Last night I played one of my venues in Austria that I first played 14 years ago…it’s a modest place….just a schnitzel, beer and good time music spot for touring acts.
It’s insane to think I stepped in that same room 14 years ago on my first European tour!
In preparation for last night’s gig, I made a list in the hotel of a bunch of tunes I either have not played recently, have not played yet, or new ones I wanted to try out.
My attitude for a moment, was that since this wasn’t a “serious” concert hall gig I could try things out and experiment.
But wait – there’s a flaw in that kind of thought…because that’s like saying “these people” in the audience don’t matter as much as “other people” in a concert hall.
Basically that’s like saying “you don’t matter”. What if you were one of the people at last night’s show, and what if I took that attitude?
As the place filled up, I saw longtime fans and friends in the room and knew they came for a great show. My adrenaline started pumping. I often think of the Billy Joel lyric to Piano Man – “he (the bartender) knows that it’s me they’ve been coming to see, to forget about life for a while.”
Like a bull that sees a red cape waving, when I see an audience, I know there is no holding back, there are no more excuses, there is nothing short of giving 10,000%! Life is not a rehearsal. Bullshit walks. Excuse my French.
The stage is the final destination for which all the sacrifices, hard work and practice hours have been put in. To squander it on “trying something” instead of really “doing something” is a waste IMHO. This is where the world class performance goes down. Not sometime in the future – but RIGHT NOW.
By the 3rd tune in to my first set, the sweat was dripping, I was soaked. I saw people out there grooving. I pulled out all the stops…humor, beatbox, chops, beauty of sound and a blues feel from hell. Of course I played the heaviest and sweatiest groove I could muster up.
I take no prisoners…I play as if it’s my last gig on planet earth, and I give thanks each and every time for the opportunity to have this blessed life of playing music. When I finish the gig and take bows, I give thanks to God, The Universe, my musical fathers and the audience again and again.
Slam dunks baby – in your face! 🙂 That’s the attitude.
What a night it was…it felt so good, so right to give give give to the audience, to bring these people joy, and it was a magical night.
And then I thought back to my mentor, Mike Longo and all the other jazz mentors…and they always said that “The Bandstand is Sacred”. Now I understand even more what he meant.
Being on the bandstand means it is time to “hit” – not to try things, not to experiment, not to give anything short of 100%, ever.
Every gig counts.
Every time you play music it counts.
Every one who listens to you counts – the most!
Music is as “serious as a heart attack”. If you are not serious about it, move over – because I am, and I’ll run you over.
The Bandstand is Sacred
I’m glad it was taught to me, over and over – and I am glad I remembered that last night.
John Horne says
Great post as usual. But let me ask – how do you decide when it is appropriate to debut a new piece that may still need some time to mature?
John – good question. I did a class called PSYCH-K which showed “muscle testing.” Long story short, you can “feel” in your body when it’s time to dive in the deep end with a new piece. It’s fascinating – your muscles will test string when you perceive truth.
I don’t use a set list, but I do have an idea of how I start and end a set or a concert…
Nothing’s worse for me than following a set list to the letter, and not feeling right once I start a tune…so I have gone heavier on trusting the gut for what tune should come next – over the list.
There’s so much in terms of level of communication and non verbal stuff going with an audience at a gig, one has to be like a comedian in terms of spontanaiety – saying (in this case playing) just the right thing at the right time.
Sometimes starting a new song as applause dies out even keeps a momentum moving…
I need to really sit a long time with an arrangement before I perform it…it’s the gestation period. Then, after the debut it can mature as a concert piece.
Just like a baby knows when it’s time to pop outta the mommy, the tune will play itself when it’s ready.
John Horne says
Thanks Adam. Not sure if I totally buy PSYCH-K, but I am right there with you when it comes to set lists.
It is much more interesting to choose pieces based on what the audience relates to at any given moment than to follow a set list.
Best wishes for your ongoing travels!
Great post. Completely true. it’s all about what you *give* to the people there to hear you – whatever your level of playing, whatever style. That’s what makes it work, and what makes it worth it.