Yesterday evening, I did an "acoustic gallery," which is a euphemism for "here's this thing so you can play a few songs for 20-40 people, and then they clap like ya done real good." A few dozen of the area musicians alternate taking the spotlight an evening at a time, once a month. They're generally organized to feature two separate musicians in one night, and it was cool that I'd be playing with the guy (Brian) who was coincidentally my co-headliner last time (May 2003) I did one of these. For close to a decade, I'd play with the band nearly every weekend, but in the last three years-ish, I play every few months, and rarely anything but solo. Therefore, these monthly trysts are nearly all I have anymore to resemble a real gig (besides this coming Saturday, but that will be another JE).
During the day, I was feeling horribly unrehearsed, since I haven't taken much time to play in the past few weeks. When I agreed to the date last month, I was hoping to have a couple new pieces written by now, since I've tired of the material I feel I've overplayed. I also really wanted to have a CD finished, but alas...
Without any new stuff, I resigned to this being more of a "covers night" than I've done in eons (and probably ever in a solo setting). I made additions to my repur-toyre (that's French) by learning songs as they occurred to me, one last Sunday (the 2nd), one Sunday (the 9th), and another (*groan*) yesterday morning. This last one (BNL's "Some Fantastic") wouldn't have posed an issue at all if I had just gone over it a few times. The guitar's rhythm contrasts with the vocals just enough that it's not just a slam-dunk like many simpler tunes, but it's nothing intense; I played it twice today, and it's pretty smooth now.
Early yesterday, I became thoroughly discouraged after a spat with the GF and put down my guitar, skulking to the basement for a few hours, disturbingly aloof to the crucial rehearsal time I was ignoring. I didn't feel like playing at all, which is incredibly out of character. I probably would have canceled, save for my policy of keeping commitments unless I'm dead.
This is especially bad for me, because I generally blow off preparing for these things until a day or two before, then I get irritated when I play the jazz chords in "Butterfly," a tune I wrote a few years back to prove to myself that I'll never again play frequently enough to condition my hands against cramping. My sister loves this song and insists upon hearing it every time I play, and of course, she was there last night.
I finally snapped out of my funk ~30 minutes before showtime, changed my shirt, and let Nik drive, since her record with speeding tickets is better than mine. While I arrived at the bar quite stressed, I knew I'd be able to pull enough experience out of my ass to at least give a marginal performance, but I still hate feeling unprepared. I even ordered a beer (a rarity for me). At this point I should mention that I've played enough that I haven't gotten "stagefright" in a long time. This was more of an uneasiness in knowing I wasn't as prepared as I should be. I don't know if any non-musicians will be able to discern the difference, but I'm struggling with putting it into words. Sorry.
It was nice to see that everyone there seemed eager to be hearing me play again. Brian was one of the most gracious about this. I told him, "I was first last time, so you wanna go first this time?" I recalled feeling bad, because my family & friends had come in droves to watch me play, and half of them left when I was done. Part of it was the hour, like sedawkgrep's mom had to be at work at 4 am, and my Buddy Rich had his young daughters with him. But it still looks bad when the second guy only has six or eight people left listening. I genuinely liked his material, but when the crowd clears on you like that, it's hard telling yourself that many people have to get up early. I know; it happens every year the night before the Super Bowl. The first time REALLY bothered me.
So anyway, I asked if he wanted to go first this time, and he told me, "You're damn right I'm going first; I don't ever want to have to follow you again." He's a great guy, and when I told him he was being too kind, he informed me that he was serious; he really didn't want to play second. I think this little stroke to my ego helped more than I realized at the time. Brian's set went well, and it contained a tune I remembered from last time, the only other time I'd heard it. He and his wife have discussed children, and upon speculating the possibility of a girl (whom they plan to name "Grace Elizabeth"), we wrote a song to his yet-to-be-conceived daughter. I like all his songs, but this one is particularly good.
Playing second also gave me an opportunity to hang with my son; the usual daddy's-boy in him was magnified by his recent cold. He still bounced in fairly decent time through most of the set... The little guy's got soul and groove to accompany the antibiotics in his blood.
My turn: I felt fairly comfortable, and it went much more smoothly than I had feared it would (of course, since this is probably the most ill-prepared I've been in ten years, I had chaotic visions of forgetting entire verses, flubbing chords left and right, and breaking at least one of my should-have-been-changed-yesterday strings). I spontaneously added three original songs to my set, the last of which was an encore. Deviating from my safe, planned set is rare these days. The earliest addition bypassed its history of giving me vocal troubles (how's that for impaired: writing crap you can't sing?). And speaking of flat notes, I didn't notice many, and that also helped my mindset.
So, it appears that my rust was "a bit rusty." Yippee.
Note: This is not to say that I executed a flawless performance. I made mistakes on probably every song. I botched lyrics, necessitating the "swap half of the third verse with half of the second disaster recovery program" on at least two of my own compositions (nice). I fretted chords wrong and even stopped in the middle of "Some Fantastic" for a second, having lost my groove and just knowing that I'd treat everyone to a rhythm train wreck if I tried to continue. Blech.
Yet overall, it was a decent gig, great considering my particularly callow practice-free afternoon. Most of the mistakes were small enough that only musicians would notice. Hopefully my one beer wasn't enough to make me feel this way, but Nik even told me that it went well. She has the "backstage access," so she knows when I haven't prepped enough, when I'm feeling relaxed or stressed. I can always count on her for an honest opinion.
...at least I think she's honest. We'll see when I get my copy of the CD the soundman made.
Feeling a bit better than yesterday,