I've had a bone to pick with the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon, and not because it blocks off streets in my neighborhood or benefits Susan G. Komen. It's because, unlike other marathons that happen throughout the year, there are awful cover bands playing at full volume on a fucking Sunday morning in my neighborhood.
On Saturday, when I received a flier in my mailbox about Sunday's race, I prepared for the worst, based on the past two years. As a musician, I know I should reap what I sow, but there's a reason why I pound the shit out of my drums at a rehearsal space in a warehouse district and play paradiddles on a practice pad at home. Lucky me, I live within earshot of a stage on the course. Previously, I had the displeasure of waking up to the sounds of a funk band covering Britney Spears and Weezer songs. My whole house rattled, especially the floor boards, all morning long. Earplugs were quite handy.
So, somebody in the neighborhood had to have complained over these past two years, right? Maybe not enough to get the stage's location moved, or table the marathon altogether.
This year, a few minutes before 8 a.m., I got out of bed to the strains of a lightweight country band. I didn't need earplugs, thankfully. And this was way more tolerable than a 10-minute rendition of "Play That Funky Music." But I still wondered where the other bands were on the course. What were some of the other neighborhoods that had to put up with this crap? And, most importantly, did any of the live music make any kind of impact on the runners? Even though I was stiff and dehydrated from dancing my ass off at a wedding the night before, I had to investigate.
Walking down Swiss Avenue between Fitzhugh and Skillman, I saw plenty of well-wishers and spectators, but no music whatsoever, not even in the gazebo where many Mother's Day and Fourth of July celebrations are held. A number of runners had iPod earbuds in, charging ahead, and there were a few people on the side of the street handing out beer. Finally, a real-life version of those Michelob Ultra commercials!
Turning down Skillman, I heard the familiar sounds of "Born to Be Wild." Bammo. A four-piece rock band that would have fit in perfectly at an office-turned-sports-bar in Highland Village. Playing to a soundman and a steady stream of runners, they moved onto other classic rock staples like "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Voodoo Chile."
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A friend of mine who's a regular marathon runner passed me and I asked if the live music made a difference. "It helps," she said. I figured the bands inspired runners to pass by more quickly.
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Going back down Swiss, even more people cheered, waved and showed off signs. I heard a pissed-off man approach police officers stationed at the road block on Munger. Dropping f-bombs left and right, he said he lived on the street for many years and had to go to work. Usually, cops are good with letting residents come and go. I imagine he eventually got out.
I passed by the group giving out free beer. They were out and repeatedly told this to passing runners. Returning home, my house still wasn't shaking, and I was treated to "Respect," "Hold On, I'm Coming" and "That'll Be the Day," along with a few barking dogs. I looked forward to taking a nap in silence. That would eventually come by early afternoon. Before that, I got to hear a medley of "Shotgun" and "Play That Funky Music." At least it didn't go on for 10 minutes.
Marathons are fine, but do they really need live bands to be encourage participants to the finish line? And what benefit does it really have on the M Streets, Lakewood and Fair Park, aside from traffic headaches and thumping bass frequencies?