If you feel like you want to walk off the stage in mid set, do it MAN! If, that is, you are performing in an open mic and not doing a professional, paid gig. That’s what I did last night at the Highlander.
Of course, there is a very strong argument to be made for being 100 percent professional at all times and in all situations, whether you are professional or not. It’s like that old Hollywood guy talking once about flighty actors who think certain roles are beneath them are useless, whereas if he found a bit-part actor treating his role like the most important thing in the world, then that is a future star.
Having said that, one of the great things about doing open mics, as opposed to paid gigs, is that it really is acceptable to just decide mid-set that you only want to do one song. You do the song, get off stage and that’s it.
Last night at the Highlander, I arrived so late that I was No. 17 on the list and had a nearly 3 and a half hour wait until my moment to play. So that moment came well after 1 AM, and I had been drinking beer after beer – okay, three and a half – and talking to people all night. I had had a busy day, and the Highlander was so full it was elbow-room-only. There were a lot of interesting musicians, interesting people, and it was just a fabulous evening.
But by the time I got up to play I was really nearly overcome by fatigue and the beer, and the audience had all but disappeared. I told everyone that I had counted 14 people left in the room…to which one attractive young woman then decided to make a joke/heckle, and said, “Then let’s start the orgy!”
It was kind of funny. In fact, it completely knocked the wind out of me, as everyone started joking about her comment – including me. So how do I plunge into the seriousness of the emotion of a song after that, especially the one I planned to play, my latest concoction. Well, behaving “professionally,” I did just that.
But oh, dear, it did not feel good at all! I did not feel into the emotion, and I felt my legs shifting under the lightness of the beer and fatigue. I could not, in short, find the center within, the zone that is needed to connect with to sing. I decided to sing a completely different kind of song, “Only Our Rivers Run Free,” but as I thought of the orgy and thought of the lyrics in the song about laying down one’s life for one’s country… I could not mix the two, and the fatigue and the drink, and I simply stopped the intro chords and said, “Well, I think I will just leave it at one song tonight…..” And I left the stage.
It felt weird to wait 3 and a half hours to play my three songs, and then to do just one and walk out. But in the end, it felt right. And this being an open mic, it actually meant that there was still another musician waiting to get up, and an equally fatigued audience, so I did a few people a favor.
Still, I had enough energy and balance to go home and ride my usual 5 kilometers on the unicycle, to encounter some people in the street who wanted to try the unicycle, to let them – one had done it before – and to go to bed quite contented. There had been, after all, a lot of good music before my mini-set at the Highlander.