Sunday, August 31, 2008
A number of years ago, I came across an interview, where Neil talks about letting your whole body feel the music as a listener. He spoke of knowing the music in your body, letting it move you, giving into the power of the music. So, I started to pay attention to that when I listened, especially at shows, and noticed how very much more enjoyment I have when I take Neil's advice and listen with my body as well as my mind....
I have talked here a bit about my struggle to make the music real during performance. Seems that no matter where I put my mind when I am on stage, or how good the technical aspect of playing is, I KNOW that I 'can do better than' what I just did.....it almost always seems like there is something missing....a piece of soul or heart....
I don't have that problem at home. I can get deep into the music and it is soooo satisfying inside to strap on my guitar and walk around the house and sing and move....When I move my body and dance with the guitar, my hands find new ways of hitting the strings, more interesting ways to tell the story of the song. The guitar music becomes not a background for the story, but the vehicle where the emotion lives and breathes.
That is where the magic is....and I can reach it with my body, in movement, in moving with the pulse of the song.
I keep a copy of Zen Guitar out most of the time. In it, Philip Toshio Sudo reminds us that 'you cannot feel rhythm with your mind; you must feel it in your body' and goes on to say that there is rhythm in everything and we must learn to feel it with our bodies and put it in our music. A bit later he states, 'More than knowing and playing the correct notes, the sound must have a feel -- a human pulse that resonates to all within earshot'.
Shortly after rereading that in Zen Guitar, I picked up a copy of William Westney's "The Perfect Wrong Note", and he immediately starts his book with observations on how very young toddlers respond to music....by dancing with their entire bodies. Seems this idea of knowing the music with your whole body is not just a Rock'n'Roll idea....
So, I have been paying attention to this idea while practicing. I like to play standing up, even during practice. First of all, I realized quite a while ago that the fretboard is in a different enough position standing from sitting to make a difference in number of mistakes.....so if I am going to play for others standing, I had best practice that way. When my back started to hurt and I found that standing with a guitar strapped on helps, that cinched it....I stand to play!
So you will find me with my guitar on, walking and dancing my house, playing my heart out. When I really let it go and dance and move and sing and play, I can feel the energy and expression surrounding me and coming from me and into me. There is a connection I can perceive to some larger energy, as if I am tapping into a source. Then there is magic.
Can I connect with that on stage? It feels soooo personal, I feel very open and vulnerable when that happens. My first response to vulnerable is shut down.
And it LOOKS funny to dance with a guitar. Doesn't one have to be a Neil Young to get away with that? And, I am often reminded to STAY ON THE MIC....bouncing around doesn't go much with keeping that exact distance from the mic....
So, the other day, I had the opportunity to play for my friends. I invited folks to my house for a cookout and campfire, and the time came when it seemed to me that people would appreciate some sing along....I just had some problems figuring what songs this group would know that I know!!! So, several times, the song turned solo, as my helpers didn't know the words. It was a warm night, bright fire, good friends, the beer was flowing and so was the laughter.....and I closed my eyes and started my dance....when i looked up at my tiny audience, they were with me and that didn't scare me as it sometimes does. I felt connected with the music in a way that didn't get shaken by people talking over me or even being commented on "you need to lose the motion". I felt satisfied about the music, about my connection, about my ability to tell the story with my voice, guitar and heart....
That connection to the music, and sharing it with others (someone once told me, if you have a gift like playing guitar, and you don't share it out, you are being very selfish) feeds my mind, body and soul....
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
It was a great way to start my weekend...and i got some good advice...(just go for it!!!). I was talking (as always) about my stage fright, and how this time out, i was going to be on stage in a small bar with a bunch of other folks i haven't played with before, with no practice.
But i have already messed up on that stage before...last year i did a solo set that was perfectly dreadful, on the spot, messy, drunk. (note...drinking and performing do not go together very well unless you are eddie vedder)
I spent a lot of time practicing and wondering how to 'fit in' to the band...how to make what i was practicing flow with what others would do, without practicing WITH them....i hadn't wondered too much until that rehearsal in ithica, figuring that if i could play it with neil, we would do fine....but that didn't happen. Everyone's interpretation of songs is very different from everyone elses....there is never just one way....and sometimes, the 'ways' are very divergent....
