This past Friday, my now-former band played our last show at the Cake Shop in Manhattan. The weekend ensuing was full of me trying to shift from thinking about things related to the six years we were together in the past as opposed to the present tense. We were a band. We played this many shows, wrote this many songs. It was kind of a bummer.
Our reasons for calling it quits weren’t epic: None of us is hooked on drugs, none of our wives threw down ultimatums demanding we end it. We have jobs, real lives, and we live far apart. Nobody makes a lot of money. It had been hard to get together to practice and write songs.
But even that’s only half of the truth. Not that these things didn’t matter, but really, I think we ended it because nobody gave a shit.
I don’t hold that against anyone in the band or outside of it. How could I? I’ve been in the music industry for the better part of a decade in varying degrees and levels of involvement. That’s long enough to know that nobody is going to care about your band just because you’re in it and you know how great you are. Long enough to know there are a lot of great bands that are born, fizzle out and die without anyone taking notice. But knowing doesn’t make the shows anymore fun when you’re opening for hipster bands who’ve been around half as long, suck twice as much and draw three times as many people. Beer is expensive and it only does so much to hold back that bitterness, and I think ultimately that’s what did us in.
The bitterness, not the cost of beer.
We were good at what we did. Occasionally, really good. There were some shows I came home from and said to myself, “This is fucking amazing,” and I have little doubt that, as far as bands go, this will have been the best I’ll ever join. But the kind of music we played—if I was to even name the genre, most people reading this wouldn’t have heard of it, so I’ll save us both the trouble—has a limited appeal, and our appeal within that was even more limited. Sometimes it felt like we were throwing dry spaghetti against the wall to see if it would stick.
I was working in the city when we recorded and put out our only album. I have good memories of leaving work to drive south on the Parkway to put my parts to tape, and better ones of seeing the finished product for the first time; staying home from work to meet the UPS guy when he showed up with the boxes of discs, most of which are still in the office upstairs at my house, unsold.
There are a lot of good memories. And some bad ones. I got drunk and was an asshole on more than one occasion—a lethal combination of alcohol and self-loathing. We lost our first drummer to lack of interest in what we were doing, and that didn’t end particularly well. But we kept going. For the last year or so, I told myself I was doing it because I loved playing with these guys and I loved the songs, and both of those things were true. That likely would have been enough to keep me going. But there were four people involved.
The last show was a boon. Some people don’t know their last show is their last, it just happens and then there isn’t another. But we went out in righteous fashion: Loudly and among good friends. I couldn’t have asked anything more of it than I got, and if that’s really to be the last memory I make of that time in my life, then it’s a good one. On the way into the city, we joked about why the band was breaking up. We laughed. We listened to Dozer, of whom you’ve probably also never heard.
In the end, “it’s a thing and it ended” is all there really is to say about it. I know a lot of people out there have had similar experiences, and it’s always going to be something you feel more when you’re in it. Like any kind of grief. But knowing doesn’t seem to be doing me much good tonight.