The Random Griffith

Butthurt singer-songwriter for hire

Looks like I fiddlesticksed up again. Gosh darn it; sometimes I should look down at that third rail and say, “You know, that’s a third rail. If I touch that third rail, I’m likely to get all shocked and all, so I’ll just note that thought and move away from that third rail without being stupid enough to touch it.”

But no. Instead of doing one of a hundred other things, like sit in meditative silence, or call that platonic galpal back who wanted to meet for a meal tonight, I had to do a stupid. I got an Facebook invite to a show at a local coffee room, and I clicked on the page for that show and typed a message about wanting to come, but I’m boycotting any shows by the person at the top of the ticket until he lets me play on one of his shows. The top of the ticket guy immediately wrote back: “That’ll never happen.” Fine, I wrote back. At least you’re finally communicating with me, instead of giving me a passive-aggressive cold shoulder every time I stupidly abase myself to you for asking to play on one of your shows. Then he said something like “Butthurt singer-songwriters aren’t my style.”

Now, I’m not sure that butthurt is the correct word; I think that in my case the word “frustrated” is closer to the mark. Hey, maybe I come across as butthurt, or unnecessarily entitled, to people, and I’m just a poor self-observer. But not being named Cayce, or Criswell, or Kreskin, or Mesmer, I have no idea unless you tell me, preferably before I make an annoying idiot out of myself. Psychic I am not, contrary to what those astrologers tell me about my Pisces Moon-Mercury combo in the sixth house trining my Neptune in the second or something like that.

Yes, I have a lot of songs that I want to play for people. I thought that this certain DIY straightedge punk legend and onetime local cafe owner might be open to my little ambition, perhaps. I figured wrong, of course, but I kept persisting even though I wasn’t getting any kind of straight answer. Perhaps I was, but it was telegraphed in that unspoken way that non-Asperger types communicate, and I was too cluelessly autistic to pick up the signals. Story of my life, there, really.

I could go off at this point and rip the guy a new sphincter with my precision-sharpened critic’s scalpel, but I won’t. I respect the guy’s work and like a lot of his songs, really, and in the past, we’ve enjoyed reasonably warm conversation to the point where I thought I could consider him a friend. I admire his tenacity to keep going even when the world is throwing him the middle finger, and I think he’s got a great work ethic. In fact, I’d spoken to his wife at one point about asking him to help me sequence a set’s worth of my songs, which is a service I would pay money to have done, and she seemed to voice that it might be a decent idea. Perhaps I misperceived. Anyway, I ran it past him, and got that cold shoulder, and didn’t press forward with that idea anymore. Asking for help in a way that I actually receive it doesn’t seem to be one of my strong suits, which is one reason I don’t seem to have many musician pals helping me to flesh out my songs.

My only caveat is that this person and his cohorts seem overly chummy and exclusionary, at least toward me. Perhaps they think that I, my music, or maybe both, “suck,” or aren’t up to their lofty standards, but they never got around to telling me to my face until now. Which is okay; I’ve spent large parts of my life casting what few pearls I have before swine, and I’m just getting around to stopping that behavior, or at least reining it in. The funny thing is, this person has rattled off many column inches in one of his blogs bitching about the local music scene, and to me, he and his little treehouse of friends are as much of the problem as anyone he rails about, and the idea of him calling anyone else “butthurt” is more than slightly risible.

But I’d rather not focus anymore on something I can’t control, which is what he or anyone else thinks about me. I’m more interested in getting at the root of the problem, which is why people react to me the way they do. It’s kinda like my dad used to tell me: “If you’re walking around town and all you keep running into is assholes, come home and look in the mirror.” And I really want to figure out why people perceive me as too “butthurt” to want to work with me, so I can address those negative qualities or try to get help working through them. I’m sincere about this; I don’t want to die and then have somebody say, wow, he wrote some pretty good tunes; too bad he’s not around to play them now.

So at some point, I’d really rather move past that which is holding me back. I’d like for people to want to play music with me, rather than talk behind my back about what a jerk they think I am, or laugh at me for trying. I’m not getting any younger, but mostly I’m getting incrementally wiser. I want to use the time I have left to communicate with others, and I really would like the privilege and opportunity to play my songs to people. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. But I’ll have to approach people who feel warmly toward me, rather than people who secretly harbor animosity toward me.

So maybe next time, I’ll do the smart thing and shut up before I make any more enemies. —Jackson Griffith

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10 Responses

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  1. Jo Slo said, on 29/12/2011 at 18:29

    Wisdom, indeed. What you wrote made me think twice about the senior citizens I see sitting around in the local cafe, saying nothing….maybe they’re just being smarter than everyone else.

  2. Junk said, on 30/12/2011 at 14:46

    I would question the assumption that a person who is not the owner, promoter, nor manager of a venue has any say on who gets hired…but I tell myself all kinds of things to push back potential hurt/pain/suffering/bad monkey-mind chatter 24/7, so whaddo I know! ❤

  3. junk said, on 30/12/2011 at 17:50

    Comment above = N/A. I just realized I misunderstood the whole post. 😦

  4. Andrew said, on 31/12/2011 at 04:52

    Butthurt? What other kind of singer-songwriter is there?

