I’m with the band. Well, I WAS with the band. Until they broke up. Now, I’m just a nobody again. Not that I was ever really a somebody, but when you’re with the band you’re suddenly more popular than you realized you wanted to be.
People see you and say things like, “Ask her. She’ll know. She’s with the band.” And you swell with pride because you were recognized, and you feel important because they expect you to KNOW things.
Here’s the thing about a band break-up. It’s never a simple thing. There is no, “We can still be friends.” Not really. It’s more like a divorce. A bitter, nasty, everybody leaves hating everybody else divorce.
And it isn’t just the band members who feel it. Everybody feels it. The wives, the kids, everybody. The circle that seems impenetrable just breaks. Suddenly, “Uncle” Sam (or whoever) becomes “that guy we used to know”.
A band break-up leaves an enormous hole. People you have seen with regularity just disappear. People that you thought of as family are no longer in your world. It hurts.
It hurts a lot. Even the most amicable “we can’t take this any farther” band break-up is painful. There are promises to get together, but it rarely happens. Everyone just melts into their own lives and out of yours.
I often think the “amicable” splits are worse than the break-ups that start or end with a fight. Angry words spoken in haste leave scars that don’t ever really heal, but there is no expectation of lasting friendship when that happens. It seems like a cleaner break somehow.
Well, until you run into Sam’s wife at the grocery store and realize how much you really liked her. Or you begin to reminisce about that cookout at Bob’s house that summer. Or one of your kids says, “Hey, how’s Joe?” And your only answer is, “I don’t know. We don’t talk.”
That’s when you feel the pain of the angry break-up. Sometimes it happens immediately after the split, but, more often than not, it happens months or years later. When you’ve almost forgotten that time of your life even existed.
True musicians usually move on to other projects, but there is always something that just feels different. For a band to work you have to have a certain chemistry. Days and nights spent together on the road build a certain camaraderie that can never be duplicated.
Different personalities click in different ways. That’s why bands change when they lose even one member. The personality dynamic is different. It might be close, but it will never be an exact clone of what they had before.
Each new configuration of the band becomes a step-family of sorts. A hybrid of the original with each addition of a new personality. Sometimes, the hybrid is better than the original. Sometimes, it’s a dismal failure. And that’s when you end up with the break-up.
The complete break-up. Not just the, “Oh, this guy isn’t working out, so we’ll fire him and find a new singer,” break-up. The break-up of no return. The “when Hell itself freezes over will we ever play together again” break-up.
When you’re with the band, you get virtually no input into what happens. Unless you are the manager, booking agent, or both, your opinion might be heard, but it’s typically ignored. Even when you are the manager or booking agent, your opinion carries little weight.
Wives have to strike a delicate balance between expressing opinions and being unquestionably supportive. No wife wants the stigma of being the cause of a band’s break-up. Even if the break-up is for the best, a musician won’t recover from feeling like his wife sabotaged his dream.
The band broke up. Now what? Now, you pick up the pieces. The pieces of self-doubt that your musician feels. The pieces of disbelief and disenchantment that comes with any break-up.
When the creative mood strikes again, be ready. Be prepared to do it all again. Be prepared to fall in love with new people. Get ready for new friendships. New family feelings.
Endless practice sessions. The frustrations that come with trying to book a new unknown group into a venue. The road trips. The gigs. Once again hearing, “Ask her. She’ll know. She’s with the band.”
As a band wife, there is nothing better than watching as your spouse is on stage living the dream. The pure joy and passion that is manifested through the music is an amazing sight to behold. And, it’s what makes me proudly say, “I’m with the band.”