For the first time this year (first time in bloody ages), I've got a gig. A proper one, too, where people will be required to part with money in order to bathe themselves in the proffered aural delights. And, also for the first time in a very long time, I must confess to being more than a little nervous about the prospect. At the age of 40, having done many hundreds of gigs with no qualms whatsoever about potentially making a grand arse of myself, I started wondering why...
Maybe part of the reason is it's going to be a duo gig - small, intimate. Just my good friend Mr. Martin Lennon on finger-lickin'-good-bluesy-folk-pickin' acoustic guitar and singing-related activities, with me sliding around on a fretless bass, mostly somewhere near a note that could - in the right circumstances (possibly free jazz) - be considered appropriate. Playing his songs, too. None of that stuff that people 'already know and are heartily sick to death of, but will get up on tables and dance/sing/grunt along to once sufficient alcohol has been consumed'. Not that any of Martin's songs are 12-and-a-half minute prog-folk epics, packed with time/key/underwear changes either (although given half the chance...). No, these are relatively 'simple' tunes, the majority of them medium-to-slow pace, with 4 chords or fewer - which probably provides the rest of the explanation for the onset of nerviness.
This isn't some faceless, play-by-numbers, (apologies for admitting it, but let's be honest, in the world of 'function-band' musical-whoredom, the band are often a great deal less than entirely engaged with the process,even if they successfully keep up the pretense - not to mention the rictus grins - and the audience remains ignorant), done-it-all-many-times-before corporate event - this is me promising to perform to the absolute best of my abilities, promoting the musical aspirations of a close friend, while playing music where mistakes/lapses of concentration/disharmonic note selections are going to stand out like a humorous-yet-non-clichéd-simile I haven't got the time to think of right now. But I might edit one in later.
There's absolutely nowhere to hide with this one. Performing fast, complex music in a band is far easier, once you've acquired sufficient technique to not be struggling physically. Bum notes can fly past and disappear, perhaps simply be obscured by everyone else's noise - or there's the old adage that if you make a mistake, "repeat it three times and they'll think you're a genius" (couldn't find a source for this - anyone? usually ascribed to Chuck Berry, I think??).
But when you switch to a more gentle, 'contemplative' mood, your part is 'exposed', (a swift "Titter ye not!" is, I believe, required to be inserted at this point - for anyone who doesn't understand that reference, click here, and a brief introduction to the world of Frankie Howerd shall be yours - a comedian who could render an audience helpless with laughter for half-an-hour without telling a single 'proper' joke. But I digress...), and you aren't trying to over-compensate for something with pointless 'note-cramming'; that is, in fact, a far trickier situation. Much more opportunity to do something unpleasant (however accidental) to spoil somebody else's carefully-crafted material, so it's not just my (supposed/alleged/pathetically craved?) musical reputation/self-image that would take a severe dunt.
Still, I'm really looking forward to this one. The nerves should prevent any latent complacency from manifesting itself. Well, that's the plan, anyway. Should be fine, as long as I'm not clenching too hard during the gig. 'Elegant simplicity'(!) is, I hope, what can be achieved, even after a long day of small-child-wrangling, then a mad dash by public transport which might get me to the venue with half-an-hour to spare. Which would be nice.
Life is always better with a soundcheck.
p.s. complete non-sequitur, but - what you get when you discuss ways of improving the dialogue in the first three 'Star Wars' films with your friends:
(from part III, "Revenge Of The Sith"
ANAKIN: I've just learned a terrible truth. I think Chancellor Palpatine is a Sith Lord.
MACE WINDU: A Sith Lord?
ANAKIN: Yes. The one we have been looking for.
MACE WINDU: How do you know this?
ANAKIN: He knows the ways of the Force. He has been trained to use the dark side.
MACE WINDU: Are you sure?
MACE WINDU: Enough is enough. I have had it with these motherf@@king Sith on this motherf@@king planet!
well, it made us laugh...