What do I have in common with Chuck Berry, J.J. Cale and Stevie Ray Vaughan? We’ve all played music in a pub. Well, I’m assuming Chuck and J.J. and Stevie have all played music in a pub (seems likely, doesn’t it?). But I bet I did something they didn’t do: Played music in a pub on the congas!
That may be an assumption, too,come to think of it. Any one of those guys would’ve played a mean conga.
Last night the little group I have been playing music with recently ventured into a local pub for their open mic night. I haven’t done anything like this in quite a long while. As I was sitting there, waiting for our turn to get up there, I started to feel that familiar sense of panic. There is something warm and fuzzy about this kind of panic. Possibly because it has been my companion on a number of occasions. This is that panic that you get as you wait to perform in front of a group of people. This is the panic that says, “Whatthehellwereyouthinking?! Don’t do this!! Get out while there’s still time!!”
What did I do? I basked in that panic. I let it wash over me. And then I ordered another beer.
Did Chuck or J.J. or Stevie feel that kind of panic? Very likely. Going up on stage as an actor or musician or any kind of performer is a nerve-wracking thing to do. At least those guys had a lot of practice under their belts! I think I had about four practices with this band before I got up there. But I got up there, the Little Bundle of Nerves that I was. And we ripped through some songs by Chuck Berry, J.J. Cale and Stevie Ray Vaughan as it happens.
The panic was put to use. I’ve come to realize that that is its function: To fuel the engine that drives you to perform in front of people in the first place. That is why I have a close relationship with that kind of panic. It is like that one crazy friend who introduces you to things you will never think of yourself. It spikes your energy and makes you super focused.
And when you’re done? For me, I do a lot of laughing. It’s not the beer, it’s the panic come-down. It leaves you feeling relief, a sense of accomplishment, and a not a little irony that you (of all people) just sang and played congas in front of a bunch of people. That panic come-down then, in turn, fuels the engine that gets you up there again in some future day.
Will I feel that panic again soon? I hope so. When I do I’ll know I’m doing this Creating Dangerously thing right. And I’ll know that I’m in the company of Chuck, J.J. and Stevie.
Now that would have been an awesome band to play with, wouldn’t it?