I may occasionally complain to myself about less-than-perfect shows, but I also make a point to note the good ones. This was one. Photo by Kat.
No matter what you do, when you do something for a long time at a high level, your standards for your own performance become much different than those of your observers. In other words, I can play a live music show that sounds perfectly fine to you, and that you enjoyed and would tell friends that was great, while I'm here bitterly complaining about my perception of it having been terrible. Things I say after a less-then-stellar show...
"I just spent an hour slapping at my guitar."
"Great, I swooped up to literally every note I sang."
"How the fuck can you forget words to a song that are literally right in front of you?!?"
And so on. It's pretty well understood that every performer is his or her own harshest critic, and that we're rarely fair in our assessment of ourselves. Why? It's really easy to understand. First, our point of comparison isn't in regard to our own level of skill or experience; it's to the very best in history who have ever done whatever we do. Any deviation from a level that could be considered "perfect" can be thought of as a failure. Second, we're very familiar with ourselves. I mean, we are forced to attend every one of our own shows, right? So more than anyone else, we know when a show is particularly good, or particularly bad, or particularly mediocre, even if the differences are minor and almost negligible to the outside observer.
Very Very Very... Good
That's why I can tell you that my show last night at Serenity Gardens was very, very, very... good. Looking through the 13 or so songs I played, there's not a single one that I can honestly say I could have performed better than I did. Does that mean I am super amazing and should be receiving honors and accolades, and international recognition and acclaim? No, of course not. I still am who I am, and after 40+ years of playing guitar and singing, as I've done since my childhood, my abilities are what they are. But I can honestly say that I am currently performing at a level that's as good or better than I ever have before, and my own assessment of last night's show is that there's very little, if anything, I could have done better.
I have no idea if my audience really noticed this. More importantly, I really don't care. I hope they enjoyed themselves, which is my only goal at each show, and it doesn't matter to me if they had some fun from my silliness or the songs I chose for my set or any other factor (including those having nothing to do with me, like the venue and the presence of their friends). But I do suspect that if they were familiar with my shows and were paying attention, they probably heard that I was playing guitar and singing pretty damn well. Or maybe they didn't. It doesn't matter. I heard it.
Why I Do Some Of The Things I Do
I do some things as a performer that on a general basis, you're not supposed to do. I occasionally say things between songs, or choose material to play, that I know could alienate some portion of my audience. I don't do these things without awareness. I also don't do them to purposefully antagonize people. When I mention political topics, or play a song for a particular reason based on a current event, it's because it's something that's important to me personally. I have the luxury of not relying on my music to pay my rent, and I can't say I'd display that degree of outspokenness if it were the case.
Still, the risks one runs by not being a vanilla performer who never addresses these topics in public are tangible, even in a minor way. I know for sure that there are people who have stopped attending my shows because they don't share my political and social outlook, and guess what? That's fine! They absolutely should make that decision for themselves, and I applaud them. Look, there are absolutely musicians and actors and other public figures who I absolutely would not patronize due to their support of alt-right bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and other traits I consider deplorable. I do try and keep my shows focused on the music... but even then, when I'm doing a Woody Guthrie song called "All You Fascists", it's pretty obvious where my feelings reside.
My biggest priority, as mentioned above, is that my audiences enjoy themselves. To be clear, I don't spend a big chunk of time during my shows preaching about causes or politics of any kind, really. Many of my shows have zero mention of these topics. To explain why I do get into the social activism arena as part of my shows from time to time, there's a very simple answer. Historically, when forces of evil become predominant in the world, the question asked of people after the fact is, "Why didn't you do anything?" Well, I can't save the world, but I have a voice, and it's my responsibility to help promote awareness of things going on that absolutely will affect all of our lives. Even if just from the small things I do as part of my music performances, I can look back and know that I actively fought against things I find repugnant. Does it make a difference? Every drop in every bucket helps. I am sure of that.
One final note: since this was my show that was closest to the Fourth of July, I did make a point of doing a mini-set of Americana songs. I really do love this country! If I didn't, I wouldn't bother trying to fix it.
Serenity Gardens set list...
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
*How Deep Is Your Love (Bee Gees)
The Waiting Boy (Zak Claxton)
Among the Leaves (Sun Kil Moon)
Bull Black Nova (Wilco)
Say Goodbye (Beck)
*All You Fascists (Woody Guthrie)
Man of Constant Sorrow (Traditional)
Pancho & Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
Box by the Cliff (They Stole My Crayon)
Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts)
Runnin' Down a Dream (Tom Petty)
*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
Big thanks to every who came out to the show, and all of my shows, really. Special thanks to the following who helped support it!
Kat Chauveau, AaronCabottJones Resident, dls Falconer, RoxxyyRoller Resident, go2smoky Resident, Radslns Hutchence, Cash Benelli, Trouble Streeter, Triana Caldera, Boldmiss Resident, go2smoky Resident, Tyche Szondi, Turn Pike, Asimia Heron, Christine Haiku, RansomTalmidge Resident, Kat Claxton, Aurelie Chenaux, TheaDee Resident, my excellent manager Maali Beck, and the fabulous team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.