I left out a detail in my previous post in which I tried to sum up the previous week’s activities. I wanted to keep the detail personal, private and just not make anything out of it. But as I decided to sit down and do my blog entry today about last night’s musical activities, I thought that it was not possible to write about the spirit of my evening – and what the people there saw – without unfortunately unveiling the news.
It’s pretty banal, actually, but a little embarrassing: I was attacked on New Year’s Eve and had my face re-arranged. Well, okay, it’s not as bad as all that. But the black eye is a doozer. I had to cancel my Sunday brunch two days ago because my face was still something of a mask of red and black spots. But I decided last night that I would not let the assailant get away with destroying my glasses, my Lacoste coat, my face AND my fun!
So it was that I went to the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub to play in the open mics as I usually do. But I wore dark glasses to cover the dalmatian look. Unfortunately, my forehead still has some bloody scrapes on it, and it was clear that I had been beaten (although the scrapes are much less visible even today). So this raises the question as to whether a performer really should go up and play music – which is supposed to be entertaining for the audience – when clearly in a state of disgusting ugliness through visible wounds. If I were a Sex Pistol, or maybe Nazi Dog of the Viletones, I would actually do all I could no doubt to inflict such wounds upon myself while actually on the stage performing. But as these open mics are generally considered nice family entertainment, and worse, as they are carried out by amateurs, it can look like a strange assault and self-indulgent act to perform in such circumstances.
These, at least, were the thoughts going through my mind when I got up on stage soon after arrival at the Tennessee Bar. It was odd to get up behind the mic and suddenly realize that I could not see a single person in the audience through my dark glasses. This really made me feel cut off. I tried to joke about my face and seek a thread of banter that would link the music to the face – after all, think of how odd it would be to sing of happy days with a face like a pulp! (I exaggerate.)
I sang Tom Petty’s song, “I Won’t Back Down,” which seemed appropriate. Then I sang my own song, “Borderline.” Then I ran out of ideas and thoughts on how to blend the face with the music, and for reasons beyond me I immediately segued into “Unchained Melody.” Judging by all the talk I heard in the audience building up as my three songs progressed, I did not grab the audience.
I left almost immediately afterwards, feeling as if I had been self-indulgent. But I also thought I would nevertheless test out the waters at the Galway. Stephen Prescott, the MC, immediately greeted me with a laugh and a talk about black eyes of his own in the past. I inquired as to whether he thought I could expect the permanent pink spot I am seeing to disappear, and he said in his experience he had seen nothing for days and it all came back.
I was immediately put at ease. Then when it finally came my turn to play my songs, good-natured Stephen presented me as “Blind” Brad, or “Blind” Brad Spurgeon, or something like that. This made me feel really comfortable, and even cool, with the glasses, and I realized there were precendents and even a tradition of performing like this – from Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and even the Frenchman Gilbert Montagne. So I instantly ceased to think about my physical appearance, and I asked the lead guitarist from a group that had played just before me if he could play with me – he said they were from England and that the band’s name was “Mana King,” but I cannot find a link for them – and we played the first two songs together. I played “Crazy Love” and “Father and Son,” and he played some great lead. Then, alone, I did “Andalucia” and “Since You Left Me.” Had a great time, felt exorcised and as if I’d had my revenge on my attacker and I was back to normal.