I arrived at the Wooden Shoe (where I have been volunteering for the past 6 and a half years) early to set up the space and get ready. Expecting about 20 people, I arranged the usual set up of 4 or 5 rows of chairs. But as 7:00 approached the sun appeared to be setting prematurely; the outside world through the storefront windows getting darker and darker each minute. Eventually I welcomed those who had showed up as we rearranged the chair formation into a more intimate circle. Just as I began, the sky opened up and the rain didn’t let up until after we were done.
Being the first event of the tour, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It went really well though. I invited everyone to write down the title of a song, album, artist or musical genre that they deeply associated with a particular job experience. After I read a few of the stories from my zine, I pulled them one by one out of a box and invited everyone to share their experiences. We heard about singing songs (to unwitting customers) while collecting shopping carts in the Whole Foods parking lot and the different soundtracks of competing burger chains. The music of Belle and Sebastian curing homesickness on the job and “Hotel California” playing on the radio while shoveling the literal shit out of a hoarder’s abandoned house.
The following evening, I biked out to West Philly where my friend Mary Tasillo lives and runs The Soapbox—an independent publishing space and zine library. We set up in the dining room/event space in between the zine library and kitchen. We set up food and drinks and by the time the event began all the chairs we arranged around the room were full. It was great to see some old friends who showed up and I decided to start, once again, by inviting them to write down song titles related to a past work experience. I felt a more comfortable presenting after the kickoff event and the discussion was really engaging. Stories were shared about over-played Starbucks CD’s, afternoon frat parties disrupting library research/labor, the not-always-positive jobs featuring live music, and getting through retail drudgery through 90’s indie angst.
With both events, I asked if I could keep everyone’s songs that they wrote down. So I’ll be collecting these throughout the tour—a documentation of music and work from the lived experiences of workers making the most of it.