In 2002 I went to see a live show at the coffee house on my college campus. The show featured the band The Microphones.
“The Microphones” was a somewhat confusing name for the band because there was only one member: Phil Elvrum.
I went to the show early, and watched Phil personally haul in his own gear. He then proceeded to take out a marker and white butcher paper and make some larger-than-life drawings. Once completed, he hung his drawings behind the stage as scenery. Next, he set up his microphone and amp and played a show. When it was over he gave away the drawings to audience members and stood next to the stage to sell LPs and T-shirts. Each LP had original hand-drawn art on it. I bought one and talked to him for a minute.
Phil Elvrum was 23 when that show happened, and in retrospect, it is difficult for me to imagine what it must have been like to be in his shoes. He seemed very brave to me… as far as I can tell, no one was traveling with him to help out or offer moral support.
I’ve been talking to a number of independent writers and software developers recently, and it has made me think a lot about what their day-to-day lives must be like. I’ve never been a freelancer, or worked in a solo capacity myself, but I have to imagine it must sometimes feel like doing a solo music tour. You show up alone, you do your thing, then you haul out your own gear… whether or not the show went wonderfully or terribly.
Going “indie” is clearly not for everyone, but I have the utmost respect for the people that are able and willing to do it.