Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Tennessee Decompression and Nerves and Sounds and Reflections

June 14, 2013

PARIS – So there I was at the Tennessee Bar’s Thursday night open mic last night a night after hosting the somewhat ill-fated (at least in the beginning) open mic I mentioned in my previous post. And I was sitting there with around three main themes going through my mind. The first was just how good a job James Iansiti does hosting his open mic, one of the most successful in Paris. It is so successful, in fact, that James and the Tennessee recently decided to host the Monday night open mic on the Thursday AND the Monday. And so last night as I sat there and saw some 15 or more acts ready to play on this second night of the week, I inhaled and thought: This is insane how popular this place is, how popular an open mic can be in the same city twice a week.

The next thing that was floating around in my mind was just how easy it was, how non-stressful, how laid back and cool to attend the open mic as a musician only and raise my hand to get on a list – I was No. 9 – and just sit there and drink a beer and listen to the other musicians and make videos. The contrast to the night before with all its trials and stresses and worries was just enormous. So there I was in my own little bubble of a world thinking about what a cinch it all was, and life was good, when… something that has not happened for a long time happened.

I may have been stressed out at the open mic of the night before, but when I opened that show and when I closed it, I was really, really relaxed and grooving behind the mic and playing my music. There was some sense of fatalism, perhaps. Or perhaps it was the full control and responsibility that I had as the MC of the evening. Well now here at the Tennessee, for reasons I cannot fathom, I suddenly got terribly nervous on stage, right from the start. My fingers did not react the way they should on the guitar, my voice and body language were in another realm and not in the groove or in the flow or in the zone. And I had to constantly work at trying to come down to earth and reach that place that makes performing so much fun.

That was immediately broken even more when I sang a song by Bob Dylan from the “Blood on the Tracks” album – my first song of the night – and at the end of the song just as I was finishing the last verse a string on the guitar broke! There was some very odd spiritual or supernatural thing going on perhaps, as I had chosen to sing the song at the last minute since a guy who played before me, Murray, had sung “Idiot Wind” from the same album, which I have only heard in an open mic one or two times before. And in the last verse, he broke a string on James’s guitar! So there we were, both of us being cursed by Blood….

I had to move on to James’s guitar, and frankly, that got me totally lost, added stress, and I chose to sing a song on which I am capable of doing some fine picking…but with this alien object in my hands and my nerves affecting my playing, the guitar strumming was brute, horrible, and out of tune to boot! I finished off with my song “Crazy Lady,” and by then, and with the confidence of doing my own material, I did manage to start getting into the zone. Thank goodness. But I will never understand live performance and why it works sometimes and not others, and worse, how I can still have fits of nervousness after playing in public for several days a week for several years….

Thank goodness there were some great musicians to distract me, although I did not stay long after my catastrophic set….

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