It may not seem like a lot to some, but I spend a lot of time preparing before a performance. Typically, I don’t just work all day then drop myself off at a venue to play. Oh no, no, no, no, no! My perfectionist tendencies won’t allow that!
Before a performance, I do yoga stretches, vocal exercises, a run-through of my song list, a run-through of my performance, etc. I plan my shows as though I were playing before an audience of 100,000 (adoring, I hope!) fans, as though I were a nationally known act. I give it my all! Well, all that I have at that particular moment. Sometimes I have more to give on certain days than others…
That’s how I do!
But this weekend, I was challenged–in a good way, of course. My act, Haunted Gypsy, had the amazing and wondrous opportunity to perform at several venues for the Infringement Festival. And seize the opportunity we did! Carpe diem!
But I’m used to performing on days when I don’t have to work at my day job at all, so working during the day then trotting off to three venues for three performances was hectic. Not to be dramatic but…
I staggered, nearly lifeless, bleary-eyed and beleaguered from the toils and perils of a back-breaking and spirit-defeating job only to paste on a face as well as I could, given the invariable circumstances, smile and perform before a an uncontrollable crowd of maniacally screaming fanatics.
Just kidding. Hyperbole, anyone? I’m experimenting with the term myself…
In fact, my current “day job” is pretty easy. Far from back-breaking, it involves my sitting and (horror of horrors!) waiting for the phone to ring. I’m like a jilted lover waiting for him to call every day. Waiting, just waiting, for the phone to ring. I did have to work extra hours this week but they weren’t grueling and my back is okay.
Most of the toil and peril was in my mind. I was besieged by worry, but I besieged myself with worry. Would I have time to prepare? What if I had to perform unprepared? Would my voice conk out after three consecutive performances? What if I can’t do all this?
And so much of my preparation work involved calming my own anxiety. Self reassurance, taking deep breaths, relaxing my body and soul, managing my time better so that I could prepare, prepare, prepare before the show.
Oh, and did I mention that I like to prepare before a show?
Very important, this thing called “preparation.” So the anxiety, the trembling nerves before a performance serves a purpose after all. Comedian John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) said recently that the time to be nervous is not the day of or even the day before but the day you first learn you have the gig—even if it’s months away.
Prepare, prepare, prepare!
Wise words from a brilliant, talented and successful entertainer who should know more than the rest of us. Thankfully, I followed Cleese’s advice and had been practicing nearly every day, long before I knew of this gig’s existence. And so, I challenged myself. Two gigs on a Friday and three on a Saturday—both occurring after working at my “day job.” Oh joy! The preparation that took place weeks before the gig alleviated a tremendous amount of anxiety so that everything ran smoothly. Yay!
The day of each performance was spent squeezing in more prep time—vocal exercises in my car on my way to and from work, yoga stretches at work when no one was looking, and thinking… yes, thinking about how I’d structure each show at each venue—softer songs at the coffee shop and bookstore, grungy songs at the bar, running song lyrics through my head, planning what to leave out and what to include for each gig, mapquesting locations just to make sure I knew where I was going, even when I was sure I knew…
Whew! Stress—but “good” stress. That Infringement schedule really kicked my musically-inclined butt, but in a good way. My butt’s a lot stronger now, more toned, less flabby and with a nice contour!
I wonder if other struggling musicians work as hard as I do…
More about Infringement in a future post.