Who’s the freak show? + FFAQ poll UPDATED WITH PHOTO

When I was in college, I played in an orchestra concert, and afterwards a friend of mine in the viola section came up to me and said “My girlfriend was in the audience. She noticed you playing.” I was all flattered for a second, and then he broke the news. “She was like ‘who’s the freak show?'”
It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. 
It was me. I was the freak show. 
I hadn’t realized it, but when I play, I look freaking weird. 
Just try this mental image on for size. This is what that girl must have seen. Imagine an overweight guy with a white-man fro in a disheveled tuxedo. He is playing the violin madly and he has a crazy-looking lazy eye that wanders wherever it wants. And then, to top it all off he plays with his mouth open.

Seriously. I do. It’s weird. I can’t explain it.
And yes, that’s what she saw. 
I wish with all my heart I had a picture.
Instead, I have footage of me playing a few weeks ago. The angle doesn’t show my open mouth as blatantly, so you don’t see my “freak show” face in all it’s glory, but there are a few moments where you get the picture. Also, I weigh a lot less now. And you can’t see my crazy eye. But it’s still kinda fun. Plus, this is the fourth movement from the symphony I talked about in this post, so now you have a visual. Killing multiple birds with one stone. It’s what I’m all about.
(Decent open-mouth points: 2:14, 3:44 (kinda), 4:38–these are all okay. The best open mouth sequence starts at 5:09ish, plus there’s a glasses adjustment that makes me miss a note. LOVE IT.)
I should probably look up how to link those. 
Item #2 on the agenda: 
See how on top of things I am? Logo at the beginning of the sequence. BAM.

Okay, so it’s Saturday, which is admittedly a weird time to do a Friday’s Frequently Asked Question poll, but I’m a rebel who plays the violin with his mouth wide open, so what did you expect?
You know the drill. Ask questions (about anything). Do dittoes on questions you like. Question with the most dittoes wins. Voting’s open for 24 hours (which means halfway through Sunday. Weird.) I’ve loved the last few winning questions. Thanks for your creativity and ingenuity. Don’t be afraid. Ask! That’s the run down on how this whole thing works.
Any questions? 
(See what I did there?)
I feel the need to provide a picture of me earlier in life so you can see the mental picture necessary for the “freak show” comment.
I found a winner:
Well, hello there.

That’s me on the left. Dressed in a plaid shirt (which I wore every single day no matter what even at the beach, apparently). Check the white-man fro. Check the face. Now, imagine that face playing a violin, mouth agape, weird eye blowing in the breeze in a frumpy tuxedo.
That should give a better picture.


  1. Great piece–love Tchaikovsky! (even though I had to look at the title of the video to spell it right). My boys used to watch the DVDs of high school honor band concerts just so they could catch people making weird faces, pause it, and laugh hysterically.

    1. Ah, you're sweet. I wish I had an actual picture–I probably ruined the story by not having the evidence to back it up. It was pretty rough, is all I can say.

      But thanks for making me feel good! You are very kind.

  2. FFAQ: What is your favorite part of being a therapist? What is your least favorite part?

    Disclaimer: I stole the FFAQ from another poster from 2013, but I thought it was good and wanted it to be near the top so it had a chance 🙂

    Other: I would definitely trade looking like a freak show if I could play like that.

    1. Ditto!

      I'm quite sure I could never be a therapist. I care about people, but I could never listen to people (like me) share their pain all day long. I don't think I could hope to come to close to my therapist's patience either. Thanks for doing the kind of work you do. 🙂

  3. This is pretty personal, so feel free to not even post it if you don't feel comfortable answering, Josh.

    You said awhile back that when you and Lolly are intimate you are careful not to think about other things. I just wonder, seeing as guys are often very visual and you are gay, how exactly does that work?

    Thanks for being so real and so awesome. And I think you look just fine. And you sound great!

  4. I am chiming in fast this time! Who's your celebrity crush? Feel free to name more than one if you want. We know Lolly's, unless she'd like to ammend that answer.

    I hope I win this time!

  5. I am chiming in fast this time! Who's your celebrity crush? Feel free to name more than one if you want. We know Lolly's, unless she'd like to ammend that answer.

    I hope I win this time!

