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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, September 25, 2023

'Hey, uke!' Jaime picks up a new instrument and lifestyle

Falling in love with a musician happens to me on practically a weekly basis. When you’re in an audience and looking up at a stage being sprayed by the sweat of a band’s lead guitarist literally buckling to his knees under the weight of his own wailing, musical angst or staring with puppy-dog eyes at a crooning female vocalist whose presence, though physically small, seems to take up the entire venue, it’s kind of difficult not to.

I’m talking about Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Ritzy from The Joy Formidable, the orgasm-inducing voice of Dallas Greene (formerly of Alexisonfire, currently waxing folksy as City & Colour), all the members of Phantogram, Two Door Cinema Club, Ludacris (OK so that one’s just a personal thing. Cue “What’s Your Fantasy”), I could go on and on.

When a singer screams a note only to spray saliva all over the mic or when you can slowly watch their pit stains form as they sweat out an hour-long set on a small, sauna of a stage, musicians are not beautiful in the conventional kind of way. But it’s that contorted face of focus and complete consumption in art that I love, and I’d venture to say I’m not alone in this infatuation.

It’s why we squeal like pre-pubescent tweens at a “Twilight” movie when the band we’ve been waiting for finally takes the stage. Can they hear what we, individually, are saying? (“ANYTHING YOU WANT, LUDA.”) No. But we yell anyway, because they awaken something in us, whether it’s a simple desire to dance or to create something wonderful of our own. Like moths to a flame we are drawn to people who exude energy and who can harness it enough to share the love via osmosis of the eardrums.

If we’re not lusting after them we’re putting them up on a pedestal as our idols. (This immediately brings to my mind the scene in “Almost Famous” where Stillwater’s Russell Hammond flings himself off a roof and into a pool screaming “I am a golden god!” but I digress.) They create the sounds and harness the emotions we only wish we could.

See, musicians help us cheat a little when we need a feeling fix; they provide us a straight shot of auditory ambiance that sets the tone of our day, night, workout—whatever. Achieving said feelings on our own requires a little more work, a little more effort.

In the love arena, we have to find the right person who makes our heart skip a beat every time they walk into the room. Often there’s a screening process involving lots of awkward number exchanges and even more awkward rejections, which is certainly more difficult to deal with than swooning at the first vibrations of a well-strummed G-chord on our heartstrings.

When it comes to creating music and crafting our passions into songs things get even more challenging. We have to learn how to play an instrument. We have to find an instrument to play.

This is where I had my real struggle. I took piano lessons for about five years during middle and some of high school, but ultimately got too busy to practice. There was also that one month where I took guitar lessons, but I had to drop that too because I lacked the enthusiasm to devote even 15 minutes a day to plucking out chords.

But then, last Saturday while walking home from coffee with a friend, I went into Spruce Tree Music on East Johnson Street on a whim. There, in the corner, were some wtiny ukuleles calling my name. A small soprano uke wasn’t too expensive and I realized I could learn and be able to play the “Adventure Time” theme song. I bought it, and for the past week I haven’t been able to put it down.

In between classes, before bed and essentially whenever I have free time you can find me plucking away on this lullaby lute of sorts. It took the drive of really wanting and devoting time to learn a song, but now I’ve got an insatiable craving for more uke and I intend to feed the musical beast until it’s full.

Find something that makes you want to procrastinate and allow yourself a bit of time to flesh it out. Write out some lyrics. Bang on a drum. Learn the harmonica for all I care. Get out there and strum around with other people and you might even kill our two birds of this column with one (rolling) stone (aha! music puns).

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Now, you don’t have to stop loving the musicians you love for whatever reasons you might have; there are times where others might just express what we’re thinking better. But don’t let this infatuation get in the way of your own ability to create.

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