Friday, May 30, 2008

John Here.

I went out earlier this evening to see The Orchid Highway. They are a pop band I spent eleven years playing with between 1993 and 2004. I owe these guys a lot.

They had a plan: back in 1995 we all packed our bags and left the small prairie city of Winnipeg for London England. If it hadn't been for the band, I'd probably be a frustrated English teacher in some Winnipeg high school instead of a semi-successful cabaret artist.

They pushed me to get better in every aspect of my musicianship: singing, writing, arranging, recording... you name it. If it hadn't been for the band I would probably still be strumming folk chords and singing impenetrable lyrics in an affected whispery voice.

Over the eleven years we had some great times and some shitty times. We lived in band houses together in London and in Vancouver - very fertile creative spaces but usually way too close for comfort. I left The Orchid Highway in 2004 because The Wet Spots were getting really busy. And because I was getting more out of the new act. But it hurt like ending any eleven-year relationship would hurt.

Things are really happening for them now. They brought a new guitarist in two years ago, they got signed to a label a few months back, their new album has been released all over the USA, their new video is playing on TV.

Tonight was the first time I'd seen them play since 2005 when I was still with them. Schedules just haven't allowed for it. That's most of the reason. Somebody suggested it might be like "watching your ex-girlfriend fuck someone else". Which made me laugh. I usually enjoy watching my ex-girlfriend (or current wife or future boyfriend) fuck somebody else. I think I was born without the jealousy gene when it comes to sex. People have been throwing around the idea that polyamory is not so much a choice as it is an orientation. I do know that ever since I can remember it made sense to me to have open relationships, but usually my partners would have none of it. I would settle for monogamy because I really dug the person. And I thought it was somehow "wrong" or "too much to expect" to be allowed to have sexual or emotional attachments with anyone else. Inevitably the desire to have sex outside that relationship would end that relationship. And it would hurt the way ending any relationship hurts.

Having fallen in with a partner and a community who do polyamory with integrity has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. It's been freeing. But I understand jealousy. I get jealous. I get REALLLY jealous. But not in my sex life. Mostly in my professional life. If I see another entertainer getting ahead my teeth start to grind and I get that horrible feeling of dread in my stomach. Dread that my career is never going to take off. That I've been fooling myself and everyone else all along. Dread that somehow there isn't enough success and happiness to go around and if someone else just got handed a big slice then there's sure to be less for me. If Cass started hanging around with another lover, that would not be hard to deal with. If Cass started hanging around with another creative partner (perhaps one with a nicer looking guitar and a real manager) you can bet I wouldn't be sleeping much at night.

So how would it be watching my old bandmates rip it up? Watching someone new in the spot I used to occupy onstage? I anticipated it would be a combination of uncomfortable and awesome. Turns out it was just awesome. It was like watching old footage of the band (with me in it) except with all the excitement of seeing a live show. The Orchid Highway are a very energetic live band, and it was cool to experience all that from the other side of the speakers. It was particularly cool to see their guitarist Scott Perry sing lead vocals on a song that I wrote & sang back when I was with them. I don't think I've ever seen anyone cover one of my songs live before. It actually sent chills down my spine. I felt... honoured. And overall I felt excited for these guys. They've worked damn hard in a business that I know damn well is fickle and arbitrary and unfair. And it's finally paying off for them. And - if this makes any sense - it felt good to feel good for them.

Jealousy is such a corrosive emotion. It eats out your insides and spills out onto the floor and starts working on all the relationships in your life. Have I conquered it? Hell no. But I can usually recognize the physical symptoms before they overwhelm me and start me down into those looping doom-thoughts. And I can have compassion for the people who have to wrestle with that beast every time they see their partner talking to someone cute. And sometimes, it seems, I can walk through situations that I think will baffle me and come out smiling. A genuine smile.

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