October 22, 2022   

Finding Authenticity

My neighbor, who looks like Jerry Garcia, invited me to his show at Parkside Lounge. I used to stare at the bar from my apartment across the street every day for twenty years. The place hasn’t changed. Given how upscale the neighborhood has become, the dive bar atmosphere feels simulated.

A two-man band named “All of the Above,” consisting of a singer-guitarist and drummer, was playing when I entered the music venue in the back. None of the tables were occupied, so I grabbed a beer and took the center table. The drummer was topless and had a tattoo across his chest that said “Die Daily.” He was performing so enthusiastically that you’d think he was playing for the packed Madison Square Garden if you were sitting in the front row. He loves the drums—he left no room for doubt. I can picture the moment he discovered drums as a kid, as well as his last performance as an old man.

My neighbor’s band, called “The Next,” went up next. It was like fast-forwarding twenty years. The test of time has proven that they were born to play music. What we want to be isn’t always what we are meant to be; only time will confirm the latter as wannabes fall away. The Next was no less enthusiastic than All of the Above.

Finding authenticity is not easy these days because much of what appears to be authentic is simulated. To succeed, you can’t just play music, write a book, or cook fantastic meals. Journalists, galleries, and publishers no longer go out to find worthy artists; they sit back and choose from the crowd that gathers around them. Increasingly, the responsibility of marketing falls on artists. To find authenticity, we have to look in the cracks through which it falls.

Giving up the idea of success would liberate artists, affording them more time and energy to do what they love. Authenticity must be protected from success, but in most cases, the opposite happens when success comes knocking on the door.

The aura of success seduces you as an audience, yet you intuitively know how inauthentic success is because you are aware of the real face behind the mask you put on to succeed. Today’s society doesn’t allow authenticity, which is why we crave it.