Gina and I played an Arcati Crisis set at Collingswood 2nd Saturday this weekend – an outdoor gig singing on the street to folks exploring the restaurants and events on Haddon Ave.
By any objective measure, it was a good gig. We played for almost two solid hours, we drew crowds of passers-by multiple times, we gave away half of our CDs, and we even reaped a significant amount of donations from our pseudo-busking!
However, subjectively the gig sucked. I was angsty from the start when the band before us ran over a bit. I didn’t feel like our mics were balanced, and I couldn’t hear my guitar. I broke a string that’s only two weeks old in the middle of “Video Killed the Radio Star.” I was distracted when donations started to blow out of Gina’s guitar case. I completely forgot any semblance of chords to “Standing.” I lost the roadmap on “Hungerstrike.” I was a measure behind on the bridge of “Moscow, Idaho.”
In my musical life I have my off moments and flubbed changes, but I never miss entrances or get out of sync. I just don’t. Yet on Saturday I was so out of sorts that I literally stopped our set halfway through to play a solo song in a desperate attempt to regain my focus.
This morning I wrote Gina an email, partially stating:
My head was just in a completely other place, and I could not get completely centered again. It was really unprofessional and I feel shitty about it.
Then I stopped by my colleague Jay’s cube, and the first thing he said was:
You were really awesome on Saturday.
And, you know what? I don’t think it was just Jay who felt that. I feel like we got more smiles and complements during the set on Saturday than we’ve ever had at that sort of background music gig ever before.
What’s the secret?
I suppose there’s something to that reckless abandon of messing up and and moving on. A decade ago I was more apt to say “art is in the imperfections,” but now I prefer to deliver the same perfect performance every single time.
Decade-ago Peter would ask me, “What’s the point of that?”
I think you were more on-target a decade ago; art *is* in the imperfections, at least for some of us. It’s what makes live theatre a greater thrill than film, and why concerts are so much more fabulous than just downloading an album. The adrenaline that accompanies the ever-present “What might go wrong” and raising your level of performance to deal with that typically makes for great art. If you’re doing the same show, consistently and repeatedly, not only will it get old for you, your audience will catch on, too.
You just can’t duplicate the energy that lies in the unexpected…:)