Posted on Leave a comment

Watching Artists Grow Up

Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz in concert, flnaked by lead guitarist left and Christian Nesmith right.Getting hooked on to a group part way through their career is liking getting sucked into a syndicated novel series like Nancy Drew. You get to discover what came before while you wait for what comes next.

Last night, I got to see two musicians who are now in their 70s, and who hooked me in with their kooky, psychedelic 60s TV show when I was 9 (which was in the 80s): Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz.

A lot of artists don’t make it as far as they have, and if theatre seats in Kitchener are any indication, the theatre didn’t sell out. It was likely about 80% full, mind you, but it didn’t sell out. (The Centre In The Square seats about 2,000.) That’s likely a long way down the audience attendance meter from the 60s, when the Monkees were selling out stadiums.

But is creativity really about that? About always filling out stadiums? Or is it about getting to a point in your life where you can be you, in all your glory and fame. Dolenz’s voice was going: you could hear it. Now, that could be age or the fact that Kitchener was late on the 16-stop tour and his voice was just giving up. I’ll leave any technical critiques to trained singers here. But I still saw Dolenz performing Dolenz so much so that I imagined that curly head he had in the 60s was just hiding under his broad-brimmed cowboy hat, and his voice sounded so much better than when he was young, as though he trusted himself more, despite the limitations.

And he sang “Goin’ Down” and “Randy Scouse Git,” two of my favourite Monkees songs.

Nesmith’s sense of humour popped up at the best times, in small doses that made you want more of him. He’s an artist who knows just when to show off and when to pull back, leaving the biggest moment when he shouted out, “Listen to the band!” and the 12-piece band behind him cranked it. Nesmith’s humour even showed in his sparkly shoes that stood on stage in stark contrast to his black outfit. I’d love to see him in a solo concert some day.

When I wrote up some of the marketing material for the concert (the theatre is one of my clients), as soon as I realized they show was being billed as “The Mike and Micky Show,” I did my best to produce advertising the reflected them as individual artists. Maybe I should’ve emphasized The Monkees banner more to fill in those last rows.

But every artist has a unique voice, and I wanted to respect that in these two. Yes, they got a spot in a boy band because they succeeded at Hollywood auditions. But they’re still loved by many because of the individual careers they’ve forged for themselves, the creative paths they set out on, and, one must admit, the teams that support them in their work, both as soloists and as The Monkees.

That means that for my creative work, and for yours, we need to find a space where the basics of our art forms meet the voices that live in our hearts and want to be heard.

Posted on Leave a comment

Searching for a New Musician or Band

The Monkees about 30 years after their huge burst to fame.Part of being a detail-oriented person is that I often spend a lot of time on one subject and forget to branch out to others. Such is the case with my taste in music. A long-time fan of the Monkees, I’m having a hard time moving on to something else, especially in today’s information-overload environment.

The attractive thing about the Monkees’ body of work is the range of artists involved, including the Monkees themselves. Don’t worry – I’m not going to claim that they played or wrote all their music. Watch their TV video of Daydream Believer. It’s pretty clear that four musicians can’t sound like an orchestra. (But they did play on the track.)

While The Beatles created a new sound for the 60s, The Monkees were the meeting ground for the 60s. I’m not a fact geek, but here’s how it appears to me:

And yet there’s only so much Monkees I can handle. I have other favourites, but nothing comes close to the depth of music available in the Monkees’ body of work. I’m looking for a new group or musician to follow (or several). They don’t have to be famous. I’m used to getting looks like, “You don’t know Green Day’s biggest hits?”

The Monkees were unique in that they started out as an artificial boy band but then coalesced into a group. I can listen to a hit or two when I’m in the mood. I can listen to a protest song when I’m in the mood. I can listen to a song I can’t stand when I want to say, “Why on earth would someone write that?”

It would be great to find a new musician or group with a wide body of work. (It can certainly be a growing body of work – I’m open.) Any suggestions?