Friday, August 19, 2011

Lead Guitar or Bass?

Yet another tidbit of mundane trivia about yours truly: In a former life, lo those many years ago, I was something of a musician. Not trivial enough for you? Try this: When I was a mere teen, our pep band was selected to play at the Illinois State Basketball Tournament... the same year that the critically acclaimed documentary Hoop Dreams was shot at said tournament. So not only can I claim to have been part of a team that won (the chance to play music at) the Illinois State Basketball Championship, I was also a supporting actor (as in, I acted like I knew how to play the bass my hands were supporting) in an award-winning film. Any reader who can connect me to Kevin Bacon in six moves or less wins a prize. Seriously.

So what, says you, the exasperated reader, does any of this have to do with bicycles? I'm getting there, but you'll have to follow the digression rabbit a bit further down the hole. While I don't play nearly as much as I used to (in fact, i was axeless for the better part of 15 years), I do like to attend concerts -- which is sort of like a guy who never bikes but has every stage of the Giro on his DVR. And when I attend said concerts, I notice the following grotesque generalization:

Lead guitarists have a LOT of guitars. Bass players have one.

You've seen it too, right? The frantic roadies, scrambling to get set for Guitar Change #7, since, heaven forfend the lead slinger would have to play his solo on the BLUE Strat instead of the seemingly identical RED one... or even the OTHER blue one. Meanwhile, parked in the back next to the ride cymbal, the bass player is still thumping away on that same road-worn Precision for the whole dang show, and he'll thump away on it for the next show, and the next show, and the next show, until he finally just plays the frets off the thing and has to retire it.

So here's where we finally get to bikes, if you haven't dozed off already. My grotesque generalization (accurate or not) describes a type... and that type lives in the bike world too. You've got your lead guitar bikers, the ones who have a bike for dirt, a bike for gravel, a bike for asphalt, a bike for climbing, a bike for descending, a bike for riding to the store, a bike for riding to the coffee house, a bike for riding to work, a bike for racing, a bike for touring, blah blah blah blah blah. You know the guy... he's the two-wheeled Nigel Tufnel:

The biking Nigel probably even has a Campy Record bike that... you guessed it... goes to 11 (and no, I didn't write this post just to have an excuse to watch that clip and set up that joke).

But then there are the rare few  bike-folk who take the bass player's approach: One trusty (and probably rusty) axe that goes to ALL the gigs. You know that guy too. The one who always seems to have brought the knife to the gunfight (commuting on a race bike? off-roading a hybrid? knobby tires on asphalt?) yet he does just fine and has a great time doing it. While others go to the bike shop to drool and melt their credit cards on the latest and greatest, he's there to pick up some spare tubes and a random drivetrain part to replace something that's been worn to a nub. He's got The One, and he doesn't need another.

As a musician, I was a bass player -- literally and figuratively. As a cyclist... well, let's say that I'm a recovering lead guitarist.


Scott Loveless said...

Ben Sidran composed the score to Hoop Dreams.
Ben Sidran also played for Steve Miller.
Paul Peterson played for Steve Miller.
Paul Peterson also played for Kenny Loggins.
Kenny Loggins performed some of the music for Foot Loose.
Foot Loose starred Kevin Bacon.

Steve Fuller said...

Guilty as charged. :) Then again, I'm a huge fan of Steve Vai so go figure. That said, for the last year, the Fargo has been my Evo. The one that I keep going back to because it has that something special.

Pete said...

The other path is:
Steve James (Hoop Dreams director)
Matt Dillon (Stirred But Not Shaken)
Kevin Bacon (Wild Things)

Scott Loveless said...

Pete's path is much more elegant. He should get the signed photo.

Jim said...

Nothing wrong with having a bike to match the need; I used to ride centuries on my mountain bike and that was nowhere near as fun as centuries on my touring bike. Our bike to car ratio was 7/1 for many years, now 8/2. We can stop anytime we want. Really. Honest.

Alexander said...

I find this post particularly fun, because I guess we could say we're polar opposites.

Just as some sort of introduction, I have been playing music almost my whole life. It is my deepest passion, I play whenever I can, and the most fun I can have is creating new stuff.
On the other hand, I only learnt how to ride a bike when I was 18 years old. Now I commute to work everyday. A non-musical job, but.. Whatever.

Now, the reason I'm commenting is I am, so to speak, a lead guitarist. I have, indeed, several different guitars from 6 to 8 strings for no reason, a couple of bass guitars, a keyboard, and a ton of software synthesizers.
However, regarding cycling, I only stick to a single bike. And a fixed-gear, at that! I really don't need anything fancy - just a pair of slicks, drop bars and a front brake. A freewheel would have been pointless for me, and so are the Floyd Rose full-floating bridges I have on half of my guitars, except I'm not getting rid of those anytime soon.

I hadn't realized any of this until I read your (very old) post. :P

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Alexander, if it makes you feel any better, I still have lustful thoughts about other basses, even though I don't have the talent or the gigs to warrant more than my hobbyist's Squier. I kick myself for selling (in a moment of poor grad student desperation) my Made in Japan replica '62 Jazz.

I'm always trying to get down to your level of bike minimalism, but I can't seem to do it. Even when I'm down to one bike, I get an inexplicable itch to trade it for a different one. I guess I'm a serial bike monogamist. :-)