Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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The Liberating Experience of Failure

June 28, 2010

That’s it. No place to play my guitar and sing in Valencia, Spain. This is the first time in more than a year and a half that I have devoted four days to searching for an open mic, a jam session or other place where an amateur singer can get up and sing his or her heart out in front of an audience at a Formula One race venue, and failed to find one.

Since I began this adventure at the start of the 2009 season – although the first place I played, that really started it all was in Shanghai in October 2008 – I have managed to find a place to sing and play at every Formula One race venue. Can you believe it? Even in places like Liege, Cologne, Kuala Lumpur and Nagoya I was able to find places – sometimes several – to sing and play.

I was occasionally thrown right to the limit, to the edge, and only found something on the last night. But I always succeeded. Always.

Here, now, in Valencia where I write these words and where I have spent the last four nights searching endlessly for a venue to play, I have failed. Last night I found a wonderful old town quarter near my hotel in the center of the city, and the area was full of restaurants, bars, walls covered with graffiti and cool young people … and no live music. It reminded me, in fact, of that area of the bars in Barcelona off the Ramblas that I mentioned when I was there a couple of months ago. But no, nothing, no live music… except for a saxophone playing busker, a guitar playing busker and a young guy in a public square playing an acoustic guitar with some friends.

I might have done that, but busking is not really a part of this adventure, since I could do that anywhere.

So I am faced with failure for the first time. And suddenly, I feel a sense of liberation. Failure in this case, I realize, simply enhances and gives quality to all the other trips I went on and all the success that I had in finding a place to play. I went to the limit, scrounged, begged, asked people, searched the Internet, and I always found something. One of the most outstanding examples of just squeezing in something on the limit was in Milan last year during the Italian Grand Prix when I found absolutely nothing at all in that musically dead city – unless you want opera – and then finally after hours on the Internet I discovered an announcement at the longest running and oldest anarchists’ association that there was an open jam session on the Saturday evening. I had the time of my life, and it was so fitting that in order to have a an open jam session or open mic in Milan it had to be through a group of anarchists.

Now, in Valencia, land of great guitars and other music, I have finally failed! It validates the rest, makes it more valuable, and I can go away feeling as if I have now had a unique experience in Valencia the way I have had unique experiences everywhere else. It also teaches me a larger lesson for life, about failure. Even, for example, in personal relationships: It takes a failure or two to really be able to appreciate the relationships that last and that work. Right? So no point collapsing under failure. As long as it doesn’t happen that often, it’s better to rejoice and search again.

Thanks Valencia, you unmusical, stick-in-the-mud, boring fucking town!

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