Blog 2 Playing to No one

BLOG 2: Playing to no one

No one wants to play to no one (I think?) and gigs where no one turns up have, for me, been traditionally ‘no fun’.
None the less you still go on stage, not only to perform that night but also to continue booking shows and agreeing to perform again. A bad gig is an experience so depressing and crushing to the psyche and soul as to make one give up completely, not just on music and the promise it holds but on life and possibility all together. It’s no fun.

So unfortunately often when I do end up playing to no one and earning nothing I walk away with the ‘bad-gig-blues’ (which are less like blues and more like chronic depression). I read a long time ago somewhere that before Springsteen made it famous he made a promise to himself that no matter if he was playing to 5 or 5000 people he’d always give100%. And I read that and thought that it was so awesome; so strong, so respectful and that I wanted to be a man like Bruce ☺


Putting that into practice however I’ve found to be one of the great challenges of performing. Despite my best intentions I find my performance having a very direct relationship to the audience, in that the amount of enthusiasm, passion and emotion (as well as between-song banter) I conjure is in direct proportion to the number of people I’m performing to and the amount of interest or enthusiasm they’re feeding back to me by there attentiveness, dancing or cheering.

Now while this is perfectly understandable to most folks and they tell me after “ well you were great, the crowd were stink” or “its not your fault such and such were playing down the street, if you’d had a better crowd you’d have been awesome” but the reality is that regardless of the external factors, I know inside that I’ve just performed half heartedly and without conviction which causes me to lose conviction in myself and my music (and consequently faith in the world) and at that point The fact that we cant pull a crowd is just the shit-icing on the cake.

Where as, conversely I’ve also had times where I’ve been able to get over myself and a small or despondent crowd and give it my absolute best and walk off feeling like despite the odds I’m a fucking legend and the future is bright, and at that point the fact that my performance may have increased the number walking in or the responsiveness of the crowd is just the nice-icing on the cake.

So then here’s the conundrum: why, when I know that I can overcome the external conditions and give all of myself and have an amazing experience and I know that if I give in to doubt and negativity I become more and more self conscious and inhibited and feel like shit, why would I ever give less?

The answer to that question is probably the secret to success and after 5 years studying psychotherapy and 12 years of studying religion and spirituality I am still yet to find a meaningful answer, philosophy, ritual or practice that can consistently elevate me beyond my feelings and thoughts in those situations and enable me to transcend.

It seems that when in those situations sometimes I ascend and other times I fall.

The fact that 90% of our gigs are packed and the audience is psyched and the whole things is kick ass. Is an honor and a privilege and I’m truly grateful to all the friends and fans that make that happen. For those of you have been at some of the other 10% shows I thank you too, some nights I gave you a raw deal and some of those nights turned out better than any of us imagined, because not only did we find that sweet spot of connection, musical intimacy and selflessness but we did so by overcoming or redeeming something, which meant that the momentum with which we entered Zion, and the relief that our arrival delivered, made it all the more fulfilling and sweet.

So I’m still worried about the 50% of 10%. The 5% where people either aren’t there or just aren’t interested and I’m choking and closing up and I cant think of anything useful to tell myself to break through. My normal recipes and formulas that ‘worked last time’ aren’t working tonight and if I don’t pull something out of the hat I’m gonna walk off stage and for the next 24 hours not even have enough spark to want to kill myself, just a despondency and an indifference to existence.

In writing this I realise that I’m not worried about myself in that 5%, I signed on for the high highs I can take the low lows. My concern is for those people who came out, who paid there money, who hoped for fun and excitement, who came to be touched and inspired, who deserve my best and instead get the ageing drug counselor with stage-fright whose in a Tommy’s cover band in the weekends and who people could only enjoy in the embarrassed and anxious kind of way that folks enjoy ‘the office’.

I have no idea how to apologise or atone for those nights and it’s certainly not within the realm of this word document to provide the remedy for them. I guess like most things in this website the idea is to just open up my/our world to you all and give you a true insight into our lives. Not the guarded E-Hollywood story’s or the homogenised media interviews you get of the rich and famous, or the image conscious bios and media releases that so many upcoming bands have mandated for them by managers and publicists.

This is who I am; working a day job, longing for a musical career, uncertain, insecure sometimes, jaded and weary about the music industry, but still loving my life and still not beyond hope. I’m guessing the types of folks likely to read this are the ones likely to relate in some way. Love bless us all, may we find some way to utilize all of our weaknesses and defense mechanisms (no matter how engrained and out-dated) and may we always have compassion and generosity towards the outcasts.

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