I wrote an essay about my recent experience performing. Hope it’s fun for you, enjoy:
Why do I play shows?
“The cliché of what a rock star is – there’s something elitist about it. I never related to that. I’m an entertainer. I think of it as, you’re performing for people. It’s not a self-glorification thing.” – Beck
So, wait: do you believe him? Maybe you’re at that point in your cortical growth where you’re doubting the smooth talkers; figure heads have been letting us down for ages, and preachers lie all the time. Ever met an idol of yours? I’d avoid it. I’d also avoid the word idol, when possible. We’re surrounded by marketers and makeup, but I always try to remember what musician, author, and drag queen Rupaul said: we’re all born naked and all the rest is drag. And all the rest is drag.
Let that ring. C00L.
So what should we believe? It’d be nice to believe Beck, but if you’re finding this hard to accomplish, try trading belief for the next best thing: acceptance. Accepting, in this case, means listening to Beck’s words, letting them drape our brain like a red velvet scarf (ah yes performing “FOR the people”, not just for the “ego”). I’ve become more tolerant to the idea of ‘not practicing what we preach’. I’ve traded my stubbornness for acceptance.
So what? We’re trying, that’s all we could ever do. It’s much better to preach something nice and not to practice it, than many alternative scenarios, like preaching something negative while also practicing it. Like over-glorifying materialism as a means to lasting happiness, or sean hannity’s face. Not even going to capitalize his name. If you find that offensive please stop reading these words, go outside, grab a human body and beg them for a hug. You deserve one, friend.
I accept what Beck is saying even if it’s not true, and I accept it because I want to believe it is true. It seems like the healthiest way to think about performance. I’m tempted to state that the word ‘healthy’ does not belong in the same sentence as the word ‘performance.’ Honestly, the mere desire to perform is quite disturbing. Before I inspire eyebrow raises and severe finger pointing, I’d like to make a clear distinction between “acting” performances and “music” performances. Acting, in most cases, involves becoming something other than yourself. Relinquishing all responsibility of one’s actions, allowing a strange freedom to be someone bad, good, funny, despicable, all the while completely escaping the reality of one’s own heart. It could be read as submissive behavior: submitting to the character, the writer, the director, the camera, the eyeballs in the room. It could also be read as powerful: a good liar is always powerful to some degree. In a way, actors are benign con artists: there’s an unmistakable charm to them, a spark (not to be confused by real life), an emptiness. // There is always an emptiness when avoiding the truth. I have here for you a related and distracting gum theory: I am convinced that 75% of gum chewing is an attempt at avoiding some sort of wicked truth. In other words, an attempt at quieting down a reality, curbing a sugar fix, avoiding a brush or even dinner altogether. Gum is heavy, despite its apparent casualness. Gum is emptiness. I mean, what the hell is gum? We’re not meant to swallow it, is it even food stuffs? Oh and also lying never works. Chewy.
Ok ok new-age gum analysis aside, one point cannot be ignored: it is strange to want to be a con artist. It is strange to want to escape yourself, in a room full of watchful, judgeful* eyes. It is just plain strange. Seeking approval? Partially. Seeking love? always. Seeking art? Definitely. Finding love? Evidently and unfortunately, no. A need that cannot be met smells a little like still water in a cup inside of an abandoned karaoke bar: sick and alone.
Music performances: unlike acting, we associate music performances with a vulnerability that comes directly from an honest source. Raw spots. You. And like any language, music is an expressed desire to relate to others. To make friends, to talk to gods, to let out a shout, to share the feels. Unlike Estonian, everybody speaks music ! We feel in our hearts and on our skin the intention of a piece of beautiful music. A good musical performance is well thought out, well executed, confident, cohesive. A great musical performance is when the musician lets you in on the moment of creation. The moment of art. Stay with me: it is undeniable, it is them. There’s no acting, there’s certainly no escaping now, and sometimes it’s almost painful to watch, like at your wedding, when your best friend tells you they’ve never seen you this happy. “He can see that??” you think to yourself; of course he can see that. Of course we can tell. I like this idea for musical performances, the honesty, the raw onions. Crunchy.
I am new to this performance thing. I’m still making sense of it all, the how, the who and the haunting and eye rolling why. Why? Why am I doing this.
I ask myself this question every time I have a show. In fact, the day before a show I plunge into this mindset jam-packed with one heavy heart and a couple of audible sighs. Why do I do this?
I wasn’t born to act. I never experienced a day dream in which i became someone else on a mood-lit stage, in front of humans. When it came to public speaking (or any scenario that consisted of the amplification of my voice in front of people), I wanted one of two scenarios: a funny joke to break tension, or some useful insight — simply put, I wanted to be me. This deduction of wanting to be me took longer than one can imagine, but here we are, there, further along the self reflection river. So why do I play shows?
I started playing my own music, by myself, this past summer. That’s 9 months ago // I’m a new mom. I’m watching my baby learn how to open her eyes. I know she recognizes me because every time I pick her up she makes the same sounds// In fact I played my first show on my birthday, July 24 2014. It was a coincidence by all accounts, and a healthy one at that: a slice of sympathy birthday quiche was served, enough to feed every one. The rather intimate audience of roughly 25 people included some old and new friends. It was lovely, in theory. However, and we all know this to be true, beginnings are always quite rough. If I had the tools to use statistics and cross reference facts, I would conclude that this show that I played on my birthday, my very first show of original songs – friends and smiles aplenty – was, in reality, an utter analog and digital disaster.
–End of part one–
*Not a word; but words are made by people. Step one.