It occurred to me yesterday, as I was getting warmed up to perform at Key West in Second Life, that I've been on stages for almost my entire life. There's a photo somewhere of me at age 4 or 5, acting as the youngest boy of the Von Trapp family in a production of "The Sound of Music". I sang, of course. That's what I do. "Do mi mi, mi so so, re fa fa, la ti ti..."
Anyway, back to the present. As a rather seasoned performer, I've learned a few things. One is that many cliches are there for a reason. For example, it's said that courage isn't the absence of fear; it's the ability to keep going in spite of fear. When you go and see a concert, or a movie, or a play, or anything where someone is doing something publicly where they are under tight scrutiny, you may be impressed by the performer's seeming complete lack of self-consciousness. And many times, that's true. The musician (or actor, or dancer, etc.) appears to be one hundred percent into what he/she is doing, and all their focus is on the performance, and it shows.
But if you could get into that person's mind, you might be surprised at what's really going on. Sometimes there's a distraction to the show... legitimate stuff, like financial problems, business difficulties, kid issues, and the like. Sometimes the performer simply doesn't feel great, and that applies to physical and well as mental wellness. And, perhaps worst of all in its effect on the performance, is that even those people who have hundreds and hundreds of hours in the spotlight still get some element of stage fright from time to time.
Not to sound like the macho asshole I can be occasionally, but that's the kind of thing that defines a professional performer... the ability to push those things aside and still do the show as well as possible. The fact is that the outside circumstances are almost never perfect, and it's almost certain that you're always susceptible to allowing those things to distract you from your show. The key word there is "allow". When you think of the many aspects that go into a good performance, you probably think of skill level at a craft, the amount of experience and natural ability, and so on. But that ability to consciously shut out everything but the performance itself is possibly the biggest obstacle that many would-be performers never quite overcome.
Thanks for the speech, pal. Are you going to talk about the damn show or not?
Alright, alright. So, last night, I was pretty stoked about having a show at Key West. As I've spoken about way too many times before, it's one of the places in SL that really gets it. They know how to treat performers, to treat audiences, and to bring in a big crowd. I gotta say, if anyone does it better, I'd be surprised, so I was really looking forward to it. And then, about 20 minutes before the show, I had a rather irritating physical thing happen that I'm not going to bother explaining here (other than to say that it's really minor and wouldn't have bothered me very much had I not been about to get onstage and sing and play music). And then, while I was playing, I started experiencing an equally minor (but equally irritating) problem with my audio system, which is probably some issue with the mic preamp in my crappy little mixer. The audience didn't notice or care much (or at all), but I was aware of it.
Photo and top photo by Kat.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by Triana.
Photo by Triana.
Photo by Triana.
I could have chosen to let these things ruin my show, and it would have been a real shame. We had a really huge crowd there (at least in terms of my usual draw), and it was an opportunity to be really good and perhaps gain some new fans. While I whined a bit as I fuddled with my mixer trying to remove the audio artifacts from my headphones, I still kept my concentration on the show itself. Ultimately, I doubt that a single person who attended last night would have thought that they were listening to someone whose mind was on anything but putting on a good show. That's what it's all about: regardless of anything else, when you get on stage, you're fulfilling a commitment to the people who took time out of their day, and perhaps paid money to get some relief from their own set of problems via your entertainment. Do not allow your difficulties to add to theirs. If you don't think you can get past that, then the answer is simple: don't get on stage.
Key West set list...
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)
†All Apologies (Nirvana)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
I Am A Child (Neil Young)
After the Goldrush (Neil Young)
Broken Day (Zak Claxton)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
Thanks Anyway (Zak Claxton)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Frigid Spring (Chairlift)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
†I'd only played "All Apologies" once before (oddly enough, at Key West on February 20, 2012, almost exactly a year earlier), and I did it so poorly last time that it fell to the depths of my repertoire list and I never played it again. However, I saw Dave Grohl's new film "Sound City" over the weekend, and it inspired me to pull out a bigger variety of Nirvana tunes. I'm glad I did; it went really well this time.
Thanks so much to everyone who came to the show. It was great seeing many new faces in the crowd, and I hope to see you again! Special thanks to those who helped support the show!
AMFORTE Clarity, Triana Caldera, Bonnie Bowenford, Dee Timeless, Alexis Fairlady, Syd Baddingham, autumnleather, TheaDee, Lan Ganloso, GMetal Svartur, Regog Rivera, Rusty Seisenbacher, Crap Mariner, jsmn Yao, Kat Claxton, Spiral Silverstar, Robert69 Little, my wonderful manager Maali Beck, and most of all, Key West owner and super patron of the arts Liz Harley!