Sunday, May 19, 2013

Making Magic from Mishaps

I've already told the story of one of the songs I performed at the open mic at the Starbucks in El Cajon four weeks ago now on April 20.  But I also played two brand-new songs that day, "When Things Don't Go Right" and "1-Minute Song."  The video of my live performance of "When Things Don't Go Right" is above.  I'll post the video for "1-Minute Song" here later on.  As always, John "J-Rod" Rodriguez is on bass, and Dave Farrell is on the drums, backing me up.

"When Things Don't Go Right" just popped out of me one day when I was thinking what had happened to me one time at the Wednesday night open mic at the 710 Beach Club in Pacific Beach.  My name was called and it was my time to perform.  I hopped up on stage with my trusty Fender Stratocaster.  I plugged it into the guitar amplifier, which the performers before me (the world-famous and totally awesome Psycho Lizard) had used.  I didn't hear any sound coming out of it.  My guess is the sound operator had turned the microphone on the amp down to zero, thinking the next performer wouldn't be using it...most acoustic players at that open mic plug directly into the sound board with a different cable, not into the amp on stage.

When I didn't hear any sound coming out, though, I panicked a bit, and turned the knob on the far right up as far as it would go, hoping it was the volume.  I'm guessing it was the knob that controls the amount of distortion or "crunch" the amp would put out.  Finally, my guitar was making noise - most likely because the sound operator had now turned up the level on the microphone in front of the amp - not because of my panic-stricken knob turning.

At these open mics you're supposed to keep things moving, because there are so many people lined up to play.  So I went right into my first song, and something was...terribly, terribly wrong.  My guitar was sounding like a herd of cats screaming chaotically.  It was like the sound of Hell.  Not in a cool way, like in a Metallica kind of way.  In a really unpleasant, like, I'm-gonna-go-crazy-if-you-don't-shut-that-awful-noise-off kind of way.

But I had been triggered into such nervousness by the whole episode of not getting any sound at first, that my brain didn't have enough neurons available to process what was happening.  Instead, my instinct to just play through technical difficulties kicked in and I just kept going.  I finished the first song and went into the second.  And it was worse.  That song had more chords getting played all the way through, so the intensity of the awful Hell-sound increased dramatically.  People in the front of the audience were literally making faces of distress and walking away from the stage.

I finally finished the second song, thanked the much-dwindled crowd, and got off stage.  At first I still didn't have any clue what had happened, I was all adrenaline and confusion upstairs.  Then slowly it started to dawn on me, what I had most likely done in turning that one knob up as high as it would go.  I thanked the emcee and the sound operator on my way out, slinked into my car and drove home to Imperial Beach.

The ride home was not a pleasant one inside my mind.  I was really hard on myself, reprimanding myself for my mistake, for not catching it, for not stopping to figure out what was going on.

But in the days ahead, sanity began to return to my mind.  I realized it had been an honest goof-up.  There was no sound, so I did something to try and fix it.  I didn't realize what I had done, so I kept playing.  I'm human.  I don't ever do things perfectly.

I realized that I used to treat other people the way I treated myself that night after I got done playing.  When something didn't go the way I wanted it to, sometimes I got so angry I took it out on other people, when they hadn't done anything wrong.  Instead of owning my anger and expressing it somewhere in a healthy way, I attacked some unsuspecting, innocent friend with it.  Who of course had no idea what I was really upset about.  I'm a lot better at this today, thankfully, but sometimes I can still have angry fits at other people in my mind, when really I'm angry at some entirely different set of circumstances, that that poor sole had nothing to do with.

So I was practicing at home some time around then, and this song popped out.  I played it again a couple of weeks later at the Starbucks open mic.  Lots of people in the audience seemed to relate both times, and get a good laugh out of it.  

Which proves that with music, you can make magic out of mishaps.

Thanks for visiting my blog here and reading.  I truly appreciate it.

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1 comment:

  1. As always. Enjoy reading your blogs :) miss you and glad your doing great!