Have you ever woken up in a cold sweat after a nightmare about singing in front of a large crowd? The idea isn’t exactly a relaxing one right?
But since when have social interactions ever been relaxing? There’s always an invisible barrier of awkwardness as we grapple to find the right words for a situation, be sufficiently funny or clever, and hide the bits we don’t want people to see.
We learn to hide things because we’re scared that otherwise people will see us for what we are – good but ultimately flawed. But when are we truly happy? Always when we’re brave enough to throw down the barrier, or accidentally forget to be afraid for a moment.
When someone does drop their guard a little to reveal flaws as well as strengths, what then? Normally we like them even more for it – they’ve shown us a mirror to ourselves, to our humanity. Fuck it maybe we fall in love with them and get married. Or maybe we work for a celebrity gossip magazine and express the fear of our own flaws by vilifying them in print. Ha ha FAT THIGHS!
I love playing 5-a-side football on a Sunday morning, I love getting lost in a good film or book, i love passing lazy hours with good friends, I love putting together flat-pack furniture, and I love performing music to 5000 people at the Hammersmith Apollo. Turn off the brain chatter, take down the guards, relax and be yourself.
I have Joe Bonamassa, the leading current exponent of blues-based guitar rock music, to thank for this opportunity. Honestly I’d never heard of him until the call came through… embarrassing considering the venues he’s sold out. Off stage he is polite, friendly and passionate about music. To his credit he doesn’t exactly ooze rock star until he dons the suit, shades and white shoes – then suddenly Clark Kent is revealed as Superman. Wow the guy can play. He’s maybe not my musical hero, and we’re on very different paths, but I definitely have a lot of respect for him.
Somewhat awkwardly he was talking about me before the gig in catering without realising I was sitting right behind him. His opinion seemed to be that I was alright enough, tho someone else fell face first into the classic “sounds like Eric Mongrain” trap. I was just about to jump in before they said something they’d really regret, but the conversation moved on. It reminded me to always be kind with my words, or at least not to say anything I wouldn’t say to someone’s face. How awful when you bitch about someone just because you’re in a bad mood, then they find out, and you have to explain an opinion you don’t even really hold. Or worse you never find out and go through life oblivious that some idle flippant remark you made brought someone down.
John and I rehearsed, tuned and stood by the side of the stage. Setlist sorted:
This City (solo)
Be With Me
I walked on… it felt like I was playing in my living room, and that’s not because my living room is the size of the Hammersmith Apollo. It’s cos the crowd were great and I felt relaxed and confident. During Eyes I was thinking “crap I remember sitting in my bedroom writing this. Now look at it”. Mad.
The team were delighted afterwards. Nights like that really bring us together – we feel like we’re onto something. We’re like a family now. I felt humbled and happy that we’d had our chance and taken it so well.
Just as I left to rest up for tomorrow, my flatmate Xuan arrived and convinced me to come out for a drink. He asked me if my goal was to play my own gig there one day. I said absolutely not! Although I’m a sucker for a to-do list and a good deadline, goals are a rubbish idea outside of the 5-a-side pitch. I’m trying to learn from people much wiser than myself about how to tackle this course. Work should be done for it’s own sake, not just to achieve some future goal. Playing to 8 people in Carlisle is not just a means to an end, it is an end in itself. Enjoy it. What an ugly indictement on the present if it is just some chore to tollerate before the glorious future turns up. What if it doesn’t? What if, as Ronan Keating so elequently explored, tomorrow never comes? You live your life in limbo – bones in the present, mind in the future, never truly in either.
Whether I sell out my own show there, or never play another gig in my life I think this night will always be a personal highlight for me. My first big gig. Besides in truth I don’t have long to wait to do it again – we’re back for round two tomorrow…!