Last night I played the open mic night at the Empyrean. And, quite frankly, I was awful.
My first mistake was that I decided to play my twelve string guitar on stage. You know, to “liven it up” or something. Once I started playing, however, I remembered why that particular guitar sat in the closet for so long:
It sucks big, fat Yeti toe.
Half way through my second song, my hand was already hurting. A twelve string has twice as many strings as a standard Spanish acoustic guitar, and this particular one has a string action that makes it almost impossible to do barre chords at all. Even open position “cowboy” chords start to become difficult to play after a while. By the time of my third song, it was painful to the point of distraction.
By my last song, all I wanted to do was smash the guitar ALA Joe Strummer. I was so pissed that I wanted to throw it, smash it, break it. In hindsight, that might have been cool, but to a room of about 30 people expecting mellow acoustic music? Who knows. It might have secured my legacy.
That anger didn’t help my singing, in a real bad way. It’s hard to sing soft, mellow songs when you don’t feel mellow, and what normally would have been a routine performance turned into a disaster.
I decided, foolishly, to play a song I hadn’t rehearsed, and I totally spaced on the lyrics. That messed me up, and I was so distraught that I messed up the second song also.
Remember my guitar? Yeah, it turns out it was also tuned a half step too high, which I discovered when I attempted to play Bon Iver’s Flume. (That also accounts for a lot of the other discomfort in playing that stinking pile of strings and wood, although this was clearly user error.)
It was death to a song sung in a falsetto. I copped out halfway, and sang it an octave lower. Weak sauce!
For my last song, I proclaimed that I was gonna play a song that I could actually sing, which I did. But halfway through the song, I realized that I just wasn’t feeling it at all.
I had previously changed my song into one that is sung softly, kinda like Elliot Smith or something. But that wasn’t working. What the song was originally was loud, brash, and at the edge of my singing range in terms of pitch and volume.
Halfway through, I realized that I wasn’t enjoying myself, and I wanted to sing my song my way, pitch be damned. I think I spooked the soundboard guy, because halfway through the song, I jumped up about 20dB in volume from both my vocals and my guitar.
And you know what? It worked. I actually enjoyed the last two minutes of my performance, and I think the audience did too.
Two lessons learned: One, give your twelve string acoustic to your worst enemy. Two, sing with your heart. Forget trying to appease the masses at the expense of your own interest in the music, because nobody will end up enjoying it.