One of the most annoying things in the world to me is when college students or young adults complain about being poor.

I understand what you mean and all, but give me a break. You don’t know what poor is. And neither do I. At least, I won’t anymore.

If you are working, or going to school, living somewhere and have no kids, you are NOT poor!

Poor is homeless. Poor is waking up and not being sure just how you will eat that day or how you will afford your rent and bills. Poor is having kids and being a single parent and not knowing how you afford their books, let alone some fun things for them to do so they can enjoy their adolescence.

Poor is also being an indie musician.

But it’s a different kind of poor. It’s different in that it’s a chosen starvation and homelessness. Aside from that, every single REAL touring musician without tour support I know is poor. When I say real, I mean that they are constantly working just enough to be able to afford their next tour. Having a full-time job and taking some vacation DOES NOT count you among the touring musicians. That doesn’t mean these bands aren’t worth anything or aren’t good, but they aren’t truly struggling for their art.

We have four real touring bands and one singer-songwriter in Champaign, which is absolutely pathetic given the volume of talent that we have here. And to those bands, I say thank you.

Not just thank you for making great music and thank you for playing out as much as you can, but thank you for your dedication.

See, I lost it. I had it and now I lost it, so I understand how much dedication it takes to truly do it and keep it up, even if your road shows are as poopy as Puddle of Mudd’s music.

And that is the real point of this particular column. If you truly are a music fan, a bona fide lover of the rock, or of hip hop, or jazz, or anything, you should go see all the shows with touring bands that you can afford. Because if you don’t, bands are going to stop touring, and we will all be left with nothing left to enjoy except a select few live acts who have enough advertising to make it work in venues like Assembly Hall. Not fun.

Think of it as a minor donation to the good of society. Music keeps our heads up and our lives good, and every time I hear someone who has a job and a home and a car say to me that they are “broke and can’t afford it,” it makes me wonder if they understand the amount of dedication that these people put in to their art.

It’s unlike any other medium. Photographers might be broke, but at least they are broke in the comfort of their own apartments. Painters may be eating ramen, but at least they can cook it on their own stoves.

Being a touring musician means being a vagabond. It means putting everything else on the line and alienating your family, friends and significant others for the love of your art. It’s something that, in the end, I wasn’t capable of doing.

So, go see touring bands play. At the very least, go and see what they have to offer, because they are sacrificing much more than a measly cover charge. They are sacrificing any and all comfort that they know.

So-Steve, Joe, Mark and Andrew of the Blackouts; Erin, Tristan and Brett of Headlights; John, Ariane and Brett (again) of The Beauty Shop; Rob, Bruno, Bud, Josh and Josh of American Minor*; and Mike Ingram-I salute you!

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