And, when your skill level is low, it is harder to flow....much easier to just follow a set idea....
So, it was with these thoughts that i prepared for the journey on friday.....i stayed relaxed, knowing that anxiety is my enemy when it comes to 'flow'.......took my time loading (though i DID hurt my neck....), drove without pressure, and arrived at about the same time as hgs and carol....but there was no one else!!!!--including our hosts, dave and jean!!!
After a while, we thought that perhaps we had all gotten the date wrong, as no one showed for a few hours, but then they started to trickle in........bob, nan, paul, meleya, bugs, eileen and family, mark and of course, dave and jean.....We hugged and laughed and got reaquainted with each other.....and more people came until we were all accounted for!
I remember having a conversation with wendy about being nervous before performing and how it gets in my way. I remember being concerned with time and whether we would be late setting up and waiting for people to arrive so that we could head to the venue......when those people did come and i confirmed plans with bugs, i took off....and had much of my car (i had the PA) unpacked by time bugs came with the rest of the gear....and we had most of THAT hooked up by time the rest of players came....we started 1/2 hour after we should have, but i think i was the only one who noticed!!!!!
still, overall, i was calm....concerned, but that terrible fear about performing was overshadowed by getting physically ready for the gig....and that worked for me!!! Distraction and scatter-ability is my friend!!!!
We opened with Rockin in the Free World, a good choice...easy to play, everyone knows it and it is quick....tom sang it and did a good job at it! Scattered was next, with mark playing the riff and bugs singing. I sang Big Time, but i do not remember it at all (so much for not being nervous!!) and The Losing End....i felt pretty good about doing the solo at the end when bugs threw it to me, but the vocals could have been better.
They were apparently better, though, than the harmony i tried on Over and Over, which nan sang next.....i tried the riff on that and got the right notes in the right place only sometimes......
Now, i want to say that i spent quite a bit of time watching people watch us (a strange situation when you think of it....). When i do open mic, i am up and down before i even start to settle in....but when i did a whole evening, i settled in after the first few songs, and stopped thinking so much about PERFORMING and started to think more about the MUSIC and getting it out there.....touching people with it....connecting to it like i do when i am playing just for the pleasure of making the music.
People sang along with us, they watched us, they moved with us, they smiled and nodded when you caught their eye or looked away or just stared as if they didn't think it was you they were looking at. It LOOKED like they were having a good time.....
I started to relax and just have a good time....'settle in' is exactly how it felt
Now, i have some friends, and some patients, and some kids of friends who have cocaine problems, and i have recently been involved in bad situations which i brought into my mind when singing Cocaine Eyes. It felt cathartic to do that song, in that place, with all those faces in my mind and all those faces listening and looking......all those people i love. I am glad i had the opportunity to do that....i think it is one of my all-time favorite moments on a stage....
Nan did Love to Burn and mark did Come on Baby, Let's Go Downtown.....and we took a break!!!
So far, the gig was going well, the audience having a good time, the musicians having a good time....and now we had friends of our hosts who got up and played.....doing a wonderful job, i might add!!! Eileen and jean sang Wrecking Ball and Too Far Gone and that was GREAT! (next year, you guys need to do more than two songs!)
The rest of the evening is a blur (could have been that good dark beer they were feeding me), but the set list is below.....we then broke down and went back to camp and had a nice time socializing around the camp fire....which, i agree with someone who said, is the best time of day at Cripple Creek!!!!!
Remainder of set list:
I’ve been waiting for you (nan)
No Hidden Path (bugs)
Rapid Transit (bugs....this was GREAT!!)
Truth Be Known (mark)
Barstool blues (me)
Down by the River (tom)
Surfer Joe And Moe The Sleaze (bugs)
Going Home (me)
Dirty Old Man (tom)
Cowgirl in the Sand(tom)
Spirit Road (me)
Throw your hatred down (mark)
Are you Passionate (me)
Fucking up (??forget??)
Tonight’s the Night (tom)