All Dressed

Praise You: notes on Kassa Overall at the Montreal Jazz Festival

There are two types of people in this world: those who do things, and those who try to stop those who do things from doing things.

Take photographers, for example. Photographers do things; they take photographs.

Around the act of taking photographs is an assortment of other things that need to be done, things like obtaining specialized knowledge, buying cameras and film, acquiring lights and accessories, setting up photo shoots, along with all the other things that everyone else does, like arranging transportation, finding parking, fixing lunch — all while navigating an increasingly hostile world.

On the other hand, take bouncers. Bouncers — security guards, cops, soldiers — are the type of people who try to stop those who do things — say, photographers — from doing their thing. People like this see a world of interdictions within which they must insert themselves as arbiters.

These don’t doers may think that they’re doing things. They may believe that they’re keeping the world safe, guarding and enforcing some abstract sense of social order, separating right from wrong. But even the most chaotic and dangerous of people that security guards stop from doing things are in the ‘those who do things’ camp. Even a suicide bomber is a doer. Especially them.

Security guards who try to stop photographers from entering a gig with a camera are a special kind of people who try to stop those who do things, though. Those kind of people are malicious, spiteful, hostile, small-minded people. Maybe there are three types of people in this world: those who do things, those who try to stop them, and those who stop them in bad faith.

Perhaps in a time before everyone’s telephone was also an entire media production studio, it might have made some form of sense for a bouncer to stop a photographer from taking photographs at a gig. Nor is a photographer doing anything that every other person at every gig worldwide does nowadays: taking photographs. A photographer at a gig is not a suicide bomber.

Especially if that photographer is accompanying a journalist, and they have both been invited to the gig, and they have an email stating so, and that gig is in fact free to enter, and they have spoken to the front of house, and are endeavouring to do the things that they do honestly, politely, and with integrity, a bouncer trying to stop these two people is a supreme don’t-doer.

Thomas Hawes for NicheMTL

But back to the doers for a moment.

Musicians tend to be doers. Ideally, musicians make organized sound that pleases its listeners. Oftentimes, musicians also incline to be photogenic, which spurs photographers to take photographs of them doing their thing. Musicians tend, too, to be expressive while making music, which prompts journalists to attempt to describe in words the feeling of experiencing their musicmaking. It’s a constellation of people who do things, all bouncing off of each other as they’re doing their things.

There are some musicians who are especially good at making music. This usually means that they have spent extraordinary amounts of time and energy doing the things they do. Being steeped in a world of other doers usually produces more doers. It becomes a practice. Practice becomes a habit. And practicing doing becomes a way of life. Maybe there are four types of people in the world: those who do things, those who stop them, those who stop them with extreme prejudice, and then those who do things and do them artfully.

These are the better doers and, in my opinion, the best of the four (and counting) types of people in this world. I am particularly fond of emcees with impeccable style and just the right amount of braggadocio. Everyone loves exceptionally talented pianists and bassists and percussionists. Soprano saxophonists who run through the crowd in the process of doing the thing that they do — well, for all I’m concerned, they can do that all day. And there is a special place in my heart for a band that can make their entire audience jump all at once.

The dynamism between the world of the doers and the don’t doers could not be more different. Doers flow. Don’t doers block that flow. While musicians, journalists, and photographers do what they do, security guards and bouncers lurk about with their prohibitory vibes. Security guards ply their trade — at best, stopping punters from tossing beer bottles at the band, and at worst stopping the creative flow of doers from doing. A circulatory rhythm emerges as those diametric energies course, halt, and resume anew.

I suppose it’s possible that these two general types of people need one another, like the classic yin-yang pattern, each polar opposite containing a little piece of the other. Imagine a world where no one ever stopped doers from doing things. There might be more suicide bombings. Or there might be more beautiful photographs.

Thomas Hawes for NicheMTL

But imagine a world in which everyone stopped everyone else from doing things all the time. Imagine an exponentially escalating don’t-do zeitgeist in which people started stopping other people from stopping people from stopping people. I don’t want to live in that world. That’s the world we’re making — allowing the people who try to stop people who do things from doing things to be in control.

It would be a much better world if the people who stopped people from doing things could take a break for a change and let the people who do things have some praise. We’ve really gone through enough in the past three years at the behest of the people who stop people from doing things.

Photographers, journalists, and musicians who are excellent at what they do should be kings and queens for a minute. The artist Kassa Overall at his Montreal Jazz Fest performance repeated the phrase a number of times to an enraptured crowd: “This is our time. This is our time.” It’s time for some major doings.

And as for the world’s don’t doers? Those people must be stopped.◼︎

Kassa Overall’s Animals is released via Warp Records.