Ohio I Tried 

Ohio I tried. 

When I was a kid I couldn’t defend myself. And so developed a way to do that inside, as it appeared in the outside that I was being destroyed. I wasn’t. Inside I was on the ropes. Inside my gloves were up and my dreams were protected. Them I saved and not much else. 

I let go of practical concerns and the harshness of my surroundings acquainted me early on with the notion of suicide and the fact that no matter what I could just kill myself. And with that I had a certain kind of bravery born into me. Life was a ruined thing. But I was still alive and so I could just play with it. I could risk things other people would be afraid too. I would dare God. And threaten him. When I was in my mid twenties and it seemed as if none of my dreams would pan out. I was working minimum wage at a guitar shop and living in a three dollar a month roach infested room right off of Ponce de Leon in Atlanta. 

I dared God to deliver me out of this dead end trap or else. Me and God both knew what or else was. Soon after that Peter Gabriel called me out of the motherfucking blue and plucked right out of that trap. Not sure if God responded to my threat or if it was dumb luck, but that’s what happened. I went to Atlanta four days after high school graduation and began working menial labor jobs and working on my music. 
My story of music success is as strange as the rest of my life. And as unlikely. I wasnt exactly well liked in Atlanta. Not the way I wanted to be. The freak followed me everywhere I went. At best I was simply amusingly odd (droll) at worst I was an outcast. I think I still am. Don’t really fit. And my fight to find my place here continues. I woke up today and just thought. “Fucksake dude. When is life just gonna let me cruise in authentic happiness and well being for a second. When am I gonna have something that resembles true partnership and support. When is life gonna not be this battle. ”

I guess I view life on earth as a form of purgatory? I mean… I love life and have endlessly high ideals about it. I’m still trying to make, if not utopia, then something at least steady and happy. 
When we booked the tour I’m on, I got the dates and there was no Ohio. Previously, An old friend had suggested that I play Cleveland instead of Akron next time I came thru, and that seemed a good idea. After all, it was my home. My version of Bruce’s Jersey. 

I wanted that kind of acceptance from my homeland. I think deep down I do have quite a lot of American pride (as weird as that even sounds nowadays almost as weird as saying you love Jesus ) 

I told my manager “we should go thru Cleveland. It is my home and there’s support for me there. ” (or so I thought) 

I played an annual thanksgiving show in Akron and it always sold well. Seemed silly not to cultivate that area, regardless of what was going on with my personal life. And for me that wasn’t a cold blooded business decision. I still longed for the idea and ideal of a home land. I still love the browns or try too. Even bought a browns blanket at a road stop this time round. Maybe I’ll burn it. Symbolically. Nah too dramatic. I’ll keep it as a reminder to never go back. 

I don’t know if it was poorly promoted or if my recent openness about the darkness in my family prevented success there but whatever it was, the feeling I’m left with is the feeling Ohio always gave me. Which is rejection. 

I tried to overcome that with glorious achievement. And when success did come, even tho I had been a New Yorker for years already. I stilll claimed Ohio and always went out of my way to talk it up. Was I trying to invent a happier life after the fact? Probably, but I was on a fast track to success and this made everyone nicer to me and so it was in all of our interests to just sweep the past under the rug and let’s create , if not a Bruce in jersey scenario, then at least something relatable to that. You know, on my level. The black keys (god bless them and god damn them ) 

Just rewrote entirely what it was possible to become, coming from Ohio. They went to my high school, 5 or 6 or 7 years after me. And then took over the whole world. I never seethed with jealously over that and have penchant to become philosophical about things such as those. And plus in the scheme of things my life had panned out nicely and there was still time and room for my dreams to pan out on a wider scale (or so I had thought) 

My mom let me know the black keys made the wall of fame in our high school. Chrissy Hinde also made that wall as did several luminaries in other fields. And tho my music, never achieving (yet) the success of the black keys or the pretenders, found success on relatively large scale and worldwide. And for twenty years give or take I’ve put out many good if not great albums. I could write a laundry list of relatively stunning achievements and awards, yet I never made that wall. 

When my mom was all too eager to tell me all about the black keys being so wonderful and being honored. I didn’t see at the time what she was doing, or I kinda did, but I always just would go to humor. Laugh it off, and pretend to be above, and in some ways I was above it. In some ways I did and do know the con of all that shit. 

I’ve been in the upside of that equation before and on a soul level, on an important level, it just didn’t register. Couldn’t get thru. My second album became album of the year in Entertainment Weekly. It beat U2 which I think was second. I remember looking at that picture the artist drew of me for their year end piece. It was of a fractured being, beautiful and tough. Reminiscent of John Lennon with my shades on. But it was a painting, not really me. It shocked me that, tho I felt pride to be sure, there was something about this new level of success that I was totally numb too. And soon after you get elevated to a perch like that, time keeps moving. And that kind of hit or high you got needs to be repeated. Big success can become its own albatross. 
My fourth album got number 2 album of the year in that same publication. I got beat by danger mouse’s grey album. Which was the Beatles mixed with Jay z. 

If that first time didn’t really register. The second time certainly didn’t. For one I was number 2 and for 2) it’s like with drugs, you need a bigger high, not a smaller one. 