  6. With all due respect: As a gay man, was it difficult to share a room with another male on your mission? (Do you feel it's appropriate?) What about dressing out in the PE locker room? …and other life situations? 'cuz as a straight female, it'd be equivalent to me being in those situations with males…but just because you're the same sex, society lumps you in those situations.

  7. In your video, on the opposite side of the orchestra from you is a very thin young man with glasses who is rocking a white afro and struggling with his jacket while he plays. Undoubtedly, he looked at himself critically much as you did. What would you say to this young man if you heard someone say to him that he looked like a freak show?

  8. I love it! And I'm usually too focused on all the notes I'm missing to even look your way while we're playing, so….I didn't notice your open mouth. Now, however….be prepared for strange looks coming from your right. *Muahahaha*

  9. You guys are great! And I'm SO glad you DO open your mouth because that piece obviously requires a LOT of oxygen! Ever heard of ujai (yogic term) breathing??? You are so half-way there. Now make a Darth Vader sound as you inhale AND exhale and you've got it. Excellent! And I did see one adorable afro.

    Dang. I can't think of a question now…

  10. Fabulous Josh! – I LOVE all kinds of music. I am so thrilled by anyone who has musical talent. I didn't think you showed any sign of freakishness, as a matter of fact – you and most of the musicians just have that wonderful unigue quality that is usually seen oozing out of someone who is making music and feeling it from deep within their soul. I always love to watch the conductors because they clearly have great power flowing through them. I get goose bumps when I see amazing singers reach all the way to their toes for the beautiful music which comes out of their mouths. And I am never bothered by the contourtions that occur when a musician's spiritual soul over rides their physical body's limitations. If that young and obviously immature girl in the audience back then would have had a better understanding for, and love of, music, she would have realized that what she was watching was not a 'freak' but a talented, passionate, musician – someone special, someone 'UNIQUE'. Love you Josh (PS – hug Lolly for me)

  11. 😀 Reminds me of when I had to play a piano solo at a big family reunion around the age of 12. Flared my nostrils wide the entire time. Realized I was doing it, but couldn't stop.

  12. By the way, I too agree that freak show is a little harsh. Seems to say to me more about her insecurity, than your actual appearance. I have often suffered from thinking I also looked like a freak, but when I watched the video, all I saw was a handsome, dedicated man who obviously cared about his performance. There was obviously a little mouth opening, but freak status? Not seeing it. And when did pushing glasses up nose become ridiculous or over the top? Anyway, just my two cents worth. Even not knowing your backstory from reading here, you just looked like a pretty normal human being to me. And I highly doubt I'm the only one who saw nothing particularly standing out and calling "Freak!"

  13. I figure if I can't play the violin that superb (or at all) then it is not my place to judge how people look…besides you look just fine. When I was learning how to play the piano I played with my mouth open too I think it was cause I was mostly in shock that I was actually playing an instrument. I'm more of a sports person especially tennis but I grunt like an ape and jump around like a 3 year old hyped up on caffine. My partner used to make fun of me but we were good so it didn't matter to me as long as we had fun 🙂

  14. FFAQ Question: As you are very familiar with the LDS church's stand on homosexuality, I would like to know if you have heard reliable instruction on the LDS Church's stand on cross-dressing? Or is that behavior/need not discussed during lectures/discussions on "gender issues"?

    And yes, I'm married to one who gives the "I can't help it-it's part of me" speech to anyone who will listen. Sigh.

  15. I think my question didn't win, again. Aw shucks. 🙂

    I just want to say as a fellow musician… a viola player insulted you? Seriously?! The viola is worthy of mockery all on its own.

    1. Now Juliet, tsk, tsk. I'm going to model mature behavior and not skewer you with my viola bow. You should pick up the instrument – it's a lot of fun. And in orchestra, if you get to sit in the back of the section in a romantic symphony (Schumann is good that way) when the you're doubling the trombones, you have this big round sound that is out of this world. Sadly, not one you can duplicate when you're on your own, but worth experiencing when it does happen.

      Just saying.

