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It’s amazing how much attention we can pay to ourselves nowadays. Between Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube the opportunities for self-indulgence are endless. This is why I was surprised to find a concise, intelligent documentary about the compromises and pitfalls of building a family as a small-town musician on such a self-centered site.
It’s a fifteen minute movie about a guy named Dylan Kelehan who grew up near my hometown, a little village in upstate New York on the Hudson River. Images of that landscape are prevalent: of the little bars and restaurants that employ musicians, mostly playing a covers for the middle-age dinner crowd. It all has the kind of comfortable, not quite depressing humility that is too real to feel quaint.
Dylan talks candidly about his life and his lifestyle. About how his expectations change as he begins to settle down with his family. He marries in his early twenties and has a kid, which for most people means by necessity finding a nine-to-five job and leading a more conventional life. But Dylan goes another route. His describes the conversation with his pregnant wife, where he says very clearly that he’ll make sacrifices, but he won’t give up his music until he gets what he’s looking for. You can see that behind his tough, determined exterior, there a kind of terror. This wasn’t a easy thing to decide, even if it was inescapable.
Dylan talks about making a living. He seems to be working endlessly, playing bar gigs on the weekend and teaching upwards of sixty music lessons a week, all while still working part-time at a library. He’s got a indefatigable outlook, even when his infant son, Aiden, wakes him up in the wee hours of the night. He response is a kind of amused confusion. When he says "He’s so tired", it’s almost a question, as if he can’t quite relate.
At the end of the day this is a documentary about responsibility. On one level it’s clearly about Dylan’s responsibility to provide and care for his family. But more importantly it’s about his responsibility to himself. He knows that it’s up to him to make sure he’s doing what he wants to be doing. This becomes painfully clear halfway through, as he performs a rendition of a certain Stones song. You can see that even though he’s singing someone else’s words he’s telling his own story.
You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometime
You just might find
You get what you need.
LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org