It can get to a place where even that kind of success feels like failure. 

On some level I’ve been trying to escape failure all my life. I guess we all do. 
In this current tour, the worst turn out has been in Ohio. I really didn’t let that get to me, and didn’t even really let it register until my manager reported to me that the club had made allegations that I was on drugs or acting strange. 

Thing is, as y’all know, I’m not on drugs. Ok weed, but come on, that’s for cptsd which I certainly have. I don’t use weed as a party. I use it as medicine, along with millions of others. 

And that night I hadn’t even smoked a joint. Perhaps I should have. 
But as my life is really about my recovery from a horrible situation, and as I am working harder on myself now, than I’ve worked on anything else in my life. I take great offense for slander such as that. 
You can hate me. You can hate my music. You can disagree about my need to express the darkness that I must. That’s all fine, but don’t fucking lie about me. Don’t try and take me down with dirty moves like that. My manager boiled it down ( and probably correctly) as a promoter who was disappointed with the turn out, and wanted to unload blame my way. Maybe that was it. But I can’t separate it, from everything else going on in my life. I can’t separate it from what I’m writing about and perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps there’s just a line in the sand now drawn which this situation is telling me not to try and cross anymore. That’s certainly the feeling I have now on my way to Ann Arbor. 
The funny thing is, is the show was great. One guy who was a first timer told me his favorite band was Motörhead and compared me favorably to Lemmy. And as I left one of the staff of managers went out of his way to tell me how much people were raving on the way out the door. 

I did my usual time at the merch stand and had warm and friendly interactions with the whole crowd around the table. 

I tour managed myself. Drove myself from Minneapolis. Loaded all my gear and my merch. Did my show. Then loaded all my gear and my merch back into the ride. And drove myself off after settling with the promoter and shaking his hand in a friendly manner and thanking him and then I left. On drugs? You try all that on drugs. Give me a break. 
Give me a break. That says it all Ohio. But you’d rather try to break me. Ok. Ok. 
I was bummed that the show wasn’t crowded. There was decent turn out. I’ve certainly played to less, many many many times. But yeah it was a seriously far cry from Bruce’s Jersey. The lamest turn out of the tour. 

But my practice revolves around shifting darkness into positive mental space, and as I said, it wasn’t a failure of a show by any stretch. And the good vibes of the people after, and their appreciation did much to cool that disappointment. And as I’m practiced at philosophizing demons like that away, I went on to have a decent night and felt generally good , albeit emotional, for reasons that don’t need to be re stated, which didn’t have to do with music business stuff. 

And the show wasn’t a failure to me. Not until my manager called me in the morning with the shocking accusation brought out by the club. The Music Box. 

The music box. Names don’t lie. A box is what you put things in to die. 

But that’s a different poem for a different time. 

The light turnout alone wouldn’t have made me turn my back on Ohio, but the light turnout coupled with this massive and insane disrespect, might be enough. Ohio I tried. But sometimes you have to listen to what the world is telling you. Ohio I tried. 

6 Comments on “Ohio I Tried 

  1. (I imagined the person who made the accusation like a movie character. From a sad movie. Grey. No soul. Empty).

    Nevermind.

    Hang in there. Trust yourself. Even when you feel you are or could be wrong about something. Trust your intuition.

    “When is life gonna not be this battle.”
    Oh, I know what you mean…

    Love

    R.

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  2. Joseph, I heard about your performance from a small announcement in the Beacon Journal that morning. Had I known sooner, I would have been there to support you. Sorry there was not more notice. Don’t give up on your home town. Stay strong. Rick Renstrom’s Mom.

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  3. I felt so blessed to see you at City Winery on 6/23, I still smile and get goose bumps when I think of the intimate nature of your performance. The time you took before the show to hang with a few of us and connect had me in tears! This is next level shit you are putting out into the universe right now. Ohio? Fuck them. Brooklyn baby, Paris! Back to your show…your voice sounded more grounded and beautiful with every song! Your smile and giddy laughter at the strap holder falling off of your guitar and trying to get a stool from someone off stage so you could sit, and then joking about someone looking up your skirt!! I was laughing with you, loving you so much. We all were! You brought it all with you, everything that you are going through- all of your vulnerability and genius clear as crystal for those who can see who you really are as an artist, a work in progress, a vulnerable soul, but most of all… a badass Warrior.

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  4. I was at the show at The Music Box. It was a great show that everyone enjoyed. It A genuine performance.

    Don’t let one voice have this much power. More importantly, don’t let one voice cloud your judgement of the entirety of your home state. We Ohioans love you.

    See you for the thanksgiving show.

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  5. Joe – am loving reading your blogs. Your journey has always been such an inspiration to me, and now more than ever as you exorcise/exercise your traumas and demons, I’m cheering you on even louder. Your heART is reaching countless souls in ways you barely can imagine, I promise you. Your home and family are everywhere your music, art and words are heard and seen – resonating, piercing, transporting, revolutionizing, illuminating and healing – we’re all here for you – so fuck the sad fuckers who don’t get you and lie about you – unevolved people create contrast so we can see and feel and know the real deal when it comes, again and again. Keep on slaying and playing. You’re not branded by blood or geography. Sending you love, always.

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