So my gig in Dortmund last weekend got cancelled.
I fought my way against a wasplike tide of yellow and black BVB supporters from the Hauptbahnhof to the subway, and walked another half mile in the rain to the venue. Doors closed. Lights off. So looking back a few hours later from my initial, and very British reaction (grrr someone needs to give me some compensation for this etc etc) I settled into a much more Tim Brooks reaction that this was probably my fault for not organising it properly. In reality, there was some confusion in the back and forth of emails, just an unfortunate misunderstanding. No-one's fault.
So what did I do the next day? I put a post on social media showing the massive cathedral in Cologne, saying how amazing my weekend had been in NW Germany. (Obviously)
Whilst this is kinda true (cracking Friday night gig in Dusseldorf, made some friends, drank some Jim Beam, will be back), it was a mile away from my feelings the previous night, and to be honest, a lot of the previous day. It was bluster. It was a still image. It was a reinforcement of an identity. It also got me thinking.
Oh and FYI, I got told off for trying to bring my guitar into the Cathedral itself ("Entschuldigung, Sir, Ihre Gitarre ist zu groß, um sie hinein zu bringen")
I saw this photo on social media. It's supposedly a quote from Kanye West
Now the supposedly is on the basis that it has come from the same brain that came up with this
but hear me out....
People want an identity. They want that thing that defines them, not necessarily something that sets them apart or makes them better but something that is theirs, a legacy, a project, a hobby maybe...that moment when Alexander from Pointless asks you "..and so what do you like to do..." you can reply with pride and conviction, regardless of the scale of what you do. You take this thing, and you do it to the best of your ability.
(I watch that show too much. Anyone wanting to go on it, learn the periodic table and all previous US presidents as a minimum.)
The range of things that people call their identity is HUGE. Obviously music, art and the like, but I mean....going to a certain band's gigs is one (go on any band's FB fan group at the year end and it's basically a dick waving competition as to who's streamed them the most on Spotify), travel, following a football team ( MUFC1990 is the password for someone you know I guarantee it), like....anything.
It's exacerbated by the fact that when you get into the meat of your 20s, time isn't yours to waste anymore. You can't do everything. You can't stay 18 forever. I still struggle with that notion I really do.
Naturally, we have to talk about social media. Kanye's post alludes to it, you're all thinking it. Social media is basically everyone playing Minecraft with travel photos. It's where identities are built and nurtured. It's where reality will always be playing catch up to perception.
We'll break down a case study.
Tim Brooks Music
Post: Guys, I have some HUGE news...I can reveal that my track has been added to ______ playlist and is at 40,000 streams!
Now. Again breaking no new ground here by saying this. This means pretty much nothing. The 40,000 streams in the grand scheme of things, the playlist add, the likes. Nothing. This is a dead post. This post won't change the world. Nothing.
I know it, you know it. Social media clout means.....well....you tell them Ned
I put out a v sleepy and possibly ill thought out Instagram post the other day from the airport about how lived experiences were always better than having all your peers think you're fucking killing it and I believe that, I really do. At that point I was on the way to do house gigs in Berlin, I'm in talks at the moment to do some gigs over in Sri Lanka next year. I'm working with start-ups as a songwriter and about to join Busk in London as an official street artist . These are cool tangible things. Keep your Instagram numbers.
But I still put the fucking cathedral up didn't I.
That's just it, I'm just as bad! I crave the same thing. We all do. I want those shared Instagram stories about my new track, those numbers, not necessarily the ego stroke, but the relief that comes with the reinforcement of your identity. It's fragile and it's completely false and I'm as guilty as the rest of you. I give you the image, and the concept of what I am trying to create, and you join the dots.
Someone seeing a marvelous cathedral will plant a seed in their head that reinforces what I'm trying to portray. It's like mind control with shit sepia filters.
Identity becomes more than just someone's shield it becomes their raison d'etre. Not just for insecure people (musicians? insecure? no......), but for people who have fucking grafted, have done the hard yards. It's them. It's their existence.
There's a brilliant video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13MQqWxFT98&t=1915s
Whatever your opinions on the True Geordie are, him and Laurence explore how Caroline Flack's identity and entire reason for being was essentially taken away by everything that was going on, and what that left was, in her eyes I guess, not of enough value. There are a tonne of people out there who are miserable because they can't find their identity in something, so punching up at someone and taking them down gives them a sense of pleasure. God this is a delicate topic and I'm treading so carefully here, but look at how much glee people have in effectively dismantling someone. It's not a human trait and not a very nice one at all.
Let's finish on an analysis of a different angle.
It's 1am. I'm being slowly hypnotised by a waving cat toy thing that I have by my TV in the living room. I'm trying to see if I can find my actual cat hiding in the darkness. About an hour ago he went and grabbed a bag of oats from the kitchen (that I assume he just thought were Dreamies) and ran off and dropped them in the fireplace getting oats everywhere. Dickhead. He's never done that before.
How can you be mad at that face mind.
The point is I'm still writing. Why? I dunno. I'm not going to make money out of this, it's not some sort of big career step. I'm doing it because I guess it feels right. It feels like something that has a purpose in this bubble that I put myself in, and therein is the greatest thing, and the reason why we all persist with our chosen identities.
It grows to be something that we craft, something that we develop.
I have pretty much always been mediocre at most things. Blagged a fair bit, knew the study pinch points, drifted through dead end retail jobs, activated the charm in interviews (Oxford accent naturally). Writing and performing songs is the first thing, the first thing EVER that I've honestly believed I was really good at, and that gives me a sense of purpose. (I'm still shit hot at Goldeneye mind!)
That's something to hold on to.
Even at 1am.