    • Jackson Griffith said, on 31/12/2011 at 05:15

      Ha ha. True.

      • Andrew said, on 01/01/2012 at 08:10

        By the way, been reading and enjoying your stuff on and off for years, so don’t despair on your readership.

  5. Ray Cushing said, on 31/12/2011 at 07:55

    Greetings, Mr. Griffith — Have not checked in for a while and wanted to let you know that the phenomenon of Baby Boomer guys being mateless in the Obama era is certainly not restricted to Sactown and its immediate environs. In other words, it’s nothing personal, so I urge you not to take the tsunami of loneliness that is sweeping our generation of males as a personal affront to your individual attractiveness and obvious genius with a pen. I am writing this from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, which has more expat single post-menopausal North American women per square kilometer than most places outside the US. As I have observed while in Mexico, Canada and the US, single North American women over 55 have little use for men. Why? After menopause, women no longer have the hormones pumping through their veins that made them what’s called “nurturing” in their younger days. Over-55 men, however, still have their baby-making chemistry intact and so, in my experience, they tend to be more touchy-feely and “nurturing” than women of the same generation. Hence the lack of synchronicity between North American males and females born during the Eisenhower administration. So what’s a guy with nascent liver spots to do? Hook up with a woman of childbearing age, perhaps have a kid or two, perhaps not, and then at some point accompany his younger gal through menopause and wait for the inevitable fallout when her nurturing hormones go south? It’s a possibility, but not one I would relish. Instead, I have chosen to live in a “group home” for wayward artists where I’m sharing digs with a Brit guy my age (the landlord) and an endless stream of interesting short-term visitors from all over the world. It’s sort of a hostel for grownups, with all the associated vices and impromptu festivities on a daily basis, and the rent only $200 a month. Anyway, it works for now. If I drop dead from a heart attack, my landlord has promised to dispose of the body before it stinks up the place and I have made the same pledge to him. Cheers and Happy New Year…

  6. Ray Cushing said, on 31/12/2011 at 08:20

    By the way, that same unnamed full-of-himself musician to whom you allude in your column never invited me to play at any of his shows either, back when I was a singer-songwriter in Sacto. That’s OK — he’s getting older too. “Living well is the best revenge” and I got mine by moving from Sacto to Vancouver, where I quit singing and sold 3,000+ self-produced CDs of solo guitar music while performing for a couple of years as a street musician. It was sublime and I never once thought about the Fox & Goose the whole time I was in Vancouver. I have since given up the whole guitar-slinging thing and make my living pushing prose, in my case as a translator. I hate to tell you this, but singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen. Prose masters like yourself, however, are a national treasure. If the aliens landed and we had to pick one writer to pen a convincing appeal to spare the human race, I would nominate you for the job. At least the shape-shifters would get a few yuks before they nuked us.

  7. F.Vato said, on 03/01/2012 at 12:00

    I know which local music figure you’re alluding to Jackson and to be honest, I don’t like anything he’s done since 1982. I remember being excited about seeing 7 Seconds at Club Can’t Tell for the first time as a teen and was totally dissapointed by their lack of originality. Instead of blistering hardcore, they modeled their new material to sound like U2 and The Smith’s. I hate when bands do that.
    Then in 97/98 my little brother & I had a funky psychedelic latin jazz eight piece called Los Gallos (described by a fan as sounding like Jon Spencer meets Santana). We were one of the first groups to utilize the Capitol Garage as a music venue on a regular basis, establishing them as decent downtown show venue before they were even considered as such. We built a decent scene there and had a good draw within a year.
    Well, when dude became booker, he refused to give us shows and we weren’t sure why. We chalked it up to not being a three chord punky pop indie band, or that maybe we weren’t bland or lame enough for his tastes.
    I’ve seen one of your performances and I don’t get the butt-hurt songwriter reference. I thought your tunes were upbeat, positive and humorous at times. You were every bit engaging. I chalk this up to you not being part of his club house gang, so fuck it.

    F. Vato

    • Jackson Griffith said, on 04/01/2012 at 12:57

      For all my minor disagreements over the years with Kevin, I think deep down he’s a mensch, and I am glad that I went to him and apologized for my inappropriate behavior toward him. I go way back with him and Allyson, and after talking to him, I can appreciate his methodology and aesthetic parameters when he curates his own shows. I just get all frustrated from time to time when I try to get bookings in this town, because it’s turned into a Catch 22 situation. I’ll just have to go out of town to find people who won’t hang me with a “just say now to that delusional asshole ex-music critic who thinks he’s a singer-songwriter” jacket, who may be able to appreciate me on my own terms.

      The other person I referred to is a promoter in this town, someone I’ve known for years and, until last year, it seemed like we were on very friendly terms. I’ve tried three times now to make amends with him, and he hasn’t responded to any of my attempts. Which is, of course, entirely his prerogative. So, until he chooses to give me any kind of response, even “Fuck you, I hate you, drop dead,” I’m probably going to avoid going to any of the shows he’s promoting, just out of general principle. Which is sad. Life is short, too short.

      Wish I coulda seen your band. That sounds like something I’d dig.

      Best, Jackson


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