Thanks for being in my life and on my mind. I probably miss you and hope that you are well, and if we haven’t met yet, I still wish you good health and clarity; when you are well you are a sun, so treat yourself nicely please.. Get a massage // Pet a goat // s t r e t c h.
Here is part II of my essay. Hope you enjoy~~!
The Performer: Part II
Why do I play shows, dammit?
There are two key moments I want you to remember from my previous essay (Part I):
- I feel a gloomy sense of “why” before every show. Why do I do this. I carry an unmistakable heavy heart.
- My first show was on my birthday last year and was a beautiful disaster.
My first show — i was human back then: I was nervous as all Hades, alone without a band, in front of many eyeballs, just me and my sounds. Here are some things that happened during the show:
- My guitar wasn’t tuned because of a really crazy story involving faulty electronics and a white lie. Had to stop my first song: “sorry guys, my guitar is lying to you”.
- I stopped another song twice (two times) and never finished it, due to an unexpected EQing issue.
- I experienced the ever disorienting “not being able to hear myself” scenario due to a lack of monitors, which means I was mostly scream singing.
- My sampler’s volume was incredibly low because of electronic issues. This left my phat beats at hibernation mode, instead of the desired ferocious bear stage. Not ideal for head bobbing.
There’s a huge difference in how a seasoned performer and a novice performer deals with live blunders: the difference is that a novice lets it show. A single human on stage, amplified, can ideally become the focal point of a space. More than that, he/she becomes the energy source, the gravitational pull, the celestial light bulb, the 7 pound gum on the shoe. So naturally, when a performer looks uncomfortable on stage, we feel uncomfortable for them ! “Oh no” drops the heart as it hurriedly sends compassionate heat waves across our chests. You know the feeling when you watch someone feel public shame: almost immediately our eyebrows gather in solidarity, mirroring the outline of an old, dead oak. We, as an audience, look for cues from our performers; cues on how we should feel. We want to be lead into the feeling: ‘hey. Psst. is there joy here in your wall of sound? Is your musical nostalgia a self-pitying affair or is there beauty in the small sadnessess? Should I be thinking about my mother in angst or is it even her fault?’ A good performer can give us answers to questions that have been phrased and rephrased in our minds for decades. Or maybe they just give us permission to finally let go. I have been learning about this new role of mine, as a ~performer~, in the traditional way: the hard one.
My first show was the best show I’ve ever played. It allowed me to experience every emotion possible on stage, including: sadness, fear, anger, disappointment, utter relief, joy and finally, it allowed me to be me. I became comfortable accepting my mistakes. My very public mistakes. Here’s a moment for you: want to know the true character of a person? Give them a microphone and an audience, then create an unexpected problem (e.g. turn off the mic for a few seconds). Watch closely and listen in, because they will do either one of two things: they will either diffuse the situation by taking responsibility, or they will blame someone else (often the sound person). The illusion of losing power or control in a public space: that’s how you know who you’re dealing with. This learning moment has happened to me many times over the past year, and boy does that come in handy. I think i’m growing, you guys.
As a performer, I keep saying this in my head: don’t be a selfish leader. Don’t look into the lake and fall in. Don’t buy into your own marketing, that’s rule #5 in human. Be a person that makes people feel good because we’re in this together, not because we gathered here today to witness the miracle of you. Why the hell do I play shows? Because people ask me to. They see merit in my audible cave paintings. They see my scratches on the walls and they bob their heads to them and think about life. I cannot express how honored I am that people want me to play in front of their heads and hearts. In this way I am encouraged to be myself and to share some ideas that I think are interesting. How could I say no to that?
I still carry a heavy heart to each show; and that spotlight, that damn spotlight keeps trying to separate me from my tribe~! But I know better, and I know better than to let a feeling rule me. We have a choice up there on the physical stage as we do in our own personal theater of the mind: we can let our hearts get torn in the blender each night, with each dark passing judgement (the judgement of strangers, peers, or family), or we can let go of the outside noise and try and make peace from within. Working on this one is humbling and very non-linear, with ups and downs and many diagonals; However, if I was given the task of condensing my advice to a charming yet reductive bumper sticker, I would design a rectangle with these two simple words: give fearlessly.
— End of Part II —
Stay tuned for Part III