I probably should have said something about the show I was playing with Travis on Friday at Green Bean before it actually happened, but my recent habit of being kind of lax in the blogging department continues. So that didn’t happen. The show did, though. Consider this your notice. Now just travel back in time a handful of days, and everything will even out.
Unlike the last two times we played together at Green Bean, this show featured a full band, with Eryk Myskow on bass and Caleb Farrugia holding it down behind the drums. I stuck to playing what I guess you would call “lead digital piano”. Local singer/songwriter Erin Britton was kind enough to let me use her keyboard, since for all the things with keys I have around here, a portable digital piano isn’t one of them, and taking the upright with me to a gig isn’t exactly practical.
Somehow it came out in print that this was a “Johnny West and Friends” show. Which is bizarre. It clearly said “Travis Reitsma & Johnny West” on all the posters and the Facebook event page, with his name above mine and in a larger font. Also, you’d think anyone who follows my music even a little bit would know I’m not going to be playing my own material live at this point in a venue that isn’t equipped with a real acoustic piano.
That’s not a knock against Green Bean. I really like the place. I should hang out there more often than I do. But I think it’s been established by now, here and elsewhere, that Mackenzie Hall is my place. If I am going to bother playing live in any capacity other than doing the occasional sideman thing, that’s where it’s going to happen.
Or I’ll play a show in someone’s closet. Hey, you’d be surprised how roomy some closets are. You can even fit a piano in some of ’em.
It was a non-issue, because there wasn’t a single person who showed up expecting to hear anything other than Travis’s songs with me playing a supporting role. I just think it’s sad when someone who’s still got a sore ass over not coming out on top in a war of words/music a few years ago will try to hit back at you long after the fact by defiling what little journalistic integrity they might have had left, printing things that aren’t true in an effort to screw something up. Impotence, thy name is…that guy.
The show itself was fun. At the same time, it reminded me why I hadn’t played live at all since September of 2011. There’s way too much anxiety wrapped up in live performance for me to put myself through it on anything more than an occasional basis.
With the exception of my experiences at Mackenzie Hall (and maybe the FM Lounge), anytime I hear my voice coming out of a monitor onstage it sounds wrong to me, I lose confidence in my ability to sing in tune, and I end up giving shitty vocal performances as a result, whether I’m singing lead or harmony. I tend to get a little busier on whatever instrument I’m playing to compensate for that and focus most of my energy in that direction.
I guess this works on some level, because I get people coming up to me after the show telling me how good they thought I was (and they seem to be sincere). Me, I kind of wish I had a large wooden trunk I could crawl into and lock from the inside.
Come to think of it, I think I could count the live performances I’ve come out of with significant good feelings on the fingers of one hand. It’s just not where I’m comfortable, and it hasn’t been for a long time. There was that surreal set at the FM Lounge with Max on upright bass where it felt like I could do no wrong, and there were the two Mackenzie Hall gigs, and then everything else tends to live in different ranges of “this could be worse” and “get me the fuck out of here”, even when it’s going well. That’s just my own personal thing.
Having said that, there was a good turnout, there were several professional dancers who just happened to be at Green Bean and busted out some choreographed moves to Travis’s musical craftsmanship, and I got to chew on a good sandwich. So those were a few definite points in the evening’s favour. One of them is a partial fabrication (it was more “random swaying” than “choreographed dancing”, really), but who’s keeping track?