Mile High Makeout: Turning the Corner

Intersections are messy, dangerous places.

This thought flashed through my head as I was driving across town on Colfax recently. To deal with the danger inherent in intersections, we are forced to put our faith in the rules of the road, in the competency and alertness of other drivers and, in some cases, in technology. If we didn’t we’d never get anywhere.

But the rules, other drivers and technology aren’t always reliable. Someone bruises a pedestrian when she forgets to yield while making a right turn. Another driver fails to use his turn signal, to disastrous effect. A few days ago, I approached a traffic light that was out due to a power failure, and none of the drivers at the intersection, including myself, could confidently recall the Driver’s Ed lesson that taught us what to do in such a circumstance.

People get frustrated at intersections. People get injured at intersections. And, yes, people die at intersections.

The intersection of art and commerce is only slightly less dangerous. People rarely – but occasionally – die at that intersection, but there is definitely pain and suffering there. Countless artists – especially in the popular arts of music, film and photography – have crashed their creative cars at that intersection. And an equal number of smart – and even well-meaning – business people have hurtled through their windshields and hit the pavement there.

A couple weeks ago, I was chatting with a musician – we’ll call him Orpheus – who was in a very successful Denver band that perished at the crossroads. Thanks to the passing of time, Orpheus is mostly able to swallow his bile about what went down, but it was clear from his story that this particular band had gone through the looking glass into the world of big business and, once there, found a number of horrifying creatures, some of which might have been hallucinatory. As Slayer once said, the only way out was piece by piece.

“It’s all so fucked up,” quoth Orpheus.

On the flipside, I had a conversation with a local club owner – we’ll call her Persephone – recently about a very similar topic from a very different point of view. Ostensibly a businesswoman, this ambitious individual – who has a genuine and nearly artistic enthusiasm for the music that gets cooked up in our little shtetl – expressed no small amount of vexation about the business. Persephone was particularly frustrated by the numerous ways in which musicians fail to understand the business with which they’re forced to interact and end up making decisions that hurt the businesses involved.

“It’s all so fucked up,” opined Persephone.

What fascinated me most, though, is that both of these conversations wound their way to the same theme: passion. Orpheus found that the business of music was sucking his passion away, and his only hope for salvation was to turn his back on the business to attend to that passion. Persephone, likewise, is doing her best to shelve her aggravation with musicians and focus instead on the love she has for those musicians and on the passion she has for helping them bring their art to its appreciators.

Now it’s not exactly breaking news that artists and businesspeople have different goals. Nor is it particularly surprising that doing the things about which we’re passionate makes us happier humans.

The real revelation – for me, anyway – is that the intersection between art and commerce only exists as a result of passion. Neither Orpheus nor Persephone approached that intersection out of greed – it’s not as if there’s great wealth to be had in our glittering little scene – or with malicious intent directed toward the other. On the contrary, both arrived in vehicles fueled by their love for music. As they faced off, glaring at each other through their windshields and asserting their right of way, both had their stereos blaring.

If only they’d used their turn signals… -- Eryc Eyl

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Sean Cronin