears it takes to grease the gears of an independent musician. The talk lasted through dinner, post-dinner pie and now my stride along with our talk, stopped on a dime. My friend looked at me and asked why I stopped walking. I motioned to my right…
We were in front of the first place I ever performed as ‘Just Alliance.’
Before endorsements, before a ‘name,’ before my bonds of fellowship with fellow loopers around the world and around the country, before a website, a business card, music videos and a logo, before being mentioned in the same sentence as my looping peers worldwide…at a time and place where they were (and still remain) heroes who I looked up to. This was the place where a major step in my music career took place.
That time in my life was a transition in every sense of the word. Friends of mine were very much on career paths. Marriages were starting to take place and friends of mine I had known since childhood, were now having kids of their own. My own path took me far away from a ‘traditional’ point in my life. My career as a Trumpet player left me unfulfilled and performing music and in venues that disinterested me. It was at this crossroads where my life was very much camped out for a few years.
Fast forward to seeing looping for the first time by those that I still call inspirations to this day and one day I was asked, “Can you perform at an art shop next weekend?” Sure, What time?” “All day.” I told the person that hired me that I would be there. When they asked how to spell my name for their social media blast to their customers letting them know they had a live musician performing for a special event I sent back a simple text, “J-u-s-t A-l-l-i-a-n-c-e.”
Five or six years later, on a cool autumn afternoon in the last breath of an afternoon’s amber light, I am the same street and in the same parking lot…where I first performed as Just Alliance. It was hard not to have a flood of memories come streaming back. I had two fans show up: My Mom and Dad. I barely had two songs I could perform start to finish, and was still getting the hang of a multi-effects unit and a workhorse loop pedal (that I bought with the money from the gig).
That gig, like a majority of my career, had a constant thread throughout: Making the most of what you have and taking advantage of the moment. I didn’t have the best sound. I was stiff in execution. I sounded like crap. I didn’t let that set me back though. I performed with every ounce of determination I had and people would stop and listen. Some watched in mild intrigue, others kept walking to other events down the street.
A parking lot is part of a long line of humble beginnings for a musician, but for me in retrospect….that parking lot is square one. That parking lot gave birth to small open mics, then open mic features, then showcases , then small art galleries, small stages, then opening spots, then mid cards and so on. Today and even tonight, I wonder what tomorrow’s square one will be the launching pad for.
The holiday season is always a time to be thankful, and being thankful, by design, opens your retrospective to the past year and beyond. What am I thankful for? I am thankful for that parking lot. I am thankful for every crappy bar, empty club, hot load-in, freezing load-out, broken monitor, late paycheck, shady club owner, second rate sound system, third rate stage and fourth rate event I’ve performed at. Street corners, stages, classrooms and boardroom I’ve called venues. Saints, sinners, convicts, priests, the elderly and the young. I have performed for all them.
Today I have relationships with artists who years ago were carved into the granite face of the looping community. Today I call them my friends. Yesteryear’s pipedreams are next year’s summer and fall dates. The companies that believe in me and trust me to represent them: Electro Voice, Westone Audio, George L’s Cables, Design One Printing, Pigtronix, Fusion Bags, Harris Music,. I am thankful for them. International companies with great products that gave a kid from the high desert of Nevada without a record deal, without the millions of followers, without the ‘buzz’ that so many of us strive for…without any of that…a shot at being a part of their product line…their reputation…their artist rosters.
I look at my neon soaked city here in Southern Nevada and I look up and down the Las Vegas Strip and see more places I’ve performed in than not. A tally is taken of so many people in the music industry that have shown me the ropes (and continue to foster my aspirations). Riders, Contracts, Compression, Graphic Design, Phone Etiquette, Travel Buy-outs, etc…I can isolate any of those items and tell you exactly who introduced me to them.
There is much to be thankful for as artist. We all get caught up in hustle and daily grind….but imagine NOT being an artist. Imagine waking up and not being to express yourself though your music or not having the outlet (big or small) to showcase your music. I am thankful for it all.
Each of us have…or will have that parking lot. It is hard work getting to…and getting out of that parking lot. Few things are handed to you, but the reward of earning every piece of your empire is exciting. Each of us question what it will take to get in and out of that parking lot. Each of us will ask ourselves if we have what it takes? What if you do? Then the worst that happens is that you had a great time making music. What if you don’t? Then the worse that happens is that you had a great time making music.
As the year closes out, I am thankful for you. Followers of my music both friends and peers. Even you, the anonymous reader who will read this blog and leave without a trace…I am thankful for you sharing part of your day with me. Thank you all for positive energy you have sent my way: in person, on social media, in an email. It all matters. You matter. Good luck in the coming year with all that you strive to become and achieve
In the next year, I am looking forward to seeing you succeed. There is plenty of great things for all of us in this world. Make the best of what you have and take full advantage of every opportunity….then head to the next spot in your career. I hope that when you’re in an office, at school, at work or onstage….. you look up and see me there in support of you and all of your dreams….in the middle of that parking lot.
Las Vegas ,Nevada, USA
Just Alliance's Blog
Thoughts, ideas and musical musings from this Silver State Loop Artist.