“What’s it like?”
I figured I’d do something different for this blog and revisit a blog post I originally wrote Monday May 14th, 2007. I’ve updated it some as well with new perspectives and ideas as it’s been a few years and many more experiences were had since this was first written.
So many folks have asked me in the last few days, “what’s it like to play a gig?”
Music is a sculpture that interacts with the space it inhabits, the personalities that create it, and it mathematically interacts with the passage of time. It is constantly changing, evolving…
Sometimes it is grueling and painful. Like being an athlete who in the last mile of the race. You’ve played for almost 4 hours, your shoulder aches, your hands are succumbing to RSI injuries finally, and your focus may not be what it was in hour one…so you work to stay on your game. Your “game” is being part of the show. You’re entertaining people after all. It amazes me when I see pros who are suffering from a flu that would knock most of us down hard into bed get onstage and rock out like nothing is wrong. At all.
After the gig you might pack your wrists with ice and Salonpas pads…and rest. And you might have that occassional twinge that could be the start of arthritis. But you aren’t quite sure. Not every gig is like this…but it reminds me that I am finite, and this skill I have worked to develop may not last forever, despite working hard everyday at ensuring it lasts as long as possible.
It becomes wonderfully intense when the band is just hitting it hard…and you are aware that you (or all of you if you are in a band situation) are channeling something greater than the sum of the parts…that you are the conduit for something so much bigger than you…and you feel effortlessness and flow as it happens. That the band is now functioning as something far greater than the individuals in it.
Sometimes it is depressing, demoralizing….some scenes from gigs past to illustrate the point:
The time my friend’s tube amp tipped over and punched through the window of his Chevy blazer on the on ramp of a highway as we were coming home from a gig at 2 AM…my car, following close behind, was showered in glass shards.
Both basses AND my amp breaking during a major festival gig, far from home, one bass limps through the gig, the other is completely useless, the amp sending some god awful noisy signal through the DI out.
Performing with music students at a local mall (and the kids have prepared for weeks for this gig)….the mall management comes up to me and mid song, screams at me to my face, while I trying to sing, that the PA is too loud. My hands are full, I’m singing, I’m playing…I can’t reach the PA in 5 seconds or less…the mall managements’ solution is to walk over to the power cable and yank it…in front of a growing crowd of parents, friends and passing shoppers…end of show. We didn’t even finish the first song.
There are worse stories than this….but I do not wish to embarrass anyone. There’s no need to.
So that can be the ugly side of “what it’s like”.
On the bright side…there are all the wonderful folks I would have never met if I hadn’t taken this path. That list, is simply too long for this blog. And in the end, for all of that, I feel so fortunate. The music made, the companions well met, and the time spent traveling and meeting new people. And everyday finding ways to rise to new challenges presented to me.
Much gratitude, for all those blessings, people, the students, the opportunities, and those gigs that you finally get to play…the ones that you live a lifetime to have the opportunity to play. Much gratitude to all the folks who make my gear and support my endeavours. Much gratitude to all the folks who have helped me on this path.