Ian Schwartz and The Sour Candy Orchestra

So now that my brief run playing for Cabaret out in Wellesley has ended, I have a little bit more time on my hands…and I promised myself that I would finally get around to writing a real blog on here. (that, and I’m currently procrastinating doing a paper, and this is far more productive than a myspace/facebook survey)
While lurking around facebook as usual, I came across a link to this video on one of my friend’s pages:Rent: Too Gay For High Schools?

Unfortunately, it didn’t really surprise me that administrators at high schools would be against student productions of Rent, even if it was the slightly ‘cleaned-up’ school version.
(To get the full scoop on the cancelled productions, check out the NYTimes article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/theater/20rent.html)

The most shocking thing to me? The fact that my high school was the high school featured in the news clip. Other than badminton (who cares anyway?), there’s not much else my old school was good for. But as I watched this video and saw the drama director (who’s been there since the beginning of time, I mean, jeez, he was my elementary school general music teacher) I felt a little sense of pride. My community certainly is not the most liberal of places, but at least they didn’t put a stop to the production.

As I thought about what it would have been like if they had done a production like that while I had been in high school, it irked me even more that some districts found the homosexual content inappropriate. I hate that schools try and ignore homosexuality, or treat it as some horrific sin. Acknowledging homosexuality is not going to spread some gay agenda and Rent isn’t going to turn little Johnny into a raging queer. On the other hand, had I been exposed to things like Rent or any sort of positive discussion of homosexuality in high school, I feel like my high school experience would have been drastically different. My ‘coming-of-age’, if you will, would have been completely different as well. It wasn’t until the very end of high school that I even realized that there was a possibility that I could have been gay. It was just never an option. Instead, I was miserable and uncomfortable and couldn’t figure out what exactly was ‘wrong’ with me. And still, to this day, it has been a long process coming to terms with being gay. I wish someone had told me along the way, “Hey, it’s okay. Some people are gay.”

If anything, Rent could be a tremendous tool for schools to educate about drug abuse, HIV, and homosexuality – especially if coupled with workshops or ‘assemblies’ for the students. *sigh* But, that seems overly idealistic to ever happen.

Anyway, time to end this overly long rant. Paper time…

You know, I was always told as a kid that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. But with a week until April, it’s just not lamby enough for my tastes yet. Highs of 50 and lows of 30 do not a springtime make.

I’ll be a lot happier to be a busker when it’s a couple of degrees warmer out.

On a different note, have you thought about coming to see us at the Cantab on April 6th?

Beth and Rebecca don’t have to deal with the number one problem I face as a musician: Sore fingers. Behvin probably does to a certain extent.

There was a time when I played a really crappy Yamaha guitar with a high action and high-tension strings. And I had lovely callouses. I could put out cigarettes with my fingertips. Seriously.

Then I became a ukulele player and spent almost 2 years with the uke as my main instrument. And my callouses got softer. See, the uke is easy on your fingertips. Too easy.

Then a month ago I started busking full-time, and I found that I preferred using the guitar for this. And it turns out 8-hours of guitar playing takes its toll on your wittle fingews. Big time toll taking. The first time I finished an 8-hour stretch, it hurt to type. It hurt to point.

It’s getting better, but not fast enough. Yesterday, I played for 8-hours and when I finished, my fingers were fine. I couldn’t feel a thing. I was ecstatic. Some time around bed I felt the first twinge. Today, well, it doesn’t hurt to type, but playing guitar is pretty much out of the question. Believe me, I tried. Even my classical guitar is too ouchie.

Some say you can increase the callouses with rubbing alcohol and other tricks. I’m just going to hope that as the weather improves, so does my fingertip stamina.

so – I really should have blogged by now. I’ve had about a million things pop into my head that I want to say…but I’m really terrible at actually writing them down. *shrug*
so, until I have something real to add to this blog…I shall blog about the fact that I’m in utter shock that Behvin blogged before me. I feel like a failure.
…I didn’t think she even knew what blogging was. hah.

