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Vibrant Vices: What Instrument Does AJ Freeman Play?

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – As I have never failed to mention in the current incarnation of this space, I’m like totally in a band now.

The whole thing is a lot of fun – some of the best moments of my life have been interspersed into the past 6 months or so – and I gotta be honest, we’re pretty blankin’ great as a unit of entertainers… hell, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

That being typed, for me The Pleasant Uprising (always say the name of the band whenever possible, AJ) is as much a psychological exercise as it is a musical endeavor.

Through this winding road of earthly experience we have together explored the concept of a collective, delved into the mechanisms of performance anxiety, and last time, even zoomed out on this point in time to touch on a few other branches of my metaphorical outcome tree.

Like, there’s no chance I’m in a band today if I didn’t happen to meet ZiZi on a Washington DC street corner a few years ago due to numerous twists of fate… the butterfly effect is fascinating, and as we discussed last time was recently made into a much better movie.

Ah, there I go again wandering off topic… it’s so easy to get distracted in this economy of attention… it’s the subject of this month’s Radical Reading over at Mairel’s Bookshop.

In any event, I guess that’s why in all these months tracking my musical adventures, we never even got to something as basic as what instrument I play.

Like, ya gotta play an instrument to be in a band right? Everyone knows that.

If we’re talking about instruments in the traditional Western canon, your percussives and chordophones and such, I’m probably the third-best guitarist at a typical campfire, mostly because I can actually throw out an F chord, and if my life depended on it, I could probably choke the intro to “Here Comes the Hotstepper” out of a clarinet thanks to the remnants of 3rd grade music class.

The Pleasant Uprising boasts 4 extremely competent instrumentalists and I get to be there too… I generally just try to stay out of the way on that front, man.

Of course, the voice is an instrument – the single most inclusive and accessible example, one might say – but nobody who had to load a 25kg bass amp or an entire set of drums into a small car wants to hear “all I need is this mic,” so you gotta do more than show up and warble if you want to be in a band.

Or at least, if you want to stay in one.

I guess I could answer with something trite and full of corn sugar like “the heartstrings” …and I suppose in the end I will, but let’s put a lab coat on it.

In the end, music is a medium of mental connection, a method of transmitting ideas and emotions from one mind to the next… which sounds kinda familiar, doesn’t it? Hell, it’s happening right now in your own internal voice.

Trippy, innit?

The instrument I play – the one I am proud to take on stage with The Pleasant Uprising each and every time – is one with many keys to be found, unending chords to be struck.

Requiring a receiver as well as a transmitter, it is one that can only be played jointly… a perfect tone for the 4/20 Poolside Jamboree.

Fortunately it’s easy to carry… just last Sunday, I packed it up and took it to Playa Camarones for DJ Changoleón’s Day Rave… he had the music covered there, but did agree to something of a duet this Saturday at the Jamboree.

I don’t want to make it sound too wan and nebulous here… the tools of the trade are tangible. Sometimes I play the pots before practice – you remember Uprising Chili, yes? – sometimes I indulge myself with an extended acoustic paintbrush solo… looking forward to pulling that out for this week’s pool party.

I don’t want to undervalue mic work either… technical skill is great, but presentation matters. It’s just that the most effective wielding of the stick is often done offstage… tune into Radiante 98.3 this Saturday morning, gonna cut a promo about the show that afternoon and you never know what’s gonna happen when you hand me a hot mic. For that matter, neither do I most times.

These musical devices may not be as flashy as the frenetic fingers of a guitar wizard or pierce the soul like a perfectly aimed vocal flourish, but it’s impossible to argue that the band would sound quite the same without them.

That means when I step onto the stage with The Pleasant Uprising, standing among these elite practitioners of their respective musical crafts, I can perform with the confidence that I’m pretty damn good doing my thing as well… and I like to think that’s what makes us special.

Come see for yourself this Saturday!

AJ Freeman has enjoyed Vallarta’s warm welcome for over 5 years and hopes he has done some good during his time here. Passionate about self-expression and human potential, he combines these interests in weekly wrap-up “Vibrant Vices.” AJ also shares a body with Warflower Jones, ringleader of The Pleasant Uprising… which is totally just a local party band and not a political organization of any kind as that would be against various jurisdictional laws.

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