Thursday, November 05, 2009

Pizza, Fame and the Name Game

I didn't really want to play the gig.

I love Lola's for the most tasty pizza in town, but after watching a poor strumming and singing guitarist barely having enough room to stand, I didn't want to be that guy. As I have noted many, many times in this blog, people will walk on you in such spaces and this was crammed city. Maya sent an email offer of a gig there and in these funky financial times, I cannot turn down a paying gig. Hell no.

Gotta stay sharp. Gotta play. Gotta practice.

My wife had to endure my practice, as she does on an almost daily basis. My right hand finger exercise regime is truly maddening for her. Can't say I blame her. While I find them intoxicating, they are punishingly repetitive and no one would call them music.

(Photo: At one point, a friend said, "Tell grandpa to lose the glasses." Oh no. Then all those notes become black ants!)

Finally, she said, "You're going to sing, aren't you?" I had been working up some Renaissance pieces and some easier Bach. This was the question. I had no idea what was expected of me, I only had seen strumming singers there.

Finally, I worked up a couple of songs that I felt were appropriate and that I could manage. I was as prepared as I was going to be. It's show time.

Sitting on my amp to save space for my music stand, I set up and hoped for the best. The solo gig is one that I haven't done for a while, so I had some butterflies. Even with the Arctic blasts from the front door contrasting with the pervasive kitchen heat, my guitar stayed in tune. That Takamine beast is a real reliable guitar. God love it.

I placed a capo on the third fret for the Renaissance and Baroque music for two reasons. The first is that it makes it easier to play. The left hand does not have to stretch as much. The second reason is that I believe that the higher sounding guitar projects better in such noisy environments. The guitar can be too much bass and mud when you are trying to play background music.

I had no clue how this music was going over. I almost never look up when I get into the music, so I am no gauge of anything. There was a couple standing close and I could see the girl swaying in time to Bach minuets which struck me as bizarre (It didn't help that she had very shapely attributes either.). Was this a bit of mocking or was the Old Man Bach connecting?

One thing is for sure: you cannot underestimate the support that friends give you at a public gig. They alleviate a whole boatload of awkwardness and nervousness. At some point, it was time to have some fun. The Rolling Stones Dead Flowers is a tune I have been obsessed with and so I let 'er rip. The owners' twin girls were being hoisted by my wife and her friend, so this odd little dance party started. The irony of lines like "talkin' to some rich folks that you know" in South Hills was not lost on my compadres.

Little David, a seven year old version of myself, hung around while I played a version of "The Bed's Too Big Without You." It's just three chords and I wasn't singing it, so time to have fun. He said, "What about wrong notes?" I wasn't sure what he meant, but I would stop at certain places and play some distinctly sour notes just to make him laugh. The gig was casual and fun at this point.

There is always a loss in playing ability at the live gig. It is always a mixed bag for me of terrible and stupid mistakes and unexpected triumphs. Sometimes the hands flow like silver and others they hobble along the strings in utter confusion. Part of this is my approach which is to challenge myself. Improv #1 last night went nowhere. Improv #2 was far better and even garnered some applause. A little Jobim and Ralph Towner later, we have arrived.

I had played an hour and 45 minutes without a break, so time to eat. Lola's makes awesome pizzas, but I ordered a salad. These are just delicious. The food, while a bit pricey, is excellent with everything you order. There is an obvious love and passion for food there.

Time to pack up and get paid. I asked Mike, the bartender extraordinaire, how I did, as I wasn't sure what they were wanting or expecting. He said that all went very well and people seemed to enjoy it. "Play what you want." That's all I need to hear. A little bit of everything.

A FB friend gushed and said that I should record a Christmas album. She would buy at least five herself. Sounds good to me.

As I was moving about, I passed the girl who had been moving to the music. She gave me a very nice smile. Can't beat that. Gee. Money, food and a bonus. It's more than enough for an old married guy.

With that money, I headed straight for a gas station and promptly spent all of it, save two dollars and some change. It sure don't last too long, does it?

I return to Lola's in about three weeks and already I know one thing. Novelty wears off quickly and friends, and even wives, stop coming. Next time, there might not be a support system, but only a room full of strangers. But that's ok. You do the best you can.

As shown in the picture, the performer gets his or her name in lights. Well, not exactly in lights. More on a chalkboard. On the wall. By the kitchen.

And not exactly spelled correctly either.


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