So I got a present in the mail today. But in case you need the back story, here it is:

It reads “Hello Ian. Thank you for watching television and playing the ukulele.” And it’s signed “John ‘Kloster’ Hodgman.”


From misc

So Ian insisted that we all blog a bit on the site… to the point that I’m getting “friendly reminder/stalker” text messages :-) Parents coming into town this weekend, to see my new place. Cello is probably the most valuable/biggest item currently in my very empty apartment. Christmas lights help me forget I have no light in my living room. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

So, I’m going to be laying down some serious recording shizznit this week which I can then take to the band so that they can record their parts. Between the last show at the Cantab and the next show at the Cantab, we will definitely have enough money to do a short run of the album.

This, of course, begs the question:
Which format should the album be released in first? CD? Or Digital Download card? Eventually I’d like to have both, offering the cards for a lower price than the physical CDs, but we have to do one first.

CDs: Purchasers can listen to it on the way home
Compatible with CDBaby (which in turn gets you up on iTunes)
Good for giveaways and promotion

Cards: Cheaper to produce, therefore cheaper to sell
Fans are likely to just put the CD on their iPod anyway, right?
Less impact on the environment

CDs: We all have iPods now, don’t we?
They can get scratched
Our budget means we’ll likely be using jewel cases, which are not a cool first choice for packaging. If we wait, we might be able to afford digipaks

Cards: You don’t have the actual music in hand
Easy to lose on the way home, maybe?
No artwork, no liner notes

I know we don’t exactly have a lot of readers yet, but I would really appreciate some input in the comments section if anybody has any.

I went to go see Brief Awakening the other night at the Midway Cafe, one of our semi-regular gigging spots. Mainly I went because two of the members had come to our show (comprising about half of the audience), and I thought one good turn deserved another.

They were good. The music speaks for itself, I think. The use of djembe was awesome, and the sound was unique. Consider me a fan.


For those of you who got here from this post we do not all busk. Only me, Ian, busks. That said, thank you to John Hodgman for possibly boosting our traffic. We are indebted to you, sir.

Those of you who know me personally know that I make my living as a busker at the moment. It’s something I’ve done off and on since I moved to Boston in 2000. Then around 2 years ago, I picked up a battery-powered amplifier, which about doubled my busking income. So when I found myself jobless in between career opportunities, I took to the streets again.

I will admit that the line between busking and begging can be blurry. There IS a difference, and a profound one: I consider my income to be a tip based on a well-done performance as opposed to a charitable donation. Of course there may be some people who tip performers out of a sense of charity, but that’s not really any different than getting a bigger tip than you deserve when you wait tables. And I never met a waiter who turned down a larger-than-average tip. Money’s money.

But the line does get blurred. Anybody who lives in Boston has surely seen Recorder Guy. Clearly homeless, he warbles tunelessly on a plastic recorder. It’s hard to imagine anybody hearing the music and thinking “That is awesome and surely deserves my hard-earned money.”

So to avoid this, I don’t play music that I can’t play well. I’m not a beggar and I don’t want people to associate me with Recorder Guy. What he does and what I do are miles apart. I know I’m succeeding because when people put money in my case, they say thank you. Can you imagine thanking a beggar? The thank you’s show me that I am, in fact, providing a service and getting compensated for it.

But the reason I’m posting is there was a moment today that almost brought a tear to my eye. I was playing and I looked up and saw a guy really enjoying the music. He was physically deformed and had skin graft scars on top of it. He couldn’t talk, only sort of shout. But he could smile. Man, was he smiling. After I finished, a middle-aged woman asked me what song I had just played. I told her it was The Weight, originally by The Band. The guy started smiling and nodding. Apparently he is a big fan of The Band. Then, when I launched into my next song, he was quietly singing along. Wordlessly, but it was unmistakeably the melody. As the train was approaching, he unzipped his fanny pack, no small effort, pulled out a dollar and dropped it in my case. There was gratitude in his eyes.

Seriously, I almost got choked up. I got into music initially just so I could create these kinds of effects. It’s a beautiful thing.