Rick Berlin’s Guide for Parents of Musicians

Rick Berlin is a Boston-Jamaica Plain singer-composer-pianist-bon vivant. Learn more about him here

Band parents not the same as stage moms or hockey dads. they don’t show up during childhood. it’s not until the kids are in college and have left the nest. then it begins, the nightmare. i watch them having dinner with their son before a gig at a nearby club. they look lost, anxious and dispirited. they make innocuous conversation in hopes of Windex-ing the glass on their blurry imaginings. ‘seems like a nice enough club, dear, but it’s so…dirty.’ ‘how do you get people to actually show up for these things? it must be awfully hard.’ ‘i can’t hear the words and you wrote ’em, right? don’t you think they’re important?’ anticipating the d-day of distortion: ‘we shoulda have picked up some earplugs, honey, doncha think?’ later, inside the club: ‘god, we look old, stand-out old. all these idiots bobbing their heads like dolls to whatever it is the music is saying to them and whatever it is that it’s saying we don’t get’. ‘he sure seems to drink a lot on stage’. ‘the owner’s a prick, a loud mouth prick.’ ‘that fat girl looks ridiculous in a mini skirt.’ ‘why does he close his eyes when he’s singing?’ ‘why does he say fuck so much on the microphone?’ ‘he loves what he’s doing i suppose, but his drummer’s a real asshole.’ i can’t wait t get outa this crack hole’. they notice their own graying hair, bald spots, pot bellies and motherly skirts and yet they put up with it. they put up with him. they’re not sure why. they don’t talk to each other at the club. all the drinks in the world make no dent in their demeanor. meanwhile, under the table, they pray that this is a phase he’ll grow out of. they realize that ‘fall back on’ is a pipe dream for their ever practicing son who, holed up in his bedroom all through high school, zits galore, shedding guitar and straining to zap out a zillion notes in front of the mirror is in this for good. they worry that maybe he’ll fall through a crack they can’t see coming. they worry he’ll catch some fatal S.T.D. they worry that the void between what their kid is doing and their own world is unbreachable. they listen as carefully as they can to the demo they had to pay for and begin talking above the music long before the first song is over, unable to pay attention let alone comprehend what is being heard. unexpectedly, dad gets weepy. for some reason art and sound moves him in spite of himself, a catch-in-the-throat pride in his black sheep son. had he become an heroin addict or a transexual, things could have been worse, though maybe more manageable than having to support his stupid band at ugly clubs where woo hoo’s and tennis claps add up to zilch. where loading in and loading out seems endlessly tiresome. where the money is non existent. they don’t get it and hate not getting it and wish they didn’t have to try. you feel badly for them even though you can’t extend a hand. they do look silly and sad. they don’t know their kid anymore. Santa Claus is long gone and their kid’s dream impossible to imagine, let alone believe in or want for him. will his kids be stock brokers? they can only hope.   

(By Rick Berlin)

Published on May 14, 2020