Tuesday, 14 April 2009

lohnen sich lohnen

Devoid of the creative juice required to meet my own standard, I waited until the last minute to prepare, using my laundry philosophy: When I don’t have anything left to wear…

So what is my standard? Has it even been set? One answer would reveal that I have never met it; another, that I never really established one for that very reason.

I got to the venue at the same time as Steve Transcoder. He had already asked if I would join him for his set, which was nice enough, but as the gig neared, I was kicking myself; all I needed was something else to sap my energy right before I had to play solo.

My energy: Life is at once over- and underwhelming. Did I even want to play at all? Not really. Then why was I? If I knew the answer to that question, you wouldn’t be here right now.

So Steve and I played, after the usual set-up contingent upon soundcheck clusterfuck. I don’t know how anyone can play without monitors. We managed. I sat in front of the speaker all the way downstage left. I didn’t mind. What little artist there is in me deserves to be exposed to the worst possible ridicule if he isn’t gonna bring it. It worked alright, Steve did his thing well, I followed competently part of the time.

A fifteen-minute break between gigs was given for stage change, and since I’d already set up, I was able to go outside for fresh air and to talk to Kate and Sven in the afternoon sun.

My set started out disastrously by any reasonable standard, and certainly by mine; the sound sucked out loud, and my control of it was lame. I tried in vain to layer a double tone as a backdrop for playing against delayed triads (I’d noticed upon entering that no one was present who’d ever heard this particular piece live, so I made the tragic decision to give it a go). What would have been six minutes turned into a bemusing two and a half.

Back to Plan A. Why abandon/delay Plan A? Six minutes.

So with the remainder of my time I built my typically boring drones and noises, many not even capable of carrying over, given the speakers. I did what I could and the reception from the audience was positive, if not enthusiastic, with one exception: Perrine, from France who was to follow me, asked if I would stay set up and play in her set. She said something like, “Maybe we can have a jam.” I wasn’t sure what that would entail, but agreed with the same maybe.

In the break, I asked Olivia about her stuff since they’d known each other for a few years. Mind you, I had perused the web presences of the various artists, Perrine’s as well. I remember finding it quite lovely and was particularly struck by a common affinity for some of the same musicians, which (believe it or not) is not something I run into very often. This music I even considered in my preparation. Ironically, given all of the aforementioned occurrences, what I’d ended up doing was not what I had in mind. So I expressed to Olivia my reluctance to sit in with someone whose music I didn’t know well enough. She contrarily said she thought that I should, and that I would be just perfect. Alright.

Back inside Perrine sang in English, and then one in French. Really nice stuff. Sort of Folk, but not really. In between she pretty much sealed the deal by announcing that she’d planned to do seven songs, but had since changed her mind and was going to play five, and then leave time for me to join at the end. Alright.

When the time came, and I sat back down in my stage-spot, I didn’t even check my preset (what instrument I’d essentially be playing) before I started tapping out a beat of some kind. I use the term “beat” loosely. I felt immediately that it had been a bad idea. You see, once you start improvising a rhythm, you are stuck with it; abandon it, and you’ve failed; if you can’t do anything with it, you haven’t done much better. Again, I guess for the circumstances, it sufficed, but it wouldn’t have survived any kind of cut.

We made our way through that little number, then she started to play something else with a set rhythm which I liked, which I would have been able to accompany given another few hours, but alas, she stopped after a few seconds. All in all, I am glad for the experience, I just wish I had been inspired before I'd arrived that day.

So I’d booked myself for a soloscape and ended up contributing to the first three acts of the night. “That’s great!” one might say, and in a way, it was. Still... I’m not exactly one.

Patty was great again. Unfortunately I don’t think any of my friends liked it. They have something akin to more exclusive taste, one might say, and my not being one, I ain’t sayin’ it! Anyway, her performance last year achieved orbit, whereas this one did not. I have to attribute this, in part, to the lack of a cohesive reception, though the many who enthusiastically applauded wouldn’t know what the fuck I am talking about. But there was more than just enthusiasm, and that presence, or lack thereof, diminished the experience, at a minimum for me.

How many times have you heard a famous performer declare his or her being thrilled at being able to do (to get paid for) that which they love? What is this wage and how many outside of the performing arts enjoy it?

Someone employs you for some skill they find worthy enough to pay you for. They accept you for who you are. This acceptance takes on a currency. Currency is money. For the professional performing artist this money is the acceptance that can act as a conduit to wider acceptance. Otherwise, and anyway, it is a constant search for acceptance, in whatever form.

Acceptance is a key motivator, no doubt. Having a friend ask for you to join him and then, in turn, having a cute French musician ask for you to sit-in with her should certainly be a motivating experience. But there is something else and I am not convinced that it is money: What is it all worth, afterall? It is all so overwhelming, yet underwhelming at the same time.

This entry barely begins to express what I had in mind…