Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Ecstatic Release at the Highlander, Progress at the Cavern

March 29, 2012
bradspurgeon

I’ve ended up having a couple of crowd-pleasing cover songs that tend to get the audience participating, clapping, drumming on tables and joining in the chorus. Those are “Mad World” and “What’s Up!” I think these are pretty much sure-fire for almost anyone who sings them, but they work more often than not very well for me now. Last night at the Highlander open mic was no exception. But what a contrast to going to the Cavern afterwards….

The point is, I wish I had a lot more of those sure-fire crowd pleasing songs. But it takes time, and there are only so many that exist, no doubt. (Another would be Wonderwall, but I don’t do it since I have a hard time with the rhythm on the guitar!!!!) Anyway, I will continue to try to build up a repertoire in that direction, as well as write my own. Last night I started with “Crazy Lady,” my latest completed song. I enjoy singing it, but it did not light the fires the way “What’s Up!” subsequently did. And then someone requested “Mad World.”

The reason I am blowing my own horn here is not to boast, but simply to set the stage for the contrast. From the Highlander I went over to the Cavern, which holds its vocal jam open mic night on Wednesdays as well, but a little later than the Scottish pub. I have written extensively about my failures at the Cavern in the last few months, as I have tried singing “What’s Up!” there with the band and done dismally, horrendously, depressingly badly each time.

There is a HUGE difference between playing your own guitar at your own rhythm in your own way and actually having to stand up with a band that plays the song the way it was recorded. (More or less.) But that is also a wonderful, and usually humbling, challenge. So despite wanting to commit suicide on at least the last two occasions at the Cavern, I decided to return last night, but this time not for “What’s Up!”

It occurred to me that if I tried “Wicked Game,” I might have a little more luck. There are not many different ways to play those three chords – Bm, A, E – and the rhythm doesn’t change much either. So I went, asked Guillaume, the bass player, if I could try it, and he, as usual encouraged the effort.

Thank goodness I tried! It did not go amazingly well, but it went okay, there was progress, and I began to feel more at ease with the band. Guillaume commented afterwards that he thought it went a lot better too, than the last couple of times. And I heard a few nice things from the audience too.

The point of all this is to say, “Don’t give up!” But it is hard as hell to practice with a live band in front of a live audience. The other point of this post, however, is to say just how different each musical exercise is. You can play an audience with familiar songs and conditions, and you can appear like a complete crappy amateur on the other side of the street in different conditions. So leap in head first and try em all and work at em all. Coming out the other side with a bit of progress feels GREAT! Of course, you need patient and kind musicians like at the Cavern to do it, too.

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