Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Irrational Obsession

My son Jared Price works at Cafe Ladro and Molly Moon's Ice Cream Stores in Seattle to fund what he calls his "irrational obsession with playing rock and roll." I tell him it's only irrational if he can't fund it.

My friends ask me, "Oh, what's Jared doing now? Did he finish college?" And I say, with a smile, "Yes, he did. And now Jared is scooping ice cream and serving coffee in Seattle." But then I add, "But he's also in a band." And those who knew him growing up say, "Ah, yes."

Since he was a child, I've told him to follow his heart. Not until I was in my 50s did I give myself permission to follow my heart, which is writing and photography.  I was determined that he would find out what he wanted to do with his life without censor.

His passion for music got him through adolescence. His dad and I  divorced when he was four, and I was worried that he would either become a drug addict or alcoholic. I drove him nuts for a few years, ever watchful. But always he had his music, his guitar and trombone always in the living room for him to pick up. He later told me he didn't drink in high school because he didn't want to. 

When Jared was 12 he acquired a beat-up guitar. He quickly learned Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. I didn't worry that it was a song about drugs. I was simply impressed that he taught himself to play it.

He bought his first real guitar when he was 15, and then another more expensive acoustic guitar when he was 17, funded by working at Hollywood Video since he was 16.  He still plays his first guitar, as well as his acoustic, electric, bass, keyboards, and the trombone, the instrument he played from fifth grade to his second year in college. His senior year of high school he received the John Philip Sousa award for his trombone playing.

He majored in music in college, but his second year he decided on the more "practical" degree in business management. His senior year he called me and said, "Mom, I just want to play music." Of course, I said. I'm not sure if he was looking for permission or just processing whether it was irrational or not. He got the degree and the student  loans, and I don't think he regrets it. Aren't most baristas college graduates funding their own irrational obsessions?

He worked in the offices of KEXP Radio for a year while playing bass for In Praise of Folly and Benjamin Verdoes. That band came apart, and not long after that Benjamin, Jared, Benjamin's brother, Marshall, and Benjamin's wife, Traci, formed Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band. They used quirky marketing techniques and odd videos that piqued the interest of people wondering whether or not this equally odd sounding band really had anything worthwhile to share with music fans.

After a debut at Neumoes two years ago, the band went on some cross-country tours, acquiring fans and debt.  That's about the time Jared's passion turned into an underfunded irrational obsession. He came home from the last tour frustrated.

Over the past few months, however, they've all been working at reducing debt as well as working on their second CD.  The music has gone through a transition, more mellow than their introductory blast.

They are promoting their Northwest fan base, playing their new sounds to receptive fans in Portland, Spokane, Vancouver and Tri-Cities (coming up). After the second CD is released in August, they'll go on another cross-country tour, hoping to have turned an irrational obsession back to a rational passion.

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