    2. LOL! Just catching up here, since Weed put on FB that the blog is gonna have a Renaissance of sorts. (We'll see…..). Anyway.So Judith, I speak as a music ed grad, so I have taken string methods and played a bit of viola and….mostly everything else. Its just a harmless musician joke. I play clarinet, can't be much nerdier than that right? Especially when your name rhymes with your main instrument! Oh well. I embrace the nerdiness. Let my freak flag fly, etc.

      I'd say the same about a euphonium player trying to insult someone. But, ahem… I married a euphonium player so maybe I should refrain from doing that.

  16. Oh Weed……I've loved you for years now AND I am such a sucker for a violin that this is going to work out very wonderfully indeed. Just beautiful! Both of you. 😀

  17. ….and it was mean for that girl to say "freak show" but if she was a teenager that would be –like, totally normal. Teenage girls say mean things all the time. Sometimes they don't grow out of that stage, and we have to pray for them. It's exHAUSTing. 😀

  18. How do you play with your mouth open? I'm a violinist, too, and I only do that in desperation if I have a cold and can't breathe through my nose.

  19. Do you know anything about the Aspergers community, and if so, do you identify with it? No I don't mean you have Aspergers, I just think you would have the ability to really understand such persons.

  20. Well, Weeder, I don't really know what kind of frenemy offers up such comments. Some people have a misconception that every thought must be uttered in the name of "honesty". was trying to explain to my 7 year old today why this is not so. But in her defense, she's 7.
    Anyway I'm glad you were able to laugh it off.
    Now I feel kind of inspired to post my nerdy 7th grade pictures.
    I had a lot of frenemies in 7th grade too.

  21. It took me a while because I didn't have time to listen properly.

    First of all – this is SUCH A GREAT PIECE!!! Thanks for the chance to listen – you guys must have had so much fun playing it. I might switch to cymbals if I get a chance to play this some day…

    Second – You DO look fine. We have to open our mouths to keep the fiddle secure without messing up our shoulder muscles. You're fine. I won't totally agree with Juliet, (at least, I might have once, but not since I took up the viola!). But if ANYONE comments on your appearance ever – well, these kind of comments are rude. That's all there is to it.

    And third – you missed a NOTE in this movement? Please. What is that, like a fraction of a fraction of a percent of what Tchaikovsky wants you to throw into the exhilarating soup? Jeepers. Chill. I also wear glasses. I miss a lot more than a last-movement-of-Tchaikovsky's-4th-note when I adjust them, and I need to, in order to play all the other measures properly!!

    Go guy!

  22. Remember Tuesday's Top Ten? Those were awesome (just like all your posts)! 🙂 hey tomorrow is Tuesday! Perhaps a comeback? 😉

  23. I read an article in Rolling Stone called, Gay, Mormon & Finally Out. It is about front man of the Neon Trees, Tyler Glenn. Even though he is gay he continues to identify him self as a Mormon even that he doesn't follow all the rules. Also, his band mates are Mormon however, only one is an active Mormon. I have a two part question, have you read the article? What do you think about people who are not active Mormons continue to identify themselves as Mormon?

  24. Dear Weeds,
    I can't find another way to send this to you, as I'm sure you don't want an e-mail account being spammed with messages from random people and maybe haters. I just want to let you know that I recently found this blog, basically by accident, and I am so grateful for what you are doing and your contribution to the gay rights discussion. I have a brother who is gay and I wish someone as brave and strong as Josh and Lolly had been there when he was making his decisions to help him understand his options fully. You have a beautiful family. Don't listen to the haters. Keep doing what you are doing!

  25. You and Lolly are missed and loved. I am sure you have a lot on your plate right now and can't always blog. I just wanted you to know that many miss you! Please don't let the negative people silence your voice. I think people feel threatened by the things they can't understand. I am praying for you all.

  26. I swayed a lot in my choir concerts. And I didn't find out about how conditioner is nice until I was around 17. And I have this facial tic where I ROLL my eyes when I'm nervous so hi, freak show 🙂 Enjoying good company.

  27. Just stumbled across your blog. Loved this post! My teenage daughter plays the violin and hates to be watched while she plays, as she says she doesn't want to mess up and look like a freak. I will have to share your post with her. Loved watching the video. It was nice to see her old violin teacher that recently moved up north playing in it. Thank you 🙂

    1. On the Facebook page it says they're working on moving to a new blogging platform. Perhaps that's the reason for the absence?

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