Yr Blues: I like playing outside too

April 8, 2010

This past weekend, emboldened by some incredible weather, I did something that I hadn’t done in a very long time: I brought an acoustic guitar outdoors. To be honest, I brought it to the dog park near Whitehaven Parkway in Burleith—which is a far cry from playing on Healy Lawn or White-Gravenor (at least from the perspective of sheer gall) and I fared pretty well given that there weren’t many people around.

It’s hard to say when I first became aware of how much college students hate encountering acoustic guitars outdoors. It probably became clear to me sometime between seeing the guitar-smashing scene in Animal House and hearing Mike Birbiglia’s “Guitar Guy at the Party,” but who really knows. At this point, public performance is basically about a step above streaking in terms of the entertainment-versus-embarrassment balance, especially if you’re not careful about it.

On one hand, I get it: “Wonderwall” is a pretty sappy song, and watching some bro pour his heart out can be bit much. But on the other hand, the collective dislike of acoustic guitars outdoors is completely irrational. Consider, for example, all of the sports that occur on Copley or Healy Lawn: Frisbee, football, “catch,” volleyball, and most ridiculous of all, that bean-bag-toss game (don’t call it anything else—it’s tossing bean bags through a hole). In my mind, those activities can be just as ostentatious, if not more so, as playing a few songs on the guitar because they take up far more space, they’re just as loud, and they usually involve the removal of a few shirts. The “Wonderwall” bro may be awful for his own reasons, but he still knows that it’s not kosher to pop it off outside, regardless of how hot it gets.

Beyond the obvious fact that sports are a more normalized outdoor activity (you can’t exactly throw the bean bags inside, right?), music simply garners too much instant criticism these days. Almost anyone can play “catch” on the lawn, but not everyone can play guitar, so that guy or girl is suddenly under the microscope. The stakes are entirely unfair though. If the girl playing “Like a Rolling Stone” isn’t at least decent, then she’s a joke—yet no one expects the guys playing catch to throw like Jeter.

I don’t ask for much, dear reader, only that you hold everyone to the same standard. So, the next time someone drops an easy catch on the lawn, turn to your friends and laugh. Note how stupid it was for them to flaunt their talent in public, and then shame them until they think twice about playing sports on the lawn in the future. If you’re not enough of an a-hole to say anything, be sure to shoot dirty looks and look around as if you can’t pinpoint what’s bothering you, but damn, is it annoying. The more you can do to put that person in their place, the better.

Oh, I’m not bitter about it or anything. I just believe in equality.

Tell Dan what you like to strum on at dcook@georgetownvoice.com


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