Last night went reasonably well. I was mostly wrong about people paying attention. Other than people who knew me, only a few were actually listening. After I plugged in my guitar and the mic, I told someone who worked there that I was ready to start and she said “don’t you want to do a sound check?” and I said “well, I can hear myself play, and it’s just a guitar” and she said “but everyone does a sound check.” So it was obvious from the get-go that I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t sure what else a sound check would involve, so I just started playing, and it seemed to work out okay.

I didn’t play exactly what I expected to. Earlier last night I remembered that I had intended to include Norah Jone’s “Don’t Know Why” in the list, so I sang that instead of Brad Sucks’ “You’re not Going Anywhere,” which stretches my vocal range when sung in two octaves, and is less interesting when sung in just one. Then I noticed I had “Carry Me Home” in my first set twice. I probably should have noticed that when practicing, but I blame you, the readers of my weblog, for not noticing that when I posted it.

Then at the end of the second set, as I was walking to sit down by Jessica, someone said “Scott?” And I said “yes” while thinking “how does this guy know my name?” Turns out he was a bass player I’ve been communicating with via email about possibly playing together. He seemed to like what he heard, but I wasn’t entirely sure what I had just played, so when I went back for the third set, I went straight to the songs that I thought were more representative of the type of music I’d like to play with a full band.

But then I got all confused about which songs I’d played and which I hadn’t. Luckily, I had too many songs in my set list anyway, so it all worked out. I ended on “With God on Our Side,” which has a final verse about leaving, so that worked out. I don’t suppose anyone really had any idea what words I was singing in the final verse (it didn’t arouse the spontaneous renunciation of war one might hope it would), but it seemed a good way to end the night.

I got paid what I was promised on the spot (which doesn’t always happen in my previous experience), and they even put out a tip jar for me, which was filled with five or six dollars from people who know me. The manager who paid me, Terra, told me that she liked my songs, but it’s more “Tuesday night” music. Then she said “we were saying ‘someone needs to get that guy a Red Bull’.” So I gather it was a bit too slow and depressing, but that’s sort of what I do, so maybe I just shouldn’t play on Friday nights.

She said the guy who arranges musicians was out of town for the week, but when he comes back, she’ll tell him I was good and should go into “the rotation.” I’m not sure how often that would be, but it sounds good. I might get together with the bass player next week and “see if we mesh,” as he put it. I’m not sure how to measure meshiness, but I guess I’ll find out.

Jessica’s friend Libby also picked up a business card from the woman who handles musicians at the local farmers’ market every Saturday morning, so I’m going to look into that. I would have gone this morning, but I’m surprisingly tired this morning. I guess singing was more work than it seemed at the time. I believe the farmers’ market is all tips, so it would require “crowd pleasers” to make any money. I’ve never been especially interested in pleasing crowds (I prefer to make them cry), but it would be good experience. As I wrote several years ago, and sang last night to the eager applause of an apparently drunk man, I heard stories are better than money.

 

The following is what I plan to play tomorrow night. I don’t record covers unless they are very dissimilar to the original (e.g. One More Time), but this should give you an idea of what kind of covers I play. It will also help me practice.

(LyricWiki.org seems to be down right now, so I’ll add the links to the lyrics for the covers later.)

Update: Looks like LyricWiki.org is dead. That’s too bad. I’ve added links to SongMeanings.net or something else instead, and crossed out the songs I didn’t actually play.

Hour 1, in which I channel e.e. cummings:

Hour 2, in which I pretend I’m in Radiohead:

Hour 3, in which I sing "goodnight" repeatedly:

 

The thing is, even though I know how much more difficult Jason's routine is and how skilled he is, the very ease of his delivery makes it less likely an audience would give him that same ovation. Interesting how important effort seems to be.

Seth Godin

In university, I was involved in "Jugglers Against Homophobia" (which I gather has since become the less interesting "Jugglers Against Oppression"). I taught a lot of people how to juggle. I learned to give different advice to people learning how to juggle and people learning how to perform juggling. I would tell jugglers how to avoid dropping a ball (throw the next ball when the ball in the air is at maximum height, giving yourself the most time to react to the falling ball).

I would tell juggling performers the same thing, but then I would also tell them to start any segment of a juggling routine by dropping something. This establishes the difficulty of the activity and makes success more impressive. It seems a bit deceptive at first glance, but juggling really is hard.