Last week, My Beautiful Wife and I caught the end of the opening act at the Wilco show. The band was Deep Sea Diver, and they were making one hell of a racket. And all I could think about was a phrase from the liner notes written by Thomas Pynchon—yes, that Thomas Pynchon—for the band Lotion’s album Nobody’s Cool:
Every night, somewhere on the outlaw side of some town, below some metaphysical 14th Street, out at the hard edges of some consensus about what’s real, the continuity is always being sought, claimed, lost, found again, carried on. If for no other reason, rock and roll remains one of the last honorable callings, and a working band is a miracle of everyday life. Which is basically what these guys do.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’ve been a minor part of the Indy Music Strategy—an economic development effort to grow and foster our local music scene—and I’ve served on the board of Musical Family Tree. And Tonic Ball happens this Friday, November 22. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, you’ll have an opportunity to see a whole lot of miraculous working bands in one overwhelming night.
Me? I’ve never been in a working band. I was in bands when I was a kid, and we played out a little, but it wasn’t like we were trying to make it.
And Bomb Dylan, my Tonic Ball band, is a vanity project. Once a year, some amazing musician friends of mine, out of the goodness of their honorable hearts, agree to spend 15 minutes on stage with me and my Jerry Lee Atwood suit.
There are a few bands that get together every year for Tonic Ball, and every year brings new one-off collaborations. This cross-pollination of the Indy music scene was part of our original mission, and it’s one of the things that makes Tonic a great event.
But the majority of the nearly 90 bands at Tonic Ball this year are, in one way or another, working bands. They practice more than once a year. A lot of them write their own stuff. They’re hungry for paying gigs. They have varying definitions of what “making it” means, but they’re all, in one way or another, trying to make it.
And almost all of them have day jobs. Which makes making it that much more challenging. (For example, in the video below, the guy at stage left’s day job is president and CEO of Health and Hospital Corporation, which includes Eskenazi Health, title sponsor of Tonic Ball.)
So I’m challenging you, Tonic Ball 2019 ticketholders:
Go to the show. Check out all the rooms; here’s a list of who’s playing where and when. Find an artist—or two or seven—whose performance moved you. Who made you sing or dance or just feel alive. Who swept you up in the everyday miracle they were making.
For 18 years, Tonic Ball has used the power of music to help Second Helpings transform lives through the power of food. It’s a labor of love for hundreds of musicians who’ve spent countless hours learning their craft and practicing their songs to get ready for this night; in fact, many are sacrificing paying gigs on the most lucrative night of the week to play a charity event.
We know how much you appreciate them at Tonic Ball. Let’s show our musicians some love the rest of the year.
As for me: I’m no Thomas Pynchon. But I’d happily write liner notes for Everything, Now! Here, from a few years ago, is a tiny glimpse of why: