I discovered another stage illness last night, which I would not call stage fright, but rather stage panic. I was doing an open mic I have never done before, at the Abracadabrabar on Avenue Jean Jaures, in Paris’s 19th Arrondissement. I just got up on the stage, and I had felt really good about the bar and really pleased that my turn was only the third of the evening.
It was a warm place, a big stage area, bright lights, an excellent sound system, and a man adjusting the sound to make sure all was good. There were a reasonable number of spectators too. And given that it was a new open mic for me in Paris when I thought I’d done them all, I was just plain excited to be there.
But once I got up on the stage I was immediately struck by a situation that I had not had for a long time: The stage lights were so bright that it was impossible to see anyone at all in the room. The whole situation reminded me much more of a professional concert situation than a casual open mic. The audience had been polite with the other performers, but there had been some chat building up. And when I launched into my Gary Jules cover, “Andalucia,” which I have now sung many, many times in public – even at my brunch the previous day – I was absorbing all of this set up, and noticing that slowly the voices began to die out too. Had I grabbed the audience? Or had they all quietly left the room? I had no way of knowing, I could see no one and nothing – except the bright lights (yes, and the big city through the windows way far off on the other side of the bar, perhaps).
In any case, this situation threw my brain into action and I began asking questions, wondering about things, and suddenly, after the first chorus, I realized that with all this supplementary thought and lack of concentration – although I miraculously think I was doing real justice to the song – I completely forgot the words to start the second verse. I had actually been wondering as I went through the first verse if I had made a mess of that, too, although I didn’t. So there I was with the bright lights, and the possibility that I had captured the audience and got them to be quiet, and I had gone entirely and completely blank in my mind with lyrics that I know by heart and sing all the time!!!!
I tried playing a few chords and the little lead ditty thing a little more as I tried to remember the words to start the second verse. I could not. I then began to panic at the thought that it was impossible to find the words and soon my audience would leave me behind…. So I had no choice but to finally do what I have not done in as long as I can remember. I stopped playing and said, “Sorry, I’ve forgotten the rest of the words!!!”
I made a feeble excuse about it being the bright lights and all, the change of situation for me, and I launched into my own song, “Borderline,” which I knew I would not forget the words to. But truth be told, by the time I finished that one it seemed to go by so quickly that I wondered if I HAD left out lyrics there too.
In any case, I had no further problems, and I did two more songs, then sang three songs later in the evening. All had settled, and I felt very comfortable, and in fact, thrilled to be playing under the bright lights. The funny thing is that I absolutely LOVE that kind of true stage situation. It was partly that, I think, that made me lose concentration and panic – it had been so long since I found myself on a real stage kind of situation.
Such, in any case, are the trials of the further adventures of Brad in the open mics of the world….
I highly recommend the Abracadabrabar as a venue, and I have added it to my list of Paris open mics. It takes place only once per month, the third Monday of the month. You must write to the MC in advance to get on the list.
Amongst the performers was a friend, whom I have heard mostly at the Galway and Highlander, but whose voice at the Abracadabrabar had even more qualities and depth than usual. (Years later she asked that I remove all videos from the site, so I have.)
And my songs were, once I got past that first disaster, quite nicely appreciated. One man who had no intention of playing that night approached me and asked if I could improvise guitar playing so that he could sing. So we went up and did three improvised songs, which is not one of my strong points – but with the exception of the reggae song, it worked out pretty well, and the man got the audience clapping and singing along.
A great evening all together – along with a learning experience about stage panic….